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The Story

October 15, 2010

My Goal:

To run 21km with Team Diabetes in the Reykjavik Marathon, August, 2011.

To qualify, I must raise 6100 dollars to support the Canadian Diabetes Association.

I’m setting my fundraising goal at 7000.

My Story of Diabetes:

In April, 2010, I began noticing some funny changes. My vision had suddenly gotten quite worse, and my feet were often falling asleep when they shouldn’t be. I was disturbed, but not pressed to action. Then one day I got struck by an incredible weight of fatigue. It was worse than any flu virus I’ve had. I could barely stand up without having to grip something for support, and the nauseating dizziness was enough to distract me from my chronic thirst and fervent, vertiginous trips to the bathroom.

After two weeks of these symptoms, I finally saw my doctor. I was prepared for the worst (a brain tumour or MS) but expecting the best (stress-related somatoform). Instead, she proposed the last thing I ever expected to hear at my age, or with my family history: diabetes.

The next day I was in the hospital, being treated for dangerously high blood glucose levels. An average level for a woman my size is about a 5. I weighed in at a 28.5. After a day and a half I was sent home, relieved to be feeling much better, but sobered at the task ahead of me: I knew I’d have to learn very quickly about glucose levels, insulin and carb-counting, as well as how to manipulate a wide variety of medical equipment. I gave myself my first insulin shot two hours after returning home, and it hasn’t stopped since.

I had an incredible amount of support around me while I was sick, during my hospital stay, and in the weeks and months that followed. I had the privilege of being only part-time employed, by an organization that didn’t think twice about rearranging my schedule around my hospital visits and much-needed personal time. I had family and loved ones rallying around me with encouragement and long talks. I had my mother to sit by my side in the hospital, and nurse me back to health once I was discharged.

It was an emotional roller coaster for sure learning that my pancreas had stopped working, and I was going to be giving myself shots for the rest of my life. Digesting the fact that I was now totally dependent on public health care and pharmaceuticals, and that my life expectancy had dropped by some 15 years took a lot of time. I had to mourn the loss of a certain innocent spontaneity in my life.

Learning how to balance carbs with insulin, how to avoid sugar highs while preventing sugar lows, and even learning the etiquette of having to give an emergency shot in a restaurant or a blood test during a spinning class took time. I’m still learning. And when the sugar lows strike, they are scary. When my glucose levels soar, the thought of what damage it’s doing is also scary. I try to be patient with myself and learn from my mistakes and miscalculations. Diabetes, like a garden, requires a lifetime of management and maintenance, and like mastering a musical instrument, the learning never stops.

Why I am running a marathon:

I have been running since I was fifteen, sometimes more out of obligation than pleasure, although I have never returned from a run and not felt thankful for what I learned on the road. When I was diagnosed with diabetes this past May, suddenly my running changed. An organ in my body was no longer working, and I had to learn to love my body the way it is now: imperfect, insulin-dependent, but still beautiful and still mine. Running became my way of getting to know myself as a diabetic. My long summer runs were my saving grace in a time of lots of internal and external changes. And faced with the scary thought that my life expectancy had just dropped 15 years, I felt more motivated than ever to get into my best shape yet. Not to mention, physical activity means less insulin shots.

Life is precious, and I want to be around for as much of it as I can. Running will help me – spiritually, physically, emotionally – live a longer, fuller life.

Why I am running a marathon with Team Diabetes:

Diabetes is my new identity, whether I like it or not. And I’ve got it pretty lucky. Thank god I don’t have cancer or MS or HIV, and thank god I come from a middle-class family in a socialized Western country. I admit, I feel uncomfortable asking you for money to support illness, when so many other people need it more. I thought long and hard about whether to run this race at all with Team Diabetes, or sign up instead with the AIDS race in California or fundraise for some other cause.

But diabetes is my world now. And I want to deepen my connection with the diabetes community – by helping raise funds for research, by running with fellow diabetics, for working closely with the Canadian Diabetes Association. By feeling a part of something bigger, but also part of what’s already mine. I want to run for all the children who are diagnosed every week with Type 1, for all the adults living with complications, but also for myself and my uncertain future as a diabetic.

The Goals:

Why You Should Support the Canadian Diabetes Association:

This event is the Canadian Diabetes Association’s biggest source of revenue. Your money will help support the millions of people living with diabetes by:

  • Funding research for a cure
  • Increasing awareness of healthy living, in order to prevent more cases of Type 2
  • Lobbying and advocacy for increased funding for medication and research, better support for school-aged children, legislation to make healthier foods accessible, and much more
  • Providing support and educational tools for people living with diabetes and their families

There is so much information on the CDA website. Go check out their advocacy page and position statements – it’s really quite interesting!

Simply put, diabetes costs the government billions of dollars a year. It is an epidemic in our culture, and we can’t afford to be silent about it. Diabetes needs to be seen by the government as an urgent health issue, and a major warning sign to all of us of how our society needs to change.

A Few More Reasons Why Diabetics Need Your Help:

  • Even with my public drug insurance plan, I still pay around 200 dollars a month in deductibles for my test-strips, needles, and two kinds of insulin. I did not plan for this expense, nor can I compromise on it. Your money will help the CDA lobby for necessary medical equipment to be more accessible to diabetics.
  • Young diabetic children are sent to school without any legislation protecting their specific needs and rights. Stories of children being denied apple juice during a dangerous hypoglycemia attack, being left alone to give themselves a shot, or being denied access on a class trip because of insufficient training of the supervisors, all strike me as equally heart-breaking and infuriating.
  • A cure for Type 1 is around the corner. Simply put, your donation could help tip the scales and vastly improve the lives of millions of children and adults.
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