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Posted by on Aug 14, 2017 in Diabetes Management, Fitness, Lifestyle, Travel

Getting Historic: One Man’s Mission to Run a Marathon in All 50 States

Getting Historic: One Man’s Mission to Run a Marathon in All 50 States

On June 15, I packed two suitcases, one for me and one for my two daughters, Avery and Harper. Together, we drove from Charlotte, NC to the airport in Greenville, SC for the start of our summer vacation. Our destination? Not the beach. Not Disney World. Somewhere more unique:

Alaska.

Why Alaska? Alaska represented another stop on a journey I began back in 2000, one that has taken me across the United States to accomplish a goal that has been difficult and extremely rewarding as a diabetic. It was at that time I decided to embark on a challenge both for purposes of my faith but also for purposes of showing what a diabetic could do—run a marathon in all 50 states. When I began this journey, the information about athletes with diabetes was limited. It was also frustrating to me personally that after being diagnosed in March 1992, I was told that my normally active life would cease, relegated to a more cautious, sedentary life. I refused to give in to that way of thinking, and when a friend posed the idea of running the New York Marathon in November 2000, I decided to take the leap.

Seventeen years later, I’m still in the air.

Each year, I’ve tried to complete marathons in 3 to 5 states. At the onset, I was able to complete races quickly because travel was close, allowing me to drive and keep costs down. I was also fortunate to turn races in certain places (New York, Chicago, San Francisco) into vacations, accomplishing a personal goal while enjoying the beauty of the country. With some races, I’ve been able to run with other runners, but so many races have forced me to run alone. Because of my health condition, I’ve learned the importance of managing insulin injections around activity, anticipating peak times for insulin. I also learned what snacks/drinks quickly returned glucose to normal levels while exercising, and others to stay away from. In 2013, I decided to take the plunge and transition to the Omnipod System insulin pump. This has relieved a lot of stress mentally and physically during my training cycles by being able to manipulate insulin delivery around endurance workouts at a much closer level.

It’s been amazing to see how much diabetes care has changed in the past seventeen years. No longer do I feel like a man on a proverbial island trying to be active while fighting the daily battle with a bad pancreas. Physicians, dieticians, personal trainers, social media—all have been indispensable in providing sources of great information that went against the common practice. It’s allowed me, at age 44, to continue to pursue this journey without fear and with much greater knowledge. An absolute blessing.

In 2016, I completed marathons in all the contiguous states, collecting finisher medals in Montana and Wyoming. As 2017 began, my goal was simple—complete the last two states, Alaska and Hawaii. So on June 15, my daughters and I traveled 4,000 miles to Anchorage, AK, and on June 17, I crossed the finish line in 4 hours 21 minutes. 49 states down, 1 to go.

Still in the air, ready to land.

Barring any setbacks, I plan to touch down in Hawaii at the Maui Marathon on October 15. I hope you will join me on this final lap as I prepare. It’s so humbling to have come so far, and to use my health not as a setback, but as an inspiration. I can’t wait to add to my collection.

 

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Posted by on Jul 5, 2017 in Diabetes Management, Lifestyle, Pump Therapy

Independence Day and Firecrackers Galore

Independence Day and Firecrackers Galore

Everyone has a secret favorite holiday. When you think of favorite holidays, the usual suspects come to mind. Christmas is the leader for most because of the decorations and the gifts. (Eggnog? Not so much.) Thanksgiving and Easter usually follow behind because of their family and spiritual connotations, respectively, and then we start to get into slimmer pickings. Valentine’s Day is charming but can feel a little too commercialized; New Year’s Day seems like an excuse to recover from partying and get naps between football games. Labor Day is sad, really, the punctuation to summer and the last opportunity to wear white. But mixed in among those are the twin delights of Memorial Day and Fourth of July. Memorial Day signals the start of summer with all its warmth and potential, and then in the middle of summer, embedded in the heat, is the wild parade of the Fourth of July.

I love the Fourth of July. I love America, but more than anything, I love the community of celebration that gathers around the Fourth of July. People are going to have fun and they don’t care. Head to the lake and ride boats? Sure. Shoot off fireworks in the middle of the night? Why not?  Race to the amusement parks and ride screaming rollercoasters into the sun? Absolutely. Think about it: the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, an event built around dangerous levels of gluttony, is held on the Fourth of July. And it fits.

So what does this have to do with diabetes, you ask? A lot, actually. The day is memorialized around America gaining independence and marking its footprint in the world. That alone was brave, dangerous, and exhilarating. The activities I mentioned speak to the same sensibility, and Americans willingly partake in them. Diabetes, in a unique way, marks your independence in a dangerous but exhilarating manner. Having had Type I Diabetes for 24 years, this mentality is not one to easily embrace, but necessary to accomplish things in life. You are different. You live with a condition that can be difficult if not properly monitored and controlled. Like a rollercoaster. Like a boat ride. Like a firecracker. But if you do, it can bring you an amazing gratefulness for life and its many experiences. I have suffered through some terrible lows, literally and figuratively, during my time with diabetes. But I have achieved some amazing highs, and I will continue to, because I refuse to let the relentless drum of this disease defeat my indomitable spirit. I’ll fill up my Omnipod insulin pump and place it on, step out of the shadows and embrace the day. It will be a little dangerous, a little wild, but I will make it fun.

This year, for the Fourth of July, I took my two beautiful daughters to a parade and to watch fireworks. I checked my glucose levels but I still had burgers and ice cream like the rest. What about you?

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Posted by on Jun 12, 2017 in Diabetes Management, Fitness, Lifestyle, Pump Therapy

My Body is Not Mine

My Body is Not Mine

Have you ever had one of those days? You wake abnormally high or low, you take a bolus to get your glucose down or suspend insulin delivery to bring it back up, and then the melee ensues:

Back and forth. Eat. Exercise. Bolus. Eat. Bolus. Turn off insulin delivery. Turn it back on again. On and on and on…

On those days it feels like I’m throwing darts in the dark (and the dartboard is moving).  Everything seems dizzy and complicated and constantly in a state of motion, with no hopes of settling down. I almost become outside of my body during those times. I feel like it’s a machine that I cannot operate correctly. I don’t feel in sync with myself on those days, which is so discouraging.

diabetes insulin pump

This particular day was a Sunday, which, for some reason, always gives me trouble. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a different day from a lifestyle standpoint. I’m not completing a normal work day routine like I do on Mondays through Fridays, and I’m not busy doing the random errands and to-do lists for myself and my daughters like I do on Saturdays. Sundays, for me, are traditionally light and restful: church, relax, and get ready for the next day. I prefer not to exercise on Sundays, but on days like these, I feel like I have to in order to regulate my glucose levels. It’s so easy to resort to bolusing, but I think it can actually be a detriment at times because it forces me to respond physically when my body, frankly, is just not up to it.

This was one of those days. My bolus shots brought more low blood sugars (lowest PDM reading: 28) and I felt like I lived in the kitchen the rest of the day, eating to get my blood sugar regulated. Thankfully, by 4 pm that afternoon, I was back to being normal.

At least according to the PDM.

By then, though, my body was worn out by the seesaw of glucose levels, and I was worn out trying to manage it. It’s one of the things that I, as a person with diabetes cannot fully articulate to someone who does not have it—getting my mind to address and correct the calamity of my body. Some days, it goes sideways and I get my hands back on the steering wheel to turn it back onto the highway. Some days, I do not feel like I am truly myself.

But I am. On those days more than ever, because I’m willing to fight to make an imperfect body work. So I do the best I can. And I don’t worry if it doesn’t cooperate right away. Eventually, my body finds its way back.

 

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Posted by on Jun 6, 2017 in Diabetes Management, Tips and Tricks

The Stress of It

So let’s talk about a subject everyone loves: stress. Pardon the sarcasm. The truth is no one likes stress. Like uninvited guests at dinner, stress can exhaust even the heartiest of souls, taxing you physically and emotionally, making even the most mundane tasks a Herculean effort.

When you have diabetes, stress occupies a couple of rooms in the house where we have to live. There is the conventional type of stress we associate with life events. There’s the stress of having diabetes itself, juggling diet and lifestyle issues while maintaining glucose control. And then there’s the third type of stress, one that bridges the first two types to create the super stress that can be so debilitating. Sometimes, life events collide with the everyday struggles of having diabetes and take on an advanced level of need for good control.

I think you’ll agree that sometimes trying to understand how glucose levels increase or decrease defies explanation. I remember a time last summer when my sugar ballooned to over 300. Instead of resorting to a bolus with my Omnipod®, I decided to go run eight miles. After completing my run I still felt the same, and checked my blood sugar. I was dismayed when my monitor showed it had increased by 30 points. Okay, so I don’t eat, burn glucose through exercise, and then this happens?! It just drove me crazy. And that was on a normal day.

But then I have a day when something big is happening (job interview, waiting for medical results, vacation travel), causing pressure to mount, and my whole diabetic battle plan goes awry. I eat little and even bolus, yet my glucose level remains high, then even a simple task will cause the glucose level to plummet. I spend my whole time on the proverbial seesaw of highs and lows, desperately seeking that comfortable middle ground that allows me to live like a normal human being. (Normal—cute thought). It’s a demoralizing, hopeless feeling.

But hope is a commodity we have to collect in times like this. I approach these days by keeping three basic things in mind:

  1. I keep perspective in the moment. These events are not every day; if they were, no one could withstand that level of stress. They are unique and temporary, and sometimes I have to simply acknowledge there is a wave I have to ride before I find my way back to normal.
  2. I stick to the plan. I’ve made the mistake on many occasions of over-bolusing to get my glucose level down immediately because I was too impatient to let the insulin work, then spending the next couple of hours eating and drinking to correct it. One bad turn does not deserve another: I have to be patient.
  3. I try to anticipate what stressors I will encounter, and plan my day accordingly. If the day includes a big event, I modify my diet to take in less carbs, or I drink water instead of sugary drinks, or I exercise beforehand. I try to resist the desire to go completely off-script to resolve things. If the script works, I just edit it a little.

Most importantly, I try not to lose hope. Having diabetes is tough. But I don’t let the stress of this lifestyle overwhelm my attempts at good control. I tell those uninvited guests that dinner is over. They can find their meal elsewhere.

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