Many of us only become active in charities when they directly affect our lives. Our kids have autism, we wear the blue puzzle pin. Our grandmother has breast cancer, and our world becomes pink. Some charities, however, go beyond and reach out to those without personal motives. The red ribbon of the AIDS movement, and Lance Armstrong‘s Livestrong bracelets are examples of awareness becoming almost fashionable.When I joined Team Diabetes in 2003, I had no direct link to the cause. I had no friends or family with the disease. I joined for purely selfish reasons: I wanted to go to Iceland.
Once I was part of the cause, I realized I had a chance to make a difference. As a member of the media, I have opportunities to not only win money for charities, but to use my voice as a louder than average tool to raise awareness. We all know that Bob Barker is behind people getting their pets spayed or neutered, I wanted to be the guy known for getting people to take their health seriously.
Team Diabetes Iceland 2012 was my 4th event with Team D. I did Iceland in 2003, Easter Island in 2009, and Rio in 2010 before. At this latest event, I was asked to address the team on the celebration night with an inspirational speech. Usually this speech is given by someone with a remarkable story about how diabetes has affected their lives and how Team Diabetes helps to make a difference. I have no such story, yet I took the microphone to talk about 2 people I thought of as I ticked off every kilometre of my run.
Daniel Hurtubise was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 15. Later, as a father of two, he decided to ride his bike across Canada to raise funds for JDRF.
After two weeks on the bike, Daniel had a hard day managing his diabetes. He wrote this in his journal:
For some unknowed reason I had a very bad day with my diabetes, during the whole day I could not transform my carbohydrates and protein to energie. The whole day I had a terrible headache, I was weak and could not think straight. Alex, Sonia Robert and François were very concerned, everyone was very quit and did not know what to do, I told them that despite the situation the day had to go on. A bad day for a diabetic trying to control his/her energy is much worst than riding 177km… Ask any type 1 diabetic and they will all agree with me…
Whenever I hit a wall in my Team D races, I think about everyone on that course from our team who is living with diabetes. The race is twice as hard for them. What I’m going through hitting that wall is easy in comparison, so I push through.
Two days after that entry, Daniel’s team was hit by a vehicle outside Winnipeg. Daniel and his best friend were killed, Daniel’s children sustained serious injuries but recovered. His cross Canada ride was never finished.
The other person I high fived for every kilometre of the course was Kerri Sparling. Kerri is a very active diabetes advocate through her blog, Six Until Me. Kerri was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 6 years old and says that while diabetes doesn’t define her, it helps to explain her.
When Kerri was younger, she attended diabetes camps. She loved how she could run and play with kids who understood her issues and how she no longer was different. The camps created a great sense of community in Kerri’s life. That sense of community started to disappear as she got older. So Kerri started a blog about living with diabetes, and once again discovered a world of people who understood her highs and lows and could appreciate what she was living with.
Kerri is, perhaps, my most direct link to understand what it’s like to live with diabetes, and I’ve never met her in person. I googled for stories about life with diabetes 5 years ago, I came across Kerri’s blog, and we’ve been corresponding ever since. The story she told about hitting a low and crashing a lunch rush line up at Panera Breads should really put things in perspective.
There was a line for lunch. Four cashiers were working furiously, but the low was creeping up just as fast and my legs were beginning to buckle.
“I need orange juice. I’m diabetic and having a low blood sugar. Can you please help me as quickly as you can?” I stood there in my work clothes and my coat, with my grown-up purse over my arm and started to cry because I couldn’t function properly and I was becoming more and more confused. Not sobbing, not whining, not outwardly breaking down, but big tears rolled out of my eyes without permission and headed for my jawline.
Whenever I raise a dollar for Team Diabetes, I like to think I’m helping Daniel Hurtubise finish his mission to reach $500 000. Whenever I talk about Team Diabetes on the radio, or in social media, I like to think I’m helping Kerri Sparling build her community even bigger.
You can donate to Team Diabetes Edinburgh 2013 right now. Better yet, you can join Team Diabetes and do your own fundraising, your own training, and raise your own awareness. There are runs everywhere from the Cayman Islands to Amsterdam to right back in Reykjavik, Iceland again next August.