I vividly remember my diagnosis as a Type 1 diabetic. It was 1996, and I had lost about 20 pounds in six weeks, causing my clothes to fall off of me. I was also constantly thirsty and needed to use the bathroom more often than usual.
Anticipating much worse, I felt a sense of relief after my diagnosis. Although I was relieved, I knew that my life was about to change drastically for a 30-year old. My aunt had been diabetic and I remembered how strict her diet was, how often she had to check her blood sugar and how often those levels were high, low or out of control.
My greatest obstacle as a diabetic is having “diabetic” become how other people view me. My family is always concerned about me, and I can tell that my friends and co-workers frequently worry that they will have to intervene if I miss a high or low. This attention has a tendency to feel awkward at times, although I am appreciative of their concern.
I decided to participate in my first Tour de Cure five years ago. For years my wife rode in the Tour de Cure, and I initially decided to participate so that I could spend more time with her and be part of such a great cause to raise awareness for diabetes. With her experience, she helped me learn how to ride, how and when to shift and how to get in shape. However, it was up to me to learn what exercise means for blood sugars. Although I didn’t always feel like I needed a break, I learned that I needed to stop every 10-20 miles to check my blood sugar.
My favorite part of participating in the Tour de Cure is hearing people chant “Go Red Rider, go.” All of the participants are working hard to support the cause, and it’s great that people recognize that for some of us this is very personal. Honestly, there is nothing better than hearing this cheer from a fellow Red Rider. Completing my first Tour de Cure filled me with a deep sense of pride and empowerment.
My advice to other diabetics who want to participate in the Tour de Cure, but have never cycled before, is that you can do more than you think and you’ll have fun. I was not in shape when I started training and I could only ride 5 miles comfortably at a time. However, in a few months I showed up prepared to ride the 15-mile route, but I made a last-minute decision to ride the 25-mile route instead. In my opinion, organized rides like the Tour de Cure are the perfect place for diabetics; there are tons of people around you, food at rest stops and support along the way. You can do it.
David LeVant is an advertising copywriter living in Pittsford with his wife Carla, senior social worker at Golisano Children’s Hospital. They have two sons in their early 20s, one living and working in South Carolina and one graduating from Ithaca College in the spring. David is self-employed, writing advertising and marketing materials for agencies and corporate clients locally and across the country. He graduated from Brighton High School and Hobart College in the ‘80s.