01 February 2013

Diabetes is not the Boss of me! by Lew Alexander

In July, 2008 (45 years old), I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. My Mom, Dad and older brother are all Type 2 so I wasn’t surprised at the diagnosis but was shocked to be faced with it at that age.   I am fortunate to have a Physician who explained this diagnosis in very clear terms: “I can go on with my current lifestyle and he will keep me alive with meds having to increase dosages and types over the years and someday will become insulin dependent. In the meantime, I will potentially be faced with all sorts of medical issues (loss of limbs, loss of eyesight, impotence and many more) and will probably die prematurely from complications from Diabetes.  Or, I can start eating better and exercising more and stave off these issues and live a life much closer to normalcy”.  The next day I was in the gym doing spin class.  I could only manage 30 minutes on the bike at first  but soon I was pounding out one hour classes and working hard.  I shed about 30 lbs. in a matter of a few months and feeling better than I had in a very long time.  The next step was a road bike and then I discovered the joy of riding and the stress that I left on the road.
In March 2010, I was involved in a violent motorcycle accident that severely injured the left side of my body and nearly killed me.  It took nine surgeries over 6 months to get everything sorted out.  My body totally atrophied from all of the time in hospitals and being bed ridden at home.  In January 2011, I started climbing back both physically and mentally using first the Spin bike and then my road bike to recover.  I had set a goal of riding a century (100 miles) that August but could only manage 25 miles (my recovery was bigger than I ever expected).  But I wasn’t discouraged and continued riding with a new goal of 100 miles in August 2012.  Along the way I was doing local rallies; increasing my endurance at each step.  I chose the DFW Tour de Cure as one of those training rides thinking that raising a few dollars for my disease while training was a double bonus.  That ride transformed me; getting to know other diabetic riders, learning about the ADA and what they do for us Diabetics, and seeing the impact they are making gave me a new cause.  After I made my century goal in August, I went on to ride the Houston Tour de Cure a month later (my second century). 
On the drive back home from the Houston TdC, I came up with a goal for 2013: “1,000 miles of Tour de Cure’s and raise $10,000”.  Since then I have been focused on the logistics of fitting 11 events in an 8 month time frame and training to prepare my body for the physical challenge.  My first TdC is in March, so right now this is just a goal but by then end of September I am confident it will be a reality.
Even though I have diabetes, I feel blessed.  I am blessed that I can control my diabetes with diet, exercise and low doses of oral meds.  I am blessed that I am healthy enough to ride my bike for a cause.  I am inspired by my Type 1 friends who depend on insulin to stay alive; who battle daily with a delicate balance of insulin and carbohydrates and the highs and lows that they struggle with.  I am inspired by the kids who are faced with a disease they don’t understand which makes them live their lives differently than their friends; and their parents who have to help them struggle with managing insulin shots, finger pricks, and the right amount of food each day.  I am inspired by my Type 2 friends and family that have to deal with the health issues associated with Diabetes (I have a friend who is now blind in one eye and struggling to keep his sight in the other).  While I know that my contributions to fight Diabetes are small in the grand scheme of things, I am inspired by the prospect that those contributions, along with all of the others who share this cause with me, may someday bring a cure for this disease.
So I ride; I ride to stay healthy and to fight off the eventual effects that diabetes will have on my body.  And I ride the Tour de Cure to raise money so that someday this scourge on people will be wiped away forever.


Don Muchow said...

I am a fellow cyclist and friend of Lew's, and the part of the story this does not tell is that despite having to overcome his own challenges -- dealing with diabetes, the motorcycle accident, and subsequent recovery--and clawing his way back to doing centuries, Lew is also a compassionate and inspiring guy to be around. Lew is probably the single most influential reason I finally rode my first metric century. I know he rides faster than me... and farther... but at the Cowtown 62-miler in Ft. Worth, when the miles got up into the high fifties and I was flagging, Lew was there encouraging me. Lew is a genuinely likeable guy and a fantastic athlete.

Lew, you are one of the four people who have inspired me to train for a half iron to be completed some time in the next two years.


Douglas Duguay said...

Seems like more than one person is inspired by Lew. It was recommended that we talk to him by someone else in the cycling community in DFW. Thank you for sharing your experience and "Go Red Riders"

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