31 January 2013

Cycling Helps Me Control My Diabetes by Kim Southwick

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on August 29, 2007, my 38th birthday.  I had lost 30 pounds over the course of a month and a half, 3 of them overnight.  I knew that morning that something was wrong with me.  So much for my tapeworm jokes.    

At my diagnosis, my nurse was a soft talker.  All I got was that her cat was diabetic and that type 1 is the "good kind" of diabetes.  I stabbed an orange a few times, was handed a small novel of prescriptions (except the needles, cause, really, who needs to inject insulin in this day and age?!), and then was told to get an appointment at the Joslin Diabetes Center.  My nurse and doctor showed me the door with a "good luck" tossed in for good measure, and I was on my own with a deadly disease.

The first month of living with type 1 was surreal.  I didn't feel right.  Ever.  Everything from my head to my toes just felt off.  This was the new normal and I can't say I was embracing it.  While my sugars dropped into an acceptable range, I read everything I could about type 1.  Exercise was mentioned over and over and over in each book or article.  I had always been a big walker, but my attempts at it as a new type 1 were painful.  My sugar shot over 300 and I felt like garbage every time.  I was giving up on walking very quickly and at a loss of what to replace it with.  

One afternoon my kids asked to go for a bike ride. A banged up bike came with our condo purchase, and banged up is being generous.  The chain was leaving rust flakes behind as we rolled out and I vaguely remember dropping my feet and doing a Fred Flintstone to stop that thing from catapulting me into traffic.  But once I'd gotten over the shock of it all, the second nature of it came back.   It was just like riding a bike!  My blood sugar was around 160 when we left.  About 20 mins into our ride (and mind you, this was no group ride hammer-fest, it was a mom and two little ones buzzing around the neighborhood) I started to feel wrong.  Really wrong.  Sweaty, disoriented, weird.  My sugar had dropped to 60.  I couldn't believe it!  What a difference it had been from my walks.  I was thrilled (not with the number which was way too low, but with the idea of riding a bike to help control my disease) and psyched to have figured out my solution!

Fast forward to 5 years later, I own no less than 7 bikes (low rider, commute, road and some in between!) and came very close to sleeping in my Sidi's when I bought them brand new!  I have completed 4 centuries with the JDRF in Death Valley CA, and am heading out for my 5th in October.  With the ADA, I've ridden Orlando (with my brother), Gloucester (with my husband) and RI (with my children).  I ride 12 miles, round trip each day on my commute to work and I do it year round.  Rain or shine, snow or sleet, I'm going to ride.  In my book, there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear!  I am always training for Death Valley, but 2013 is going to find me upping that as I've added several more centuries to my roster.  My husband has hopes to race the Mt Washington race one day and both of my children covet sweet rides, know who Phil Liggett is and that the Tour is in July!  None of us care for Lance...

My bike intercepted my life and likely saved it in the process.  Diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetes, is deadly.  My rides keep my numbers in line, keep my heart healthy and add enjoyment to my days.  Though I've been hit by cars, jumped  by errant teenagers, yelled at and had stuff thrown at me, I still get on my bike each day.   For me it is all about the ride!  


Becky Aiken Neal said...

Inspiring story, thanks. I think i'll go get on my bike today. :)

Becky Aiken Neal said...

Inspiring story, thanks. I think i'll go get on my bike today.

Unknown said...

Good! I'm glad she inspired you to get on your bike.

Tim Reed said...

Before leaving my hometown for a job, I bike a lot but not anymore. Thanks for sharing your story and how it did wonderfully to keep your diabetes at bay.

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