How My Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis Made Me A Runner
By: Alex Reidy
Alex Reidy is a Development Coordinator at JDRF and writes about her experience with Type 1 Diabetes on her blog, Iced Coffee & Insulin. She will be running the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon with Team JDRF and is sharing her story about how her journey with T1D led her to this race.
At the time, I thought that my type 1 diabetes diagnosis was catastrophic. I left the hospital confused, upset, and completely alone. My perspective of diabetes had been flooded with images of overweight people who didn’t eat healthy, or “ate too much candy”. I felt so much guilt and anger because I thought that I had given this disease to myself. The lack of education that I received that day immediately spiraled my mind into anger and sadness.
I was diagnosed on June 23, 2013, about 3 months before I would be transferring to a new college across the country, and 5 months before my 21st birthday. I was an endocrinologist’s dream when I was first diagnosed: taking my insulin regularly, always checking my blood sugars, and eating and exercising regularly.
I shed that “perfect” patient persona when I found myself surrounded by a new environment at school. I hid my diabetes, I took my insulin when I wanted to, and I didn’t always check my blood sugar. I went out multiple times a week, in addition to having a heavy course load and being involved in any extracurricular activities. The combination of poor management, heavy drinking, and lack of sleep was devastating to my body. I was hospitalized multiple times and dealt with pneumonia, mononucleosis, and the flu.
The biggest reality check came when I returned back to my endocrinologist and received my A1C levels (an average of your blood sugar levels over a span of 3 months). It was dangerously high. My doctor was blunt, and he told me that my lack of care was going to cost me serious consequences down the road. That was the first time that someone had really knocked some sense into me about how serious type 1 diabetes is.
Over the next few days I had to take a step back and think about how I wanted my life to go. I could continue to be careless to my body or I could step up and take ownership of the cards that I have been dealt with.
In the end, I chose to fight. I threw myself into working with organizations that dedicated their missions to advocating, supporting, and ultimately finding a cure for type 1 diabetes. I started off as an intern for the American Diabetes Association, and eventually found my way to becoming a Development Coordinator for JDRF. My experience at JDRF has been nothing short of incredible and rewarding.
Involving myself with JDRF gave me the opportunity to become a part of Team JDRF events: endurance races across the country that grant a certain number of spots to those involved with JDRF. I jumped at the chance to get involved and saw that a majority of the events were about running.
Running and I have a funny relationship. In high school and college lacrosse, running was used as a punishment. Our coach would threaten us with running extra laps or sprints if we made a mistake on the field. Running meant pain, exhaustion, and failure to me. Running meant training all summer for the dreaded run tests, which I lost countless hours of sleep over. There was never a “runner’s high”; I never felt that feeling.
After my days of lacrosse ended, I started to get back into running more on my own time. I didn’t need to time myself or calculate the distance, I would just jog around and see how far I could go. At that point, I was able to truly ENJOY running. I was able to feel the power of my legs, hear the cadence of my steps, and hear my breath as I pushed myself farther and farther each time.
Running has also been an incredible escape from type 1 diabetes. Being able to plug in my headphones and let my feet carry me has not only lowered my blood sugars, but it’s a way to “check out” for a few hours. After about 30 minutes of running, I can usually feel that “runner’s high” kick into gear. I feel a sense of strength and power, and I want to go faster and farther.
I completed my first half-marathon for Team JDRF in March and knew that I wanted to fulfill a life-long goal of running a marathon. I immediately signed up to run the TCS NYC Marathon for Team JDRF and am proud to say that I convinced my older sister, Jillian, to run on the team with me.
Training for a marathon has been a mental and physical challenge. The mental side of training was tough: waking up at the crack of dawn or late night to fit in a run, dealing with aches and pains from training, fitting in the workout when you’re exhausted. Throw in running with type 1 diabetes, and that is another obstacle. I need to keep track of how much insulin I have in my system before I start running, carry emergency supplies when I’m heading low, and constantly be checking my blood sugar to see how I’m doing. There have been frustrating runs where I’ve had to stop and turn around because I was going too low, and runs where I was so mentally exhausted from a bad blood sugar day that I had to walk.
However, I motivate myself with the mentality that I CAN DO THIS. When my legs feel like iron rods, my sides are cramping up, and I can feel the salt forming on my skin, there is a moment when I take a step back and think about what I am truly running for.
I always have pushed myself with the mantra, mind over matter. A positive mind can give you the power to achieve and overcome obstacles that you didn’t think were possible.
I’m so excited to participate in the NYC Marathon this weekend and I couldn’t imagine running for any other organization but JDRF.
Make sure to check out our Instagram stories this weekend as Alex @icedcoffeeandinsulin brings us along for her first TCS NYC Marathon experience! #SPIBELTxJDRF
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