Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Little More Personal Than Usual

Attending the Diabetes Hands Foundation Masterlab Conference in July reenergized my diabetes advocacy efforts. One of the sessions that really struck a chord with me at the conference was a presentation by Dr. Mark Heyman from the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health titled “Don’t Forget About You: Taking Care of Yourself While Advocating for Others.” As excited as I was when I was offered the scholarship to attend the conference in Orlando, I was under a lot of stress. In fact, I almost had to pass up on the offer.

I had given up a steady paycheck and health insurance when I resigned from a job in February. It was a huge gamble, but I had to do something drastic to get my career back on track. My savings dwindled quickly while I looked for the next opportunity. I went to work for my family's small business where I love what I do, but do not pull much of an income or benefits to afford the insulin and medical supervision I need to stay alive with type one diabetes. I doubled down and invested money to keep the fledgling business alive only to find myself struggling to break even. In the meantime, I relied on a stockpile of diabetes supplies I hoarded in anticipation of this phase.

I started lowering my expectations, applying for jobs I knew were no better than the one I left. One such position invited me to interview on a date that conflicted with the Masterlab conference. I attempted to reschedule or arrange alternatives like telephone or Skype, but the prospective employer was too rigid to consider. I decided to accept the scholarship and fly across the country to attend the conference. I convinced myself that the networking opportunity was worth turning down an interview for a position I really did not want anyways.

During Dr. Heyman’s presentation at Masterlab, he talked about how if you want to be an advocate, you have to remember to take care of yourself first so that you may be of service to the community. I noticed my posture changing as I became defensive and pessimistic about my situation. As an ultrarunner, I am nothing if not persistent. Although I consider myself a lifelong recreational athlete, my raw athletic talent is limited. However, in running and in life, I do not give up. I find a way. I take pride in my scrappiness and resilience. I met a lot of interesting people at the conference, fellow advocates and a variety of diabetes industry representatives. Nonetheless, there was no immediate relief from my real life stress.

I came home more determined than ever. I kept searching and applying for work. I did my best to keep the family business afloat. I didn’t panic, but harnessed my anxiety as motivation to get stuff done. Of course there are better sources of energy, but sometimes you just have to burn what is available.

McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Several months in advance, Jenny and I had committed to crewing/pacing our friend Mitch at the Tahoe 100M. We made a week long road trip out of it, taking the coast up California with overnight stop in Big Sur. Before we reached Lake Tahoe, I received a call from a job I was really interested in and had already interviewed. I got an offer! I was thrilled, but waiting on a scheduled interview for an even better opportunity. To skip ahead on this part of the story, I would eventually land the job I most wanted. I’ll come back to that shortly.

Mitch's Crew at Tahoe 100M
At Lake Tahoe, our friend Mitch was unable to finish his race. He had a problem with his calf muscle that made it prudent to stop at mile 50. We still had a great time with friends. During this peaceful and scenic getaway, Jenny and I discussed getting married. We had talked about it previously, but I was reluctant to propose until I secured a job again. A few weeks later, after accepting a new job, we told our families and I got down on one knee to formally propose.
Moments after giving Jenny the ring
The reason I bring up that aspect of my life on this blog about diabetes and endurance sports is that healthy relationships are such an integral part of overall well being. Fortunately, we are on the same page as far as balancing demanding schedules with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We love to eat well and exercise together regularly. In fact, one of our most memorable days together was running Bryce Canyon 50M in June. She is a very supportive part of my everyday diabetes management plan. I’ll leave the topic of exploring diabetes and relationships more in depth for another time. Suffice it to say for now, that I am extremely grateful to have her in my life and to move towards starting a family together by getting married.

Going back to my employment situation, I was lucky enough to get the job I most wanted after all. The health insurance benefit kicked in on September 1st. That same day, I filled a prescription for a three month supply of medications for literally pennies on the dollar compared to retail price. I don’t like to cry poor even in tough times because everything is relative. There are too many people who die or suffer greatly for lack of access to proper care. I knowingly stretched my resources this year. For the foreseeable future, I no longer have to worry about running out of  insulin, needles, test strips, or other meds.

Now that I am once again able to take good care of myself, it’s time to give back. This humble blog is one of the ways I strive to accomplish that. I love endurance sports. I can swim, bike, and (especially) run ridiculously long distances. It’s a hobby that became a lifestyle and identity.

The blog seeks to share my thoughts and experience safely navigating these adventures. I hope aspiring diabetic athletes can learn something from either my success or failures. I hope to connect with likeminded people to feel part of a larger community. Perhaps even those who have no interest in endurance and would rather play a different sport or just add a short walk to their daily routine can gain something from this forum. With proper management, diabetes doesn’t have to limit you in any way.

My sixth Dwight Crum Pier to Pier finish
Had a chance to check out Badwater 135M

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