Guest post this week by someone I connected with as part of the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) and then realized he lived here! A rare native Charlottean, Harry Thompson is starting a chapter of Insulindependence in our fair city. What's that? Read on..
When I sat down to write this post, I had planned to use a slightly modified version of a post I’d written for another friend’s diabetes blog. However, before I finished, I received an email from someone that had seen that original post. This person had been living with Type 1 diabetes for 7 years, but I was the first other diabetic that she had “spoken” with. That really made me realize…it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day management of diabetes that you sometimes end up trapped inside your own Truman Show-style diabetes bubble. Finding 3-dimensional people with diabetes can seem like hunting a white whale, but once you find them, they can be a wealth of information and support. It’s amazing how the awkwardness of meeting a complete stranger goes away when you share the common bond of a malfunctioning pancreas.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes shortly before my 12th birthday. I've always been an active person – I played baseball throughout high school, rowed competitively in college, and have been an avid runner, cyclist, and occasional triathlete in my adult life. Not surprisingly it has gotten harder to find time for exercise with a full-time job, work around the house, and chasing a toddler, but I still consider exercise to be one of the most important parts of my diabetes management.
I ran my first half-marathon in roughly 2 hours and 20 minutes. That's not really impressive from a competitive standpoint…there are people who have run full marathons in less time. The reason I mention the time is that the time I spent running a race one Saturday morning is longer than the combined time I've spent with my endocrinologist in the past two years. My doctors have always been supportive of my exercise goals, as they also know how beneficial exercise is to diabetes management. However, in the limited amount of time that we get to spend together during my checkups 3-4 times a year, it’s really not possible for them to tell me how to handle all of the surprises that may come up during training and competition. They can offer dosing advice, recommend reference books, and provide plenty of moral support, but 90% of exercising with diabetes is trial and error. Each person reacts differently to physical activity, so there’s no magical formula. The type of exercise is another variable…short, intense activity can raise blood sugar levels, while longer endurance activity can cause pretty steady drops in blood sugar (and as Stacey has described before, swimming pools have magical blood-sugar-stabilizing properties).
I knew there were other diabetic athletes out there that were going through the same struggles, but I had no idea how to connect with them. Thankfully, a friend that I’d met through the diabetes blogosphere introduced me to a group called Insulindependence.
I learned about the various clubs within the organization (specializing in triathlon, running, outdoor adventure, and ocean sports), as well as their monthly local chapter events, known as Dawn Phenoms. As I learned more, I became envious of other cities that had existing chapters, and thought how awesome it would be to have the opportunity to show up at one of those monthly events, meet other diabetics, and share stories of how they deal with the challenges of diabetes and exercise.
Unfortunately, I found out there was not a local chapter anywhere near Charlotte. That’s understandable, since Insulindependence is based out of San Diego, but that doesn’t mean that diabetics in the Carolinas don’t deserve the same benefits as our West Coast friends. This summer, I traveled to San Diego to meet and train with other volunteers who are running existing chapters or starting new ones in other cities. Starting in a few weeks, I’ll be running the monthly Dawn Phenom events for the new Charlotte chapter of Insulindependence.
Our first local event will be on Saturday, September 22nd at 9:00am, and will be a run/walk event at the Huntersville Business Park off I-77, exit 23. The group will meet in the parking lot of the Physician’s Plaza, attached to the back of the Presbyterian Hospital-Huntersville.
I’d like to emphasize that these events are free and open to all ability levels. Type 1s, 2s, and 3s (non-diabetic supporters) are all encouraged to attend. We will have snacks and plenty of time to socialize, in addition to getting in a Saturday morning workout.
If you or anyone you know would benefit from this group, I hope you’ll join us in getting the Charlotte chapter off the ground. If you have any questions or want to be added to our mailing list for event details and announcements, please email me at CLT.Insulindependence@gmail.com
Also, to join Insulindependence (again, free!) and begin earning points for free rewards, please visit Insulindependence.org and click “become a member” in the upper left corner.
Harry and his wife Meredith live in Huntersville with their two-year-old daughter. You can follow Harry on Twitter @harrythompson.