16 YEARS: MY STORY SO FAR (REVISITED)
I wrote a lot of this entry last year but felt that today, on World Diabetes Day, it was right to revisit it, update it and re-post it help those affected by diabetes and to help raise the awareness of Diabetes.
I want to take this chance, on World Diabetes Day (14th November) and coincidentally my 16th anniversary of living with diabetes, to try and explain to you all more of: what it is, how it drives me, gives me determination, and what I choose to do with it.
"Diabetes does not define me. But what I do with it does."
Ok so that is easy to say but I'm not a sit back kind of guy, and nor do I want to be; I want to do everything and be everywhere. I made a decision to accept and embrace Diabetes, to work as one with it. I didn't ask for it, I certainly didn't get it by eating too much cake, but it is part of me. It isn't in control, it doesn't rule me and by far doesn't define me.
Diagnosis & Growing Up
At diagnosis, when I was 10 years old, I had no idea how my life would change or if it even would, I didn't know what Diabetes was or how it would affect me but as a naive young boy I just carried on. My medical team were great, it was all positivity, and even more so were my parents. They had the hardest job of all. How does a parent react to the news their child has a life changing condition. I was lucky enough to have parents who could cope and understand the ins and outs right away. It was a fast and steep learning curve for my parents and me. I often hear stories from other Type 1's, describing their diagnosis with negativity; this upsets me. There is no reason why this should be so.
The first thing I wanted to do was get back to school, play football and enjoy playing around; just generally being a kid. There was no “you can’t do this” or “you can’t do that”, I was supported so well by everyone around me; for that I am truly thankful. It meant I could just be me, make mistakes and learn along the way.
Did my diagnosis change everything for me? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No. I like to look at it in the following way. It gave and still gives me a routine, something that a lot of people at that age didn't or don't have. Even at my age now, people struggle to find a routine. Further to this, routine is something that goes hand in hand with my sport.
Sport has always been my passion. Even before I was diagnosed. I have never considered my Diabetes to stop this. I grew up playing sport. Anything I could. I played Football (Soccer to you America folk), Basketball, Cricket, Rugby (occasionally) as well as competing in running (mainly cross-country) and the occasional junior Triathlon (I live on the Isle of Man, these were few and far between!).
Looking back at the journey through the first few months and years of living with Type 1 Diabetes, I think the hardest part of it, is awareness or potentially the misinterpretation of the condition by others.
"Is he OK? Are his sugar levels fine? Does he need insulin? Can you eat that?"
I honestly don't know if I'd know much about Diabetes if it wasn't for having it myself! Regardless of this, I don't get angry or annoyed, I feel it is an opportunity to help educate others on the condition in the hope they can help our community empower others. We are always learning. But no matter what, I race and train to the best of my ability. It is only a boundary if I let it be one!
The Next Level
Through University I told myself I wanted to take Triathlon seriously. I loved running and had raced a handful of times whilst growing up. I wanted a routine that would add to my regime. I felt triathlon would go hand in hand with it. Fast forward 12 months and I was representing Great Britain at a home World Triathlon Championships in London. Fast forward another 12 and it was another World Championships and European Championships. I love to see my diabetes as just another part of the training process, if I can understand how my body works then whilst racing I can use the knowledge to call upon.
Team Novo Nordisk
The next 12 months were vital to where and who I am now. I found myself in contact with Team Novo Nordisk (a global all-diabetes sports team of cyclists, triathletes and runners), and more importantly a wonderful woman called Amber. Following some emailing, skipping and general to and froing I was invited to join Team Novo Nordisk's Triathlon team. I was ecstatic. It enabled me to represent the team at Diabetes related talks and events and furthermore (and more importantly to me) to help spread the team philosophy "Inspire, Educate and Empower" to those affected by Diabetes.
In my first year with the team I had my best season yet, representing the Isle of Man at the 2015 Island Games in Jersey, Great Britain at the European Championships (Age Group) and my best result; finishing second in the British Triathlon Championships (20-24AG).
The Perfect Job
Following that fantastic season which also included graduating from University I was offered a spot on Team Novo Nordisk's Development Squad. This was a huge huge opportunity for me, one I grasped with both hands! I spent 2016 converting to solely cycling and racing out of Atlanta in the USA. The year was a huge learning curve as those of you following my blog will have seen. I had a fantastic time racing throughout the USA, learning how to race a bike as well as having the opportunity to speak to so many inspirational people that I look up to.
2017, my second year in cycling, has erupted exponentially. Having found my legs in cycling, I was offered the opportunity to Stagiaire with the pro-team mid year and following a successful trial have been awarded a professional contract. I am so excited to continue to learn and develop in cycling with the huge desire to achieve big results for not only myself, but for the team and more importantly everyone out there affected by Diabetes.
I've lived more of my life with Diabetes than without it. It hasn't stopped me doing anything I've wanted to do and has gifted me the opportunity to meet so many incredible and inspiring people. Further to this it has brought me into a whole new family and community.
To you it may sound strange, foolish or just downright idiotic that I say Diabetes is the best thing to ever happen to me but it’s true. Upon diagnosis, I was given a choice – similar to fight or flight I suppose, but moreover a gift. Through Diabetes I learnt and developed a way of life, a structure, a routine. A routine that most teenagers don’t have. I believe this has given me such an advantage throughout the irrational teenager years and more so in my sporting career.
A final though: When I give my talks I often highlight the ignorance of others. To anyone else with Diabetes, this ignorance isn't your problem, it is theirs. It shouldn't be something we get annoyed at but something we should help to educate. By doing this we help empower others and thats a remarkable feeling.
Diabetes; I will never make an apology for you, and nor should I. I will always live with it but most importantly I embrace it. I work hard and give my all, always. Empowering and helping as many people as I can along the way. Diabetes doesn't define me as a person, but what I do with it does.
"If I could change one person's view on diabetes"
On top of the talks I give, I always have a one overriding thought and it's one of the main reasons I love what I do. If I could change one person's view on diabetes, living with it or not, then I've positively affected their life for the better and that, to me, is amazing.
Thank you all for your time. Please feel free to get in touch. I love the stories.
As ever, a massive thank you for your continued help and support. It really does help and it is all appreciated. Any feedback you might have would be fantastic, please do get in touch; use the contact form or comment below. Anything I can change or do, anything you’d like to see, just let me know.
To keep up to date, follow me here:
Twitter - @samnbrand
Instagram - samuelnealbrand