In July, 2008, at age 45, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. My Mom, Dad and older brother are all Type 2, so I wasn’t surprised at the diagnosis, but was shocked to be faced with it at that age.
I am fortunate to have a physician who explained this diagnosis in very clear terms: “I can go on with my current lifestyle and he will keep me alive with meds having to increase dosages and types over the years. Someday I will become insulin dependent. In the meantime, I will potentially be faced with all sorts of medical issues (loss of limbs, loss of eyesight, impotence and many more) and will probably die prematurely from complications from diabetes. Or, I can start eating better and exercising more and stave off these issues and live a life much closer to normalcy”.
The next day I was in the gym doing spin class. I could only manage 30 minutes on the bike at first, but soon I was pounding out one-hour classes and working hard. I shed about 30 pounds in a matter of a few months and feeling better than I had in a very long time. The next step was a road bike where I discovered the joy of riding and the stress that I left on the road.
In March 2010, I was involved in a violent motorcycle accident that severely injured the left side of my body and nearly killed me. It took nine surgeries over six months to get everything sorted out. My body totally atrophied from all of the time in hospitals and being bed ridden at home. In January 2011, I started climbing back both physically and mentally, using first the spin bike and then my road bike to recover. I had set a goal of riding a century (100 miles) that August but could only manage 25 miles (my recovery was bigger than I ever expected). But I wasn’t discouraged and continued riding with a new goal of 100 miles in August 2012. Along the way I was doing local rallies, increasing my endurance at each step. I chose the DFW Tour de Cure as one of those training rides thinking that raising a few dollars for my disease while training was a double bonus. That ride transformed me- getting to know other diabetic riders, learning about the ADA and what they do for us diabetics, and seeing the impact they are making gave me a new cause. After I made my century goal in August, I went on to ride the Houston Tour de Cure a month later (my second century).
On the drive back home from the Houston TDC, I came up with a goal for 2013: “1,000 miles of Tours de Cure and raise $10,000”. Since then I have been focused on the logistics of fitting 11 events in an eight-month time frame and training to prepare my body for the physical challenge. I have now completed eight Tours de Cure and have ridden over 750 miles. I have raised over $8,000. So, right now this is still just a goal but by the end of September I am confident it will be a reality.
Even though I have diabetes, I feel blessed. I am blessed that I can control my diabetes with diet, exercise and low doses of oral meds. I am blessed that I am healthy enough to ride my bike for a cause. I am inspired by my Type 1 friends who depend on insulin to stay alive and who battle daily with a delicate balance of insulin and carbohydrates and the highs and lows that they struggle with. I am inspired by the kids who are faced with a disease they don’t understand which makes them live their lives differently than their friends and their parents who have to help them struggle with managing insulin shots, finger pricks, and the right amount of food each day. I am inspired by my Type 2 friends and family that have to deal with the health issues associated with diabetes (I have a friend who is now blind in one eye and struggling to keep his sight in the other). While I know that my contributions to fight diabetes are small in the grand scheme of things, I am inspired by the prospect that those contributions, along with all of the others who share this cause with me, may someday bring a cure for this disease.
So I ride; I ride to stay healthy and to fight off the eventual effects that diabetes will have on my body. And I ride the Tour de Cure to raise money so that someday this scourge on people will be wiped away forever.
– Lew Alexander