"You have diabetes"--three simple words that changed my life. There in the ER, at age 11, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This form of the disease causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin. For the rest of my life, I would require self-administered insulin injections. Prior to my diagnosis, I was an active kid who loved getting outside, playing basketball and riding my bike. I was also a Boy Scout, and I enjoyed camping and hiking. My initial thoughts included the disheartening realization that I'd never again enjoy those outdoor activities, and that I'd be relegated to some extremely limited diet. Thankfully--and to my surprise--this was not the case.
As it turns out, a life with diabetes doesn't have to be much different than life without diabetes. After my initial orientation with the disease, I quickly gained the upper hand, vowing that I would control it and never let it control me. I read everything I can on the subject of controlling my diabetes, and on living an active lifestyle while properly managing it. I always wanted a job that would enable me to help others, and initially I set my sights on medical research. But after I had some college under my belt, I changed my focus to radiologic technology. I would still be helping people, but with the added element of first-hand patient interaction--an aspect that I definitely enjoyed.
While in radiography school, I began promoting and participating in the Oklahoma Society of Radiologic Technologists (OSRT). Selected as one of two inaugural interns to the OSRT Board of Directors, I found it to be a positive place to spend my time and energy. After graduation, I became vice president, and for the past few years, I've been actively involved in the board's management. After working in a cardiac cath lab following graduation, I accepted a position last year with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center as a clinical assistant professor and clinical coordinator on the Oklahoma University-Tulsa campus.
During my time in the radiography program, a classmate mentioned his participation in an upcoming triathlon. He knew that I'd been a cross-country runner since middle school, and I'd also been a swimmer in high school. I had a mountain bike and loved riding the trails, but I'd always seen the road cyclists in their spandex and thought, "I'll never be seen in one of those ridiculous outfits." Nevertheless, my classmate convinced me to sign up for the triathlon in the fall of 2006. Although I had the wrong type of bike and a poorly thought-out racing strategy, I was H-O-O-K-E-D! I bought a road bike the following spring, and began training and racing in every triathlon I could find. The more I trained, the more I understood my diabetes, and the better I raced. Now, I am one of those people in spandex, riding my bike and loving every minute of it.
In the fall of 2008, I met a co-founder of the Team Type 1 cycling team, which consists of individuals with type 1 diabetes who compete in races nationwide to raise awareness of the disease. After several phone calls and e-mails about diabetes and training-related items, I became a member of the 2009 Team Type 1 Triathlon team. It's a great resource for me to not only pick up pointers about diabetes management while racing but also to promote diabetes awareness.
Those three simple words--"You have diabetes"--changed my life. However, contrary to the negative experience one might expect, I view my diagnosis as a positive development. Managing this disease has provided me with the drive and focus needed to pursue my dreams without letting anything stand in my way. I've shared my story and provided insight about diabetes; I've pursued my interests in triathlons; and I've even advanced my profession through involvement with my state society. At the time of my diagnosis, the future was foreboding. However, knowing how I persevered has given me the insight to know that I shouldn't fear what life throws at me, despite lacking an "X-ray vision" of the future.