Last week, I went to Nashville to spend some time with the Bike Beyond team. This team of 20 people, all living with type 1 diabetes, are spending their summer biking from New York to San Francisco. The leadership team at Beyond Type 1, the organization who planned this amazing event, asked me to come hang out with the members of team on one of their off days – about 25 days into their 70 day ride – to give them some support. While I’m not going to talk about any of the private conversations I had with the riders, I wanted to share some of the things I took away from my day with these amazing riders.
For a team made up of people with type 1 diabetes, it was striking how diabetes faded into the background. Everyone lives with it, so it’s just a normal part of life. When the people you are surrounded by all have diabetes, the daily tasks just become what you do, and they start to seem a lot less annoying. We went to a yoga class and CGM alarms went off multiple times. If this were a normal yoga class, these alarms would probably be met with confusion, dirty looks or nasty comments. At this class, they were as normal as the teacher’s dialogue. One of the hardest parts of diabetes is that it makes people feel different. When the people who are around you every minute of every day have to do the same things you do, diabetes just becomes part of normal life. Isn’t that the goal for all of us?
You may be thinking that you could never ride a bike across the country (or even across town). You may think you don’t have the motivation, or you’re not in good enough shape, or your A1c isn’t low enough. The reality is these riders are just like every person with type 1 diabetes. The only difference between the Bike Beyond riders and everybody else is that these riders said yes to this adventure. They all deal with high and low blood sugars like the rest of us. Some of them had no experience riding a bike before the ride. Their motivation to keep on riding sometimes changes by the minute. Isn’t that a common story? If we wait until things are ‘perfect’ with diabetes, our motivation or anything else before we’re willing to take a risk and make a change, we may be waiting a really long time. Hopefully these riders can inspire us to say yes, even when we have all kinds of excuses about why we can’t.
New York to San Francisco is a long way on plane, not to mention a bike. These riders are showing the world that people with diabetes can do anything they put their mind to. Diabetes isn’t holding these riders back. They’re actually using diabetes to showcase their strengths to the rest of the world. This diverse team has come together with a very clear purpose – to educate people about diabetes and to demonstrate in a very real way, that diabetes can’t stop anyone from living their dreams. They are making a difference and their message is being heard.
I left Nashville last week inspired by this amazing group of riders. They all decided to take something that makes them different in the real world to find community. They are educating the world and building communities in the process, across this country and around the world, not because they are different from anybody else with diabetes, but simply because they believed in themselves and said yes. This team shows us all, in a tangible way, that diabetes can’t stop you from doing anything you want to do. I know that this team and their message will continue to empower people for a long time!