This is not an article on the newest 21-speed shift derailleur or the benefits of carbon fiber over aluminum frames. It is a story of my ride toward health and wellness.
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in December 2009. It wasn't a total surprise—both my parents had the disease. But, turning 50, I thought maybe, just maybe, I had escaped it.
When I got the news during an annual physical, I was nonetheless stunned. Although I knew about the insulin, hypoglycemic episodes, and final choices around dialysis, I started reading all I could about diabetes. The reality hit me hard. Nearly 26 million Americans have the disease. People with diabetes are at a greater risk for heart disease and cancer. I had to admit that I was frightened.
With time, I turned my fear into fight. Life is too short to spend it worrying. Yes, there were many unknowns, but what was not unknown was how much I had to live for: my wife and son, extended family, and friends.
I was determined to make changes. As an incentive to exercise more, I registered for the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure® bicycle ride. I went to spin class three to four days a week that winter. When I wasn't spinning, I was running. I changed my diet: no more alcohol, fewer carbohydrates. It wasn't easy. But soon I looked forward to those hours on my bike. With each revolution of the pedals, I felt more empowered to fight my diabetes.
After six months of training, I received the good news: I had lost 25 pounds. I had cut my A1C from 11 to 6.7. I felt strong and ready for the Tour de Cure.
The Washington, D.C., ride took place that year on Father's Day. As I pedaled 100 kilometers through heat in the 90s, I thought about my dad's struggles with diabetes. I remembered his being hospitalized for severe lows and being mistakenly picked up by parking lot police for being drunk. Diabetes was misunderstood then. I remembered when his kidneys began to fail at 83 after he had taken good care of his condition for decades.
I reflected on my determination to be healthy and to have a rich life together with my wife, Barbara, and my son, Henry. I thought of all the family, friends, and colleagues who were the wind at my back during this ride and helped me raise more than $2,200 to fight diabetes.
In the final stretch of scorching pavement, I thought about how fortunate I was. I've benefited from the progress made in treating diabetes since my father had the disease. And I have been blessed to receive a powerful reminder of just how precious life is.
I continue to cherish my time on the bike. The road is long, and I expect to struggle up a few hills from time to time. Yet I stay focused on maintaining a strong cadence. This year's Tour de Cure is just around the corner.
Peter Joyce lives with his wife and 18-year-old son in Arlington, Va. He directs the Washington, D.C., office of an education research and consulting firm, and is a member of the Team Type 2 cycling team.
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