A Red Rider Leads the Way
A health scare turns Jeff VanDeusen into a Tour de Cure ambassador
Jeff VanDeusen says he plans to complete 13 century rides this year.
That's 100 miles in one cycling session. Thirteen times.
You'd think VanDeusen, 56, of Marysville, Mich., was a lifetime cyclist, but you'd be wrong. He's been riding for only a couple of years—ever since a quadruple bypass surgery shocked him into shifting his activity levels into a higher gear.
VanDeusen was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2004, but he says it took major surgery to motivate him to get moving. "I was totally ignoring diabetes, high blood pressure, weight," he says. "Coming out of [bypass surgery], I knew I had been dealt a really good second chance and didn't want to waste it."
He went right from cardiac rehab to working out with a personal trainer and took up cycling as his primary exercise. He doesn't remember where he saw the flyer for his local Tour de Cure® event—perhaps at a bike shop or online—but he got in touch with members of Team Red, people with diabetes who cycle. They welcomed him to a 60-mile ride in the Detroit area, and in the fall of 2010, VanDeusen completed his first Tour de Cure, the American Diabetes Association's cycling event to raise money and diabetes awareness.
Now, VanDeusen is a Diabetes Ambassador for Tour de Cure, sharing his story and riding in Tour de Cure events across the country. He was nominated by Cheri Fore, 48, of Wayne, Mich., a fellow member of Team Red. She has type 1 diabetes. "He gets it. He was hit with some very personal things that he had to deal with and take care of, and he did it, and he's always got a smile," Fore says.
Riding with other people who manage diabetes is motivating and educational for VanDeusen. "The longer I stay involved, the more I realize there are members everywhere," he says of his work with the ADA. "It's a very comfortable way to set some high goals, and do so in a supportive environment. It doesn't hurt that you get a lot of encouragement. It's got to be a good thing for my health to train more and be around people who help facilitate [learning] about diabetes."
Michigan Tour de Cure manager Nicki Gabel says VanDeusen is a role model for other riders, both those who have diabetes and those who do not. "Jeff has taken charge of his life and health in a way that we hope everyone does," she says. "He chose to put himself first and make a difference by making changes in how he lives. We all know it is not easy, but he is a role model who demonstrates it can be done."
For a complete listing of upcoming Tour de Cure dates and locations, click HERE, or visit diabetes.org/tour.