You know when you see those houses which have warning signs up because the owner has a dog? Well I do not own a dog, however, I was contemplating putting a beware of the underdog sign up in my doorway.
The truth is personally I am at my best when some a~hole writes me off. Whether that is because I have this common saaanding, saaaff-east London accent, or due to the fact I am a young adult who has little for money and status, either way they are irrelevant to what I can achieve – and this is the same for anybody. We are who we are and whichever our background, we are living today and that means its in our hands to go out and make something of that opportunity called life.
In living with type 1 diabetes I recall early years where others didn’t understand my condition very well. How could they if they did not live with it every day? Sometimes people wanted to see me shake and shiver in the park or school playground as I suffered a hypo, to have a good laugh (kicking my energy drinks over for example). Other events were in not being able to participate in sports day races during early years of secondary school, just in case something ‘went wrong’ with my blood sugars. Whilst these were negative parts of those early days for me, making a boy hate his condition, do you know what those experiences taught me?
To toughen up and stand my own ground.
I am a firm believer today that the greatest positives long term can be taken from any short term negatives. You live and learn. For those living with diabetes as I do, ‘live and learn’ is never truer – when it comes to controlling your blood sugars, always ask that question, why did it not go to plan today? When I first started out running those crazy distances, which is where the idea of DiAthlete – anything is possible – has evolved from, there weren’t any professionals willing to give me advice on how to keep healthy control during the ultra endurances I faced. People and more so big organisations were scared to get involved. So I had to learn the hard way – and I did – I hit the ground a few times. There are a few scars from extreme hypoglycaemic (low blood glucose) fits, in some respects I am lucky to be alive. One time I clonked out in a bath-tub and came round when under the water, unable to move or control my own body as everything had shut down on me. I managed to salmon my way out the tub in the end!
On another occasion I hit the ground when out on a training run, taking on a half marathon distance as I prepped my body for a 70 mile ultra around the Isle of Wight. I was just a teenager back then – but my life lessons in type 1 diabetes were never more vital at the time. Being taken home in an ambulance van for me was humiliating inside; for my Mother completely unaware of what had happened to see a paramedic usher me home, well, can you imagine?
I went down a lot in those early adolescent years, when my ultra distance running days first started – the main reason being I was put on this bulls*t insulin regime after first being introduced to basal (long acing) and bolus (quick acting) insulin injections. Instead of being taught how to carbohydrate count and be educated in how to monitor my blood glucose levels as an independent adult, I was simply told to inject a certain number of units of insulin at certain times each day, before meals. No remote info on what those meals might have been – be it a pizza or a salad I would inject the same amount of insulin. Now imagine being on such a regime when trying to run 29 miles along the coast of Thanet, or 70 miles around the Isle of Wight!
My greatest lessons were learned during that period of my life, ultimately leading towards taking my own decisions on insulin management, and connecting with others to learn more about carbohydrate counting. Being down on the ground there is one thought: get back up and next time stay up. My A1C is 6% today.
Now I am a type 1 diabetes educator to my own right, I know the condition inside-out through those and many other extreme experiences and adventures – all around the world. Experience is key and whilst this can benefit ourselves living with it on the long run, it can also benefit many others too. Whilst daily struggles continue in terms of paying the bills, finding more work on the side of my commitment to diabetes with DiAthlete, the bottom line is I know I am on the right path. In the last 5 or 6 weeks over 1000 people have been directly reached, in very fun and active styles, passing on advice and going that step further by practically getting young people with diabetes outside, learning for themselves about their body and diabetes. The recent events in Northern Ireland and across Eastern Europe were incredible experiences for me too; it is reassuring to know that a positive impact can be pushed out from this ‘brand.’ When you get people living with diabetes together, wherever they are from, magic happens.
3 years ago to this date and time-period right now I was out on an adventure of a life-time. The 30/30 Challenge, running like a nutter around the UK, from John O’Groats to Lands End covering 30 mile routes every day for 30 days. That was my greatest ever ‘underdog’ moment as in the build up many CEOs, professionals, board members, whatever status they wanted to brand themselves with, said some very frustrating comments to me, basically telling me I could not do it, when I was just asking for some support. And then out of nowhere some big names were voicing their support of me as I persisted with the project; I was just some nobody kid and there was boxer David Haye recording a support message, Sir Geoff Hurst – England’s greatest footballing hero – doing the same, Kirsty Gallacher tweeting away, TVs Jasmine Harman, Ana Ivanovic, Gemma Atkinson – I had to scrub up! It was incredible.
What went under the noses of the ‘people of status’ in this cause back then – and to be honest sadly still does in many areas today – is the fact that it was not about a personal challenge, it was a mission to bring unity and positivity to the people who need it, the people living with diabetes – especially the next generation who are currently asking the world, as I once was, can I still live my dreams?
3 years ago I battled, never gave up and nailed that challenge. I’ve been doing this worldwide ever since to provide the answer they need to hear: YES YOU CAN STILL LIVE YOUR DREAMS. Never forget it and never let anybody tell you otherwise. An underdog? Good, that means you’ve got a bit of bite about you.
This year some incredible events and challenges have been lined up, some are still being worked on such as a Florida Tour in June/July – more on that soon – but I will also be working on fundraising and events to try and make a DiAthlete Africa Tour happen next year. Recently I read an article from Yaa in Ghana, who shared how the project in Ghana last year helped give her the confidence she needed to now go on and become a diabetes educator. That really touched me to know going out there in 2015 made an impact, and I saw how it gave my friend Fred a platform to share his story and reach communities, which goes a long way – even more so when you see the struggles for supplies and health education they have out in Africa. The Africa tour plans to create a series of events across multiple communities in West and South Africa regions, maybe more too! Read more on that or donate towards the project here.
Watch out world, we have an army of diabetes-battering underdogs and you better start listening!