On November 19th, I joined nearly 10,000 cyclists in Tucson, AZ for the 33rd annual Tour de Tucson. Each cyclist participated in the distance of their choice, ranging from 27, 40, 55, 75 and 100 mile rides. The distance chosen by each cyclist is as varied as the reason they ride. Some ride for health, others to compete and many ride for a cause that is near to their hearts.
I ride for Sarah.
So much has changed in just over two years since Sarah’s diagnosis on October 20th, 2014. Sarah is growing into a beautiful young girl, and is already halfway through 6th grade. Now 11, Sarah is just like all of her friends. She’s a great student (currently straight A’s) into music, art, and continues to compete in Traditional Irish Dance. In fact, the same weekend of El Tour, she was in San Francisco competing in Oireachtas (regionals). Sarah worked hard all year to qualify and finished 47 out of 80 girls from around the country in her solo dance and placed 12th in her Céilí (group) dance taking home a medal for her Bracken School of Irish Dance.
Needless to say, Sarah has not let Type 1 Diabetes slow her down! Despite having to constantly monitor her blood glucose levels and administer insulin throughout the day, Sarah is an amazing girl who has shown me a strength and resilience that inspired me to join the JDRF cycling team in 2015 as a rider and this year as a coach.
This spring I studied for and completed the requirements for obtaining my USA Cycling Level 3 coaching license and spent 20 weeks training with and supporting fellow team members who are fully committed to finding a cure for T1D. My team included athletes with T1D and friends and family of people with T1D. In addition to riding 20, 30, 40, 50+ miles almost every weekend, each team member also committed to a fundraising target and raising awareness at El Tour by donning our official JDRF team ride jerseys (the picture included is of the 40 mile team I led in Tucson right before the start).
This has been an amazing role that has enabled me to apply my community evangelism talents with my passion for cycling to have a greater impact in the research community. The road to the event and ride day itself was an incredible experience and while Sarah could not be there with me physically, she was in my heart as I trained, coached and rode with the JDRF cycling team for every pedal stroke and mile until we crossed the finish line. Joined by my Mom and Ricky (now 9), it was a beautiful day of fellowship, camaraderie and celebration with each athlete achieving their personal distance targets beating 20 mph head winds and telling their T1D story along the way.
Simply put, this ride and this experience would not have been possible without your support. Thanks to your generous contributions I was able to exceed my fundraising goal by 184%, raising a total of $4,600 towards $56,080 raised by my Desert Southwest Chapter for a total of $675,002 raised across all participating chapters for Type 1 Diabetes research!
These numbers matter. I am more confident than ever that every dollar we’ve raised will take us one step closer to finding a cure for Sarah and I believe that JDRF is our best hope in getting there. Inspiring this confidence is JDRF’s influence, funding and impact is the recent breakthrough announced on September 28th with the FDA’s approval of the first ever artificial pancreas. This closed loop system was funded largely by JDRF and is the first ever approved to automate the dosing of insulin to manage and regulate insulin levels by enabling a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and an insulin pump (see images left and right respectively) to communicate with each other and make decisions based on current blood glucose levels.
Sarah has been wearing a CGM (which reports her blood sugar level every 5 minutes via a sensor that is inserted just under her skin) and an insulin pump (which inserts a tiny needle into her skin that serves as a port for insulin delivery) every day of her life for the last year and a half. While this technology is AMAZING, the two devices do not (yet) talk to each other. She must vigilantly monitor her blood sugars at all times day and night and monitor her insulin levels to maintain a healthy blood glucose level. In addition, Sarah must “announce” her meals to her insulin pump so that it can calculate how much insulin to give her (X grams of carbs = X units of insulin). Getting this algorithm right several times a day is critical…Not enough insulin means unhealthy high blood glucose which can lead to long-term health complications, too much insulin (very easy to do!) can be deadly.
This is a paradox and daily battle that every person with T1D must live with until there is a cure. Thanks to JDRF, which has invested more than $116 million in artificial pancreas research, we are now one step closer to a single device that takes care of the pancreatic functions we so easily take for granted.
I believe that the approval of the artificial pancreas by the FDA will open the floodgates of innovation and it is my biggest hope that by the time Sarah starts college, an AP system that is virtually hands-off will be a reality. To make this happen, I will continue to partner with JDRF across their research portfolio and work tirelessly to raise awareness, advocacy and funding as we continue to fight for Sarah and the 1.25M people in America alone to one day make life with type one feel more like life with type none.
None of this would be possible without your generosity and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kindness and generosity. Thank you!
PS The training calendar for next year’s ride is starts in January. I am currently looking at either doing the Tour de Tucson in Arizona again or a new ride in Loveland, CO that was just announced a couple of weeks ago. Follow me on twitter for the latest news and thank you again for your support!