By: Andy Bell
It was supposed to be a simple test: I’d pee in a cup,listen to my doctor’s suggestions to feel better, and gohome with a prescription. Except on that day, it wasn’t that simple. I sat in the exam room and waited for my doctor to return. When he finally did and started to talk, saying that he suspected diabetes, I remember seeing my mom’s face fall.
He told us to immediately head to the hospital and that I would be there for a while.
And I was—two weeks to be exact. In those two weeks, I agedtwenty years. At fourteen years old, I learned that I wouldonly be allowed to drink diet soda, that I would have to takeshots to stay alive, and that I would have to explain a diseaseto my friends that I knew nothing about.
For a long time, I lived life as though I didn’t have thedisease. I drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, experimented withdrugs, and went to as many parties as I could. It was moreimportant for me to have a good time, like any other kid, thanto take care of the diabetes. So I never did. My sugarsfluctuated constantly between low and extremely high, and Ididn’t care. To make matters worse, I was on a pre-mixed(70/30) insulin that kicked in every two hours. My life wassupposed to be regimented, but my lifestyle didn’t allowit.
It was not until I enrolled in a strength training class in highschool that my outlook on the disease began to change. Throughweight lifting, I had more confidence. My sugars were morelevel and, for once, I was pointed in the direction to ahealthier life.
It’s twelve years and over 12,000 insulin shots later, andI have never felt better. My continued passion for exercise hasled to a career in fitness. As a personal trainer, I get tohave the best of both worlds. I maintain a healthy lifestylewhile showing my clients how exercise can help them with theirpersonal struggles.
My efforts to spread my enthusiasm about the importance offitness extend further than the work force. I have mentoreddiabetic kids on how to live a “normal” life withthis disease. I am also working with two local endocrinologiststo form a peer support group for diabetic students on theUniversity of Missouri-Columbia campus. And through it all,the best compliments I get are from strangers. I am oftenapproached and asked for advice on how they can begin totransform their lives into healthier ones, diabetic or not.
My story is just another diabetic’s story. We each haveour own. I write to you today not for recognition, but tospread the encouragement, enthusiasm, and importance ofexercise. There is something out there that can make you feelbetter, and it can be as simple as stepping on a treadmill,picking up weights, or taking a walk around the block. I hopethat through my story, other diabetics can find the success thatI have found.