2021 Blog

Diabetes and bikes

I’ve toiled with writing this blog for a while now, because I do not like sympathy. Alas, here I am writing my blog on the one thing that makes many people pity me. But, here goes…

At the beginning of January 2021, I was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the ripe age of 21. I was a junior in college on my winter break when I was told the news after going to the doctor for a routine checkup. It was a total system shock. I had lived 20 years of my life without this diagnosis, but now, all of the sudden, my diagnosis consumed every waking and sleeping moment. This new way of life was VASTLY different from my old. I was immediately thrown into education classes. I had multiple doctor’s visits in a single day. I had to change the way I ate and what I ate. I had to learn which foods were carbohydrates and how many grams of carbohydrates were in each meal. I had to learn new things about my body. I had to learn how to properly use insulin. I had to learn to be okay with pricking myself with a needle multiple times a day. I had to learn how to examine my extremities for diabetic-related issues. I had to come to terms with the fact that this disease, if not taken seriously, could shorten or even take my life. It was completely, totally, and utterly overwhelming. This completely life changing and devastating diagnosis came mere weeks after having received the exciting news that I had been selected to be a part of the 2021 Pedal the Pacific (PTP) team.

As excited as I was to be a part of the 2021 PTP team, I’m not gonna lie, I was terrified thinking about biking down the pacific coast with my new diagnosis and all that it entailed. I wasn’t sure how I was going to navigate my sugar levels while on a bike for 8 hours a day. I wasn’t sure how I was going to travel with 2 months of medical supplies (it’s a lot by the way) and keep insulin cold while on a bike all day. I wasn’t sure how the women on my team were going to react to me having to stop more often to correct a low blood sugar. I wasn’t sure if the women on my team were going to think I was incapable of doing this ride.

I honestly wasn’t even sure that my doctors were going to let me do the ride. I had so many scary thoughts, so many doubts. I just knew that I didn’t want to slow the team down or be a hindrance in anyway, especially in accomplishing the goals of our trip.  

But, as you might have guessed, I was able to do the ride. All of my doctors were fully supportive of me doing this ride and made sure that I had everything I needed and was fully educated before leaving. I was given an insulin pump and glucose monitor a month or so before the ride which made it easier for me to track and regulate my blood sugar levels. This was a HUGE win for me. I was no longer having to stab myself 7 times a day. I felt good. I felt powerful. I felt almost normal again. Not to mention, I looked like the coolest cyborg there ever was!

Another huge win was that my team was so supportive. Like insanely supportive. Without their support, I truly would not a have been able to do this. A few of them track my glucose levels on their phones and call me when I am low or high. They allow breaks for me to check my levels and to bring my sugars up. They help change my sensors. They all love learning about my diabetes. And not a single one of the women on my team has thought of me as a burden or an issue or as fragile. They push me and know I am capable of doing this crazy thing. They love me, diabetes and all. Not once have I felt their pity.

Not once have I doubted my place on this team. I am lucky and thankful to have them.

I am learning everyday how to cope and live with diabetes. And I’m learning even more while riding 1,700 miles on a bike with it. But even more, I’ve realized the importance of surrounding yourself with people who love and encourage you every day and in every season, whether it be family members, friends, or even a group of teammates. And, if you’re in a position to help or encourage someone, don’t hesitate…you might be just what they need to take that next step, whatever it may be.


May 13, 2022
Sydnee Mwakutuya

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