Why I’m Running
In my medical school applications, I wrote about how having type 1 diabetes had made it obvious to me that I wanted to pursue a career as a physician. Though I have always had wonderful pediatric and adult endocrinologists on my side, it was not my experiences as a patient that inspired me. Rather, it was my experiences in my daily life, away from the medical professionals, outside of the office and healthcare setting.
As a newly diagnosed 12-year-old kid, I was shouldered with the incredible responsibility that all people with type 1 diabetes (T1Ds) face: learning how to manually control a finely tuned automatic biological mechanism in ways that fit with my daily life, activity and food choices. Maybe it was because I had always loved biology, but I instantly became super excited by the fact that, while diabetes on the surface seems like a terrifying and opaque set of rules, the more background knowledge I had on the disease, the better able I was to handle it.
My eighth grade science project was an experiment on myself, entitled “The Pharmacokinetics of Large versus Small Insulin Doses,” because I wanted to know if giving a lot of insulin at once for my carb-ier meals slowed down the absorption. I started running, stopping every three miles to check my blood sugar, learning how to adjust my insulin needs for increasing levels of fitness and activity. I loved the act of running itself, but I appreciated it more because it was another window through which to view how my activities affected my blood sugars.
For 12 years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, calculating dosages, planning for activities, counting my carbs, I have been my own healthcare provider. And when I started volunteering at a day camp for T1D kids as a young teenager, I realized I loved doing the same for others. Every day I loved helping kids and their parents learn how to harness their faulty biology in ways that allowed them to lead healthier and happier lives. This is what led me to medical school—wanting to help lead people to health through knowledge about their own disease.
I am lucky in a lot of ways. Since even before I was diagnosed, I have been surrounded by resources, support and positive examples of others living well with T1D. Maybe it’s these experiences, or maybe just my brain chemistry, but I have never once thought “why me?” or thought that there was anything I couldn’t do because I have T1D. I ran my first marathon at age 14, only two years after my diagnosis. I wish I could say that it was consciously some victory against this disease, the truth is that I just wanted to run a marathon and because T1D had never been presented to me as an obstacle, it never occurred to me that it was one.
10 years later, I am now almost a physician, and each day I more fully understand the magnitude and burden of living with T1D, but I also become more frustrated by the stereotypes and lack of public understanding and support surrounding it. The way diabetes is taught in medical school is unfortunately the way it has to be taught for the majority of the population—loose A1c goals for people with type 2 diabetes, with simple regimens created for poor patient education, adherence and insurance coverage. But this means that even most doctors, like most other people, have very little experience with the tight glycemic control that is possible in well-funded, well-informed and well-motivated T1Ds. This translates to the way T1D is approached in patient care, and to a new T1D without resources or support, only furthers the idea that T1D is something that manages you, rather than the other way around.
I am running the NYC marathon because it’s time to educate. It’s time to spread awareness of not only what having T1D means, but also what it doesn’t mean. It means we have to be more aware of our bodies; it doesn’t mean there is anything our bodies can’t do (besides make insulin). It means we have to be prepared for anything; it doesn’t mean we have to limit ourselves.
I am running the NYC marathon because it’s time to advocate. Growing up, I only knew strong healthy people with T1D, and so growing up, I became one. It’s time to pay that forward.
I was wearing my “Live Beyond” bracelet in clinic one day and a social worker asked me what it meant. I told her that I was running a marathon in support of a nonprofit that seeks to educate, advocate and cure type 1 diabetes. She was quick to respond: “Oh, good. That is such an awful disease. The type 1s we have in this clinic really need to get it together.” I bristled. “Actually, everyone who is running the marathon has type 1 diabetes, including myself.” She got wide-eyed. “Wow,” she said.
This is why I’m running. Whether it is inside a doctor’s office, online or in the community, all T1Ds have the right to the knowledge, power and resources to live beyond. I am running to help make this not just a right, but a reality.
Read more about the Beyond Type Run in the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon.
To learn more about the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon Beyond Type Run team here.