This year marks the 25th anniversary of two American Diabetes Association® signature fundraising events—Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes® and Tour de Cure®.
Every dollar raised at these events supports people living with diabetes and funds our life-changing research and programs.
The “25 Legends” blog series highlights personal stories from some of the Association’s most dedicated walkers and riders who are affected by the disease.
Summer 1973: I had just finished the eighth grade. I was a little nervous but very excited at the prospect of starting high school and a new chapter in my life. But little did I know just how much my life was going to change over the next few months.
Ever since I was a young adult, I have always spent a great deal of time outdoors. I especially loved going on walks and bike rides with my dad because they felt like a fun adventure. Suddenly, however, they became a different kind of adventure—as we needed to search for places to stop so I could quench my ever-increasing thirst and go to the bathroom.
My life at home was also changing for the worse. It seemed like all I did was drink ice water, run to the bathroom and sit around completing crossword puzzles. I quickly lost weight and ran out of energy. When my parents finally called my pediatrician on June 26, he thought the symptoms were related to my asthma. But later that day, I slipped into a coma.
I remember hearing the emergency room doctors tell my parents that I might die—my blood glucose was 1,500 and I was extremely sick. I wanted so badly to tell my parents that I could hear them and I would be okay, but I could not speak. When I awoke from the coma the next morning, I found out that I had type 1 diabetes. I was told I would have this disease the rest of my life. I would have to take insulin injections because my body could no longer produce insulin. I was terrified.
Five years later, I began nursing school and was still relatively unfamiliar with diabetes, despite having lived with it for a while. The program taught me not only how to help others with the disease, but also how to improve my own diabetes management. In March 1980, I started using an insulin pump and, within three weeks, I found my passion in helping others begin pump therapy. Since finishing nursing school and becoming a certified diabetes educator, I have placed thousands of patients on insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors. Watching the technology improve their lives, like it did mine, was amazing.
Over the course of my life, I have worked for multiple hospitals and for Medtronic Diabetes, and I’ve owned my own business—ABC Diabetes Consultants—which offers diabetes education programs. I have also volunteered extensively with the American Diabetes Association Phoenix office.
I discovered Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes in 1991 and immediately reached out to my family, friends and colleagues to create a team. We originally called ourselves the Valley Insulin Pumpers, followed by Control Diabetes and Wacky Walkers. In 2001, however, my daughter (who was 12 years old at the time) proposed Pump Squad in honor of my insulin pump and those of my patients walking with us. Pump Squad has remained the team name for the past 15 years.
Pump Squad has been recognized as a Top 10 Fundraiser multiple times in my region. Last year, we raised over $9,000. In addition, three of us were Champion fundraisers—raising over $1,000 each. I am very grateful for my family, friends and patients for coming out to the walk each year.
Participating in the walks inspired me to join my local office’s Speakers Bureau, Diabetes EXPO Volunteer Committee and Step Out Planning Committee—all while working as a nurse and diabetes educator. Finally, I volunteered at Camp AZDA in Prescott, Ariz., for eight years. Watching children and young adults adjust to life with diabetes and support one another is a truly rewarding experience.
Although diabetes is difficult to live with, it has made me a better, stronger person. If it were not for diabetes, I may not have pursued a career in nursing or diabetes education—or found a supportive community. Each year, watching my Pump Squad walk to help others affected by diabetes makes me so proud. My daughter, who is now 27 years old, recently reminded me that I used to take her in a stroller during the first several walks. Neither of us can believe we have participated for 24 years. As I write out my donations request letter for the 25th time, I am more motivated than ever to help others with diabetes and to find a cure.
Together, we CAN Stop Diabetes.
The Association is so grateful for our 25 Legends! Their tireless efforts as walkers and riders are a tremendous support and inspiration to people with diabetes.