August 2013 Cure Champion

Kim Southwick

Kim Southwick

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on August 29, 2007, my 38th birthday.  I had lost 30 pounds over the course of a month and a half, three of them overnight.  I knew that morning there was something really wrong with me…so much for my tapeworm jokes.

At my diagnosis, my nurse was a soft talker.  All I got from our conversation was that her cat was diabetic and that type 1 is the “good kind” of diabetes.  I was happy to hear I had the “good kind” but was disappointed a month later when I realized ALL diabetes is bad.  On my diagnosis day, I stabbed an orange a few times, was handed a small novel of prescriptions (except the needles, cause, really, who needs to inject insulin in this day and age?!) and then was told to get an appointment at the Joslin Diabetes Center.  My diagnosing nurse and doctor showed me the door with a “good luck” tossed in for good measure, and I was on my own with a deadly disease.

The first month of living with type 1 was surreal.  I didn’t feel right.  Ever.  Everything from my head to my toes just felt off.  This was the new normal and I can’t say I was embracing it.  While my sugars dropped into an acceptable range, I read everything I could about type 1.  Exercise was mentioned over and over and over in each book or article I read.  I had always been a big walker, but my attempts at it as a new type 1 were painful.  My sugar shot over 300 and I felt terrible after each attempt.  I was giving up on walking very quickly and at a loss of what to replace it with.

Then one afternoon my kids asked to go for a bike ride.  My blood sugar was around 160 when we left.  About 20 minutes into our ride I started to feel wrong —sweaty, disoriented and weird.  My sugar had dropped to 60.  I couldn’t believe it!  What a different outcome I was seeing when compared to my walks.  I was thrilled (not with the number which was way too low, but with the idea of riding a bike to help control my disease) and psyched to have figured out my solution!

Fast forward to five years later, I own no less than seven bikes (low rider, commute, road and some in between!).  I have completed four centuries with JDRF in Death Valley CA, and am heading out for my fifth in October.  I ride 12 miles each day on my commute to work and I do it year round, rain or shine, snow or sleet.

My bike intercepted my life and saved it in the process.  Diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetes, is deadly.  My rides keep my numbers in line, keep my heart healthy and add enjoyment to my days.  Though I’ve been hit by cars, jumped by errant teenagers, yelled at and had stuff thrown at me, I still get on my bike each day.   For me it is all about the ride, and a cure!

Kim will be participating in JDRF’s Ride to Cure Diabetes in Death Valley, CA from October 17-20, 2013.  Learn more about the Ride and support her efforts.