After being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Vincent Carter is running a marathon. A full-length, 26.2-mile marathon through the burrows of New York City on Nov. 6. Beyond Type 1 is an official charity partner of the 2022 New York Marathon. Carter is one of 50 Beyond Type 1 ambassadors from around the world representing the Beyond Type Run team and is fundraising to support their mission.
“The timing of it all has been wild, to me personally,” Carter said. “My journey towards getting my health back has lined up with the training for the marathon in such an amazing way.”
Carter was first diagnosed last year at 25 years old. He felt fatigued and was rapidly losing weight for seemingly no reason. When he returned to San Juan Island from his current home in Bellingham, Washington, to visit his mom, she showed immediately concerned for her son.
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“She wanted our friend Sarah Jensen to test me for diabetes. I thought it was ridiculous at the time, but I was willing to do it for peace of mind,” Carter said.
Jensen has experience with diabetes and works with Beyond Type 1, a nonprofit that provides programs and resources that enhance the lives of those affected by the disease.
There are several types of diabetes. Type 1 is a chronic autoimmune condition that makes the body unable to produce insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Type 2 type occurs when the body cannot properly use insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. This is also known as insulin resistance. A few others include gestational diabetes which affects pregnant women, Brittle diabetes, which is a rare form of insulin-dependent diabetes and is marked by frequent and severe episodes of hypoglycemia and/or hyperglycemia (DKA) and Pancreatic diabetes which is caused by chronic pancreatitis, prolonged inflammation of the pancreas and causes extensive damage to exocrine tissue.
One of the misconceptions Carter would like to dispel is the confusion between the types.
“Someone with Type 1 is insulin-dependent, it is an autoimmune disease, it’s not because of diet or lifestyle and it can’t, be reversed. The medical community still does not know exactly why people become Type 1 diabetics. Many people’s first question is ‘so you just can’t have sugar?” Carter said, explaining that monitoring blood sugar isn’t foolproof. Taking insulin can help, but too much insulin can be fatal. The body can react differently towards it at times for a variety of reasons. “It’s a complicated balance to do what a pancreas would normally do, but very manageable relative to other autoimmune diseases. The fittest people in the world are Type 1.”
Tiana Cook, of Colorado, works with Beyond Type. She ran in the Beyond Type marathon last year and is helping organize it this year, echoed Carter’s thoughts.
“Type 1 diabetes means keeping an eye on numbers non-stop, like counting carbs and blood sugar. Add in exercise and everything gets three times as hard,” Cook said. “It isn’t a disability, you are constantly proving yourself, and I actually love doing that.”
Cook said she would like people to understand that nobody causes diabetes themselves.
“There are a lot of different types. Diabetes doesn’t have a look, it looks different for different people,” said Cook, adding that she is frequently told she does not look like she has diabetes. She was diagnosed when she was 17.
There is a tendency to connect diabetes with obesity, which, Carter pointed out, is also not always true.
“There is still just a lot of misunderstanding but I’d like to be an example that Type 1 doesn’t have to be limited by their condition. I think it gives me no choice but to be proactive and be my best so I can spend less of my life reacting to what Type 1 diabetics can do,” he said.
Running a marathon with diabetes takes extra effort, however.
“My fanny pack was probably the biggest in the race. I had insulin, extra supplies, insulin pump backups, snacks, and Guidon, which raises blood sugar quickly if it’s critically low,” Cook said. “I always tell runners to be over-prepared.”
On top of the extra physical weight, there is also the extra mental weight of constantly thinking about blood sugar throughout the race.
”People don’t know what we are going through and what it takes for us to perform,” Cook said.
Medications are also expensive. Carter has insurance through his work, but losing insurance is a fear.
“People have had to ration insulin because they can’t afford it,” he said.
Gambling with insulin can impact a person’s well-being to the point of life or death. Prolonged levels of high blood sugar can lead to long-term diabetic ketoacidosis, and other long-term complications ranging from heart disease and kidney failure to foot, eye and nerve damage and skin disorders.
Nonetheless, Carter doesn’t want people to be afraid of getting diagnosed and encourages islanders to educate themselves.
Warning signs, not just in children but adults as well, include feeling weak or fatigued, unexplained weight loss extreme thirst and urination and mood swings. Cook added blurred vision as one of the symptoms that led her to the doctor. For anyone experiencing these symptoms, a simple blood test can provide answers.
“It’s a full-time job, but love and support can go so far,” Carter said f “There is a lot more than meets the eye with managing diabetes. I want to do what I can to inspire anyone feeling down or limited by a diagnosis, regardless of age or background.’”
To learn more about the marathon, or support Carter in his run, visit https://donate.beyondtype1.org/fundraiser/3990225.
Submitted by the San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce.
Submitted by the Friday Harbor Film Festival.
Submitted by the San Juan Island Trails Committee.