Thriving with Diabetes: Getting Back in the Saddle

Posted by suzanne on Fri, 05/09/2014 - 07:38 in

In Podder Talk, we like to share inspirational stories of people who are not only living well with diabetes, but also thriving with it. In a “Thriving with Diabetes” series, we will be showcasing people who have turned their diabetes diagnosis into a strength and form of motivation. 

Horseback-Riding-with-DiabetesIn early 2009, I was busy living my "grown-up" life. I had a great career as a forensic psychologist, was in a relationship with a wonderful man and we were shopping for our first home. Weekends were spent horseback riding, hiking with my dogs, and enjoying food, travel and all the things life had to offer. I had noticed, however, that I wasn't sleeping as well as I used to. I would wake up frequently at night and wander to the kitchen for a drink of water - I was always thirsty.

Thinking that I might need to participate in a sleep study or something to help me get a good night's rest, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor. When I relayed my symptoms, his first words were, "I'm sure you're not diabetic, but let's just test your blood sugar." The results came back at over 600 and that was it. I drove home that evening as a person with type 1 diabetes, with a meter, test strips and a few pens of insulin. I barely remember the first week— I simply could not comprehend that I had type 1 diabetes. I was 27 years old! How could I get juvenile diabetes?! As little as I knew about my new diabetes diagnosis, I soon discovered that the general public knew even less. The number one response I got when telling friends, family and co-workers was, "But you're not even fat!"

As hard as getting the diagnosis was, the worst part was my fear that life as I knew it was over. I had been an active, outdoorsy type since I was a child. Everything I was hearing and reading about type 1 diabetes seemed to say there was no way I was going to be able to continue competing in extreme sports and living life the way I always had.

I was a competitive equestrian since the age of eight and was a nationally ranked show jumper in my teens and early twenties. I traveled frequently. The previous year, my partner and I had spent several months living and doing volunteer work in Tanzania and we had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I had made it to the "Roof of Africa," but now my family was afraid to let me walk my dogs alone for fear I might have a low blood sugar.

Challenges on Multiple Daily Injections

The first two years after my diagnosis, I was on multiple daily injections of both rapid- and long-lasting insulin. It became increasingly difficult to manage my blood sugars. I work a fast-paced job that requires me to be in and out of the office all day without ever having a set schedule. By the time work was over, I was exhausted from managing highs and lows all day. Exercising was also a challenge – figuring out what to eat to keep up with my long-acting insulin without going too high. I all but stopped horseback riding; it was too dangerous to be on top of 1200 lbs. of equine without being in total control of my diabetes.

The worst year of my life was 2010. In addition to all the normal daily struggles of managing type 1 diabetes, having to stop horseback riding was like removing a part of my soul. I had all but given up on leading a fulfilling life with diabetes. At 28, I thought my life was over.

Switching to an Insulin Pump

When my doctors decided they wanted me to try an insulin pump, the Omnipod was the only pump I considered. Even though I wasn't currently riding or competing, I knew if I was going to get back in the saddle there was no way I could safely do it with tubing of other pumps.

2011 was the beginning of a new chapter for me: yes, I still had type 1 diabetes, but the freedom of my Omnipod insulin pump gave me the courage to start living my life again. I rescued a wild mustang and began rehabilitating and training her to become my new competition partner. I soon learned that Wellby was a trustworthy and sensitive mare; she took to being a riding horse almost right away. We spent hours on trails getting fit together and building our relationship. She loved to just get out there and go, so I started training her for the sport of endurance riding, where horse and rider teams compete in anything from 25- to 100-mile wilderness races. Just eight months after getting Wellby, we were awarded the Virginia Martin Trophy for being the high-point winners in a series of four races. We continue to compete and have won numerous honors in the 25-mile races. Our goal for 2014 is to compete in our first 50 miler!

All these hours in the saddle would not have been possible without my Omnipod insulin pump. The Pod itself stays securely in place through all my rigorous training and the ability to set a temporary basal rate for the times I will be riding is invaluable.

The Omnipod has given me MY life back. As Winston Churchill famously said, "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle," and being on the Omnipod System guarantees me that I will not have to worry about wasting any more hours!

To learn more about the Omnipod insulin pump and order a free Demo, click here.