The Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes has been an annual event for 20+ years all across the country, but it was the first time for me.
You would think once I was diagnosed I would have been eager to participate in all of the walks to show my support and to raise awareness, but that wasn’t the case. Being diagnosed with Type One Diabetes was something that I was ashamed of and lived in fear of owning up to.
After years of ignoring and deleting consistent emails from the American Diabetes Association, I finally decided to register for the November 5 walk. It was time to let my fears and insecurities go so that I could start encouraging people to live better while being an inspiration to others. It was time to step out of hiding.
I registered as a Red Strider, “A child or adult who has type 1, type 2, gestational, or pre-diabetes. Red Striders are the reason we walk and raise funds through Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes to help find the cause and cure of this ‘silent disease.’”
When I arrived, there were so many things going through my head… What if my sugar drops during the walk? What if my Omnipod needs to be changed (knowing I changed sites the night before)? What if someone judges me for wearing the Red Strider hat? What if, what if, what if…The questions kept coming, but were quickly halted once I saw hundreds of people walking around with red numbers and hats (indication that you were a Red Strider), families with t-shirts of names/faces of who they were walking for. Dozens of doctors, nurses and nutritionists gathered around the info tables. I finally witnessed people that were living the lifestyle I had been ashamed of for years.
This big event showed me how many people are affected by this chronic disease. Each person had their own story and experiences but the one thing we had in common was living with diabetes. My motivation for attending was to be an inspiration to those who were struggling with this lifestyle. Little did I know I would be inspired by those who I came in contact with.
I talked to a handful of people that day, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this eleven year-old girl I had met. Ryleigh is a Type One Diabetic who was diagnosed in 2013. As we began exchanging stories, I realized that this little girl was who I wanted to become. “How cool!” she said with excitement in her eyes as we showed each other our Omnipods. Within the first few minutes of meeting Ryleigh, she practically told me her whole life story… and she wasn’t afraid to share with me, a complete stranger. I will never forget what she told me, “Diabetes is just for the stronger people, not for the wimps in the world.” That little girl doesn’t let diabetes define her and I’m striving to be that brave example she is to me.
Remember, we are greater than our highs and lows. Managing life with diabetes is a journey and with all journeys, they start with one step at a time. No matter the age difference, we can all learn a little something from somebody. I was skeptical about going to this walk for years but I went and left with more than I could’ve imagined. Hearing people’s stories and seeing the smiles on hundreds of faces, I knew I wasn’t alone. My heart was full that day and I’m counting down the days to the next Step out Walk.
“Just live it as a marathon, not a sprint. Life will get better.” Tony Atchison