Something I hear frequently in the diabetes online community is that it can help to share experiences with other people who “get it;” talking with others whose lives are impacted by diabetes can offer a strong sense of support and comfort. This can be particularly true when sharing experiences with those who have similar goals. Last year we featured Dr. Matt Corcoran’s Diabetes Training Camp (DTC), which helps people living with diabetes meet their fitness goals, no matter their fitness level. Today I’d like to introduce you to Julie Jaworski and share her experience as a DTC participant.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 26 in 1991, Julie has come to view diabetes with a positive attitude. “I don’t know how it happened, but I took the avenue that if I had to live with this disease, then I better learn how to deal with it the very best that I possibly can,” she said. “I’m not going to let anything prohibit me from doing something simply because I have diabetes. I’ve adopted this warrior approach, that if I want to set out to do something, I’m going to do it. I’m just going to figure out how you do it with diabetes.”
In 2008, Julie was intrigued when she received a postcard from DTC. “It had the logo of a triathlon on it, with biking, swimming and running, and that’s what I want to do in life,” she said. “I get so much joy out of being able to go for a run or a bike ride or a swim. I have, at this point, run 21 marathons. My main question in going to the Camp was, ‘How do I do all this training and be more efficient, without numbers being all over the place?’” Julie held on to the postcard and registered for her first DTC in 2009 in Oregon, a cross-country trip from her home in Florida.
A month before the Camp, Julie began having doubts. “I had a complete panic attack and told my family I couldn’t do it,” she confided. “I didn’t want to travel across the country to go be with people that I didn’t know for a week. As I was explaining it at dinner one night, my daughter, who was 12 at the time, looked at me, and said, ‘Mom, as much as we try to get diabetes, we can’t. You need to go be with those people because they get it like you do.’ She had the wisdom to say basically, look what you might be missing out on.”
It turns out her daughter was right. “I went and the Camp was completely life changing for me,” Julie said. “It was so interesting to be with a bunch of people who totally understood things you were going through. You could talk about a sugar low and they got it. Pumps were beeping and people were checking their blood sugar, there were test strips everywhere, and it was like I was at home, with a bunch of people who knew me, yet didn’t really know me. The bond we created was just so amazing. When I flew home the following Saturday, I couldn’t talk for two hours. I was crying way too hard.”
When Julie attended her second Camp in June 2013 in Lancaster, Pa., the program had evolved slightly. Dr. Corcoran offered some insight. “We developed more of an individualized approach with this Camp, so the campers had more opportunity to meet with the experts one-on-one,” he said. “They got to spend more time with myself, our registered dietitians and our mental skills coaches. With this Camp, we also introduced the ability for each camper to get a baseline fitness test and then meet with the physiologist to talk about their fitness assessment and think through a plan for improving their fitness for the future.”
Empowering is how Julie describes the Camp. “That’s the best word I can use for the Camp,” she said. “It taught us how to live with diabetes better, how to be okay with ourselves if we have high or low blood sugar along the way, how not to give in and throw in the towel when we want to, and how to reach out to other people. If you need somebody that gets it, you have a whole list of campers you can contact. A lot of us are on the Facebook Page and reach out to each other that way. Usually if somebody’s got an event they are doing, they throw it out there, and people cheer them on, so that’s one great connection for people.”
As an athlete with diabetes, DTC helped deepen Julie’s motivation to reach her fitness goals. “Now I feel like I have tools that can help me achieve my goals,” she said. “I have a much better understanding of my body and of diabetes. Recently I was out for a seven mile run and at mile three I tanked; I think my blood sugar was about 52. I sent my husband a text that it was going to take me longer to run, and he texted me back to ask if he should come and get me. I said, ‘No, I’m only at mile three and I have four more miles to go.’ Before the Camp, I would have thrown in the towel. But Matt taught us how to work with it. I figured out how I was just going to take my glucose tabs and walk it out for a little bit, and the run started back up again. I am so much stronger because of that Camp.”
Julie successfully completed her first half triathlon in October 2013, and is currently training for another in April 2014, plus her first full triathlon this summer.
Patience is key when striving toward goals, says Dr. Corcoran. “People really need to be patient with themselves, especially if they haven’t ventured into the world of fitness and exercise,” he said. “There are going to be triumphs and there are going to be setbacks. People just have to understand that’s part of the process and be patient with themselves through that to allow themselves to get to their goals. When it comes to diabetes and exercise, you have to think it through and set up a methodical and strategic plan for how you’re going to manage your diabetes and then put it to the test. Let it play out patiently for a couple of weeks and see how the strategy’s working for you and then reevaluate and revamp.”
Please keep in mind that you should check with your healthcare team before starting any type of physical activity or making any lifestyle changes. It’s a good idea to test your blood sugar before, during and after exercise and be prepared to treat low blood sugar.
It sounds like Dr. Corcoran has applied his own advice to reevaluate and revamp his program, and is keeping DTC fresh and relevant for those striving to meet fitness goals while living with diabetes. Julie is an impressive example of the motivation the Camp instills in its participants. The next DTC session is scheduled for June 16-21, 2014 at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. My thanks to Julie for sharing her experience, and to Dr. Corcoran for providing us an update.
All the best,
Disclosure: Julie Jaworski and Dr. Matt Corcoran received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.