Friday, November 14 is World Diabetes Day, a day designed to unite the global diabetes community in advocacy and to create greater public awareness of the condition. For those like me, who live with diabetes every day, awareness never ends. Even with the many significant advances in diabetes treatments and technologies, I have to proactively manage my health with my health care provider, with diabetes always at my side. I suppose that could seem burdensome or oppressive but, instead, it has given me new insight into my body and my health.

In 2007, I was racing my bike for an elite women’s cycling team based out of Boulder, Colorado. I was pregnant with my second child, and feeling great. I didn’t know anything was wrong until I came home feeling awful from what was supposed to be a casual training day. I had been unusually slow on the bike, my muscles felt weak and tired, and I was excessively thirsty. A day later, I was sitting in an emergency room and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. 

In type 1 diabetes, the body makes little or no insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children and young adults, but it can also be diagnosed in older adults. In type 2 diabetes, your body prevents the insulin it does make from working right. Your body may make some insulin, but not enough.

In the early days following my diagnosis, I wasn’t sure exactly what diabetes might mean in the context of my life and, more specifically, the context of my health. I had devoted years to training on the bike. I was strong and fit and healthy, and I didn’t want diabetes to change how I saw myself as a person or an athlete. I worked with an amazing team of health care providers, who helped me find the right diet and exercise plans, along with the proper treatments and technologies, to better manage the condition and to then tailor those strategies to meet my needs.

Since that time, the added focus on my health has benefitted my understanding of my body and how it works. I eat better and exercise more often. I have continued to race my bike, and I have never used diabetes as an excuse to perform poorly or give up doing what I most enjoy. Now, I’m also part of Team Novo Nordisk, a global all-diabetes sports team of cyclists, runners and triathletes, spearheaded by the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team. The team’s mission is to inspire, educate and empower people affected by diabetes.

This November 14, I invite you to join me in making one small step toward becoming a healthier person. Be proactive about your health and work with your health care provider to make lasting changes to empower your own well being.

In 2007, I didn’t know where my journey with diabetes would take me, but I knew it would probably last a lifetime. Today, I am excited about where the journey is headed. I’m grateful for the added focus on my own wellness, the team of health care providers who work with me to identify the best approaches to diabetes management, and all the advances in diabetes care.

Professional cyclist racing with Team Novo Nordisk, Becky is a mom of two and active proponent of better nutrition in schools who lives with her family in Longmont, Colo.