When Dan Eckerson was a teenager and recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, he was told that his expected life…
When Dan Eckerson was a teenager and recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, he was told that his expected life would only be in the early 30’s. Decades later, he continues to live a very active life, run, hike and play hockey among his many sporting pursuits. People who know him may not even know that he has the disease.
November is the national diabetes month to raise awareness about diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans and to those who love them. Then my husband and our family are aware of the challenges that come with having a chronic illness and how difficult it can be to deal with.
Diabetes is a disease where the body can not use and store glucose. In type 1 diabetes, the body stops producing insulin, a hormone that allows the body to use glucose, the sugars found in food, for energy. People with type 1
diabetes must take daily insulin injections to survive. (Type 2 diabetes is when the body does not produce enough insulin or can not use it properly and usually occurs in people over 40 who are overweight with disease history.)
Diabetes is a day-to-day job.
“It’s tough but manageable. I take five insulin injections a day and I work to handle the amount of food I eat with the amount of insulin I take to keep my blood sugar in a safe area,” said Eckerson, adding “there’s nothing good about the disease. However, it forces you to handle the food you eat, your lifestyle and drive you to exercise. “
Dan has always been a very active person and he played several sports through high school including hockey, which he continues to play several times a week a lot of the year. He pushed me to become a better skier, but I’m pretty sure he would agree that he started running (ahem) with me. He is also an avid and long-term hiker who recently completed 48 4000 footers in New Hampshire. Physical activity can help the body to use insulin better, but blood glucose levels need careful monitoring.
“I’m lucky,” he said. “All exercise makes me feel good. I have to monitor my blood sugar and make sure I have glucose tablets if it goes too low. I check my blood sugar before and after exercise and before exertion. Like the contest up Mount Washington, I reduce my daily insulin doses.
“Running and hockey are fun. I just wish I was better.”
Keeping blood sugar levels as close to a normal range as possible is the goal of diabetic management to avoid long-term complications, which may include myocardial infarction, blindness, renal failure and blood vessel damage. To determine exactly how much insulin is required at each given moment is far from accurate science, and although I have never heard Dan complains that I have seen him frustrated when dealing with unpredictable nature of the disease.
“The worse is the effect the disease has on the people around me,” he said. “If you have an episode of low blood sugar, you may be arguing, disoriented, completely out of it and even going out. It puts a huge burden on everyone I care about. The disease is harder for them sometimes than for me.”
Through the many decades of living with the disease, there have been improvements like smaller needles and blood sugar level monitoring. “Much has changed in my 47 years as a diabetic, but the most important things are monitoring and costs,” said Dan. “Self-monitoring of your blood sugar was non-existent when I started and now I have an attached monitor telling my blood glucose levels (all day), which almost eliminates low blood sugar levels. However, the costs have risen below $ 10 per month without insurance to almost $ 300 in The diagnosis of diabetes has not kept Dan back from living a full and active life. “I have a big family, have traveled a lot, had a rewarding career, climbed all 48 4000 feet, run challenging breeds and meet other type 1 diabetics who have done much more than I have. “
For the newly diagnosed, he said there will be” when it’s tough and frustrating but you can handle it. “A few days are You in place and your blood sugar are excellent, other days you are not. Most importantly, you do not have to stop yourself. “
And I agree that I usually do not run out of energy long before he does.
All diabetes facts and information are from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, joslin.org.
On December 1, the Santa Claus Shuffle 3-mile race in Manchester, with Christmas presents for the first 1400 registered; and the yellow shirt 5K in Sanbornville.
Nancy Eckerson writes about running for Seacoast Sunday. You can reach her at [email protected]