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Cyclist with Type 1 Diabetes Rides for Cancer Awareness

By Amanda Sheldon

Managing Editor

Posted:  7/2/2013 3:15 PM

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Today, I’m very excited to share with you the first blog of a series from new guest blogger, Gilpreet Kooner. Gilpreet is a recent biomedical engineering graduate from the University of Texas at Austin. Living with type 1 diabetes for the last five years, Gilpreet embodies a “Living Without Limits” lifestyle. To prove it, she has teamed up with Texas 4000 and will adventure on a 70-day cycling trip from Texas to Alaska this summer, all in the name of fighting cancer. Gilpreet rides not only to show that anything is possible with diabetes, but also for her grandfather who passed away from throat cancer in 2011. She is going to let us join her on this amazing journey, periodically checking in to let us know how her ride is going, what she and her team are up to along the way, as well as sharing some amazing photos I’m sure! Please join me in welcoming Gilpreet to our community and be sure to check back throughout the summer to hear more about her ride!

Hi. My name is Gilpreet Kooner but most people just call me Gil (like gills on a fish). I am 21-years-old and just graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. People always ask me what I’m doing now that I’ve graduated and I always answer, “Biking to Alaska to fight cancer.” It’s probably not what you are used to hearing but I’ll get to that a little later.

I always joke and tell people that I’m so sweet that I got diabetes. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 5 years ago when I was 16. It was March 3, 2007, the day after I took my SATs. I remember feeling sick. I wasn’t sure what was going on because I had always been a relatively healthy kid. I remember feeling so incredibility thirsty, tired, and hungry. I would beg my friends for change so I could get a drink from the vending machine. I would fall asleep in band class even while sitting in front of the blaring trumpets. I lost 15 pounds in two weeks even though I was eating so much. Diabetes was not in our family history so my mom didn’t know what was going on with me either. The day I took my SATs, I celebrated with my friends and we went out for milkshakes. I came home and immediately threw it up. I felt miserable and my mom took me to the hospital the next day. The doctor could smell the sweet acetone on my breath. The blood tests and urine sample confirmed that I had type 1 diabetes. The doctor said that if I would have waited one more week I would have been in a coma. It was all a pretty scary experience. My family didn’t understand how I could go from being perfectly healthy to having a ‘broken’ pancreas. I missed a week of high school to learn everything I could about diabetes. I got over my fear of needles and learned how to carb count. It’s been 5 years and at times it’s still really tough. But I am grateful for my diabetes. I am glad that it had made me healthier and stronger. I understand that I have to take care of myself and be a good role model for my younger brother and sister.

At the beginning of my diagnosis, I didn’t know what it meant to be a diabetic. I worried a lot about how diabetes would affect my everyday life and my future. It stopped me from doing a lot of things. However, when I came to college I realized that everybody has their own struggles and hardships they have to overcome. I decided to stop letting diabetes stop my life. I applied to an organization called Texas 4000. Texas 4000 is the longest annual charity bike ride in the world. A group of UT students bike from Austin, TX to Anchorage, AK to spread cancer awareness. I felt like there was no way that I could bike that far. A few of my friends had done the ride before and told me that if I really put my mind to it, I could definitely make it to Alaska. I applied and got in! For the last 18 months, I‘ve been training, raising money, and volunteering all in the fight against cancer.

I have to say that I am not very athletically inclined. It has been a physical struggle for me but I can proudly say that I am a cyclist now. As far as diabetes goes, I have managed so far via insulin pens. During our training camp, a diabetic cyclist highly recommended being on an insulin pump. At the time I was uninsured and I knew the pump was a lot of money. Medtronic has generously donated the insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring supplies that I need for my ride. I am so excited to see how using these devices will help me to manage my diabetes!

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
- Medtronic Diabetes insulin infusion pumps, continuous glucose monitoring systems and associated components are limited to sale by or on the order of a physician and should only be used under the direction of a healthcare professional familiar with the risks associated with the use of these systems.
- Successful operation of the insulin infusion pumps and/or continuous glucose monitoring systems requires adequate vision and hearing to recognize alerts and alarms.

Medtronic Diabetes Insulin Infusion Pumps
- Insulin pump therapy is not recommended for individuals who are unable or unwilling to perform a minimum of four blood glucose tests per day.
- Insulin pumps use rapid-acting insulin. If your insulin delivery is interrupted for any reason, you must be prepared to replace the missed insulin immediately.

Medtronic Diabetes Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) Systems
- The information provided by CGM systems is intended to supplement, not replace, blood glucose information obtained using a home glucose meter. A confirmatory fingerstick is required prior to treatment.
- Insertion of a glucose sensor may cause bleeding or irritation at the insertion site. Consult a physician immediately if you experience significant pain or if you suspect that the site is infected.

For more information, please visit www.medtronicdiabetes.com/importantsafetyinformation.

Comments

Joe Villanueva

Posted on Tue Jul 02 22:44:21 GMT 2013

I understand what Gil was saying about how did i get diabetes, and how can I manage it. Well my doctor keeps a very close eye on me to make sure i doing what i'm supposed to do. For Gil I wish you good luck on the bike ride, and yes I will check on your progress. Don't let diabetes control you, and it seems you already manage that. Cause you are a very beautiful young lady who can accomplish anything you want to do. My sister also graduated from University of Austin. Thank You for sharing your story and good luck.

Matt Yard

Posted on Wed Jul 03 01:46:49 GMT 2013

Good attitude, I have been diabetic for 41 years always have been involved in sports and training. I think that alone has been a major factor in my longevity. Your story sounds a lot like what happened to me. I was a sophomore in college- got sick - discovered it was diabetes. I always liked doing the things that you like to do. Just keep doing it and this will help with your control.

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