As the saying goes: Being a teenager is tough enough, without diabetes tossed into the mix.
So we're always so encouraged to see teens with diabetes (TWDs?) pushing boundaries and embracing the mantra of "You Can Do This," proving that diabetes doesn't have to stop you from achieving dreams.
In keeping with that theme, we're happy to feature 15-year-old Haley Maurice from Pheonix, AZ, who was diagnosed about eight years ago and is now embarking on a mountain backpacking adventure, along with her old brother Ethan. The amazing feat they're attempting that kicks off tomorrow (Wed, July 16) is dubbed Summit Diabetes. It involves a 221-mile hike through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California to raise money for JDRF.
Haley was happy to share more about the story behind this Summit Diabetes adventure, as one of our featured summer guest authors:
A Guest Post by Haley Maurice
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I was recently invited by our local JDRF chapter in Phoenix to attend a conference in Washington, D.C. about the upcoming updates and changes to what's now being called the JDRF One Walk (previously known as the Walk to Cure Diabetes). As I listened to JDRF CEO Jeffrey Brewer speak on many topics at the opening dinner, his points about fundraising in particular stood out to me. He talked about the importance of family teams, and how you might not get as much participation from teens who are 15 or 16 years old because they've lost interest in their diabetes.
You could say I laughed a little bit when he said that.
I'm 15 years old, and even though I was probably the only one in that huge conference room who had to say no to the wine because I was too young to drink it, my passion for finding better treatments and a cure for type 1 diabetes is no less than anyone else's who was in that room.
My diabetes story, as you'd call it, began in the summer of 2006. I was 7 years old at the time. My family and I were on vacation in Southern California the week before my diagnosis, and while my two older brothers were out swimming in the ocean and hanging out on the beach, I was inside our rental condo with a relentless headache, unquenchable thirst, and a draining fatigue. You know the drill. We stopped at least 10 times on the drive back so I could 'go potty' -- something my brothers definitely didn't appreciate. I complained a lot, but nobody thought anything of it.
I went to the doctor the morning after we returned home for a rash I was developing, and later that night I got my call (I'm sure everyone remembers their own). The doctor told my dad to take me to the hospital immediately, and I left my half-eaten hot dog on the dinner table, completely clueless of the impending bomb that was about to be dropped on my life.
It took a while for the full effect to set in. Getting the first shot was scary enough, but the idea of taking them multiple times a day, every day, seemed unfathomable. I was only 7 years and 11 months old, at that point.
It took a while, a pretty long while actually, but eventually everything set in. And every day, I wished there was a cure. So, the following year after my diagnosis, my family and I created my first team in the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes. Our team name was the Maurice Monkeys (every 8-year old has an obsession with monkeys, right?). We had seven walkers and raised just over $1,000. We walked again the following year, and the year after that. Each year, we grew larger and larger and became more and more involved with JDRF.
Fast forward seven more years. Our team's now named Haley's Comets, and it's been one of the largest family teams in the Phoenix JDRF Walk for the past few years. Since starting seven years ago, we've raised more than $25,000 for JDRF and our team consisted of over 60 walkers this past year. It's a lot of work getting local business sponsors together every year, organizing the team, and fundraising, but I can't stop. I've met so many people affected by this disease -- friends, camp counselors, other walkers -- and even if I tire of fundraising, I'm pushed on by the thought of being able to help them. I won't stop.
That's why this summer my brother Ethan and I will be backpacking 221 miles through California's Sierra Nevada Mountains to raise money for JDRF. We begin this Wednesday, July 16th, at Yosemite National Park, heading south along the John Muir Trail to the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States. We'll be doing this by ourselves, carrying backpacks and camping in a tent the entire way for about three weeks straight.
We're calling this project Summit Diabetes. As in: summitting the obstacles of living with this disease and going on to live your dreams. As in: not letting the highs and lows -- whether speaking of geographic elevation or blood sugars -- stop you. As in: furthering research along as much as we possibly can so that one day, a cure may ultimately come. On that day, every one of us and all of our loved ones will have summitted diabetes.
Here's a video we made about Summit Diabetes:
Everyone always asks, 'What about your diabetes? How will you manage it out there? What if something goes wrong?' Don't worry, we're prepared for the worst. I use an insulin pump, and we'll have a backup pump and shots, just in case. We're bringing two testing kits, extra batteries, 200 packets of honey for lows, and glucagon, and we'll keep a set of everything in both of our backpacks. That way, if we somehow manage to lose an entire backpack (you never know!), we'll have a spare of everything in the other. Sure, it's more dangerous than staying home, but I refuse to let type 1 diabetes limit me.
My brother and I are dreamers. We're also doers. Last summer, Ethan and my other brother, Reid, rode their bikes across the United States to raise money for Phoenix Children's Hospital (PCH). PCH saved Ethan's life about six years ago (a very bizarre and long side-story), and to give back, they pedaled 4,500 miles raising more than $96,000 for the hospital.
So this summer, Ethan and I set what you might consider an even more outrageous fundraising goal of $221,000 -- ($1,000 for every mile we're trekking). And we're bound and determined to reach it.
But we need your help. Please consider donating to our cause at www.summitdiabetes.com, whether it's a thousand or five dollars, every dollar makes a difference. 100% of all donations go straight to JDRF and the pertinent research they fund. We're on the cusp of many different technologies that will soon eliminate the damaging highs and dangerous lows those with type 1 diabetes currently face. Technologies like the artificial pancreas, smart insulin, and islet encapsulation can provide us an escape from carb-counting and the complicated self-management of our blood glucose levels.
You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We'll be posting updates along the way and pictures when we return. We are excited, and can't wait. For everyone out there living with diabetes, may you find your own way to summit diabetes in your own lives.
What a great effort; we're exited to follow along. Thanks for all you're doing, Haley and Ethan, and we wish you the best on your journey to summit diabetes!