Thirty-eight female athletes who've done amazing things despite their diabetes are profiled in this new volume by Judith Jones-Ambrosini: The Sisterhood of Diabetes: Facing Challenges & Living Dreams. How in the world she found all 38 of these women is a mystery to me.
For example, who knew there was a type 1 female speed skater with her eye on winning Olympic Gold for Canada? (Mallory Zorman). Or another Canadian female T1 hockey player who was diagnosed at just 17 months of age? (Makyla Sever). Or a college basketball player who was training to play professionally overseas when she was suddenly diagnosed with T1 just before turning 21? (Shaakira Hassell)
Author Judith Jones-Ambrosini manages to deftly tell each of their stories, in concise sections of about 10 pages each (some shorter, divided into 11 chapters), while including informative little break-out sections on diabetes, diabetes camps, and the sports these women do. Like did you know that Dragon Boat Racing dates back to ancient folk festivals about 2000 years ago? Today, Nicole Marcelin, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes four days before her 5th birthday, is a competitive dragon boat racer, and also recently gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
In the book, Nicole is quoted saying:
"I never forget I have diabetes. It frames almost every thought I have... how I'm feeling, where my blood sugars are going, what I'm going to eat, when I'm going to exercise and what effect stress or sickness is going to have on my blood sugars... I sometimes think this attention to detail makes me nervous or anxious. But then I say to myself, that's how I roll."
That's a pretty good encapsulation of how many of these women seem to cope. Diabetes is what it is; you do what you need to do to keep it in its place so you can get on with the things you love in life. Great philosophy, IMHO!
So did you know that a Powered Parachute is "a simple airframe with seats for a pilot and passenger, and is the safest and most economical way to experience aviation sport today"? I didn't, until reading this book. Today Suzi Vietti, who's lived with T1 diabetes for over 50 years and was 64 years old when this book went to press, pilots one of these things. Her story is one of the most striking because she's overcome some serious challenges; Suzi grew up in rural Kansas and was diagnosed at age 14, while her family was dealing with her father's World War II post-traumatic alcoholism. She of course dealt with many years of primitive diabetes tools. Much later in 2003, she was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, a rare autoimmume disease that effects your spinal cord, and could barely stand up for a time.
"She had clearly determined not to sit and watch her world go by from a wheelchair or bed. She would run, bike, drive, climb, hike and fly through life," the book recounts. Indeed, Suzi emerged a "Renaissance woman" who paints, decorates, teaches, lectures, pilots an airplane, climbs rocks and runs half-marathons. Wow, wow, wow!
Of course, we aren't all this kind of Superwoman, nor do we aspire or need to be. But I do think we can all take INspiration from this woman's spirit and determination -- a key theme of this collection of stories.
I felt like I wanted to meet them all! Lucky for me, I have met a few women profiled in the book: Ginger Vieira, advocate and power lifter who has submitted a number of video reviews to our Test Kitchen program; Brandy Barnes, founder of the DiabetesSisters organization whose conferences include sessions on yoga, Zumba and belly dancing; Sheri Colberg-Ochs, an expert researcher on diabetes and exercise, plus well-known author and speaker; Monique Hanley, cyclist with Team Type 1; and Zippora Karz, the prima ballerina with type 1 turned advocate who's written a book about her own life and recently released a children's book for little aspiring T1 dancers. Actually, I've only met Zippora over the phone for a number of interviews, but it was love at first chat!
On the bodybuilder front, along with Ginger Vieira, Melissa Prichard impressed me with her buff body and equally iron will. She was diagnosed at age 16 during a physical exam for varsity volleyball -- bummer! Nevertheless, she charged ahead pursuing her goal of becoming a competitive bodybuilder, and eventually began to win women's heavyweight championships. She's had a career as a registered dietician, Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), and territory manager for Medtronic Diabetes -- not to mention her own children and four dogs to look after. According to the book, "Melissa is in training for her dream of competing successfully at the national and world levels of bodybuilding." Whew -- and I thought I had a lot going on!
In all, author Jones-Ambrosini manages to profile women involved in a dizzying array of activities: softball, hiking, mountain climbing, bicycling, triathlons, swimming, bodybuilding, power lifting, yoga, wrestling, marathon running, track racing, basketball, ice hockey, speed skating, soccer, equestrian sports, stand-up paddle boating, sailing, golfing, dance, and of course Dragon Boat Racing and airplane and parachute piloting.
Note that Ambrosini has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1962 and is involved in sports herself, thus her passion for the topic. She's a New York City-based freelance writer who's been an active board member in both the former Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association (now InsulinDependence) and the American Diabetes Association New York chapter for many years. In 2004 she received the a "Lilly for Life" achievement award, and her bio, charmingly, states: "when not writing, distance walking, practicing tai chi or creating recipes, her time is devoted to family, friends, theater, gardening, travel and most of all to the greatest 'type 3' this side of paradise, her husband of 38 years, Danny Ambrosini."
In short, this 250-page collection of women's stories does not disappoint -- especially if you are in need of some awe-inspiring show of inner strength with diabetes. These women have it in spades.
Or you can enter to win a free copy right here at the 'Mine...
A DMBooks Giveaway
Interested in winning your own free copy of The Sisterhood of Diabetes: Facing Challenges & Living Dreams by Judith Jones-Ambrosini? Entering this giveaway is as easy as leaving a comment:
1. Post your comment below and include the codeword "DMBooks" somewhere in the the text so we know you'd like to enter the giveaway.
2. You have until Friday, Oct. 3, 2014 at 5pm PST to enter. A valid email address is required to win.
3. The winner will be chosen using Random.org.
The contest is open to all. Break a leg! ;)
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Congratulations to winner Alexandra Marshall! *