Morgan Patton is a member of Team Type 1 who took time to chat with me about living well with diabetes.
Q: Tell me about your diagnosis, when, where, and how (how sick were you, how did you and your family handle the diagnosis?)
It was in 1995, and I was 7 years old. I remember being really tired all the time. I would often get in trouble for falling asleep in class. I remember being so thirsty and just wanting to chug an entire liter of soda when I would get home from school. I would wet the bed, which I was pretty ashamed about. My parents had gotten a divorce and my mother and I had recently moved to Tallahassee, FL. We moved in with my aunt and cousins in a guest room and I shared a bed with my mom. I remember pretty much every morning trying to wake up before her and making my half of the bed so she wouldn’t see that I wet it again. I’m not too sure how long my mom waited before taking me to the doctor, but I would say a few weeks. She just thought I was acting weird and depressed because of the divorce. When we went to the doctor, I remember getting my finger pricked and the reading was >500 mg/dl.
Q: You were young when you were diagnosed, did you look at diabetes as: this isn’t going to stop me from doing what my friends are doing! Or because you were so young, was it more fear based with an attitude of: My life needs to be closely monitored?
I’ve never looked at diabetes as something that will not allow me to accomplish a task. When I was a child I thought that way because of ignorance, now I think that way because I’m stubborn. When I was young I didn’t fully understand diabetes and how critical it is to have good control of your blood glucose. I wasn’t scared, I just thought of insulin as this thing that I had to take when I wanted food. In my mind it was as important to my body as a Flintstone multi-vitamin. I didn’t realize how dangerous insulin can be if not taken properly. I also knew if I was playing soccer or running around the playground with friends and I felt low, my mom would have a juicy juice for me and I would feel better.
Q: When did you first get involved in sports? Did you see exercise as a way to manage diabetes?
I first got involved in soccer when I was 7 or 8. I loved it because it fulfilled my competitive side, and I got to eat and drink sugary snacks so I wouldn’t go low. When I was 8 or 9 I started riding horses and competing in hunter, jumpers and eventing.. I didn’t view exercise as a way to manage my diabetes, I did it because it was fun.
Q: As an adult, you are a rider with TT1, tell me about this experience? How did you decide to first get involved and has it changed the way you think/feel about diabetes? For ex. Phil told me when you first came to the team you had a pretty high A1C and that since you’ve been on the team, you’ve brought it down by a lot! Can you tell me about this, how you improved your bg? Also, how do you manage your bg while cycling and training?
My experience with Team Type 1-SANOFI has been life changing. In 2005 when I was getting a check-up from my Pediatric Endocrinologist I had an a1c of 16.8%. Prior to the visit I had managed to skip 3 visits in a row by calling into the office, pretending to be my mom and canceling my appointment. They eventually caught on. At the time I was supposed to be taking injections and checking 4-6 times a day. After that visit he switched me to a pump. It automatically lowered my a1c to about 13% even though I still wasn’t checking or bolusing, I was just getting more insulin than before. I gained 15lbs in 3 months and freaked out because the insulin made me gain weight, but I felt so much better. I decided I needed to start exercising more and liked the idea of alternative transportation. So I started riding my bicycle to school most days a week. It was only a total of maybe 5 or 6 miles but I loved it. I also could tell I was getting more fit.
A few months after I started riding my bicycle to school, I got in contact with Phil Southerland, the team founder. Our mothers met at a Christmas party and both got to talking about Phil and me and how we both had type 1 diabetes. We were completely different though. Phil was at the University of Georgia, racing on the collegiate cycling team, and had an a1c of 5.5% or something like that. I was finishing high school, thought I knew everything, only rode a bicycle a few miles to school, never checked my blood glucose, and still had an a1c of 13+%. Joanna (Phil’s mother) thought it would be a great idea to introduce us to each other and see if he could inspire me to manage my diabetes better. Phil later asked if I wanted to come out to San Diego, CA to help Team Type 1 in the Race Across America. I gladly accepted and got really excited because I’d never out west and was looking forward to being away from my parents for 2 weeks.
In San Diego I met 8 elite athletes with type 1 diabetes who looked like super heroes and I wanted to be like them. I had not found another thing I was as passionate about until I saw Team Type 1 doing the Race Across America. They were checking their bg15+ times a day, and I decided if I wanted to be like them, I needed to start checking. I slowly realized that when I went for a ride with a blood glucose of 150, I felt better than if my blood glucose was 290. If I ate a little bit every 20 minutes to sustain my blood glucose, I was able to ride harder longer.
By the end of 2006 my a1c was in the low 7% range.
Q: Finally, what advice would you offer another young woman with diabetes who wants to get involved with TT1 or someone who would like to bring their a1c down with exercise?
My advice is to set small goals. It could be to check 1 more time a day or walk for 10 minutes every day. It’s important to stay motivated with a disease like type 1 diabetes. For me, I like pushing myself physically and mentally. I also love accomplishing new challenges. I just signed up to run the Atlanta Marathon in October with the Team Type 1 running team.
Team Type 1 is always looking for more women to join to running, triathlon or cycling programs. If you’ve never done a race, you should start by looking into some events in your area. Most cities have cycling or triathlon clubs that you can be a part of while you learn about racing. For the Women’s Cycling program, which I am in charge of, we have a wide range of abilities. We have a few girls like myself who compete on the national level as well as some who have only done a few races. We want to help them develop so one day they will be racing on the national level too.
If anyone ever has any questions about what we do to manage our diabetes while training and racing, I encourage them to contact any of the athletes via the Team Type 1 website