Patience and Discipline: My life as a Red Rider

I was waiting at the stoplight, my bike leaning against my shin, left foot clipped in to the pedal, and my eyes pointed downward as I scrolled through the data on my power meter. I had about five miles left of my training day, and my legs were cooked. I was ready to be off the bike.

A silver truck pulled up alongside me, and a woman rolled down her window. I recognized her from my neighborhood, known to me as the woman who walks her dog at the same early hour I ride my bike. “I know about you! About what you do, and about your team. I saw them on the news! I have diabetes, too.” I smiled at the same instant the light changed, and we both sped off in different directions.

In that moment, the spaces of my world converged, and I was reminded of all the communities to which I belong. I bought a house in Old Town Longmont because my husband and I fell in love with the neighborhood, if not the tiny brick home we came to occupy. We love the sense of community that exists where we live. Of course, I race a bike for Team Novo Nordisk, and there is a tremendous sense of community among cyclists generally, and especially among racers. Lastly, since October of 2007, I have been part of the community of people living with Type 1 diabetes.

Of all the communities to which I belong, that last one – the one in which my participation was not a choice but a matter thrust upon me – has been most impactful. Diabetes is all about love and discipline. It’s with me every second of every day, in and out of weeks and months and years. It’s a constant echo in my mind, demanding attention and work. A lot of work. I poke my finger, press out a dab of blood, and check my blood sugar just about every hour of my waking life. I give myself multiple injections every single day. I am always adjusting the thermostat of my body, understanding its vulnerabilities, and tending to its needs. The good news is that I am not doing it alone.

Team Novo Nordisk is a global sports team comprised of cyclists, triathletes and runners who are living with diabetes, including winners and podium finishers from professional races around the world. We are just a handful of the 371 million people worldwide affected by diabetes,1 with a disease that is nearly impossible to see but that reaches into every moment of our respective lives.

Being a part of Team Novo Nordisk has given me the opportunity to race all over the country and change the perception of what it means to have Type 1 diabetes. It has also provided me the chance to participate in numerous in Tour de Cure events all over the US. The Tour de Cure is a series of fundraising cycling events held in 44 states nationwide to benefit the American Diabetes Association.

These events offer routes geared toward every ability, from the occasional rider to the experienced cyclist. Those persons riding with diabetes are provided red jerseys so that they can be identified and celebrated along the way. As a bike racer, I get to hear a lot of people cheer for me from the sidelines of a criterium or circuit, or at the summit of a KOM. Still, in the moments when I look over my shoulder and see an ocean of red and all of us, together, living jerseys and hear people cheering for those of us who have lived day in and day out with diabetes, I am always overtaken with emotion.

When I see all the people present who don’t have diabetes, who are there riding for me and my teammates and millions of other people they don’t even know, I am inspired by their generosity. When I hear the stories about why people ride, I am moved and amazed.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, I met two women with diabetes. When they started riding months earlier, they could only make it to ten miles. They rode every day until they were strong enough to pedal all 100 miles of the Tour de Cure century route.

In Bozeman, Montana, I met a nine year old boy diagnosed with Type 1 only weeks earlier. He was a state champion swimmer, and decided to do the ride because he wanted to make sure that diabetes didn't slow him down.In Miami, Florida, I met a woman who was riding for her twin sister, living with diabetes for 50 years. “She won’t touch a bike,” she said, “so I will pedal for her. But she’s driving this.”

In life there are only two types of obstacles: the ones we choose and the ones we don't choose. I enjoy cycling because I like to challenge myself. It’s taught me patience and discipline, and the bike has made me a better person. I didn't choose diabetes, but the lessons have been much the same.

I work as an advocate for people with diabetes because I want them to know that they can still pursue their dreams after diagnosis. I invite you to participate in the diabetes community, even if you don’t actually have the disease. You
can be part of an incredible group of people, who are riding their bikes to celebrate friends, family members, or loved ones with diabetes, or maybe because they simply “like the cause.”

-Becky Furuta,
Team Novo Nordisk
Red Rider

Do you "like the cause" and/or want to participate?

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