Live Laugh Love
Twenty-three years of living with diabetes. I turned 40 at the beginning of 2013. Ready to transition into the new decade of life, I planned accordingly to create epic experiences.
Decorated in yellows, purples, pinks, and browns, my 40th birthday party brought together many groups of those I cared about deeply. Even my sister and Dad made the trek to be there for the event. We brought in a sushi chef to teach anyone interested how to make sushi. A good friend played bartender, and we enclosed our patio to create more space for people to gather. The morning of, I ran 40 km as a way to begin my day. I was training diligently for the Austin marathon in February, so a long run fit pretty well into my training.
My performance at Austin is my best to date, even still. I was well trained and had an incredible amount of fun that weekend. A handful of running besties and I flew out to the race and stayed with a friend. We collectively felt half marathons might better moving forward when we try to fit so much into a weekend. There were hills and injections, but I crossed the finish line smiling and feeling strong.
The love of my 40th year was an adventure to run rim to rim to rim in the Grand Canyon. Our route was 47.5 miles. R2R2R would be my longest ultra yet. Many incredible friends came together on this adventure! Karen and I both ran Austin, and we continued to train together for R2R2R; we had 8-9 weeks to get our training in.
What occurred between Austin and R2R2R was a life event you cannot prepare for in any way. It was unexpected.
I pause. I miss her every day. I considered skipping over this detail of my 40th year, but it would not be authentic to my journey living with diabetes if I did. She taught me unconditional love. She enjoyed sitting among her plants on her patio, smoking her cigarettes. To this day, my father shares how she caught the attention of each room she entered. My mother died a few days before I journeyed, very spiritually, through the Grand Canyon.
It was supposed to be a weekend visit for her birthday. The kids and I made her favorite chocolate cupcakes, and they were in the minivan as we pulled up to her home in Yuma, Arizona. The moments that follow are personal for my family and me.
For living with diabetes, what I did not think to take care of, was the vial of insulin that remained in the Arizona heat as I left my vehicle at the emergency room. After she passed, my siblings and I dealt with logistics, and I decided to continue with my plans for R2R2R. That same vial and another made it into my diabetes bag for the Grand Canyon adventure.
This detail is essential because my insulin that was in my insulin pump as I descended into the canyon did not respond appropriately. It took me about 10 hours of running to put the pieces together. Fortunately, once I realized the issue, I took an injection from the other vial in my hydration pack, and my performance in the last 6 hours of my run was in stark contrast to the first 10. I felt like death with high blood sugars, the first part of the run, and I felt alive and vibrant the second part of the run.
On our final few miles to half-way, I no longer wanted to continue in our ascent to the north rim. I ran with Gina and Karen that day, and I didn't want to keep holding them back. They already had to stop for more blood sugar checks than was kind. I told them to keep going without me. I told them we would rejoin once they were on their descent back into the canyon to make them feel better. I sat down on the edge of the trail and cried. I cried about my Mom. I cried about my body and anything else I could pull into the sadness. I got up and kept moving slowly. I made it to the top, joining Gina and Karen before we topped out. The descent to Phantom Ranch felt just as awful as the ascent. New insulin and a cold lemonade consumed together at the bottom of the canyon felt like jet fuel. I had double the energy on that last 10-mile ascent.
I took a moment at the river to honor my Mom and the life she lived. She endured remarkably in her life, often in the circumstances no one would desire. She kept on to the best of her ability, and so did I that day.
Photo: A few of the incredible people I call my friends after our sunrise descent into the canyon on the Kaibab Trail in April 2013.