I have been lucky enough to travel across 5 different continents firstly as a bike racer but also as someone whom lives with Type1 diabetes. Both these aspects of life encourage you to notice certain things about life in different countries. I have come to appreciate how amazingly hospitable some countries are for cycling. In Western Europe cycling is a part of the public consciousness and a fully respected, idolised sport and form of transport. As a very young ambitious bike racer I saved all through high school working 4 different jobs to afford my excursion as a 19year old to venture to the far away French Alps for 2 months of bike riding and racing, this is an experience I will forever treasure and have never felt more comfortable and amazed by my cycling. Conversely, in 2013 I travelled to the former soviet state of Azerbaijan to partake in a 5 day race. Cycling in the capital Baku was not a recognised sport or form of transport. Trying to navigate skinny racing bicycle tyre’s on these hectic streets with 0 respect from any vehicle with an engine highlighted to me the differences in approaches to my sport in different parts of the world.
Life with diabetes similarly carries with it unique challenges and attitudes in different parts of the world. Through my work as an ambassador with Team Novo Nordisk I am grateful to have become aware and exposed to these differences. Recently I travelled to Japan to help cheer on Team Novo Nordisk at the international ‘Tour de Tochigi’ cycling race and visit some groups of Health Care Professionals about living with type 1 diabetes (or Ichigata Tonyoubyo). This being my fourth trip to Japan in this role I have become acutely aware of the challenges people with diabetes face in this magnificent country.
Access to our life saving medicine is good in Japan meaning one of the important rungs in the ladder to success and health with diabetes is there. Most people I encounter in Japan admit that the most frustrating element for them is the social side. Children at school and adults at work or university are very afraid to admit they have diabetes in fear of being singled out in a group. The pressing fear of having diabetes in Japan appears to stem from the anxiety about what other people may think. This is a complex issue and one that requires quite a sensitive approach to remedying I believe.
As with any society, there are always exceptions and in Japan I did meet a few people with diabetes whom were loud and proud about having it in their lives. They had found that the fear of the admission that they had something different about them was in fact much more debilitating than the actual admission itself. Injecting in public induces anxiety amongst many people with diabetes in Japan, those that had summoned the courage (yuki) to face their anxiety by injecting in public when and where they needed to found that there was actually little or no ramifications for doing so. These are the stories that I believe we need to share and promote to help break down challenges for those with diabetes in each country/community around the world. As beneficial as it is hearing from professional foreign sports people and famous actors with diabetes I think these stories coupled with local, relatable individuals whom have encountered similar difficulties on their diabetes journey is another key rung in that ladder to dreams with diabetes.
Role models played a HUGE role in enabling a happy and healthy life with diabetes for me. As I travel the world I am forever inspired by the many inspirational people I meet in the diabetes community. It is amazing how many people themselves have a story that grants them the capacity to be a role model for their society, sometimes they just have to be met and shared. I was very proud to be a part of the launch of the sponsorship for a young Japanese track cyclist whom I met whilst on a Team Novo Nordisk road show in Japan last year named ‘Shunta’. Shunta San is a perfect example of a local role model who has the capacity to and already is changing lives in his own community. A recent university cycling champion, look out for Shunta at the Olympics one day.
From Japan I travelled to Malaysia to speak with the Novo Nordisk BAOS BMM meeting in Kuala Lumpur. I was struggling a little to think of a short but powerful message to share with the audience here during my 10 minute presentation. I was grateful to have had the preceding experience in Japan that helped shape my vision for what to say here, meeting Shunta and seeing his successes highlighted to me what really has been the KEY ingredients for success with diabetes for myself and many others. These ingredients which those I was speaking with were partly responsible for spreading around South Asia and Oceania are:
I have been lucky to have had access to both of these as has Shunta in Japan with a large thanks to role models like Team Novo Nordisk and perhaps an encouraging local Health Care Professional. These ingredients enable that ladder to be filled with those rungs to success and health. I have also seen what life can be like without these ingredients creating yet another unique set of challenges which I will discuss further in a later blog. In short though, we have these ingredients in Australia and Japan, we sometimes just need a door opened or a window cracked so we can appreciate them. I’m grateful for my trip to Japan and many other trips that have blown this door open for me.
As I arrive back to my beautiful home town of Hobart, Tasmania I will summon the courage and inspiration I’ve gained from this recent trip and from having diabetes to face my next challenge of having 5 teeth removed in the dentist chair next week. A life of being an athlete and consuming too many high sugar foods has taken its toll. But I’ve got my 2 ingredients- Insulin and Inspiration so I know I’ll be OK :-)
After receiving a diagnosis of type1 diabetes at age ten, Justin’s dreams and goals in life were threatened. Turning to cycling to help him cope with type1 diabetes quickly proved to not only be beneficial but also the start to a successful pro cycling career. Justin spent five years as a professional in road cycling travelling the world racing his bike. Dealing with the challenges of sport and diabetes across five different continents has given Justin a wealth of stories and knowledge about dealing with challenges on and off the bike.
Having since transitioned from a pro cycling career to completing two university degrees in psychology and education from Macquarie University in 2015 and being awarded with a University Blues Award for excellence in sport and academics. Justin continues to fuel his competitive streak with multi day mountain bike racing for team SubarumarathonMTB.com, having achieved podium finishes at The Crocodile Trophy, The Simpson Desert BikeChallenge, The Pioneer in New Zealand and The Mongolia Bike Challenge.
Since 2011 Justin has complemented his cycling career with sharing a message of hope, empowerment and overcoming adversity to audiences inte