Hello there, reporting from a sunny Venice, Italy where I am about to present to the good people at the European Leaders Function for Novo Nordisk. I'm especially excited about this due to the event that preceded my presence here..
In the immediate aftermath of my diagnosis and hearing that my dream of being a pilot would never eventuate I was under the impression that diabetes would forever place only restrictions on my life and dictate a rather mundane existence forever more. It was at a meeting about 3 years post diagnosis with the same diabetes specialist whom told me I would never be able to fly a plane that this outlook began to change. He had a photo on his office wall of a CHAMPION Australian Rugby League player whom I used to worship for his sporting ability! His name was Steve Renouf, he was a world beater, arguably the best Rugby League player of his time and he played for MY team- the Brisbane Broncos. I asked my doctor why he had a photo of Steve on the wall of his office. "Steve has Type1 Diabetes, just like YOU" he responded. I was dumbfounded1 how could it be possible? How could you be an absolute champion and live with this incredibly frustrating disease I had? But it was true Steven was a world beater AND he lived with Type1 Diabetes.
Finding out about a champion whom I adored who had similar challenges to me every day just to stay alive was a HUGE turning point for me and my attitude toward life with diabetes. Steve became a ROLE MODEL for me, an example of what WAS POSSIBLE with these challenges instead of what was not. Although Rugby was never going to work for a skinny young boy (I did try for a short while). My passion came to be in a different sport, this living example provided me with the inspiration and motivation to pursue what I loved in life DESPITE diabetes. This is the POWER of ROLE MODELS. I have seen and experienced it time and time again since this day how beneficial such people can be especially to those dealing with chronic disease or any challenge in life.. Sometimes we just need an example of what is possible to open the door to possibilities for us. Steve Renouf opened this door for me.
Last week I spent one week travelling by bicycle and by car across the United Kingdom meeting dozens and dozens of people whom have had or are having their doors of inspiration opened by Team Novo Nordisk. The 'Pedal for 7' is an absolutely fantastic initiative instigated by Becky Hess in the Novo Nordisk UK affiliate. The idea is that with Team Novo Nordisk ambassadors a number of Novo employee's and local T1D patients join together to travel across the country by bicycle stopping in at numerous hospitals, universities, health care centres and diabetes support groups along the way to spread the empowering message of Team Novo Nordisk to local diabetes communities. This team really is a new generation of role models of Steve Renouf's for those whom now live with the challenges of T1D. The amount of people from all walks of life whom have told me that the message we are sharing has changed their perspective of diabetes is staggering. The message is so powerful and when shared with everyday PROOF by cycling across the English countryside is even more powerful.
Along the way I even got to meet young Andrew, Ben, Thomas, Peter and Louis whom all are young cyclists living with T1 and are so motivated by the team's message that they have a dream to one day be a part of the team. Events like the Pedal for 7 bring people and stories like this out of the woodwork and help remind me of how important and special the message I get to share is. It really is changing people’s lives for the better.
For young people to now look up to our team as role models is a very humbling experience and one which carries with it a strong sense of responsibility also. Steve Renouf remained revered among the diabetes and sporting communities in Australia as he maintained a down to earth and approachable attitude which made his message even more powerful especially for young kids like myself. Professional athletes can often get swept up in the attention, chaos and drama of professional sport. Because the riders on Team Novo Nordisk all know they are carrying something far more important than their sport or themselves onto the road each race I think they are all commendably approachable and kind. Hence, the continuing success of the team and the power of it's message. Events like the Pedal for 7 are a huge testament to this and the down to earth attitude of the team and those who sponsor it.
Without the marketing and communication surrounding events like this the 'role model power' of this team falls upon very few ears and eyes. Often those that most are in need of inspiration are not at bike races or looking at sports Facebook pages. But they are in hospital and they are regularly interacting with the HCP's that I had the pleasure to chat with about Team Novo Nordisk during the Pedal for 7 in the UK. I know how important this message and this exposure is as I have lived it, both as someone in need of a role model and now as sharing the stories of role models for the next crop of people with T1 waiting to live and thrive DESPITE the challenges they have in their path.
If you need some inspiration whatever you are setting out to achieve, go searching for a role model. I am SURE you will find one!
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 internationally.