This month I write this blog with a heavy heart. I recently lost my mother after she dealt with the intense pain, despair and frustration of managing cancer for the past 3 and a half years. Witnessing her final weeks of life which involved incessant pain, deterioration of function and confusion was both traumatic and inspiring. She was so determined to stay alive that she survived far beyond the expectations of the doctors treating her. I found her grit and determination in dealing with impending mortality to be a strong indication of what we can/ have to deal with in life. My Mum taught me many lessons in life and this continued right up until her final breaths. She lived by example espousing her values of hard work, generosity, aim HIGH, family and to always be the BEST you can be!
I will miss her tremendously. Grief, I understand is an inevitable part of life that we all must deal with at some point. It often seems so unfair and leaves more questions than answers. Now, for me it seems somewhat surreal that my seemingly indestructible mother will no longer be there answering the door with a hug at the family home. Dealing with the subsequent emotions and the unique ways they manifest in each person can have wide reaching ramifications. Including into Diabetes management. The erratic nature of life around the death of my Mum meant managing my blood sugar levels was a challenge. This was compounding the negative feelings I was having and draining me of a seemingly already empty store of mental and physical energy. I think in these times it was important for me to grant myself the permission to ‘not have everything well managed’ including my diabetes. Striving for your best is an important ingredient for life as I mentioned in the last blog. I also however think there are times in life when it is ok to take it slow and settle for ‘just enough’. Dealing with grief is I think one of these times.
Now however, I must start to inspire and imagine for myself what is the BEST way to honour my Mum! I can see how it can be possible for some people to let the grief/ sadness rule their life. It could be a rough path back to full health from such feelings. However, for me the most important person at these times is my Mum not myself. I want to honour her memory and I will aim to continue to make her proud. I can hear her saying now as she did when I was a young boy whilst I was being forced to do the household chores “If you are going to do a job, do it properly!”. She was always a proponent for duty in life and making sure you contributed to your society. As I look back on the things she stood for I can actually view the grief of losing her as a catalyst for more inspiration in life. I think we can apply this to many things we might lose in life. Including the insulin that comes from our Pancreas.
I remember feeling a mix of many different uncomfortable feelings upon my diagnosis. Although very different circumstances I do see some correlation with grief. It is saying goodbye to a life without the constant concern and stress of our blood sugar level. Again, I think important to grant ourselves permission to feel upset, angry, frustrated or whatever other feelings may arise at this time. Accepting the feeling is the first step of then allowing ourselves to make the next steps in our life.
I MUST honour the memory of my Mum by continuing to live my life to the fullest as she would have wanted. She was always so encouraging of me pursuing my goals in life after my diagnosis of Diabetes. I am so grateful now as an adult that I had that role model/ guiding light in my life. I think it is a message she would like to encourage to be spread further through the diabetes community. Our diagnosis has taken away our pancreas let’s not give it anymore. The experience of living with Diabetes can be turned into an inspiration in our lives. My Mum encouraged this to happen in my life. Now I am similarly inspired to use the tragedy of losing my mum into a motivation to be the best I can be in her honour.
Having spent many weeks in the cancer ward at the hospital my Mum was in also has broadened my perspective as to the difficulty of our challenges with Diabetes. Again this negative experience of witnessing the severity of life with Cancer can also stimulate the inspiration to keep living my best as the challenges of T1 Diabetes are really very very manageable in comparison to what I was seeing in the Cancer ward.
Life is HARD, nothing will erase this fact for us. Dealing with trauma, grief, loss, challenges and sadness are the unpleasant elements that everyone must face at some point. I have found it helpful to accept the feelings that follow these experiences and allowing myself to feel those downs.
This is what enables us to experience the high’s of life fully and also opens the door for us to continue to strive for the best in our lives. I have found honouring the memory of my Mum to be a motivating factor for me to do more good in this life. I think everyone has lost something or someone in life that they will want to honour their memory the best way possible in their own life.
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.