This year marks the 25th anniversary of two American Diabetes Association® signature fundraising events—Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes® and Tour de Cure®.
Every dollar raised at these events supports people living with diabetes and funds our life-changing research and programs.
The “25 Legends” blog series highlights personal stories from some of the Association’s most dedicated walkers and riders who are affected by the disease.
Charlie Cole, third from left, with other Team Dignity members.
My name is Charlie Cole. If you, like me, have type 1 diabetes, you know how difficult it is to put life with the disease into words.
Three years ago, I started a new job at Service Corporation International in Houston, and my colleagues asked me to do just that during a Tour de Cure corporate team meeting. Although I was thrilled that the organization supported the American Diabetes Association, I was nervous about discussing my disease publicly.
I do not remember what came out of me when they asked me to speak. There were 20 years of waking up in the middle of the night in fear of severe hypoglycemia. Twenty years of making sure I was able to afford my insulin and diabetes supplies in addition to general living expenses. Twenty years of worry, struggle and frustration—but also 20 years of hope that everything was going to be okay.
After I finished sharing, I felt raw. My eyes were full but I did not cry. Everyone in the room was silent for a few moments, and Mike, one of the committee leaders, eventually said, “I don’t think you have any idea how much you are going to bring to the table for this cause.” Those words completely put me at ease. I now think of that moment as a pivotal experience in my life—and the end of my silent journey with diabetes.
I spent the next several months telling my story to fellow employees. I went floor to floor and gave presentations to recruit riders for our Tour de Cure team, Team Dignity. Each time I spoke, someone would come up to me afterward to say that they lost their father to diabetes or went through similar struggles. After giving numerous presentations, I felt as though something had changed in me. The disease that I always fought in solitude became public. I was no longer hiding my wounds—I was sharing them with the hope of having an impact.
My physical health was also improving. After multiple invites from coworkers, I began jogging during my lunch break. This inspired me to exercise more outside of work, and I even participated in a half-marathon. I also started using a continuous glucose monitor in order to better manage my blood glucose during exercise.
Starting this new chapter of my life was a big deal. For many years, I did not maintain healthy habits. At one point, I had no job or health insurance and did not have the strength or resources to carry myself. As I trained for the upcoming Tour, I thought about my support system and how my life was changing for the better.
The first Tour I rode in with my colleagues was 57 miles. My coworker Rone, another diabetes advocate, stayed by my side for the last 30 miles. Without him, I have no doubt that I would have given up. That’s the thing about diabetes—it’s not something we can fight on our own, it requires a collaborative effort. I am grateful for the support of my colleagues and their continued efforts to help people affected by diabetes. In 2014, my corporate team in Houston raised more than $100,000, and in 2015, we raised over $230,000! Nationally, Service Corporation International has raised over $1 million.
Riding in Tour de Cure proves to be more and more meaningful each year. After meeting other people with diabetes at these events, I have come to realize what champions we are. Diabetes is not easy to manage—you can eat the same foods and exercise at the same times each day, but still have different blood glucose readings. It’s expensive. And it is not something you can see from the outside, it’s hidden.
Thank you, Tour de Cure, for providing me the chance to break my silence and make a difference for other people with diabetes!
Together, we CAN Stop Diabetes.
The Association is so grateful for our 25 Legends! Their tireless efforts as walkers and riders are a tremendous support and inspiration to people with diabetes.