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.
My name is Eric James and I reside in Columbia, South Carolina. I have now lived with type 1 diabetes for nearly thirty years. My personal connection to diabetes, however, stems from long before I was diagnosed.
In 1973, my older brother, Bobby James, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 6 years old (I was only 3). Diabetes management was substantially different back then—he used urine strips to measure his blood glucose levels. Despite the rudimentary tools available to my brother, he seemed to handle his diabetes well and also managed to become the best big brother.
In 1987, diabetes changed my own life forever. I was training for my 10th and final year of football and was in excellent physical condition. Despite being slim and muscular, I lost 10 pounds in the span of a week. As my appearance turned gaunt, it became clear that I needed to visit the doctor. Soon thereafter, I was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes—with a blood glucose reading of 1,200! My reaction to this news was stoic, perhaps predictably, as my big brother had already lived with the disease for 14 years. In an odd way, it gave me comfort to be more like him.
In our minds, my brother and I were invincible. And we lived that way. But though we did not want to admit it, diabetes was very much in control of our lives. We were two healthy-looking guys, but slowly and surely, our health entered a state of decline. On Dec. 25, 2002, my brother suddenly and unexpectedly passed away at the age of 36 due to complications from diabetes. This was a devastating blow to my entire family. Bobby was a central figure in our lives—and he was gone in an instant.
I knew I needed to drastically improve my own care, connect with the diabetes community and, ultimately, support others affected by the disease. When family members asked if I would consider riding in the 2003 South Carolina Tour de Cure, I jumped at the opportunity and said, “YES!”
That was when my Tour de Cure experience began. Since then, my team, “Bobby’s Bikers,” has had as many as 73 cyclists, ranked as the 12th-largest fundraising team in the nation and, to date, raised well in excess of $100,000 for the American Diabetes Association! I’m a Team Captain, a 14-year Red Rider veteran and a tenured member of the South Carolina Tour de Cure committee.
Since I began participating, my health has also taken an incredibly positive turn. Successfully managing carbs, activity and blood glucose are a part of my daily regimen thanks, in part, to Tour de Cure. I do not currently use an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor, but I will likely embrace these tools in the coming years. Today, I can honestly say that diabetes no longer controls my life—I control it.
I continue to live, learn and share in my amazing community and will continue participating regularly in Tour de Cure, to make a difference for everyone affected by diabetes.
Together, we CAN Stop Diabetes.
The Association is so grateful of our 25 Legends! Their tireless efforts as walkers and riders are a tremendous support and inspiration to people with diabetes.