Throughout my life with T1, I have heard countless speakers talk about the challenges of diabetes – the traditional ‘don’t let diabetes stand in your way’ stories. For the most part, I have found these stories inspiring. For the most part. Perhaps I am a bit overexposed to the diabetes speaking circuit, or perhaps I grew up with family and friends who never let that notion that diabetes could stand in my way cross my mind in the first place. Whatever it is, crossing paths with someone whose story takes on a slightly different angle is so refreshing.
This past weekend, I had the chance to work with Children with Diabetes and Animas Canada to bring one such Type 1 speaker to share his story with the CIM community. Although he hadn’t formally ‘spoken’ many times before, and was fairly new to the Type 1 speaking circuit, I must say his story was exactly what I needed to hear. Kyle Cochran’s story was really a breath of fresh air. (How fitting!)
Throughout March 8-10, 2013, Toronto played host to Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Canada conference. And what a weekend it was. But, wait, this is Connected in Motion, right? What were we doing at a conference for children? Well, perhaps it is a lesser known fact about the CIM Team – not only are our roots in outdoor adventure, but we are educators, both by profession and at heart. Not only do we have backgrounds in early childhood, elementary, and secondary education, but combined we have spent countless years working at a variety of camps for children with diabetes and being Type 1 mentors (partnering with the JDRF and Riding on Insulin) – CWD was a natural fit for us and we were thrilled when we were asked to be a part of the event.
A group of CIM staff and ambassadors came together to work behind the scenes at the CWD FFL conference: staffing the Childcare, Elementary, and Tween age groups; working the VIP circuit and introducing the youth to the concept of adventure and diabetes; presenting to parents about adventure, travel and diabetes; and welcoming children to chill in the CIM tent, share with us their own ideas about adventure, and spread the word about the CIM community – letting parents know that there was something that their children could look forward to when they reach 18, and that there was a community waiting to welcome them with open arms.
CIM was stoked to be invited to put together an evening event for adults. Both those attending the conference from throughout North America, as well as those in the local community were invited out to CIM’s Trail Mix ‘n Mingle + Pub Night, in downtown Toronto. This evening ended up being my personal highlight of the weekend: A group of fabulous people, drinks, laughs, and one heck of an inspiring story shared by a new friend, Kyle Cochran.
Kyle is an American Ninja Warrior. What on earth is that? I asked the same thing! An insane obstacle course that requires competitors to be the fittest of the fit, the American Ninja Warrior series completed its fourth season in 2012. That season saw 23-year old Kyle Cochran advance all the way to the finals, blasting through the semi-finals in an impressive 3 minutes and 19 seconds. (We would love to show you the videos, but unfortunately, YouTube rules won’t let us. Check out the American Ninja Warrior Website, instead, to get an idea of what we are talking about!
Wow. My muscles hurt just thinking about it. Kyle spoke with the group about growing up with diabetes and about his athletic adventures that led him to submit an audition tape to American Ninja Warrior. (Kyle is a climber, a paraglider, a skier, a soccer player, a gymnast, a dance instructor… and the list goes on – check out his full Animas Hero bio, HERE.) He shared with us how one of his biggest motivators training for and competing on American Ninja Warrior was his diabetes. He saw the inspiration that his story could be to so many young people growing up with diabetes, should he conquer the ANW course. He had heard of the Olympians and the extreme athletes whose stories tell of their own journey to conquer diabetes and excel despite the disease. He set out with the American Ninja Warrior course as his own challenge to overcome and his platform to tell his own story of success. Kyle made it through the regional qualifiers, through the semi-finals and the finals. And then he fell and was knocked out of the competition.
Kyle spoke to us about how, in that moment, he was overcome with disappointment. He told us how he went straight back to his hotel room and did push-ups until he couldn’t do push-ups anymore, he did sit-ups until he couldn’t do sit-ups anymore, he did squats until he could squat no more. He was determined that if he trained harder, pushed a little further, he could still prove that diabetes doesn’t stop you from achieving your dreams.
Later that week, Kyle recalled to the group, signing into his Facebook and seeing his inbox full of messages – from people he didn’t even know. People who were proud to be able to tell their friends that a fellow T1 was competing in the ‘hardest obstacle in the world’. People who had just needed a little push to get up and get active. These people didn’t need to see a gold medal success story (I have to say, I think getting up the guts to even audition for this show is a success in itself!), they just wanted/needed/appreciated seeing someone they could relate to getting out there and giving it a go.
One of the things I found so refreshing about Kyle’s story (and his attitude, demeanor, humbleness…) was that it was something that most people in the crowd could relate to. So many of us have set goals, given it our all, and perhaps not quite made it, but we have come to realize that it is the experiences we gain from the journey that are so powerful and the ones that find special places in our memories – not necessarily the final destination. The simple act of setting a goal and working towards achieving it teaches so many lessons in itself.
Kyle’s story reminded me of the ‘Five Minutes of Fame’ session run at CIM’s Winter Slipstream this past weekend. We heard stories stemming from a vast array of experiences and each touched and influenced us in different ways. From Virtue’s Urban Adventure story: Moldy Bread (I decided to formally title that story, as I think it will go down in history… If you missed it, don’t fret – you’ll have an opportunity to hear it soon, I’m sure!) to Terrence’s experiences from his first year with T1, we learned that each person has a story to tell and that story may be exactly what someone else with T1 needs to hear in that moment.
Thank you to Kyle Cochran for sharing his story and to Animas Canada and Children with Diabetes for helping to make the evening possible.
Thank you to CIM Ambassadors Sarah Ketcheson, Julie Devos and Virtue Bajurny for all of their behind the scenes work to ensure the weekend went off, without a hitch!