This summer Kendal had the opportunity to participate in an amazing program through Insulindependence.
I had heard of the organization prior to Kendal being involved but didn’t really understand what they did. In a nut shell, we were told that Kendal would be paired with an adult athlete who also has Type 1, they would coach her and then Kendal would compete in the Boulder IronKids triathlon and the coach would compete in the Boulder 70.3 Ironman the next day. I remember getting the email from Gear (husband extraordinaire) telling me about it and asking if I thought Kendal would do it. As much as I wanted Kendal to want to do it I had my doubts. I had already told her that she HAD to do swim team and she was not thrilled about that. I think she was partially scared, due to her diabetes and fear of going low, and very opposed to getting up early every morning during the summer. But when I asked her about this program she was thrilled. She said she REALLY wanted to do it and when did she get to meet her coach!
Kendal was quickly matched with her coach, Rachelle, and we had our first phone call. It was decided that Rachelle would call each week, talking with me, Gear and Kendal one week, and then just to Kendal the next. Rachelle was like clockwork, never missing a call and I was so thankful for her dedication. The calls between Rachelle and Kendal were fascinating. Kendal isn’t much of a phone talker yet she would chat with Rachelle for 20 to 30 minutes and sometimes longer. And she would actually talk! They talked about training, blood sugar levels, how things are going, what she was afraid of, what she liked best, how to handle lows while training and I’m sure many more things. I didn’t listen in on the conversations but I sure wanted to just to hear what Kendal was saying.
This went on for several weeks until the weekend of the big event. All the coaches (Captains) and the kids (Jr Captains) and their families gathered in Boulder for a long weekend of activities, discussions, the kids tri and the 70.3 tri. And this is where I saw magic happen. The first bit of magic was at the first dinner when she was surrounded by kids and adults that all have diabetes. Most of them were wearing insulin pumps, many wore CGM’s, and they all tested their blood sugar before dinner. This was magical because in that room she was “normal” again. She was just like everyone else. Gear, Payton and I were the ones who were different. She stood in the middle of the room and got a shot and no one stared. No one asked if it hurt and no one grimaced as the needle pierced her skin. She stood there unafraid and proud and confident.
Then there were the endless magical moments with Rachelle. It’s hard for me to put into words how much Kendal gained that weekend and how much I admire, respect and THANK Rachelle. She is my hero and I will always love her for giving so much to my sweet little girl. There is only so much I, as a parent, can to do instill diabetes confidence. Rachelle was a walking example of it. She talked to Kendal about diabetes with ease and knowledge and without fear. She was not guarded about Kendal’s diabetes or about her own. I felt I could ask Rachelle anything and I know Kendal felt the same way. When Rachelle had a high blood sugar she shared it with Kendal, and anyone else, it didn’t matter. She corrected it and moved on. It’s just a part of the disease you deal with, it happens to everyone, there is no shame in it, it’s no ones fault. All the things I tell Kendal, Rachelle exuded.
One of the best moments is when I asked Rachelle if Kendal could watch her do a pump site change and she happily agreed. We met Rachelle in her room and with ease, confidence and without modesty she showed Kendal how to insert the pump infusion set. Then she did her CGM sensor. Kendal and Rachelle have the same CGM but Kendal hadn’t been wearing hers much because she was quite afraid of insertion process. She would also ONLY wear it on her stomach. Rachelle got everything ready and attached in about 2 minutes and in her back side. No tears, no fear, no deep breaths just quick and easy and it’s over. It gave both Kendal and I a whole new perspective…diabetes with confidence.
Then there was the event itself. That day Kendal became an athlete. She was told she’s a good runner by multiple people and now she likes running. She finished strong so now she’s a triathlete. She passed kids on the bike and in the swim so now she’s a cyclist and a swimmer. She was inspired and now wants to do more. It was magical. The next day Rachelle competed in the 70.3. It was a long, hard day for her competing at that altitude and without much training since she recently injured herself but she showed Kendal how to persevere. She showed Kendal what it means to be TOUGH and to never give up. We all watched Rachelle finish and then go directly to the medical tent. The mom in me wanted to go in with her, to protect her, to make sure she was ok, to ensure the medics were giving her the attention she needed. She had given Kendal so much I wanted to be there for her to somehow repay her in some small way. Instead, I remained outside the tent, assuring Kendal that Rachelle would be ok.
Rachelle emerged looking beat up and tired but still smiled when she saw Kendal. Rachelle chatted with her as if she were feeling like a champ (Rachelle later ended up in the hospital but was able to go home after they got her hydrated). We all then went to the Insulindependence tent while Rachelle got a little to eat and that’s when Kendal asked if we could go home. We’d been in the hot sun for about 10 hours, without a single complaint from Kendal (which is a miracle in itself). This meant it was time for goodbyes. If you know me you probably know I’m not good at goodbyes and I’m not good at public displays of emotion. So, in my normal “lets make it fast” kinda way I announced that we had to go. I gave Rachelle a quick hug and tried tell her how grateful I was but I knew I would start sobbing uncontrollably if I stayed too long, or if I even looked into her eyes. I think Kendal and I are a lot alike in this way because she did the same thing.
Since that weekend Kendal has blossomed. She wears her CGM most of the time now. She’s not afraid to put the sensor in her back side. She started giving herself her own injections. She completed another triathlon and she decided it was time to start using a pump. These are all HUGE steps that all happened since Rachelle. It is no coincidence and I am so thankful that Insulindependence brought Rachelle into our lives. When Kendal reaches one of these milestones she so often says, “Mom, you should text Rachelle”. And since I can never say it enough, Thank You Rachelle. You are my hero.
Payton, you impress me every day, every single day. When you heard about the triathlon you decided to do it as well. You had to do twice the distance as Kendal and even though that is impressive that is only a small part of what makes me so proud of you. You were incredible this entire weekend. You make friends so easily, adults and kids alike. You participated in all the events and always had a smile on your face, even during some pretty tough times in the triathlon. You spent hours cheering everyone on and you are always thinking of others and how you can help them. And I’m not the only one you impress. It is not a rare event for other parents to tell me how incredible you are. Teachers tell me the same thing. As you grow up you will continue to wonderful things, I have no doubt of that.
Payton finishes the swim!