Turning Adventures into Accomplishments – by Tracy Herbert

We’ve showcased some incredible women throughout March in honor of International Women’s Day, and here’s another! Tracy Herbert, writing us a Global Postcard from the U.S., shares how her journey with type 1 diabetes has resulted in her most cherished achievements. 

People often ask me, “Why did you ride your bicycle 3,527 miles across the United States from San Francisco to New York City?” 

That question always takes me back to the feelings I encountered 40 years earlier, when I was diagnosed at the age of 17 with juvenile (type 1) diabetes.

Way back then, we didn’t even have home blood testing machines. As you can imagine, I was scared, confused, and without hope. Not one person in my family had diabetes, and I didn’t know anyone with diabetes.  While learning to give myself shots in the hospital, I heard from medical experts that I would die within 20 years with horrible complications like blindness or amputations and that I would never be able to have children.  

Despite not having hope at my diagnosis, each decade I do something epic to “celebrate” living successfully with diabetes, without any complications. I celebrated my 20th diaversary on a 100-mile bicycle ride that is so hot they fry eggs on the asphalt at mile 84. On my 30th diaversary, I competed in a triathlon, even though I am afraid of water. For my 40th diaversary, I needed to set an audacious goal. This is where my idea to ride across the United States came from, and I could celebrate outliving the medical experts’ predictions and prove that my health strategies do work.

 This epic bicycle ride across America taught me several things. For example, when setting audacious goals, remember to break those goals in to smaller goals. While riding through Nevada, I would say to myself, “At the next tree I will take a break and eat something and walk around.” What I thought would be half a mile or so would often be 20 miles. 

Another lesson I learned was to accept setbacks. This ride was no different than living with diabetes: one day you have perfect blood sugars, and the next day something happens. When I was leaving California and heading to Nevada, I got lost in the woods and had to carry my bicycle up three summits through bear-filled mountains.

As I got closer to New York City and started seeing the skyline, feelings of pride and accomplishment rushed through my veins. I thought back on my 40 years of living with diabetes and realized the importance of making that decision long ago that I would be in control of my diabetes, not the other way around. When the medical experts told me I would never be able to have children, they didn’t realize the tenacity I had. Researching everything I could to find out how to live successfully with diabetes, I learned what worked well for me. My biggest accomplishments to date are having two healthy children, four healthy grandchildren – and of course going on a bicycle ride across America.

For more information on Tracy Herbert and her book Diabetes Tragedy to Triumph, please check out her website.