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Thriving with Type 1 Diabetes

Devin Rettke (in red). Ironman Canada / Brightgroom.com photo

So you say you’re having a bad day and you’re tired of that same old routine. You’ll have to excuse Devin Rettke if he’s not overly sympathetic.

You see, Rettke knows all about routines. And when it comes to bad days – well, that too is relative.

At the age of 18, Rettke is already an accomplished triathlete. In August, he fulfilled a seven-year dream when he competed in the Ironman Canada race and finished the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26-mile run in 13 hours and 47 minutes.

“It was a dream come true,” he says with quiet confidence. “My hard work and training paid off.”

A phenomenal story in itself, but there’s much more to this humble young man. When the Maryknoll High School senior crossed the finish line that day he also made history, becoming the youngest type 1 diabetic to complete an Ironman.

“The diabetes was definitely the most challenging element,” says Rettke, who was forced to check his sugar levels during the entire race. If the levels got too high, he ran the risk cramping up. If they got too low, he could have much bigger problems.

“I tested before the swim, after the swim, before the bike and before the run,” he says. “It was exhausting but I had to do what I had to do.”

Rettke’s life turned upside down nine years ago when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D). T1D stops a person’s pancreas from producing insulin, a hormone that allows people to get energy from food. It can strike both adults and children at any age, and causes a dependence on injected or pumped insulin for life. The threat of kidney failure, blindness, amputations, heart attack, stroke and pregnancy complications never goes away.

Two years after being diagnosed with T1D, Rettke turned to triathlons as a way to inspire others living with the autoimmune disease to live life to the fullest. Rettke is one of an estimated 3 million American living with T1D who must constantly monitor their blood sugar levels and carefully balance insulin doses either by multiple injections every day or continuous infusion through a pump.

“I can’t live without my pump, and the people at JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) have helped me succeed,” says Rettke. “I don’t know where I’d be without their support and without technology. I know my parents are happy.”

Rettke knows he is touching lives by competing in a sport that is physically and emotionally demanding. He’d love a shot at taking on the prestigious Ironman field in Kona one day, but for now he’s focused on being a role model for children living with T1D. His message to those living with T1D is never stop believing or dreaming.

“At first I thought I took on the challenge of an Ironman to prove to people who said it couldn’t be done that it could,” says Rettke, the 2010 and 2011 Hawaii team time-trial state champion, who also finished second in his age group at the 2009 XTERRA 10K World Championships. “But I recently realized that I did it to help younger children believe that anything is possible. I’m now helping a young boy with T1D, training with him several days a week. That’s my purpose!”

On Saturday morning, Nov. 3, Rettke and dozens of other Hawaii children living with T1D will take part in the 2012 JDRF Hawaii chapter’s 19th annual Walk to Cure Diabetes at Central Oahu Regional Park in Waipio.

Hundreds of community members and local businesses will join them. I am proud to say our company, Communications Pacific, is one of several event sponsors. And, like other companies, we too have formed a team to support and raise funds to help JDRF achieve its goal of improving the lives of all people affected by T1D.

To learn more about the event, visit our team page: https://www2.jdrf.org/goto/commpac . And to learn more about Devin’s inspirational life journey go to https://www.irondman.org/Home.html. Let’s do our part to make a difference in the lives of Devin and all of his friends.