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For those that don’t know, this organization started as a blog. Something small that came out of my excitement for the new found success I had in managing diabetes. I had lived over 10 years of struggles managing diabetes, many that I was not even really cognizant of and certainly not intentional about addressing. I was dedicated, performing over 20 finger pokes and often over 8 injections a day to survive the long days of training. My motivation at that time was competition and I made it to the highest level in the world, racing at the Olympics and winning a Gold medal at the PanAm Games. These things kept pushing me to be better, but it was not until I started to connect with peers living with T1D that my learning really accelerated. 

People from across Canada and the world that reached out to me had a profound impact on both my knowledge and my motivation. This inspired an organization that had so much less to do with me describing how I manage diabetes and so much more about sharing that same experience of connecting with peers. This is the story of ICD, now Canada’s foremost charity in peer-led support, education and motivation for people with diabetes. 

There have been many obstacles in the development of I Challenge Diabetes that have challenged its’ very existence. Not just organizational challenges, but those that have rocked me personally. I’ve learned to create a routine, to pause the negative self-talk – which I must admit has been rampant at times – and focus on my purpose, and the people I pursue it for. 

I’ve gotten to know so many young people who have so much potential and oftentimes can struggle all the more internally, even as their success adds up. The desire to reach for their goals, to higher their expectations… the more erosion that can happen at the core where their confidence should be thriving. Along my journey, meeting so many with this disease, I know I’ve missed these signs and many times recognized them but didn’t know how to act. 

Most recently, two awesome young adults, Jake and Jasmine helped me learn that I contributed to the erosion of confidence with what could be called toxic optimism. My intent was good – wanting to share the good and great I see in them, when all the while in their heads they’ve thought, “you don’t know my faults.” I’ve learned that success for those who can’t accept it, who have unknowingly been conditioned to reject or deflect praise, adds “fraud” to their list of  perceived faults. This lesson shone a light on my path. As I continue to learn about and we strive for our best at ICD, I want to share this perspective in hopes it may help with those you love.

It makes sense when we live with a disease with such inconsistent outcomes, we start to dismiss what we did right, as luck more than persistence. The chance we’ve done right can be immediately followed by the thought “I’ll get it wrong soon enough.” 

I will continue to share the truth about so many youths who have done an exceptional job taking on their challenges. But I am committed to exploring how to offer appropriate feedback that can be digestible and accepted and encourage you to reflect on this. 

I’ve grown to learn this internal struggle through many close friends and my own experience. Consider the lifetime of being tested multiple times a day and measured against a narrow range of success. Taking into account that a working pancreas would score above 95% on that test, 99% of the time… after all, it would be working every moment on the day focused on this job alone. 

Now compare this to recommendations from clinical guidelines to test 4 or 5 times a day – which somehow anticipates an A1c of below 7% with no more than a couple of low bgs a week. 

This is why we have adopted a mentality that our blood sugar is only a number that helps us be informed on what to do next. With this mindset, we are only one test away from being in range. We also want to encourage friends and family and our T1D youth to remember that these skills take time to develop. 

Our memories, our routines, our decision making, planning, prioritizing and execution takes practice. We will be our best when the spaces for practice without judgement are available and there is a far greater opportunity when you can learn from others’ actions who are forced to live by the same rules. These rules are tough, but if you are someone out there who is living with this, I welcome you to come and connect with your peers. You might find something you can do better… but odds are that seeing how someone else lives with the same challenges as you will reduce the burden even though it doesn’t take it from you. I know personally, spending time with such wonderful youth, whom I am privileged to call my peers, helps me learn, achieve my best and love doing it.  

Chris Jarvis is the founder and President of I Challenge Diabetes. Diagnosed at age 14, Chris went on to row for Team Canada in the Olympics, and brought home the Gold from the Pan-Am games. He works and lives in Toronto with his wife Angie, and daughters Juliet and Stella.

Our community blog is written by a diverse group of ICD participants and supporters. We are grateful to be able to share the various perspectives of our community with you. These are opinions, not medical advice, and may or may not be right for you!

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