BENEATH THE HUNT COAT
In this series, four young equestrians share their experience excelling in and out of the ring with Type 1 diabetes.
Charitable giving is at the heart of Franktown Meadows Hunter Derby, set for June 21-23 in the Reno, Nevada area's beautiful Washoe Valley. All profits from this exceptional equestrian event and social occasion are earmarked to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF). JDRF tirelessly pursues better treatments, preventions and ultimately, a cure for Type 1 diabetes and its complications through critical research.
A cure would mean restoring natural insulin production and normalizing blood sugar levels without imposing other risks to those who live with T1D.
The difficult thing about T1D is, in general, people do not understand the condition and what it means to both the person managing this condition, their family, and close friends.
In this series, junior members of our equestrian community share their experiences of living and riding with diabetes. It's not easy. These fantastic youngsters hope that, by sharing their stories, a greater consideration and generosity will be given to JDRF. Today, we highlight rider Demi Evrigenis.
Much-appreciated donations can be made during the Derby or online anytime through www.jdrf.org.
Demi Evrigenis : Fighting Back Through Nutrition
Demi is a 21-year old junior at Pepperdine University, where she is studying Nutritional Science to become a registered dietitian. She has her love and lifetime horse, Phin, with her at school in Malibu, and delights in having the luxury of continuing to ride and compete (a bit) when her demanding science curriculum allows.
She began lessons at 6 and showing at 8. Demi's mom returned to riding as an adult, leading to Demi's earliest memories of being at the barn where she fell in love with the sport and lifestyle. Demi had been riding for seven years when she was diagnosed with T1D at 13.
Being diagnosed slightly older in life, riding and horses were embedded in her being, "By nature, I was a tough kid," she explains. "At diagnosis, it was a done deal: riding was already my passion. I didn't consider anything slowing me down. I think I was in a bit of denial.
"My mom was always on me to test my blood sugar and eat properly, so I did, for the most part. But I resisted feeling that it made me different or less capable. Of course, I had to acknowledge my medical issue (if I didn't, I would be in the ICU...not on my horse!)
"As a Type 1 diabetic, I do my best. I am certain that all Type 1 diabetics would agree with me. Irrespective of how many precautions are taken, a 'Type 1' will always have unexpected and inexplicable highs and lows that can really throw you a curve ball during competitions. Stress levels, for instance, play a huge role in my levels and that is pretty much impossible to predict. I find testing often and eating well as being the best I can do to stay ahead of it. Nevertheless, I can find my levels falling or surging at times for, seemingly, no good reason. I simply do the best I can by staying aware of my condition and trying to listen to my body. I am grateful to say, that, for the most part, I usually am not deterred from putting in solid rides.
"I consider myself the same as my competitors. I may not be, but in my mind, I feel I am on an equal playing field. For instance, as I am walking to the back gate, I don't think, 'I'm a diabetic and she/he is not...lucky her/him.' I just take care of myself and try to put in my best ride. I also remind myself that health challenges come in many forms and that the person going ahead of me in the work-off, for example, just may be coping with a serious health condition, as well. Like my grandmother used to say, 'You never know who the shoe is pinching!'"
Life is never simple with T1D, as this story from Demi reveals. "I was showing a horse in Thermal. I thought I had recovered from a somewhat minor flu/cold, although my glucose levels were still a bit erratic. Nevertheless, I was definitely feeling good enough to compete. My trainer warmed us up and we headed to the ring. I felt a bit dizzy but it passed. I put in my hunter round but before the closing circle, I felt dizzy again and had to pull up. I left the arena and while still on the horse I began throwing up... right there at the back gate!
"I dismounted, relaxed, tested (I was super high), adjusted my insulin, ingested some fluids and was fine. But it was scary!" That's only one of several such stories. Nevertheless, I think my 'will do, passion-driven' attitude enabled me to continue to ride strong and compete successfully. It gave me no choice but to learn to cope effectively.
Demi considers herself lucky in the fact that she has access to proper health care and support, which is not always the case. "Since the initial days of diagnosis, I have learned a great deal about what Type 1 diabetes actually is and how it affects my body. After I declared my college major in nutritional science, I began truly grasping the gravity of the unrelenting disease and the ravages it can take on the human body without proper care. The realization is frightening, but also liberating because the more I understand the workings of my body the more I understand that Type 1 is absolutely manageable and that, although a challenge, it is within my power to lead a healthy, strong life.
"Further, I am grateful to have been born into a family that provided me proper medical care and access to cutting edge technology to manage my condition. As a child, I did not have an appreciation for how fortunate I am in this regard. I do now. I am deeply touched by fundraising efforts that raise awareness of the disease and educate and afford so many, who would otherwise go without, the access to the astounding technological advancements available to manage the disease more easily and effectively."
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Demi. You inspire us with your passion-driven attitude and ability to overcome adversity!