Photo by Erika Young
Every month, we feature Friends in the Fight™ from our Mighty Well community who have stories on how they turned their sickness into strength. We hope that by reading their stories, you will be inspired to keep going and keep fighting despite the many challenges.
This month, we bring you Erika Young: a 30-year-old young professional with Type 1 Diabetes and a Mighty Well model. Her illness didn’t stop her from pushing the boundaries of her physical limits. She has run marathons worldwide, including a 150-mile trek through Turks and Caicos.
Here are a few highlights from our interview with Erika:
Along with pushing myself to new physical limits, I also wanted to challenge myself in other ways and become the best version of myself because the reality is, any day could be my last.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Erika – I’m a 30-year-old young professional living and working in Boston. I have a great rescue pup named Hunter, who is my buddy in crime. We often go on runs, hikes, and swims together, and he is also my emotional support animal.
As a former collegiate athlete, I am still very much active today, and I like to run, bike, and swim. I am also involved within the community, as I volunteer for three non-profits. When I am not running around or volunteering, you can find me taking pictures, traveling, or enjoying good food.
I am a Type 1 Diabetic, and I was diagnosed on Christmas Eve, 2014, at the age of 26. One minute I am eating Chinese food with my family, and the next, I am in the ER with a blood sugar of 700 (normal blood sugar is 8-120).
Do you think your experience with illness has given you strength? How?
Living a normal life was a thing of the past, so the only thing I could do was embrace my diagnosis and live life to the fullest.
My diagnosis has definitely made me stronger as a person, and I am constantly pushing myself. I refuse to let my disease define me or hold me back from accomplishing anything.
Most Type 1 Diabetics are diagnosed as children, which is why the disease is also referred to as Juvenile Diabetes, and they grow with Type 1. It becomes the only thing they know. Their parents and loved ones also have to learn about the disease because they are the people who manage it, administer shots, test blood sugars, change pump sites, calibrate CGMs, etc.
I was living on my own during the time of my diagnosis, and the only person I had to look after me was myself. My parents and siblings are very hands-off and know little about Type 1. I had to hold myself accountable, and l became fiercely independent.
Living a normal life was a thing of the past, so the only thing I could do was embrace my diagnosis and live life to the fullest. Since my diagnosis, I have run two 1/2 marathons, a full marathon, road in several 50-mile bike races, competed in triathlons, and road 180+ miles for cancer research.
I was also sponsored by the diabetes company One Drop and embarked on a 150-mile trek through Turks and Caicos with two other Type 1 diabetics to raise awareness about the disease. Next summer, I am competing in Ironman 70.3 and will run another marathon.
Would I have accomplished as much if I was never diagnosed with Type 1? Probably not.
Along with pushing myself to new physical limits, I also wanted to challenge myself in other ways and become the best version of myself because the reality is any day (any low blood sugar) could be my last.
What was it like to model for Mighty Well?
I love everything that Mighty Well stands for: turning sickness into strength!
It was such a great experience to be involved with like-minded individuals who live life everyday despite their illnesses and struggles. Emily was so great to work with. She is truly dedicated and passionate about Mighty Well, and that is something I recognized immediately upon meeting her. You can’t ignore her infectious positive energy, and I love everything about Emily and what Mighty Well stands for turning sickness into strength!
Is there anything else you want the Mighty Well® Community to know about you and your work?
Everyone has bad days, illnesses or not. But it’s what you make of those bad days that defines you. I suffered a bad string of high blood sugars during my marathon training and had to spend a night in the hospital, but I was determined to not let it deter me from my goal.
I ran 16 miles the next day to prove to myself that I could do this whole marathon thing and I was not going to let high blood sugar/ diabetes stop me. I feel like if you remain positive and continue to push yourself, you can accomplish anything.
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