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29th September 2018
Written by Justin Morris
Justin’s story is an amazing one of being diagnosed with T1D at an early age and battling through to cycle at the highest level. He is super keen to be helping support JDRF and raising funds whilst taking part in Revolve24.
Tell us about how you were diagnosed with T1D and how you manage it?
“I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 10 years old after months of feeling very ill and losing a lot of weight. I got to 10kg below the recommended weight for a 10-year-old. My parents took me to the doctor numerous times; it was not until we did a blood sugar test that it became obvious I had type 1 diabetes. I spent over a week in Westmead Children’s Hospital recovering and learning about all the new things that were now going to be a part of my life forever more.”
“I manage my T1D now through constant monitoring of my blood glucose levels. This used to involve a blood test that I would have to do numerous times a day. Now we have some amazing technology available here in Australia that offers constant monitoring of our sugar levels via a special device that sits just under our skin and sends messages via Bluetooth to an app on my phone. Thanks largely to JDRF for making this technology available to many Australians! It really is a game changer and has enabled me to live a much more liberated life. I also have to take numerous injections of a hormone called insulin each day. I juggle the amount I inject with the amount I eat and the amount of physical exercise I do each day to avoid dangerous situations such as hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level).”
When did you get your first bike?
“I got my first bike WITH GEARS for my 10th birthday, just before my diagnosis. It was such an awesome gift from my parents. I was excited about it for a long time. It was called the 'Signature- Hammerhead'. I was now able to ride all around the neighbourhood and explore the local bush tracks with friends. When I was 14 years old, I started work cooking chicken at KFC, pushing trolleys at the local supermarket, and delivering the local newspaper. My one goal was to save for a bike with front SUSPENSION that I could race. I reached this goal after many trolleys pushed and chicken burgers made and have not looked back since!”
How did you get into competitive bike racing?
“I used to ride my bike to school to avoid the school bus; I hated riding the bus! The bike became an instrument of freedom and whenever I rode, I got a smile on my face. It turned the worst of days at school into fun days! I started riding the long way to school and doing extra rides on the weekend, and then I began to dream about being able to ride my bike as a job one day. Racing seemed like the best way to make that happen. I entered my first race--a mountain bike race at Yarramundi in Western Sydney--and came dead last. That was in 2000. It was watching Cadel Evans at the Sydney Olympic’s MTB race that made me want to give racing a go. I kept going back for more races as I loved the thrill of competition. It took a while, but I eventually started to win races. I loved the process of training and putting the work in to get fit and strong for a race. That was 18 years ago now, and I still love it.”
What is Team Novo Nordisk?
“Team Novo Nordisk is the world's first professional sports team consisting entirely of athletes with type 1 diabetes. They race some of the biggest and hardest cycling races in the world all whilst dealing with the challenges of type 1 diabetes. They are registered as Pro Continental, which means they are racing against the best cyclists in the world.
Team Novo Nordisk’s CEO and Co-Founder Phil Southerland was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. His mother was told he was unlikely to live past 25. From an early age, Phil’s effective management of diabetes included riding his bike. At college he motivated friend and fellow cyclist with diabetes, Joe Eldridge, to improve his diabetes control in a similar way. This inspired Phil to spread diabetes awareness to a larger audience, and in 2005 he formed a cycling team that included athletes both with and without diabetes. In 2007, this team went on to win the 3,000-mile tag-team Race Across America.
As Phil travelled around the world, he witnessed the Novo Nordisk interest in supporting the diabetes community. This was an immediate shared goal, as was the desire to empower people with diabetes, and show that living with diabetes shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dreams. Based on these shared goals, Team Novo Nordisk was created in December 2012.
I am very lucky to call these guys friends. They and the entire team has inspired me and millions of others around the world of dealing with the constant and consistent challenge that is T1D. I was a member of the professional team from the launch until the end of 2014. I also raced for another team before this in the USA from 2010 to 2012. It was an unforgettable time of my life and looking back I am so grateful to have had that experience.”
What are you looking to get out of taking part in Revolve24?
“Revolve24 sounds awesome and I'm stoked to be involved. The main priority for me is to help raise the awareness of JDRF, whom I understand is the partnered charity in 2019. JDRF has really made life for people like me in Australia as opportunistic as anyone else's. Without the support, advocacy and research that they provide for all of us living with type 1 diabetes, life could be pretty grim. I have travelled a lot with my work and seen what life with T1D is like in many other parts of the world, and it makes me even more grateful to be in a country where we have organisations like JDRF campaigning and researching on our behalf. Finding a cure is the ultimate goal of JDRF, which not just for us in Australia but for millions around the world with diabetes. We need to keep JDRF well-funded, respected and known in this country.”
What’s your thoughts on riding with Pat Jonker?
“It's a real honour to be riding with 'Pat's dirty dozen'! Pat Jonker was an absolute legend of the sport when I was a young fella growing up in the 1990’s. His 12th place at the Tour de France was really a pioneering effort for an Aussie in a sport dominated by Europeans. He achieved so much when the sport did not have the pathways that are available now to young cyclists in Australia. I'm sure he will still be able to dish out some pain around the Tailem Bend circuit.”
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