Running Through Obstacles | George Welsh

    The doctor invited us into his office.  He examined me; I was 10 years old. I lost a lot of weight and was using the bathroom excessively.  My mom and I found seats in two uncomfortable, wooden chairs that faced his desk.  Without wasting time, he candidly announced that I had Type 1 diabetes.  I was fine with the news, and a little relieved that the diagnosis was not more severe, but when I glanced at my mom her eyes filled with tears. He directed us to the Emergency Room where I would be admitted to Endocrinology for a three-day stay. Little did I know how profoundly those 72 hours would change my life. 
    While in the hospital, I learned about Type 1 Diabetes and the inconveniences, large and small, that were now a routine part of my everyday life. I would forever carry a "diabetes bag" containing supplies like insulin, syringes, a blood sugar test kit and juice.  I had to check my blood sugar constantly and monitor how I felt.  Still, I remained unbothered. Throughout the rest of elementary and middle school, I ignored my diabetes. I attempted to live just like everyone else hoping that in doing so, my diabetes would disappear.  
    I began running for the Loyola cross country team as a freshman years later.  My running times escalated to a new high by mid-September, and I quickly emerged as a leader for the JV squad.  Entering a new school, my confidence soared, but just when I thought I found my groove, it all came to a screeching halt.  At the end of one race in late September, I could not catch my breath and my blood sugar plummeted.  I sat on the ground after the race trying to catch my breath so that I could drink some juice.  Dripping wet, my head pounded as I coughed and wheezed relentlessly.  I could not inhale.  What was 15 minutes seemed like a life time.  I was not sure how this was going to end up, and I did not want to attract any attention.  In the weeks that ensued, my breathing was labored and running was difficult.  After multiple trips to the doctor, he diagnosed me with exercise-induced asthma.  My times continued slipping while everyone else’s got better.  I went from leading the pack to a running casualty.  Even my mother suggested I try a different sport. 
    Quitting a team mid-season was not an option. I already made running a part of my life, so I pressed on.  Running big races, practicing ten mile stretches, and hitting the wall with fatigue, low energy, and legs of lead brought our team together. We were always there for each other and always picking each other up. We had a unique bond, and I would not let them down.  Because of the asthma and diabetes, I carefully kept my sugars in check.  Imminent trouble pursued if my blood sugars dropped, as it is impossible to drink a juice box when air passages swell up and grow narrow.  Running on the cross-country team meant taking control of my health.  It meant brotherhood. 
    When I was 10 years old, life threw me into a tough situation. For many years, I did not know how to handle my diabetes, and it formed a constant weight on my shoulders. I often got mad at myself for letting my numbers soar out of control. My parents constantly lectured me and asked, “Why can’t you just check your sugars? It is easy and takes no time at all.” All this pressure mounted and it created a burden most 10-year-olds could never fathom. Eventually, I did take control of my diabetes. It taught me to never give up because if I did I would face fatal consequences. When my doctor diagnosed me with asthma, to some it seemed like a career ending blow. To me, it was just another bump in the road. I knew that I had to be relentless and chase my passion. Now, I have been through more obstacles than many will face in a lifetime. I know that only more will come, and I am ready to overcome these obstacles. My diabetes and asthma have only prepared me for the future, more so than I could have ever imagined.