This year marks Miguel Alvarez’s 50th year living with type 1 diabetes (T1D). To recognize his monumental dia-versary, his sights are set on conquering two century-ride (100 mile) cycling challenges hosted by JDRF. The Sun Life Ride to Defeat Diabetes for JDRF iRides are destination rides in cities across the U.S. to raise funds for T1D research. Miguel’s journey is a remarkable testimony of how individuals living with T1D take control of their disease to pursue their passion.
Born and raised in Southern Ontario, Miguel is an ex-professional drummer who transitioned to a tech-oriented career upon moving to BC. He had never been interested in cycling, but one day his friend invited him to go for a ride. Miguel was nervous, he knew it was a big risk and seemed too extreme. Worried his T1D would hold back his friend, Miguel declined, but despite Miguel’s persistent refusals, his friend continued inviting him until Miguel finally gave in.
After his first ride, Miguel was hooked.
Cycling quickly became a big part of his life, but not without its challenges. Miguel was frustrated by needing to stop multiple times to test his blood sugar. Not knowing what his levels were between each test left him vulnerable to unpredictable emergencies. A year later, Miguel started using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that uses a sensor to test and transmit his glucose levels directly to his smartwatch. With it, Miguel monitors his glucose levels in real-time, enabling proactive management of his T1D while riding. Miguel credits his CGM for inspiring his confidence and granting him the peace of mind needed to take his cycling to the next level. This technology not only revolutionized how he rides, but also how he lives.
Living with type 1 diabetes for 50 years, Miguel has witnessed the evolution of diabetes management first-hand. His earliest memory was when he was 3 years old lying in a hospital bed at the time of his diagnosis. “I can’t say for certain what my parents reaction was, but they must have been scared. I can’t imagine, even with my own kids, having to chase around your toddler with needles.” It was equally frightening for Miguel. During his first 10 years living with T1D, the forefront of affordable glucose monitoring was urine test strips that were dipped into a mixture of urine and water to get an approximate reading of how much sugar was present by the colour appearing on the test strip. Determining insulin dosages was guesswork at best.
Flash-forward to today, parents can monitor their children’s glucose levels through their smart phones and set alarms for when their child is going too low or too high. Insulin pumps eliminate the need for multiple injections and can administer precise amounts of fast-acting insulin as needed. The impact this technology has made on the lives of people living with T1D is why Miguel participates and fundraises for the iRide.
“I am a beneficiary of this research; the technology, new insulins, new treatments. I’ve benefited from it all, and I am at the stage of my life where I want to do something meaningful to give back.” Miguel’s motivation stems from his goal to prove what people living with T1D can accomplish.“I want to prove what I can do with this, but it’s a weird balance. It’s a serious condition that needs to be managed, but you can’t disregard the capabilities of people living with it.”
Miguel sets the bar higher for himself each year he rides. To train for two iRides, he sacrifices weekend sleep-ins and dedicates his time to cycling for over 6 hours to condition his body, in addition to hours in the gym during the week – but the physical aspect of training is only half the battle. A constant risk for Miguel while riding is his blood sugars dropping too low; failing to treat a low can result in (and is not limited to) seizures, loss of consciousness, and even death. Exercise increases the reactivity of insulin, so it’s common for people with T1D to go low while being active. Miguel’s friends get a kick out of him when he rides, because with him he carries:
- High-quality granola bars
- Fig Bars
- Fruit bars
- Trail mix/Salted nuts
- Water bottle containing 1 cup syrup and the rest orange juice
- Water bottle containing water
When Miguel sees other cyclists carrying nothing more than a cell phone and a water bottle, all he can think is: “Must be nice.”
Miguel rode his first iRide in Tuscan, Arizona in 2017, where he fundraised $2500. “It was a daunting task,” he said, “I’ve never raised money for anything in my life. I basically said, I’m going to do it, so I took the pledge and signed up. I didn’t have any sort of expertise or strategies, but I thought… I have a story I can tell.” Using the template emails provided in JDRF’s iRide toolkit, Miguel wrote his story growing up and living with T1D and sent it to his family, friends, and co-workers. The response he received was overwhelming. “I was totally shocked by the support I received; I ended up raising more than enough to qualify.” Since then, Miguel creates videos to bind imagery to his story and shares them through social media. “Most people don’t really know what it’s like. They get it that you take insulin, but they don’t know or see the ongoing battle day to day.”
Working as a project manager in the Tech-industry for 19 years, Miguel’s coworkers have supported his fundraising efforts for the Sun Life Ride to Defeat Diabetes for JDRF – iRide. They have donated money and featured him in their community newsletters to share his story and raise awareness of type 1 diabetes.
“Fundraising for two iRides is challenging”, Miguel says, “If I can’t raise enough for both, I’ll pay my way for one.” Miguel’s priority is raising awareness, proving he is unimpeded by T1D, and inspiring a younger generation. “For parents who are scared or worried, I want to show them that people living with T1D can do whatever they want. Today, if you’re a child with T1D, there is no reason to have doubts to what your possibilities are and what you can achieve.”
We wish Miguel the best of luck on his 50th dia-versary milestone and thank him for his continuous support. If you want to support Miguel’s mission, please visit his fundraising page and follow him on: