On June 28th, 2021 endurance athlete and JDRF ambassador Sébastien Sasseville took on his greatest challenge yet. A commitment to ride a bicycle across Canada in support of universal access to diabetes devices for all Canadians living with the disease.
Sébastien was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2002. He vowed that T1D would never keep him from living life to the fullest, and today his story is a testament to how challenges can be turned into opportunities. These opportunities have included running across Canada, climbing Mt Everest and participating in a number of the world’s hardest endurance races.
This journey was for a cause extremely close to Sebastien’s heart.
“I’ve been using an insulin pump and CGM system for years and it’s had a tremendous impact on my life and diabetes management – these devices are life changing, nothing short of that. They enable me to do what I do,” says Sébastien.
“When I think about not everyone with diabetes having access to the device of their choice, it’s heartbreaking and really – it’s not fair – nobody chooses T1D. These tools that I use today were the things I was dreaming about when I first diagnosed. A closed loop hybrid was like something out of a sci fi movie 20 years ago, I couldn’t even imagine it – and now it’s here today, and I use it. And I want to help JDRF with their advocacy work to ensure that everyone with T1D who could benefit from this technology can have access to them.”
The provincial governments of Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia recently announced they will join Yukon in offering public coverage of CGM systems under provincial or territorial health plans. In addition, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba have also recently announced plans for funding based on their 2021 budget platforms.
“These are significant announcements impacting the more than 300,000 children and adults living with type 1 diabetes in Canada, but the coverage for both insulin pumps and for advanced glucose monitoring systems varies greatly depending on where you live in Canada, and even by age,” said Dave Prowten, President and CEO of JDRF Canada.
“We applaud Sébastien’s desire to bring attention for the need for equitable access to life-changing technology for all Canadians living with type 1 diabetes, and we encourage people to support Access For All by sending a letter to their provincial or territorial representative at jdrf.ca/accessforall.
Sébastien also wanted to highlight how hard diabetes management is even with these devices. That it makes life easier, but not easy. Even with advanced technology, there is still a lot of work involved with day-to-day management. He worries that people may see the athletic endurance feats he accomplishes without realizing how much effort is involved in managing his T1D.
I truly am not a natural athlete – my journey is not about winning medals. I’ve never won anything or even been on the podium. My message is really about ‘hey, this is not easy, there are great tools available, and they should be available to all’ – and then figuring out what works for you to make tomorrow a little bit better than today. My diabetes management is not perfect – I have highs and lows like everyone. I manage as well as I can with the exercise – I am proud that I can say I can keep it under control with years of experience and experimentation. But it’s not any easier for me. It’s not easy for anyone and that’s why it’s so important that everyone has access to the best tools for their own management.”
“This one was so much harder. I’ve never suffered this much. Including Everest. This was by far the toughest thing I’ve ever done, because of the intention of going fast. The real story was can this be done in under two weeks. What happens when you ride 400 km a day with no days off and almost no recovery time. From a diabetes management perspective, everything was new. It was trial and error, as the training doesn’t always translate to real life. The high temps (45 degrees Celsius), the difficult conditions; these were things I did not expect.”
Sébastien finished his journey in just over two weeks and was followed by a documentary crew who will be putting together a video to be released later in the summer.
“I feel I learned through the challenges, and it’s made me even more resolute to continue to use my platform to help others living with diabetes,” he says.
As for raising awareness for Access For All, Sebastien says, “I think I helped, but credit to the employees and advocates – just everyone at JDRF who has been advocating for years. These campaigns are successful over years by making sustained noise over time to get into the ears of the right people. I know we made a lot of noise on social media. I hope I helped this cause.”
Sebastien without a doubt contributed and we could not be more grateful. JDRF thanks Sebastien, his team and his sponsors Dexcom Canada and Tandem Diabetes Care for his incredible efforts and achievement and commitment to ensuring access to diabetes devices to any Canadian who could benefit from it.
Follow his journeys at: instagram.com/sebinspires