“If your doctor says you can’t do it, then find a different doctor.”
That is the advice Ana Fernandez, an avid marathon runner, has for those who suffer from diabetes.
Fernandez, 49, was diagnosed in 2003 with Type 1 diabetes. Only 5 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1, instead of Type 2. In Type 1, the immune system destroys pancreatic cells that produce insulin.
While that diagnosis would be a blow to most, Fernandez viewed it as a way to make strides toward a healthier lifestyle.
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Prior to the news, she had shed 100 pounds, taken up Pilates and hired a personal trainer. Now, diagnosis and all, she set her sights set on the Miami Half-Marathon (13.1 miles). Her doctor gave her the green light to train.
“I got hooked,” she said. “I loved the feeling of accomplishment, and everything changed after that.”
In January 2013, she ran her first half marathon in Miami. She has since run in nine other half marathons and in November, ran her first full marathon — 26.2 miles — in the competitive New York City Marathon. This year, she’s training for six half marathons, beginning with the Miami Half on Sunday.
Diabetes, Fernandez said, makes her different from other marathon runners only because she has to fine-tune her preparation and performance strategies a bit more.
“Whereas some products, like GU [a gel that runners consume for energy], might work for you, that might increase my blood sugar too much,” she said. “As a diabetic, you have to find what works for you.”
Fernandez also uses the buddy system when training, in case of emergency. And every few miles she checks her blood sugar using a OneTouch glucose meter. She also runs with a pump, which she can adjust to accommodate her insulin levels.
Her doctor, family and friends all support here, as does the Facebook group, “Type 1 Diabetic Athletes,” a forum where she can ask questions, offer guidance and relate to others.
“I see that there are other people like me who don’t let diabetes stand in their way,“ she said.
“Diabetes didn’t conquer me,” she adds. “I conquered it.”