By Claire Ala
Austin Dixon was 10 years old when his life changed forever. A few weeks before Christmas and his 11th birthday, Dixon was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D). T1D is a life threatening disease that many people don’t know much about. Dixon, now 14, has been fighting for several years to raise money for a cure and educate others about T1D.
“I want to bring awareness to this disease that challenges me every minute of everyday. I prick my fingers all the time, insert a 3-inch needle into my body for my insulin pump every three days, and face the challenge of trying to figure out what my body needs constantly. I have to be a doctor, chemist, nutritionist, and mathematician and I am only 14 years old,” Dixon explained.
Dixon’s life is not easy. He has to worry about keeping a normal blood sugar level, while balancing a busy life as a teenager. T1D affects all aspects in Dixon’s life, such as school; sometimes he has to miss class because his blood sugar level is abnormal. He also has to have a careful diet, closely watching anything he eats and drinks.
Although Dixon’s battle with T1D causes many hardships in his daily life, he keeps a positive outlook. He balances a normal, fun lifestyle, despite the bad days. In Dixon’s spare time he enjoys competitive cycling.
Dixon is pairing his two passions in life—his love for cycling and spreading awareness of T1D. He is trying to raise $4,000 to participate in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s (JDRF) Ride to Cure Diabetes. The event is held in Lake Tahoe and the race is 72 miles. “Riders from around the world take on two challenges: raising the money needed to fund research for better treatments and a cure for diabetes, and reaching a personal training goal to prepare for a destination cycling experience.” (jdrf.org)
So far Dixon has raised $2,705. He finds inspiration to spread awareness through people lacking knowledge of diabetes. He wants others to understand that T1D isn’t about being unhealthy.
“What gives me inspiration are people who do not know about the disease. I cannot tell you how many times I hear ‘you can’t eat that or you can’t have sugar’ or ‘you just have to eat right and it will go away.’ It used to bother me because that is not the disease at all! I am human just like anyone else. But now I look at every one of these opportunities to educate and bring awareness…because that is the only way this disease will change—education,” Dixon said.
Dixon also finds inspiration in cyclists, such as the professional cycling group, Team Novo Nordisk. The team is made up of type 1 diabetics that race around the world. “They are a huge inspiration. Their sole mission is to change diabetes. To see the limits these guys push themselves to is incredible,” Dixon said. Another influence in Dixon’s life is his cycling coach, Spike Manlike of Phat Tire Bike Shop in Fayetteville.
“When I bought my first road bike, Spike took me in and starting teaching me about cycling. I would know nothing without him. I’ve reached new levels of cycling lately and have goals set in place for the future and Spike encourages me to do it all. Basically without him I would not be where I am. I owe everything to him—thank you Spike,” Dixon explained.
Dixon doesn’t let being a diabetic control his life. “I know I am only 14 but I have had to grow up fast…I didn’t chose type 1, it chose me. But I know it is for a reason. I believe it is to inspire and bring a face to the disease. I want to educate and inspire. I will own this disease and never let it own me,” Dixon said.