Forward Motion: The Letter

Diabetes burnout can hit everyone, even an “Ironman.”



People with Type 1 diabetes know all about being overwhelmed. It’s a never-ending assault of carb-counting, food-weighing, label-reading, blood glucose-testing, treating highs and worrying about lows!

It takes a lot of work to stay inspired, even for someone who has made it his mission in life to inspire others with diabetes. Ever since my diagnosis, I’ve been keeping myself extremely busy by competing in Ironman triathlons, helping to start a new company that keeps the T1 community informed, and creating a foundation that sends children to diabetes camps. But lately I have been feeling overwhelmed, and I dropped one of the many balls I’ve been juggling for the past 8 years.

I no longer have the time I want to focus on the Iron Andy Foundation. There have been moments recently where I’ve even questioned whether I can even keep the foundation afloat. For the past three Octobers, I have run a very successful 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run in my community. This event not only raised enough money to send dozens of kids to camp, it also brought my community together for a great cause. But this year I couldn’t get it off the ground.

I found myself stewing on the Monday after what would have been the 4th annual Iron Andy Foundation’s “IAF Cup”. Then I opened a letter from a young boy we sent to camp this past summer:

Dear Iron Andy,

Thank you for granting me money to attend diabetes camp this summer. I learned how to check my blood sugar and give myself insulin when I eat. I can eat anything I want as long as I count the carbs…I have to do “everyday math” just to live my life. Some fun things I did at camp were: zip lining, horseback riding, tubing and archery. I can’t wait to go back next year. My family and I want to continue to raise money for the Iron Andy Foundation. Some of my friends want to set up a lemonade stand and raise money to help other kids like me. I am working on exercising more and one day I want to be an Ironman just like you. My type 1 diabetes isn’t going to stop me from being awesome.

Dylan – grade 3

It was the kind of letter that makes all the other problems seem small, even just for a minute. Knowing that I helped one boy strive for “awesome”-ness” is exactly the fuel I need to keep going. We T1s need to take turns inspiring one another with our everyday courage. Our individual acts of bravery become a community well we can all dip into when our spirits get low.

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Andy Holder was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 36. Despite never having competed a triathlon before and not knowing how to swim, he took on the grueling 2.4 swim - 112 mile bike - 26.2 mile run that is the Ironman Triathlon. He is now a 8-time Ironman finisher, inspirational speaker, diabetes spokesperson, and founder of the Iron Andy Foundation. Andy is responsible for audience development and building collaborations with organizations who empower people to live beyond diabetes.