This isn’t about an extraordinary family—not even about an extraordinary child (because all children are extraordinary).
Rather, it’s about living with an “ordinary” disease in an extraordinary way.
Nathalie Dugas and her husband, Sean Mather, are parenting Liam, 8, who wa
s diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes (Type 1 Diabetes) when he was five.
Nathalie says their five-year-old son, Samuel, is “very aware about Liam having to check his blood sugar [10 to 12 times a day] … He would know what to give his brother if he had to.”
When Liam was diagnosed, Dugas knew nothing about diabetes, but with support she says they were soon able “to fly on their own.”
The family has found positive ways to live with diabetes; one was “to exercise and to raise money … even for a cure.” Dugas voice is charged with energy and enthusiasm.
This year, the family entered the Kluane-Chilkat Bike Relay as part of the Accu-Chek Cyclebetes team.
“The bike relay is usually teams of eight,” Dugas explains, “but because we had the tandem, with the kids on tandem for five of the eight sections of the 238-kilometre relay, we had 11 people – seven adults and four kids.”
Liam and his Mom rode the tandem while Liam’s Dad raced on his road bike. Samuel was team mascot, riding in a vehicle and getting out to beat his drum and cheer them on.
Liam was proud of being in what he calls “that big bike relay”.
“You could drive yourself crazy if you tried to control the disease,” Dugas says, “because there are so many variables: emotions, stress, a growth spurt …”
So, rather than try to control it, the family is using their already-active lifestyle to help Liam.
The Kluane-Chilkat was a natural extension of that and an opportunity to raise awareness of Juvenile Diabetes.
And natural for Liam, who has been biking “since he has been able to walk”.
Liam did two of the legs of the race: the first, 19 kilometres and the last, 30 kilometres.
“We had the only team with a tandem bike and we were the only team with kids,” Dugas says.
Liam chatted constantly as they cycled. Dugas offers delightful samples of her son’s observations: “‘Look, Mom, there was an eagle there’ and “‘Mom, when I put my face next to you, the wind is really nice on my face.'”
Liam was in the race in much the same way that he is in his day-to-day life, which Dugas describes as his being “in the moment”.
Well, last November, Liam found out he could participate in the biggest bike relay in the world, the Accu-Chek Cyclebetes provincial relay. Dugas will be captain of the Québec team – for her “home province”.
Liam was thrilled about the upcoming race/fundraiser. Dugas says he “couldn’t wait for the snow to melt so he could get on his bike and start training”.
The Kluane-Chilkat Bike Relay was good training ground for the more-than-10,000-kilometre race that begins August 24 in Halifax and finishes September 13 in Victoria (Liam and his Mom will bike tandem across the province of Québec.
Samuel is eagerly awaiting his turn at riding tandem.
Dugas becomes subdued – her voice softer and more serious – when asked what she would say to families whose lives have been touched by Juvenile Diabetes.
“Especially if it touches your child … and you’re not sure that you’re doing the right thing … what I would say to people is, ‘Reach out’.
“Reach out for help.”
With help from other parents and with information (even from the Net and forums), Dugas says it is easier than it used to be.
“And,” she adds confidently, “it takes a community to raise a child.”
To learn about a healthy way – one extraordinary way – of living with this “ordinary” disease, check out www.cyclebetes.com.