With music tucked into her backpack Jaime observed Sports Central, the gym environment at Children With Diabetes conferences. She moved about blithely as she listened and watched. When time was right to get active with the kids Jaime plugged her music into the sound system and gave a shout out “So who wants to dance with me?” Within minutes a circle of tweens, teens, elementary kids and CWD counselors were doing Zumba moves with resounding energy and loving every beat of this highly aerobic dance style. That’s was the day I met Jaime Molyneux in July 2012 in Orlando.
About Jaime and Diabetes
A native of Philadelphia Jaime was diagnosed with T1 diabetes in 2007 at age twenty-eight. After experiencing all the classic symptoms of extreme thirst (satisfied only by her drinking gallons of grapefruit juice), frequent and sometimes embarrassing urination, overeating and simultaneously losing weight, fatigue, exhaustion and urinary tract infections, she went to see the doctor. When a high HbA1c test result came back Jaime immediately went on line to find out what the heck an HbA1c was. As Jaime says, “and so it began.”
The first thing she did was go see her sister, her best friend. Their immediate impulse was to tie up their sneakers and go for a run. Coming from a family where fitness and physical activity were part of everyday life (mother was a marathon runner, tri-athlete and aerobics instructor) this run was the natural thing for them to do. It helped calm Jaime down and gave them a chance to talk about the diagnosis.
Jaime knew one thing for sure and that was that she must continue with the physical activity she loved so much. Through much trial and error she eventually figured out how to balance running and diabetes. She had been a competitive runner and high jumper throughout high school and college and had no intention of hanging up her running shoes because she was diagnosed with diabetes. In 2009 she traveled to Florida with a group from Children With Diabetes to run the Disney Marathon. This was a win-win celebration for Jaime. She met and ran with other T1 athletes for the first time and ran a personal best of 3:13. It was a terrific motivation for her knowing there were others with diabetes who shared her feelings of the enjoyment of sports, competition and physical fitness.
Get Up and Zumba
About four years ago a new dance craze hit the country, Zumba. Besides being a great aerobic activity the Latin beat of Zumba music is fun and invigorating. Jaime got hooked on Zumba and studied to become a certified Zumba instructor. That takes us back to the day I met her at Orlando and danced to the Zumba beat. We got a chance to speak about how she feels about her diabetes and she told me that she sees a terrific team of doctors at the University of Pennsylvania where, equipped with a Masters degree in Spanish and an MBA, she works as Director of International Risk Management. Her job entails securing the health and safety of students, faculty and employees when they travel abroad for research, study or business.
She told be that her diabetes is with her 24/7 but she tries not to let it consume her every thought and action. As Jaime says “I can’t think of another health condition that forces you to be aware of it practically on an hourly basis. For me it must remain at the forefront of my thinking. To truly control my blood sugar I manage it at all times; exercising, eating, sleeping, studying, and even during sex. There ‘s no break from diabetes.” At the same time diabetes has become a great motivator. It helped push Jaime to become a competitive marathon runner and Zumba instructor. Once you understand that diabetes is not some alien enemy and that you are in control of it, you learn not to fight it but rather listen closely to it learning how to fuel it, when to push it and when to rest.
Diabetes can be fickle though. There are sunny days when it is our friend and motivator and stormy days when it can scare us. As Jaime says “To a stranger I look like I live a normal healthy life, What they don’t know is that to maintain this appearance I have to check my blood glucose ten times daily, monitor every gram of carbohydrate I ingest, wear an insulin pump 24/7, and carry a boatload of glucose, syringes, insulin back up and other supplies just in case things go wrong. This is far from a normal life. But it’s not the end of the world and by finding people who ‘get it’ and surrounding yourself with their guidance, support and understanding is a great incentive. I am motivated every day by the amazing athletes I have met who are, like me, living a healthy, happy life with T1 diabetes. You can do it too.”
Jaime Molyneux is certainly an n inspirational force among the Sisterhood of Diabetes and we thank her _ and by the way if you happen to be in Philadelphia _ stop by and move to the Latin beat of one of her Zumba classes!