Sebastien Sasseville is on a mission to ‘outrun diabetes’.
He’s done a pretty convincing job so far in proving that the condition need not hold a person back from virtually anything. And he’s currently running across the country to inspire millions of Canadians living with diabetes to take control of their disease and to promote healthy lifestyles.
The run, which he started Feb. 2 from St. John’s, Newfoundland, amounts to a staggering 7,500 km run in nine months.
Along the way, community events will be held and opportunities to run with Sasseville, who calls Quebec City home, will be made available.
Aside from the run, he’ll also be making a stop here in Red Deer on March 18 as a guest speaker at the Diabetes Expo and Trade Show. A climber, endurance athlete and Ironman, Sasseville has delivered more than 200 keynote addresses since 2005.
As to the local event, hosted by the Canadian Diabetes Association, it runs from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at the Black Knight Inn. Highlights include information on everything from nutrition, foot care, fitness, cardiovascular health, eye health, insulin pumps, relaxation techniques to financial help.
Sasseville, 34, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2002 during his university studies in communications. He recalls not feeling well for some time, and once the symptoms became more pronounced, he had a feeling it was diabetes as his brother had been diagnosed several years prior.
“You’re tired, you are losing weight. But you blame it on everything else,” he recalls of the initial symptoms. “I remember that it was the worst semester in terms of grades – I just wasn’t feeling right.”
But eventually extreme thirst hit him and it was obvious something was very wrong.
Somehow, even after hearing the diagnosis, he did his best to keep a sunny outlook.
“I was very positive about it from the get-go. It’s just a decision you make. To me, it was so obvious there was nothing I could do about it. That’s what helped – I had no choice, and that was a gift because it forced me to accept it more quickly. You can look at it as something positive and try to make it an enabler, or you can cry about it.
“That doesn’t mean it’s easy. The choice is easy, but what happens after – day in day out – it’s a lot easier said than done. But if you make that right choice, and engage on that right path, it’s amazing how quickly good things can happen.”
In 2008, he became the first Canadian with Type 1 diabetes to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Summiting the peak had been a long-held goal, but it became that much more meaningful post-diagnosis.
He recalls a steady progression in preparing for the endeavour. He utilizes an insulin pump which of course helped. But there were many challenges.
“If you are patient and you work hard, what once was overwhelming becomes your next logical step. You’re not scared anymore.”
Reaching the summit was amazing, but a person doesn’t spend much time up there. Promptly heading back down the mountain is critical of course to reach the safety of base camp. “Reaching the summit is very symbolic. It’s not so much about that moment, it’s more about what it represents.”
Several years later, he competed in the Sahara Race in Egypt, a 250 km self-supported ultra-marathon. Blistering heat and running in sand was excruciating, but the triumph of accomplishment was sweet.
“The tougher the challenge, the bigger the reward.”
Meanwhile, here at home and as mentioned, his run launched Feb. 2 in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
“Outrun Diabetes is about overcoming obstacles, whether it’s diabetes of any other hurdles people are dealing with in their lives. I hope people will follow my journey and be motivated to achieve their own personal goals.
“What makes me really happy about this project is the opportunity to connect with so many people,” he explains of the run, which will take about nine months, with the goal of wrapping up in Vancouver on Nov. 14 which is World Diabetes Day.
“My goal is to connect with as many people as possible in person, through speaking engagements, through our online and social media outlets and just spread the message that diabetes is not a limitation.”
Diabetes is the name given to disorders in which the body has trouble regulating its blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels. There are two major types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes and Type 2.
People with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin in order to stay alive. This means undergoing multiple injections daily, or having insulin delivered through a pump, and testing their blood sugar by pricking their fingers for blood six or more times a day.
People with diabetes must also balance their food intake and their exercise to regulate blood sugar levels, in an attempt to avoid hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) reactions, which can be life threatening.
Meanwhile, using his life story, Sasseville aims to motivate work teams and guides them to new summits.
He has also led groups of teens living with Type 1 diabetes to the summit of the highest peak in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro and to Mt. Everest Base camp in Nepal.
To register for the Diabetes Expo, call 403-346-4631 by March 14.
For more information about Sasseville, check out www.outrundiabetes.ca.
To keep up with him on his journey, check out www.facebook.com/canadaruns or @CanadaRuns on twitter and Instagram.