Friday, February 26, 2010

The Heart of a Champion

Nikki and I read this Sports Illlustrated article with tears in our eyes. Not because we felt let down, in any way, but because we understand ..... Nikki more than me ...... how diabetes can gut punch you when you least expect it. We do want Kris to know that he is already a champion, and it has nothing to do with skiing. Whether he comes home with a medal does not matter; his heart, strength and determination is what makes him an inspiration to T1's - and their families. It's not possible for us to feel anything but pride and admiration for him. Following is the article:

WHISTLER, British Columbia -- From a spectator's view, everything seemed to be going according to plan for U.S. cross-country skier Kris Freeman during the 30 km pursuit on Saturday. A third of the way through the race, he was tucked into the single-file line of about 20 competitors who had broken away from the rest of the pack, just 11 seconds back from the leader.

But when the pack came through Whistler Olympic Park stadium at the halfway point of the race -- where skiiers make a pit stop to change from classic to freestyle -- there was no Kris Freeman in the top 20. Nor in the top 30, or even the top 40.

America's lone hope for a cross-country medal in men's cross country -- Bill Koch's 1976 silver is the only one in U.S. history -- and the only acknowledged Type I diabetic endurance athlete in Olympic history was the victim of a sugar crash. In the span of about three minutes, the 29-year-old Freeman went from cruising smoothly among the world's best to lying down in the snow near the 12 km mark, begging the crowd for some sugar.

"I got a twinge that something was wrong, and then a few minutes later I came to a standstill and went to the side of the trail," Freeman says. "No one was coming to help me, because my coaches weren¹t around, and people think I just dropped out of the race, so they wanted to leave me alone."

But Freeman started yelling to the crowd, asking for sugar. A German coach who heard him prodded some spectators to go through their bags, and pretty soon, Freeman has a Powerade and one of the goo packets that endurance athletes use to keep their energy stores up. It was enough sugar to get Freeman up and skiing, and "at that point I was pissed off," Freeman says, "so the last thing I wanted to do was go mope, so I finished the race." A crestfallen Freeman finished in 45th place, nearly eight minutes from the leader.

"Right now, I'm trying to live by the same things I say when I go to summer camps [for diabetic kids]," Freeman says, "which is, 'Don't get angry at yourself when you mess up, move on.' I gotta say at the moment, though, that¹s pretty hard."

Part of the trouble with being the only Type I diabetic Olympic endurance athlete is that you literally are writing a chapter of the sports-medicine book every time out.

Freeman first got the diagnosis during a routine blood test shortly after he began training with the U.S. Ski Team in 2000. The first doctor Freeman spoke with told him that he could continue to ski but that his career at the elite level was over. Freeman says he "wasn't interested at all in skiing at a level below what I was aspiring to."

Three opinions later Freeman found Larry Gaul, a doctor willing to work with him, and now a doctor with the U.S. Skiing's Nordic team. Freeman had to learn quickly which conditions would cause his blood sugar to fluctuate.

"If I get nervous before a race, the adrenaline triggers the release of sugar into my bloodstream," Freeman says. So, for example, he has shelved pounding pre-race pump music in favor of more placid tunes.

About a year-and-a-half ago, Freeman was granted a new measure of control by a pump called an OmniPod that attaches to his arm or chest and can be programmed to automatically deliver small doses of insulin through a needle in his skin.

In conjunction with Dr. Gaul, Freeman has become very adept at taking food and drink during races and at programming the OmniPod appropriately to get him through a race. But he has had time for much more trial-and-error in 15 km races than in 30 km races, where he had the trouble last week. "Obviously, I was on too high of an insulin dose during the race," Freeman says.

In the 15 km at the 2009 world championships, Freeman finished fourth, just 1.3 seconds off the podium. The better he has become, the more he has had to experiment with insulin doses. "I've been pushing the limits more and more because I'm not satisfied with finishing in the 20s," he says. "I can let my blood sugar run a little high and finish in the 20s. But I need perfect spot on control when I'm in the top 10 and top 5; and the smaller target you aim for, the more you miss."

Freeman has one more shot, the 50 km mass start on the last day of the Games to, as he puts it, "show I can ski. I want to show the U.S. Ski Team how I can ski, I want to show the country how I can ski, and more than anything, I want to show the diabetes community what¹s possible. I really did not want to have a blood-sugar episode on the biggest stage. I wanted this to be 'You can do anything with this disease' -- and I still totally believe that -- but there are setbacks along the way. I got one more chance."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Nikki tried out for the middle school musical, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, this year. She was very nervous during try outs, but more so waiting to find out if she got a part. She had to sing a solo, do a monologue (she chose a scene from Lord of the Rings) and then do an improvisation. A few days later she came running in the door from school shouting "MOM, I'M A SQUIRREL!!!". Of course, I didn't immediately understand; but it turns out that in the new Johnny Depp version of the story (which I have now seen and love) there is a scene where a room full of squirrels test Veruca Salt to see if she is a "bad nut". Click HERE to see a bit of it.

Anyway, Nikki is also playing the part of an Oompa Loompa and a Candy Kid. The musical will be Easter weekend and I'm really looking forward to it. The director is a wonderful lady; she also directed Amber in Beauty and the Beast & Cinderella when she was at the same school (Sherry you rock). Amber is a little homesick for her musical days with Mrs. Clark as she watches how much fun Nikki is having; but she's also very excited for little sister. You can bet that there will be plenty of pictures for me to force everyone to look at :-D.

I can't help but smile a bit that my T1 will be playing a candy kid.....but then again, she is extra sweet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

NO LIMITS! Diabetes be Damned!

It's Olympic time! Our favorite Olympian, Kris Freeman, is competing as the FIRST EVER Type 1 endurance sport athlete! Check out THIS LINK to see Kris' interview on The Today Show. Nikki and Kris met a couple summers ago at Camp Korelitz. This is a camp for kids with diabetes. He has had a big impact on her life. Whether he wins gold or not - he will ALWAYS be our champion!

Here is the article that was featured in Outside magazine.

The U.S. squad heads into Vancouver this February 12 stacked with veterans, including Kris Freeman. They've all got something to prove, but none more than Freeman, who plans to break our 30-year cross-country medal drought—diabetes be damned.

By Sam Moulton

Kris Freeman
Photograph by Marc Hom

A BIZARRE THING can happen when you repeat an unnatural motion, like skate-skiing, as intensely as Kris Freeman does. Your muscles literally grow too big. It's called compartment syndrome. In the ten-time cross-country-skiing national champion's case, this happened with his monstrous calves, and the pain was excruciating. "The pressure in my legs was well over twice what it should have been," he says.

But for Freeman, 29, the episode before the 2009 world championships was a hiccup compared with his Type 1 diabetes. So he decided to compete anyway, which made his fourth-place finish in the 15K Classic even more impressive. Especially when you consider that no American skier has won a world-championship medal or any Olympic hardware in cross-country in more than 30 years.

Freeman's diabetes, however, is harder to play through. The disease requires him to be hypervigilant about everything from his caloric intake to the playlists on his iPod. "If I get too fired up before a race," he explains, "I leak adrenaline, which will raise my blood sugar. So instead of listening to 'Welcome to the Jungle,' I might have to listen to 'Patience.' "

It's an apt choice. Vancouver will be Freeman's third Games. And while he was touted as a contender in Turin, there's reason to believe this is his year. Actually, there are several: At 29, he's in his prime. He's healed from surgery he had last year to fix his calves and has a new insulin pump, with no tubes exposed.

Then there's what is essentially a home-field advantage. "We've been training [in Vancouver] since the trails were built," says Freeman. "We know the courses backward and forward."

The one thing he hasn't been doing? Attracting attention. "I've been living in Thornton, New Hampshire, for about a year and a half, and I think some of my neighbors might know that I'm a ski racer now."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Mouse!

Exactly 12 years ago today (at 1:19 pm to be precise) I gave birth to the sweetest little blonde baby girl - Nikki Marie! I can't believe so much time has gone by. I also can't believe how much she's already experienced in her short 12 years & how she handles everything with absolute grace!

We are snowed in, so we won't be going to a movie and dinner; we'll have to do that once we dig out or the snow melts. However, her party was this past Sunday (Valetine's Day) at Lazer Kraze. She had a great time and spent the day with amazing friends!

Alexis was able to join Nikki for her party and that was very special. It also gave Bryan and I some extra time with Troy & Andrea (Alexis' mom & dad) who we love dearly. In case I'm losing you: Alexis was diagnosed about 3 weeks ago with T1. Troy is one of my husband's closest friends and, as it happens, our family doctor. He's also the one who diagnosed my Nikki almost 7 years ago.

It was a great party for many different reasons!

However, the party didn't end at Lazer Kraze, we continued it at our house: sleepover! Nikki's only gift request this year was The Beatles' Rock Band. Yep, she's a Beatles' fan! I find that hysterical, but no complaining because its music I can actually enjoy with her!

We will add this birthday to our list of blessings! Happy Birthday Miss Mouse - you make us so very proud!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Then There Were FOUR

Many of you know that we lost our beloved dog Buddy about 4 months ago. His death was VERY unexpected and hit us hard. Its been hardest on Amber. We adopted Hope, our Jack Russell mix, 3 months ago and she is such a little joy – and boy does she give our Border Collie, Angel, a run for her money.

If you’re counting, that means that we still have 3 dogs. About a week ago, a friend of mine (who works for SAAP) wanted me to stop by her house and see some new puppies she was fostering; and meet her new Lab, Andy. SAAP rescued approximately 48 dogs from a high kill shelter in Kentucky and she was fostering 2 of the puppies. The first one came out and she was just adorable – a little white and tan Lab/Beagle mix. THEN the second one came out – and I about died. This little guy was/is the spit-n-image of our Buddy; down to the unique markings on his back and chest.

SOOOOOO… probably already figured it out….we now have FOUR dogs. We named Buddy’s clone Chance and he acts as if he’s always been here. All 4 dogs get along wonderfully. To make this story perfect, Chance’s sister has found her forever home as well.

Check out these pictures of our furry family members – past and present.

GOD is Good, All The Time!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dancing Breds!

One of the really cool things that has happened for Nikki over the winter is dance team. She tried out for and made the middle school dance team right around Christmas. She has had a blast! The team is quite good (and yes I’m biased, but they are). A few weekends ago they competed in Regionals – the first time her middle school has EVER competed. They came in second, but the best part of the day was the extra award the team received. Over all the middle schools and high schools competing, they were given the Most Spirit Award! Check out some of the pictures from the season as well as the video from competition! I have to end by saying that Nikki has been blessed once again by having another great adult leading her; her coach is amazing!

Click HERE to watch the video :-D.