Ahwatukee Foothills residents Shawn and Todd Shoemaker do their best to keep their kids active. As avid cyclers themselves they made sure to feed their kids right and take them on plenty of family bike rides. So it was a shock when their 4-year-old son, Levi, was diagnosed with diabetes.
Levi has Type 1 diabetes. His body does not produce insulin. Type 2 is when the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore it. According to the American Diabetes Association website, Type 1 is caused by genetics and unknown factors that may trigger the disease, while Type 2 is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. Type 1 is less common and is usually found in children or young adults. It cannot be cured with diet and exercise.
For the Shoemaker family, the diagnosis was a shock. Neither side of the family has any history of diabetes. But Shawn, a nurse, said she realized right away when she began seeing symptoms in Levi.
“I had an idea so I made an appointment with our pediatrician,” Shawn said. “Sure enough, it was diabetes. We were fortunate because most kids, when they are diagnosed, have to be admitted to the hospital but she had enough faith in me to take him home and monitor him, and take him into another doctor the next day. It was awful, hearing that news, but it could be worse. It could be cancer or he could have been admitted to the hospital. People have died from it, so we’re lucky.”
For the first four to six months Levi had to receive insulin injections about seven times a day. Now that doctors have figured out how his body reacts to the insulin he’s been set up with an insulin pump that gives him insulin around the clock. Everything he eats has a carb count that must be entered into the pump. The machine then calculates how much insulin he needs and delivers it automatically. Besides his pump, Levi has his blood sugar checked whenever he eats, sleeps or does strenuous activities.
It’s a lot to worry about each day and it’s something they’ve had to teach his preschool to watch out for as well, but even though the Shoemakers say they’re still learning something new about diabetes every day, they’ve fallen into a pattern. Now, their goal is to help educate others and find a cure.
“We just want people to educate themselves,” Todd said. “Diabetes is not just what you see on ‘The Biggest Loser.’ Type 1 can’t be cured with diet and exercise, like Type 2 can. For people to say to you, ‘Quit giving your kid candy,’ it’s not right because that’s not his issue. When you have a 4-year-old son and someone tells you if you quit giving him candy it’ll go away, it doesn’t.”
As a family the Shoemakers are taking part in the Tour de Cure in Phoenix on Saturday, March 24. The event consists of four different rides for different levels. There is an 80-mile, 62-mile, 34-mile and 8-mile ride, which is what the Shoemaker family will be doing together.
Last year, Todd did the race by himself and raised $1,400 to go toward research. This year, because the family will be doing the race together, along with eight other members of their team, they set their goal at $2,000. They have raised close to $5,000 now, and Shawn said she is shocked each time she has to raise their goal again.
“I am in awe,” Shawn said. “That’s a lot of money. We have quite a few friends in our cycling community so we’ve gotten a lot of support that way, from people who have donated and others who have joined the team. We cycle for Tribe Out in the Scottsdale or Tempe areas so they have a jar out collecting some cash.”
Even Levi’s older sister, Madeline, has been helping with fundraising. She began drawing pictures and selling them to neighbors, and has been asking families for donations.
To donate to the American Diabetes Association, visit diabetes.org, where you can search for the Tour de Cure Phoenix and donate to the Shoemaker’s team directly. Their team name is Shoemaker Crew.
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