Nine million Canadians are living with some form of diabetes. An estimated two million Canadians are undiagnosed. The number of people diagnosed with diabetes is projected to increase 56% over the next ten years. Juvenile diabetes has increased forty percent over the last ten years, mostly because of poor diet, physical inactivity and obesity.

Back in 2004, after I had crashed my dirt bike, tore up my ankle and couldn’t do any physical activity for a year, I gained fifty pounds and I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. When I was able to return to my many activities I lost the weight quickly and my diabetes was managed with only Metformin.

In late 2007 circumstances led to a high level of stress and my sugars were literally “off the charts”. My doctor put me on high doses of insulin and my sugars moderated. He told me I was a poster boy for a heart attack and I needed to get out from under the stress or it would kill me. I moved to Panama and my diabetes was managed with Metformin and daily insulin in relatively small doses.

Circumstances led to my return to Canada and, at one point, I found myself living on the streets, unable to afford my medications for six weeks. I did not know at the time that I was doing irreparable damage to the nerves in my feet. I developed severe diabetic neuropathy, a burning, excruciating pain for which there is no cure. A host of medications, plus huge increases in my daily insulin, do little to mitigate the pain. The only “relief” is when I sleep, but obviously I can’t enjoy it because I am asleep. I wake to the vicious cycle of every step being painful.

I have gone from a healthy, ridiculously active person who hiked, biked, danced, roller-bladed, skied (cross-country, downhill and water skied), played racquetball and tennis, and even para-glided, to someone who can barely walk with the aid of a cane. All this in only a couple of short years. My doctors offer little hope and just tell me to learn to live with the pain.

I cannot urge you enough to get tested, regardless of your age. People often think that diabetes is an old person’s disease, but this is not true. Diabetes can reduce your life expectancy by more than ten years. It can result in amputations. It is a leading risk factor for heart attacks. If diagnosed early enough diabetes can be managed, not cured, but the risks of amputations and early death can be greatly reduced. Don’t ignore the warning and be part of that two million people undiagnosed. It is much better to know and be able to manage it.