Finding out that he had diabetes was not the diagnosis Greg Dow was expecting to hear, but at the time, it was a relief to know what he had been suffering from for weeks.
“In some ways it was a relief to hear the diagnosis, so I could make sense of all the symptoms I had been experiencing — severe weight loss, extreme thirst, extreme hunger, frequent urination, etc. All classic symptoms in retrospect, but I didn’t know anything about diabetes then,” he said. “My body had completely stopped producing insulin, and I didn’t have a clue! I actually thought that I had a parasite from traveling for six weeks in China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore the summer before, so I was relieved I didn’t have anything growing inside of me.”
At 31 years old, Dow used his diagnosis as the kick in the butt he needed to make diet and exercise a priority. “I wouldn’t wish diabetes on anyone, but if you have good self-control, a disease that forces you to eat healthy and in moderation, and to exercise regularly is not such a bad thing in the larger scheme of things,” he said. Now almost 50 years old, Dow will compete in the Marine Corps Marathon as part of Team Joslin on Oct. 27 in Washington, DC.
Dow found the strength to sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon just before entering the operating room at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. “Again, out of the blue, I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor this past March, and had neurosurgery two weeks later to remove a very large tumor that was just behind my eyes, resting on my optic nerves and wrapped around my carotid artery.
“I was a cross-country runner in high school, and have always wanted to run a marathon, but somehow never got around to it. As I was wheeled into the operating room this spring, I made a vow that I would recover fully from my surgery, and to prove it I decided to run a marathon. As soon as I was cleared to exercise by my doctors, I began training, and I am really looking forward to completing the Marine Corps Marathon,” said Dow.
Although excited for the race, Dow knows that competing in such a physical event could put him at risk for hypoglycemia. “My biggest challenge is to manage my blood sugars. Exercise lowers blood glucose levels, and extended exercise really lowers them. I need to be certain that I start the race with a blood sugar level of at least 150 mg/l, and that I maintain that throughout the race with gels, other forms of quick energy and protein bars. The normal effects of energy depletion and exhaustion felt by everyone are even more accentuated with my diabetes, so I need to be very aware of how my body feels throughout the race. I will also be certain to check my glucose levels several times during the race, just to make sure I am on track,” said Dow.
Diabetes has clearly never slowed him down in any part of his life. He promised himself early on that he wouldn’t let it hold him back from doing anything a “normal” person could do. “I am responsible for maintaining my health, and I always make sure that I am doing so prudently — whether running, setting out behind the wheel, or engaging in lengthy business negotiations,” he said. “In fact, I don’t even tell most people I have diabetes. I just don’t want it to be an issue in my life, and I certainly don’t want anyone to cut me any slack for it.”
As if running in the marathon wasn’t challenging enough, Dow is using the opportunity to raise money for a cause “larger than himself.” As of this posting, Dow has reached his $5,000 fundraising goal for Joslin Diabetes Center, with a week left before the marathon! Other than Dow, 10 individuals are running for Joslin, and more than $15,000 has been raised throughout the team already.
“Joslin is a top-flight facility dedicated to diabetes treatment, research and education, and has been around for over a century. Your donations will help to improve the lives of people with diabetes,” wrote Dow on his fundraising page. Click here to learn more about how you can donate to Dow’s race. Learn more about all the Team Joslin Marine Corps Marathon Runners here.