Cyclist rides to root out undiagnosed diabetes

Clintonville resident one of more than 600 riders in annual Tour de Cure, set Saturday

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Courtney Sheeran of Clintonville will ride in the Tour de Cure, set Saturday, June 7, beginning at Westerville Central High School. The event raises money for diabetes research. Sheeran discovered she had Type 1 diabetes in 2005 after symptoms persisted for more than a year.

Courtney Sheeran plans to ride in the 2014 Tour de Cure, a fundraising and cycling event of the American Diabetes Association set Saturday, June 7, at Westerville Central High School.

The Clintonville resident feels practically obligated to participate.

Her goal, along with taking part in the effort to raise $250,000 for research, is to increase awareness among people who may have the disease and don't even know it.

Sheeran, 46, certainly didn't until she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2005.

"I really didn't know much about diabetes," Sheeran recalled last week.

She did know that she just plain didn't feel right. Her symptoms included extreme thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, fatigue and irritability.

Those with Type 1, which represents about 5 percent of the total population with diabetes, don't produce insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy, according to American Diabetes Association.

Sheeran, who works in quality assurance for a large bank in the area, said she wasn't sure what her symptoms added up to almost a decade ago, but when she began to experience vision problems, she suspected it might be diabetes. Although it doesn't run in her family, Sheeran said she had read somewhere that diabetes can affect eyesight.

She consulted a physician and had a complete physical, including blood work, but was told she probably just needed glasses, which she bought. When test results arrived in the mail, Sheeran said she didn't know how to interpret the numbers, including her blood sugar level.

"I didn't know anything," she said. "I just assumed I had a test for diabetes. I guess I'm OK. I thought, 'I'm just getting older; you just don't feel that great.' "

A year to the day after that first visit, with her symptoms persisting, Sheeran went back to a doctor. This time, her blood sugar was so high, she was admitted to a hospital and spent three days there getting the condition under control.

Since then, she's been injecting herself with insulin as self-administered tests advise her body needs.

"The thing that was good for me is that, prior to being diagnosed, I tried to eat healthy," Sheeran said. "That was already a part of my lifestyle. Working out was part of my lifestyle.

"What happens now is I need even more discipline. It requires more planning."

The Central Ohio Tour de Cure, which gets underway at 6 a.m. June 7, is expected to involve more than 600 riders, according to an announcement from the American Diabetes Association.

The tour is not a race and has routes designed for all skill levels, with each course beginning and ending at the high school. Courses range in distance from 12 to 100 miles, and each includes rest stops.

Riders will return to a celebration at the school, with music, inflatables and food.

"There are thousands of people living right here in central Ohio with diabetes who don't know they have the disease," said Tour de Cure Chairman Scott Steiner in an announcement of the event. "Every dollar raised by this event helps provide information and outreach, education, protects the rights of people with diabetes and funds research towards a cure."

"There are a lot of people who are going around undiagnosed," Sheeran said. "I don't know the statistics, but I do know that there are a lot. That's one of the reasons that I'm doing this. If I'm living with the disease, I figure I should do something about it."

This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the Tour de Cure. Nationwide, more than 55,000 riders are expected to take part.