Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South cross country coach and diabetes advocate Benny Madrigal takes a jog with his team. Madrigal says that exercise is one way to help control diabetes, a message he is sharing during Diabetes Awareness Month, which is November.
Former Madera Coyotes cross country champion and current ambassador with Team Novo Nordisk, Benny Madrigal, encourages people to take control of their lives when it comes to diabetes.
“I am putting a challenge out there to those people who are diagnosed with diabetes to go out and take control and take the initiative to do something about it,” he said.
Team Novo Nordisk ambassadors are elite and former professional athletes who have diabetes and travel the globe representing the team’s mission to inspire, educate and empower everyone affected by diabetes.
“Our goal for Team Novo Nordisk is to get information out,” Madrigal said. “One of the biggest thing that is important is Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes doesn’t have a cure. You’re either in control or not. The least prescribed medication is exercise. Everyone on our team is an example of that. When you are in control, you feel good and you feel great. That’s why some people may think they are cured. As soon as you get back to bad habits or don’t do things that kept you in control, that’s when you start noticing the symptoms coming back.”
Madrigal has been trying to educate the Madera community throughout November, which is Diabetes Awareness Month.
“I really want my community to take care of themselves,” he said. “We want people to go out and control their lives. Get out there and get moving. If you like to get on a bike, ride or dance, dance. Be as active as possible. Set some goals for yourself with some checkpoints.Where you are now is not where you are going to be in a month.”
Madrigal, who has been diagnosed with diabetes since he was out of high school, has been with team Novo Nordisk since 2010 and has been running races to show that lives don’t have to be changed because one has diabetes.
“I run into too many people that have given up,” he said. “It’s time to take control and say ‘I have diabetes, so what do I do now.’ They really need to take the initiative of owning it. I recall when I first got diagnosed, it took me months to do that. I kept thinking of beating this thing and making it go away. It was the wrong approach and I was losing. When I took control and I said, ‘I have diabetes and I have to do something.’ That’s when things started to change and I started feeling better.
"It’s definitely not easy, but it’s something every day. Every day changes, though. It’s being flexible and being aware that if you win four out of seven days out of the week, you have realistic goals and it’s not your fault. It’s genetics. It’s an autoimmune disease. You can’t beat yourself up. You have this and how are you going to fight this. You have to be patient. People that take care of themselves, the best still have the highs and lows. But they spend less time on both of those.”
One of the ways to deal with diabetes is to keep it under control. Not to get one’s blood sugar levels too low or too high.
“Control means your lifestyle won’t be as good when you’re not in control,” he said. “When your blood sugar is good, you have more energy to do the things you want to do. You take control of your life.
“Having high blood sugar for a long time will lead to a lot more issues and put you in the danger zone of not living the life you want to live. I don’t want anybody to wait to lose a foot or toe to do something about this.”
One way to control diabetes is to listen to your doctor and do as directed. Another way is to test one’s blood sugar multiple times during the day.
“Several people test in the morning and night, but they can test a couple more times so they have an idea of what’s happening throughout the day,” he said. “If you take it two times a day, even if your numbers are good, you don’t know how your body is through the day.”
Even in the short time since Madrigal was diagnosed, he has noticed the improvement of the equipment and medicine to help keep diabetes in control.
“Years ago, diabetes used to be a death sentence,” he said. “Now, we are seeing more people living long lives without the scares of the past. There’s technology and great medicine. The needles are so small. It’s so easy to take care of yourself much more than before.”
More than anything else, Madrigal wants to get the word out about diabetes. He also says that just because you have diabetes, it doesn’t mean your whole life has to change because of it. Madrigal tries to be an example of just because you have diabetes, it doesn’t mean you still can’t run a marathon, which Madrigal has done.
“If you don’t take control of diabetes, it will control you,” he said.