At 26 years old, Josh Reeks thought he was invincible. “Then, from out of nowhere, something emerges that makes you realize your blood is still red and you’re still human. This could be the loss of someone you love, the car accident you didn’t see coming or a tornado that reshapes the landscape around you.”
In his case, changes came over time. He started noticing that his energy level was at an all-time low. The couch became his new home, which he never left unless it was to use the bathroom. Waking up at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom became the norm. “My wife would tell you that my mood was less than desirable, and after a while, my thirst became unquenchable and cups of water turned into gallons of water at work. In the back of my mind, I knew.”
But Josh didn’t want his suspicions to be a reality. Before giving in and finally seeing a doctor, he had to call and admit to his sister that she needed to wash her sheets when he left her house, because he had wet the bed. He also lost 15 pounds in only a few weeks when he thought his body couldn’t lose any more weight.
Then a simple prick of the finger changed his whole life. He had type 1 diabetes. “The sun still came up that day and the sky was still blue, but nothing seemed the same. Why did this happen? I ate healthy, worked out, didn’t smoke and had no family history of diabetes. The doctor said I was just unlucky.”
As time went on, his mindset began to change. “I realized that I would overcome. After all, it could have been much worse. I became stronger than I was before and I fought for myself.”
Josh got involved with the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure as a chance to rise against the disease, meet other diabetics and meet people who care about diabetes. For Josh, this was a chance to prove that he could be strong with diabetes. “So of course, I signed up for the longest ride being offered of 50 miles, which was also 45 miles longer than any other ride I had ever gone on. I also went alone,” he said.
He describes that first ride as terrible. “It was cold, rainy, and (extremely) windy. As I heard tornado sirens going off nearby and my legs ached beyond any pain I had ever experienced, I honestly didn’t think I’d make it all the way,” he said. But he did. “It was the best thing I could have ever done for myself because the ride changed my life and my outlook going forward. Most importantly, the ride gave me hope.” And even through the pain that day, he decided that he would immediately sign up for the next year’s ride.
Josh has since completed his second 50-mile ride, and this time, he fought for a different cause than himself. “I fought for my loved ones. I fought for strangers. I fought for people who didn’t even have diabetes yet. I also shared this ride with my closest friends and family who were there with me until the end—true to the point that no one fights diabetes alone. Of course, the weather couldn’t have been better. Symbolic? Perhaps. But I’ll just chalk it up to another day of unpredictable weather in Nebraska.”