Olympic rower’s school visit helps lift stigma around diabetes

Olympic rower’s school visit helps lift stigma around diabetes

I Challenge Diabetes founder Chris Jarvis leaves lasting impression at Shuswap Middle School

A Shuswap Middle School student recently received some Olympic-calibre support in lifting the stigma around living with diabetes.

Chris Jarvis, who lead Canada’s rowing team to gold in 2007 and is the founder of I Challenge Diabetes, was at the school on May 15 to give a presentation bringing awareness to Type 1 diabetes.

Jarvis was invited to the school by Monica Thiessen, mother of Tristan Thiessen, who was diagnosed with diabetes when he was seven.

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The Thiessen family did presentations at Bastion Elementary when Tristan was attending, and thought the time was right to continue the education at the middle school. Monica thought the May 15 presentation was a hit with the students who attended.

“It was fantastic, the kids had a great time. You know mostly at that age you wonder, ‘what are they going to think about it?’” said Thiessen. “It was so positive; I was so nervous because they are at that age, 12-13, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Although the disease can present its challenges, Thiessen was glad the presentation empowered students to overcome them.

“Yes you have to manage your diabetes and watch your sugars and your carbs and everything like that, but you also can go ahead and do things like climb Mount Everest,” Thiessen said.

Students of Shuswap Middle School were not the only ones moved by the presentation. Vice principal Chris Matheson, who also has Type 1 diabetes, thought the topics addressed also applied to those without the disease.

“I thought the presentation was good because they really tied it in with overcoming obstacles so it wasn’t just about Type 1 diabetes… it could relate to all the students,” Matheson said.

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Matheson also found the presentation was a way to connect with others who understand the challenges the disease presents.

“I don’t really know other people that have Type 1 diabetes so it was just really neat to have a conversation with some adults that have kind of the same struggles that I do and that made me feel better with how I’m dealing with them,” Matheson said.


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