It’s interesting how a diagnosis like this affects parents.
My mother got mad, then got motivated, educated, and went on to mobilize the neighborhood…
My diagnosis sent [my dad] into a spiral, and he would soon hit rock bottom. (P. 35)
Not Dead Yet
by Phil Southerland and John Hanc
About the Book
“Part memoir, part sports adventure, Not Dead Yet tells the inspirational story of Phil Southerland’s battle with Type 1 diabetes and how from diagnosis to sheer determination, Phil Southerland beat all odds and turned his diagnosis and his passion for cycling into a platform. From leading a Race Across America to now managing a world-class cycling program, his journey on and off the bike is changing the way the world views diabetes.”
During my recent D-Mom Staycation, I managed to read a good portion of Not Dead Yet by Team Type 1 founder Phil Southerland. I follow both Phil and his mother Joanna on Facebook and it’s so fun to see where Phil is off to in the world and how he is making a difference for some of the less privileged children who aren’t as lucky as many of us are to have insulin and test strips when we need them, every time we need them. (Not to say that it’s always easy to keep them stocked in the cabinet, to get insurance to cover them adequately, or to write that check to the pharmacy.)
I have to say first and foremost that I hate the title of the book because I have never thought of diabetes as a death sentence for my child. But after reading it, I can see why it was the right title for Phil’s book about his diagnosis, his childhood, and now his adult life.
You see, Phil was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at seven months. At the time, he was the youngest child to have been diagnosed. Doctors warned his parents that he may not live to see 25 and that if he did he would surely be blind.
Sorry to spoil the book for you, but he’s older than 25 and can see just fine.
In the book we follow Phil during his childhood, one that was sometimes tough because he’s a bit smaller than his peers and because his father was largely absent. But when he discovers biking, he is transformed. He rides first off road, eventually finding a group of guys who road race. For some reason Phil sees no limits to hold him back.
What I found nail-biting as the parent of a young child with diabetes is the freedom he was afforded as a child. He would take off on his bike to who knows where for hours at a time. Maybe it’s more intense diabetes therapies (testing more often, greater knowledge about hypoglycemia, tighter BG targets, easier to use meters, etc.) that cause almost every d-parent I know to NOT let their child have this extreme form of freedom that Phil had. Maybe it’s that these days parents know what can happen, and I’m not just talking diabetes.
But maybe it’s also good for us to see that he was off in the Florida wilds and nothing bad happened.
I do like some of his philosophies:
[Y]ou don’t always have to say, “I can’t eat this.” It may be more a question of how you eat than what you eat–or more specifically, how you manage your insulin and blood sugar around your eating. (P. 121)
I’d learned that successful bike racing was about experimenting, making mistake, and trying to improve the next time. Diabetes, I came to realize, was the same game: learning from the mistakes I made today and trying not to make them tomorrow. (P. 122)
I think one of my favorite anecdotes in the book had nothing to do with diabetes. Phil describes the art of packing grocery bags like a puzzle. I get so incredibly irritated when something heavy is placed on top of my bananas or raw meat goes in with fresh produce. It’s obviously a lost art! (I could seriously write a 2,000 word rant about grocery bagging, lol!)
I cried several times when reading the book. But they were not always tears of sadness. In fact they were almost all tears of triumph, like the moment that Phil came up with the idea for Team Type 1 and then when he received a large donation that helped get it started.
I can’t say I 100% agree with the application of the “Strive for 6.5” goal for children. Yes, it’s good to motivate people with diabetes of all ages to lower their A1c, but the recommendation we have been given for a child my daughter’s age is for it to be below 8.0. So I would personally modify the goal to be the standard that your own endocrinologist suggests for you or your child.
Overall, I thought this was a very inspirational and uplifting book that would be a great read for adults with diabetes and parents of children with diabetes who are looking for encouragement that their child can and will succeed at what they set their minds to despite diabetes.
And no, I’m still not letting my daughter have that much freedom…at least not yet!
If Not Dead Yet interests you, you can actually read the first two chapters by visiting the Team Type 1 website.
Purchase Not Dead Yet: My Race Against Disease: From Diagnosis to Dominance by Phil Southerland and John Hanc from my affiliate Amazon.
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Links to bookstores are affiliate links and are provided so that you can find the books easily. I personally utilize the public library quite a bit, especially for audiobooks and fiction. I received this title for review consideration. Please read the disclosure statement regarding affiliate links. Book descriptions are taken directly from the book or from online sources.