BY CRAIG GILBERT
Kyle Guembel, a freshman in the teachers college program at Nipissing University, regards the completion of his engineering degree at the University of Waterloo and becoming a professional tri-athlete among his recent achievements.
However, they pale in comparison, he says, to the battle his teenaged brother, Korey, wages against diabetes everyday.
?It?s such a huge struggle for him just to be OK and alive as a teenager,? Guembel says. ?None of my struggles have anything to do with living or dying.?
Korey has to wear a pump that regulates his body?s insulin levels at all times.
Guembel is one of four Team Diabetes Canada (TDC) participants.
TDC is a fundraising campaign for the Canadian Diabetes Association. It offers training support and a trip to an international athletic event in exchange for a specific amount of donations.
This is the first year Sudbury has taken part in Team Diabetes. Nationwide, the program has operated since 2000, and raised $3.7 million in three years.
Nation-wide, team members logged over 200,000 kilometres in training sessions, losing over a ton of weight in the process.
Diabetes costs our health care system $13.2 billion each year, according to the CDA.
In Ontario, diabetes accounts for 32 per cent of heart attacks, 43 per cent of heart failure cases, 30 per cent of strokes, 51 per cent of new dialysis patients and 70 per cent of amputations.
Guembel signed up to take part in the Ironman Canada competition Aug. 29 as his athletic event.
Other events include marathons in Rome, Dublin, Iceland, Bermuda and Honolulu and adventure races, which feature orienteering, hiking, kayaking and climbing. However, the events aren?t limited to just these activities.
In exchange for 18 weeks of training support, travel and accommodation expenses, Guembel agreed to raise $7,500, the loftiest total of the eligible events.
Guembel?s main challenge should be the fundraising, which has been tedious and difficult, but he set the bar high for himself with his goal of completing the Ironman in less than 10 hours.
?The question isn?t whether I could finish the race, I probably could tomorrow,? he said. ?To do it in 10 hours, my first time would just be incredible.?
In standard Olympic triathlons, Guembel would spend 1.5 kilometres swimming, 40 km on a bike and 10 km running.
At the Ironman Canada competition, he?ll swim for four kilometres, spend 5.5 hours biking 180 kilometres and top it all off with a full 42.2 kilometre
?To finish in less than 10 hours is an amazing goal,? Guembel said.
Guembel?s other challenge is fundraising, and his enemy is the clock.
He said earning his Engineering degree was tough, but there was a lot of independent study time. At Nipissing, the curriculum is designed to parallel the school experience: regimented and tightly scheduled, 8 am to 4 pm.
When he signed on, he was given a huge manual ?full of ideas? for fundraising methods and events. But with 40 hours of school and 15-26 hours of training per week, Guembel is feeling the pinch.
?There?s only so many hours to organize gala dinners,? he said.
The first $2,500 is the toughest and most stressful to get out of the way, he said. Once he gets enough corporate sponsors and events organized to meet that total, which has a deadline of its own, the pressure will let off some. Then he can focus on smaller individual donations and pocket change campaigns.
Even as a pro triathelete, who has competed for professional teams on the German circuit, Guembel is considered an amateur Ironman.
Andrea Zizman is the director of marketing for Persona Media, a city cable provider.
She doesn?t consider herself athletic, but she?s signed on to walk a 42-kilometre route around Rome for the CDA.
She says a long time friend of hers in Thunder Bay will be taking part in the Rome Marathon with her.
For that event, Zizman will have to raise $5,500.
Since they have been planning a trip to Italy for most of the 25 years they have known each other, the marathon is providing the perfect opportunity.
Zizman is new to the athletic training world. She admits to not spending much time on a treadmill in her days, but a recent lifestyle change has helped.
She said since she has been taking better care of herself, her eyeglass prescription actually improved.
Zizman?s grandmother died of diabetes complications, as did her father, which means Zizman is at risk, as well.
?When I started [with TDC] I realized how many people in my life are affected by diabetes.?
Type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult onset diabetes, is completely preventable but once it develops, it changes the affected person?s life forever.
?Problems linked to Type 2 diabetes are my motivation,? she says. ?It?s preventable, but it is serious: you can have it for years and not realize it, just popping more pills and coffee to make up for the fatigue. You could die 20 years later of a heart attack or kidney disease.?
The physical training will be the challenge for the marketing director. The fundraising, meeting deadlines and targets, is what she does all day anyway, so it?s a natural fit.
?I?m definitely in it for love,? she said. ?If I had thought about it, I probably wouldn?t have done it. The support people have given me is really, really incredible.?
As part of her campaign for the CDA, Zizman is trying to educate people about the dangers of the disease.
?You always see big stories in the media about obese two-year-olds: these are future diabetics. We have kids doing two hours of homework per night.
We?re stressing our kids out and something has to give.?
It?s all about choices, she says. ?I can?t save the world but I can save myself. I want to be able to walk when I?m 80; it?s about my quality of life for
the next 50 years.?