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Ayden Byle Canadian Diabetic Athlete

by Kim Lishman(more info)

listed in diabetes, originally published in issue 184 - July 2011


To the untrained eye, Ayden Byle is just an ordinary man. The 36-year-old Canadian gets up every morning, leaves his home in Toronto, and makes his way to work at his company Metro Marks, an internet start-up page which he founded several years ago.  

But Ayden is harbouring a secret. He is Type 1 diabetic, and dependant on insulin shots four times a day to keep his body functioning properly. Ayden's 'secret' is fast becoming one of the world's deadliest diseases. According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, there could be 70 per cent more cases of Type 1 diabetes in under-15s than in 2005. The facts and figures linked to diabetes are shocking, and for those that suffer from the condition, it is difficult to maintain a positive outlook.

It is for this reason that Ayden Byle is a household name in Canada and North America, and shortlisted as one of the World's Most Famous Diabetic Athletes. Because Ayden isn't just an ordinary man, he is an inspiration to millions of diabetics across the world.



Terry Fox
With Terry Fox (A Canadian cancer victim who ran across Canada on one leg) statue, Ayden's Inspiration

"I decided to run across Canada when I was 23, covering a distance of 6521.5 kilometres" says Ayden. "I had been diabetic for five years, and motivated by a lot of things. I was inspired by Terry Fox, a true Canadian hero, who ran across Canada on one leg raising money for cancer. I also loved to run, and thought it would be a great way to see Canada and the countryside. I wanted to use my communications degree to get attention about diabetes, and raise money for a cure."

Ayden was diagnosed with diabetes six months before heading to Carleton University in Ottawa to study mass media. Type 1 diabetes is commonly referred to as juvenile diabetes, as most sufferers are diagnosed in childhood or as a young adult. It is triggered by an unknown 'environmental virus' unlike Type 2 diabetes, which is preventable through a good diet and healthy lifestyle. Type 1 diabetics are unable to produce any insulin from the pancreas, and so rely on daily injections in order to stay alive. This did not faze Ayden, who was eager to start his new life as a college student.

"My friends couldn't believe that I was back in the gym only a week or so after they diagnosed me. I am a really stable and positive person, so my reaction was good. The disease didn't affect me too much psychologically, which I know can happen. I am fairly smart and good at research, so I used that to understand how I could juggle food, exercise, stress and insulin."

Despite having a refreshing and upbeat outlook to life as a diabetic, there was one aspect of his new findings he could just not adapt to.

"Anyone who knows me will tell you that I hate routine in all aspects of my life. I live a crazy lifestyle and love adventure. I started planning for the run about a year in advance. I planned my route to start from the West Coast at Vancouver and finish at the Atlantic coast in Halifax."

Training for the run was intense, and Ayden found that he needed to eat higher calorie foods in order to keep his blood sugar levels from dropping. Ayden's insulin intake was also cut down by two thirds, as his body was using the majority of sugar he consumed for energy.  The Canadian started his ambitious race on June 1st 1998, and 6 months five days later on December 5th reached the finishing line.

The Finish Line
The finish line

"The whole run took 188 days, though I took about 8 days off due to injuries and speaking events. We marked the road with paint every time I stopped so I could prove I'd run the whole way. I was running as much as 50k a day up and down the mountains."

Knowing that he was running for a worthy cause kept Ayden's spirits high. He raised over $250,00 from the run, and says that a lot more has been donated over the last 13 years. Ayden decided to donate his funds to a research lab rather than a charity. He personally handed over the cheque to the John P Robarts Research Institute in Ontario, where he knew the money would be going to a good cause.

"It was much harder than I thought to get the support of any diabetes charities here in Canada, so I decided to start up my own charity so we could issue tax receipts for those who donated. I am the founding member of Cure Diabetes Now, and continue to take part in fun runs to raise awareness."

Since the run Ayden has been involved in various diabetes events, whilst building a career for himself as a successful online businessman. In his hometown Kincardine, Ontario, Ayden was awarded 'Citizen of the Year' in 1998 for his role in diabetes awareness. The publicity surrounding the run made Ayden somewhat of a Canadian celebrity.

'I got recognized by various groups and nominated for a bunch of awards like 'Top Diabetic Athlete' and 'Top Canadian Under 30' etc, all really nice things to be famous for.

Between running his own consultancy practice ByleBuilt communications, MetroMarks and writing a philosophical book, Ayden still makes time to exercise in order to keep his diabetes on track.

"I really enjoy hiking to keep me in shape. Everyday exercise is the best thing for so many reasons. Not only does it help keep your blood sugars down, it has a secondary benefit of keeping your blood circulating better, which is always a problem linked to diabetes. Exercise will bring up your metabolism all day so you can cheat a bit on your diet. Let's be honest, you will never win with diabetes keeping a strict diet. It is far better exercising to balance things out, and adjusting your insulin accordingly."

Diet is one of the most controversial aspects of diabetes, and there are various recommendations on what you should and should not eat. Health conscious Ayden has found that his diet has changed somewhat since his diagnosis.

"Now that I have bought my own house and getting older, I take my health more seriously. I don't eat out too much, and usually cook from home. I find that fruit and yoghurt in the morning boosts my antibodies and keeps me from getting sick. I think people forget that yoghurt is the only natural food with the same antibodies in the bacteria that a doctor would prescribe if you were ill. At lunch I always try to eat healthy snacks like vegetables and dips, or nuts. I am a big BBQ fan, so dinner is always meats, salad, cheese and bread."

Although there is no current cure for diabetes, research has made enormous progression in the last decade. The most promising development is the prospect of an artificial pancreas, which could be available to diabetics within the next five years. Insulin pump therapy, an extremely common method of injecting insulin in America and Canada, is resulting in positive results for children and adults in the UK. The pumps are permanently connected to the body via a catheter, which slowly releases insulin into the diabetic throughout the day when needed.

Ayden, who has lived with the condition now for 18 years, has chosen the traditional method of injecting his insulin himself. "I like insulin pens" says Ayden. "Humalog insulin is best suited to me as it is fast acting and I can dial my dose up or down. I don't think I would go on an insulin pump as I like the idea of putting my pens away and forgetting I have diabetes completely until the next time I need to inject."

An inspiration to diabetics all over the world, Ayden continues to raise diabetes awareness through various fundraisers. His achievements 13 years ago still amaze and encourage newly diagnosed diabetics to this day.

According to charity Diabetes UK, more than 2 million people in the UK suffer from the disease, with a further 750,000 undiagnosed. There is still a great deal of confusion in differentiating between the two types of diabetes. People like Ayden, who have Type 1, develop diabetes in childhood because the immune system attacks the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. The triggers for this attack are still not yet known by scientists. Three quarters of British diabetics have Type 2 diabetes, which is often caused by an unhealthy lifestyle.  

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About Kim Lishman

Kim Lishman is a freelance writer living in County Durham. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in May 2005 as a teenager. Now in her early twenties, Kim hopes her writing will enlighten diabetic and non-diabetics to the myths and stereotypes linked to the disease. She can be contacted via kim.lishman@hotmail.com  

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