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RIDING FOR A REASON

Memphian Gears Up for American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure

By Meghan Beasy. Photo by Chris Hope.

When was the last time you hopped on a bike? For Alan Prouser, 60, it was probably just a few minutes ago. Like many here in Memphis, Prouser has the bicycle-riding bug. He loves it, and chooses to ride three to four times a week, or close to 70 miles.

In 2002 Prouser was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes kills more Americans every year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. It is a problem with your body that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. Type 2 diabetes causes your body to misuse insulin and is the most common form of diabetes. At first your pancreas makes extra insulin to compensate, but over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.

For Prouser it was discovered not by his usual general physician but by his dentist. After several appointments for ongoing dental issues, he was encouraged to see his doctor and have his A1C tested. After receiving the diagnosis, his first concern was losing a limb.

“Both my grandmother and great grandmother were Type-2 diabetics who lost a limb due to diabetic neuropathy,” Prouser stated. About half of all people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage known as diabetic neuropathy. If untreated, neuropathy can cause severe damage, and even lead to loss of a limb.

For years Prouser accepted the diagnosis. He took his medicines, checked his blood sugar, and tried to watch what he was eating, even losing close to 60 pounds. However, in 2012 he stepped onto a scale and did not like the number he was approaching. The weight had crept back on without him noticing. He knew it was time to make a change, and in the spring of 2012 he began to bike again.

Prouser’s first event was the 2012 Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Association. Alan rode in the 35-mile ride but wanted to aim higher. Now, three years later, he has lost over 50 pounds, his energy level has increased, and he was able to discontinue use of many of his oral medicines.

His excitement and enthusiasm has spread to his entire family, including his wife Joni, also 60, who regularly walks and participates in local 5K runs. But Prouser’s biggest accomplishment was completing the 62-mile “Metric Century” ride for the Tour de Cure this past May. “As long as I have my feet and legs, I plan to keep on pedaling so I can be here to enjoy my twin granddaughters and to support the American Diabetes Association,” Prouser said.

Prouser is taking on the challenge again this year. “I’m looking forward to leading the Red Riders effort again,” Prouser said. “I am here to say that anyone can take the challenge — you just have to hop on a bike!”

Red Riders are people with diabetes who are raising awareness and money for the disease by participating in the Tour de Cure. Red Riders know what it means to have diabetes and want others to understand that diabetes is a serious disease that can have deadly consequences.

“If you are a person living with diabetes, I implore you to ride this year and do everything you can to declare your status, so others on the course and in the wider community have the opportunity to celebrate and be inspired by you,” said Mari Ruddy, founder of the Red Rider program. “I ask you to get on your bike and ride strong and sure. Riding in a Tour de Cure is the affirmation of your courage and perseverance.”

TOUR de CURE IS SET TO TAKE PLACE SATURDAY, MAY 30. It is a fun-filled cycling day with four courses to choose, from family-friendly/beginner rides to an intense century course for even the most advanced cyclists to enjoy. For more information about diabetes and the Tour de Cure, visit Diabetes.org/tourmemphis.

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