Leadership from Within

Our Real Life with T1D: ana & bex

Often the best way for our T1D teens and young adults to find their voice, to come out of their shell, to discover their independence (in diabetes care and in life) is to challenge themselves. Away from their parents. The best way to see themselves as whole and special, rather than broken and damaged because of their T1D diagnosis, is to spend time having fun with their T1D peers. Peers who get what it’s like to live with diabetes.

I Challenge Diabetes (ICD) Founder and Olympic rower Chris Jarvis tells us about how teens and young adults turn their challenges into renewal at ICD youth retreats.

Our first youth retreat with I Challenge Diabetes was held in Canmore, Alberta in 2016. I had done some adventure programming for several years prior but it was time to expand and harness the strength from within our community.

Now a key motivator for me was that many athletes coming out of the Olympics like me, were having a hard time connecting with our old circles because people treated you differently. Ironically, that difference disappeared among the people I’d meet living with diabetes because we had this other secret bond… Similar to being an Olympic athlete, living with diabetes we are almost always under pressure, it seems like there is no room for error and it would seem there are judges lurking everywhere ready to give you their feedback on your performance.

These experiences affect us all differently, and give each of us something different to offer. I want to introduce you to two of our Leadership Retreat alumni to share their view as they transition into young adults with T1D.

Meet Ana and Bex! 



Hi, my name’s Ana.

I'm now on the youth council for ICD, a summer guide in the outdoor adventure programs and about to start my first year of university at UVIC! When I first went to meet other type 1’s … I was pretty nervous. At that time I was quite afraid to show anyone my pump let alone be identified by it. One thing I’ve quickly learned is how to see living with this condition as a strength… meeting others at ICD made this unmistakable!

I Challenge Diabetes ICD Leadership from Within ICD Ana 2
I Challenge Diabetes ICD Leadership from Within ICD Ana 3



Hi, my name is Bex. I’m also now on youth council and … also a guide and one of the things I LOVE is outdoor adventure. The type of adventure that really makes you dig deep. When I was first diagnosed at 15 it was terrifying but for me, the needles were not the hard part. Instead, it was the fact that my mindset became that diabetes was now a weakness I had to live with. One thing that really helped adjust my perspective was my first ICD Leadership Retreat. I always loved playing hockey, and rugby, and being in the wilderness. At the Retreat I heard loud and clear that diabetes wouldn’t stop me. It was eye-opening and gave me the courage to embrace this new part of me and allowed me to see the positives of this hardship. My truth is there are lots of increased risks and challenges I live with now, but just like in my sports, strong teammates around me help me learn to manage challenges REALLY well.

Ana: For sure, Bex! A challenge for me was meeting new people as I’m pretty shy and I’d say that is one thing I’m most proud of among all the leadership skills I’ve gained. I’ve learned how to make OTHERS  feel comfortable now that I’m a leader and I really enjoy doing it!

I Challenge Diabetes ICD Leadership from Within ICD Bex 2
I Challenge Diabetes ICD Leadership from Within ICD Bex 3

Leadership can come in so many different ways. Ana and Bex happen to love adventure… but we know ICD is a much larger tent than what we can carry. It will fit you and your skills within it too!

More about I Challenge Diabetes Leadership Retreats:

Our Leadership Development Retreats empower T1Ds to overcome obstacles and develop coping mechanisms for living with the disease, developing the skills and experience to emerge as leaders.

ICD retreats involve overnight lodging, engaging skill development activities and team building opportunities. Coaching is provided within a robust, collaborative peer group, tailored to suit a variety of interest areas: Adventure, Leadership, Skills, and Diabetes Management.

ICD has run over 100 overnight retreats for people with T1D so far and served thousands across the whole age spectrum! Most people come away feeling as though they had not just achieved something during their retreat, but that they have been able to reframe their diabetes and themselves in a very positive light.

2022 Leadership Retreats are happening in AlbertaBC and Ontario! Sign up today!

Share Your D-Story

Did reading Ana & Bex's stories lift your spirits? We all benefit by sharing our stories: stories of diagnosis, stories about what we’ve learned, stories of all the ways we’ve fallen down and all the times we’ve gotten back up. All of them, ultimately, stories of triumph.

I would love to hear your diabetes-stories! With your permission, with or without names or pictures, your family’s story will appear under D-Stories here on WaltzingTheDragon.ca.