In middle school Michael Shelver went through a rebellious phase. He stopped caring about his body and started having fun. For Shelver rebellion had a cost, as his fun landed him in the hospital.
As a person living with type 1 diabetes, Shelver’s rebellion led to hypoglycemic seizures — which is when your blood sugar gets too low. The seizures and a hospital visit in middle school were enough to convince Shelver that he had to take his affliction seriously. He eventually got an insulin pump in high school, which was inserted into his side and monitored his blood sugar levels.
Shelver was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes two weeks before fifth grade after weight loss and dehydration convinced his parents to seek medical help.
“They told me you are going to have to prick your finger and take shots for the rest of your life,” Shelver said. “As a kid that was really nerve wracking.”
While many would have been defeated by the news they had diabetes, Shelver stayed positive and took his new challenge head-on.
“The thing that we found most amazing was that he completely embraced the affliction,” Shelver’s father Graham said.
Shelver’s passion for cycling helped him come to terms with the disease. As a cyclist he learned the importance of caring for his body, an important aspect of living with diabetes.
“The more he cycles, the better control he has over the condition,” Graham said.
Shelver has also tried to give back. He worked as a counselor at the Diabetes Youth Families’ summer camp, where he taught kids how to deal with the disease.
Now a sophomore at the University of Oregon, Shelver rides with the Oregon club cycling team. He just competed this past weekend in the first race of the season, finishing eighth on Saturday and second on Sunday.
“Obviously my training is working since last year, and I have made some big improvements as a cyclist,” Shelver said. “So I am pretty excited for this season.”
When he competes Shelver gets asked plenty of questions.”You always see the pump coming out of his bike jersey, and it’s Michael and he is a really friendly guy, so people are always asking him about it,” Oregon club cycling President Blake Elliott said. “When I first met him, I was of course really curious to find out how he could participate in such a physical and grueling sport like cycling.”
The trick is planning and constant checking by Shelver, who cannot risk being forgetful about his body. He has to watch how much insulin he gives himself and what he eats because one mistake and he is forced to drop out of races.
“The main thing with diabetes is that it doesn’t affect my cycling unless I don’t plan for it,” Shelver said.
Of course even the best plans can go wrong, as sometimes Shelver’s diabetes will just act up and force him to drop out of a race.
“I get very frustrated sometimes,” Shelver said. “You just feel like you have this extra weight on your shoulders. But then, when you do well in races, you can look back on it and say ‘wow, I did that and I have diabetes.’ That is pretty cool.”
Follow Chris Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur