Diabetes acceptance meant Janet Barnes slowly pushes the pedals on her bike, legs burning, eyes close to tears. She had absolutely no intention of stopping to rest, despite the blistering sun on her back. It was July 2019 and her best friend, Caroline, cycled just a bike-length ahead. Hot and exhausted, they were going through a tiny French village on an epic 447 km (278-miles) London-to-Paris bike ride. Janet and Caroline were trailing the pack of around 40 riders, planning to push through the pain, but ride organisers had other ideas. “It was so hot,” recalls Janet. “Our support were concerned for our safety and wanted to give us a lift to the next water station, which was more than 10 miles away. I was really cross. I did not want help, but it was 41°C and eventually, we reluctantly agreed.”
If there was a moment for Janet to question what she was doing, exhausted and sweaty on a long French road, it might well have been then. However, the answer was simple. She was proving exactly what she was capable of after having received the shock diagnosis of diabetes, at the age of just 47. “Doing the bike ride was my way of saying, ‘Don’t pity me, sponsor me,'” says Janet, who is now on a mission to raise diabetes awareness (now an epidemic) and diabetes acceptance.
Janet knew nothing about the disease and had no idea she was suffering symptoms back in July 2017, despite what she now knows ‘were plenty of signs’; she could only move forward to diabetes acceptance.
Janet Barnes, 48, refuses to let a shock diagnosis stop her from living her life to the fullest. Diabetes acceptance meant responsibility, which is why everyone dreads it.
When the doctor Finally said the words “Diabetes” in September 2018, I thought, “No, not me! I’m only 47!” Later, Janet broke the news to husband Simon, then 50 and rang best buddy Caroline.
l’d already decided that I did not want to be pitied and that I’d carry on living my life as normal. I wanted to share my diagnosis with friends and family in a positive way that would help raise awareness.
I’d always thought of Diabetes as an old person’s disease, so I wanted to tackle that stigma. Caroline and I settled on the idea of the London-to-Paris charity bike ride. We had seven months to train and we threw ourselves into it.
It helped that Caroline’s husband was a Paralympic cyclist, but she had never cycled before, other than pootling about on a hybrid bike with a basket for her shopping.
Janet announced it on Facebook and the support flooded in. She invested in a road bike and began training. The regime was hard and some days, Janet’s energy was totally depleted. “I can’t say I fell in love with cycling,” laughs Janet. As the distances were totting up, so too were the memories. “There were many highlights,” says Janet. “Lots of laughs and we made loads of friends.”
Finally, on 24 July 2019, the riders set off from London towards Dover, via the North Downs, but it was glorious France, that Janet will always remember.
Some of the loveliest moments for me were getting up early and cycling the lanes of France in the quiet sunshine. We’d leave early to get ahead, as I was so slow, then eventually we’d feel the rush of wind as the other bikes lapped us they’d whizz by, calling, “Hello, ladies!”
“I couldn’t have done the trip with anybody but Caroline. I was so slow and wobbly, but she never let the frustration show.” The epic bike ride wasn’t just a physical challenge for Janet, but a journey towards acceptance, too.
Janet learnt so much about herself and felt like she came to accept the Diabetes. “I’m grateful to have had an early diagnosis and I want to be able to continue to do the things I love for as long as I can and to show that Diabetes can affect much younger people.”
The gruelling challenge ended in a trip along the Champs-Elysées, with traffic stopping and crowds cheering us on. “I felt so proud,” says Janet. At a group celebration where Janet was able to share her story with a packed room. “Many of them had no idea about my Diabetes and it was very emotional to tell everyone why I was there.” After the ride, Janet decided to hang up her helmet for good. “I sold my bike and I’m thrilled to have completed the challenge but I won’t be cycling again.”
After raising $8,617 for Diabetes USA, Janet has since gone on to do a 24-hour danceathon, supported by friends, family, locals and once again raising almost $6,000.
She now has her sights set on a challenge that involves her heading off to a remote part of the US to paint and document her experience in a journal. Painting is my real passion. I hope I’ll be able to auction the work for Diabetes USA.
Diabetes disease affects everyone differently and diabetes acceptance is what the future holds. “While the disease will, no doubt, take some things away from me, it has also brought so many good things. I’ve met countless wonderful people and had once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”
Being physically fit is an important part of her treatment, so she’ll carry on pushing herself for as long as she can and she definitely says, “On your bike” to cycling!
E358 – Diabetes Acceptance is a Journey – www.diabetic.today