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From setbacks to success - living with type 1 diabetes and winning gold

David Jarvis, a former Royal Signals Communications Engineer and physical trainer, faced a sudden and life-changing diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. His journey, marked by resilience and determination, highlights the challenges and triumphs associated with managing his condition while pursuing personal and professional goals.

An unexpected diagnosis 

In January 2023, David was selected to represent the UK at the Invictus Games, a milestone achievement. However, shortly after an endurance ride for charity in April, David began to experience alarming symptoms.

Initially attributing weight loss and tiredness to his rigorous training regime, it soon became clear that something more serious was happening.

By May, despite consuming up to 4,500 calories and 250 grams of protein daily, David's weight had plummeted from 85.5 kg to 70 kg. Realising the severity, he consulted a doctor who diagnosed him with type 1 diabetes after blood tests confirmed dangerously high blood glucose levels.

Immediate challenges and adjustments

David's diagnosis brought immediate relief as it ended weeks of uncertainty. However, the realisation of living with a lifelong condition quickly set in.

He was prescribed insulin, leading to his first full night of sleep in weeks. As a seasoned project manager, David approached his diabetes management as a new project, using his skills to adapt and manage his health meticulously.

Training for Invictus Games and managing diabetes

When David was diagnosed, he was advised to quit the team competing in the Invictus Games and focus on getting better by the doctors and his team manager.

He’d originally applied to be an Invictus games competitor just to be part of the team and had no aspirations of a podium place. However, he decided to continue to the games with a new, clear aim in mind: winning.

"I did a video interview for my local council and they asked what I want to achieve at the Invictus games… my answer was 'that’s a very easy answer, I’m going to win!'. That was six weeks before the games. I didn’t give myself any let up, it was all or nothing, stay at home or go for gold."

The learning curve was steep as he adjusted to new routines, dietary restrictions, and insulin management. Initially testing his blood sugar up to 30 times a day, David learned to manage his condition through trial and error, adapting his insulin doses to avoid frequent hypoglycemia (low blood glucose).

A gruelling schedule

David's determination was tested further during the Invictus Games training camps. The disruption of his routine and diet, particularly during travel to Germany, posed significant challenges. Struggling to maintain his blood glucose levels, David faced overwhelming moments but remained focused on his goals.

Support and success

Support from the Invictus Games team and medical staff was crucial. Despite their limited experience with type 1 diabetes, their presence provided David with the confidence to continue.

Incredibly, he won Gold in the Men's Cycling Time Trial at the games in September 2023.

"At the end, Prince Harry lifted my daughter over the barrier. She comes running up and gives me a cuddle. Then we go over to the rest of my family; my wife and my one year old at the time. We just have this massive, great, big, big hug. It's about 2-3 minutes long. And you just see us all just completely breaking down. Definitely got quite emotional when the pressure was released, shall we say!"

Adapting to a new way of life

Despite facing physical challenges from past injuries, David embraced his journey with a positive outlook.

He used his setbacks as motivation, participating in numerous charity events. His fundraising efforts for Diabetes UK and the Royal Signals Charity included cycling challenges and the Swim 22 initiative, aiming to swim 44 miles, double the English Channel distance.

David's dedication to these causes highlights his commitment to both personal health and community support.

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