Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

March 22, 2014

Snowboarder Sean Busby rides 7 continents

While a few of his former teammates were competing for gold, silver and bronze, Sean Busby was rounding out a set hardly any Olympian can dream of.

It started 10,500 feet high at a base camp and ended hours later on his snowboard in Morocco’s Toubkal National Park.

By riding the highest mountain range in North Africa, Busby became the first person with Type 1 diabetes to snowboard on all seven continents.

“When I finally got back, I got texts about Vic getting double gold medals and that sort of stuff,” Busby said of his friend, Vic Wild, the American-born rider who won two snowboarding golds for his adopted country of Russia. “But while I was up there, I had no connection to the outside world.”

At one point, Busby dreamed it might be him climbing to the top of the Olympic podium as a snowboard racer.

But his out-of-control and misdiagnosed illness 11 years ago, at age 19, held him back.

Vomiting. Dangerous weight loss — 30 pounds in the span of 12 days. Pneumonia that set in as a result of doctors’ inability to control the other symptoms. Busby lived with an incorrect diagnosis for three months — doctors first told him he had Type 2 diabetes. Turned out, he had Type 1.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease and sufferers are dependent on insulin; Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for more than 90 percent of all diabetes, is often associated with older age, obesity and physical inactivity. Sufferers can often feel better by controlling their diets and don’t always need insulin.

While Busby was in search for a correct diagnosis, his sponsors left him in droves.

“One of them told me they didn’t want to support an athlete who was chronically sick,” he said.

After he got the right diagnosis, and the insulin to combat it, Busby started looking for his second act.

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