19 September 2017
Hannah is a 13-year-old girl who doesn’t actually have diabetes but was born with a rare genetic condition that requires her to receive a constant infusion of a glucose solution to keep her blood sugar stable. She must also test her blood sugar frequently throughout the day. She wears a backpack equipped with a feeding tube nearly every second of her life. It’s caused her humiliation and torment and makes her feel different from her peers. Harder still, Hannah has a younger brother with autism, and her mother is critically ill. The family doesn’t have much money, due to the weight of their medical bills. She began riding her bike to get away from the things that were hard for her at home, and to feel a bit of freedom.
At Tulsa Tough, a US-based cycling festival held in June, Hannah became ecstatic when she saw a member of her favorite team, Team Novo Nordisk, warming up for a race. Hannah, clad in a team kit way too big for her, excitedly approached Team Novo Nordisk elite athlete, Becky Furuta. Hannah explained she followed the team and had even convinced a local shop to gift her a Colnago so she could race on the same bike that Team Novo Nordisk athletes rides. Hannah had never met another female who understood her challenges, so she was very eager to meet Becky. What Hannah didn’t know was to what degree these females overlapped. Becky has a son with autism, and she started riding a bike when her family was homeless. As a kid, Becky felt crushed under the weight of her mother’s medical needs and wanted to ride away from all of that, too. An instant connection was made between the two.
With Becky watching on, Hannah won her first race. She went on to win almost every race that weekend. Their bond continued throughout the races with Hannah also cheering on Becky during every lap of her race.
A unique friendship
Becky returned home to Denver and took it upon herself to find sponsors to send Hannah to the USA Cycling Junior Development Camp in Colorado Springs and Becky has remained in touch with Hannah and her family. Having been a 13-year-old girl who struggled with similar obstacles, Becky tries to give the support and encouragement needed for a teenage athlete. Hannah finds reassurance in this unique friendship and knows that all of her current challenges can be turned into opportunities. Hannah leans on Becky’s experiences and knows that with a little inspiration and empowerment, life can work out.