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Piano teacher runs for diabetes

Natasha Wakaruk, 27, trains for her half marathon in Scotland in May in Vancouver.  - Ley Doctor
Natasha Wakaruk, 27, trains for her half marathon in Scotland in May in Vancouver.
— image credit: Ley Doctor

Natasha Wakaruk pulls several gadgets out of her purse, explaining how she checks her blood sugar. Then the 27-year-old demonstrates how she uses a lancet, a small pricking needle, to obtain blood from her finger.

In May, Wakaruk, a piano teacher in North Vancouver as well as a music therapist, will join Team Diabetes Canada in Edinburgh, Scotland where she’ll run 21 kilometres to raise money and awareness for diabetes.

Wakaruk was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two years ago. She’d been feeling quite ill for several months but didn’t know why. It turned out that she has an auto-immune disease that stops her body from being able to produce and regulate insulin.

“I hadn’t been feeling well for a while,” said Wakaruk.

Now healthy and fit, she’s continued her running hobby, something she’s been doing since high school.

This is Wakaruk’s second half marathon, her first being about four years ago with her mother. This time she’ll be carrying her sugar pills and keeping an eye on her hydration during the race.

“I figured this would be such a great way to get back into running,” she said.

Since registering in December, she’s been running about four times a week in preparation for the event.

Diabetes affects almost 10 million Canadians and it’s often costly to manage the condition.

“Diabetes is not cheap,” she said.

Thankfully her employer’s insurance plan helps cover some of the cost of lancets, insulin, testing strips, as well as an insulin pump she used for about a year.

The annual cost of managing diabetes in B.C. can range from $475 to over $2,000 depending on the patient.

“I’m pretty lucky to be diagnosed in this day and age,” Wakaruk said, citing the advancement of diabetes treatment in the last 50 years from an almost unmanageable condition to something that is much easier to control.

“[Diabetes] definitely forces me to plan more... It’s always in the back of your mind.”

Playing it safe, she checks her blood sugar often, about 10 times a day, including before and after meals.

“It was not an easy adjustment by any means,” she said.

It’s not just sweets Wakaruk has to be wary of. Each time she eats or drinks anything containing carbohydrates she has to calculate and dose her insulin. “People think ‘Oh, diabetics can’t have candy,’” Wakaruk said. “It’s more [than that].”

“Her dedicated efforts will accomplish more than just raising money; they will inspire diabetics to tackle challenges in their own lives that they experience living with the disease,” said Ethan Ribalkin, a friend of Wakaruk. “They may not be inspired to run a half marathon, but they may decide to tackle a challenge that they may have originally felt was too difficult.”

Despite having to manage her condition, she says that her quality of life hasn’t diminished. “There’s nothing I can’t do,” Wakaruk said. To date, she has raised $7,700.

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