At a youthful-looking 52 years of age, Yves Provost is coasting through the ups and downs of diabetes as he pedals across the country.
“If I could change one person’s life, it’s all worth it,” Provost said Sunday morning before hitting the Trans-Canada Highway east. He’s riding to raise money and awareness as part of the Diabetes Summer Surge campaign.
The Montreal-born, Victoria, B.C., resident has already put about 1,800 kilometres on his lightweight bike – named Benjamin after his grandson – and still has about 5,000 more to go before reaching Halifax, likely in late August if all goes according to plan. (He also has a spare bicycle, which he hasn’t had to use, dubbed Antoine after another of his grandchildren.)
Provost admits planning for a trek like this isn’t easy, and sometimes it’s the surprises along the way, like free tickets to watch the Riders versus the Alouettes, that have made it worthwhile.
Provost and his father Gilles, a spry 76 years old despite a hip replacement and diabetes, rely on the generosity of strangers – from supplying a hotel room to meals – many of whom have been touched by diabetes. And that’s how the Provosts ended up at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday.
Courtesy of some sponsors, a group of children with diabetes attended the game and met with the Riders’ John Chick who, like Provost, wears an insulin pump to help control his blood-sugar levels. Provost spoke to the children after the game, as did defensive end Chick. “They (the children) want to know that they’re OK,” he said.
“When I found out I was a diabetic, I felt like a loser,” said Provost. “It’s a huge life change.” But Provost, diagnosed six years ago, learned to manage the disease instead of letting it rule his life.
An avid runner and cyclist, Provost, who retired from the Canadian Armed Forces after 21 years, started thinking about travelling across Canada. “I was so taken by the stories and different experiences of people crossing Canada. This is something I always wanted to do.”
When his civilian contract with National Defence ran out this year, now was the right time.
Since setting out from Victoria on July 2, he’s battled freezing rain and strong headwinds, averted a near close-encounter with some elk, skinned his leg in a couple falls, and nursed a lot of aches, despite a sheepskin-padded bicycle seat.
“I’m very happy the Rockies are over,” said Provost, who covers about 80 to 150 kilometres per day.
Provost admitted the stress on his body of pedalling such distances has played havoc at times with his blood-sugar levels. But he takes frequent breaks and snacks regularly. His father, manning a support vehicle, usually drives about 10 kilometres ahead and waits for Provost.
Provost doesn’t dwell on the distance that stands between him and his goal. Instead, he focuses on the day trips along the way and the support he’s received. To date he’s raised about $3,000 for Summer Surge, while the national campaign itself has taken in about $190,000.
Canadian Diabetes Association’s Summer Surge invites all Canadians to add a fundraising component to their summer activities in support of diabetes research. To learn more, see www.diabetessummersurge.ca and to follow Provost’s travels check out www.oneguyonecanada.ca.
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