BEN Howell’s kids are intrigued by his diabetes and even more so by the jelly beans in his pocket.
But for the Ballarat father of two, there is also a serious side to living with the chronic disease.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 20 years ago, Mr Howell, 32, can’t afford to put the condition to the back of mind.
“You’ve always got to manage it,” he said.
“It’s with you forever. There’s no cure for it.”
As part of the charity HypoActive, Mr Howell captained a cycling relay team made up of 15 diabetics in the 2011 Murray to Moyne.
His message is that people can still do whatever they want with diabetes.
Healthy living played a key role in managing it, he said.
“If you don’t manage it the complications are
pretty horrific,” Mr Howell said.
“It’s a really high-risk disease, particularly for kids who get it when they’re young.”
Unlike type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to lifestyle factors, the exact cause of type 1 remains unknown.
Mr Howell said support from the community and healthcare industry was increasing, but better education and information was still needed.
In Ballarat, for example, access to endocrinology was lacking, he said.
Mr Howell was diagnosed as a 12-year-old after developing a ravaging thirst and losing 10 kilograms in a three-month period.
“When I was diagnosed, a lot of diabetics were told sport was too hard to manage because of the risk of hypoglycaemia,” he said.
Now, he says sport plays an important role in his life.