Meet Leo Brown from this season of The Amazing Race! He lives with diabetes, but his story isn’t a typical one. Leo was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, where the body makes too much insulin, and had almost his entire pancreas removed. Leo will share his unique story and tell us about running the race with his girlfriend, Alana.
In Tell Me Something Good, babies! Weddings! And a football first for someone who’s been kicking t1d every day for a long time.
This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider.
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Stacey Simms 0:00
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This is Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms.
Stacey Simms 0:28
This week, meet Leo Brown, a contestant on this season of The Amazing Race who lives with diabetes. Now on the show, he's racing around the world with his girlfriend, Alana, but they had what could have been their biggest setback before the race even got started.
Leo Brown 0:42
I think I was actually on the flight to LA at the start line. When I realized I had left all my insulin at home. There was one thing I didn't remember it was in the fridge. It was lined up like little soldiers.
Stacey Simms 0:57
Oh my gosh. Well, Leo's story is not a typical diabetes one. He was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, where the body makes too much insulin and had almost his entire pancreas removed. He developed diabetes at age 19. And he'll share his unique story and tell us about the race
In tell me something good babies, weddings, and a football first for someone who's been kicking T one D every day for a long time. This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider.
Welcome to another week of the show. I love The Amazing Race. I started watching when I was pregnant with my daughter Lea. And that was 19 years ago, I realized that talking to Leo and doing this episode Oh my gosh. Anyway, welcome. We aim to educate and inspire about type 1 diabetes by sharing stories of connection. My son was diagnosed almost 14 years ago, when he was a toddler. I have a background in broadcasting and that is how you get the podcast.
It has been two years since the last version of The Amazing Race aired and I really have been excited to see it come back. It's just great to see people traveling again. As soon as the first episode of the season aired in mid October, my eagle eyed diabetes friends started posting photos of Leo at one point he's playing the steel drums and you can clearly see the Dexcom on his stomach. I like many of you jumped to the conclusion that he lives with type one. But it turns out his diabetes story as I've already teased a bit is very unique. And we'll talk about that with him in just a moment.
But first Diabetes Connections is brought to you by One Drop. One Drop is diabetes management for the 21st century. One Drop was designed by people with diabetes. For people with diabetes. One Drops glucose meter looks nothing like a medical device. It's sleek, compact and seamlessly integrates with the award winning One Drop mobile app, sync all your other health apps to One Drop to keep track of the big picture and easily see health trends. And with a One Drop subscription you get unlimited test strips and lancets delivered right to your door. Every One Drop plan also includes access to your own certified diabetes coach have questions but don't feel like waiting for your next doctor's visit. Your personal coach is always there to help go to Diabetes connections.com and click on the One Drop logo to learn more.
My guest this week is Leo Brown from Season 32 of The Amazing Race. His partner on the race is Alana Folsom, they have been dating for less than a year when the show started. And they're now married. So we don't know how they did on the show. But that's a great outcome already. Leo and I recorded this interview over zoom and there is a video version which I've put on the YouTube channel. And that's just Diabetes Connections over on YouTube. But there's two things you need to know as you listen, the audio is a bit sketchy here and there, Leo and Alana upgraded their Wi Fi during the interview. Literally during the interview, she called and got the Wi Fi upgraded we stopped and started a bit before that happened. I took all of that stuff out. But you can hear some stuff here and there. And if you see the video, you will see the shirt that I am referring to as we start out here. But if you're only going to listen, I promise you will get the gist.
Leo, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate you spending some time with me tonight.
Leo Brown 4:23
Thanks for having me excited to have a chat.
Stacey Simms 4:26
All right. Well, first of all, I have to ask you about your shirt. Because I saw that hashtag on Twitter that you guys were using. What is beloved lovers? I wanted
Unknown Speaker 4:35
to hear you say it first.
Stacey Simms 4:37
Wait, let me do my radio voice! Tell me about – beloved lovers.
Leo Brown 4:41
Oh, absolutely. So Alana I got married over a month ago. And we have a Ketubah which is a Jewish wedding contract. And in a traditional Ketubah it says you know the man this and that husband this wife that right and We wanted our Ketubah to be egalitarian. And we didn't really see a need to indicate our gender. But that's not really what what relationship is about. And so we talked to our Rabbi who's extremely, you know, open minded and accommodating. And he came up with some text that is egalitarian. And the translation from Hebrew to English was beloved lover, and really like that. And so in the in the wedding, which we live streamed, because we couldn't invite most of the people we wanted to, because the COVID, he explained that and there was a live chat on the YouTube live stream that was happening, everyone was like, beloved lover, and then they started writing hashtag beloved lovers. And then I think somehow that got picked up by some news source that like follows Amazing Race, or it was like doing some promo about Amazing Race. And so when they were introducing the teams, and it was just this little this article that got that was going around, they said, Will and James dating Hung, and Chee married Leo and Alana lovers. And so our cast has all had already kind of decided since our wedding because they had all called into the wedding that we were having, like beloved lovers. And so we went with that. And this is our beloved lovers shirt on the back and says Leon & Alana, and a little globe, that is where beloved lovers came from our relationship and our wedding.
Stacey Simms 6:25
So okay, my husband and I have been married for 21 years. I'm making a note for our when we renew our vows for our tuba, maybe at 25. Oh, yeah, back and change the language
Leo Brown 6:35
as a couple that had to severely downsize our wedding. We are strong believers in renewing vows, or just having another wedding whenever you feel.
Well, you know, weird way you kind of put the honeymoon first with The Amazing Race. So let's talk about that. Because you both were I mean, I didn't know if I could ask you about your relationship, just because you're never sure on the show. I've seen I've watched the show for years and people are dating that they break up before the race even ends. Or maybe they stay together. Well, obviously, this had a really happy ending. But take us back to the beginning. When did you all decide to sign up for the race? You were just dating?
Yep. So we met on Tinder in January of the year of the race. And then on our second date, I think we were watching The Amazing Race with my roommates at the time because they were fans and a lot. I was a fan and I hadn't seen an episode or two. And that was the first time when it was my roommates who said you better be great on the race. And I thought yeah, sure, I think we could be and, you know, nothing else really came of it. And then six months later, Ilana and I moved in together, I think it was our second night of living together when we had it. All right, let's make this video. Let's send it in. Let's see what happens. And that was in July. And then a couple weeks later, we got a call from casting. And then over the course of the summer and fall that we went to LA a couple times. And then the start line was our 10 month anniversary. So that was a that was a really fast and an incredible progression that we weren't expecting,
Stacey Simms 8:11
we will return to the Amazing Race to your relationship to your reading lots of questions there. But tell me about your experience with diabetes. Very unique. What happened? Tell us your story. Sure. So I
Leo Brown 8:23
can start long before I knew I had diabetes. Because I wasn't diagnosed with diabetes till I was 19. As an infant, though, I was diagnosed with congenital hyperinsulinism, which I always explain as kind of like the opposite of diabetes, instead of making not enough insulin, I made way too much. So it's a rare genetic condition that you're born with and usually presents at birth. And it's an emergency, once you're born, you have low low low blood sugars. And one of the biggest challenges is that doctors who delivered you and you know, like neonatal care doctors might not have ever heard of congenital hyperinsulinism. And to make matters worse, infants sometimes have low blood sugars, as like a natural and okay thing. And so many parents, including my own then are told initially some version of Oh, that's nothing really to worry about. And the story you hear time and time again from these congenital hyperinsulinism parents is I knew something was off like I'm not a medical professional, but my child needs help. And in my case, will that eventually led was to subtotal pancreatectomy ease. And so the first one was when I was six weeks old, and that was like 95% of my pancreas was removed a big scar across my stomach from that. And then when I was six months old, much of remained was also removed in a second subtotal pancreatectomy and after that, by the time I could remember, basically, I have like very early memories of my blood sugar being tested because my blood sugar was of interest at that point, everyone needed to know what it was and why it was okay. And for the first couple years, my parents had to do a lot to help manage that. And lots of doctors involved and try different drugs and eventually figured out something that could sort of stabilize my blood sugar and help me start to live a normal life. And by the time I could remember, I pretty much did live a normal life. You know, I went to kindergarten like any kid, I had a scar, I had a second scar from a feeding tube that was called my second belly button, because I have an outie. But then there was this any nearby. And as life went on, I felt very much like a normal kid who had this, you know, this complicated beginning, but I thought that was all kind of behind me.
Stacey Simms 10:56
But let me ask you before you go on, and I'm sure your parents have shared with you what actually happens when when a child is born with low blood sugar? Like you said, it's not as though something they're not often looking for that kind of thing. And it's extremely dangerous. Do they just are they poking your fingers when you're an infant? Or the you know what happened? Yeah,
Leo Brown 11:15
my parents may remember, even better memories than I do. But I know that you test a baby's blood sugar at, you know, most hospitals, good hospitals when they're born. So I mean, I think that tests This was 30 years ago. So longer, or like longer land sets, but generally a lot has remained the same in in that you test a baby's blood sugar. And if it's low, if you're lucky, someone says, Yeah, could be serious. It could be totally fine. But I think they had a lot of experience testing their tiny baby's blood sugar.
Stacey Simms 11:54
Did you go I guess my question is, did you go home? And then have these emergencies where you had to be re, you know, brought back your parents didn't know what's going on? Or did they know before they even left the hospital?
Right back to Leo, answering that question and explaining more about congenital hyperinsulinism. But first, Diabetes Connections is brought to you by Dexcom. It's hard to think of something that's changed our diabetes management as much as the Dexcom, share and follow apps. The amazing thing to me is how it's helped us talk less about diabetes, that's a wonderful thing about share and follow as a caregiver or parent, spouse, whatever, you can help the person with diabetes manage in the way that works for your individual situation. Internet connectivity is required to access Dexcom, follow separate follow app required, Learn more at Diabetes connections.com and click on the Dexcom logo. Now back to Leo, who by the way, has a great Dexcom story later on in the interview. Oh my goodness. But here, we are talking about his parent’s early days of his very scary diagnosis.
Leo Brown 13:04
I believe my parents didn't have a clear diagnosis before I was discharged at the very beginning. And then within weeks, if not days, I was brought back, you know, they said he's having, you know, he had a seizure. He's not getting better, like this low blood sugar thing is, is here to say and I I'm again, my parents would have a lot more to say. But at some point, they were equipped with a blood sugar testing kit to you know, check me regularly at home. But I think that within those first couple of days and weeks, they quickly discerned that something was off. My parents used to have this box and at some point I said I need the box because once in a while I need to be able to explain to people not in an interview, but in a doctor's office what exactly happened. But yeah, it you know, it from what I know congenital hyperinsulinism and other stories I've heard from other parents, honestly, that I can tell you as much about that as my own early early story. The prevailing pattern is that the parents are told that the low blood sugar is not something they need to really worry about, because babies have that sometimes. And right, a large part of what the community and an organization I'm working with congenital hyperinsulinism International is trying to help medical community understand is you need a checklist saying this could be congenital hyperinsulinism. Obviously research for early diagnosis, treatment, but early diagnosis is in some ways more important because if people aren't looking for it, then it is a you know, it's a very rapid escalation. As you can imagine. It's just like if you were getting injections of insulin that you didn't ask for.
Stacey Simms 14:54
Yeah, scary stuff. Yeah. So you have these operations. You're growing up just fine. But you have been told your family's been told that you will eventually most likely develop type one diabetes or something that's very similar.
Leo Brown 15:06
Actually, that didn't become what people were told until more recently, this, I think, has to do with better research and sort of documentation about the progression of the disease also, as early treatments have become more effective, and there's still a long way to go there. I'm you know, most people don't get to go to kindergarten like I did without some sort of special needs. Or even just like having a continuous glucose monitor, right? You might not be I mentioned special needs, because like, as soon as your blood sugars are low, you could have that could affect your brain in some way. But also, even if you don't have that consequence of the low blood sugars, you might still have a lot of trouble controlling your blood sugar's early in life or throughout your life. And so the fact that I didn't have any of that, from nursery school, kindergarten and on through the beginning of college is sort of unusual. But to your question, my parents were not told that I would get diabetes, part of the reason, I think is because my pancreas was making so much insulin, there was a thought that removing just the right amount would lead to me being just fine. Or, you know, you might not remove enough like, I might still have low blood sugars, like there was no assumption that I would have diabetes, although my understanding is more recently, that's become more of a an assumption that like you do this type of operation. And then no one knows when, but eventually you will have diabetes,
Stacey Simms 16:38
or and now I have one more dumb question or the surgery for we move on. I know, everybody wants to know about you, and the Dexcom and The Amazing Race, right. But I'm so curious, we think about the pancreas, and I think most people in the diabetes community understands that it's not dead, you know, it didn't stop doing everything it's supposed to do. But we don't think about it as doing anything much more than producing insulin, you have like this much of a pancreas left, and you have been living this happy, healthy life, even though we're gonna talk about your diagnosis. Are people generally surprised when they hear that it's, it's more of an education for you to do? Because I gotta tell you, when you told me that, I thought that's not at all what I felt what happened?
Leo Brown 17:13
Yeah, I wish I could read the logs of my pancreas to tell you exactly what it's doing and what it's failing to do, like if you were trying to debug it. And, you know, there's not an easy way of getting in there. And and finding that information. I mean, you really would have to, you know, I engage any doctors I encounter and try to get those kinds of answers out of them. Like, what is it that my pancreas is not doing? Like, I know, it produces all sorts of hormones, other than insulin, I don't have the background to even ask the right questions, right. But all I can say is that with a little bit of pancreas, you can get a little bit of function. And I guess enough such that I don't I'm not diagnosed with anything other than diabetes. But it is a great question. And there's not a ton of patients to do this research on. Nor is it something that you'd want to interfere with someone's life to do research on, like, you were to poke around in there, like you could cause a problem. So on some level, you kind of just keep an eye on it. But one thing I do quickly want to add is that my parents and I, after I was diagnosed with diabetes, we were really kind of kicking ourselves like, doesn't it make sense? You took my pancreas out? Why didn't anyone mentioned that? This could just it seems like common sense. I mean, not I'd never thought about diabetes before. But my parents had certainly thought a lot about blood sugar. And they were like, course, like diabetes?
Stacey Simms 18:43
Nah, I gotta say, in everybody's defense, I think I would just be very happy that my baby who was going super low, all of a sudden, they figured out was wrong. They fixed it. You went to kindergarten, if the doctors aren't telling you why we're going to
Leo Brown 18:57
we think, clear. And you know, we weren't testing my blood sugar after I was, you know, in first or second grade, like and, and there's no indication that there was any need to at that time, no symptoms. Yeah.
Stacey Simms 19:10
So what happened? Did you go to college and start having issues or did it come suddenly. So
Leo Brown 19:14
I went to college, I look back and I wonder when the symptoms really began. But by the time I was diagnosed, I was working. I was with summer after my freshman year, I was working at like a family run vegetable farm in the Berkshires in Western Mass where I was in college. And I thought I was you know, I'm a pretty fit person. I'm not a college athlete. And I was with a couple of college athletes on on this farm. And so that was what made me kind of doubt that will maybe I'm not cut out for this. But long story short, I couldn't really make it through the day. There was a moment I remember where I was trying to get into the pickup truck that we were driving around, and I could get in but I had to like I would just like go put my hands on the wheel and just use my arms to just like, drag myself into the pickup truck. And that was odd. I'm not used to having that much trouble with something that seems simple. Why wasn't I using my legs? Right? I probably was, but it was I wasn't using my body the way I normally would. And then I also, again, no surprise to the community, I had to pee all the time. These guys I was working with were thinking like, what's wrong with Leo, like, all he does is go to the bathroom. And he's not very good at any of this manual labor. And I was starting to think maybe I just am sickly. I'm just someone who is not as fit and capable as I thought I was. You know, I'm not one of these college athletes. So who knows.
So I went home for a couple weeks, I said it was a vacation, you know, I'd kind of plan to take two weeks off at some point in the summer anyway, I was at my girlfriend's house at the time hanging out with her and her family, just in the living room, really low key, like someone was watching TV, someone's reading the newspaper, we might have been playing board game, and I was just lying on the floor, basically, I would only get up to go to the kitchen and get like a tall glass of milk. And I think I went through an entire gallon of milk. And then I you know, I was like super comfortable in this environment. So I wasn't pretending to feel any better than I was. But I also wasn't, I wasn't unhappy. I just had no energy. I was like, I was completely down for the count. And her mom is a scientist. And she said, You're not well, and you should go to the doctor, you should go home and go to the doctor. And I did and they tested my blood sugar. And it was 650. And so that was you know, right away, they put me on insulin. And skipping forward a bit. I went back to the farm Two weeks later. And they were astonished by like, I'd gained 20 pounds back. I had an I could do stuff. Do you remember how different you felt? Once I was on insulin right away? I had, yeah, like 10 times the energy, things felt easy, I think is the biggest thing. Like I wasn't unhappy. I just was confused by why I couldn't do what the type of thing that I thought I would be able to do. And again, I'm not. I don't think of myself as physically fit first and foremost. So in the back of my mind, I was always thinking maybe I'm not as fit as I thought I was versus an athlete, student or professional, who would sort of automatically know my performance is going down like something's wrong. I didn't think that.
Stacey Simms 22:33
All right, well, that's a fun way to start talking about the amazing race. Because I have been watching this show for I realized recently 19 years. And I've always thought, oh, that'd be so fun to do. And then I remember each season, why would never succeed, because the athletic ability you need just to survive and run from place to place is unbelievable. So I have lots of questions from listeners. I have lots of my own questions about the race. But the really the biggest one we get is, you know, how do you manage diabetes in a situation like that with travel and running? So if we can ask, we all saw you with the Dexcom while you're playing his steel drums and episode one that got everybody's attention and diabetes,
Leo Brown 23:12
even I didn't notice that in the clip.
Stacey Simms 23:15
Do you do if you don't mind it? Again, this is kind of personal. Do you take insulin pens? Do you use a pump anything like that? Yeah,
Leo Brown 23:21
I've tried different things over the years. And again, because my diabetes isn't type one or type two, it's hard to sort of draw comparisons. But the number one thing I do to manage my diabetes is through diet. So I eat a very low carb diet. And that is something I've always tried to do as much as I can have over the years. And at times that's enabled me actually to get off of insulin. However, there are so many variables. And on the race, I was not on regular insulin prior to the race, but I brought insulin on the race and had to use it in particular, because I would encounter food situations that I would not have chosen. And I also just didn't know what I was going to encounter. And that was also why I had the Dexcom, which I had. Well, I shouldn't say that's why I had the Dexcom. I've been using the Dexcom for some time. And that is also part of what has enabled me to kind of use insulin as I need it more recently, just to provide a little bit of context. When I was diagnosed, I did use Lantus and homologue, kind of a traditional prescription of insulin, as I discovered that I could use less insulin, if I ate fewer carbs, I over time would sort of rebalance my insulin with my diet. There are times that I wasn't using the insulin that I should have been. And I would sort of tell myself that I didn't need it. And if I didn't test my blood sugar, then I couldn't prove that I needed it. And then more recently, since the race and I'm not sure if this is you know an age thing or like an age pancreas thing, I have found that it's sort of floating higher Even with like, when I'm sure I'm, and legitimately, perfectly executing a low carb diet, and it's higher than I would have, you know, not high like 121 3140. Like, I wouldn't see the numbers like that if I had everything else controlled, and yet, somehow I do. But then if I start running more frequently, it kind of goes back down. So there's all these variables.
And for the race, when there's so much that I can't control, I knew the Dexcom would be a CGM in general would be crucial. And having insulin available would be crucial. So I didn't want to go with an omni pod, because I got a couple of infections, actually, from the site, not saying that Omnipod, but just in general, like, I don't have a ton of body fat. And so like, I think there was just the wrong spot. And that can happen with any device. But for the race, I really want to do avoid that kind of thing. That's the sort of thing that could have actually put me out of the race, you know, if I had like a real infection, and so what I ended up bringing on the race was syringes, like old fashioned syringes with a vial of human slug. And the reason I went that route, actually, is because oh, no, I actually think that was just all I had at the time, because I had the syringes around for the token like a true diabetic. Yeah, I had the syringes and they were around from the Omnipod.
And then I have to include this, which I had forgotten about, but we were at the hotel ready to go, you know, we're not sure when this starts going to be. And I think I was actually on the flight to LA at the start line. When I realized I had left all my insulin at home. There's one thing I didn't remember, it was in the fridge, it was lined up like little soldiers. So there was a whole production of gold, having someone having a production assistant go to Walgreens, like paying out of pocket, months later figuring out reimbursement. So that was it was a major part of preparing for the race.
Stacey Simms 27:05
Okay, I have to tell you, I have so many friends with so many stories of forgetting insulin and for getting supplies you have just made our day. So thank you for acknowledging that you're human. Oh, yeah, that's crazy. Oh, you went over here. So the other question was, this question kind of comes from the food? I thought I knew the answer this after all the years, but I wasn't sure. How do they feed you on the race? We see the crazy food contests. What are you eating day to day? And then the question was, how did you manage that?
Leo Brown 27:31
Yep. So I only ate in between legs. Mainly because I didn't want the distraction the production, the possible possibility of a higher low blood sugar during legs. Now keep in mind, I was not using a basal insulin at this point. And so I didn't really need to worry about my blood sugar floating low unless I had a short acting insulin in my system. And with the adrenaline happening during the race, I did not feel the need to be eating. And then in between legs, teams stay in a hotel, the race provides food. I'm being a little careful, because we're not supposed to talk too much about behind the scenes stuff. But what I'll say is that, you know, the food I would ask for I would eat what I could have it. And if I needed more, I would ask for more. That brings me to the topic of what I generally which is if you gave me a slice of pizza, I would eat only the top. In fact, that's a business idea that one of the other teams and I the blondes and I want to start pizza tops. I know we haven't made any progress on that. But like pizza tops, very delicious. Sometimes you can even find someone who's lactose intolerant, and you split the slice of pizza horizontally. So that's the kind of food strategy or trick I would use. There was food available to all the teams and sometimes I would have to ask for a little bit more to make sure that I can eat enough. Okay,
Stacey Simms 28:57
I am a Jewish mother. You were not super hungry during the race. I mean, again, I know we can't we have to be very careful. We don't know how far you got. We know you've got through episode one. But I'm thinking even an episode when you were swimming. You were running around or playing the drums. It's a long day. We don't have to eat a whole lot of adrenaline.
Leo Brown 29:16
And I you know, I always had a bar. I always had sugar tablets with me. So I should point that out. But you know, your heart's racing. You're competitive. Your adrenaline's high. And on that note, you're probably going to ask me about this. My blood sugar went high from that. Yeah, right. So like my blood sugar shoots up when I play coed softball in a league, you know, that I pay to be here. Right? Like it's not a competitive situation. But like, you know, The pitcher winds up. I'm at third base and like my heart's racing, and then I look at my Dexcom later and my but the first time this started happening, I was so confused. I know. I didn't eat anything like and yeah, so that happened a ton during the race to the point where I didn't Security actually said the security staff was who was really tasked with sort of keeping an eye on me from a medical perspective. And they, they would say, like, you can't let your blood sugar get that high. And I would say, well, like, Yeah. Like, what? Also what do you want me to do take insulin? Like, I don't think you want that. It'll go back down pretty quickly when I calm down, but right now, yeah, like, I've always found it's not worth trying to treat the adrenaline highs, because then I don't really under like, I can't do the same calculation around eating something like, How high is it gonna go? How excited was I? Like, how long will it last? Honestly, I've thought about trying to control that sort of thing through mindfulness, or meditation and sort of just like slowing down my adrenaline in general, although I don't want to change who I am as a person and you know, being hated about things. So that's a trade off, I guess.
Stacey Simms 30:55
Yeah, I think adrenaline highs from sports is just something that most people with diabetes that I know learn to figure out and kind of work around and not dose for, as I said, because you it's it's so tricky tolerate, um, time zones came up, too. But since you're not dosing basal insulin, that's not really a question, right? I mean, time zones, I assumed would affect you, but not really in the same way as someone was dancing that way. What
Leo Brown 31:17
Yeah, I didn't go space all during the race. And I think time zones affected all of us in an odd way. But, you know, we weren't sleeping in 24 hour cycles, we were sleeping during breaks between the legs, and the legs were not, you know, they didn't start when the sun came up, and when the sun went down, so yeah, I don't know. I mean, I think if I had been dosing basal, I would have had to just, you know, set a timer and decide that's when the next day began.
Stacey Simms 31:46
All right, any tricks and tips to keep your Dexcom on? Did it stay on in the water? Did it stay on with the sweat? And the reason the whole thing? That was what I was thinking about?
Leo Brown 31:54
Yeah, incredibly, it did. Since the race, I've gotten more experience with using the Dexcom and have started to use three M tape. And at this point, I just put it on preemptively. And aggressively. So it's like all over the site. I was, I think, kind of lucky during the race, the biggest issue I had with a Dexcom. And this gives you some insight into like the level of excitement and my state of mind was, at one point, we were on an airplane, and I was checking my blood sugar on, I actually was using, not my phone, but the little device that it comes with, because we didn't have our phones. So I was fiddling around with this device. And my mind's racing a mile a minute, right, like probably the entire race. I mean, to like, say, exit out of the part of the app that I'm in. And I decommission the sensor. Oh, no. Unlike the I was installing the sensor, no, I installed the sensor. And then I said the sensor is over right. Now, it is not possible to reverse that. And I was so distraught. And olana pointed out at that moment, that I had brought four sensors for 30 days, because I brought an extra and that was when I used the extra. At that point. I didn't have an extra. But at least I had that one. That was like, I don't know if there was a moment in the race when I was more horrified then when I installed Dexcom and then immediately decommissioned it.
Stacey Simms 33:32
Oh my gosh, yeah. I think a lot of us have done that. You guys were very early in your relationship, as you said. Very brave thing to do. exciting thing to do. Did you have fun? I mean, you're married.
Leo Brown 33:44
Yeah, we had a lot of fun on the race. It was also I will say a very stressful experience in general. You know, our first time on TV, you know, we really wanted to keep racing. You might have noticed in the first episode, we were on the second flight, we were in 10th place at a certain point, the oil drums were huge and hard to handle. The fish numbers challenge was horrible. Try remembering for numbers and the numbers were okay. But the colors. The problem with the colors is that what are you reading the fish nose to tail left to right, like you flip it over upside down? Right? It's sort of like you can reverse the fish in all different directions. And we were just like, really, things were not getting any easier. And then the skill drum challenge Fortunately, I felt pretty comfortable with so that was Trinidad and Tobago, and we had a blast, but we also had a lot of anxiety. You know, as far as our relationship, I think we kind of knew what we were getting into, in a way. I mean, I suppose it was more intense in many ways than you could have imagined. But we knew we wanted to do this big adventure like we knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. We wanted to travel we wanted to get to know each other. We wanted to get away from our jobs like It was a no brainer. And I think that our relationship from day one has always been that we want to do things together, and not like shy away from experiences. And we're just both wanting the same thing out of life in so many ways. And so it would have been against our nature to hesitate to do this thing together.
Stacey Simms 35:20
So this was taped in 2018. This is pre COVID. But this is a long time ago. How hard is it been? I mean, I don't know exactly when it wrapped up, or if you know, when it ramped up production. But how hard has it been for you guys to sit on this for all this time? You can't say anything?
Leo Brown 35:35
Yeah, it's been a big secret. And it's been a huge relief to share. We were able to share with close family, initially, MBAs, everything we couldn't share with work, we couldn't share with friends, we couldn't share it, my friend who was house sitting for us. And we have been able to stay in touch with the cast. We're really close with the rest of the cast. The fact that it took so long to air is I think part of that, like we've had a chance to see each other go through stages of life together. A couple of them were at our wedding, everyone else was live streamed into the wedding. So having the cast as sort of a support system through this has been really huge. It's just a Yeah, it's a huge relief to be able to share that. That's unbelievable. And I have to say, just watching the first episode, and I haven't watched the show in a few years. And now I'm back in I'm very excited. Good. But it was a joy. Great season. Well, I'm glad to hear it. But I gotta tell you, it was a joy to see travel. It was exciting to see the world again. escapist is voyeuristic. Yeah, it's, it's what we need right now. Of course, being able to see myself through those things is a trip and feel so great. But also, you know, just being able to see people interacting, like we used to, I'm sure there's going to be some airplane footage. The first episode was notably absent airplane footage, which I think everyone was sort of would you know, that's what you want to see right now is like everyone like squeezing onto a plane. But there will be some of that the carnival in Trinidad. Imagine, you know that today? You want to see that back to the way it was, when it can be. But yeah, I do think it's the perfect show to be airing at this time, unlike Big Brother, where you're locked in a house. And it's kind of the same as you know, you get everyone tested, and then you can be in the house. But the race is obviously the opposite. And we are we're all hoping they'll be able to you know, keep running it again soon. You know,
Stacey Simms 37:39
I I would like to know, and I, again, I've watched the show for 19 years, you know, what's the crew? Like? What's it like traveling with those other people that we never see?
Leo Brown 37:48
Yeah, first of all, the crew is many in number. And they're an integral part of the experience. They are supportive. They're excited to be there. They do incredible physical things with you know, 50 pounds of equipment, trying to keep up with us. We're trying to go as fast as we can. And then they're, you know, jogging alongside us. They haven't a job that is would have been hard to imagine. I mean, now I've kind of seen them do it. But you know, they travel around the world. A lot of them work on other shows. Some of them have been doing the race since the beginning. And now we follow a bunch of them on Instagram, and they all post great photos of their non office jobs. Like to them
Stacey Simms 38:28
you've got the goats, right, and you're running to the mat. Where are they? They're behind you. They're in front of you. They're trying not to get trampled by goats. I mean, it's got to be an incredible skill on their part to
Leo Brown 38:37
Yeah, so also keep in mind that there's equipment like drones that they can deploy. So generally speaking, 90% of the footage, I would think is from a person carrying a gigantic camera, just running around. But if you think about like the water challenges, actually, I think they've had cameras on boats, you know, I probably shouldn't get too into that. You'd probably just do drones. Yeah, sometimes it's
Stacey Simms 39:06
drones. And what's Phil like, Phil is nice. Don't tell me if Phil isn’t nice.
Leo Brown 39:10
No, feels great. Phil is just like he is on the show. Except if anything quicker wittier than you might expect, like none of it's scripted. As far as I know. He's really fun, really warm, and he wants us to do our best. You know, one thing I did want to ask before I let you go, I found you on Twitter because someone in the diabetes community was talking directly to you and saying, Hey, we watched the show. My daughter just got to Jack's calm and saw you with yours on TV and it made our night. You are while of unusual case in the diabetes community. You are in the community now. And I'm curious what that's like for you. When you see people reacting so positively and so excited to see you on the show. I was definitely surprised that people picked up on it right away.
You know, I didn't see the Dexcom in the episode. And it's an incredible feeling to have that be an inspiration for people. And I know how I felt when I was first diagnosed with diabetes. And I didn't know what I would be able to do, it took me some time to realize that I wasn't going to get a break from it. And to kind of there's the diagnosis, which was a relief, actually, because then I could do things that I wanted to be doing and thought I could be doing, I just, you know, they told me, I just have to do this and that, and then I can live my life. And then it was probably a couple months later, where it sort of hit me that, you know, I wouldn't be able to go back to the way it was before. And I remember my sister who's a couple years older, she was watching this happen. And I was a freshman in college, I just finished up freshman year of college. And I had to I realized, and especially because I was making such an effort to manage with diet, I realized like, I wouldn't be eating birthday cake, I wouldn't be eating a hot dog button. And the way she saw it was that I had to grow up really fast, because I have a sweet tooth. Like I love candy. And I don't eat cake. I mean, I eat dark, dark chocolate, but I don't eat candy. And oh, what I'm about to go make for myself after this interview is a hot chocolate, which is made of half and half and cocoa powder, no sugar, and I mix it together and I heat it up in a saucepan. And it gets like to be to me indistinguishable from like a chocolate syrup that I want to drink. But it's got no sugar. So I recommend that. Anyhow, I'm on a tangent. It's really exciting to me to be able to hopefully, give people who were in my shoes. I think the person who commented that was her daughter's first couple days with Dexcom. So I remember what that was like. And on one hand being really hopeful that I had a solution for myself. But on the other hand, accepting that, you know, there were real compromises. The solution was not one that I was always going to love. But for the race, those are solutions that helped me run the race. Yeah.
Stacey Simms 42:13
Well, I can't thank you enough for jumping on so quickly for sharing your story. And for being so open about everything. And thanks for hanging through the technical stuff, too. I appreciate.
Leo Brown 42:24
I think we got a lot I got us a Wi Fi upgrade in the course of this interview. So she's she's busy. Behind the Scenes love it.
Stacey Simms 42:32
Yeah, I appreciate you doing that so much. So look, we'll check in. We'll see how it goes. And maybe we'll follow up. But thanks again for spending so much time with me. Okay,
Leo Brown 42:42
thanks a lot, Stacey.
You're listening to Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms.
Stacey Simms 42:55
More information on the foundation that Leo talked about. I will also link up stuff on hyperinsulinism. If you'd like to learn more, all of that at Diabetes connections.com. Click on the episode homepage where there is also a transcription and I'll put a link into the amazing race because they've got some cute behind the scenes videos each week. And oh my gosh, I hope they win. You know as we're taping this, the second episode hasn't even aired yet. So I don't know if they've made it to the third episode. And but you know how this works. You've been with me with other contestants. We've had people from the Titan games and from the baking shows the Food Network kids baking show, American Ninja Warrior, you know, the Christmas light. We've had people from all different reality shows and you never know but it's always great to talk to them and just making it to the show is a pretty incredible achievement way. I hope they went Tell me something good coming up in just a moment.
But first diabetes Connections is brought to you by Gvoke Hypo Penn and almost everyone who takes insulin has experienced a low blood sugar and that can be scary. A very low blood sugar is really scary. And that's where GMO hypo pen comes in. It's the first auto injector to treat very low blood sugar Gvoke Hypo Pen is pre mixed and ready to go with no visible needle. That means it's easy to use in usability studies 99% of people were able to give Gvoke correctly. I'm so glad to have something new. Find out more go to Diabetes connections.com and click on the Gvoke logo Gvoke should not be used in patients with pheochromocytoma or insulinoma visit Jeeva glucagon.com slash risk.
Tell me something good. This peak is full of weddings and babies and celebrations. Congratulations to so many people in the community who took a big step this month. Rob Howe got married in early October so congratulations to Rob and to Erica. Rob is the founder of diabetics doing things the host of that podcast and and so much more. It is Rob that he's my Instagram guru, but I'm so bad at Instagram. I once I think I once was it Rob I once called him through Facebook messaging or Instagram messaging, I don't even know. I don't know how I did it. He was so polite. He was so nice. I felt like I was 75 years old. It was, it was not great. But congratulations to rob and Erica, who had a beautiful backyard wedding, you know, as we have to do these days, we wish them many years of health and happiness.
Congratulations to Patrick Mertes, who had a baby with his beautiful wife, Patrick is one half of the team that made up 50 and 50. And these two guys who decided to go around the country last year, and climb the highest peak in all 50 states and try to do that in 50 days. And Patrick completed it Michael, his partner had an injury, halfway through and completed it. But later on, they did something else recently called race along the trace, which was three states. And 460 miles, it looks like a bike ride. He called it the last hurrah before fatherhood. So we'll we'll catch up with him and talk about that. But Patrick is also the director of the diabetes camp where my son goes every summer. So we are excited to see how a camp guy tackles fatherhood, I'm sure he's gonna do an amazing job because he's corralled all those kids for all those years.
And finally, congratulations to Ken Rodenheiser, who also had a baby in October. He's a pediatric CDE in Philadelphia, and I think it's at the hospital where he himself was diagnosed years ago. But he has been a very big part of the children with diabetes organization and the friends for life conference. I believe he leads the tween program there, Ken and I have gone back and forth for years about getting him on the show. And we will work it out very soon. But I just wanted to highlight him in this segment and say congratulations to him and his wife and their babies name is Elliot, this adorable little girl.
And I just realized as I'm reading this, I didn't put two and two together. But my next Tell me something good is also an Elliott. But this is Elliott Fry. He is the former kicker and all time leading scorer for the University of South Carolina, he lives with type one. And earlier this month, he kicked his first field goal in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons in the Carolinas. Elliott is very well known for working with kids for being really out front with JDRF. And just being you know, out there as a great role model and example of somebody who plays sports and plays them at the highest level with type one. So it was really exciting to see him get that very first field goal in the NFL. And that's Tell me something good.
Do you have something for me send it my way, Stacey at Diabetes connections.com. You can also post in the Facebook group, you don't have to have a baby or get married. It can be as easy as your son or daughter did their first sight change, without crying and running away oh my goodness, that used to be such an ordeal with Benny, anything that feels momentous anything you want to celebrate with the diabetes community, I would really love to know about you can go ahead and tell me something good.
It's hard to believe that it's going to be November in a couple of days. And I know we're all stressed out about the election and the possible aftermath. But it's also diabetes Awareness Month. And I don't know how that's gonna get any play this year with everything else that's going on in the world. But I'm gonna try and I always say diabetes Awareness Month is for the non diabetes community. I mean, we're aware every day of the year, this is our chance to educate. So I have a few things in mind to try to get the word out in other media. And I won't be talking so much about that here. But I'll share if anything exciting happens. But I am going to be doing two different things. If you're on Instagram, I will be having a contest I'm probably gonna start that the second week of November because I want to get past this election to that's just going to be a fun giveaway, to celebrate each other to be part of diabetes awareness. It's going to be fun and easy. I have some great companies lined up already that want to donate stuff and give it to you. I mean, you work hard all year round. Let's celebrate a little bit.
And we have a big episode milestone, the numbers I'm so excited to share this with you. The second one is going to be on Facebook only. So we're going to have an Instagram only and a Facebook only. And the Facebook is going to be a little bit more work on your part. But the prize is going to be bigger, that one's going to be a cash prize. So I will keep you posted. The best way to keep track is to be in the Facebook group. Or to subscribe to the newsletter. If you're not already subscribed to go to Diabetes connections.com the cute little please sign up should pop up. But if it doesn't just scroll all the way to the bottom and you can sign up for the newsletter right there. So two contests coming up. I want to make it easy for you. I think it's gonna be fun. We just need a little brightness around here. And I hope I can provide some of that.
All right thank you to my editor John Bukenas from audio editing solutions. thank you as always for listening. I'm Stacey Simms. I'll see you back here next week. Until then, be kind to yourself.
Diabetes Connections is a production of Stacey Simms Media. All rights reserved. All wrongs avenged