Michael Frederick was all but blind before his eyes opened to his special challenge in life.
Fifty years ago this week, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He was almost 4 years old, and his earliest memories include his mother boiling a big glass syringe and blunt needle for his daily insulin shot.
He was told he could expect to live to 40 if he was careful.
But Frederick wasn't careful when he got away from home. The worst of it was that he was smoking. And as an Auburn University student studying architecture in Rome, he suddenly lost sight in his left eye while walking on the Appian Way. He barely escaped loss of sight in his right eye.
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He then got serious about the rituals his life requires -- constant blood glucose monitoring, insulin injections, eating good food and exercising.
Today, he holds a medal from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. One side says: "For 50 Courageous Years with Diabetes." The other says: "Triumph for Man and Medicine."
And he is training for the Boston Marathon in April.
"I hope being in the marathon is inspirational to people with young kids with diabetes to know that they can live healthy, long lives," Frederick said.
'WHO I AM'
Frederick's mother always suspected his bout with red measles led to what is called juvenile diabetes. She threw her heart and soul into managing it for a son who had become sickly and skinny. She even went back to school to study nutrition.
But the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, known as JDRF, says: "While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent Type 1 diabetes, and -- at present -- nothing you can do to get rid of it."
About 26 million Americans have diabetes; 3 million of them with Type 1. In South Carolina, 36,400 people have Type 1 diabetes.
Frederick said, "It's kind of who I am. This is all I have known."
He pricks a finger several times a day to calibrate his continuous glucose monitor. A black box the size of a cellphone pumps insulin directly into his abdomen, and he spends his life carefully watching digital readouts of his blood glucose level.
As a child, Frederick hid his disease. He knew one other child with diabetes, but they didn't talk about it.
As an adult, he embraces a lifestyle of healthy eating and the exercise he says pumps blood into his extremities.
"Jane is a great cook," he says of his wife of 30 years, whose drawing board sits across the room from his own in the Frederick & Frederick Architects office on Meridian Road on Lady's Island.
She cooks with fresh, unprocessed foods in the home they designed around a Quonset hut. It sits on the banks of the Beaufort River, surrounded by nature and gardens, behind their office. Like a number of their custom designs for clients, the Fredericks' home has been featured in Southern Living magazine.
They follow dietary advice from Dr. Ann Kulze of Charleston. Frederick says a rule of thumb is, "If it's white, don't eat it."
And they exercise. Jane is a swimmer, and they're both avid cyclists. They're active in the new Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail, and the Pathways Connect advocacy group that preceded it.
Michael Frederick also is a rower and can been seen with a Beaufort rowing team three times a week in Battery Creek.
And even though he has only been running for two years, he plans to run his first marathon April 15 in Boston.
"I'm a little embarrassed about running in the Boston Marathon, the Tour de France of marathons," Frederick said.
That's because he didn't qualify for it as a runner, but as a participant on Team Joslin to raise money for the world's preeminent diabetes research and clinical-care organization, affiliated with Harvard Medical School.
John Hancock, the marathon's principal sponsor, provides local nonprofits with guaranteed entries into the race, which they can use as a fundraiser. Frederick has committed to raising at least $5,000 in sponsorships to benefit the Joslin Diabetes Center.
Previously, he and his brother raised almost $19,000 -- the most in the nation -- for a bicycle ride in Monterey, Calif., to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Frederick also contributed to beating the disease by entering the Sanofi U.S. Data Design Diabetes Challenge earlier this year. He teamed with EnduringFX of Columbia to design a tool that combines a heart rate monitor and blood glucose monitor into one instrument. Their entry placed second in the worldwide competition.
Meanwhile, Frederick is training for the Marathon, running by the marsh, over the swing-span bridge into Beaufort's historic district, with Jasper the spaniel mix at his heels.
He has the vision to see it as "the most beautiful running course in the world."
Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.