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A Girl and Her Bike: Let’s Add This Up!

I have a short story about a girl and her bike. The girl is my daughter. I am an accounting professor, which means I am much better with numbers than words. So, let me start with some figures. After all, “numbers tell a story” is what I tell my students year after year.

12 is her age. 3 is the grade in which she started riding to school on her own. 2 is the distance to school in kilometers. 5 is the number of days per week she rides her bike to school. 3 is the number of bikes in the garage that are hers. 4 is the lowest temperature she has ridden to school in. Independent. Steady. Strong. Those are words that come to mind when I think of my daughter. In fact, this was going to be the year where she challenged herself to ride a bike to school every single day, just because she wanted to say she did.

Next up, some darker figures…

25 is the day in November of 2016 that we took her to the hospital. 745 was her blood sugar level when we arrived. 3 is the number of days they kept her overnight. 3 is the number of nights her father and I did not sleep at all. 28 is the day in November she came home as a diabetic. 1 is the number of relatives she has lost to diabetes. 0 is what any of us really knew or understood about managing it. 6 is the number of times she pricks her finger to check her blood sugar each day. 4 is the number of times each day she injects her own insulin. Again, Independent. Steady. Strong.

She ran through the spectrum of emotions at the start. It began as fear. Then pity. Then acceptance. And finally
hope. The most difficult challenge for her at the start was that having diabetes added at least an hour to the daily schedule she kept. The first thing to go was riding her bike to school. Too much going on around mealtimes and too much stuff to pack and think about in the morning. It was faster for us to drop her off. About 2 months went by and I said to her “Are you going to start riding your bike to school again?” She said “I miss it so much. Yes.”



And so it began. The road to figuring out how to live as a diabetic but not think much at all about it. What strikes me as interesting about this journey for her is how closely connected was her return to the daily bike ride to school and the return of her confidence, hope, and acceptance. Something in that bike ride for her makes her feel inherently normal, free, and orderly. With a little insulin, and a lot of bikes, I think she is going to be just fine. Better than fine.

Written by Leslie Robinson.  Leslie Robinson teaches financial accounting in the MBA and Business Bridge programs at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.  She's an avid cyclist.

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