CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Will Cross, a Type 1 diabetic who climbed Mount Everest, will give a free public talk from noon to 2 p.m. today at the Queen's Conference Center, at Punchbowl and Beretania streets.
Climber pushes the limits of diabetes
The history-maker says some of the disease's perceived ill effects are a myth
Will Cross doesn't let Type 1 diabetes keep him from reaching new heights.
Thanks to innovative insulin products, the 39-year-old became the first American with diabetes to climb Mount Everest in May. He is also the first person in the world with the chronic disease to climb the highest peaks on seven continents and walk to the South and North Poles.
"There is a lot of fear and misunderstanding about diabetes," he said yesterday in an interview here.
The disease needn't keep people from doing what they want to do, he said. "The caveat is, you have to take care of yourself. Then you go after what's important to you."
Cross, of Pittsburgh, gives speeches about his experiences to inspire people with diabetes. He travels across the country for Novo Nordisk Inc., which produces insulin delivery devices, and his own company, Will Cross Motivates.
He was scheduled to give a free public talk from noon to 2 p.m. today at the Queen's Conference Center, at Punchbowl and Beretania streets.
The former teacher and father of six was the first to complete an odyssey known as NovoLog Peaks and Poles Challenge, which began with a climb to the summit of Mount Aconcagua in Argentina in 1995.
"That was a struggle, a hard one," he said, explaining he had to rely on "good old-fashioned bottles (of insulin) and syringes, and it was very, very tough. I was not sure I could do it again."
But technology had improved by 1999, when he climbed Alaska's Denali peak, and in 2001, further improvements in diabetes products all came together, he said.
He said he wanted to walk to the South Pole, but people told him "you can't do that with diabetes" because of the impact on his cardiovascular and nerve systems and eyes. They asked how he could survive in a polar region with frozen insulin and temperatures 150 degrees below zero, he said.
"I headed to the North Pole (in 2001) in an effort to demonstrate their perceptions of diabetes were not accurate, that when we do take care of ourselves, we can do what we want to do.
"When we were successful at the North Pole, it opened people's eyes that maybe this can be done."
Cross said he and partner Jerry Petersen, who does not have diabetes, conducted research at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to compare their physiology, and there was no significant difference. "It surprised us all, to be honest."
The study, published by the American Diabetes Association, refutes the myth that diabetes affects performance of children and adults, Cross said. "You hear prejudice against people with diabetes all the time," he said.
Cross said he was diagnosed at age 9 with Type 1 diabetes, a chronic disease resulting when the body does not produce enough insulin.
He was running programs for criminal kids in Pittsburgh but quit in 2001 because it was time-consuming "to raise money, do research, get fit and organize" expeditions, he said.
His next goal is to cross Greenland, "a classic polar journey," he said. "It's been done a handful of times." He said he wants to test a new long-acting insulin by Novo Nordisk called Levemir.