Name: John Farrell
Hometown: Nepean, ON
“Like father, like son: Team Diabetes all-stars”
By: Michael Jacoby
Scotiabrank branch manager John Farrell is a member of Team Diabetes and one of the staff members participating in races to make a difference for those living with diabetes. Scotiabank is a corporation that has a longstanding relationship with charities and with the running community, and John has a very personal connection to this cause.
In 2006, John and his wife received the news that no parent wants to hear: their son, Ryan, then twenty-one and attending Carlton University, had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Like many families, diabetes had not been on their radar. Had it not been for the watchful eye of a family friend living with diabetes, the symptoms Ryan was exhibiting might have continued to go undiagnosed.
Together, Ryan and his family learned how to administer insulin by practicing on oranges – a tough experience – and the Farrells quickly became immersed in the highs and lows of diabetes. Looking for trusted information on Ryan’s condition, they turned to organizations like the Canadian Diabetes Association for guidance. For the family, knowledge was power.
Over the next nine years, John accompanied Ryan to his various appointments. During this time, he learned that he was himself at risk for type 2 diabetes. However, lifestyle changes and a new pair of running shoes helped in managing his blood glucose levels.
Spurred on by his younger daughter, Caitlin, John began competing in a number of 5k and 10k races in Ottawa. He soon upped his mileage and began training with Ryan, a multi-star athlete and marathoner, with the humble goal of “starting and finishing.”
As their journey progressed, each family member became a source of joy and inspiration to the others. They knew they wouldn’t set any world records, but they continued to push each other to be their best. Nowhere was this teamwork more apparent than between father and son. “Ryan was with me when I completed my first half marathon,” John recalls.
Team Diabetes was the perfect fit for this family of running enthusiasts. It provided not only a sense of community, but also a place of shared connection, where the language, questions and concerns all sounded familiar.
The Farrells coordinated a family retreat in the Cayman Islands, where Team Diabetes had an event that year. The following May, back home in Ottawa, Ryan and John became full-fledged team members.
The Ottawa Race Weekend, now presented by Scotiabank, has become a staple on Ryan and John’s event schedule and they continue to participate in international events for Team Diabetes too. They crossed the finish line together in Munich in October, 2015, with Ryan acting as his dad’s unofficial coach. “Ironically,” John says, “Ryan’s illness was the source of my own recovery and success.”
Each time they lace up, it is a personal and shared challenge for father and son. Both take tremendous pride in sporting the Team Diabetes jersey and supporting the team’s mission, but most importantly they share the unique bond of father and son – of best friends – that will endure through thick and thin. Sons often see their fathers as heroes, but for John, the feeling is mutual. Together they have created memories that they can both cherish.
Living with diabetes is still a work in progress. However, the family has come a long way since the days when they were struggling to come to grips with a new and uncertain way of life.
For John, it’s simple – he wants others to learn from the example he and his son are setting. “If just one person picks up on the message to live healthier, I win.”
You can make a difference by joining Team Diabetes – to learn more or register for an event in your area visit teamdiabetes.ca.