Canadian endurance athlete and inspirational speaker Sébastien Sasseville refuses to let type 1 diabetes stop him from achieving his dreams, as he explained to Ruby McGill, Director of Youth, during a visit to New Zealand last year.
When Sébastien Sasseville decided to climb Mount Everest, something he’d dreamed about as a child, he broke it down into smaller steps. Doing this, he says, ensures that when you look at the next step it’s never overwhelming. Once you’ve completed the first step – for Sébastien this was signing up for climbing lessons – step two won’t feel as intimidating.
Incredibly, on 25 May 2008, Sébastien became the third T1D person in the world to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He attributes this success to getting up, working hard every single day and being patient – and accepting that sometimes you have bad days and the only thing you can do to turn it around is to go to bed and wait for tomorrow.
And that’s okay.
Sébastien Sasseville refuses to let type 1 diabetes stop him from achieving his dreams. In 2012, the French endurance athlete completed one of the toughest running races on Earth, the Sahara desert race, and in 2014 he spent nine months running 7,200km across Canada.
Sébastien says he has learned many lessons along the way and he now shares these with the business world, travelling the globe giving inspirational talks. He believes his recipe for success is simple but not always easy. Sébastien embraces life with a positive growth mindset and believes his diabetes diagnosis was a blessing, even though, he confesses, it certainly didn’t feel like that on Day 1.
His diagnosis at 22 years old was just like everyone else’s – tough, frightening and overwhelming. His brother had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes six years earlier and Sébastien recognised he was showing the classic symptoms. “I didn’t want to accept it was happening to me, but I drove myself to the clinic where I received the inevitable news from my doctor,” he says.
“The love and support of my friends at college helped me adjust to living with diabetes. They were interested in what was happening and always there to help if needed.”
But Sébastien never wanted to transfer the burden to them. He quickly learnt he had to be 100% responsible for his successes and take ownership of his diabetes. He didn’t have a choice and that is what he believes is the true blessing, even going as far as saying it’s one of the best things that has happened to his life.
“You are forced to adapt and find something about it that will be great. The positive choice was simple – caving in, not accepting it and being pissed off about it made no sense to me. It was pretty obvious it would lead to no good,” he says.
Sébastien believed early on that if he managed his diabetes properly, all his dreams and things he wanted to do didn’t need to go away. They were still possible. During public speaking events he is often asked how to motivate people that hate “it”, whatever that may be.
“It’s totally okay to hate it [diabetes] and don’t feel bad for hating it, but at some point you need to make a conscious effort to change how you feel about diabetes. Taking the first step doesn’t mean everything should be perfect the next day. You will need to allow for some imperfection. Diabetes is a process. It’s never a finished thing,” he explains.
Sébastien reminds his audiences that motivation comes after action. The first step is to get out there and do whatever it is you love doing, then the motivation comes. It’s not the other way around. This was certainly the case for Sébastien. Even though he has successfully completed what has been described as one of the toughest physical challenges on Earth – the multi-stage Sahara desert race – and run across Canada, when he first started running he could only manage 250 metres before stopping.