‘Iron Andy,’ athlete and diabetic, offers inspiration as he competes

VALLEY FORGE , Pa. The tens of millions of Americans coping with the effects of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes might well draw some inspiration from a muscular, charismatic Type 1 diabetic and Ironman competitor who’s appearing at independent drug stores and health fairs nationwide.

Andy Holder, better known as “Iron Andy,” is touring the country to compete in a grueling series of Ironman events and demonstrate how to overcome the limitations imposed by the disease. As spokesman for the “Managing Diabetes: Living Without Limits” campaign sponsored by Good Neighbor Pharmacy and The Diabetes Shoppe—both divisions of AmerisourceBergen—Holder has spoken to various groups at local Good Neighbor Pharmacies, at health expos and at diabetes support-group events to inspire people to take an active role in managing their disease and to educate them on how their pharmacist may be able to help with their daily challenges.

Diagnosed in 2005 at age 36, Holder said he was determined not to let the disease hold him back. A lifelong athlete, he decided to take control of the disease and inspire others by becoming an Ironman competitor.

As an Ironman, Holder must swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a full marathon of 26.2 miles. His intense training schedule requires him to check his glucose levels a dozen times a day, including while running and riding his bike. Holder’s endocrinologist, his certified diabetes educator and his local Diabetes Shoppe pharmacist help him safely manage his disease during extreme training and competition.

“With the support of my healthcare team, I am able to manage a disease that could have limited my ability to live my life the way I wanted,” Holder said. “Because I am dealing with diabetes around the clock and learning new things every day about managing the disease, I could not train successfully for the Ironman without the knowledge, accessibility and emotional support of my Diabetes Shoppe pharmacist.”

The Diabetes Shoppe is located within roughly 1,100 independent drug stores, primarily in participating Good Neighbor Pharmacies, the retail service and marketing umbrella operated by AmerisourceBergen. The in-store centers offer diabetes products, individualized service and access to trained diabetes professionals.

Jerry Meece, a CDE and Diabetes Shoppe pharmacist at Plaza Pharmacy and Wellness Center in Gainesville, Texas, one of the first freestanding pharmacies in the country to achieve provider education recognition from the American Diabetes Association, called Holder “a great role model to remind diabetes patients that disease management is not only important to staying healthy and active, but is key to reaching lifestyle goals.”

The Diabetes Shoppe and Good Neighbor Pharmacy have created a program website, livingwithoutlimits.diabetes-shoppe.com. The site profiles a number of people who have been inspired by Holder’s story, as well as posting his schedule for the upcoming year, which currently includes:

  • Feb. 2:  Sandy, Utah; ADA Expo Salt Lake City
  • Mar. 29:  Oceanside, Calif.; Ford Ironman 70.3
  • Apr. 13:  Tempe, Ariz.; Ford Ironman Arizona
  • May 4:  Cincinnati, Ohio; Flying Pig Marathon