How Rick Mystrom found his groove
June 1, 2023 | View PDF
Nothing seems to stop Rick Mystrom.
From the quest to hold the Olympics in Anchorage, to building an ad agency, to running for mayor of Anchorage, to facing the scourge of Type 1 diabetes, Mystrom has not backed down.
Born in Minnesota in 1943, he moved to Alaska in 1972 and three years later established Mystrom/Beck Advertising, now the Nerland Agency.
He's contributed a lot to the life of Alaska.
"I started Big Brothers Big Sisters after doing it in Los Angeles," he said. "I called the headquarters in Philadelphia and told them we don't have one. It was the only place there wasn't one, they told me."
He campaigned and won a seat on the Anchorage Assembly and served from 1979 to 1985, then ran to become the fourth Mayor of Anchorage and was in office from 1994 to 2000.
Perhaps more significant than any of those accomplishments has been his campaign to bring awareness to Type 1 diabetes.
Type I diabetes surfaces in childhood, adolescence or in adulthood. It is chronic, has no cure, but can be managed through lifestyle changes.
Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1964, Mystrom has written several books on living a full life with the disease: "My Wonderful Life With Diabetes," and "What Should I Eat? Solve Diabetes, Lose Weight, and Live Healthy." He also figures he has given over 200 talks about living with diabetes.
His newest book, "Glucose Control Eating: Lose Weight, Stay Slimmer, Live Healthier, Live Longer," a guide to what low-glucose foods to eat, was published in 2021.
"I've had it for 59 years with no health problems," he said. "I found out when I applied to go into the Air Force ROTC, and when I found out I couldn't go, I was shocked."
At that time he had a reputation for eating a lot of food and not gaining weight.
"But my pancreas wasn't working," he said. "The doctor told me to go to the library and read up on it and bring back as many questions as I could. I had three pages."
He experienced a moment when the effect of the diabetes really hit him.
"I was at Boulder Creek in Colorado and all of a sudden I felt something different," he said. "I felt confused."
So he ordered a roast beef sandwich and a Coke.
"It was a big blood sugar back up," he said. "It was the first time in six months I didn't feel hungry because I had insulin."
Sugary drinks help raise blood sugar levels when a person has low blood sugar levels and produces a small amount of insulin. That's why Type 1 diabetics are encouraged to carry emergency sweets with them like gumdrops or gummies.
The two rules Mystrom practices to counter any fatigue he might have in facing the disease are: "1. Never complain; and, 2. Never let it stop me from doing what I want to do."
He tests his glucose levels 10 to 15 times a day and has an insulin pump he uses to keep his glucose level in check. And he studied what foods spike his levels and which do not by using himself as a guinea pig, testing all kinds of foods.
"I tell people in books, 'Here's what good for you,'" he said. "If you want a treat, have one, but not all the time."
He said that, frankly, he had a choice to learn to control it or die.
"I'm 79 and feel great, and I think this book can help people live healthier, longer and slimmer," he said.