October 20, 2016
Salt Lake City, UT
Vol 1, #2
On September 4, 2013 I became Type 1 diabetic. Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an auto-immune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. While the causes of T1D are not yet entirely established, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing myself or any other type 1 diabetic could do to prevent this disease, and as of now nothing we can do to get rid of it.
Adjusting to diabetes is a struggle. Some people might have been able to adjust to T1D easily, but mine was a process. I struggled mightily during my first three weeks with schoolwork, playing hockey, and managing my blood sugars. My body felt different in ways that I just couldn’t explain. Most people know me as a very happy energetic person, however that person didn’t exist in those first few weeks.
The hardest thing was getting back on ice. Four days into my diagnosis I went back to the rink, because I viewed being on the ice as my escape. I lasted barely thirty minutes before I started feeling poorly. When your blood sugars are off you can experience a variety of symptoms, which are problematic on the ice. Physical symptoms include shakiness, excessive sweating, nausea, fatigue, light headedness and then just as important and debilitating are cognitive symptoms such as mental confusion, unresponsiveness and a complete inability to focus. I was struggling with my schoolwork, but more importantly to me my hockey game was suffering. I was massively underperforming on the ice and I knew I was much better than the way I was playing. On top of the physical struggles, I found being T1D to be incredibly frustrating.
Everything changed in the fourth week. My sister’s coach set up a meeting with Cory Conacher, a Type 1 diabetic who was a professional hockey player with the Ottawa Senators at the time and now plays for the Tampa Bay Lighting. We talked for forty-five minutes about diabetes and how he manages his blood sugars to play at a high level. He told me how important it is to take care of your body to get the best out of yourself. We talked about his game day routines, what to put in your body and to get the appropriate rest to be ready to go. I found Cory to be very inspiring.
After meeting Cory I’m not going to say that everything became easy over night, but my whole perspective changed. I focused on making sure my blood sugar would be where I wanted it and that I was listening to my body and taking better care of myself. I accepted and even embraced being Type 1 Diabetic. I started to learn how to live with diabetes and started to get a little involved in the community. Is diabetes a struggle? It can be at times. The last words of wisdom Cory Conacher left with me were, “Type 1 Diabetes isn’t a disease, it’s a challenge.” That is now my attitude too and it’s a challenge that I am proud to have.