How old were you when you were diagnosed with T1D?
I was 19 years old at the time of diagnosis.
How did you feel when you were diagnosed? What happened?
I was very surprised to be honest. At first I thought it was a disaster because I was told I should only ride my bike for 1 mile, so my cycling dreams were effectively over. But thankfully this only lasted 24 hours because I researched Team Novo Nordisk (TNN, known as Team Type 1 at the time) and ordered Phil Southerland’s book, Not Dead Yet: My Race Against Disease: From Diagnosis to Dominance, which showed that it wasn’t impossible.
Did you know anyone else with diabetes?
At the time I didn’t really know anyone else with T1D. There was one guy in my primary (elementary) school who had it but that was before I knew I would be just like him one day.
What was the hardest part about adjusting to life with diabetes? The best part?
The hardest part was building up the confidence to return to the level of cycling I had previously been at, and for my Mom to stop worrying about me! This required learning how to manage it all (very regular testing, weighing foods, keeping a diary) to control things well enough so that it didn’t hold me back. The best part? I guess I realized after a while that cycling actually helped my diabetes control. So in the end, what I was already doing by staying active and eating healthy would benefit me, so I didn’t need to change that.
How did you balance school and diabetes? What was that like?
I was in university at the time, actually training to be a teacher. I was diagnosed while I was out in a school on teaching practice so it was like jumping in at the deep end. I needed to make sure my levels were good for the duration of each class, which wasn’t easy in the early days with the stress of standing in front of 30 students not much younger than me. But it went fine!
How do you feel having diabetes has influenced you as an athlete?
I think it has taught me more about the foods I put into my body and the effects they have. Along with the demands and importance of exercise. Because many people still think it’s impossible to do high level sports with diabetes, but it drives me to be the best athlete I can be to show what is possible.
Do you have any advice for people who are diagnosed in their teens or as a young adult?
It’s definitely not the end of the world. If you can accept it and take the right approach by testing very regularly and always trying to improve (because no day will be perfect, but you can constantly learn from your mistakes) then it’s really worth it. If you give it the effort it deserves, you’ll be rewarded by being able to control your diabetes as opposed to diabetes controlling you.
Editor’s note: Did you know we have a guide just for people diagnosed with T1D as a young adult? Download your copy here.
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