I attended my first TDFC session in July following an introduction to the project by Mo who found my Facebook profile on a Type-1 diabetes page & saw from my profile photo that I was a football fan.
Looking forward to the next gathering….
I attended my first TDFC session in July following an introduction to the project by Mo who found my Facebook profile on a Type-1 diabetes page & saw from my profile photo that I was a football fan.
Looking forward to the next gathering….
At The Diabetes Football Community we love to share the stories of those of you who follow us. With the diverse nature of the community we support it’s always amazing to share stories from all over the world. So here we are bringing you a story from Kendall who’s based in the USA. No more words from us other than to say if you enjoyed reading Kendall’s blog please give it a share. Over to you Kendall…..
“My name is Kendall Higgs, I’m from Loxahatchee, Florida , and I’m 20 years old. I fell in love with the game of soccer at four years old. I remember feeling unstoppable with the ball at my feet. On August 3rd, 2009 my world changed. I got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 10 years old. The first three questions I would ask anyone who came into my hospital room was 1. Can I still play soccer 2. Can I still drink milk 3. Am I going to die.. in that order 😂 to some people, my priorities may have been a little off.. but for me, if I couldn’t play soccer anymore, I might as well be dead. Even though most doctors told me I most likely couldn’t continue to play, I did it anyways. I refused to allow something to take over my life. I traveled to Costa Rica at 14 and Brazil at 16 to play soccer with region 3 ODP (Olympic Development Program)
I graduated early from high school and went to University of Pittsburgh in 2017. After 3 semesters there I transferred and now play at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. Soccer has been my way to connect to people, to new places, and to different cultures. When I’m not playing soccer, I feel out of place.. and at first my T1D contributed to that “out of place” feeling. I didn’t want to embrace my Diabetes..I wanted to pretend I didn’t have it. It wasn’t until this past year that I really started to take care of myself and to fully embrace my disease. I recently started T1D1 Diabetic Athletes as a way to spread awareness, give a platform to other diabetic athletes, and to show young, aspiring T1D athletes that it does not limit, control, or lessen their ability to be successful.
Within this journey I have realized that soccer isn’t my only way to connect to people.. T1D has allowed me to connect to others battling the same illness, to learn, to empower, and so much more. I am so grateful to be apart of the T1D community.”
A big thank you from all of us at TDFC for sharing your story Kendall and if anyone else would like to share theirs please get in touch !
As the motto for Diabetes Week 2019 is “See Diabetes Differently” it’s great to be able to share an interview that Chris conducted with DigiBete (www.digibete.org) which focusses upon mindset and the approach to sport/exercise that he takes in the hope it may help others living with Diabetes. It’s different to the usual articles/content on the physical management of the condition for sport but we hope it proves to be useful!
A huge thank you to DigiBete for asking Chris and putting the time into creating this amazing video. If you want to check out their resources for people with type 1 diabetes surrounding sport & exercise head to the below link:
We must also thank the University of Worcester who gave Chris & DigiBete permission to shoot on their campus. Thank you!
We hope you enjoy the video and we’d love to hear your feedback on it! Please share far and wide if you enjoyed it as you never know who it may reach!
In our fourth instalment we feature Zak Brown… Zak is currently living and working in Australia but has been heavily involved in all things TDFC throughout 2018 as a pivotal member of the UK DiaEuro squad, whilst also heading out to Ireland with Chris to observe the Diabetes Junior Cup… Zak’s passion for the project is evident and in this post he shares his thoughts on how being involved has helped him! No more words from us, over to you Zak:
“I think firstly and foremost, the opportunity to meet several other T1D’s with a passion for football was amazing in itself! To then be able to discuss our condition as we went through very similar schedules during DiaEuro was great – having a diabetes discussion with your team-mates was like having 10 nurses beside us, as they added great value through personal stories and specialist advice.
The access to technology was a huge thing for me personally. I was a bit skeptical of the Dexcom G6 initially, as I have been on the same insulin and blood sugar testing strategy for a number of years and been relatively consistent (HbA1c usually between 50 and 61). It took a couple of days to adapt but several months later and I wish I still had the G6. I regularly see T1D’s on social media posting about how much the Dexcom has improved their control in recent times.
The other thing which was highlighted for me was the carb counting. I have generally just guessed my insulin based on what I am eating and knowing how it has affected my sugars in the past, but to see plenty of my UK team-mates measuring the carbs on their packets of food and calculating their dinner plate in the their head was a good insight for me; and pushed me to start making more calculated guesses with my own carb intake as life and diabetes continued after the tournament.
Whilst I wouldn’t say the experience has directly improved my control yet, I think it has acted as a gateway for me to access more information, attend diabetes meet-ups and possibly gain access to modern technology, which I expect will have a direct improvement on my Type 1 Diabetes control moving forward! Only time will tell…
UK DiaEuro 2018 Player”
If you want to follow Zak’s journey on social media head to his twitter @mrzakbrown or his instagram @zakbtown
In our third addition we share the thoughts of Jack O’Brien… Jack has a fresh outlook on the way Diabetes has impacted his life having been diagnosed quite recently! His account offers some great insight into how a newbie to type 1 Diabetes feels about the challenge of this condition coming into their life… No more words from us let Jack do the talking…
“First of all, I think I should point out that I am a relative newbie in the Diabetic world having only been Diagnosed 2 years ago today! (I wrote this on 6th Feb). DiaEuro was only the second time I was going to be away from home, and all the supposed safety that comes with that, since I was diagnosed.
To say I was nervous doesn’t really do it justice! I was fully aware that I was going to be spending the week with a group of people who have for the most part been Type 1 Diabetic for a long time. The fear or seeming like I don’t really know what I’m doing, or “messing up” all the time was playing on my mind because this was for me the first time I would be spending a prolonged period of time with other Diabetics. It’s funny how weird things like this can play on your mind! I was seriously still at a stage where I felt like it was only me who suffered from hypos because everyone else would have it under control!
The first morning we are there, we all go down to breakfast together as a squad to enjoy the spread of food that was being put on. It was this experience that alleviated all the pre concerns I had. Seeing most of us checking sugar levels and injecting insulin immediately eased my nerves. This was something that I found awkward to do beforehand.
Before you knew it, Diabetic chat was bouncing around the table. The same problems I found, others were also talking about. In a weird way, if felt so liberating! That sense of not being in something alone, that others have found ways to overcome similar situations and have come through them to find solutions was amazing for a newbie to hear.
You hear the phrase “trial and error” thrown around a lot when it comes to Diabetes, and I really understood that so much more after this journey. A corner was well and truly turned for me during this week. I am now playing sports more regularly, because I feel more confident. Understanding food on the day of playing football is something that is so important. Seeing other people using the Dexcom looked brilliant. Once I finished my trial run, I missed it so much that I signed up for 12 months.
The whole experience was invaluable to me. I learned more in that week than I would have done in years studying books and speaking to specialists. Seeing people who regularly play sport and manage their Diabetes gave me so many tips and ideas that I use myself now. There really is no better experience than experience itself.”
Thank you to Jack for sharing his thoughts on how TDFC has helped him and the UK DiaEuro team in particular. If you want to follow Jack on social media you can find him on Twitter @DalstonGooner … If you want to know what’s going on at Arsenal FC Jack’s your man to follow!!
It’s great to be able to share stories of our community and when we asked Zak if he’d like to write for the blog he was really keen… If you’d like to write something for us please get in touch! Anyway, over to Zak…
Hi, my name is Zak. I am 26 years old and a PE Teacher from Lancashire, England but currently living in Sydney, Australia.
Football has always been a huge part of my life and being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes aged 14 did not change this one bit.
Despite my Dad’s initial fears that I may not be able to play football in the same way, we were reassured by the nurses at Blackburn Hospital that I could continue my number one hobby soon enough. Sure enough, after a few minor adjustments and some extra pre-game preparation, I lined up for my team just two weeks after diagnosis! I remember it so vividly, tucking into a couple of digestive biscuits at half time to keep my blood sugars up and cramping up towards the end of the game.
I know that many people have struggled to keep up their previous lifestyles after diagnosis, through fear of hypos/hypers or by misinformed advice, but it’s something that has never stopped me from doing anything I like… except for one thing – scuba diving.
I have tried to Scuba Dive twice in Thailand and Australia but not been accepted both times. Without a doctor’s letter of approval after taking private health exams via a registered “dive doctor”, unfortunately I had to stick to snorkeling. I’d be interested to hear about other people’s experiences with scuba diving so please get in contact if you have a story or info worth sharing!
And despite the scuba setback, I have done kayaking, bungee jumps, overnight treks, 100km bike rides and many many more adventurous activities!
Having diabetes has its obvious challenges and hurdles we face day in, day out, but it has given me some great experiences that I will cherish for a long time to come…
I have been fortunate to represent Great Britain in the Junior Diabetes Cup held in Geneva, Switzerland. In my first year (2009), we won the tournament in a nail-biting penalty shootout against Slovakia. I was due to be the next penalty taker and I can’t describe the relief I felt at not having to take one! I went back again the next year and was nominated to be captain, which was an incredible honour. Despite finishing the top scorer in the tournament, we lost 1-0 in the final to Slovakia who got their sweet revenge (excuse the pun).
Then in September 2016, I decided to move to Australia to give life a go “down under”. I have found a great football team here in Sydney and have represented Australia at the Mini Football World Cup in Tunisia, playing in front of a packed stadium of 3000 fans under the floodlights! I spent a bit of time pre-tournament learning the national anthem so that I didn’t have to mime awkwardly whilst on camera! I was also part of the UK’s first diabetic futsal team to play in DiaEuro 2018, which was an amazing experience both on and off the court. To meet so many other diabetics with a passion as big as mine for football was incredible, you can imagine how many stories were shared during that week!
A few adjustments have been made after moving to Australia, most notably with my prescriptions and dealing with heat of up to 40 degrees during summer! I have to pay for my diabetes supplies here, which makes me appreciate just how good the NHS is back home. Playing football in the heat took some trial and error too. My suncream is now just as important to pack as my insulin on a Saturday afternoon!
Two and a half years down the line and I’m still enjoying life here. I’ve met one other sporting diabetic superstar and her family in Sydney – my namesakes the Brown’s have been great at handling Ellen’s diabetes whilst she competes at the highest level of futsal in Australia at U17 and all age women’s level. I hope to meet and chat to a few other sporty diabetics in the near future, so if you’ve read this and want to add anything of your own then please step forward!
If you want to find Zak on social media head over to his Twitter @mrzakbrown or his Instagram @zakbtown
Hello reader, Happy New Year!
It’s crazy to think that it was only 9 months ago that I heard about the TDFC project. Via the community, I’ve met some really top people and represented the UK at DiaEuro 2018. An amazing journey so far, but what does the year ahead look like?
I’d already bought into the vision of TDFC before participating for the UK team at DiaEuro in Bratislava this summer. However, as a type 1 diabetic for 7 years now, I was stunned with how much more I learnt about the condition during the course of the tournament. I didn’t even have to try. Diabetes related chitchat would pop up naturally all the time. I gained loads of great insight on how to manage the condition whilst playing sport and life in general. My control was the best it had been in years too, and that seemed the case for multiple players.
The whole experience got us thinking – the platform for diabetics with a passion for playing football to meet up and learn from each other really does need expanding. It could bring so much good for diabetics new and old. Our experience was proof of it!
On the final day of DiaEuro 2018, whilst watching Bosnia cruise to victory in the final, we found out something very interesting. We learnt that the Bosnian team compete on a weekly basis in the 2nd division of the Bosnian Futsal League. That’s mega impressive: an entire team of diabetics playing (and winning) against high level non-diabetic team’s week in week out. This didn’t just give them the edge to win DiaEuro, it’s allowed them to raise the profile of diabetes and help to break down any perceived barriers to participation, a key goal of TDFC.
Post DiaEuro, with a strong desire to help TDFC grow and see the UK team improve at the next DiaEuro tournament, we decided to develop a new project – to set up the first all diabetic futsal/football team to compete in the English futsal/football pyramid.
Over the past few months, we’ve laid down the foundations to get the project underway. Some great conversations with the London Futsal League, in combination with an opening for new teams to join the new season in February 2019, means we’re only weeks away from launching!
If you are at all interested in joining TDFC London, whether it be as a player, coach, sponsor or supporter (the more fans the better), contact email@example.com to find out how to get involved.
Hopefully this is just the start of things to come. It would be amazing to one day see the platform expand to provide opportunities for men and women of all ages, all over the country.
The year ahead looks good
Project development manager
Firstly I’d like to wish all of our followers, volunteers, players, coaches and anyone involved in the TDFC family a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!
What a year it has been…. We’ve done some incredible things in 2018 and I really just wanted to summarise what’s happened, thank some of the amazing people who have helped us make it happen and look forward to what 2019 might bring for The Diabetes Football Community.
So where do I start…
For me one of the most important projects to highlight and look back on was one of the first in 2018. The 24 hours in the life of a Diabetic Footballer ( #WalkInOurBoots) was an important awareness and education project which showcased the Andrewartha family and Mitch’s battles with type 1 as a young footballer. This video fills me with immense pride every time I watch it. For me it encapsulates everything about living with type 1 and wanting to play football during childhood. It showcases the immense physical and emotional strain it puts on the family, as well as the incredible amount of preparation and determination needed from Mitch and his parents to get him out there playing on a Saturday. Every time I watch it back I’m inspired, moved and so grateful to the community we’ve created for supporting our ideas and projects. We do it for you and we couldn’t do it without you!
A massive thank you to Dave, Faye & Mitch for agreeing to do the documentary and their amazing performances! Also a huge thank you must go to Ferenc Nagy who filmed and edited the video. A great job buddy…. If you want to check out the documentary head over to the below link where you can find the video:
The #WalkInOurBoots campaign was just the start!!! We then focussed on creating the first ever all Diabetes team to represent the UK and compete at the European Futsal Championships for people with diabetes (DiaEuro, www.diaeuro.org )… We don’t like to do things by halves! From the outset I knew it would be ambitious and extremely challenging to not only recruit players living with diabetes, but also to recruit members of the “staff” team who were willing to give up their time for nothing other than the experience (thank you to Harley, Paul & Jahna)! But what about the money?!! It’s quite expensive to get 14 people on a plane with kit and a roof over their head for a week!! A massive thank you must go to our sponsors Dexcom, Gluco and Havas Lynx for supporting the project in 2018 as we couldn’t have done it without you! As I look back now… A year ago it was an idea in my head which I’d just started to share on social media…. A year later and we’ve played in our first tournament and are planning for our second…. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to check it’s all been real! It was an incredible journey and achievement to create the team, manage the project and play in the tournament. Being stood alongside my 10 fellow type 1’s to represent our country and our condition was something I’ll never ever forget. Scoring 2 goals in our first win just topped it all off for me…. It still feels like a dream to me. I’ve made lifelong friends through this project and I hope the community draws a huge amount of inspiration from what we were able to achieve! With everyone’s support I hope this is a project and team I hope we can continue for many years to come…
Whilst we were busy planning for DiaEuro we also joined forces with 1BloodyDrop and the University of Worcester to deliver the first Type 1 Diabetes and Sports conference in the UK led by people with Diabetes for people with Diabetes ( #SporT1Day ). An idea conjured up by myself and Paul Coker, we wanted to bring people together to further the knowledge of sport and exercise management for those living with type 1 diabetes. We tried our best to bring in speakers which demonstrated a variety of sports, approaches and experiences to offer a rounded view of type 1 management in sport and exercise. The line up included type 1 professional athletes, university lecturers, a psychologist and sporty individuals keen to share their experience of managing the condition. It really was a special event which I loved hosting and presenting at. I hope that everyone attended continues to utilise the strategies shared on the day and due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received it’s something myself, Paul and the University are looking at re-creating in 2019 so keep your eyes peeled for that. A huge thank you to those who attended and to 1BloodyDrop and the University of Worcester for co-creating this amazing event! If you want to read up on the 2018 conference check out the below blog post:
I feel that whilst we try to support people with the condition through advice, education and support through the community’s projects and members, I’ve always felt we need to try and drive change in a mainstream environment to counteract the stigma and stereotypes myself and many others have experienced. To do this I felt it was important to bring stakeholders in the Diabetes and Football world together to strive for change. In July 2018, we had the first Diabetes Steering group meeting led by the Worcestershire FA to do just that. We’ve invited the local university, the local NHS, members and volunteers involved in The Diabetes Football Community as well as parents of a child living with type 1 to join us within the group. Our remit is very much about trying to improve the knowledge and awareness of Diabetes within Football to improve the inclusivity of those living with the condition within the game. So far we’ve had 2 very positive meetings with some brilliant ideas coming up which we hope to develop forward into 2019. It’s a hugely positive step in the right direction which I’m sure will see tangible results for the whole community in the not too distant future!!
Around the time of our first meeting I also went over to Ireland on a scouting mission… Myself and Zak Brown (Our UK DiaEuro Manager’s Player of the Tournament), had spotted online about a junior small sided football tournament taking place in Dublin for children with diabetes and with the nature of what TDFC does it was something we couldn’t afford to miss… Ever since I started TDFC up the support of parents and children coping with type 1 diabetes has been incredible and this was an opportunity for us to do some fact finding for the future… I want us to deliver a project which really gives back to this group of people and I promise that we’re planning something for 2019, I just need to get my masters out of the way first!!! Diabetes Ireland did an amazing job at delivering their tournament and celebrating the successes of the children who took part. I was just so glad we were able to attend on the day and thank you for your hospitality… If you’d like to read up more on this check out the below blog post:
I think one of our last projects is perfect for this time of year! If you need any inspiration around this festive period or you’re finding things tough I urge you to watch our World Diabetes Day video below… The kids did an amazing job at sharing their thoughts and they get me every time! It’s very special seeing the way the community has come together to support what was an idea floating around in my head. This is all about you, the people who interact with us, and as long as we continue to hit the mark by educating, supporting and inspiring you, I’ll be delighted! Thank you to everyone who contributed to this video!
A year I will never forget and one that has shaped the future for TDFC. We’ve become an official registered community interest organisation which has furthered the ambition and potential reach for the future, we’ve received recognition on local BBC radio stations and social media, we’ve exhibited up and down the country at conferences in the Diabetes world and continued to grow our social media presence throughout 2018. None of this is possible without the continued support of people in the Diabetes community so all I’d ask is if you like what we do, please keep sharing, raising awareness and getting in contact with us. We will always need support and funding to make our goals happen so whether you like, share and retweet our posts or you’re able to help us with sponsorship or donating to the cause everything is valuable and we appreciate it so much.
But let me give you a sneak peak at what we’re thinking for 2019…
There will be more of the same but hopefully with some exciting new developments alongside projects we already have in place.
The UK DiaEuro Adult team will be continuing with an emphasis on the DiaEuro tournament in 2019 whilst also creating opportunities to play against our near neighbours in Ireland who are creating their own team. I’m seeing an exciting future for our local rivalry!!! Another exciting participation opportunity for the adult type 1’s in the London area is the creation of TDFC London, project managed by our man Bryn White to take part in the London Futsal League (https://www.facebook.com/LondonFutsalLeague/) as an all diabetes team for the very first time. They will be kicking off for their first competitive game in February 2019, so keep an eye out for the developments on our social media and if you’d like to help support them, get involved with the project, play in the team or sponsor please do get in touch!
As I mentioned we hope to re-create the #SporT1Day conference in 2019 that takes on the feedback from last year to offer a bigger and better event! I’ll be working with Paul and the university to see when and how we go about doing this over the coming months… As always any ideas you may have make sure you get in touch.
As I alluded to within the Ireland trip I mentioned earlier it’s definitely time we tried to put a participation opportunity together for our type 1 kids and their parents out there. I’d like us to work towards delivering a day/tournament in 2019 but this will as always rely on support from the community, sponsors and volunteers to make it happen but it’s something I’m really passionate about creating, so let’s give it a shot!
Lastly, I’d suggest that our emphasis around education will be pushed further as we continue to develop the Diabetes Steering group and partnerships with other organisations to champion education on diabetes throughout different walks of life. We’re really keen to ensure we develop resources and tools to drive further understanding and awareness within mainstream environments/sport whether that is with the FA, schools or clubs. If you have any ideas about how we might do this we’re all ears.
Right… I’ve talked far too much on this blog but I felt it was important to demonstrate the amazing work we’ve achieved in 2018, our amazing community and the ambition we have for the future. The wave is coming and growing in size. Patient led initiatives like ours are beginning to help shape the way people are supported with chronic medical conditions and I couldn’t be prouder to be the founder of this one…
A favourite saying of mine at the moment is dream big, then dream bigger. If we can achieve all of this in one year, myself and TDFC need to set our sights on doing it bigger and better in 2019! Which is exactly what we intend to do.
Lastly to anyone out there who might be reading this, in any part of the globe, if you like what we’re doing or want to get involved please get in touch! We know that our work isn’t confined to the UK where we’re based and the ideas we generate are mostly what we come up with! If you’d like to help in any way or work with us, you know where we are.
As always a huge thank you to the directors and volunteers who give up their time to support our cause, we couldn’t do it without you! Let’s make 2019 bigger and better than what has gone before.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
After months of behind the scenes work from myself, Ferenc Nagy and the wonderful Andrewartha family, who star in the documentary, we have now finally launched the #WalkInOurBoots campaign to raise awareness of Type 1 Diabetes in Football.
TDFC wanted to showcase what life was like for a young footballer living with the condition and its effect on his family. This campaign is a “real world” example of the challenges and daily routines this condition forces upon people who were dealt this card in life.
I found parts of this documentary very emotional to watch, as someone who lives with the condition, I feel every word they say. I hope the emotion and management implications of Type 1 Diabetes are captured, to ensure we can continue to challenge the powers that be to help change perceptions within society and ultimately improve inclusivity for people living with the condition in our sport.
I hope you enjoy…. PLEASE SHARE AS FAR AND AS WIDELY AS POSSIBLE.
It’s great to be able to share a blog from another member of the TDFC team… I simply asked our squad “Who would like to write something for the site?” and Jon came forward without too much persuasion to share his story with the condition! It’s a great read so I won’t say too much more…. In his own words, please enjoy Jon’s story:
“Having been diagnosed as a diabetic at 5 years old in the mid 80s, playing sport as a non diabetic isn’t something I have ever really experienced. I remember locking myself in the hospital toilet the morning of my diagnosis, scared of the syringe that they wanted to inject me with (we’re talking the size of a 30cm ruler!!). Originally I was on one injection per day, and then soon moved to two; one 30 minutes before breakfast, and one 30 minutes before my evening meal. The dosage was dependant on the size of the meal I would be eating (obviously a bit harder when eating out!). Carb counting came from a big book in 3 sections; red (high in sugar), amber (okay) and green (good to eat).
Because I was so active as a child, it was decided to run my blood glucose levels slightly higher as running about would invariably drop it down again! If I was higher than normal in the evenings, my mum would send me on a run around the block (about 10 minutes) to get it down! When playing football, whether training or a match, I usually had a mini mars or something similar at half time. I’d probably have a slice of toast or a digestive biscuit beforehand. Very rarely did I check my blood glucose levels before, during or after. As I got older, and into my teens, the mars bars went from mini, to fun size, to full size! Again, I relied more on feeling than actually testing my levels, and I wasn’t really challenged by doctors about this.
At about 15, I started seeing Dr Ian Gallen as my diabetic specialist and got moved onto pens for my insulin, injecting 4 times per day. He took an interest in the diabetes and sport, and I started to do a bit more. Mars bars turned to Lucozade, and the checking started. However, I would still run them higher through fear of going low during a match (something I experienced on my debut for my under 11s team!). I wasn’t aware at this point in my life that having glucose levels in range would equate to a better performance on the pitch. I was also playing hockey to a county standard, cricket, rugby and athletics.
However, through my late teens and early 20s, injuries set in, and playing time reduced. By 25, I’d had 3 operations on my right knee and one on my right ankle. The rehab and recovery was (and is!) awful. Being unable to play meant blood glucose levels were going higher, as well as the challenging mental state of mind. When I got back to playing, I would be back to my old ways and not testing. I’d have half a bottle of Lucozade before the game and the rest at half time. I’d have similar when training (half before, half during) and I honestly couldn’t tell you how this affected my glucose levels! Unfortunately, this lack of testing, as well as injuries, went on into my late 20s. I’d lie to the doctors, although they must have been suspicious by my HBa1C results!
In my late 20s, I met my now wife, who is a nurse. Through her nagging, and changing diabetic specialists, I started doing a lot more testing (although nothing like I do now). My pre match, half time and post match or training snacks would differ each week, dependant on the blood glucose level I presented. At 33, I finally gave in and moved onto an insulin pump, which has changed my life. I probably test 8-12 times per day, and my HBa1C is at an all time low. Unfortunately, the injuries didn’t stop. 10 operations in the past 16 years (one on my eye due to diabetic complications) meant that I had to call time on my playing career last summer. However, I have now turned to cycling as I’m still recovering from a condition in my pelvis and hip meaning I struggle to run. Managing my glucose levels for this can still be difficult, and no two days seem to bring the same results!
So, what would I do different, what advice would I give and what have I learnt about sport and being diabetic? I would definitely say testing is so important. In later years, I really noticed how my performance on the pitch would be better the tighter my control was. If I was too high, I would feel sluggish, slow and off the pace. However, having that tight control is important all week, not just on match or training day. If it is higher than hoped, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes it can be high and I have no idea why! Testing during a game or training is also important. There’s no shame in doing it. As a sporty youngster, my only role model was Gary Mabbutt (someone I still look up to), a professional footballer living with type 1 diabetes. However, I wasn’t aware of anyone else who I played against who was diabetic, and always thought I was on my own. Having something like TDFC is amazing, as it enables so many people to share their inspiring stories. Just remember, you’re not alone in being a diabetic!“
CB: So, there’s obviously a vastly different way of controlling Diabetes in 2018 compared to when you were diagnosed in the mid 1980’s what sticks out as being drastically different?
JP: “When I was first diagnosed as a diabetic, the treatment seemed very basic. One injection per day, one appointment every 6 months to a year, basic carb counting, no real research or good information on playing sport with diabetes, it was all generic, and given to me by doctors and nurses who a) didn’t have diabetes themselves; and b) didn’t play sport!”
CB: You mentioned in your story that you lied to your healthcare professionals… Why did you feel like you had to do that?
JP: “Sadly, I felt I had to lie to the doctors and nurses I saw as I thought I’d get told off for not testing enough. I think I also felt that there wouldn’t be any problems if I could just keep them happy. Long term complications of poor control and benefits of keeping close control were never really explained to me (that I can remember) until later years. Even then, I guess I thought it’ll never happen to me”
CB: What were the difficulties you faced when injured and managing your Diabetes? Was that the hardest part or was it the mental battle with being injured as a sporty person?
JP: “My glucose levels would really rise when I was inactive. Since a young age I’ve been active and on the go, so have always used that as something to bring the levels down, meaning I didn’t have as much insulin as I would if I was inactive. Being inactive was incredibly hard both physically and mentally. Blood glucose levels would go up, so I’d increase the insulin, meaning I’d then go low, then I’d have too much to eat or drink and go back up again! This then had the knock on affect mentally. It was hard being unable to do something that I’d grown up doing (not just football, but physical activity of any sort) and feeling like a gift you’d been given was being continually taken away was tough. Then, as I would be coming back, I’d either suffer another setback, or get a small run of games before another injury. (Ironically, since stopping playing, I’ve managed to shed quite a bit of weight, which would probably have helped me a little bit years ago!). So I’d have the mental side of not playing and seeing all my team mates playing and training every week, while I was stuck waiting for my injury to heal. That combined with the glucose levels yo-yo-ing was tough to take. Better control would have helped me with my recovery. However, being injured did mean that I could spend more time with my family (that was about the only benefit, although I’m sure my wife would tell you that on a Saturday around kick off she’d rather I wasn’t moping around complaining that I wasn’t playing!!) I couldn’t go and watch my team play as it made me cross and angry I wasn’t playing!”
CB: What’s been your proudest moment with Diabetes and Sport?
JP: “I feel that just continuing to play sport for as long as I have whilst having diabetes is a triumph in itself. It should never stop you doing anything, but especially in the 80s and 90s, there wasn’t really any network or support in place if you were struggling or not sure at all. Apart from Gary Mabbutt, there were no real sporty role models with Diabetes to seek out guidance and inspiration from. I’ve now spoken to children and adults (including one family member and a best friend from my childhood who are both active) who have been newly diagnosed and managed to convince them that you can continue life normally without letting diabetes hold you back. They see that I can continue to participate in physical activity, so why can’t they! It has also helped the people around them, who don’t have any knowledge of diabetes, see that you don’t need to let it hold you back, whether in sport, or just life in general.”
CB: What’s been the hardest thing you’ve had to deal with when dealing with Diabetes around football?
JP: “Probably other people (coaches, parents etc) knowing what to do or how to act. I was never shy about telling team mates I was diabetic, but also never shouted it from the rooftops. As an adult, I made sure that there were a handful of team mates who knew, but as a child it was a bit more difficult. We had one parent who was a nurse who watched her son most games, so I think that put my parents mind to rest (I didn’t like them watching me for some reason!!). My manager from u11 to u16 asked my parents about what he needed to do, and my best mate’s Dad would quite often be there (although he did go and sit in the car with my supplies because it was cold one game – typically when I needed them!!)
Managing the control in general can be difficult; it can also be easy, but as no two days ever seem the exact same, it just adds to the fun! I could be absolutely fine one game, do exactly the same the next, and it all be completely different. Sometimes I‘d go too high before a game, sometimes after. I’d always make sure my bag was on the side in the dugout fully stocked, and sometimes give a bottle of Lucozade to our keeper to put in his goal.”
CB: What would you like to influence in the future around Diabetes? What was your reason for joining TDFC?
JP: “I’d like diabetics and their families to have as much support as possible and to encourage them to keep active. There’s no reason to let diabetes hold you back. If I can make a difference to one person who is struggling with their diabetes, or even if they’re not struggling, I’ll be a happy man! I’d also like to make sure that people are educated so diabetics can always have the same opportunities as others.
I discovered TDFC through social media. I think I clicked with it straight away, wishing I’d had something like this when I was younger. I want to be able to help and inspire future generations of diabetics, of all abilities, so that they may go on one day to inspire others!”
An amazing story Jon and thank you for sharing it with the community. 😀