It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to write this, but…….. WE ARE BACK! This weekend coming, we will be resuming our Men’s Diabetes Futsal sessions at the Worcestershire FA headquarters after a gap of 15 months due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
It’s been a tough break for us all. We know so many of the group took a lot from the sessions in the past and we’re hoping to bring back all of that positivity, engagement and support to our upcoming sessions. We know there’s a lot of excitement amongst the ranks from existing and new players to the project so we can’t wait to get back out there!
We will be starting back on the 27th of June with another session planned in for the 25th of July as well so if you want to get involved please do get in touch!
For us these sessions will be about re-engaging with our community, getting our squad back together to play as well as welcoming new faces to the pitch. We should have a good laugh and a lot of fun which is what it’s all about.
We must also say a big thank you to The Tackling Inequalities fund created by Sport England and put into practice by Active Herefordshire and Worcestershire. They’ve supported us with funding and support to help get us back off the ground after what has been a really challenging period during the pandemic.
It’s going to be a really exciting month for us as the sessions get back underway whilst we also continue to grow the women’s arm of the Diabetes Futsal squads…. However, ahead of this first session we thought we’d invite one of the newest members of the community, who will be attending his first session this weekend, to describe how he’s feeling ahead of Sunday…. Over to you Bryn:
“I’m really excited to be finally meeting up with the lads from TDFC. Ever since I watched Chris’ story I just knew it was something I would love to be Involved in. So to be invited to training with them is really special.
I was so inspired by the work of TDFC I even held an active fundraiser for the charity through my sports coaching business ‘BMO Coaching’ – we managed to raise £377.50 for TDFC and £900 in total, which we shared with other local charities.
Living in the Welsh coastal town of Aberystwyth, I have only met a total of two T1D players that are still playing senior football so It’s going to be a fantastic experience playing / meeting with other T1 diabetics in a football environment.
I’m passionate about raising awareness and passing on knowledge about diabetes, especially throughout my area of Wales. I’ve been playing football with T1D for 20 years and I’m keen to show people that it doesn’t stop me from playing sport and doing the things I love.
The lads have been really welcoming on the group chat so I’m looking forward to a session with them to break the ice. “
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Bryn and isn’t it great to be back!
Hey! My name is Louise McCay and I am a 27-year-old type one diabetic with a passion for football & futsal.
At the age of 11 I was diagnosed with type one diabetes after my parents picked up on a dramatic change in my water intake. I had gone from having been forced to have to have a drink before school to literally downing pints after pints and never quite quenching my thirst. After a couple of days of monitoring this change in behavior my parents purchased a blood glucose meter and tested my bloods to find that they were 32 mmol. At this point we had very little knowledge of what this meant, how the body works and just simply the severity of high blood sugars. It didn’t help that I had ravaged through a bag of skittles after school too, so we decided to hold fire and test them again in the morning after fasting. Sure, enough when we tested them again in the morning, they were still super high, and it was an inevitable trip to the A&E…
“Can I still play football…?” – The first and only question I asked when the nurse broke the news of my Type 1 diagnosis to me. It may sound stupid to most of you considering the health implications of Type 1 Diabetes but at the age of 11 football was all I could think about and the thought of that being taken away from me tore me apart. This is why when I stumbled across The Diabetes Football Community (TDFC) I just HAD to get involved.
I have very recently become part of TDFC team to help focus on the women’s side of the game. The Diabetes Football Community is well established within the men’s game – driven and founded by Welsh Futsal International Chris Bright and I want to help make the women’s side just as established. I have joined Chris alongside Katie McLean, Lucy Wieland & Becky Upsher to help kick start and maintain TDFC Women’s.
I have played football since the age of nine with the majority of my childhood being spent at Watford Centre of Excellence before I set off to Bournemouth University where I continued to play. I now play locally for AFC Dunstable who currently sit in Tier 5 of women’s football as well as dabbling in futsal in recent months. When I was younger there was very limited attention and focus on women’s football as it was, let alone on type one diabetes in women’s football and until joining the team here at TDFC I have not knowingly come across another female player with type one. Without really realizing it at the time this made my whole experience in football different to the other girls around me, for many years I just wanted to play football and underestimated the impact my diabetes could have on my performance.
With so much more awareness and resources surrounding type one over recent years, I am learning so much more about control during exercise and more specifically during football. I believe that if there were resources and communities like TDFC around when I was younger it would have made a huge difference on both my control and performance. I would love to be able to make a difference and help other type one footballers excel at what they love most. I was so inspired by the stories, podcasts, resources and accomplishments of TDFC – which is why I got in contact with Chris.
The aim – Through TDFC Women’s we hope to raise awareness of Type 1 diabetes whilst also building a supportive and safe community for diabetics within football where you can meet other likeminded people. Our long-term aim of creating an all-female, all diabetic futsal team with the hope to enter competitions, inspire others and show the world that having diabetes doesn’t hold you back within sport.
Currently we are in the recruitment and awareness stage of the project which, as many others, has been on the back foot due to covid.
So, to kick start things, over the last few weeks we have:
– Set up our Twitter page @TDFCWomens which has already started to gain momentum and spread the word (go on… give us a follow!!)
– Created a core team to work with Chris and really bring the project to life
– In progress of planning our launch event!! Hoping to incorporate networking, learning and of course playing some ball – watch this space for more information and a pretty amazing venue.
Would you like to get involved!? We are actively looking for anyone who wants to get involved in any way, shape or form! Whether it be playing, coaching, helping out in the background or just being part of the online community.
If you want regular updates on what we have going on, have any questions or want to be part of the team, follow @TDFCWomens on Twitter or contact us by email – email@example.com
We look forward to hearing from you and are excited to watch the TDFC Women’s journey unfold…
2020 hasn’t been the year any of us expected and instead it has provided us with challenges that none of us could have imagined… It’s been tough for the entire world to come to terms with….. So what we’d like to do now is showcase how some of our community have been coping with the situation we’ve been confronted by. So if you’d like to share your lockdown or post lockdown story of how you’ve been dealing with the COVID19 crisis we’d love to hear from you!!! Send your stories in to us with your pictures and videos and we will get them on the website. We hope that by sharing your story it will help and inspire someone else who might be finding the situation difficult to cope with.
To kick us off we’ve got a story shared by Tim Ward (Our Men’s UK DiaEuro team Captain) about how he’s been adapting with COVID19 to coach children all whilst trying to keep himself safe after 40 years with type 1. No more words from us, over to Tim :
“The footballing world has always been a tricky one to navigate with Type 1 Diabetes, what are my blood sugar levels, have I got my glucose/Lucozade, what time did I eat, will I need something more at half time. The list goes on. Now as a coach it feels to me the bar has been raised. I now have eighteen 7 to 10 year olds to care for so I have to be on my game and touch wood, I’ve never had a hypo yet while coaching.
After the COVID-19 lockdown the academy (IFA) I work for started to run academy and pre academy sessions again (to the delight of the kids and the parents as a chance to burn off some pent up energy) in June after the FA guidance gave us guidelines to do so.
The restrictions including limits on player numbers attending, social distancing and hygiene, disinfection requirements were a needed headache especially for me being within the high risk group (44 years old, type 1 diabetic). But I’m fit and healthy so don’t put me down just yet. 😊
Every child and coach had their own station to place drinks, possessions etc and parents were asked to stand at the far end of the pitches where we trained, whilst being well aware of the requirements through WhatsApp messages and our Heja app.
As a group we designed some amazing sessions emphasising ball mastery and challenges which kept the kids entertained and making them competitive through time trials & races which mitigated the lack of competitive matches.
Thankfully we can now run normal (ish) sessions but the planning and organisation required in the beginning I feel has improved me as a coach. I spent hours reviewing all aspects of each session more thoroughly whilst spending more time reflecting to make each session a great one (still working on that).
As a diabetic of 40 years being prepared has always been part of my make up and the extra restrictions and planning required didn’t really alter my approach, get it done, crack on. Always making sure I’ve planned for my diabetes as well as the sessions, to ensure that me and the kids are as safe as we can be, so we can all enjoy what we love doing, playing football!”
Make sure you get in touch if you’d like to share your story.
I’m Jon Rosser, 27 years old from Bristol and have been a type 1 diabetic for 17 years. Being involved with TDFC has enabled me to link up with other diabetics of varying ages and share our experiences, however this is often very focussed on the present – what we arecurrentlydoing, learning or going through. Reading these blogs, I found gaining an insight into these people’s pasts and hearing of their journey has been really enlightening and valuable, even for someone who has already learned to an extent how to live with the condition. So the obvious next step was to try and somehow put down my story outlining the changes it has made to my life and the lessons I’ve learned in the hope that others can take something from it like I have done. So here goes…
My journey starts with diagnosis at the age of 10 and the very familiar story of the tell tale signs. I was always thirsty! I didn’t really notice this symptom but my dad whose late mother was a Type 1 noticed I was increasingly up and down to the kitchen tap, filling up pint glasses of water and knocking them back like no tomorrow. As a result of this I was back and forth to the toilet and it didn’t take long for him to step in. Looking back at it now I suppose I was quite fortunate that my dad noticed this going on and intervened pretty early as I can’t actually remember feeling too bad! He made me do a urine sample and booked me into the doctors. A quick ketone test and finger prick confirmed what my dad had feared and arrangements were made for me to forget about going back to school, pack a bag and get to the hospital. Being a 10 year old I can remember feeling a bit oblivious to what was actually going on, but I knew that something had ultimately shifted by the way my dad had reacted, he seemed gutted and spoke to me about how we were going to go about telling my mum when we got home. I had never even heard of diabetes and was still completely naive about what was to come.
A few hours later I was at Southmead Hospital being admitted into the children’s ward. A flurry of nurses were showing me my bed, where the toilets were, where the common room was, a full on tour of the facilities and this was the point where I kind of started to realise that I was here to stay for a while and this whole situation was going to be the start of something that was going to change my life forever. I was on this ward for 5 days and during this time I had to learn the skills that would ultimately keep me alive. One event that sticks in my mind from this period was when a 16 year old boy got rushed into the booth next to me. Other kids on the ward were all chatting to their neighbours so I welcomed a new face to hopefully ease the boredom. However on admission his curtains were shut and I remember feeling that the nurses were actively discouraging me from trying to say hello, and no sooner had he arrived he was gone again. I didn’t find out until years later that this guy was also a diabetic and had not woken up one morning due to having a serious hypo during the night. Looking back now I realise it was the right call not to let a newly diagnosed 10 year old get wind of this! The ward had a classroom where I spent a few hours a day which was nice as it got me out of my bed, but I remember being pulled out at regular intervals to be finger pricked and stuck with syringes and this was another point where I started to realise this was going to be the new normal from now on, and I didn’t like it one bit. How was this going to work at my own school? What about at football? I was bang into scouts at this age so how will I go on the camps? Can I even still do all these things? The answer of course was yes, but the anxiety and worry about all of this was something I will always remember.
Fast forward a bit and I’d settled into my new routines, teachers and coaches had all been really engaged in making things as easy as possible for me. But it wasn’t all plain sailing by any means. I was initially put on the 2 injections a day regime and it wasn’t long before I felt frustrated at the restrictions of this, especially when transitioning to secondary school. Having to inject my insulin at the same time morning and evening, and knowing I HAD to also eat at these times each day meant things such as after school sports fixtures, clubs, and even just hanging out with friends would all have to be arranged around my insulin and meals. It took so much planning and at times I found it exhausting and stressful.
I want to shift the focus largely on how I’ve dealt with my diabetes within football and sport and I guess I’ve never let it stop me, but there have been times when I felt it has hindered me. At the age of 15 I joined Forest Green Rovers from just previously playing local junior football, and the training stepped up which was great! But it was a much more competitive environment and although to a certain extent I had always tried to keep my condition under wraps (which seems to be a common theme from guys writing these blogs), in this environment I found myself doing this even more. I didn’t want to show any weakness and felt an obligation to keep up with the standards being set, often not recognising that in order to do this I needed to take time out of sessions to take on sugar or test my levels. Occasionally this led me to playing on through hypos and my standards suffered as a result. Sometimes coaches and players would confuse my hypo reactions with being lazy or uninterested, and I found trying to explain what was actually going on sounded like excuses. The fact I was still on the 2 injections a day meant that I would get home from school, have to hastily eat a carby meal (to avoid going low during training) before heading straight off to train on a full stomach which personally my body did not deal well with – I’d feel heavy and slow. It was the same with the games – we played in a floodlit league so fixtures would be midweek evenings so my preparations would never be ideal. These pressures ultimately led me to change onto the basal bolus regime and immediately after I did that I saw the benefits, not just with my football but with my day to day life. The flexibility was something I’d been longing for and I continued to play for 2 more successful seasons at Forest Green, winning individual awards at presentations and I remember feeling really proud and realising at this point that I had gotten the upper hand on my diabetes and vowed to never let it beat me.
Another event that always sticks out to me as a time where I felt I overcame the urge to keep quiet and let my diabetes win was in a tennis tournament when I was about 17. Over the course of about 6 weeks I had played a match every week and got through to the final without any diabetes related issues. In this final however I struggled from the start. There were a fair few people watching and I was putting my performance down to nerves and threw away the first set in record time. On the switch around I asked the umpire for 10 minutes just to check my sugars which for me at the time took a lot of courage, I was 3.1. I remember sitting there in front of the crowd openly testing my sugars and taking on food which is something at that age I always felt really self conscious doing. My opponent was getting restless as were his supporters watching on but I stabilised my levels and got back out there… I smashed him in the next 2 sets to win the tournament. Like I said this was a real moment of realisation that I could achieve things in sport regardless of having this condition and getting dealt hypos, and it gave me confidence to keep aiming high.
The next major milestone for me was gaining a place at Plymouth University. Leaving the family home to move to a new city with new people, new surroundings and new routines was pretty daunting, and when you throw diabetes into the mix it was quite a challenge. I was having to shop and cook for myself and it took a while for me to get used to having full responsibility for what I put into my body in order to maintain good control of my condition. Students’ diets are notoriously not the best so resisting the urge to follow examples of quick, convenient, often high sugar and high carb meals set by my new found friends was important and something I’m glad I focussed on, as it set me up well to continue to control my diabetes successfully. I quickly got involved with the Uni football club and was playing regularly, although the routines and rituals of a university football club were much different to what I was used to. One thing I struggled with was the fact that if we’d win on a Wednesday afternoon (and often even when we lost!) after the game it was shirt and tie and straight to the bars. A lot of these guys wouldn’t take time out to eat post match, and especially after a good win, wouldn’t go home until the next morning. Being diabetic, I felt a bit of a kill joy having to temporarily leave a buzzing group of lads for a few hours to go and get some food of substance and make sure I recovered well in terms of glucose levels, especially when there was alcohol involved! This was a small price to pay though as I found if I put my diabetes first, I would have a much better time celebrating later on knowing I’d done what I needed to do in order for my sugars to behave (as well as they could) during a night out in Plymouth’s finest establishments. These were some of my best times playing football, the social side of the club was immense and winning a varsity and a cup in my 3 years at Plymouth are things I remember for the achievements and not how my diabetes hindered me!
The most recent landmark in my footballing life has most definitely been getting involved with TDFC. I remember turning up to the first session and experiencing an environment where everyone there would openly discuss the condition, openly test their sugars and inject insulin, there was an underlying bond straight away. I had been so used to dealing with diabetes in a changing room and on a pitch on my own – it was solelymyproblem, and to feel that problem shared by everyone else there was so refreshing. No feeling guilty for taking time out to test sugars, no strange looks for sticking a needle in my arm, just a feeling of understanding and support. I have played in both DiaEuro tournaments that the UK team has entered in Bratislava and Kiev, and both times were amazing experiences. Playing against some top nations and top players gives you that drive to improve and I feel since being introduced to Futsal (which I had never played before TDFC) I have learned and improved my game as well as my control of my diabetes. I have also found myself transitioning skills I’ve learnt from Futsal into my 11-a-side game which is great! I’ve also found my Saturday team mates have taken a real interest in what I’ve been involved with regarding TDFC, seeing it on my social media and things like that. One of the lads has even adopted a pre match ritual of eating glucose tablets with me before kick off and now swears by it!
So that’s my story (so far!) of my life, football and sport with type 1 diabetes. My message to anyone maybe struggling to adapt to life and sport with diabetes is not to hide it, be open and honest about the problems you may encounter, it’s not a weakness! Although it presents challenges I feel diabetes has made me stronger in many ways, especially with discipline and will power… so keep at it!
Disclaimer – Some of what you’ll read in Scott’s journey portrays difficulties, mistakes and challenges that have shaped who he is. As human beings we cannot go through life without making difficult decisions, but through doing this, we learn and evolve into who we were meant to be. But please be warned that some of Scott’s journey touches on some of those difficulties, mistakes, challenges and emotions that some may find tough to read.
It’s an extremely powerful, emotive and truthful account of how life has been for one of our own and we hope you enjoy the read.
Over to Scott to take us on his journey…
“My name is Scott Burrell, I’m 31 years old and have been a Type 1 Diabetic for 20 and a half of those 31 years! I remember my diagnosis day/week incredibly well considering I was only 11 years-old. It was the October half-term (so yes strictly speaking I’ve been T1 for longer than 20 and a half years now!) and I wasn’t going down to the village green to play football with my friends. I hadn’t been on any day of the break as I’d been laid on the sofa at home, this was very much out of character as usually I would be down that green every single evening in the summer and every day during school holidays playing football. I was drinking ridiculous amounts, drinking things I would never usually drink and even at one point freezing fizzy drinks (all full sugar in those days!) in an attempt to ‘freeze out’ the acid! The crazy mind of an 11 year old child! It had got to the point where I was going for a drink every 5-10 minutes and going to the toilet 6 or 7 times an hour. My parents called a doctor out on the Wednesday night as I had deteriorated again quite quickly, I did a urine test which was no problem at all as I was going to the toilet so regularly and as soon as that was done the doctor advised my parents to take me to the hospital ASAP. My dad drove the three of us to Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, Lincs (fantastic hospital for T1 care by the way!) and before I knew it I was on the ward strapped up to many drips and cables looking very much like a scene from Casualty was about to be shot…without the tomato sauce for blood! My mmol on the finger prick was 34.7 (normal range between 4 – 10 mmols ) and I was diagnosed T1 straight away. I don’t recall having ever heard the word diabetes before let alone having any idea what it was.
I remained in hospital for the next four nights and left on the Sunday. I’d had to take on so much information during this time I’m sure like everybody in this situation. I remember not being allowed to leave hospital until I’d done an injection myself, I was desperate to leave so reluctantly did one into my right quad which was a favoured injection site of mine for many, many years. This was so horrible and painful but the price I had to pay if I wanted to leave the hospital ward. I was on a twice daily mixed insulin, Humulin M3 and took this before breakfast and before evening meal. It combined 30% fast acting and 70% long acting. My parents were advised to practice on each other with water and I was told I could gain practice by injecting into an orange! I’m sure times have changed an awful lot now!
I would say initially I was doing pretty well as a T1, I tested fairly regularly, always logged my results in the log book, never missed an injection, tried as best I could and my hba1c was always in the 6-8 range so fairly acceptable. I hid my diabetes as much as I could. I always had breakfast and dinner at home so had no need to take any insulin to school with me and this suited me, I was different. As far as I knew I was the only T1 in my year and possibly in the school at the time however if there was another keeping it secret like myself then I wouldn’t know anyway. I had told a couple of close friends that I’d been in hospital and that I now had Type 1 Diabetes but similar to myself none of them had any idea what it was. The teaching staff were aware and I remember the first time I had to discuss this with a teacher, I was petrified. I was in the changing room for PE and was told by the hospital to have a fun size Mars bar before any sport, of course eating was banned in school classrooms and changing rooms so this would have been very out of place. I asked the teacher as quietly as I could if I could have said Mars bar because ‘I have diabetes’ and was greeted with a yes straight away. I tried to conceal eating this as much as possible from the rest of the group and seemed to succeed in doing so. This doesn’t seem like a lot but for me it signified difference. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be a normal 11 year old!
Fast forward a few years and I struggled during my teenage years with T1. I thought I was invincible and that it wasn’t something I needed to be concerned with. I very rarely tested, at my worst I did maybe one or two finger prick tests a month at times when I had played football, all other times I would just disregard testing. I didn’t think it was relevant, I didn’t care what my glucose levels were. I did however take my injections and never missed a single one. Before any appointments at the hospital with the DSN I would just make up readings (different coloured pens for authenticity of course!) in my log book and if I felt myself going hypo I would just eat, usually chocolate as we were told that was good for hypos then or Lucozade tablets which were very similar to the Lift tabs now. I recall one poignant day was actually on a family day trip to London, I would have been about 13 years-old at this point and we were in McDonalds having dinner, my dad had ordered a selection of items and we were to take what we wanted from the table in the busy upstairs seating area. I went to the toilets to do my injection only to find that they were out of order. I went back to the table and just sat down, I didn’t take any food and started crying. My dad was asking me what was up, but I didn’t answer, I continued crying and was very upset. I had nowhere private to inject so therefore made the decision that I would just not eat. I was that insistent on keeping my diabetes a secret I wasn’t prepared to sit in a restaurant and allow people to see me doing an injection, that’s not normal, or so I thought aged 13. Jumping ahead slightly here, I later found out much later that a lot of my injections were almost a waste of time anyway as I was injecting into non-recommended sites on my body. Looking back, I would imagine I was high (mmol above 10) for a majority of the time. If/when I did do an injection into a ‘good’ site this would bring me back into range as I seemed to be injecting quite a large amount of M3, way more than what I needed in reality, 40 units twice a day. In today’s MDI terms that worked out to be 56 units of slow release a day and 24 units of fast acting…far too much insulin for a skinny teen!
I didn’t want to be seen as different, I hid T1 from my life as much as I could, I would only ever inject in private and didn’t want to know about it as much as I didn’t want people to know I had it. This really was a complete car crash in how to manage Type 1 Diabetes.
In my late teens and early 20s not a great deal had changed. I was still hiding my diabetes as much as I possibly could, and it was still affecting my life in a negative way. I would tell anybody who absolutely needed to know that I was Type 1 such as employers but apart from that I was still very shy and reclusive about talking about it, showing any sign of it in public or acting on it in public. I have way too many hypo stories from this age bracket and I’m going to explain a couple of the most ridiculous. I say ridiculous in the sense of looking back now and realising how different things could have been had I been more open about having Type 1 Diabetes, of course at that age I still wanted to be seen as ‘normal’, I was just the same as everybody else….I was invincible! Mentally I wasn’t strong enough to accept I had diabetes. When I was around 19 years old a good friend of mine was managing the local Domino’s Pizza, he’d offered me some delivery work at weekends which was ideal for a bit of extra cash. I was getting on fine with these deliveries but recall one specifically. I was driving to do the delivery but suddenly realised my glucose was dropping very low and very quickly. I never carried any hypo treatments with me in those days, I didn’t want to be different and have people question why I was carrying sweets or glucose tablets. I was struggling to find the address for this delivery because I was going hypo and having no treatments on me the only option, I had was to start eating the delivery myself. I tucked into some of the breaded chicken wing type things which really are a terrible hypo treatment as they’re a very slow release carb and that’s just on the breaded part…I had no other option though it was a case of needs must! I waited around for a little while, found the address and delivered the food, I don’t believe any complaint was made about the box of chicken wings being a few short! Looking back that was an utterly absurd moment for myself as a human, I could have dealt with that so much easier if I’d had hypo treatments in my car or on me, still fighting that mental battle of not giving diabetes the respect it needs of course I didn’t take that easy option. Going into my 20s I still had battles with myself against diabetes. It became a battle, me verses it. I’d have hypos on nights out and am incredibly grateful to the wonderful group of friends I have around me as I’ve been helped on many occasion, I’d have hypos during games of football, I’d have hypos during work, to put it simply I could have a hypo any time through lack of care. It was type 1 diabetes that ‘thing’ I refused to accept. I’m sure during these times I had many, many hypers (high blood sugars) too but of course these are less noticeable and as I wasn’t prepared to give diabetes attention, I wasn’t testing so I wouldn’t know what my levels were. In my head I thought the way to ‘win’ verses diabetes was to simply ignore it! I’m very sorry to say that on three or four occasions I’d had hypos where ambulances had needed to be called and paramedics would ‘save’ me. I always apologised profusely to them once I’d come round and felt very guilty that tax payer money was being wasted on me purely because I wasn’t strong enough mentally to accept I had a condition which needed care from myself.
In my mid 20s I had attended the regular diabetic retinopathy screening (photos to look for potential nerve damage in the back of your eyes) at my local hospital and later received a letter to say that I had the very early stages of retinopathy. This was my first encounter with any potential complication from diabetes and I became very worried. My eyesight has always been very good so to receive that was a huge shock and a big wake-up call that I must now start taking care of my diabetes. Losing my sight at such a young age was something I didn’t even want to consider. I did some research online and spoke to some other T1s I’d found online who had had the same letter and was advised that it was nothing to worry about too much as it was a generic letter sent if you had even one slightly enlarged blood vessel in the back of your eye. All you can do is keep good control and things shouldn’t progress any further. This was my first engagement with the Diabetes Online Community (#GBdoc #doc) and I was so pleased that I’d done that. This was the first time I’d ever had any contact with any other person with Type 1 and it had helped me a lot, talking about diabetes was something I’d never done before.
Just after this I’d seen posts from a guy called Chris Bright looking for people who were Type 1 and also played football. This was ideal for me as I met both criteria massively. I was a Type 1 diabetic and a football nut! I’d messaged Chris a few times and discussed his plans with starting TDFC and was thrilled when there were enough people and interest for us all to meet in person over at the now base, University of Worcester. I was quite nervous and really wasn’t sure what to expect but set off early morning and got myself over to Worcester. There were around 19 in attendance and after some introductions in one of the meeting rooms we got into the sports hall and began a well-coached session. Other than a work colleague from my early 20s I’d never had a conversation with another T1 before let alone played football with one! This isn’t an over the top saying but this day felt like the first day of the rest of my life. I’d had so many conversations with so many different people about diabetes, something I’d never ever done before. I was no longer alone, I had a support network, there were other people out there just like me, they loved football and also had Type 1 Diabetes. There were also some sections of the media in attendance and I’d ended up doing an interview for the BBC which later appeared on their Facebook page! In the space of a day I’ve gone from seeing diabetes as the enemy, something I’d let hold me back in life both mentally and physically to engaging with it for the first time and speaking openly to a TV camera & journalist regarding it! The clip itself has had over 9,000 views which still shocks me to this day, you can catch it yourself here – https://www.facebook.com/bbcherefordandworcester/videos/2003662723039459/
Driving home from that session I felt so infused, I’d learnt so much, met some great people and taken in so much information about how I can manage my diabetes better. This started an overhaul for me with the condition. I was still on the mixed insulin, the same stuff I was given on diagnosis day 18 years ago and had now seen first-hand that life would be so much better changing this. I did this and noticed a difference immediately. My control was better, I was aware of new technologies to track blood glucose which made it easier to track hypos and generally manage my condition better. I genuinely could not speak highly enough of what this session did for me. For the first time ever, I was comfortable being diabetic. I would inject in public, I would talk and engage about the condition rather than just ignore it, I would seek to improve wherever I could. Anybody new coming into my life I would make aware very quickly that I was a Type 1 Diabetic, this really was a watershed moment for me. I’d now taken control of a condition which for many years had completely taken control of me.
We had further meet-ups and training sessions with The Diabetes Football Community and I loved these sessions, great friends were made amongst the group we and we all loved the fact we were in the company of other Type 1s. We were lucky enough to be able to represent the UK at DiaEuro in 2018 and 2019, I was very fortunate to be selected in both of these squads and that for me was incredible. I was now being selected on a national level for an international sporting competition for people with Type 1 Diabetes. Three years ago, I refused to accept I had the condition, now I’m representing my country with it! Spending a week in Bratislava in 2018 and a week in Kiev in 2019 with the squad competing for the UK helped my mental health massively. I was with other T1s 24/7, seeing how they lived their lives with the condition, what could I learn, what could I do differently as well as playing futsal and having a lot of fun.
To summarise my relationship with Type 1 Diabetes since getting involved with TDFC would be quite hard to put into words. I love football/futsal but it’s completely changed my life for the better regardless of the sport. I’m happy injecting anywhere now, I’ve done injections on the Tube platforms in London, I’ve done injections on planes, I’m completely open with everybody I know and meet about my diabetes and I discuss my diabetes. Friends I’ve had for 10-20 years plus have also commented on what a positive change it’s been for me. I’ve even had the privilege of meeting a younger Type 1, Ollie Carr and having a really good chat with him and his mum about the condition. If someone had told me four or five years ago I’d be publicly speaking about my diabetes and going around others houses to do the same I’d be shocked, I’m so pleased this happened though. It felt incredibly fulfilling to pass my knowledge and information on how I manage T1 and sports to a young family.
I’ve met many other T1s through the online community and also been involved in some T1 running events which is something I’ve really gotten into over the last year. I took part in an attempt via Paul Coker and OneBloodyDrop to break a world record for the most people with Type 1 Diabetes at the Swansea Half Marathon, I somehow finished the first finisher out of the Type 1’s with virtually no specific running training and this gave me a real boost to take up running more seriously. I’ve ran with other Type 1s outside of that event and met some other amazing people through running (as well as ran with amazing people!), my diabetes has never been so well controlled because of this too. If I’d never got involved with TDFC I’m not sure I would have taken up running too so it’s another massive positive for me.
To sum up I’m proud of who I am now, I’m proud that I control the condition rather than it controlling me and I’m very happy to have met so many amazing people through TDFC. If it was not for these people and having that community, I’m not sure I’d be here today. It’s given me opportunities I never thought I’d have but most of all it’s made me a better, healthier (both mentally and physically) person and that for me is absolutely priceless.
I’m Rob Fletcher, and I wanted to write down some thoughts from the beginning of my diabetes journey. I see a lot of people (especially with-it being Diabetes Week recently) sharing their long-term experiences and what has changed for them in how they manage themselves and their condition, but very little from people who are just starting out on this. It may be because like I did, people think they don’t have a lot to share, but maybe that is what needs sharing sometimes. So, here’s my journey so far (I may get carried away and make this into an essay – I’ve never actually put this down anywhere).
In the summer of 2018, there were signals that I didn’t pick up, they may have been related to diabetes, they may not (and I’ll never know for sure) but they were some of the tell-tale signs. I needed the loo a little more regularly and long drives were really hard to manage due to toilet breaks. However, it was that autumn when things got a bit more serious for me.
I am a primary school teacher, and in September 2018 I started to feel exhausted after every day. This felt almost expected, autumn term is tough, and I had a few big school events I was responsible for organising and running. I was 31 – maybe it was just a sign of getting old, maybe I was working a bit hard, maybe it was working with a different group of children – I am excellent at finding excuses for things, especially if my excuses mean that ‘nothing is really the matter’. As we rolled into October my half an hour walk to work was taking between 45 minutes to an hour. I was starting to get little cramps and I needed the toilet a lot, I could rarely make it through a lesson. At this point I no longer thought it was stress but maybe a urine infection or a virus of some kind. My wife was telling me I should go to the doctor, but I guess I didn’t want to hear what they may say so I convinced myself that I would be fine, my parents wanted me to go to a doctor but I palmed them off with my self-convinced nonchalance.
My vision had become blurred, it felt like I was walking through treacle, my urine had begun to smell so bad that I believed we might have a problem with our drains. I felt awful. I had a job interview in this period, so the fact that I couldn’t stop sweating must have been down to my nerves right? On October 10th (My school was doing Book Day), dressed as Fantastic Mr Fox, I was teaching sat on some cardboard boxes at the front of my class, I couldn’t find the energy in me to stand up, and this was unlike me – I love to throw myself into my teaching and around my classroom. My TA at the time noticed all this and got the assistant head to come who quickly sent me home. Even at this point I was in denial, “I’m sure it’s nothing!” I told my wife as she went to work on Thursday morning, she told me in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t go to the dr that day there would be trouble! I got my appointment and off I trudged.
The dr gave me a urine test, took one look at it and told me that he normally would say that he thinks it could be this, but in my case, he was absolutely certain – “You have diabetes.” I was walking distance from the hospital so I trudged off round the corner explained who I was (the dr called ahead) to reception, called my wife, and before I could sit down they called me through.
The next part of this feels very blurry looking back. I remember my wife arriving, and I remember all the staff being very concerned, I had blood sugars of 37 and ketones of 7, I was in DKA. The hospital staff told me they hadn’t seen someone with my bloodwork conscious before. I remember my wife looking scared.
To cut the scary part of this experience short I spent 3 days in hospital getting my sugars settled and learning how to inject myself and check my levels and generally how to manage type 1 diabetes. Then I started what feels like a totally different phase of life. Genuinely nothing seems the same.
In terms of diet I changed very little, I had been a vegan for about 10 months at this point, the dietician told me I didn’t need to counter for most of my diet just processed carbs and root veg. I changed out white potato for sweet potato, white rice for brown rice (the internet said it was a good idea) and I went about managing what I knew was the rest of my life. I recall people saying they wouldn’t be able to do it, or that they were very surprised with how well I was taking it, but for me I didn’t have a choice so I may as well do it in good spirits and determination. There were times I got it wrong, big nighttime hypos, pizza (that’s a mad one! I still don’t know how to handle pizza) there were frustrations, there were sore fingers but generally I got on with it.
I think it was as New Years rolled around that I started to feel the mental health effects of a life changing illness. I felt guilty about what my wife might have to go through (I think I still do a bit), I felt lonely, but I didn’t want to go and sit in a support group. I didn’t want to feel different, but I did feel different – every little head rush, every pins and needles, if I was tired or a bit giggly all felt like ‘that’s diabetes’. I became nostalgic for times before my diagnosis. I had got to thinking about playing football again, partly as nostalgia (I did well as a kid, then had played off and on since) but also to get back my fitness – this felt like something important as a diabetic.
It was by searching for diabetic football I got put in touch with Bryn who had just set up TDFC London playing futsal (I had never heard of futsal before – but I was up for learning). It has been, without doubt, the best part of being diabetic for me. I gained a ‘support group’ in London that was actually just a group of guys playing futsal, and I got to learn how to be a goalkeeper again (which I love). I’m quite shy and not ‘a lad’ so I kept myself back a bit from the group but took on as much information as I could, then the opportunity came to train with the UK diabetic futsal squad in Worcester. The car journey up 4 of us spoke the whole way about troubles, shared experiences and advice with each other. This and all of the future journeys was another chance to get to know these brilliant men and to learn about my condition. On top of that I got to play futsal at an even higher level. Chris Bright has to take so much credit for starting TDFC and putting together this incredible team of guys who care as much about each other as we do about futsal.
It was at one of the UK camps where I realised how far I had let my fitness slip. I love to have a target, so I booked myself onto a half marathon, raised money for Diabetes UK and almost a year to the day of my diagnosis with type 1 I ran my first half marathon. I genuinely couldn’t have been prouder of where I’d got to in my first 12 months of diabetes.
There are so many things I have gained from playing with TDFC: a group of mates, a love of a new sport, better fitness, so much more knowledge of type 1 diabetes, I even got my freestyle libre based on advice from one of those car journeys. I still have frustrations, I am of course still learning – I find it hard to manage my meal spikes, but I am learning.
I have grown as a person due to this illness. I understand more about when people feel in denial, when people feel scared about the future, I feel so empowered when I meet a type 1 child who needs to talk to someone about it – I would never have had this without diabetes.
I am excited for the future: I am excited to overcome my future challenges, I am excited to play futsal (when we can again), I am excited to help other diabetics. Would I choose to have it, absolutely not. Am I scared of it, sometimes. Does it worry me everyday? Absolutely not, I am getting there slowly but surely.
I have been fortunate enough to experience living and travelling in many countries in the last 10 years since graduating from University. For anybody that is thinking of travelling, or moving to another country, you may find some of the experiences I am about to share useful. I must also stress that I am in no way a medical professional and any advice I give is purely based on my own opinions and experiences! Of course, the subject of football/futsal will feature too being a TDFC post…
As I prepared to embark on my teaching career, I took an opportunity to travel in the 8 months I had available before starting my Post-Graduate Certificate in Education. Thailand became my first choice of destination, as I saw a company offering a week-long introduction in Bangkok and a guaranteed job teaching English as a foreign language. I had also pre-arranged a spot on a summer camp in New York to do in the summer, so my plans were in place… Thailand January-April and USA May-August, then PGCE from September onwards.
Because I knew I was in Thailand for a set amount of time, I arranged a large prescription with my GP and got all the necessary jabs before travelling, which was a smooth and painless process. However, when it came to packing my backpack, I soon realised that my diabetes supplies were taking up about 75% of the space in my 65L backpack! So a tip from me is to remove as much packaging as you can – for example putting needles in a plastic wallet, as opposed to keeping them in their bulky box. That way, you still have a few clothes to be able to wear on your travels!
I could quite easily do a separate blog for each trip that I have done, but I will try to keep things brief. Thailand exceeded my expectations in every way possible and I was so reluctant to leave when it got to the end of April, but I knew I had the summer camp experience in USA to look forward to next.
Lessons learnt from Thailand regarding my type 1 diabetes… Humidity can definitely have an impact on blood glucose levels and because of the amazing street food culture in Thailand, it is much more difficult to count carbohydrates from something that is made freshly in front of you without any packaging to look at. Due to the heat and humidity, I found that even just putting a couple of units of insulin in for each meal would regulate my sugars pretty effectively. One benefit to the street food culture is that you’re never too far away from a hypo treatment! The other major challenge that I faced is not having a fridge in the apartment I was living in, so I just kept my insulin in the coolest, darkest place. The insulin still worked, but of course I keep it in the fridge whenever possible based on medical advice! The point here is that there are ways to adapt, even if everything isn’t how it usually is in the comfort of your own home or country.
Getting a waterproof bag is another piece of advice I would give – when you are going scuba diving or snorkeling you can be safe in the knowledge that your testing kit or electrical supplies won’t be flooded! They are cheap to buy in the street markets of Thailand too. Another reason why you’d need a waterproof bag is for Songkran – The festival to celebrate the Thai New Year. Held around mid-April, it consists of huge water fights through day and partying by night.
A three-week transition period at home allowed me to order another large prescription for the supplies I would need in America and prepare my J1 visa which involved a day-trip to Belfast and back from Manchester. I was stoked when I arrived on camp to find another type 1 diabetic staying in the same bunk as me! Cole was from Pennsylvania and was in the circus department. He could do some unbelievable tricks juggling balls, batons and even knives. You could say it’s a nice metaphor for juggling his type 1 diabetes!
In the midst of making memories during my travels, I made a big decision to postpone my place on the PGCE course I was due to start in September. I was loving life so much, that I wanted to experience more travel before settling down into a teaching career. Fortunately, the experiences in Thailand and USA were not at a detriment to my career and had actually provided some valuable teaching and coaching experiences outside my comfort zone. My sights were now on Australia, so I saved up working at my former Secondary School. Much of the preparation for the move to Australia was the same, cleverly squeezing my diabetes supplies into my backpack, leaving enough room for clothes.
However, the move to Sydney was more of a long-term one. I had no return date and was open to the idea of becoming a permanent resident if the Aussie lifestyle was too good to leave. That almost became a reality and I spent over 3 great years there. Joining a football team was an easy way to make new friends shortly after I arrived. I played for two different football teams over there, with the latter probably being my overall favourite experience being a part of a football club. Not only did we win the premier league that season and make the final 4 teams in the state of New South Wales, everyone in the team got on so well and I have never felt more comfortable being a diabetic in the changing rooms (other than TDFC where we are all diabetic!). In fact, 5 minutes before our grand final was about to start, I came down with a hypo and had used all the sugar I had brought with me. Luckily, a team-mate quickly grabbed some sweets and I was just about good to go when the whistle went for kick-off. That small gesture meant that I could play the full game, winning 3-0 and be given Man of the Match.
I first came into contact with Chris Bright from TDFC whilst out in Sydney. Having seen a Facebook post stating that they were on the lookout for players to represent United Kingdom at DiaEuro, I was determined to grab that opportunity! Having represented UK at the Junior Diabetes Cup in 2009/10, I understood how great the experience was to represent country and condition – and knowing that everybody on that field goes through the same challenges as me every day.
Not being able to train with TDFC back home in the build up wasn’t ideal, but luckily I was playing futsal on a regular basis by this point. A friend of mine in Sydney, Shane Watson knows just about everyone and everything futsal related in Sydney. From our football connections, we had a team of friends competing in leagues and tournaments. Although futsal is now really taking off in the UK, many of the TDFC team hadn’t played much futsal by the time we arrived in Bratislava 2018. Details of how that tournament went are in a previous blog here.
Flying back home to play in DiaEuro is worth it for so many reasons for me. Playing in a futsal competition with elite players, sharing knowledge and experience around managing type 1 diabetes with team-mates, having access to the latest diabetes technology through our sponsors Dexcom and of course seeing my family and friends!
Back to the travelling aspect of living with type 1… It was straightforward for me to access my diabetes supplies at a reasonable cost in Australia. They have a National Diabetes Service Scheme (NDSS) allowing access to diabetes supplies at reduced costs. Insulin was prescribed through my registered GP in Sydney and it would cost me around $40 for a 6 month supply of insulin. Taking into account that I use two types of insulin and go through a 50 box of test strips per week, it would cost me around $500 per year for my diabetes supplies. Whenever I did return to the UK, I would get a large prescription of supplies to take back out with me and would be lucky to have the Dexcom G6 to use from DiaEuro too. Australia has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with UK, so I would encourage anyone who works over there to register for Medicare, which is open for everyone, not just type 1 diabetics.
I am now living in Wellington, New Zealand. Things here are a little more difficult as a type 1, as there is only one brand of test strips that are funded, so I have changed testing kits for the first time in over 10 years! Due to my visa status, I don’t currently get reduced costs for my test strips or insulin, so I would estimate that it costs around $2000 for my diabetes supplies here annually until I get permanent residency – then the costs would go right down to less than $200 for the year. Due to covid-19, I won’t be going home this year and DiaEuro is also postponed, so I am just taking the financial hit on the chin and I’m looking forward to the day where I can say I am a permanent resident of New Zealand!
All of this makes me realise how lucky we are to have the NHS in the UK – as citizens of so many other countries around the world face the added financial cost of living with type 1 diabetes.
However, to finish on a positive note, there is no reason why you cannot travel the world living with type 1! A little extra preparation and organisation can go a long way. I am currently watching Race Across The World on TV, which features one contestant with type 1 diabetes and it’s great to see somebody else showing that diabetes will not stop us!
If anybody has any questions about travelling or moving countries, I would be happy to help and chat further. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a dream I never thought I’d realise after my diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes in 1999. Despite its challenges, I never let the condition affect my drive and determination to push as hard as I could to play at the highest level. Fast forward 3 years from my first competitive Futsal game in 2013, that dream I never thought would be possible happened, as I played for my country for the first time. It’s been the greatest individual honour of my life representing Wales in Futsal and I’ll never forget the memories or opportunities I’ve had to pull on the shirt. I hope there will be a few more appearances to come in the future, as I’m far from done with my sport, but with the release of this interview it’s the perfect time to reflect on how amazing it’s been to play at that level.
I’m delighted that the Wales FA have showcased my story to the national team with my condition in the hope that it inspires and provides comfort to others living with type 1 diabetes across Wales and more widely than that. Having them put this together in this way is a big deal to me. It feels like a huge amount of backing and support from my national team & governing body that demonstrates an advocation of type 1 diabetes within our sport. I believe this is the first time I’ve ever seen a Football Association in the United Kingdom showcase the condition in this way and I’m beyond honoured it was my country and my story chosen to do it. I can’t say thank you enough to the Welsh FA, Rob Dowling, Chris Foot, Laurence Mora and Luc Daley (from Eat Sleep Media) in particular for helping to pull this together. It means a lot to me and I’m hoping it’ll do a lot of good as well!
More than anything I just want media like this to continue to be a catalyst for more conversation, more awareness and more support for people with Diabetes involved in Football and more widely within sport. If we say nothing, nothing changes.
I hope you like it and please give it a share…. You never know who might see it.
We’ve had some incredible things going on within the TDFC family during 2019 and I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved together.
For the last couple of years I’ve written a blog to try and summarise the progress that we’ve made during the previous year because as much as I firmly believe in focusing on the present, to ensure we don’t stand still, it’s also important to celebrate and remind ourselves of the successes along the way.
Firstly, I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who helps to make this community what it is. Those who’ve stepped forward to lead on particular projects and areas which needed support I’ll never be able to thank you enough. You know who you are and I hope you’ve enjoyed the opportunity to take our community to the next level. We don’t stop there though…. 2020 has so many exciting ideas that we need our current team and others to step forward to make it happen.
Before I start recapping, I’d like to say a big thank you to our sponsors Dexcom, Lift, JL property solutions ltd and our close partner the University of Worcester. Without your support none of what we’ve done in 2019 would’ve been possible. Thank you for everything and I hope we can continue what we’ve started as we enter 2020 and the next decade.
Now, I’ll try and talk about some of the big moments in order of how they happened throughout 2019….
So, to kick it off we had the beginnings of TDFC London. It is our affiliated project that takes the ethos & ideology of what TDFC is all about and localises it to the area of London. Having come up with the idea for this alongside Bryn during DiaEuro 2018 it was amazing to get this off the ground in February 2019. This was the first ever all type 1 futsal or football team to take part in a mainstream Futsal league when we entered the London Futsal League in May 2019. An amazing statement which I know the boys are extremely proud of. It was a special moment seeing the lads take on this enormous challenge. I was just delighted I could be a part of 2 of the 3 wins TDFC London picked up in their first season! The first time I was involved in a win was momentous, not only because of the statement it makes, but because we did it against another disability team. We played against a deaf team, which was another bit of history, having our 2 teams battle it out in a mainstream futsal league. It’s been a fantastic start for this project and as the numbers of people interested continues to grow it’s looking like a really exciting 2020. We must thank Havas Lynx for their support for the team in 2019 as we got the team off the ground. Make sure you visit our “Find Your Local Community” page if you’re interested in what they’re up to.
Alongside delivering our own projects we try our best to network at some of the diabetes events and projects across the country. We’ve grown the awareness of our community by attending these events and in 2019 we tried to ensure that we continue to reach further and engage with members of the community interested in our journey. Having our stand at Talking About Diabetes (TAD), the rise of the machines 2 (RoTM 2) and EXTOD (Exercise for Type One Diabetes) allowed us to do just that. It’s always amazing to get a feel for what’s going on in the community that supports us. We’ve been lucky enough to exhibit and share at conferences like these for the last 2 years and we’re very grateful for every chance we get to do this.
With the unique nature of some of the work we’ve had the pleasure of creating, we’ve also had more interest than ever in coming to take a look at what we’ve been up to in 2019. This has led to some amazing awareness for The Diabetes Football Community which we’ve all been incredibly proud of. I just want to mention a few which I think have captured the reason we exist, been seen by most people and have probably resonated furthest with the community.
When we spoke with Jonny Labey in the early part of 2019, it was a chance to show him what we were up to for his new Know Your Type vlog. So, we invited him along to one of our UK Diabetes Futsal Training days. Jonny is a former Eastenders actor, West End performer and was recently on The X Factor Celebrity series but the most important thing is obviously that he lives with type 1 diabetes too. We didn’t just get him in to film what we were up to and interview myself and the team, we had him playing as well!!! Jonny was top class on the day and got stuck into the friendly match we had planned. You can see the feature Jonny created on the below link:
Then as we headed towards our big summer project, which aims to inspire and raise awareness of our condition we had another bit of great news in showcasing our work. So as our UK male Diabetes Futsal squad were preparing for Kiev, Ukraine and a week away at the DiaEuros (European Futsal Championship for people with diabetes, www.diaeuro.org), the local BBC Midlands Today team got in touch to come and feature the squad’s final training session. It was our first exposure on the Television…. I was made up for our project and all of the team involved. Showcasing what people with Diabetes can do in the form of our Futsal team goes some way to disproving many of the stereotypes and stigma which surrounds the word Diabetes, so to have our story shared to a mainstream audience on this scale was incredible. If you want to check it out look on the below link:
Also, during the final days of build-up to DiaEuro we had the honour of having 2 England Cricket Legends announcing our squad for us… Again another fantastic piece of awareness for TDFC during the Cricket World Cup 2019. I know some of the lads were big cricket fans so to have these guys read out their names to represent the UK’s All Diabetes Futsal team was a huge honour for them before they’d even kicked a ball. A huge thank you to Michael Vaughan and Jimmy Anderson (And Tim Peach for organising it!) for doing this for the team and the project, it means a lot and will be something we all look back upon with our smile on our faces…. check it out below:
Then of course there was the experience of the tournament itself…. What a spectacle it is for diabetes. I wish more could be made of the journey, the teams and the showcase for the condition. It’s a special opportunity to represent your country and your condition…. One which I’ve had the pleasure of doing on 2 occasions now and with this team I hope I’ll be able to continue to do so in whatever capacity that is for a good while to come…. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play forever!!!! I won’t talk too much about it as I wrote down my thoughts on the below blog post, but it’s without doubt one of the biggest highlights of 2019:
As we arrived home from the championships, I knew something pretty big was also on the horizon but I was sworn to secrecy for at least 2/3 months prior to it happening…. A big moment for me, a big moment for TDFC but an even bigger moment for type 1 diabetes in sport & physical activity. Sport England in combination with the Richmond Group of charities had decided to create a national campaign to attempt to increase the numbers of people exercising whilst living with chronic health conditions. The #WeAreUndefeatable campaign is the first time in my lifetime I’ve seen a concerted effort to promote people living with health conditions into physical activity (Also the first time I’d seen anyone injecting insulin on TV!). For someone who’s always shared a love of exercise with my chronic health condition, this has been an incredibly long time in coming, but I’m so pleased that the emphasis is there and it’s had a national spotlight. I was obviously incredibly honoured to have been featured in the campaign, to represent Type 1 Diabetes, but for me it’s just another chance to change perceptions, stereotypes and the stigma I’ve faced in sport since the day I was diagnosed. My story embedded within the campaign is just a strand in the fabric of the overall picture of what’s happening. The winds of change are blowing and I believe our work is certainly contributing…. Thank you to all of the #WeAreUndefeatable team for doing such an amazing job with the campaign and my story. I do find it tough to watch… Talking about the pain I felt as a kid gets me every time but this creates the power within the message. My condition hasn’t stopped me from enjoying my sport and nor should it. I hope this comes across. If you want to check out the TV advert you can find it on the below link:
Alongside our own pride in the work we do it’s also been amazing to receive our first award/accolade during 2019… It’s never something you set out to do when you begin a journey within a project like ours but nevertheless it’s incredibly humbling to receive an award in recognition of the hard work the project has put in. Earlier this year we received the Grassroots Project of The Year from the Worcestershire FA in acknowledgement of the impact we’re having across the county for Diabetes in Football. A list of the County’s award winners for 2019 can be found on the below link:
Then finally, we had the incredible #SporT1Day 2019 conference held at the University of Worcester. Another massive highlight in the year as we work alongside 1BloodyDrop to create the only conference focussed on type 1 diabetes in sport and exercise, created by people living with the condition. It’s proven to be a huge success with many of the diabetes community and we can’t wait to see where this ends up. It was a fitting way to celebrate World Diabetes Day 2019 and a fitting way to finish up our major projects for the year. If you want to read up on what happened at the conference head to the below link:
As with anything in life, as much as I want to ensure we don’t forget the incredible things we’ve done I’m also conscious we need to look at the things to come…
On the horizon for 2020 are a number of new ideas and projects to compliment our existing ones. We’re in the midst of starting up our Women’s Diabetes Futsal project led by Katie McLean which will look to mirror our successful Men’s project. We will be finally getting to our Kid’s sessions in partnership with the Worcestershire FA after securing a slot on their new 3G astro turf facility in 2020, as well as looking at a project that moves around the country in combination with the growth of our local community hubs. It’s an exciting time to see where the next turn on this journey of ours takes us.
An incredible 2019 which took TDFC up a notch, and with the help of everyone involved in our wonderful project, we hope to go up another level in 2020. Please keep sharing, liking, retweeting, tweeting, commenting on our work and helping in any way you can, it all helps. If you’d like to get involved in what we’re up to we’d love to hear from you so please make sure you send us an email if you feel like that’s you.
It’s an honour and privilege to be leading TDFC into 2020. Single handedly the best decision I ever made was creating this project and it means the world to have so many people sharing the journey.
I suppose it’s taken me a little while to get this written down with the vast amount of things on my plate in the last month but we got there eventually!
A culmination of months of behind the scenes work, emails, phone calls, marketing and raising awareness of what we were putting on came to fruition on November 17th. There was no better timing than to host it 3 days after World Diabetes Day as a statement of support for one of the most important days in the calendar.
Before I talk about the event itself, I need to thank the University of Worcester for allowing us to host the last 2 SporT1Day conferences within their facilities. I have a brilliant relationship with so many people at the university and their continued support for me, the conference and The Diabetes Football Community is incredible. I will always have a strong affinity to my university for how they’ve encouraged & facilitated the projects we’ve come up with and I just hope I represent their values & ethos in the work I now do. A huge thank you must also go to Dexcom & Roche for sponsoring the conference and supporting with refreshments & the programme.
I also must say a huge thank you to Paul, who shares this joint vision to drive education in sport for people with type 1 diabetes. A mate of mine whom I’ve been able to co-create something special alongside. Thank you buddy… We’re on some journey with this and I can’t wait to see what we can do next.
But lastly before talking about the day a final thank you to the incredible speakers, paul’s family and my own family for helping us deliver the day. Without you it wouldn’t have been possible.
An early start for myself, the family and one of our speakers Alex Richards, as we made our way down to the university. I was definitely less nervous than the first time round after having the experience of last year’s conference already under the belt. After setting it up the best we could based upon the volunteers and resources we have available for this kind of event we were all really excited to start seeing people arrive.
As soon as you see people arriving with their tickets it’s an incredible feeling to know that all of the planning you’ve put in place is about to happen but it’s also the moment when you realise there’s a show to put on.
We kicked off the day with the incredible Professor Partha Kar, who really needs no introduction. An amazing man, who through his determination, passion and ability has helped drive a transformation in the way type 1 diabetes is both viewed and supported within the NHS. Partha gave us a talk about the focus and direction the NHS England Diabetes programme is heading in whilst demonstrating the incredible developments and uptake of technology across the country. Having someone of Partha’s credentials attend the conference was a huge compliment and I really do owe him (He’s got me down for a couple of beers the next time I see him!). @parthaskar on Twitter
We’d planned the day to give our audience a chance to take on the recommendations and thoughts of the healthcare professionals at the beginning and end of the day. We felt this would be a good way of allowing people to pick up some tips before listening to some of the experiences of our athletes and people living with type 1 diabetes throughout the rest of the day.
After the excitement of Partha’s opening we then had the pleasure of having 2 of the leading healthcare professionals in exercise and type 1 diabetes within the country, whom lead on the EXTOD programme (www.extod.org), talk to us about the science of managing blood glucose levels through particular types of physical activities and sport. Dr Alistair Lumb and Dr Parth Narendran have been imperative in driving attempts to improve the knowledge of other healthcare professionals across the country through EXTOD and having them share the knowledge and framework at SporT1day was a privilege. You can always tell when a topic and talk has captivated an audience by the response at the end…… Let’s just say we could’ve been there a lot longer with the questions. A huge thank you for coming along guys and I look forward to working with you in the future on some exciting ideas! @DrAliLumb & @parthnarendran on Twitter.
Following an opening of theory from the healthcare professionals we started to delve into some of the experiences of those living with the condition, who are putting this knowledge into practice day in and day out. So first up was Brian Hoadley or Type1Bri ( www.type1bri.com). A really top bloke, who encouraged me to share my journey and who had a huge impact on me personally as I became aware of the diabetes online community. He’s been a great friend of mine who’s always supported the work of TDFC from the very beginning. It was an honour to have Bri share his own inspirational journey of running the London marathon less than a year after being someone who didn’t do any exercise. To do that in under a year is epic for anyone, but made even more special and inspiring when you’re able to do it with type 1 diabetes. Bri shared the journey he went on, how he did it and the effect it had on him and his diabetes. A brilliant talk and achievement from Bri. So pleased we all got to hear it. @Type1Bri on Twitter
Next to the centre of our SporT1Day stage was Alex Richards. A very good friend of mine who’s work in sports psychology has taken a special interest in the experiences of people with type 1 diabetes in sport and exercise. Alex gave us a talk about perfectionism and it’s challenges to both athletes and those of us living with type 1. It was very poignantly linked to the goals we set ourselves and how most of us look towards outcome goals rather than process goals. Interestingly, those outcome goals are often out of our control to some extent, as winning trophies, representing teams or qualifying into tournaments relies on coaches, other players and beating the opposition which you can’t actually impact upon. His talk fascinated me having spent much of my life with this idea of perfectionism rooted inside of me and my focus on outcome goals, that I couldn’t always impact upon. Top work Al and I think there was a large proportion of the audience desperate for a chat about the presentation and keen to grab hold of the slides afterwards! It says it all about how interesting the talk was. @alex_acr on Twitter
Then we moved onto the incredible Melanie Gray. Now Mel will always have a special place in the history of TDFC as she was someone I spoke to when I was thinking about putting myself out there to share my individual experiences as well as creating TDFC in the early part of 2017. So to have her along to speak at our joint conference with 1BloodyDrop was an honour. Mel has been an inspiration to so many within the diabetes community as an international sprinter with the condition who has gone onto share her story widely through her renowned blog, advocacy work and now her role as a dietician. As an experienced speaker with a vast knowledge of her sport and how to manage type 1 diabetes within it, it was a brilliant watch and listen. I think anyone in the audience on the day would’ve enjoyed the insight surrounding Mel’s management which complimented talking about her work, which has had her featured in a nike campaign during the London 2012 olympics, seen her become a London 2012 olympics torch bearer whilst also developing her own peer support group Blue Circle Diabetes. If you want to take a closer look at what she’s up to head to www.lifesportdiabetes.co.uk to check out her blog and thank you Mel for supporting our conference.
We then had a chance to take a breath! It was lunch…. Now for everyone else it means take a breath and grab some food but for me, paul and a couple of the speakers who’d already spoken it was an opportunity to speak to members of the audience. So lunch went in the blink of an eye but we had so much more to come….
Our afternoon had a heavy tinge of football within it as 2 of the UK Diabetes Futsal squad shared their stories about getting involved in TDFC and their feelings towards the team. Having Tim and JT, share their thoughts so publicly about how TDFC has helped them through their involvement in our team was pretty special. I didn’t tell them what to say either!!! So for them to show their overwhelming support for what we do and showcase it so brilliantly to the audience was amazing. The power of peer support for people with chronic health conditions should never be overlooked and I firmly believe that its power can drive holistic improvements for people with conditions like type 1 diabetes. Listening to Tim and JT certainly made me feel that this is the case. After they’d both shared their stories it was a chance for me to briefly talk about how I manage my condition around my sport, some of the techniques and ideas I’ve adopted, as well as showcasing what TDFC has been up to and what’s planned for the future. To be honest, it was quite nice to just have a small part in the talking side of things such was the level of organisation required! Hopefully my small snapshot in the day was a worthwhile 10-15 minutes amongst the stars of the show. As we grabbed our coffees, we readied ourselves for Craig Stanley to take to the stage. If you wanted to hear more on JT or Tim’s journeys you can follow them on twitter under @Tim_Ward07 & @JonoTyrrell
I’m biased as a Football/Futsal player but Craig (Staners) talks so honestly and openly about his journey in professional football with type 1 diabetes that it just fascinates me every time I’ve heard him share it. Professional sport and the “elite” are supposedly supported by infinite resources, in the way of money, people and specialists, but Staners shares a story that despite his day job being to play in front of thousands of people playing Football, the support he had throughout his career was limited. I’d always felt this with my experiences in the part time game but you just assume that the added professionalism would improve the experience that players with type 1 diabetes had. Instead talks like Craig’s continue to demonstrate that mainstream sport still hasn’t got it right from the grassroots through to the elite for people living with chronic health conditions. This is where I hope campaigns like the #WeAreUndefeatable campaign created by Sport England goes some way to addressing the issues we face. Despite what Staners has faced he’s had an amazing pro career of over 500 appearances, a Wembley playoff victory and having the opportunity to captain the England C team. All of this despite living with type 1 diabetes. He’s a very down to earth guy but what an example he sets for us all. A massive thank you buddy for coming to share your story with us again. If anyone wants to follow Staners on social media you can find him on twitter under @staners6 and on instagram under @staners10.
Our last lived experience of the day came from my partner in crime Mr. Paul Coker. His experience of living with the condition for over 40 years which combines feats of endurance along the way always provides an insightful and inspiring listen. This time we had the pleasure of listening to the story of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for JDRF with a number of other type 1s. I’ve heard Paul talk a few times but not on this topic with so much depth. It was really interesting to see the impact altitude had on himself and others managing the condition and certainly provided some important insight into how to go about tackling that sort of challenge. Paul’s experiences of Kilimanjaro provided yet another valuable varied talk for our audience whom I’m sure gleaned so much.
Another member of our healthcare profession came to round up the day with a specific view of what it’s like as a diabetes specialist nurse (DSN). Emma Innes talked us through some of the specifics of how we should work with our specialist team, some of the recommendations from healthcare professionals for sport & exercise and how technology is making it easier. Emma now uses her experience in the field to lecture at the University of Worcester for the nursing cohort of students. Her talk helped to remind us all of the importance of working with our healthcare professionals to achieve our joint goals together. A big thank you for sharing your insight for us Emma! You can follow Emma on Twitter under @emmainnes3
Finally we finished off with a Q&A session for the audience and as I stood at the front with my fellow speakers, providing answers in the best way we could, I knew we’d delivered something special. The engagement, the faces and the thank you’s we received told us that. Now we need to consider where we go from here…. The magic of what we’ve started needs to be built upon and myself & Paul need to go away to think about how we make this grow and work for the future. Nevertheless SporT1Day was an incredible success which I certainly will look back upon with a huge amount of pride!
If you’re interested in where we go next make sure you follow @SporT1Day on twitter for updates and news from the conference. Our plans are always ongoing and if you think you’d like to see us in a different part of the country or you have an idea you’d like to share with us, you can contact TDFC, 1BloodyDrop or the SporT1Day twitter account to get through to us.
Thank you for all of the support with our conference & the wider work of TDFC and I hope you all have an amazing Christmas!