Our Journey with Type 1 and Football…

Another amazing story to share with the community brought to you by Karen Brown, the mother of Ellen, a young type 1 who’s having a fantastic time with her Football/Futsal at the moment. Ellen & Karen have been big advocates and supporters of our work at TDFC from the very early days so it’s brilliant to be able to share their story! No more words needed from us, over to you Karen…

“Our daughter Ellen was diagnosed at age 8 with type 1 diabetes. As you all know it hits like a bomb and the early days are hard. Somewhere amongst the haze of diagnosis we made a decision that when we got Ellen home we would stabilise her doing all of the sport she usually did. So the day after discharge we took her to school for a few hours and the following Monday she started back swimming. I sat on the edge of the pool chewing my nails hoping she would be fine. Strangely enough the year she was diagnosed is the only year she hasn’t played football (played 1 year of netball and hated it!). Ellen prefers to manage her diabetes with a pump (Medtronic) and we use CGM periodically.

Since then it has been buckets of football and within the last 4 years she has also played futsal in the off-season. It is amazing how different the two are to manage. Football often sends her low- particularly in the cold Canberra winters (we live in Australia) whereas futsal sends her high due to the adrenaline. As futsal isn’t as big in Canberra her futsal club (Boomerangs FS) travel to Sydney to play in a Sydney comp. So every Sydney game we travel between 2 ½ to 4 hours each way (depending on what side of Sydney the game is) to play. The weather in Canberra is quite dry whereas Sydney can be humid which can affect Ellen’s BGLs (sends her low) so at the half way stop en route to the game we reduce insulin if she has any carbs and put a reduced temp basal on. We find doing low carb on the morning prior to the Sydney trips much easier to manage. At least we are only fixing the humidity problem. Then during the games she heads high! Sydney games we nearly always use CGM to help keep an eye on things. If it’s a home game its breakfast as usual. After the game she eats what she wants.

Ellen Brown Picture 3

Whilst having diabetes can be tough when you are playing football and futsal, we run at it with the attitude that if we have a tough day diabetes wise we look at why and see if we can do something different. There are days when you just can’t explain why the numbers are what they are! All of her coaches and teams have been really supportive and the boys often try and guess her Blood Glucose Level – she plays in the Boys National Premier League. Ellen also chooses to celebrate her ‘diaversary’, so the team usually hangs out for the cupcakes she takes along to celebrate another year kicking the butt of diabetes.

Having diabetes hasn’t stopped Ellen from achieving in soccer and futsal. The last 12 months have been particularly rewarding!!! 12 months ago her girls futsal team won both the premiership and championship in the Sydney comp. For outdoor her BBFC U16’s team made the Grand Final and won in a penalty shootout. She then made the ACT team (regional team) to play futsal at Nationals in January – they were runners up in the Grand Final in a penalty shootout. And a couple of weeks ago at the presentation night for Boomerangs FS, Ellen was awarded female player of the year. We are pretty proud of her. Winning isn’t everything but it is great to get some wins and they have been a while coming!! Though I must say the victories are much sweeter after the effort you put in to get the diabetes right. (excuse the pun!)

Ellen Brown Picture 1

As much as it is a challenge, there have been lots of good things about having diabetes in our lives for the last 8 years. We have made a whole new bunch of friends we wouldn’t have otherwise met. Whilst it is so nice being able to converse with those who understand the challenges and learn new things from. Ellen has had the opportunity to speak at JDRF fundraisers and she was recently asked to take part in some research at ANU.

Being part of TDFC has been a huge help though. It was so nice to hear from others who play football and be able to read about their experiences. With Ellen being a girl it was so nice to read about Noel and what she has achieved. We got to meet Zac (UK DiaEuro Player) at one of Ellen’s games in Sydney and hope to see him again soon. Whilst it’s also great to see that Chris represented his country in Futsal, which gives Ellen so much hope she can achieve the same.

Ellen Brown Picture 4

To any young footballer out there, chase your dreams. Ellen’s favourite saying is “I don’t live with diabetes, diabetes lives with me”.”

 

A really great blog written by Karen Brown and a huge thank you from us for putting it together. If there’s anyone out there reading this who’d like to contribute in a similar way get in touch! We’re always on the look out for blogs and stories to share…

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2018… Looking back to look forward

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!

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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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWjlrLbvWr4&t=39s

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…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf8n6LSLRRM

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:

(https://thediabetesfootballcommunity.com/2018/05/28/the-first-sport1day-conference-organisers-perspective-chris-bright/ )

 

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:

https://thediabetesfootballcommunity.com/2018/09/10/diabetes-junior-cup-2018/

 

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!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C353oCtYH2U

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!

Chris

Interviewing a Parent of someone with Type 1 Diabetes

I’ve been wanting to do this for quite a while now as I think it’s a fascinating opportunity to pose my own parents some of the questions I’ve always had around their feelings towards my diagnosis, my diabetes management and how it’s transitioned into my sport.

The below video was recorded with own mom on a Facebook Live Q&A session on the 26th January 2018. It’s around 1 hour 15 minutes long and we hope that it gives another perspective for you to access around parenting a type 1 diabetic with sporting aspirations. We don’t just discuss sport, as we tackle a bit of everything in this session to give a rounded view of the challenges parents face.

I’d like to thank my mom for giving up the time to help us create this great content and please feel free to share your feedback and views.

Head over to our Facebook page to see more Q&A’s very soon.

Enjoy.

Chris

DISCLAIMER – As the discussion is led by our own experiences and not necessarily supported by Healthcare Professionals any advice you take from this video should be signed off and supported by your healthcare team.

New Year, New Goals, Same Motivation?

At the start of every year I find myself reflecting on what’s happened over the previous 12 months and looking forward to what the next 12 bring my way. I don’t think I’m alone in the way that I do this with the hundreds of posts I see online, all referring to the end of one year and the beginning of the next. It’s a period of transition which in my eyes allows me to reset my thinking and the batteries. It gives me an excuse to think about the positive changes I can make to my life in the New Year and the impact I can have on the future, as I know I can’t affect what’s happened in the past.

However, the start of the New Year in the U.K is often grey, cold and somewhat uninspiring for those looking to get active for the first time, or who have had a break over the festive period. Combine that with a challenging period of over indulgence in Food and drink that tests the blood glucose levels of people with Diabetes, and you can see why it may be a struggle to get into a new regime during the New Year.

Diabetes is a condition which is renowned for testing even the most positive people in their approach to life, so it’s important to consider its pitfalls when finding your motivation to get active or play sport. How do you combat negativity around your condition which affects your mindset and approach to daily activities and exercise?

I don’t have a definitive answer… However myself and Alex will try to offer you some insight in how to approach the New Year, set new goals, how to find your motivation and most importantly, maintain it:

  • First of all, it’s about what motivates you to get active? Is it external praise? The sense of achievement from within yourself? Money? Fun and enjoyment? Becoming Healthier?  There’s a whole array of things which may drive you to make a change. In my life it’s about the sense of achievement I get from ticking off goals and the enjoyment I get from playing sport.  But for you, it’s important to understand what’s driving you to get active or stay active and use that to continually fuel your motivation.

  • Secondly, I never set Diabetes related goals… I’m not sure if that will shock people or not, but it’s how I work as an individual. I’ve always had the attitude that as long as I maintain acceptable control which allows me to perform to the best of my ability in my sport, and it doesn’t affect my every day activities, that’s good enough for me. If I give it too much focus in my life it will consume it, so I choose to position it on the backseat of my life and not the front seat.
  • I like to break my goals into categories… I tend to place any objectives or goals into sections which reflect the direction of my life. So for example in 2018 I’ve got goals for my Personal life, my sport and my career. It helps me organise myself and the direction I’m trying to head towards in all walks of my life.
  • I set 2 or 3 goals in each section which I believe are achievable within the timescale of 2018…It’s important you don’t try and change too much as you’re unlikely to be able to achieve too many goals, which may disappoint you in the long run. Be realistic in the expectations you set yourself.
  • The goals I set are the big things I want to achieve, but each week I’ll set myself much smaller ones which underpin the progress towards the bigger ones. For example it might be reducing my 5k running time, or lifting a heavier weight in the gym. Neither of which are part of my overall objectives but both will contribute to hopefully successfully achieving 2018’s goals. Those smaller goals can be so important when you’re having a tough week with the Diabetes in feeling that sense of achievement we need to keep us going. I think it it’s important in driving the continuation of exercise and keeping those good habits.

Of course my motivation and the tools I’ve used are transferable, but on the next section of this post I’m handing over to Alex who’s going to take a look at it from his perspective as he’s spent a considerable amount of time studying sports psychology.

 

“I want to talk to you guys about goals. Goals can help keep you motivated throughout the year, especially when the initial motivation that often comes with the New Year begins to fade. All goals are not created equal and the better goals you set the greater chance you have of continuing to make progress throughout the New Year. The rest of this post will give you some do’s and don’ts when setting some goals.

DO – Make sure the goals you set are in the form of actions and behaviours. If you want to increase the amount of exercise you do this year, how are you going to do that? Perhaps you want go to the gym more? How many times a week will you go? An example of a good goal in here would be, “I’ll go to the gym twice a week this year”. You could make this even better by deciding which days you will go to the gym. Once you’ve achieved this goal you may decide to add another night.

DON’T – Carrying on from the first suggestion, do not and I mean never ever, set vague goals. So if you find yourself saying something like, I’m going to take my football more seriously this year, refer back to the first do. If you have ever found yourself starting something for a few weeks and then slowly but surely reverting back to old habits, vague goals may well be the reason why. Vague goals can also be thought of as wishful thinking.

DON’T – A goal that can’t be measured is not a great goal to set. Setting a goal that you can measure allows you to check your progress as you set out to achieve your something and lets you know when you have been successful. If you want to improve your diabetes management this year, perhaps set a target for where you would like your HBA1C score to be for your next consultation. It’s really important to mention here, that goals concerning your HBA1C score should be set with gradual improvement in mind, not drastic changes.

DO – Set goals that are positive. This is a simple but powerful tip; it’s really important to focus on what we want to happen rather than what we’d like to avoid. When you’re setting goals, try and make them about increasing behaviours rather than decreasing behaviours. So if you have a goal regarding your nutrition, make your goal about starting to eat things that are going to help you lead a healthier life instead of stop eating foods that don’t help you lead the lifestyle you would like. Being positive in your goal setting will help you decide on the actions that will help you get there (remember the first do).

Since I have just suggested to make your goals positive, I am going to finish on a do rather than a don’t. My advice to you all, setting goals will increase the chance that any resolutions you’ve made will continue past January. Goal setting is key to long lasting motivation and it will also let you see how far you’ve come. Once you see yourself making progress I hope this will also increase your motivation to continue. Happy New Year folks!

Alex.

If anyone wants some more in-depth advice regarding setting goals for the New Year, don’t hesitate to get in contact with me via email.

alexrichards35@gmail.com”

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Type 1 Diabetes Management around a Football Match Day

To the TDFC followers out there who have asked me and others involved about the management of the condition around Football here are a few videos which I recorded with my friend Paul Coker at 1 Bloody Drop ( click here to check the website out ) ! Hopefully they’ll provide some useful tips around managing a complete game day situation. Remember the suggestions I make are from my own experience and should always be accompanied by the support of your healthcare professionals.

Remember what works for me might not work for you so it’s important you learn from Trial and Error and continue to adapt your own preparation and match day routines to get the best from yourself and enjoy playing!

Key Points for Before the Match:

  • Early preparation
  • Loading up with Carbohydrate the day before
  • Consistency of Routine
  • Good night’s sleep
  • Plenty of time between pre match meal insulin dose and starting the game (3 hours + ideally)
  • Lots of Testing
  • Small adjustments

 

Key Points for During the Match:

  • More Testing
  • Small adjustments take on glucose if required
  • Find a quick acting carbohydrate drink (I use Lucozade Sport)
  • Try to understand what effect the intensity of exercise has on your glucose levels

 

Key Points for after the match:

  • Watch out for Hypos especially during the night (nothing to be feared, just keep an extra eye out)
  • Consider how intense your involvement in the game was and how long you played… This can have a big bearing on how levels respond after. The more intense the more likely you are to dip lower after the game.
  • Consider reductions in your bolus doses for meals immediately after games.
  • Eat carbohydrates within your post game meal or snack.
  • Consider a reduction in basal dosage and think about a bedtime snack.
  • Be very careful consuming alcohol after a game as it increases the likelihood of hypoglycaemia even more. It can be done but just be careful.

 

I hope the advice in the videos and the key points from them are useful to many of you out there. A huge thank you again to Paul Coker at www.1bloodydrop.com for creating this amazing content.

As usual if you have any questions. Give us a shout.

TDFC

TDFC trip to Portugal: The Diary

Firstly…. I can’t believe that 7 months after the creation of TDFC, we’ve been able to jet off to Portugal to meet an all type 1 Diabetic Futsal team. Just having this opportunity has been an absolute privilege and sharing it with Noel & Karl was special. I feel immensely proud of what we’ve achieved so far and this experience has been one which has certainly highlighted and demonstrated what we can achieve together.

Some of you who are reading this that haven’t been following TDFC as closely as others, are probably thinking why have you travelled to Portugal?

Therefore, I thought I’d outline the reasons and objectives before I get into my diary of the trip…

·       It was the first time Noel and I had spent any time in person together so the trip was ideal for us to focus on the future of TDFC with each other.

·       Understanding the DiabPT United project. There is nothing like it within the U.K or USA so we wanted to understand and learn how the team operates, what their objectives are and how they raise awareness of the condition in Portugal, whilst using Futsal as the vehicle.

·       Growing our network in another country and meeting new people who share our passion for Football whilst living with Type 1 Diabetes.

·       Learning about the DiaEuro competition from a team that have been competing for several years. (It’s a futsal tournament which only diabetics compete against each other, with one team representing each European nation).

·       To video & document the experience to share with our community.

As you can see we went out to Portugal with plenty of purpose. I really wanted to make sure we had a trip which brought us closer together as a TDFC team, achieved our objectives and was a lot of fun… You’ll have to ask Noel & Karl what they thought, but I certainly felt we managed to do all of that!

Enough of the objectives now… Over to my diary of the trip. ENJOY!

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Day 1

Well it felt like we started the trip with a day which contained 36 hours following the alarm going off at 3:30 am and checking in for our flight by 5am! However the excitement in all of us was pretty evident so I didn’t complain too much about the early start. WOW was it cold though, a serious chill in the air at 4:30 in the morning which by the time we’d arrived in Portugal had seen a 20 degrees Celsius swing in the temperature!!

After a relatively smooth parking & check-in procedure at the airport we were greeted with security. A Diabetic’s nightmare is how I would describe it. You feel uncomfortable and worried about the potential of airport security confiscating or wanting to question the items you’re bringing through in hand luggage to manage your Diabetes. For me, this seemed to go without a hitch with the normal kind of questions asked and my insulin placed outside of my bag for the authorities. However when we got to Noel getting through it was another story!!! She’d first been asked to remove the liquids from her bag, as is normal, but as she was carrying Capri Suns as a hypo treatment this caused a particular problem for the officer, who despite being informed of the medical reason and documentation for carrying them, proceeded to place a couple of the drinks in the bin. Obviously this upset Noel somewhat but the ordeal wasn’t finished there! She then approached the scanners to be told she’d need to go through the fully body scanner rather than the metal detector, despite informing them that she couldn’t because of the pump she was wearing! After a couple of minutes arguing over this, she was allowed to go through the basic metal detector and endure a frisk. It wasn’t going well and we hadn’t even got through to the bag searches yet… Noel decided to leave a couple of Capri Sun’s in her bag following the encounter with the first security officer. This obviously had her bag flagged up and another search commenced. This time after some more arguing over Noel’s right to carry her liquids she was allowed to keep them and we were on our way… It was a frustrating and poor way to start our journey with little understanding, knowledge and care shown by airport security. I appreciate the job they do in these difficult times we live in, but when a Doctor is signing someone off to carry these items to ensure their own welfare it’s frustrating to say the least.    

It wasn’t the best start to the trip… However after a few obligatory selfies, some food and 40 winks to recover from the 3am wake up we were on the plane!

It was a pretty uneventful flight in which Karl & Noel, used the time to catch up on the sleep they’d lost a few hours earlier.

Upon arrival everything seemed to go fairly smoothly and it allowed us to ride the Metro into the city of Lisbon, where we grabbed some food knowing we’d be hanging around for a couple of hours until we could get into our apartment.

Knowing we had a busy weekend coming up we decided to use the remainder of Thursday to relax and enjoy each other’s company. We hopped into an Uber and hit the beach to relax after a day of travelling and carrying our cases around Lisbon. It was an awesome beach but my mind was wandering away to the reason we were there constantly. I was super excited and nervous all at the same time, which is understandable I guess.

That night we headed out to the Hard Rock Café and relaxed after a reasonably successful first day getting ourselves set up in Lisbon! I was content with how day one had panned out.

Day 2

We kicked the day off with a slightly slower start following a few drinks the night before, but whilst Noel headed down to the Aquarium myself and Karl headed over to the castle of Sao Jorge via the metro and a small walk. Walking through a city is the best way to see it, which Noel can vouch for after getting lost for at least an hour and a half coming to the castle from the aquarium… We found her eventually!

We then ventured up into the castle to the breathtaking views it offers across the city of Lisbon. It was pretty special. Whilst for us, and the other tourists within the castle, the novelty of Karl using his Drone to capture footage across the city was also pretty incredible with everyone completely encapsulated by it. It was the first time I’d seen it in an action and wow is it a bit of kit!!! I can’t do the scenery justice with words so please take a look at the photos below…

Throughout these first couple of days I’d been battling a YoYo of blood glucose levels whilst Noel had some awesome levels to show for it. My control had been so good leading up to the trip that I was certainly keeping an eye on this distinct change, which only started to become apparent a few days later!

After an hour of taking in the views of Lisbon from the castle, we headed down to Sao Nicolau square on the river front to record some shots of us taking in a landmark whilst kicking a ball around (after all we were there to do some work for TDFC). We had a lot of fun talking about diabetes and mucking around with a ball and we even had a few bystanders watching and commenting on some of the moves! I can’t wait to see some of the drone shots of this kick around as Karl assures me they look very cool.  

After we’d enjoyed some sunshine and ball work we wandered through the streets of Lisbon and did a little interview of how things were going whilst I was resting my foot (https://thediabetesfootballcommunity.com/2017/05/28/the-impact-of-injuries/ ). We were catching up on camera with our thoughts of the last 24 hours and the approaching weekend with DiabPT United.

Following this recorded chat amongst ourselves we then hit one of Lisbon’s renowned tourist spots the Belem Tower. It was a nice spot on the river front where the 3 of us sampled some port wine and orange juice, watched an incredible busker and tried the Lisbon famous Pastel De Nata (A Portuguese pastry they’re famous for).  All the while I was enjoying myself and having a lot of fun with Noel & Karl but in the back of mind thinking ahead to the weekend and the purpose of the trip. I was starting to get really excited about what was to come.

We went out that night hunting down some authentic Portuguese cuisine to ensure we experienced the local culture to Noel’s high standards. So we found ourselves a nice restaurant recommended by one of the many Uber drivers we interacted with on our trip. The food was great and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves but the most amazingly small world moment occurred whilst we were there.

Myself and Noel were tucking down to some food when we heard the words “Type 1 Diabetes” above the crowd in a jam packed restaurant. Both of us pricked our ears up like meerkats! It was an American accent talking at another table so the only person for the job was Noel. It turned out Casey (Our new Type 1 Diabetic friend) was on the Olympic Development Programme for Football and had more than likely played against Noel in the past!!! What were the chances of meeting someone like that thousands of miles away from home, in a restaurant in Lisbon??? I wish I’d put a bet on it!! We’re now connected on facebook and talking about TDFC. I love seeing these moments in life! They’re few and far between but they serve as a reminder of the amazing moments which can occur in our world. I’m hoping to get Casey to do a short interview for our Facebook page.

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An amazing end to the second day which was so in keeping with the purpose of our trip!

Day 3

A pretty early start by all accounts as we headed over to Benfica’s stadium for 9:50 to get ourselves into their megastore…. My glucose levels had finally given me a bit of relief and looked a little more settled, however it wouldn’t last long!

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After we’d all spent some time buying replica merchandise from the megastore (as I’ve now adopted them as my Futsal team!), we met next to the statue of Eusebio, a Benfica and Portuguese legend of football. It was at this point I felt a bit nervous & apprehensive. We were meeting with people we’d never met before and had only spoken to over social media, so I felt like this was acceptable. There was also a language barrier to potentially cross!! All of these worries were quickly alleviated when Jenifer approached and we started talking… The bond of sharing type 1 diabetes is an instant conversation starter and something which I often find puts me at ease around someone as they understand immediately the difficulties I have to contend with in life. I felt comfortable instantly.

The people we met were Jenifer, Carlos, Alexandre and his daughter whom are all involved with DiabPT united in some way. They were responsible for spending the day with us and provide Portuguese to English translations haha! They were absolutely brilliant and so patient with our lack of spoken Portuguese.  After the initial welcomes our first stop of the day was a tour of the Stadium of Light, Benfica’s home venue.

The first thing that struck me was what an impressive venue and a really apt venue for getting to know members of the project. It’s Lisbon’s biggest football stadium and what a place to look around. Again I’m struggling to do it justice with words so I’ll hand over to the images to do a better job…

It was pretty spectacular all in all. Watching Noel & Karl scoot round the whole Benfica away dressing room benches to make sure they’d sat in the same place as Lionel Messi was a particular highlight… 

After our stadium tour we moved onto the Museum.  I’ve never seen a trophy cabinet like it!! My team Aston Villa certainly struggle to fill a room let alone a museum. This number of trophies comes with the territory of being arguably Portugal’s biggest club side. As we meandered our way through the trophies we took time to get onto the topic of Diabetes and the differences in the methods employed to control the condition in our respective countries. Access & costs were a topic we varied in hugely despite Portugal, the U.K and USA being fairly westernised countries.

After some lunch and more chat about the project, the DiaEuro concept and how they go about sustaining & growing what they have, we had a short walk to the indoor pavilion to watch Benfica’s futsal team. This is where we got to meet Bruno (the team coach), who up until recently was coaching the Benfica Futsal U20’s team so he’s an excellent source of knowledge on the game (an ideal contact for me!)! Futsal’s top league in Portugal is almost fully professional so the standard is extremely high and certainly something I learnt from and thoroughly enjoyed watching. Benfica won the game comfortably… But going back to Bruno, the interesting thing is he’s one of the only people involved in the project who isn’t a type 1 diabetic. Not wanting to spoil upcoming video content but hearing his thoughts and knowledge about the condition from working with the team was fascinating! His commitment to the team is extending to actually wearing a Libre to next year’s DiaEuro so he can feel a part of the routine with the team.

We enjoyed an incredible day with a few members of the project who made us feel so welcome  and on the ride back to our apartment we continued talking diabetes, futsal and about our common interests. DiabPT united had treated us to some wonderful memories.

Myself, Noel & Karl had a quiet evening reflecting ahead of the day we’d all been building up to. For me this was a once in a lifetime experience we were about to have. How often can you say you’ve trained in a team made up of only Type 1 Diabetics? To say I was excited would’ve been an understatement. My glucose levels were not playing ball at all though. It started to dawn on me that the YoYo had been caused by my basal insulin not working (I think the fridge was too cold and had ruined it), so with all of it potentially ruined, I was monitoring more closely and correcting a lot with bolus injections, this continued the YoYo of hypos & highs, but I battled on with it, as I didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t ideal preparation for a training session I was desperate to be a part of, but I was determined to be involved even with this hiccup and the injury I was carrying!

Day 4

Well this was it… The day of the training session with the team. The day which I’d been looking forward to from the moment we’d organised the trip.

The day started with some pretty high glucose levels for me from the pizza we’d eaten the night before and my background insulin not working… This had me awake pretty early to correct my levels ahead of the training session, whilst I wasn’t going back to sleep due to the excitement!

After some breakfast and the normal training preparation routine, we then grabbed ourselves an Uber over to the pavilion, which was a short ride away.

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Walking into the indoor hall with a couple of the players & management team we’d just met was a surreal experience. I was just about to embark on a training session I thought I’d never ever see. Playing with a squad of players which all shared the same medical condition as myself was completely alien to me. I’d never played in the same team as another type 1 diabetic let alone 10 of them.

The training session was from 10 am to 12pm and it flew by. For me I just felt lucky enough to be able to train a little bit as it was the first time I’d played at all since breaking my foot in May! The biggest thing that struck me was that despite not knowing anyone and not speaking their language, we’d all managed to bond, become friends and feel instantly comfortable around each other. It really was a special moment as our shared love of futsal and our Type 1 Diabetes created a bond instantly. I’ve seen this happen now quite a few times and it just amazes me the bond created between people by something deemed so negatively by many, in the form of a chronic medical condition.

Myself and Noel did step out of the session in order to capture some interviews with members of the team & project. We obviously wanted to take part in the session as much as possible but for us this session was much more than just playing. We wanted to get a feel for the project and the purpose of DiabPT, so we interviewed members of the management team and players to share this with our TDFC followers. The content and information we got from these chats were incredible and I can’t wait to be able to share it with the community. Karl is working on pulling this together for us to release on our social media pages as well as the website, so please keep an eye out for it!

We left the session with such a smile on our faces. A resounding success and a moment in my life I’ll always remember. It was an incredible experience and opportunity which I’m so grateful I had the chance to be a part of.

We followed the session by heading to lunch with the team where we had the entertainment and “Mischief Maker” Noel in full flow as we shared stories of Diabetes, talked about DiabPT United & generally had a lot of fun in each other’s company. I felt like we’d made lifelong friends in the space of 3-4 hours.

After our lunch and some more Portuguese sunshine I wanted to get behind the camera and film an interview which I thought would be a cracker for our followers. I wanted to showcase a chat between the only two non-diabetics sat around the table for lunch, Karl & Bruno. Karl had been following me and Noel over the course of the previous few days with a camera and was certainly getting a good feel for what life with Type 1 Diabetes was like, so I thought getting him to question and chat with Bruno on camera would be a gold dust interview. It really was!! I can’t wait for us to share their exchange.

What a morning/afternoon it was and I couldn’t thank DiabPT united enough for the experience. After we re-grouped back at our apartment we felt it only right to go out for a nice meal and to toast to the success of one of our main objectives of the trip, so we headed to a Mexican restaurant for some food and to relax after a very busy day.

We all went to bed that night extremely content with how the day had panned out, the fun we’d had, the friends we’d made and the amazing content we’d captured. A happy TDFC team!

 Day 5

On day 5 the pace of the trip caught up with everyone… We all had a lie in and I was suffering with a cold quite badly so we didn’t really get going until 12pm but after the previous day’s activities we could be forgiven for making a slow start to the day.  

Once we got going we stopped off at our local subway for a foot long and then hopped onto the metro down to the river Tagus, to then grab an Uber over to the Almada district where the sanctuary of Jesus Christ is located. The main reason we went was for the incredible views of Lisbon and we weren’t disappointed!! Yet again I won’t waste words on trying to describe it as I honestly can’t do it justice in the same way the pictures can…

We spent a couple of hours taking the views in before  heading back and relaxing, knowing we had an early start again on Tuesday.  The TDFC squad grabbed some food from an Italian restaurant and agreed that after a number of days of living on our phones and posting non-stop on social media, to ensure people could keep up with the trip, we would put them down for the duration of Dinner. It was a great idea as we discovered new things about each other and got a much needed break from the notifications.

After a busy weekend and a day of me feeling a bit rough I was glad Day 5 was fairly quiet knowing what the schedule for day 6 was! My levels were still bouncing around and just trying to keep them on a leash was quite a challenge and tiring. At this point I was just hoping to get home and get some insulin that was working on board, as the challenge of managing on just short term insulin injections was difficult to say the least.

Day 6

At this point we were getting used to early starts so this was no shock to the system as we headed back over to Benfica’s stadium to watch their Futsal first team train… However once we arrived our man behind the scenes (the coach of DiabPT united, Bruno) informed us that they’d changed the time of the practice and this now clashed with our second order of the day…

So we had to chill for an hour or so at the stadium of light… There are many worse places to be stuck haha!! Myself and Karl had a game of FIFA, we grabbed some food and walked around a bit before heading back to the metro… On our walk back to the metro we were lucky enough to bump into a couple of the Benfica Futsal players whom we managed to grab a couple of photos with, which was a positive to our mishap!! (Rafael Hemni and Andrea Correia)

After our detour we headed over to APDP, the oldest Diabetes association in the world for a tour with Jonni Tuga from DiabPT united. It was an amazing place to visit and having seen how they have all of their diabetes care under one roof within this building it made me think of how much better it would be if you could visit one place in the U.K and have your eyes, feet, bloods, dietician and consultant appointment in one day, which is how they do it in Portugal. We looked over the history of the association in their museum and chatted about how things differ in our countries in the care we receive. A frequent topic of conversation for us!!

The other reason for our visit was to get involved in another couple of interviews… Myself and Noel interviewed Jonni about his involvement in APDP & DiabPT united, whilst the association also wanted to interview myself & Noel about TDFC and the reasons for our trip so they could share it in the magazine they circulate for their members. We were happy to oblige!

We then parted ways with Jonni and said our goodbyes for the last time on this trip and the first twinge of sadness came over me as I knew the trip was heading towards its completion. I knew it wouldn’t be the last time we saw our friends in Portugal but I tried not to dwell on the fact we were leaving them behind, but more on the positivity of the relationships we’d developed over the time we’d spent away.

After our goodbyes we managed to take in our first football game of the trip as we visited Sporting Lisbon on our final night together… Our friends at DiabPT united weren’t too pleased as they’re mostly Benfica fans haha!  We witnessed a 0-0 draw with Maritimo but the experience of seeing one of Portugal’s biggest teams play in their home stadium was a fitting way to spend Noel’s last night with us. Leaving the stadium I felt an immense amount of pride as to what we had seen, who we had met and what the visit had achieved for us all.

We couldn’t leave Lisbon as a full team without toasting to the success of the trip. So we headed to a local cocktail bar toasting to the success of the trip. We smiled, laughed and enjoyed talking about our favourite moments, whilst catching up with some of our friends on facetime and whatsapp. I can honestly say that spending all this time with Karl (Karlita) and Noel (Noelly) was a pleasure and I’ve learnt so much about them in such a short space of time.

We enjoyed our last night together…. Until we arrived back to our apartment to be greeted by a power cut! Haha. You win some you lose some! The lights were out but the TDFC light was shining brightly.

Day 7

We all woke up feeling a bit strange as this was the day we parted ways. Noel’s journey back to the USA began at midday so we were forced to say goodbye fairly early on in the day. We all felt sad as we’d become accustomed to each other and our surroundings! A massive thank you to Noel for travelling over from the USA for the trip, without her the trip wouldn’t have been the same for me or for Karl. She’s an incredible advocate for Diabetes in sport and such a pleasure to have on board the TDFC project.

After a swift goodbye and yet another Uber for Noel to the airport, myself and Karl felt very much like the trip was over and the majority of our final day was spent lugging our suitcases and bags around Lisbon. We arranged our final resting point to be a small boat in the Lisbon Marina and we headed out for the last time to watch Benfica’s Futsal team compete in the Lisbon cup with Bruno. It was an extremely entertaining and a much closer game than the one we’d seen at the weekend. Benfica ended up winning 5-2 away from home. Whilst we were there we bumped into one of the main commentators for Futsal in Portugal and we spent time chatting about TDFC, my own Futsal and the game itself. What struck me is how incredibly approachable, friendly & welcoming everyone in Portugal had been towards us. There are some funny stories that Noel can tell about some over friendly Uber drivers but all in all as we left the game, I definitely felt I’d be coming back to visit Portugal again.

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Karl and I got back to our boat in darkness, hopped in through the hatch and literally took 5 minutes before getting into bed. We had our last early start of the trip to get to the airport and I knew it would be the last night of battling away with no basal insulin! I couldn’t wait to get home and sort my medication out on one hand and on the other I was gutted to be leaving behind an amazing trip.

 Day 8 / Reflections

As we got up, packed our bags and left our boat behind in the marina, for another Uber to the airport, I felt a mix of emotions. Despite the disappointment of leaving Lisbon to arrive in a damp and cloudy Birmingham I felt myself feeling both humbled and blessed by the whole experience.

Did the trip teach me anything? Yes.

Did we achieve the goals we’d set for the trip? Yes.

Did we raise awareness of Diabetes & TDFC? Yes.

Did we enjoy ourselves? Yes.

Everything I could’ve asked for from Portugal was achieved. Our first TDFC trip was a resounding success and the content we’re going to share, I hope will help our followers and provide some great insight.

Before signing off from my diary I have to say a massive thank you to Jenifer Duarte and Jonni Tuga (Joao) who helped us organise the trip and made us feel so welcome. I also need to thank Bruno who spent so much time with us in Portugal for which he didn’t have to. It was hugely appreciated.

An incredible opportunity, meeting incredible people, which I hope will lead to more incredible things from TDFC.  Thank you to everyone who supported our trip in Portugal and everyone that posted, liked, commented and shared our posts online and through social media. We’ll keep talking about supporting, advising, empowering and raising awareness of this condition in Football. More support is needed and we’ll keep challenging for it.

Chris

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Type 1 Diabetes: A disability or not? How do you identify with it?

This is a question which I’ve struggled to answer for a long time. Is Diabetes a Disability in my eyes? As many will already know Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus is by law an “Unseen Disability” which has the ability to significantly impact the lives of the people that have it. It’s power to disrupt and harm the people that live with it, in my opinion, is underestimated by much of society. As much as I strongly believe that you’re able to overcome the condition to achieve great things, there will always be the lasting effects and scars of living with Diabetes which challenge normality. I find this a really testing subject and one which in my experience has divided views amongst the diabetic community.  

As always though, I don’t shy away from expressing my opinion on the difficult subjects. However I fear I might still be on the fence with this one.

When a law states that a condition falls into the parameters of Disability it’s hard to argue with the reasons behind that decision. When I consider my own life and its impact, there’s no doubt that despite getting used to the difficulties, the interruptions shouldn’t be overlooked.

Let’s consider some of those moments when I firmly believe this condition I live with makes it feel like a Disability.  What about when you’re woken up in the middle of the night, sweating, suffering a hypoglycaemia that causes a headache which lasts all day? Losing 2/3 hours sleep trying to correct your glucose levels in the middle of the night back into range? Or when I’m forced off the football pitch because my glucose levels are dangerously out of range? Or when it stops me from driving and holds me up for an hour and a half whilst I recover?  Or when my vision blurs and I lose some of my coordination?

Whilst these are just a few examples there’s no doubt that when any of these things occur, life can feel constrained, as Diabetes presents itself as a Disability.

I think it bores down to the potential the condition has to impact on someone’s life… Although I’ve done ok for myself in terms of my achievements, this condition has the potential to have a devastating impact on someone’s life, and in the most unfortunate circumstances it can be fatal. I think for those who are given the opportunity to maintain reasonable control of the condition it can feel like Diabetes doesn’t hold you back much, if at all, and doesn’t really reflect that “Disability” tag. However for those who may be unlucky and are unable to manage it, its unquestionable the debilitating effect it has.

If it didn’t impact on my life whatsoever I’m not sure I would’ve spent so much time hiding my Diabetes through the fear of judgement. I always wanted to merit my achievements on my ability and not my disability.  I always felt it was another hurdle to jump over, which would mean I would just need to work harder than everyone else to achieve my goals.

There’s no doubt whichever way I try to answer the question I find myself sat back on the fence on this one. It’s a condition which will never be the same for everyone and in turn will never have the same effects on someone’s life. I’ve been lucky enough to live a life where I’ve been able to keep it under control for the most part and not let it affect my outlook and approach. There are many others who aren’t as lucky as I am and I appreciate that….

If I pose myself the question again “is Diabetes a Disability to me?” I’m still not sure!!!

What do you think?

The Psychology of a Diabetic Footballer

Having been involved in a number of conversations regarding the psychological support, and the need for more of it, I wanted to put my own spin on it around Football.

It’s never an easy conversation to have, within an extremely masculine setting of the changing room or a football club, but times have changed and the emphasis on mental health has never been more important.

Well where do you start with Diabetes?

I don’t think I’ll be able to cover or adequately portray the full effects of the condition on my mental well being and approach to my life and sport, but I’ll try and deliver a snapshot which I feel is most poignant to Football.

I wasn’t born with type 1 Diabetes.

You’re probably wondering why I’ve made that statement stand alone? The significance of it is because I remember life without having the condition. Until the age of 8 I wandered through life without a care in the world, blissfully unaware of what was to come. My only focus at that age was how quickly could I get home from school and get a football out!

Then in the September of 1999, I was catapulted into a world of worry and anxiety. That care free life that I lived prior to my diagnosis was a distant memory. Diabetes teaches you to worry very quickly. What if I forget my injection? What if my glucose levels go too low? What if they go too high? What happens if I play football? What happens if I eat this meal?

That extra worry is definitely a burden I’ve had to carry growing up.  I’m not sure you can properly shake it; you just learn to deal with it and adapt.

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 Just imagine what it’s like when you’ve “learnt” to worry more than usual and you’re greeted with a situation where you’re different to every other child in the changing room as you pull out your blood glucose monitor and insulin. When all you want to do as a child is “fit in”, this immediate difference can make it quite difficult. Most kids try to avoid situations like this where they feel alone or slightly outcast, but when you’re a diabetic in mainstream sport you have to just embrace it, otherwise you won’t do it. It takes guts.

Throw into that, those difficult teenage years and the “banter” of 16 boys at the age of 15 and you can only imagine how uncomfortable you can feel. Not to forget that if you’re trialling for a new team, or trying to make a step up or play for a representative side and you don’t know anyone in the dressing room. The levels of anxiety go through the roof! It’s an added stress trying to fit in, so hopefully with some of the work I’m doing with TDFC we can encourage diabetics to embrace their condition in this environment, and give those people who don’t have the condition some guidance on how to support children who may find this a barrier.

All of this worry and I haven’t even referred to trying to get glucose levels in range to be able to get out there and play.  Without them in a good place you immediately know you’re on the back foot. I don’t hide from the fact that during the warm up and team talk prior to a game I’m very rarely concerned with the tactics of the team (as I really should know them already!), as I concentrate all of my efforts on making sure the body is loose and the glucose levels are in a good place to play! Again it adds more pressure and anxiety to your preparation but when you’ve learnt to deal with that the playing part is a breeze!

This anxiety about getting levels right leads me very nicely into the frustration and anger it generates when it does go wrong.  I will not be the only one that has experienced their glucose levels going wrong in the moments when you need them to be stable the most.  I remember vividly my levels “playing up” when I had trials at pro clubs and in cup finals. Emotions always run high and invariably cause you a problem which no planning can foresee! However it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow when you’re out there struggling to perform when you know what you’re capable of. My parents and coach of my junior team felt this frustration for a long time, as they watched my ability succumb to the diabetes and it often left me infuriated.  Sometimes it’s out of your control and the best way to respond is to chalk it off and go again next week. You’ll learn from what happened and try and put it right next time. It never makes the anger and frustration easier to accept, it just means you don’t give up because of it.

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But what about the fear of Hypos? A topic often referred to when Diabetics refer to exercise. Anyone who’s experienced a mild Hypo (when you’ve been able to treat yourself) knows that it can be a pretty nasty feeling and pretty scary, but what about the people who have experienced one which they couldn’t treat themselves? The courage and bravery it can take to then put yourself in a situation with exercise, where they’re more likely to occur, is huge. I’ve only suffered one severe hypo like this in my lifetime and can only describe it as one of the most frightening things I’ve been put through. I think the fact I was only 13 at the time helped me respond to it. As a child you’re pretty fearless so I didn’t build up too much of a mental barrier to hypos despite experiencing that. Regardless of how I dealt with that I know situations where others have really struggled to come back from it and it can be a significant barrier I want TDFC to address. I want to ensure that no diabetic feels unable to participate in Football as a result of fearing hypos. The organisation will be campaigning hard to improve the support in Football for diabetic participants as well as the people who deliver the game that need greater awareness of the condition.

With all of the negatives it CAN have….. There is one really really big psychological benefit that I believe it’s given me. I carry Diabetes around as the “chip on my shoulder” and the one thing that makes me work harder, more determined and more passionate about defying the odds of living with a chronic medical condition. I’ve been let down by it from time to time but for the most part I honestly believe Diabetes helped me find my strength. I used it to power my motivation and to achieve my goals. It made me who I am as a person and my achievements can be attributed to the resilience it added to my character. I’ve never let it stop me and nor will I let it in the future.

I have a favourite quote which I often refer to which I think reflects the way I feel about its affect on me and my sport.

“The best view comes after the hardest climb”

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When you achieve the goals you’ve set yourself, knowing all of the difficulties and setbacks you’ve gone through to get there as a result of your Diabetes, the appreciation of that peak is that much greater.

As much as I believe Diabetes has had its negative impact on my psychological welfare, there’s no doubt I’ve used it positively to power my motivation and strength. Diabetes drives my determination to defy all of the physiological effects it can have, to compete and surpass my peers who don’t have the condition.

I firmly believe that “we cannot change the cards we’re dealt, just how we play the hand.” I’ve learnt to play mine the best way I can.

It’s 2:50pm… 10 minutes until Kick Off

It’s 2:50pm… 10 minutes until kick off and while all the other lads are concentrating on the Gaffa’s team talk, I’m in a very different place.

This isn’t unusual though, as I’ve spent the last 17 years in a world of my own in those final moments before leaving the changing room for a game. Whilst the lads all concentrate on the manager’s set piece routines, the danger men in the opposition and those last minute words of motivation, that ring in your ears as you walk down the tunnel, I’m busy ensuring I’m just able to play.

Those last 10 minutes before kick off are probably more important than the first 10 minutes of the game for me. I have to ensure I’ve got my blood glucose levels right just so I can get out there. I’ll spend those minutes setting myself up to ensure I’ve got the best possible chance of giving a good account of myself out there, for those moments define whether or not I’ll be able to perform to my ability.

I’ll have done everything I can up to this point to give me a fighting chance, following numerous blood glucose checks throughout the warm up, swigs of Lucozade sport, crunching glucose tablets and even doses of insulin to optimise my levels prior to the game. However if they’re not right at 2:50pm, I know it could be a difficult afternoon.

Rooting through my bag to find my blood glucose monitor, whilst half listening to what’s going on around me, I’ll eventually stumble across my meter, test my levels and hope that they read somewhere between 5.6 and 10 mmols. If they do, I’m flying out of the changing room knowing that diabetes won’t be holding me back this afternoon. Outside of those parameters and we might be in trouble. This is when I’m off to inject myself in a “Lovely” & “Hygienic” non-league football ground toilet to deal with a high glucose level or I’m downing half a bottle of Lucozade sport as quickly as I can to respond to the lower blood glucose level.

I normally come back to the changing room following these last minute adjustments to see the Gaffa having finished his team talk and the lads all stood up ready to go. Luckily for me I trust my ability and understanding of the game enough to know that those last 10 minutes, whatever’s been said, I’ll have it covered. I have to believe that because I’m so preoccupied with just getting things right to get on the pitch!

Whilst the other lads have all prepared for their game, with little extra worry other than their position, their direct opponent and whether they’ve eaten enough energy gels to power up 5 men running a marathon, I’ve had to spend an hour and a half prior to the game on trial & error, adjustments and my best estimations of where my blood glucose levels will end up.

Warming up, pulling on the kit & getting out there is how most people envision football. For a diabetic player the preparation starts a long time before you get to the ground and continues with even more detail when you get there.

However when 3:00pm comes around and I’m free of the preparation it’s all worth it. Football is a way of life for me and no amount of added inconvenience and preparation from my medical condition will stop me playing.