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.

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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!)

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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.

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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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The First #SporT1Day Conference: Organiser’s Perspective (Chris Bright)

After months of phone calls, organising, negotiating and talking about #SporT1Day, May the 13th 2018 has been and gone…….But what a day!!! It was our first foray into creating an event which provided education and inspiration in one big dose! Before I even start talking about the day I’d like to say a big thank you to Paul Coker at www.1bloodydrop.com and the University of Worcester (www.worc.ac.uk) for partnering with TDFC to deliver the conference. I’d also like to extend the thank you to those people who helped us organise, run the day and tidy up afterwards!

Building up to it I’d spent the previous week stressed, writing my presentation and critiquing everything myself and Paul had put in place as I strove for perfection… I knew deep down this wasn’t possible but I wanted the event to look as professional as possible whilst delivering the overall objective of giving the attendees tips, guidance and education about Type 1 Diabetes management in sport. I think we did a good job at trying to deliver that!!!

The day itself was an absolute whirlwind for me but I loved every minute of it…

I arrived with Alex at about 8:30 to ensure that we had the venue looking smart and the registration process in place… It took us half an hour,  but by 9 am we had it all sorted! At this time myself and Paul took up our places on the registration desk to welcome the delegates, check them in and give them their goodie bags! It was great to see so many smiley faces with an early start on a Sunday but I could sense the excitement in the attendees and in myself and Paul.

10 o’clock came around quick! This was the moment myself and Paul opened up the conference and after we’d rounded everyone up and guided them to the room it was time to begin the proceedings! We were keen to introduce and stress the importance of learning and education in our opening, with as few words as possible, due to the amazing speakers we’d lined up.

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Following the warm-up we started as we meant to go on… With a cracker!

I’d spent the last few months getting to know Chris Pennell and his work with the Type 1 Diabetes academy based at Worcester Warriors, so it was only natural I should ask the first Type 1 Diabetic to score a try for England, to be the first speaker at #SporT1Day.  Like Chris’ career, he did not disappoint!! We heard stories of Chris’ life and his approach to Diabetes management, which caused a stir in the room, whilst he talked about the endeavours of being a professional athlete with a chronic medical condition.

2 comments really stood out to me from Chris’ talk… The first was his reference to himself as a “plastic Diabetic” which he explained was because he felt he’d had an easy ride by being diagnosed as a 19 year old after the difficult years of school and being a teenager. I felt this was a direct reflection of Chris’ work with Type 1 Children in his academy and the stories he’s heard from countless families about the battles they face… It is difficult but we come through it stronger.

Despite the amazement in the room at Chris’ dietary approach to type 1 combined with his athletic lifestyle, I actually felt he made a really interesting comment about becoming a better Rugby player because of living with the condition and the discipline it taught him. An interesting concept I’m sure many type 1 Diabetics won’t have considered. I’ve always thanked the condition for making me more determined and motivated to achieve whilst I understand the impact it’s had on my ability to plan and organise, so it wasn’t too much of a shock to hear Chris say that but I wonder how many others in the audience were expecting it?  It was fascinating listening to Chris’ story and I can’t thank him enough for agreeing to share it with us! I appreciate it mate.  

After Chris shared his experiences for us it was the turn of Matt Cook, our Sports Nutrition expert and senior lecturer from the institute of sport and exercise science at the University of Worcester. Matt isn’t an expert in type 1 Diabetes but I felt he did a great job in demonstrating the academic literature out there and how it corresponds with Type 1 Diabetes. It gave plenty of our audience quite literally “food for thought” as he demonstrated the recommendations and gaps in understanding for people living with the condition from his sports nutrition perspective… I really enjoy getting the perspective’s of people who aren’t well accustomed to the condition as it brings an unbiased representation of the facts, which is important for those of us living in the world of Diabetes. Matt did a great job of positioning what we do and don’t know about the condition in relation to sports nutrition and management and I think the whole room got a lot from his talk. Thank you Matt!

Following a really quick coffee break… We moved onto the “Legends” of the type 1 diabetes world, Mr. Paul Coker, my co-organiser, and Mr. Pete Davies a man whom has lived with Diabetes over double my own lifetime! They both have epic stories to tell which I’d struggle to do justice with words so I’ll just try and describe the theme of their talks. I’d seen Paul speak a couple of times at other events about running 40 half marathons in one year to celebrate 40 years living with Type 1 Diabetes, but this was the first time he wanted to break down his routines and try and give the audience something tangible to take away and utilise in their own exercise regimes. I was watching many members of the audience frantically scribbling down, which was a huge indication of the quality of the information Paul was delivering. I think we all learnt something from Paul’s presentation. We won’t mention the fire alarm going off (a minor hiccup!).

We then met the man who’s surpassed 60 years of living with Type 1 Diabetes, Pete Davies. What a guy and wow has he seen some change over the years! I saw Pete speak at TAD (Talking About Diabetes Conference) just a couple of weeks prior to our event and his talk was super inspiring so I was just pleased we’d secured him for our first conference. His presentation involved demonstrating the changes in Diabetes care over time as well as the amazing treks and expeditions that he’s been involved in. I think everyone in the room felt very lucky to have the access to technology surrounding Diabetes care that we now have within society. I certainly did! It’s a huge eye opener to think that 50/60 years ago people living with type 1 Diabetes weren’t expected to live much beyond 40 which is something I’ve certainly taken for granted! A quality presentation from Pete and a huge personal thank you from me for your support for the event!

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After we’d spent the lunch break talking about the morning’s talks, I was preparing to take to the stage for mine! After watching some of the amazing presentations during the morning I felt I had a lot to live up to…  The approach I took was to talk about the journey I’d been on from diagnosis at 8 years old through to founding the Diabetes Football Community with snippets of detail about diabetes management mixed into it. I just hoped that people that listened to me took something from the talk… It was honestly a pleasure and a privilege to be able to talk about my own experiences and views on the world of Diabetes. I felt the talk went pretty well, up until the moment technology let me down and didn’t play the videos I’d included!!!  Alas, it’s in those moments you just adapt and crack on! Hopefully next time I won’t be let down in the same way! I thoroughly enjoyed it and as I finished up I had the honour of introducing Craig Stanley, a former professional footballer whom has lived with the condition for the majority of his career.

Craig’s talk was a fascinating listen for me, as I’m sure it was for the audience, as I’d always dreamt of being a professional footballer and having missed out on that opportunity a couple of times, it was amazing to hear from a man who lives with the same medical condition I do and who’s lived that dream. Craig’s talk mixed in humour, stories from his career and a constant relation to his routines and experiences with type 1 diabetes within professional football. It was my personal highlight of the day, as a part time footballer and founder of a community based on Football and Diabetes, to have Craig there was extra special.  He was a big hit with the audience and was asked a number of questions post presentation and throughout the day. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the man over the last few months and he’s a really top bloke and I can’t thank him enough for his support for the conference and our UK all Diabetic Futsal team.

Following the final break in the programme it was onto our final speakers… Georgia, Alex and Emma.

I’ve been in contact with Georgia for around a year or so now as she’s been really supportive of The Diabetes Football Community and spreading the word of what we’re doing, so it was only natural with her experiences as a Diabetic intent on living a healthy lifestyle encompassing weightlifting that we asked her to be a part of the day. Georgia quite openly expressed her experience with Diabulimia (google it if you haven’t heard of it) and her passion for exercise and a healthy lifestyle within her talk. With Georgia being a Radio DJ she showcased an engaging style and female perspective to an otherwise male type 1 diabetes line up which really captured the audience’s attention. You could see the impact she had on the attendees as her Q & A session was almost as long as her actual talk!!! It was wonderful to have Georgia with us and I’m just glad she said yes when I asked!! Thank you.

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Georgia’s talk led quite nicely onto our penultimate speaker, Mr. Alex Richards. A good friend of mine and an expert in Sport & Exercise psychology whom has become a really important fixture in the work of The Diabetes Football Community over the last few months. His work has been appreciated and praised in the community for its unique and differing approach to the condition in sport. I think his work will become more and more important to diabetic athletes over the coming years and it’s definitely a “watch this space” message from me regarding the direction Alex heads towards over the next year. Much like the work he’s been producing, his presentation captured and engaged the whole room. His presentation focussed on sport, self-compassion and Type 1 Diabetes which to my knowledge is a subject seldom addressed by anyone before.  This groundbreaking look into sports psychology for Type 1 Diabetic athletes is something that I believe can make a difference and Alex is passionate about contributing towards. He did a fantastic job on the day and I think he was just as excited about the reaction from the audience as the audience were about his ideas!!! Thank you buddy.

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Last but by no means least, was our expert medical professional, Emma Innes. Emma has been a leading Diabetes specialist nurse amongst many other roles across her distinguished career, which has now led her into a role as a senior lecturer at the University of Worcester.  I was certainly keen to involve someone from the medical profession in the day as they have such a big impact on the lives and approach of people living with type 1 diabetes to sport. Emma cross referenced her experience in the profession with the recommendations for people with the condition exercising. It was a really insightful viewpoint on which to bring this epic first conference to a close.

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As myself and Paul wrapped the day up by thanking the speakers and audience for attending, I was absolutely buzzing from the excitement as well as being absolutely exhausted! It involved a lot of my time planning, organising, negotiating, communicating and ultimately delivering the day. In some ways I was pleased that it had come to an end but for the most part I was disappointed it had been and gone as I really enjoyed the experience.

As I drove myself and Alex home that night there was no doubt the positivity was radiating throughout our conversation and the question about the future prospects of another #SporT1Day conference was discussed… Why Not?!

After a day full of wonderful speakers, a great venue and with wonderful support from the Diabetes community, I’m not sure myself and Paul could say no to creating another conference. So our intention is to organise another #SporT1Day later this year… November is a month looking likely so keep your eyes peeled for our social media announcement and I hope it’ll be in a location where the community can continue to back us.

Lastly I must say a huge thank you to the University of Worcester for their support in hosting the event and allowing us access to staff members whom spoke, to Dexcom for supplying a starter pack prize to our most prolific Tweeter and to Gluco for supplying delegates with hypo treatment goodie bags.

An incredible day and the start of something quite special… Keep supporting us and who knows what we can achieve?!

Chris  

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#SporT1Day Reaction: One of the Speakers (Alex Richards)

Hi guys, just thought I’d write a blog post reflecting on my experience at the #SporT1Day conference that happened on the 13th May. The conference gave the chance for several speakers including myself, to cover a range of topics that impact type 1 diabetes. I wanted to write this post to share my opinions about the day whilst I also wanted to give a little summary of my talk for those who missed it.

So my thoughts on the day…. I think Chris and Paul Coker did a great job at making sure the day ran smoothly. There were a couple of hurdles to jump over such as the fire alarm going off during Paul’s talk. Despite a couple of things like this happening Chris and Paul managed to keep the day running nicely. One thing that really stood out to me was the variety of speakers at the conference. The speakers included professional athletes, women, diabetic nurses and people who had lived with the condition for over 60 years. It was great to see such a diverse line up which resulted in a wide range of experiences being shared. The take home message for me was that type 1 management is very much an individual thing. Therefore, it’s important to find out what works for you. This requires you to experiment and constantly keep learning what works and what doesn’t. The other great result of such a diverse line up was the breadth of topics covered. As there were so many different topics I think everyone could come away with something they found interesting. Topics ranged from management tips, to nutrition, psychology and some stories of inspiration. It’s a real credit to Chris and Paul for being able to put together such a great line up. The last thing I’ll say about the speakers is that hearing their stories has been invaluable to me. As someone who does not have type 1 diabetes I am constantly working hard to understand what people go through as best I can. So learning more about the condition from other personal experiences of type 1 is really important. I can’t thank people enough for sharing their stories with me.

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The previous point leads nicely into my own talk. I’m not going to recap it all here but I will write a post in the future that gives you guys some more detail. So, the main points of my talk. Diabetes has been viewed for the longest time as a medical condition; which of course it is. However, from the perspective of someone that lives with the condition it’s much more. It’s a 24/7 job that you didn’t ask for but have to do. It’s a condition that requires you to make constant decisions. As a result, how you think and feel impact how you manage the condition. This being the case, what you put in your head is as important as what you put in your body. However, psychology support is an underused resource for people with type 1 and I’m really passionate about changing that. The psychological load of managing type 1 daily and during sport or exercise is heavy and psychological skills training can help you cope with the load. As I’m conscious about making this an overly long read I’ll expand on this in my next psych series. Before I finish, I’d like to briefly mention the main part of my talk which was self-compassion. In a nutshell self-compassion is the ability to treat yourself like you would treat a loved one. When they experience difficulties, do you criticize them? Do you constantly remind them how rubbish they are? Or do you try and understand that this is a difficult time for them? Do you try your best to help them move past the difficulty? My take home message to the people in the audience was that Type 1 is a rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs. When you experience tough times, try and treat yourself with the compassion you would treat a loved one. If you wouldn’t say it to a close friend, don’t say it to yourself.

Thanks,

Alex.

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