Diagnosed at 34 and trying to adapt to Football again…

It’s been a little while since we shared a blog on the website, so we thought it was a great opportunity to share the story of one of our newest members to the community… Thank you Tom for sharing what you went through upon diagnosis and we hope that your story will provide comfort and support to those who may face this in the future… No more words from us, over to you Tom to talk us through what happened.

“Football was the first sign

The last game of the 2021/2022 season was a mid-week evening fixture on the 20th April, away in a small village outside of Lincoln. A very scratchy 11 players were put together with a couple of late stragglers turning up to fill the subs bench after work and family commitments… Sunday league football in England at it’s finest. Playing at centre half, the dream of being a marauding midfielder has long been forgotten since turning 30! After around 70 minutes something happened which I had never experienced in my whole-time playing football, as I had excruciating pain in both of my calves as they cramped up. At the time, through lack of awareness and a large chunk of denial about my own health, I convinced myself that age had finally caught up with me and I wasn’t as fit as I once was! I struggled on for 10 more minutes before giving up and giving the gaffer the dreaded arm roll signal above the head to indicate I needed to come off. To add to the dismay of being subbed off, we managed to throw away a two-goal lead and concede two late goals to draw the game and consign ourselves to rock bottom of the 1st division after a long tough season! Unfortunately, our collective lack of footballing ability wasn’t the only thing to become apparent after this game.

Diagnosis

My ‘diaversary’, as I have often affectionately seen it referred to on social media, is 18th May 2022. The usual sore muscles and cramping up in the night after a football game occurred, which I attributed to dehydration from the game that evening. I also attributed my constant thirst and then spending most of the night getting up to go to the toilet to this! I felt could explain all these things with a plausible causality to feelings after a tough game so thought nothing more of it. I carried on my usual daily routine after this, a little bit tired and run down, still thirsty and still weeing a lot! I was a teacher, and we were coming to the end of a school year, and I told myself I must be ready for a break and ploughed on through, although the symptoms never went away. I always tell people never to google your symptoms, but you never follow your own advice and one word kept coming up whenever I put them into the NHS website……. DIABETES. I was 34, fit, healthy, a good weight, no family history anywhere of Diabetes, I was sure it wouldn’t be that. I couldn’t deny that I wasn’t well for much longer and finally succumbed to pressure from my partner to book a doctor’s appointment. Casually dropping off a urine sample and having some bloods taken at the doctors before setting off on my way to work. I received a phone call about an hour later containing lots of words such as: ‘DKA’, ‘Diabetes’ and ‘A&E’. Within an hour I was sat in A&E on a drip with more bloods being taken, more meetings with doctors and no more idea what was going on! A very long and scary night at home alone followed this and a phone call from the doctor in the morning confirming Diabetes and directing me straight to Clinic 1 at the hospital. I was greeted by Diabetes Specialist Nurse and walked out an hour later with a blood glucose monitor, 2 pens of insulin and a lot of leaflets. I had never felt more overwhelmed in my life!

Getting back to football

I am never ashamed to admit I cried for most of that evening. The gravity of what a lifetime of diabetes means really is something which is quite incomprehensible at times. I was convinced footballing life was over and I was going to be confined to a life of golf! I had no idea how playing sport whilst managing diabetes worked and it was one of my first questions in my follow-up with my diabetes nurse the next week. As always seems to be the way with diabetes, it could not have been anymore inconvenient, with a house move and job move all scheduled for June! It did however afford me a summer break to get my head around living with diabetes and my body’s responses to exercise. My first experience of getting back into sport was an attempted cricket game in early June. As could be expected this went terribly and after having a very sweaty, dizzy and shaky moment whilst batting, I spent most of our turn to field eating a banana and various sweets from my pocket – there was a lot to learn! I was luckily given a libre 2 sensor around 3 weeks after diagnosis and this made the start of preseason in late June a lot more successful. I’m sure I did over 30 scans in my first session! I turned up armed with chocolate bars for some sugar beforehand, enough Haribo for a kid’s party and more water than any one person would ever need. At any opportunity I would nip off to tap my arm with my phone and check my levels. After a 90-minute session with some highs and lows it was overall a positive result. Maybe this wasn’t the end of the road for me after all! I managed to negotiate most of pre-season training and matches without too many wobbles, although the heat nearly did me a couple of times if it wasn’t the diabetes. However, after every session, there was always advice and support to fall back on from the TDFC community if things had gone wrong with people always happy to answer any questions or offer advice.

TDFC

I stumbled across Chris whilst searching out other people with Diabetes on twitter, looking for insight, inspiration, advice and general empathy from people going through something similar to me. I found the TDFC twitter page and dropped it a message before carrying on my mindless scrolling and forgetting all about it. The next day I got a reply from Chris and before long he had introduced me to the TDFC community and added me to the WhatsApp group. To find a place where people had experienced the same thing or going through similar situations was a comfort and motivator. Being able to ask questions and get answers from people all over the country and beyond was brilliant. Not just on football topics but every life experience with diabetes you can think of! I am yet to make a TDFC training session and join in a kick about but look forward to hopefully making one and sharing synchronised glucose checking and hypo snacks!

From speaking to others about diabetes I realise that it is a marathon not a sprint and no one ever truly masters it. You are thrown in at the deep end on day one and must quickly adapt to the basics but with the pace at which things are moving with diabetes and technology there is so much more to learn. I recently listened to a discussion on Twitter speaking about exercise and my mind was blown listening to people talk about open and closed loop systems, basal rates, adjustments and insulin sensitivity. I’m sure it will all make sense to me one day and I am not the only newly diagnosed diabetic trying to make sense of it all.

Today

Game one of the season has just gone without a hitch (a boring 0-0 draw) and 90 minutes at centre half was successfully negotiated. This is thanks to some of the advice and routines I have put in place with advice from the TDFC group chat and the post which Chris had done on the TDFC website which helped a lot. I’ve managed to keep my sensor on which I thought would never happen and have had great support from my teammates! I’m hoping I have a few years left in me yet……”

 

Thank you for sharing your story so openly Tom and If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog and want to share your own story with us please do get in contact with us…

Chris Bright Reviews 2021 at TDFC

Well, here we are… On the cusp of 2022 after a year which followed probably one of the toughest years of many people’s lives. I think at this stage of the pandemic so many of us have lost someone we know or know of and I just want to add to the condolences if you’re one of those people who have lost a loved one during the last year to COVID or anything else. My thoughts are with you.

There’s no doubt that at TDFC we’ve faced some big challenges in the last year. From company finances, to ongoing restrictions which curtailed many of the project ideas we had, through to the challenges of supporting our community during a period of uncertainty, pressure and ultimately fear. It’s been tough to move forward but move forward we have. Because for me, that’s the mindset I’ve always had, when you want to make something happen and there’s a barrier in the way, you don’t run away from it, you find a way to leap over it and that’s how we’ve approached 2021. We’ve tried our best to adapt and overcome the challenges we’ve been faced with. It’s not been easy, but nothing worth doing in life is made easy for us.

So, we’ve given it a good go.

With the start of 2021 in the UK being a period of lockdown, much of the support we could offer was via our online tools. So, we maxed this out as much as we could. We had great engagement in the Men’s whatsapp group which continues to be an incredible resource for support, awareness and troubleshooting around type 1 Diabetes. This year we’ve had discussions on the impact of vaccines on our Diabetes, the effect of COVID on our condition and how long it may have impacted on people, all the way through to the performances of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal (too often a conversation in my opinion!). It’s incredible to see and as the founder who envisaged this idea in 2017, to see how we’re able to help so many people in this way is mind blowing sometimes. We’ve changed lives and we continue to influence the way the healthcare system views peer support, and for this I’m always grateful. Our community, our vision and our direction.

In amongst that vision has always been to shed a spotlight on the incredible people involved in football living with Diabetes. Storytelling is one of the greatest gifts that we all have available to us and the power a story can have, if told in the right way, can be profound. We’ve told stories on our social media, through our blog and in the media before but we felt with the growth of podcasts, it was time to start telling stories using this popular medium. So, during the early part of 2021, myself and peachy launched The Diabetes Dugout to do just that. We’ve interviewed people from the community, told stories from people involved in professional football and most importantly shed a light on our condition which educates others. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope those who have tuned in to the episodes have done too (I even got to speak with the legend that is Gary Mabbutt MBE!) … It’s a resource now that we will always be able utilise and if you haven’t checked it out, search for The Diabetes Dugout on spotify or apple podcasts or head to www.thediabetesfootballcommunity.com/the-diabetes-dugout

As the early part of 2021 turned into spring and summer, the impact of the vaccine was felt widely across the UK with life returning to something which looked a little bit more like our previous normal. This allowed myself and the teams to get back to playing. We opted to bring the UK Men’s team back together but outdoors throughout the summer to maximise the safety of the players. It proved to be really well received and the guys welcomed the sessions back with open arms. We had a number of new attendees who had found our work during the pandemic who came to experience the environment we create for the first time. The below podcast link outlines how that session played out, so make sure you go and check that out because I think it really demonstrates what it’s all about:

UK MEN’S TRAINING SESSION PODCAST EPISODE

Whilst myself, I got to make my comeback to playing competitive Futsal after the pandemic and after my post-concussion syndrome. I was back playing for Birmingham Futsal club in the National Futsal series, where for the first time in the sport’s history in England, games were being shown on TV through FreeSports and then live on BT Sports later in the year. The sport finally had the coverage it deserved, and it was great to be back doing what I do. I even got to get on the court alongside an Aston Villa legend in Stiliyan Petrov who I’d grown up watching as a teenager at Villa Park.

 

Another group which also got back playing this year was our TDFC London team. They were back on the Futsal court and just like the wider men’s team, their numbers had grown during the pandemic. Honestly, this group has given me so much pride this year with the way they’ve come together as their own community as well as how they’ve performed on the court. They’re enjoying themselves, supporting each other and they’ve even managed to feature on Channel News Asia TV too (video below)! They’re an incredible example of the TDFC ethos spreading and expanding. This hub idea is something I hope to see more growth around in 2022 and beyond as we reach more corners of the UK and beyond.

 

 

But alongside this growth in the men’s groups, we’ve seen the development of the Women’s project for the first time in TDFC history. We now have a great group of Female leaders shaping the strategy & direction of the TDFC Womens project as we head into 2022. The team now have their first date in the diary for a meet up in Worcester on March 12th (Yes right next to International Women’s Day!) to really push this and keep an eye out for the girls appearing on social media in 2022 as they look to grow the awareness of the project. We have to also thank the incredible team at HerGameToo who we partnered with to support this project and they’ve since provided us with really generous donations to help the girls get going! So, a huge thank you to everyone at HerGameToo and to Caz and Amy specifically who I’ve spoken to.  You’re doing an incredible job!

 

 

Alongside the success of creating the women’s project, I also had the chance to celebrate The People’s Award at the QIC Diabetes awards. The award was given to me as an individual but for me it’s all about the way the community came together during the pandemic to provide the guidance, moral support and positivity we all needed to get us through a challenging time whilst living with Diabetes. I’m just the fortunate one who created this idea but the voices within our project and community win awards like this, not me. Nevertheless, as a project it was wonderful to be recognised in an awards ceremony designed to celebrate the excellent care provided by healthcare professionals in the Diabetes sector, so for us it was brilliant to raise awareness of our project to more and more of the professionals up and down the country who work tirelessly to make our lives easier. Check out the result of the award below and one of the pictures… It was also pretty cool to meet the voice of Strictly Come Dancing Mr Alan Dedicoat.

 

 

https://www.qualityincare.org/diabetes/awards/results/qic_diabetes_2021_results/the_peoples_award

Awards help us with awareness, and I can’t deny that, however they’re not something I dwell on too much. I’ve always had this saying coached into me since I was as a kid “you’re only as good as your last game.” Obviously, this relates to my Football background but it’s true of life too, we’re only as good as we are right now in the moment, what we’ve achieved or done has already been written and what’s to come is now our focus. This always helps me to get me focussed on what’s next. In 2021, I’ve had a couple of great opportunities on behalf of TDFC to help position ourselves to influence “What’s next” for the overall Diabetes Community. Firstly, I was invited to become part of a steering group to help expand peer support across England with NHS England at the heart of leading it, with the vision of those of us with the condition very much helping to steer the ship. TDFC is recognised and commended widely by those in healthcare teams up and down the country, so it was really exciting for us to be invited to be involved in pathing the way for wider adoption of peer support in the healthcare structure and treatment pathways of the future for people with Diabetes. This project is just gathering momentum so keep an eye out on developments in this area in the next few months. Whilst this project has been gaining traction, I’ve also been working away with Professor Gyozo Molnar from the University of Worcester on the first academic publication related to my research on The Diabetes Football Community ( If you haven’t come across the research before check out the blog post by clicking here). We’ve now submitted our first draft to the editors and will await amendments in preparation for final submissions & publication later in 2022/ early 2023. Another important step having our community’s example being utilised within academia to inform the next generation of researchers and policy makers within the healthcare industry regarding the impact of peer support.

But as always…. We’re a long way from being finished.

To begin 2022, we have the exciting launch of The Diabetes Awareness education program for schools, aimed at kids aged between 5-11. Our hope is that this will raise awareness of the condition, whilst encouraging healthy lifestyle choices and understanding the differences between the 2 main types of diabetes. An awareness program to help make Diabetes a bigger, more understood conversation for the next generation, as we attempt to tackle the longstanding stigma and stereotypes many of us have faced over many years with the condition. It’s an exciting development and if you want to find out more or point your schools in the direction of it head to www.ajbactiveminds.co.uk

Below are some pictures from our recent trip to Everton in the community to promote the work and to talk about future links for the programme.

This isn’t our only foray into education & resources for 2022 as we’re hoping to develop further resources and CPD opportunities for those involved in football, so watch this space! Ideas will be progressing in the early part of 2022 and as always if you want to help or support us please do get in touch.

Whilst on the participation front, we’ll be delivering futsal sessions for our men’s and women’s teams in 2022 and I hope for the first time we will be doing something for a kids participation day (I’ve said this a lot but the pandemic did put pay to this idea for a while!)…. Who knows, we may even manage to participate in DiaEuro 2022 if the pandemic allows us a safe time to do so….But as always we have lots of ideas to focus on.

As usual though, we’re going for it. We don’t sit back and wait for things to happen at TDFC, we strive for positive change and that’s what will be doing in 2022. But, we can’t do this alone and these efforts aren’t always the easiest to fund or find a way to deliver, so if you could help us financially to continue to do what we do, please head to our donate page: www.thediabetesfootballcommunity.com/donate or head over to our patreon page to subscribe to exclusive content www.patreon.com/thediabetesfootballcommunity

However before I finish, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to the incredible TDFC team behind the scenes…. You all know who you are but a special mention to the man who helps keep us on the straight and narrow, my fellow podcast host, director and really good friend Jon Peach who’s made a huge difference to me in the last year since stepping onto the board. Thank you mate!

But most importantly to me, I wanted to end this blog with the views of our community… So I reached out to them on WhatsApp and I simply said to them finish this sentence:

Being part of TDFC in 2021 has been…..

“Informative, really helpful and great knowing I’m not alone. Great Football banter too.”

“An arm of support I didn’t really know I needed until times got hard. Support, guidance and laughs.”

“The most supportive and helpful tool I have used to help manage my T1D since first being diagnosed, whilst also feeling part of a special with a great bunch of lads.”

“A useful source of information and humour, at a time where both have been hard to find elsewhere.”

“A great source of comfort and knowledge in a subject that’s lacking in information in the public domain.”

“Really great and useful. Helped me through some struggles and getting to know people in the same situation.”

“A big eye opener into how good of a community we have. The support has been amazing and being a part of TDFC is something I highly recommend people get involved with.”

“Inspiring and encouraging! It’s amazing to be connected to so many people who understand what I go through every day, and all through football.”

“Like being part of a family, I’ve enjoyed bringing diabetes and football together to raise awareness and inspire others.”

“A great experience allowing me to connect with other girls within football living with type 1 whilst working on inspiring others. Can’t wait for what the next year will bring.”

“So far brief! But for the short time I’ve been part of TDFC, it has been great knowing there’s a whole group of people who share your passion and understand the difficulties of diabetes. Having that support system is incredible and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can achieve in 2022.”

“The continuation of a fantastic support network for all things diabetes and football (could even change that to sport!)”

And their responses continue to show me why we do what we do. Happy New year everyone here’s to another year of changing the perception of Diabetes.

Chris

Louise McCay – The First Type 1 Woman to play Futsal Live on British TV

“In some respects what I am about to talk about is not a day I want to remember, however TDFC founder Chris Bright made me think about the experience in a different way.  

I am currently playing my first season of futsal for Bedford Futsal Club who are in the Women’s Super Series South. Our season got off to a great start with a strong win & I even bagged myself a hat-trick, however our second game of the season stepped up a level…  

The day itself brought a lot of new challenges that we all as a team had to try and combat. For instance, playing a very strong opposition, having crowds back and being streamed live on TV with BT Sports.. yes BT Sports!  

On Saturday 9th October I was lucky enough to be the first female type 1 diabetic to play competitive futsal live on BT Sports (as far as I am aware… definitely reach out if you know differently!!!).  

The Lead Up to the Game  

The day before was sensor change day, something I’ve never had problems with.  

I applied my sensor as normal, however, once set up was complete I received an error notification reading ‘replace sensor, sensor not working’ – luckily, I did have another sensor with me as I get two a month. So I thought no stress I will just replace the faulty one and as I’ve never had this issue before it must be a one off. After applying the second sensor and after checking my levels once or twice I got the same error message – what are the chances both sensors didn’t work??  

The panic started to kick in – I am not going to be able to control my bloods as I would want to for the big game tomorrow without my sensor. Fortunately, I was able to go and purchase an additional sensor from a local pharmacy which thankfully worked. I was however very conscious of the accuracy given my experience that day, therefore I was sense checking my sugars with a finger prick for the rest of the evening to gain confidence.  

On The Day..  

I hadn’t had a great night with the blood sugars, I often go to sleep with bloods in range to find them spike in the night, which is what happened the night before the game. I woke up around 2/3am by chance and had a correction dose as my blood glucose levels were rising above 15mmol’s. As you can see from the below graph this started to kick in but as my bloods dropped back into range it spiked again. I then woke up just before 6am and saw my bloods were too high yet again so I decided to do another correction dose, hoping to wake in a couple of hours with much better glucose level.

 

When my alarm went off around 7:30am my bloods were dipping into the low territory, which I treated with my usual carton of orange juice. I then had a decision to make as it was essential I got my levels under control for the day.  

We had a 2:30pm kick off which in itself adds complications and decisions to be made around when I would need to fuel up for the game with potentially 2 meal times to squeeze in whilst also ensuring my bloods were under control from the get-go. As I had just treated my low sugars, I was conscious of them spiking if I had breakfast straight away – so I decided to hold out and just pack breakfast for the journey.  

To help relax before the game and give the legs a good stretch beforehand we decided to travel up early and catch some of the earlier games. We wanted to familiarise ourselves with the settings, try to squash the external pressures and settle the nerves.  

I had read a very interesting blog only days before from a type 1 who ran the London Marathon (who I now know to be Scott Burrell (what a legend and don’t miss his podcast about it by clicking here) who had experienced the negative side of adrenaline and added pressures of big events on blood sugars, leading him to not be able to bring his levels down to perform at his best.  

This was playing a lot on my mind in the lead up to and on game day.  

As I had held out on having breakfast my bloods started to drop during the journey up to Birmingham, so I decided to treat this again with the trusty orange juice carton and one Weetabix.  

My bloods started to rise again ahead of the warm-up, so I did another couple of units as I know my bloods tend to rise once I start playing. This seemed to eventually start to work, however, the adrenaline mixed with the usual during exercise spike still managed to creep in across the second half of the game.  

I didn’t feel the impact of this movement as I was very focused on the game but on reflection I probably could have benefited from another unit or so whilst I was off the court.  

Overall, considering the occasion, I was fairly happy with my blood sugars, however, I wish the lead up to game day and previous night’s levels were a bit more in control as I know the middle of the night highs, and the corresponding lows, have an impact on my body throughout the following day.  

After a tough game and unfortunate result, the day ended with a huge spike in sugars from the evening meal that I consumed post game to drown the sorrows.  

There are definitely some learning points I can take from the day to help me move forward if we are lucky enough to be on live tv again in the new year.  

When I take a step back, I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity to play live on BT Sports and will continue to work hard to have that opportunity again.  

Having type 1 diabetes does add a number of extra daily considerations and decision points, but I will never let it hold me back from doing the things I work hard for. “
Louise is part of the TDFC Womens team leading the push to provide more education, support and opportunities for girls and women to get more from their Football and Futsal, whilst living with Diabetes. Get in touch if you’re interested in finding out more!

My First Session by Anthony Parker

I attended my first TDFC session in July following an introduction to the project by Mo who found my Facebook profile on a Type-1 diabetes page & saw from my profile photo that I was a football fan.

I have been a Type-1 diabetic for over 30 years and could probably count the number of fellow Type-1’s who I have met during this time on one hand.  However, during the challenges of the past 18 months and after experiencing some side effects caused by diabetes, the want & need to meet with people going through similar life experiences was heightened. The TDFC project provided this; the fact that everyone also had a passion for the sport I have loved for the past 35 years was a bonus!
In a strange coincidence, one of the other guys who was also planning on attending the session in July lives literally around the corner from me, a mere 7-min drive away! Buncy and me agreed to travel the 2.5hrs to Worcester (from Berkshire) together and got to know each other through an exchange that covered blood glucose levels, diabetes management, hypo symptoms and of course, football. Turns out Buncy is a Watford fan, so there was much fun to be had….
Once we arrived into Worcester, I found the meet & greet/get to know each other session really powerful.  I have not before realised the benefits of such a session.  They empower people to work to solve their own problems.  Everyone in attendance are equals and I felt that this made people feel much more comfortable opening up about their diabetes journey and related experiences. After a very tough last 18 months with Covid & the various lockdowns, I believe that sessions like this can reduce any anxieties, whilst improving self-esteem, and providing a sense of well-being overall.
The actual training session was itself a surreal experience. Playing futsal/football with other guys who were flicking their phone across the Libre on their arms to monitor their BG levels every so often whilst having conversations about various diabetes management strategies adopted for a rigorous football/futsal session was something I hadn’t seen before. Somehow, it almost seemed ‘normal’ to take mini-breaks to take BG readings and to read them out to the group with no judgments made.  I personally awoke with a BG of 12mmol so spent the whole car journey up trying to get it to a suitable level, but I did too much of a good job of this and ended up starting the session with a 3.3mmol highlighted in red flashing up on my own phone via my Libre.  Thankfully, there was an assortment of glucose options supplied to support the treatment of a low BG.
I have been playing a decent standard of football for over 30 years, but futsal is a very different game; more tactical, more structured and more intense with less time to recover from a period of attacking or defending.  Having put in a couple of additional pounds during the lockdowns, I’d admit that I need to better prepare myself to suitably compete for the next session!  The standards were pretty high and were refined by the guidance and coaching of Brighty, culminating in a very good team goal during the actual practice match.  Thankfully, the goal was scored by the team that I was on…
After a competitive and enjoyable session, I managed to join a couple of the guys for a quick ad-hoc lunch before we all departed for our return journeys home.  We all shared some more stories on our diabetes journey.  A couple of the guys were newly diagnosed, so it was empowering for me to share my own 30 year story of diabetes & to highlight what I had achieved, both personally & professionally to send a message that diabetes shouldn’t hold you back.
Personally, for me, the whole experience was humbling, empowering & enlightening whilst providing a much-needed boost to my mental mindset. I also got to find out that I ‘wasn’t the only type-1 in the village’….

Looking forward to the next gathering….

Back in the saddle by Tim Ward

Guess what, it’s been a weird 18 months hasn’t it, but as the restrictions end and some form of normality returns it was great to get the message from TDFC HQ that the futsal sessions are back on and a couple of summer meet ups are in the diary. Get in!!

As many us will know (especially if you’re a parent or carer) you must wear different heads daily, nurse, best friend, coach, Darth Vader. All of which had to been worn in increasingly difficult lockdown circumstances. Having worn all of these (including the new Key stage 2 teacher head) I was driving down to Worcester for the session thinking I haven’t worn the futsal keeper/skipper one for over two years.

A light bulb moment that almost felt like imposter syndrome, as if I was stepping into someone else’s shoes. I’d felt a little like this going to the first ever meet up back in 2018 when I felt like the old guy who had come for the dads v lads’ game. Believe me that feeling disappeared almost instantly in 2018 and the same in 2021.

The reason why, it’s easy, it is the people. The strength and support of community is powerful. Something you don’t (or I didn’t at least) realise until you’re involved, meeting and listening to others, simply having a chat, a laugh or empathising with the issues they are encountering. The WhatsApp group that all who join TDFC are invited to has been fantastic in keeping in touch with everyone but meeting up with some old and new faces, getting the boots on and simply having a game, that is a life saver.

I have family down in Worcester, so we decided to make a day of the first session and catch up, so the Ward clan turned up on mass at Worcester FA HQ.

The meet up followed the usual routine the hello’s, how are you doing, nice to meet you, take the mickey out of each other and have a laugh (mostly at my lockdown barnet), yes Tob’s I know the barbers are open now but I’m going full Zlatan! 😊

There were loads of new faces and although I didn’t get to chat with everyone it was great to meet you all, apart from Bryn who megged me 3 times, you mate, can stay in Aberystwyth next session!

The presentation and discussion with Chris and Jon that opened the session was a real eye opener with the differing level of access to diabetic support across the country, be that physiological support, CGMs, pumps, and dietary & lifestyle advice offered was frighteningly varied, far from consistent and really not great to see. The tireless work Partha Kar and others are doing to remedy this is vital for people with type 1 across the country.

A special shout out to Mo Ismail, who has been an absolute legend throughout the pandemic and well ever since I’ve met him. His advice and guidance (he’s a qualified Pharmacist and T1D brother working in the NHS) on all the questions posted in the group has been a real source of inspiration and support and the recognition he received during the session is well deserved! Well done and thank you pal from us all.

After the presentation and discussion, it was down to the pitch for the futsal, but first media duties for me and Mo discussing the project with Active Herefordshire and Worcestershire, who have provided us with some great support to get back on our feet. It was great to chat about TDFC and the return to playing and training.

The training was great as usual (apart from the megs) and it’s always nice to learn as well as get chatting to Tom about Goalkeeping and his master’s Studies in the USA too!

I coach academy and grassroots football, so I am on a pitch most days of the week but being out there playing and being coached is such a release, you don’t know how much you miss it.

A nice end to the day was having my picture taken by Chris from Reaction Photography of me with Brighty and my boys all of us in TDFC kit, I think they are expecting to be on the flight to Bosnia now for the next DiaEuro.

It was great to be back to see some old and dear friends and make some new ones. I can’t wait to catch up with the rest of the lads and keep meeting new people within TDFC.

In a thousand different ways the day was a real family affair.

We are back… Diabetes Futsal Returns!

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!

TDFC

Louise’s Story & the launch of TDFC Womens

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 – thediabetesfootballcommunity@gmail.com
We look forward to hearing from you and are excited to watch the TDFC Women’s journey unfold…

This wasn’t easy… My story with Post – Concussion Syndrome

To be honest, until I heard Stevie Ward talk about his struggles with Post-Concussion Syndrome on the Mantality podcast I hadn’t even considered talking about this….. Nor was I really ready to share what it’s been like, because to be brutally honest it’s been far from ok.

However, having heard him talk so well about the challenges and how it mimicked so much of my own experience, I felt empowered to get it off my chest as this subject hasn’t been spoken about anywhere near enough, especially within sport. As someone who’s used to dealing with an invisible condition on a daily basis, I thought I’d be relatively well equipped to cope but there was a key difference to this diagnosis from the off. This time I opened up from the off and told people what I was living with, a different approach to my type 1 diagnosis, but ultimately very quickly I was reminded why I adopted that approach before….

When people can’t see, feel or experience what you’re going through they find it hard to believe what you’re telling them. Throughout society there’s a distinct lack of empathy (in my opinion!), that ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes for just a minute. I think it’s a root cause of many many issues across the globe but this is slightly away from my point. It’s also had a huge impact on my life again coping with post-concussion syndrome ( a brain injury!).

I’ve had people almost patronise me, almost can’t believe I’m still talking about, think it’s not that serious, think I’m overdoing it and overall think I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill. Another invisible condition, something else people can’t see through my eyes for a moment and here we go again, another condition with stigma attached.

For me it again just demonstrates why people with hidden conditions like type 1 diabetes, don’t talk about it much in mainstream society. You’re made to feel as though you’re constantly the problem. I hear the lip service paid to the words diversity and inclusion all over the place in 2021 but until individuals become accountable for those words to themselves, how can those things really be achieved?

I wanted to make that point clear, that empathy can make all the difference and if you catch yourself making a pre-judgement of someone, see if you can just take a minute to look at the world through their eyes….. It might change everything.

But I want to talk about what the condition has been like as well, because it’s been awful at times and it needs more people talking about it.

So, since September 2020 I’ve been dealing with symptoms of post-concussion syndrome which started with not much more than being off balance for a header which then came off the wrong part of my head and followed with a number of other knocks in the same game, contributing to an initial concussion. But the concussion wasn’t immediate….

My symptoms didn’t start until 4/5 hours later….. I was just sat in the pub with my friends that evening and I suddenly felt incredibly tired and my brain was a bit foggy, whilst struggling to engage in the conversation around me. Luckily, we all headed off pretty early that night and I got home and went straight to bed not thinking too much about it, other than the fact I was a lot more tired than usual…. Then I woke up the next morning.

The first thing I noticed was that I’d slept for 9 hours without stirring, which is unusual for me. Following that I could tell I still felt extremely tired despite sleeping that long! I felt I could’ve slept another 3 hours easily. Both of these things really struck me… Then the really obvious issues began.

I didn’t quite feel steady on my feet, I mean I wasn’t falling over or tripping but I just felt a bit off, then I had this foggy way of thinking which affected my recall and ability to properly participate in conversation. Ultimately, I was struggling to process information and provide speech as easily as I had found it 24 hours before. I was also noticing that concentration and especially on screens, such as my phone or laptop would really flare up a headache and intensify the throbbing, pressurised feeling I had in my head. Alongside this was a feeling of nausea when I concentrated too much. This was the day after the first concussion.

I then woke up on Monday morning and felt much the same, with things ever so slightly improving but I needed to speak to my GP to understand what was happening. So I managed to get through and speak to them about what I was experiencing and through a telephone triage appointment I was diagnosed with mild concussion, no tests, no examination, all via the phone. As this was my first experience of concussion in my life, the lack of urgency or need to examine me, filled me with a view that it wasn’t too serious, and I’ll be ok in a few days. The advice was to rest and not do contact sport for 2 weeks. If things got worse, I was told to go to A&E to have a scan but as things improved I didn’t feel that it was necessary to do that. The key word was REST in the GP’s advice, but rest looks different to each person and without any sort of definition of what that looked like I chilled out for a few days, took time off work, didn’t really exercise and then gradually incorporated some of that back in, towards the end of the week. The very blasé view given at the start of my diagnosis filled me with an ill-informed opinion of the gravity of the situation and no real insight as to how to approach the next 2 weeks bearing in mind my personal situation. It could’ve been read out of a textbook. I now know that this was a huge mistake but I can’t turn back the clock…. I wish I could.

Needless to say, that 2 weeks after that first concussion I went back and started an FA Vase game. Looking back, I think I knew I wasn’t quite right but with it being a biggish game for the club and me being a senior player, I wanted to get out there and play. When you’re a competitor you always want to be out there. I played the full 90 minutes, we played really well, won the game 4-1 and after initially feeling a tiny bit rough, by the end I was good as gold, or so I thought. I had played the game with no head collisions or challenges and made 6 or 7 routine headers, so I thought I’d probably be ok as a result. But after the adrenaline subsided, the symptoms came on quicker. On the car in the way home (I wasn’t driving!), I could feel that the nausea was there with the fogginess and they were getting worse. This time I obviously knew what it was, so I accepted I was going to feel awful for a few days again and hoped that maybe after a month of not playing this time it’ll go back to normal….

I was obviously wrong… I went back to square -1!

The symptoms were worse than previously and because I was having to work to bring in money, and I wanted to try and keep my mental health in a good place by exercising too, I was struggling with making any progress as I wasn’t getting enough rest. I got better to a point after 2 weeks and then after that I had lingering reoccurring symptoms which affected me on a daily basis. It was worrying, frustrating, frightening and all the other emotions mixed in between.

After continuing like this for a month to 6 weeks, my anxiety about it reached the point where I needed some advice. I rang my GP again, I reached out on Social Media and I looked for anyone who could help. Coupling that with the November Lockdown and it was a really tough place!

I got some good advice and support which has helped to move me forwards and my symptoms have gradually lessened but I’m still not able to work at a full intensity with my exercise and I struggle with continuous screen work as it brings on a throbbing pain in my head and I can feel a little skippy or unbalanced but compared to October/November it’s a world apart. I need to look after myself for a moment and forget about playing sport, this is bigger than that.

But still to this day I’ve not been scanned, examined or seen in person at all regarding my concussion and my memory/ recall is just not as sharp as it was. I hope that one day it’ll come back to something closer to where I was but my recovery is still in progress and even recently took a bit of a hit after too much time spent at a screen working. I thought I was in a place where I was ready for it but in turns out I wasn’t! I heard Stevie say it and I resonate it with so much, the recovery just isn’t linear at all, one day I’ll feel like it’s disappeared and then another I’m really reminded it hasn’t!

I look back now and I know I should have stopped myself playing. I reflect on that every single day. I wished I’d taken things far more seriously and I wish that there was less stigma surrounding talking about brain injuries or mental health conditions within sport. It might have been the difference in me taking the time out to properly rest.

We can’t change that overnight but even if me just sharing this blog post and my experience can help one other person who may be going through this, has gone through this or may unfortunately have to face this in the future, at least through the dark times I’ve been through someone else might take some comfort.

A huge thank you to Stevie for sharing his experience so publicly, which has given me the courage to put mine out there, as writing some of this hasn’t been easy, especially when I’m still going through this. I hope to one day look back at this post and say I recovered. If you have never checked out Mantality before, you should! The work that Stevie and Natalie are doing is shedding a light on concussion specifically and mental health more broadly. It’s a fantastic project and it’s certainly supported and inspired me.

With the premier league recently introducing concussion substitutions and demonstrating a step forward around these types of injuries, more stories and experiences need to be shown as to how it effects everyday lives. It needs more awareness to end the stigma and allow people to feel comfortable talking about something so dangerous.

I have no idea if my Diabetes continues to play a part in my recovery or whether it had an impact in the concussion in the first place, but like with everything I’ve faced in my life, this challenge is one I’ve accepted and will continue to embrace.

I now advocate for Type 1 Diabetes and for greater awareness around the impact of concussion.

I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on this subject and thank you for reading.

Chris

A summary of some of my symptoms below:

 

  • Immediate symptom: tired much earlier in the evening than I’d ever been before.
  • On and off symptom: Felt a little bit off balance.
  • Continued symptom: Working with screens would really upset my head. Whilst looking at them in the mornings before I’d got going would cause a headache which lasted for hours.
  • An immediate symptom and when I’ve done too much: Felt skippy, turning too quickly would set me off.
  • An early symptom and when I’ve done too much: Pressure in my head and a headache for quite a number of days.
  • An early symptom: Nausea, feeling a bit like being car sick or motion sick.
  • An early symptom and when I’ve done far too much: Foggy, I struggled to connect my brain to the conversation around me.
  • I even got my eyes tested to check that I wasn’t irritating my head with my eyesight.
  • When I exercised or ran too quickly, I’d irritate my symptoms and go backwards.
  • Immediate and continuous symptom: Forgetful – Forgetting names of people I always remembered previously and getting frustrated and worried/upset about noticing this. Just forgetting what I was doing a few days ago or situations I always remember.

Zak Brown reviews 2020… Happy New Year Everyone!

Another leading member of The Diabetes Football Community and a veteran of the UK Diabetes Futsal squad wanted to share his views on 2020. Zak has been living a long way from home, with the pandemic unfolding in a completely different way in the country of his birth, to the country he’s been living in…. A really interesting insight from Zak and we want to wish you all a Happy New Year wherever you are in the world and thank you for all of your support. Over to you Zak:

“It’s obvious that many people will be glad to see the back of 2020. However, reflection is an important part of every cycle or transition to a new period.

And with any reflection, it is important to acknowledge the positives of the year just passed.

Despite challenging circumstances, I have seen so many friends on social media starting up a side-business this year, whether it be selling hand-made gifts, homemade cakes, or launching a company they had been thinking about for years, and had finally been given the time to turn a vision into action.

Secondly, I have seen some seriously impressive 5km, 10km and further run times from people who had barely ran those distances before. The ability to get out in the fresh air and to explore the local environment will always be free, and for that we should be grateful. It also shows how quickly we can improve at something if we just put the time and effort in.

My situation is different to most right now, as I moved to New Zealand at the end of 2019 from Sydney, where I had been working on an overseas visa for the previous three years. The events that were about to unfold meant that it turned out to be a fortunate decision in many ways, with New Zealand containing the virus for much of 2020. However, despite the relative freedom, it still affects me in a similar way to others as I don’t know when I can next fly home to see my family and friends (I was due to see them this Christmas).

The main challenge for me this year has actually been diabetes-related. The health care system here isn’t quite as advanced as in the UK, meaning diabetes care options are much more limited. For example, only one type of long-acting insulin is government funded (Lantus) and CGM is mainly self-funded here too. Due to my current visa status, I am not eligible for any discount on prescriptions. The full price of insulin, the thing that keeps me alive on a day-to-day basis is eye-watering at times, and certainly makes me feel some empathy for our friends across the Atlantic in USA, who deal with similar battles over the cost of their diabetes.

Despite these hurdles, I have taken a positive outlook and tried to address how I can combat this challenge. To save some money, I decided to cut back on a couple of other “luxury” expenses. However, I made sure I did not cut back on my diabetes care, as health is so important, therefore I tested as much as I usually would, despite the extra costs. This yielded a positive result, with my HbA1c resulting in 42 at my last check-up; the lowest it has been since diagnosis 14 years ago. I remain hopeful that my new visa will come through soon and that I can then access my insulin, test strips etc. at a more reasonable cost.

Looking ahead to 2021, our CEO at Sport Wellington summed it up quite well by wishing for a “dull and boring” 2021! With uncertainty set to continue for a while, “prepare for the worst, hope for the best” may be a good mantra to live by. For me personally, the current situation just re-iterates how happiness and health are essential to our livelihoods. So, I would encourage everybody to think about what makes them most happy? And think of how you can achieve this in whatever circumstances are thrown at you. And when we think about health, as people with Diabetes we have that extra aspect to think about; but remember that health is holistic and not just physical – mental, emotional, social and spiritual health are all contributors to our overall wellbeing.

Take care everyone and wishing you all a Happy New Year.

Zak Brown”

 

A review of 2020 from one of our own… Jon Peach

After Jon’s incredible commitment to the work of our cause he has recently been added to the Board of Directors at The Diabetes Football Community C.I.C after a recent organisational meeting… Congratulations Jon and following that he sat down to write his thoughts on what’s been going on for himself in 2020…
“2020. What a stinker of a year. Diabetes and football both suffered for me this year. It started off recovering after shoulder surgery in November 2019. January brought the first few football training sessions and I was finding my fitness again. Then I broke a rib training when an innocent collision with a team mate caused me a ridiculous amount of pain. So another recovery and just as I was getting started again, we entered lockdown! Roll on August when we started pre season training. It was going well and I’d played the first few games of the season when I had a nasty accident on my bike resulting in a horrible concussion, keeping me off football for another 10 weeks off after a month of constant headaches. On top of that, I’m also suffering with 2 frozen shoulders, which really limit the movement and impact massively upon my sleep every night (any advice welcome!) Frozen shoulders are another one of the added complications that people with Diabetes are prone to, with no known evidence as to why. Add to this the mental impact of working from home that so many of us have suffered with, and it’s not been great on that front.
Then there’s the blood glucose…..all the periods of inactivity make it harder to maintain tight control for me. Some days have been great, some awful! When you factor in the increase in body weight meaning it’s another factor to have to deal with when calculating the regular insulin, it’s been a tough battle, but one I’m determined to win.
So what about the positives? Our TDFC WhatsApp group has been far more active, with lots of advice and mickey taking going on as people are facing new situations and have more time on their hands. I also took on the role of updating the social media accounts during lockdown, so was responsible for posting and editing all the toilet roll challenge posts and the player profiles. While it was time consuming, it was also great to interact with so many people, and realise the difference that TDFC was making to so many. It was great reading the comments posted on the clips sent in, and the encouragement and advice that the community were offering each other.
I also got involved with Diabetes UK and a couple of their campaigns on being active with diabetes and diabetes and technology, and have featured on their website a few times, social media channels and recently in balance magazine.
I also recorded a podcast with a veteran of the podcast Chris Bright! We were lucky enough to be invited to do one with Stevie Ward, captain of Leeds Rhinos (my team!) and the charity he has set up to support means mental health, Mantality. We’ve had loads of positive feedback from it which is great to receive and if you haven’t heard it yet check it out by clicking here .
So 2021. Here’s hoping for a better year for sport and diabetes!”
it’s ok to not be ok and always reach out when things are tough… 2020 has been a year like no other and we just want to say we’re always here for anyone who needs to reach out. So many of us have had a tough year and we need to stick together.
Here’s to a happier and healthy new year.