Monday, September 10, 2012

Diabetes diagnosis: Age and Athletes

A lady in my running group who cycles a lot with me has a daughter with type 1 diabetes that was diagnosed when she was 15.  She often talks to me about her daughter in high school and the highs and lows of living with diabetes.  I find her comments quite interesting most of the time.  Case in point:

"I think that the majority of serious diabetic athletes were diagnosed with diabetes later in life.  You are the exception to the rule, the only one I know that was diagnosed at a young age and are a serious athlete."

I've never really thought about this before.  The percent of the population that has type 1 diabetes is low, and then if you analyze only those that are athletes out of the group the numbers drop even more.

I started to think more and more about her comment, and think about the athletes I knew that have diabetes, which is not many.  Out of the few I know, one was diagnosed in her 20s, and two others in their late teens.  I began to wonder if I knew anyone that was diagnosed at a young age, like me, at 4?  It turns out that I know no one that was diagnosed young and is an athlete.

What makes me different than the rest?  Why am I an athlete and so few others that were diagnosed early in life not?  When a person is diagnosed later in life, they have already established interests.  They now have the challenge of making diabetes fit into their already-established lifestyle.  I can only speculate, but I don't think they would stop doing something they enjoy because of diabetes.

My earliest memories are that of the day I was diagnosed.  I don't remember life without the disease, which is both a good and bad thing in my opinion.  Although my parents were warned that they should be careful of what activities I participated in, they let me do whatever I wanted.  This included playing soccer, softball, basketball, running, volleyball, and stints in tennis and golf.  If they had concerns, never was it shown.  I believe their desire to let me do whatever I wanted helped me in countless ways.  I grew up not viewing diabetes as a limiting factor when it came to sports.  Rather, it was something extra to deal with.  It couldn't stop me from doing anything.

That attitude has stuck with me.  I believe that I can do anything I want.  Run a marathon?  Sure.  Ultras?  Why not?  Complete an Ironman or half?  Of course it is on the bucket list.  Sports have always been part of my life, and I can guarantee they always will be.  I'll be that 88 year old woman who is still running marathons.

Were you diagnosed young in life or older?  What do you think - are diabetic athletes primarily people diagnosed later in life?


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  2. Interesting question.

    I was diagnosed at 13. But even though I do associate myself with being a "diabetic athlete," I've personally never seen a connection with the 2. I mean, they definitely DO help one another, but I've never felt as if the diabetes was responsible for getting me into athletics.

    That said, I have noted that Team Type 1's amateur team DEFINITELY skews more toward adult-onset. "Lifers" like me are the exception rather than the rule.