Taking On Type 1

By Cathy Reese, Head Coach, University of Maryland @MarylandWLax

My roommate and teammate at Maryland was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes during our college years. I learned a lot from her and always admired how she worked to control her health and continue to live her life to the fullest. However, nothing could have prepared me for the phone call that changed our family’s lives.

     University of Maryland Athletic Media Relations

I knew something was going on because my son Riley, who was 7 years old at the time, was drinking a lot of water, and constantly going to the bathroom. I remember we were on a 2-hour bus ride to James Madison and he had 3 bottles of water and went to the bathroom a few times. I even said to him, “What is wrong with you? You can’t be that thirsty,” or, “There is NO way you have to go to the bathroom again.”  Deep down I was afraid of what was really happening.

I took him to the doctors and they did a urine test to check his blood sugar. When it came back very high, I tried to come up with every reason why it could be that way, hoping to avoid the truth. However, due to the results, the doctor ordered a blood test and we went first thing in the morning on March 27, 2012.

I went to work after the blood test and our team played Towson that evening at the University of Maryland. After our game, I was driving home to pick up three of my kids at my sister’s when my phone rang. It was the doctor on call at our pediatrician’s office and they said we needed to take Riley to the emergency room right away. I asked if I could wait until morning and she told me if it was her child, she would go right now. At that point, my heart melted and my eyes filled up with tears. I didn’t want it to be true but knew that we needed to get help so I called my husband Brian and told him, and he took Riley to the emergency room. Riley’s Blood Sugar was over 800 and “normal” is usually in 80-100 range.

We spent two nights in the hospital learning how to care for our son, and learning this new reality that hit us smack in the face. On the first day, the nurse handed me a needle and said, “Mom it’s your turn. You need to learn how to give Riley a shot.”  I was such a wimp that getting a flu shot was dramatic for me. Now my son was looking at having 6+ shots per day. I looked at my son and he was crying, screaming, “Mom don’t do this to me, Mommy no! Help me!” Tears streamed down my face and I handed the nurse back the needle. There was no way I was going to be able to do this. So, we would resort to bribery. Brian told Riley he would buy him a giant Lego set if he would just let me do this and I finally was able to give my first shot.

We were released from the hospital on Friday March 29, and I met the bus at a Park and Ride on our team’s trip up to play Penn. We ran into Coach Karin Brower when we arrived and in our conversation, I told her we had just found out Riley has Type 1 diabetes. She told me her husband has had Type 1 for years and is active and athletic and lives life the way he wants. We talked for a while and Karin said exactly what Riley and I needed to hear. We could do this – it wasn’t going to be easy, but we could do it.

Our lives had changed; however, we were going to do the best we could to move forward and adjust to our new normal. This meant constant monitoring of Riley’s blood sugar, injecting him with insulin several times a day; waking up in the middle of the night to check his blood sugar; counting carbs; learning to balance insulin with eating, daily activities, and normal childhood illnesses. We slowly adjusted to our new reality and, today, Riley doesn’t let diabetes hold him back from doing anything.

He is 12 years old and wears a pump now, which helps make it easier to administer insulin, but we still prick his finger to check his blood sugar, we still wake up in the middle of the night to check his blood sugar, and we still have to balance insulin doses with eating, sports, daily activities, and common colds and the flu. Riley has never felt sorry for himself or used T1D as an excuse.

People living with Type 1 diabetes look normal, act normal and eat normal food. They play sports, including lacrosse. They are normal in all ways — except that they must take insulin regularly and monitor their blood sugar 24/7.

This will be our third annual game to raise money and awareness to fight Type 1 diabetes. Our Terps have raised over $30,000 and are looking to add to that this year.

For over 45 years, JDRF has helped to make life more normal for people like Riley. JDRF’s goal is to ultimately create a world without Type 1, and until a cure is found, JDRF is committed to finding tools and therapies that will keep people with Type 1 healthy and safe. Thanks to JDRF’s laser focus, people with Type 1 now live longer, healthier, more normal lives than they could even in 1996 when my college teammate was diagnosed.

This game is dedicated to Riley and the millions of people—adults and children—who live with Type 1 every day and who work so hard to balance the disease and take care of themselves so they can do what they want and be what they want. Type 1 has impacted the lives of Maryland Women’s Lacrosse players, their families, friends and teammates.

Together we know we can make a difference and work towards a world where type 1 is type none. JDRF’s color is blue – and Maryland women’s lacrosse is working to raise awareness and money to make a difference. Our team is collecting donations at ter.ps/JDRF17. All proceeds from T-shirt sales and any donations will go directly to JDRF to help find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. We thank you for all your support.

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