A type 1 diabetes diagnosis doesn’t have to hold your child back. Just ask any one of the highly accomplished young people below: They’re living proof that whether your child’s dreams include sports, the arts, parenthood — none of them are off-limits just because of type 1. Read on to find reassurance and inspiration in these amazing young men and women. The possibilities are endless!
SNOWBOARDER: Sean Busby
In 2004, at age 19, pro snowboarder Sean Busby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He was worried about what diabetes would mean for his snowboarding — but soon came across a story online about the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Children’s Congress that changed his perspective. “I read the stories and saw the pictures of these kids, and how some of them knew nothing other than a life with diabetes,” he told JDRF. “They were doing the birthday parties and sleepovers with insulin shots and testing their sugars on first dates. I realized living with type 1 diabetes didn’t have to be different than my old life. I would have to become more responsible, but that wasn’t a bad thing at all.”
That year, Busby started an organization called “Riding On Insulin” that holds ski and snowboarding camps around the world for kids with type 1 diabetes. Later, after graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in health promotion and education, he founded Powder Lines, a backcountry mountain-guiding business with the mission of conquering remote and unexplored environments like Patagonia and Antarctica — to demonstrate to youth with type 1 that anything is possible with proper diabetes management.
CEO: Phil Southerland
Phil Southerland is the founder and CEO of Team Type 1 (TT1), the world’s first professional cycling team to include athletes with diabetes. Under his leadership, the dynamic squad rapidly grew into an enterprise of over 101 athletes from 11 countries, spanning the globe to inspire and unite people affected with diabetes.
When Southerland was diagnosed with type 1 at a young age, doctors gave him a grave prognosis. Now 29 and actively managing his diabetes through diet, exercise and a disciplined insulin regimen, Southerland has begun a global movement to positively affect the lives of people with diabetes. He recently established the TT1 Diabetes Sports Research Institute to evaluate athletic performance in people with diabetes and examine disease management in high-level competition. He is the author of a memoir that chronicles his life from diagnosis to his career as a professional cyclist and his mission to change the face of diabetes on a global scale.
“If you offered me a cure for diabetes today, I wouldn’t take it, because this is my life,” Southerland told Huffington Post. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job. I love the fact that I have this disease, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
TEACHER: Jen Jacobs
Jen Jacobs, 28, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12. Since then, she’s earned a master’s degree in art education from New York University and become a full-time art teacher at a public school in Manhattan.
Jen is also an artist herself, and though diabetes doesn’t define who she is, it has significantly shaped her character and her art. Her mixed-media art series, Diabetes Revealed, seeks to provide a fresh perspective on the condition. The ongoing work first took shape in grad school while she was working on her thesis on the sociology of chronic illness and education through art. “When I was diagnosed with type 1, I was at an age where you think you’re invincible, so it didn’t occur to me to worry,” she says. “As I got older, I began to understand the severity of the disease and the potential complications. Fortunately, I have a supportive family and good doctors, and I’ve been able to maintain tight blood sugar control throughout the years. I have good days and bad days, highs and lows, but I do the best I can. My attitude has always been that if I work hard, diabetes won’t stop me.”
GOLFER: Carling Coffing
When professional golfer Carling Coffing, 26, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1991, the then 5-year-old tomboy thought she would have to give up sports forever. When she turned 10, however, her father introduced her to golf, and she fell in love with the game — so much so that she won the state championship in high school, became captain of her college golf team, and turned pro in 2008. In 2010, she was the winner of the Golf Channel’s reality show “Big Break Sandals Resorts.”
Carling wants other people with diabetes to know that the disease is not setting her back — that she’s managing it, and they can, too. She frequently visits support groups for children with diabetes and recently spoke at the JDRF Children’s Congress in Washington to raise awareness. She also donates 10 percent of her professional golf earnings to the JDRF. As a teen, she “didn’t want anybody to know…I was so nervous that people would think I was different,” she told Diabetes Forecast. “Now that I’m older, I’m proud of my diabetes, because it’s something I have to deal with on a daily basis, and it’s something that I do a good job of dealing with, and I want to share my story with everybody.”
ADVOCATE: Kerri Morrone Sparling
Kerri Morrone Sparling is an influential diabetes advocacy blogger and social media consultant. She was diagnosed with type 1 on September 11, 1986, and, for much of her life, was the only person with diabetes she knew. She started her blog “Six Until Me” in 2005 because she was tired of Googling “diabetes” and coming up with little more than a list of complications and frightening stories. “Six Until Me” has a strong and loyal readership who have followed Sparling on her journey with diabetes through her wedding, the birth of her daughter, and her day-to-day challenges and triumphs.
When she first started, Sparling was one of only four or five diabetes bloggers. Now she is a proud member of a vast community who let her know every day that she’s not alone. “What brought me into blogging wasn’t a desire to make a living as a writer — I simply wanted to find others who, like me, were living with diabetes,” she told Whole Living. “When I finished college, I had had diabetes for 19 years. I was burnt out from managing the disease. Despite wonderful friends and a very supportive family, I didn’t know anyone else who had diabetes, and I felt very alone at times. I’m not alone anymore, and the impact of the diabetes community on my health has been tremendous. There’s so much power in sharing our health stories.”
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.