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Karin's Corner

Diabetes and Tennis:When I Was First Diagnosed

I used to play tennis every day and often more than 1 hr each day – I loved the game and I was very good at it. This was before I was diagnosed with diabetes – after that, I never won again and I lost my love for the game completely.

I don’t think diabetes is 100% to blame for this, but probably at least 50 percent. When I was diagnosed, the summer of 1989, I had just reached the finals of a large national tournament in Sweden, and even though I lost in the final, I had done very well, especially since I had suffered from tonsillitis three times during the spring preceding this event, and I had been seriously injured the year before.

However, after my diagnosis I lost my confidence in my body. I had never had such a failure in my life and here I was, at 17 years of age (I spent my bday in the hospital getting trained on injections and glucose monitoring), feeling like I was suddenly disabled. Little did I know that the complications they warned me about during those first few weeks with diabetes would be a reality less than 20 years later and that I would go through two transplants before I turned 40!

Tennis represented so much to me as a young person, I spent most of my free time either playing tennis, getting to tournaments, working out to play better or preparing ahead of games. I loved going to my club and I even loved hanging out after tennis, relaxing and feeling the work-out in my body and if I had won, feeling strong and confident.

I guess the closest to this feeling in my current life, is when I present at conferences or when I have an important business meeting. I have the same feeling of anticipation, preparation and then during the presentation I have a high – triggered by endorphins and I am on top of the world for the duration of the event. The problem is coming down afterwards.  Being in the zone is all and well, but afterwards I feel empty, anxious and even sad.

As a diabetic, sometimes these events could be affected by my disease. For example, if my blood sugar was running low and I had to go up on the stage for a presentation, I would need to quickly eat something to avoid the risk of passing out and the absolute certainty of presenting poorly because my brain did not have enough sugar to work with. When I was high, I could also feel it, since I would get slower in my thoughts and especially in my reasoning. I would rather be high than low, and my solution to avoiding this roller coaster was to always keep myself slightly high, but not high enough to be slow, blurry-eyed or lethargic.

After getting my pancreas transplant in January of 2010 I have not experienced any of these feelings and it is such a relief and such an advantage! I sometimes say that I did not know how hard it was living with diabetes before I got a pancreas transplant and realized what normal life is supposed to be and how good I felt. Achieving that feeling for everyone with diabetes is our goal, and while we pursue the cure, we need to identify a range of products that can help people with daily life.

I hope that I will get back to tennis one day, but for some reason, tennis more than any other sport is linked to my life before diabetes that I lost. I know that I have a new chance, and should be incorporating tennis into my life, but it is easier for me to exercise otherwise without ever feeling that diabetes, transplants and age have had a negative effect on my performance!

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