“You look so worried, Clara! What’s going on?” Kristin asked—Kristin was the new girl on Clara’s soccer team.
Clara was sitting on the ground after soccer practice, and she was thinking about how much she loved soccer and other sports, but at the same time how hard it was to play while Glugar Sugar was around.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” Clara mumbled. “It’s just that diabetes is always with me and sometimes it’s so hard to compete. I wonder if I could ever be a professional athlete…”
“Is that what you want to be when you grow up?” Kristin asked.
“I don’t know…but sometimes I wonder about it,” Clara sounded so melancholic.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Kristin said matter-of-factly.
“Why not? You don’t have diabetes! You don’t know what it is to live with Glugar Sugar!” Clara became a little mad.
“Yes I do!” Kristin defended herself. “My older brother has been living with diabetes since he was very young, and now he’s a professional athlete. He and his team even won a gold medal in the Olympic games!”
“What? No way!” Clara was surprised.
Just then, a tall young man walked over to the girls and smiled at Kristin, “Hey, little sis…here you are. I’ve been looking for you all over the field! I’m here to pick you up since mom and dad can’t come to take you home today.”
“I can’t believe it!” Kristin exclaimed. “We were just talking about you, Kevin.”
Clara’s mouth opened. She couldn’t believe that someone who’s living with diabetes and is an accomplished athlete was standing right there. She was in awe.
Kristin introduced them, “Kevin, this is Clara—the leader of our soccer team. Clara, this is Kevin—my brother.”
“Hi, Clara! What’s up?” Kevin smiled at her.
Clara was so awestruck she couldn’t speak, so Kristin turned to her brother and said, “Clara loves sports but was just wondering if she could ever be a professional athlete.”
“Is that so?” Kevin grinned.
Clara finally woke-up from her trance, “Oh, hi Kevin. Sorry…aaaah, yes, I’ve been wondering about it. Kristin told me about you and your gold medal and all. Has it been very difficult for you to do sports and live with diabetes at the same time? How do you do it?”
Kevin sat on the ground next to Clara and after a moment said, “Diabetes taught me discipline and the importance of nutrition at a young age. Although it was sometimes difficult to manage as I exercised at a high level in college and the national volleyball team, diabetes actually made me a better athlete because I trained more efficiently and conscientiously. Maintaining my blood sugar during the training actually forced me to focus harder on the task at hand rather than just going through the motions.”
Clara was getting more excited, “How did you manage living with diabetes when you were my age and in school?”
Kevin gathered his thoughts, “When I was younger, I was very embarrassed about the disease and actually wanted to hide it from friends and classmates. However, once I told them about diabetes, they were very impressed with the blood sugar testing, insulin injections, and the management of the disease. They actually thought it was cool!”
Clara felt like she’d found a treasure and wanted to hear more, “How do you feel about diabetes now after all these years living with it?”
“There are many days in which I get discouraged with diabetes when my blood sugar is not stable and consistent. However, I can honestly say that the disease has brought more blessings in my life and actually gave me a competitive advantage in the athletic world!”
When Kevin finished talking, Clara’s smile was as big as the sun. She was thankful for such words of wisdom, and with a joyful voice she said, “Thanks so much both of you! You just turned my gloomy day into a bright one!”
“You’re welcome,” Kristin and Kevin said at the same time as they started to walk away.
Then, Glugar Sugar finally spoke up, “See, I’m not such a bad companion after all!”
“Why do you always have to have the final word, Glugar?” Clara sigh, but she was so happy it didn’t matter.
“This story is dedicated to my friend Kristin Brown and her brother—and Olympic gold medalist—Kevin Hansen, who have both supported me and deeply inspired me spiritually. The writings in italics in the story are Kevin’s own words. The story is also dedicated to my new friend Luiz Villar, a very curious, smart, and strong boy who also lives with type 1 diabetes.” M.A.