Strik­ing di­a­betes

New Zealan­der So­phie Devine shows it’s pos­si­ble to be an elite ath­lete de­spite a type 1 di­ag­no­sis

Diabetic Living - - Contents -

From a young age, So­phie Devine was tal­ented enough to make it onto rep­re­sen­ta­tive teams for both hockey and cricket, fu­elling her love of sports. “The two sports are ex­tremely dif­fer­ent, but that is what I love about them,” she ex­plains. “Hockey is so fast­paced, but cricket has the unique chal­lenge of be­ing al­most an in­di­vid­ual sport played as a team.” Through this mo­ti­va­tion, So­phie was able to quickly pull through her teenage di­ag­no­sis of type 1 di­a­betes and make a sport­ing life her ca­reer.

In 2005, the then-15-yearold So­phie had all the clas­sic symp­toms of type 1 di­a­betes – los­ing weight, drink­ing lots, fa­tigue and con­stantly need­ing to go to the bath­room. “I kept pes­ter­ing Mum to take me to the doc­tor but she thought it was just a blad­der in­fec­tion and that it would pass,” she ex­plains. “The tip­ping point was when I walked into class and couldn’t see the white­board. So I went to the lo­cal GP and, within an hour, I was on my way to the hos­pi­tal.”

So­phie, now 30, was lucky enough to have a great health­care team from the get-go, and was only in hos­pi­tal overnight.

Di­a­betes and sports

“[Be­fore my di­ag­no­sis] I had very lit­tle aware­ness of what di­a­betes was, other than an un­cle who has type 1,” she ex­plains. “I thought I’d never be able to play sports again, and eat­ing treats was def­i­nitely out of the ques­tion!”

Af­ter her di­ag­no­sis, So­phie and her mum sat in the car cry­ing. “Af­ter about 10 min­utes we made a pact that we were go­ing to get on with it and that there’s no point com­plain­ing about it. We just made the best of the sit­u­a­tion,” she says. Af­ter just a three-day hia­tus from play­ing sports, So­phie de­cided di­a­betes was not stop­ping her from play­ing hockey or cricket. “I ac­tu­ally had an age group hockey tour­na­ment a cou­ple of weeks af­ter I was di­ag­nosed, so it gave me some­thing to look for­ward to and push to be a part of,” she says.

Fol­low­ing her di­ag­no­sis, So­phie fo­cused on hockey – play­ing 36 in­ter­na­tion­als – as a mem­ber of New Zealand’s women’s team, the Black Sticks, with the ul­ti­mate goal of mak­ing the London 2012 Olympics. “I un­for­tu­nately missed out on the fi­nal 16, but loved the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing and train­ing at the high­est level with hockey,” she says. So­phie was then of­fered one of four con­tracts from New Zealand Cricket to train and work in the cricket en­vi­ron­ment, which was too good to turn down.

Mighty sportswoma­n

To­day, she con­tin­ues to com­pete on the New Zealand women’s na­tional cricket team, the White Ferns – who she has played for since the age of 17 – and hopes to play in the up­com­ing Women’s T20 World Cup. So­phie also plays for Western Aus­tralia’s Western Fury in the Women’s Na­tional Cricket League, South Aus­tralia’s Ade­laide Strik­ers in the Women’s Big Bash League, and Wellington Blaze in New Zealand’s do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion. “Sport is a mas­sive part of not only my life but my fam­ily’s too, so they al­ways en­cour­aged me to con­tinue play­ing,” she ex­plains, “and to also let team coaches or man­agers know about my di­a­betes and how they can keep an eye out for me.”

So­phie has been for­tu­nate to have sup­port­ive team­mates will­ing to learn about her di­a­betes be­side her, and they all know where her stash of jelly beans is in case of an emer­gency.

In­ject­ing in­sulin 4-5 times a day af­ter meals, So­phie is par­tic­u­larly watch­ful of her blood glu­cose lev­els af­ter ex­er­cis­ing, car­ry­ing her di­a­betes kit with her at all times. “I’ve learnt the hard way that I need to lis­ten to my body and not try and rush back into things, as I can keep hav­ing hy­pos!” she ex­plains. “I sim­ply need to stop for 5-10 min­utes, have some jelly­beans, maybe a sand­wich, then I’m good to go.”

As So­phie pre­pares for her next game, she takes pride in con­tin­u­ing to chal­lenge the stereo­type of the in­abil­ity to play sport with di­a­betes.

So­phie play­ing for the White Ferns.

LEFT: So­phie with a cricket fan. ABOVE: Play­ing on the Wellington women’s NHL hockey team.

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