We Are…Survivors

Scrimmage night finishes, and my blood sugar is a whopping 563.

This is about five times higher than my blood sugar should be. I’ve been a Type One diabetic for 26 years, and I start to feel badly if my blood sugar rises past 300. Most diabetics would be headed to the emergency room at this point, but I am energized and ready to ride back to Boone with my best buddy, Rolli Cannoli.

I’m also thirsty. Really, really thirsty.

I was diagnosed with diabetes at age five, which often confuses people unfamiliar with the disease.  I thought just old people got diabetes! I’ve heard people say. But you’re in decent shape! I’ve heard others say. You? No way!

Unfortunately, like a sneaky jammer, Type One diabetes arrives out of nowhere, puts your pancreas in the penalty box, and leaves your body to block the monster all on its own.

When I first joined the Blue Ridge Rollergirls, I worried what my new teammates would think. Sure, I’d like to pretend that I don’t care what others think, but I do.

Everyone does.

I was worried that once someone found out I had diabetes, they would think I was weird, full of excuses, or just plain weak.

I was wrong.

Many of my teammates are nurses or work in the medical field, so after I brought up that I had diabetes, their reactions made me feel safe. More than anything, they’ve been curious and willing to help me when I need it. As a Blue Ridge Rollergirl, I’ve never had to question whether or not someone will know how to use a glucagon on me if I have a hypoglycemic seizure on the road. I’ve never feared that taking a quick second at practice to shoot up some insulin will cause my teammates to unnecessarily panic.

I’ve never felt like less than a Blue Ridge Rollergirl because I have to keep tabs on my blood sugar.

However, there are certainly moments when I think to myself, Maybe this is just too much. Maybe I am killing my body. Maybe I just can’t do this.

My mindset changed when I realized that every skater on the track has her own version of diabetes.

When I look at my teammates and other women in derby, I see power. I see beauty. I see strength.

But I know that every woman in derby has her own individual struggle.

I have diabetes. A teammate has a broken leg. Another derby player has an abusive marriage. Someone has a job loss. A woman I’ve bouted against has family member in hospice. (These are all hypothetical, but you get the idea.) I’m not saying that everyone’s struggle is equal—it’s certainly not, but everyone is dealing with something, and we are all fighting to survive.

Fighting to live.

Fighting to win.

And guess what?

By being on the track, we do survive.

We do live.

We do win.

I am one of the lucky ones. Because I was diagnosed at such a young age, I didn’t have to adjust to a brand new life with diabetes. I don’t remember not taking insulin injections. I don’t remember stuffing my face with candy every Halloween. (That happened in college, though. Who needs alcohol? I want candy!) I don’t remember being a person with a working pancreas, and this has given me the indelible will to succeed.

Thankfully, my parents granted me a normal childhood filled with birthday parties, a sibling, books, and lots of extracurricular activities. I never thought, Hey, I can’t do this because I have diabetes. Instead, I’ve thought, I’m going to do this even harder because I have diabetes. Although I can’t really advocate exercising with a super high blood sugar, as long as I’m not putting others in danger, I skate. I think to myself,If I can do this when I feel badly, I can do it even better when I feel great.

I couldn’t do this without the support of my teammates. I’ve had people go get me orange juice (thank you, Mean Latifah!) when I depleted all the granola bars in my bag and still had a low blood sugar. I’ve had one of the Mad Divas (thank you, Peaches and Heather!) loan me some insulin when I ran out before payday. I’ve had people feed me, check in on me, and worry about me.

This, I think, is the definition of a teammate.

This, I think, is the definition of support.

The morning after I made the team, I woke up in my bed surrounded by four male paramedics. I was half naked, soaked in sweat, had an IV running through my arm, and was choking up chocolate milk that someone was pouring down my throat. It was the most humiliating moment of my life. My blood sugar had dropped, and I simply didn’t wake up. I was unconscious and having seizures.

Finally, I woke up.

Roller derby! one of the paramedics yelled as he yanked the IV out of my arm. You play roller derby. That’s awesome!

And in that moment, having diabetes simply didn’t matter anymore.


Because I play roller derby.

Because I am a survivor.

We are all survivors.

We are the Blue Ridge Rollergirls.