Sarah is one of our AMSL Diabetes ambassadors and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in 2017, however did not let this hold her back – going from strength to strength since then! She is a professional netballer who plays for NSW Swifts and even made her national debut for the Australian Diamonds in 2019! We spoke to Sarah about her netball career, journey with diabetes and how she keeps her levels on track with her active lifestyle.
Q. Can you please tell us a bit about your T1D diagnosis experience?
As a netballer, we are required to get annual medical check-ups, which include blood tests. In early 2017, my results indicated an elevation in my fasting glucose level. The doctor questioned whether I had something sweet before having my tests done – and I had eaten two muesli bars, so the doctor requested more tests and even still, my glucose levels were slightly elevated above the normal range. The diagnosis was unclear at the time and the endocrinologist predicted MODY or type 1B diabetes, so I started on tablets to help manage my blood glucose levels, along with exercise and a lower-carb diet. The dose was increased gradually over the next two years.
And then in January 2019, I tried CGM. Due to the in-between nature of my condition, I wasn’t strict at checking my levels. The 2 weeks of CGM data highlighted elevated levels (e.g. 11-15 mmol/L after food) and during my endocrinologist appointment, I was officially diagnosed with T1D in February 2019. A few days later, I met with a diabetes educator and commenced an insulin regimen.
Q. Did you always want to play netball professionally?
I was always an active kid and loved my sports growing up. I started playing netball when I was 8 years old. I gradually moved up the ranks and finally made my break and debuted for the Adelaide Thunderbirds in 2016. I then moved to the NSW Swifts in 2017 and still currently play. In 2019, I was also selected in the Australian Diamonds and debuted at the Netball World Cup in Liverpool (UK) and played in the Constellation Cup later that year as well.
As a professional netballer, the training schedule varies and the intensity of the session depends on the time of the year – whether it’s pre-season, in-season or off-season. In-season, we train 5-6 times a week with sessions averaging from 45-120 minutes. These sessions can include on-court sessions (e.g. ball skills, footwork, strategy), weights, conditioning (e.g. running, bike, swimming), yoga, pilates, recovery and the best part, playing!
Q. How do you manage your levels when training and competing for netball?
With training and competing, I have lost count of the amount of times Dexcom alerts have assisted me. I have been much more proactive around my levels around training times, as it is so easy to pick up my phone and know what my glucose readings are immediately. I have also found that my insulin sensitivity can change quite a lot depending on the type of training. Before I would hope that my levels were travelling okay and I guess this held a degree of stress, but now I know exactly where I’m at and I check it much more regularly throughout training because it is so convenient.
However my glucose levels are impacted the most on game days when my nerves, adrenaline and stress are elevated. I’m continually interested in seeing how Dexcom will help support my management around competition, and whether I’m able to divert more energy into focusing on the game rather than worrying about if my levels are spiking or dropping.
Q. How does T1D affect your day-to-day off the court?
There have been many occasions where the alarms have helped with my day-to-day management as well. Living with T1D, it can be stressful waking up in a pool of sweat and wanting to eat your whole kitchen due to an overnight hypo. Since wearing Dexcom G5 Mobile, I have been woken up in the middle of the night because I had overestimated my insulin dose. I was alerted and I was able to fix it before my levels went too low. Wearing Dexcom G5 Mobile gives me more confidence around sleeping, especially after a late-night training session when my levels can drop suddenly. Also since wearing Dexcom G5 Mobile, I have become more confident around day-to-day life as well as it has taken a lot of the guess work around my insulin and food intake, and also a lot of the exhaustion and stress out of living with unwanted high or low blood sugar levels.
Q. And how did you originally find out about Dexcom CGM?
Diabetes was a whole new world for me, so I just tried to keep it as simple as possible and use what was provided to me at my first diabetes education session. It wasn’t until my friend (I call her my ‘diabetes mum’) mentioned the Dexcom G5 Mobile to me as her 12-year-old daughter uses one. She spoke so highly of it, and I knew it was something I would love to try.
Q. What was your first impression of Dexcom G5 Mobile?
I loved it straight away! Before trailing Dexcom G5 Mobile, I would get lazy and just hope my levels were in the right range, but now I know for sure without it being a ‘chore’. I have loved the convenience of wearing Dexcom G5 Mobile and not having to prick my fingers so often. Not only this, I have learnt so much about myself and how my body responds to different foods and training.
Q. Do you have any tips for others looking into CGM?
I found that it took a few days to adjust to, but it didn’t take long to fall in love with Dexcom G5 Mobile.
I love the weekly graph feature! I would say I am a very goal-driven athlete and person in general, so I love having targets and looking at my summary reports to understand where I can improve and learn from potential patterns, to keep me focused and on track with my diabetes management. Overall, I feel much more in control with Dexcom and ultimately I’m able to perform at my best.
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“I am a very goal-driven athlete and person in general, so I love having targets and looking at my summary reports to understand where I can improve and learn from potential patterns, to keep me focused and on track with my diabetes management. Overall, I feel much more in control with the Dexcom and ultimately I’m able to perform at my best.”
Sam believes that T1D doesn’t need to hold you back from accomplishing your dreams. In 2007, Sam debuted in professional AFL for the Western Bulldogs, and since then has gone from competing on the field to fatherhood. In 2020, Sam upgraded from Dexcom G5 Mobile to Dexcom G6 to monitor and manage his diabetes.
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