How important is it for you to have support from family and friends? For me, managing my diabetes and caring for myself has become so natural, the reason for that is the great habits and useful pressure placed on me by my family and friends in my younger years. Those around me have had a huge influence on how I manage my diabetes now, keeping me on track for so many years has made it almost easy. It would be very difficult without their support.
Tell us about the times when managing diabetes has been difficult for you? My racing and school has been difficult at times, fluctuating sugar levels leaves me in a bad state of mind, if I am high I don't react well to things going wrong, my problem solving suffers and I become frustrated. I've had to train myself in these situations to just take a breath, and move onto the next thing and try and achieve everything that I can with the headspace I have. However, the easiest way of course is to make sure my sugar levels are right before exams and sport so that I don't have to deal with these problems, and thus far I feel we have planned accordingly to make sure this happens.
Are there any other challenges you'd like to share? Motivation, I don't remember life without diabetes and sometimes that's a bad thing, it becomes so natural and my management is so subconscious that I forget basic things, in other words I lose the motivation to dedicate time to my care. This is a vicious circle because of course, when sugar levels are fluctuating its even harder to find motive and make intelligent decisions. The important thing is to not focus on the downs, but to make sure you get up stronger and don't let yourself be demotivated for too long.
Tell us about when you started karting, how old were you? I started karting when I was 7, for my 7th birthday I got my first kart as that was the youngest age I could get into it. Since I was born I wanted to race, that was all I wanted to do and that is what I have done since the moment I could.
How do you manage your diabetes when you are karting? As I said earlier, the important thing with managing diabetes and karting is preparation. Knowing the schedule, knowing when I will be out on track and how my body will be behaving based on when that time is relative to food and insulin times is the start. From there I know when I need to supplement certain things and behave a certain way.
For example, say I have a race that is due to start around 12:30. I don't want to be on a full stomach racing, so I won't eat, but I also need to acknowledge that if I don't eat and the race goes through lunch time, I am at risk of going low while driving, the ultimate nightmare. So, simply I ensure that I have a juicebox or jellybeans to give me that short term sugar rise to make sure I get through. It's little things like this that seem to obvious when said like that, but can easily be forgotten. Management is about planning and consideration, it's fairly simple if you think about it that way.
What do you like most about karting? The competition, adrenaline, karting is the only thing that I can do where I am isolated from any other thoughts. When I'm focused on turning into a corner every other thought, the diabetes, the school work, the fight you're having with whoever, none of that matters, you're just hanging on and trying to be millimetre perfect. 100% focus, it's such a technical sport, and the amount of focus required allows you to not worry about anything else. Pure adrenaline, pure speed, pure focus, thats what karting is all about, and thats why I love it.
Do you feel like you ever have to miss out on sport activities/social activities etc due to having diabetes? I am proud to say that Diabetes has never held me back from doing anything, for one simple reason, as I said earlier, preparation. Diabetes is not a disability, it's not like you're missing a leg and physically are unable to do certain things. Diabetics can do anything if they plan, prepare and manage themselves accordingly. The hardest thing I have ever had to do is maybe take 5 minutes out of a conversation or social event just to have my injection or monitor my BSL, and sure, that sucks but really compared to what it could be, Diabetics have the ability to make it happen. I feel that Diabetes is only as difficult as the person makes it for themself. Poor management will make it tough, good management will allow you to go out and act like its not even there.
Do you feel like your friends and family understand? Yes and No, I don't think anyone can truly understand what diabetes is like unless you've had it. The feelings and thoughts you can have when your BSL and management isn't right is inexplainable, its like a weird deflation or feeling like a flat battery, with bipolar, and an itch in your back just where you can't reach it. Doesn't make much sense does it. What family and friends do understand however, is the value of proper management. When they see you managing your diabetes properly, it brings out a happiness and fullness in you that your friends and family can see and appreciate. They know the attributes of you when you're managed correctly, and when you're not.
Do you have any advice to other children/teenagers who have just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes? My advice, it's hard to give advice to those newly diagnosed. You know what life without diabetes is like, I don't, and I can imagine that right now you're feeling like your whole world has changed, and it'll never be the same. To an extent, you're right, diabetes is something you'll have to worry about until it is cured. However, your quality of life, the experiences you share and the success you will have as a human being won't change with diabetes, provided you take the couple extra minutes each day to manage your diabetes properly. If you treat diabetes like a scar, at first it'll hurt, but if you treat it right, ensure its looked after and make a habit of checking on it every day, with time it'll fade and you'll forget its even there. Honestly, it may suck to have to go to the effort of managing your diabetes, but the short term loss is massively outweighed by the long term gains of caring for your diabetes. Look after it, and it'll look after you.
On behalf of the Childrens Diabetes Centre and PMH, we'd like to thank Jake for sharing his diabetes journey.