November is Type 1 Diabetes Awareness Month and with statistics showing that approximately 1.25 million Americans have it, the odds are high that someone on a softball field you’re playing with or against is dealing with the disease.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that affects the ability of the pancreas to make insulin.
For Type 1 diabetics, getting insulin through injections or through a pump is necessary for survival and is as necessary a tool for your favorite softball player as a glove, ball and bat.
What is often misunderstood is that Type 1 Diabetes is NOT related to diet, exercise or lifestyle choices; in other words, it doesn’t strike from someone consuming too much soda or candy and it can’t be corrected with changes to diet either.
It is a lifelong diagnosis that is not only life-changing but can be life-threatening as well.
Type 1 is a relentless disease that is affected by dozens of factors and managing blood sugars is not an easy task. People with Type 1 diabetes and their caregivers do not get a ‘break’ from the disease and it requires constant monitoring and adjusting.
Type 1 diabetics face a daily battle... and the kids who fight it are truly warriors.
Meet one of those warriors… infielder Shelby Daniel from Bremen, Georgia.
Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in the seventh grade, Shelby is now a senior at Bremen High School and though her life was turned upside down with the diagnosis, she has chosen to not let it slow her down.
A successful five-sport varsity athlete who has competed in track, cross country, lacrosse, swimming and, her favorite, softball, she was on the field trying out for her middle school team just two days after she was released from the hospital after learning of her diagnosis.
In the five years she’s dealt with the disease, Shelby says having diabetes has forced her to “up her game” in life.
“I think Type 1 has only motivated me and made me more competitive and more dedicated to living each day to its fullest,” the athlete begins.
“I can’t think of anything I haven’t been able to do because of Type 1. It doesn’t define me and I know that God chose me for this because He knew I was strong enough to handle it.”
And since then, she has not let one day go by where she hasn’t fought the fight and allowed Type 1 diabetes to stop her from achieving anything she’s set her mind on accomplishing.
Shelby is committed to play softball at Berry College in Rome, Georgia upon graduation and has an admirable attitude and outlook on life.
Her favorite quote is from Joan of Arc and reads: “I am not afraid, I was born to do this!”
This is now the mindset she’s taken upon her life’s journey and applies to not only how she plays softball, but how she lives as well.
“My motto is to live life full on,” she adds. “If you are going to do anything, you might as well win and do whatever makes you happy!”
The disease has forced the high school senior to wake up every day ready to receive all the blessings life may throw at her.
“I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve been given to compete and play and try always to be ready to take on the field,” she adds.
Her Type 1 diabetes has not been without complications, however.
Shelby has had multiple seizures including one that was life-threatening as it came in her sleep due to hypoglycemia unawareness. Even so, she chooses to live without fear, knowing that tomorrow may not be promised to her.
Still, Shelby has battled to not just deal with diabetes, but to succeed despite having it.
A shortstop with an almost perfect fielding percentage, the athlete compiled a .735 batting average this fall and helped her team secure second place in the Georgia State High School Tournament.
One of her coaches, Tommy Eriquezzo, describes Shelby as “the best shortstop in the state” and says he is constantly in awe of her spirit and athletic talent ability on and off the softball field.
After 30 years of coaching several sports, Coach Eriquezzo says boldly: "Shelby is one of the most talented and most determined athletes I have ever coached. She is a complete badass!"
Having Type 1 Diabetes may not stop her or slow her down, but it is important to always remember that those diagnosed with the disease never see their fight come to an end.
Their lives revolve around carb counts and calculating exact amounts of insulin, in effect, acting as their own pancreas in order to survive.
And it is not easy.
High or low blood sugars can surprise a Type 1 diabetic at any time and come out of nowhere. Stabilizing one’s blood sugar count can take time to get back to normal, yet these athletes like Shelby and so many others play on and play through.
Still, it’s far from easy.
Type 1 is probably best described as relentless and unpredictable and it can be physically, emotionally, and mentally draining.
Even with the best management of blood sugar and technological advancements, there is never a moment of security when a Type 1’s body will cooperate and respond perfectly.
From trying to serve as her own pancreas, Shelby has learned to have an attitude of appreciation for just how intricate and perfectly designed the human body really is.
“It’s something we (diabetics) have to fight every minute of every day of our lives, but it’s worth it.”
And repeating her favorite line that she lives by daily: ““I am not afraid… I was born to do this!”