My Sporting Life with Diabetes



Pro-Golfer Hannah McCook shares her inspiring journey

As I write this, 18 years ago to the day I was lying in a hospital bed in Inverness, thinking of the consequences of being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Today, I am flying from Inverness to Johannesburg in South Africa to begin my second season as a professional golfer.

The first couple of days as a fragile 8 year old with diabetes, I thought my sporting life was done and dusted, before it had even begun, long hospital words meant nothing to me. However, a simple google search of 'diabetic athletes' by my parents discovered Sir Steve Redgrave, 5 times Olympic gold medal winner.  From then, 'he was my twin', and there was no stopping me. My mindset from that moment was 'I won't live with diabetes, diabetes will live with me'. My parents were so supportive from the moment I was diagnosed, and without their support from the beginning I probably wouldn't have the same 'pursuit of perfection' of blood sugars that I do have.

I often wonder what it would be like packing for 4 weeks away without medical supplies, but then I also often think that diabetes has made me the person I am. Travelling the world with professional golf is hard enough, and that's before adding on all the fun and games that comes with trying to have a brain like a pancreas. Yes, I would love to have a life without it, but at the same time I could be in worse situations and fortunately 'I only have diabetes'.

Diabetes came along for the ride

Golf hasn't been my only passion. As a youngster I played the majority of sports and even then, diabetes just came along for the ride. From consuming syrup at the top of ski race courses, in the need to increase blood sugars to doing injections mid round on a golf course, it was a case of just having to get on with it.

As a little junior starting out on an amateur golf career most competitions were close to home, but soon there was a need to travel around Scotland. With this came the packing of medical supplies and extra snacks. Back then, as a 15 year old I was on 3 injections a day and multiple finger pricks. I was always someone, and still am, who packs more than enough supplies. I would always    rather take it all home with me than be in a situation where I am stressing about running out of needles or test strips.

Huge learning experience

Soon the adventures weren't just Scotland based. My first proper trip overseas was a huge learning experience as a golfer, a person and a diabetic. As a 16 year old I travelled to Houston, Texas for an 11 day golf trip. The time difference, change in climate, the differing golf courses  and the whole experience really taught me a lot. Experiencing the effects of heat and eating in new restaurants and guessing how much insulin to take led to many a rollercoaster with my blood sugars.

I first represented Scotland U18's at the age of 17, and with the adrenaline of representing your nation, without doubt the blood sugars were a rollercoaster, nothing I couldn't tackle though. Whilst preparing the night before a competition round it isn't just golf balls I will be packing, but the snacks, insulin and blood glucose monitor required to get me through 4 hours of stress, nerves, adrenaline and excitement.

Life as a student

Leaving school and moving to study with a Golf Scholarship at the University of Stirling brought a whole new range of challenges. It didn't phase me, but it definitely kept me on my toes. A new life as a student is hard enough for anyone, but as someone living with diabetes I had to be prepared for any situation. I was fortunate to be part of the golf scholarship programme and this brought  me so many opportunities in the world of golf, meanwhile still learning how diabetes would affect me and trying to keep it under control as much as possible. At this stage I was still doing injections, but by now I was doing 5 a day and averaging around 15 finger prick tests per day.

As I've grown older, and lived with diabetes longer, the medication and technology have changed. During my 3rd year at university my life changed dramatically when I got my first insulin pump, making the complex disease just a fraction simpler. Life on the golf course changed in the sense of not doing an injection, but the calculations continued. it wasn't just the yardage of the golf shot I had that I was calculating, it was everything else that comes along with controlling diabetes.

No more Tubing

When I first received my Omnipod® Insulin Management System in August 2018, life on the golf course again became even easier. No tubing allowed me to be completely wrapped up in my waterproofs in the rain and wind in Ireland without having to disturb my clothing to operate my pump. I represented Scotland at 1 World Amateur Team  Championships, 3 European Team championships and 6 Home Internationals. After the team win and 2 individual wins in 2018 it was time to turn professional in December 2018. A whole new life of golf, diabetes and travel was about to begin.

From having to inject 15 minutes before a meal and wait 20 seconds to read a blood glucose reading from a finger prick to now checking my glucose on an app on my phone to delivering insulin from my Omnipod® System, I begin to wonder where the technology, diabetes and my golf will be in another 10 years.

Author: Hannah McCook

Insulet has paid a fee to engage Hannah McCook as an Omnipod® Ambassador and content creator.

This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately. The opinions and views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, health practice or other institution.