Lauren Cox, a WNBA player for the Los Angeles Sparks, details her Type 1 diabetes diagnosis and offers inspiration for others.
I remember running track that summer. I was winning every race until things took a drastic turn. Then, suddenly, I lost every meet.
My parents knew something was wrong. I just wasn’t myself, and I hadn’t been performing with the same energy or competitive spirit they knew.
A life-changing diagnosis
I will never forget that day. I hadn’t been feeling well, and my parents rushed me to the hospital. I was poked and prodded with multiple needles as doctors ran a series of blood tests. I didn’t understand what was happening, but the look on my parents’ faces told me it was serious.
“Mr. and Mrs. Cox, your daughter has Type 1 diabetes,” the doctor said. My parents were alarmed, and I was afraid but didn’t fully grasp the gravity of my condition. I was seven years old, and life as I knew it would forever change.
Suddenly, I went from being a little girl without a care in the world to having serious responsibilities. And it wasn’t optional. Taking one day off from managing my diabetes was a matter of life or death.
Overcoming the struggle
I struggled. I didn’t know anyone else with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and did everything I could to hide my diagnosis, from testing my blood sugar under the table at restaurants to discreetly going to the bathroom at school to inject insulin. I was embarrassed and barely withheld my tears as I watched my friends look so carefree, often questioning, “Why me?”
Eventually, I got over asking “why me” and instead gained acceptance. Although diabetes became a part of who I am, I was determined to control it and never allow it to control me. I had discovered my love for playing basketball at a young age, and nothing was going to stop me from pursuing my dreams.
I played basketball at Flower Mound High School before joining the Baylor University Lady Bears. It took time to adjust to playing collegiate basketball, but I quickly learned that performing at a higher level required discipline to manage my diabetes on and off the court while still staying mentally healthy and strong. I was determined and on my way.
One night, my family came to my game, and I could tell that something was off with my younger sister, Whitney. She frequently had to use the bathroom during the game and on the drive home. Recognizing symptoms from my experience years earlier, my parents quickly took her to the hospital before her condition became severe. Her diagnosis was what we had all feared; she, too, had Type 1 diabetes.
Whitney and I cried together when she returned home from the hospital. We knew it would not be easy, but this life-threatening disease was not going to hinder her either. Thanks to JDRF-funded research, our diabetes technology helps us manage the disease throughout the day and during games. We also found community and inspiration by connecting with others who are impacted by T1D at events like the JDRF One Walk and Children’s Congress.
Determined to live out our dreams, Whitney is entering her third season as a thriving women’s basketball player at Lubbock University, and I’ll be entering my third season in the WNBA as the first player with T1D. My message to every young person living with T1D is this: with proper management, determination, and a strong support system, you can push through the hurdles and do whatever you decide to do. I’m living proof that diabetes doesn’t have to define you.