Interviewed by Zoey Joseph Nominated by Sheryl Bashore of Sheryl Z Photography
The Nomination: Elizabeth is an avid gymnast and competes at a very high level. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, but she has not let her stop her at all. She still competes and coaches little kids every day. Her strength and perseverance amaze me. She never complains yet keeps inspiring all the younger kids at the gym to be all they can be.
Her Story: In February of 2018, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It all began when I got home from Arizona. I started to drink so much water and going to the bathroom every hour. It was very annoying. I let it go for a bit hoping it would go away. That was not the case. I actually started to get worse. One day, I walked into practice not feeling the greatest. I was dizzy and just feeling sick. I texted my dad telling him how I was feeling, and he called the doctor and got me an appointment later that day. When I got to the doctors and she checked me out, she said that there was nothing wrong with me. I knew there was something wrong and so did my mom. My mom told the doctor that there was something wrong and that this wasn’t me. That’s when the doctor ordered me to go get blood work done the next day.
The next day came and I got my blood work done. We waited awhile for the results and then my dad got a call from the doctors. They said that I need to go to the hospital. I was terrified because I had no idea what was going on. When we got to the hospital, the nurses took my blood sugar and I was at 400! Keep in mind that the normal is between 100 and 120. 20 minutes passed and without eating or drinking anything, I jumped up to 600!! I knew that I was in danger. Couple hours passed, and a doctor came in and told me that I have type 1 diabetes. I was very upset because I’m healthy and active and I never thought I would become a diabetic.
Night time started to fall, and I was transferred to Children Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). I was there for three days learning and getting treatment. I was released Saturday afternoon and ever since, I’ve been on my own. It’s been tough at times, but things are getting easier. With the support of friends and family, I’ve been thinking positive. I am not going to let this affect my life. I am going to live life to the fullest. Yes, I’m insulin dependent but, I’m not going to let that stand in my way. ❤️ #T1D
How old were you when you decided you wanted to become a gymnast and what caused you to become interested in the sport? I started gymnastics in 2007 in beginner classes and quickly advanced to competitive team. I started the sport because I was very energetic and always upside down. I also loved watching Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin during the 2008 Summer Olympics, which made more interested in gymnastics. Today, I am a competitive level 10 gymnast, which was always one of my goals.
Tell me a little bit about how you were able to overcome the challenges you were faced in order to keep doing what you love, gymnastics. I have faced many challenges during my gymnastics career. Injuries were always the hardest to overcome. The first injury I had to overcome was a dislocated elbow. It was tough because I had to sit out for a couple months and watch my other teammates do what I wanted to do. But I knew that if I let my body heal correctly, then I would come back into the sport stronger and better than ever. After that injury, I had many more, but they were all minor and only required a little bit of time to heal. Of course, becoming a Type 1 diabetic was another tough challenge I had to overcome during gymnastics. It was very tough in the beginning with figuring out how to control my blood sugars during practice. With the help of my coaches, teammates, family, and endocrinologist it got easier as time went by and all it required was an easy, little change in my daily routine at the gym.
As a diabetic who is on the younger side and still manages to have a full schedule of mainly athletic activities, is there any advice or experiences you would like to share with readers who might be facing similar challenges? My advice to anyone who might be facing similar challenges is to not let your challenge bring you down and stop you from doing what you want to do. If times get tough, reach out to someone like I did, which helped a lot. I reached out to Paris Phillips, who is a college gymnast and also has Type 1 Diabetes, to ask her questions about Type 1 Diabetes and the sport of Gymnastics. Reaching out to her made me aware and positive that I am not the only one out their living with this disease and is an athlete.
What is your main motivator when competing? Would you like to continue competing after high school? My main motivation during competitions is just to go out onto the competition floor and have fun. I learned that if you don’t have fun, then the competition won’t go your way. You just need to stay positive and act like it is just practice. My goal was to continue with gymnastics after high school, but instead I am going to start a new journey with Acrobatics and Tumbling. I will miss gymnastics, but it is similar to gymnastics with the tumbling, but it’s also very different from it. I am very excited to start this new journey in 2019.
I think it is so cool that you get to coach little kids as well as learn on your own. How would you describe what it is like to know you are helping all those kids become amazing gymnasts like yourself? It feels amazing to know that I am helping little gymnasts to achieve their goal and they are looking up to me. I have always looked up to the older girls that have moved on in their careers and know these girls feel the same with me. Coaching them always gives me flashbacks to when I was their age and that I was exactly in their shoes. I hope that with my help, they can make their way up to where I am at to this day and live their dreams.