World Diabetes Day | Lucie’s Story
In honour of World Diabetes Day, we caught up with 13-year-old gymnast, Lucie McRobbie from Central Gymnastics Academy in Stirling and her mum, Jennie. Lucie has type 1 diabetes, but that hasn’t hindered her passion for women’s artistic gymnastics.
Having competed in gymnastics for a decade, Lucie’s favourite aspect of the sport is learning and developing new skills. However, nine months ago, Lucie received her diagnosis. Understandably, she felt shocked and worried because she didn’t know much about the disease.
Remarkably, Lucie became the Scottish Regional 3 2009/2010 age category champion a mere seven weeks after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. If that wasn’t enough cause for celebration, Lucie then went on to become the Copper Classic Challenge 2010 age category champion in September. These victories were rightfully commended at Lucie’s club awards night last Saturday as the 13-year-old was crowned club champion for Copper.
These victories didn’t arise by accident. Lucie has had to change how she trains and competes to manager her diabetes. She said “I have to monitor my blood throughout training for hypo. Before I go into training, I make sure my blood is a bit higher, so I don’t hypo straight away.”
Summing up her pride regarding Lucie’s achievements, Jenni said: “It’s amazing, so overwhelming and so emotional. She’s oblivious to it but we get to see scores on GymData so we’ve got a head start on what’s happening. Her face was an absolute picture when she was crowned champion. She just couldn’t believe it.”
Lucie’s diagnosis has brought on challenges that could throw even Olympic level athletes off their game. Whilst competing in Newcastle last weekend, Lucie had a hypo after the warm up. This meant her blood sugar levels had dropped too low. With Lucie scheduled to be the first performer of the day, her coach asked the judges if Lucie could instead perform last. This would give her blood sugar levels a chance to rise.
Jenni added: “It just puts her into a panic when her alarm starts going. We’re usually quite good at catching it but because she’d be away from us for 45 minutes while we were queuing to get in. It just happened so quickly that we didn’t get a chance to catch it before it happened.
“Cardio seems to affect her levels quite drastically. She can go into the gym and her blood can be sitting at 10 and then within 20 minutes she could be having a hypo at 3.9, sometimes even more.”
These events illuminate the importance of well informed and caring coaches, gymnasts, volunteers, floor staff and judges. Jenni monitors Lucie’s blood from her mobile and when necessary, will phone Lucie or her coach when her blood sugar levels drop. Lucie’s fellow gymnasts and friends will also offer her hypo sweets to ensure she is able to continue competing.
In particular, Lucie and Jenni want to give a shout out to the floor staff at Perth. They allow Lucie to have her phone with her during competitions as it reads her insulin pod attached to her arm. The staff also inform judges of Lucie’s condition and are always available should any issues arise. This provides relief to Lucie’s family in the stand as they know they can signal to the judges if Lucie’s blood levels have dropped.
Lucie’s words of wisdom to other young athletes competing with type 1 diabetes are: “Don’t worry. You can still do everything as long as you have watched your blood and have hypo sweets handy. Speak to other diabetics. It’s not as scary as you think.”
Lucie also wanted to clear up a common misconception about diabetes: “You don’t get type 1 diabetes from eating sweets containing loads of sugar. It’s an autoimmune disease that anyone can get.”
Jenni poignantly added: “It’s so important that people understand it’s a diagnosis. She looks fine, she acts fine, she feels fine but within five minutes that can completely change.”
Lucie’s family are continuing to learn more about type 1 diabetes with each passing day. Jenni expressed the importance of speaking to other diabetics to better manage the condition and the stress it may cause.
Lucie continues to love women’s artistic gymnastics and is excited to learn new skills and prove that diabetes doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams.
All the best to Lucie this Sunday as she competes in her final event of the year, the Copper Teams at Meadowbank.
If you would like to learn more about diabetes, check out the range of resources at Diabetes Scotland below.
Photo courtesy of PSB Photography.