One of the US’s brightest young cross-country skiers, Kris Freeman, is competing for the US team in the 2002 Winter Olympics - despite his diabetes.
Kris, age 21, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in September 2000, while training for the Olympics. "I was getting a routine blood test given by the US Ski Team", Freeman says. "They decided to check my glucose, and it came back high - to everyone’s total surprise." In hindsight, he realizes that he had episodes of blurry vision and frequent urination - classic symptoms of diabetes - before his diagnostics. But cross-country skiers train to the point of exhaustion and drink a lot of water, so he didn’t take the symptoms as anything out of the ordinary for an athlete in intense training.
The doctor who diagnosed Kris told him he could "probably" keep skiing. "I didn’t like that word probably at all," Kris says. He immediately began to educate himself on diabetes, and now he’s out to prove that you can do anything you want with this disease.
"Olympic champion swimmer Gary Hall, Jr. Proved that you can compete with Type 1 diabetes at the highest levels as a sprinter," Kris says. "I want to show that you can do it as an endurance athlete. Two weeks ago I did a 50-kilometer race on sticky snow in 2 hours and 50 minutes, and came in second in the country. I didn’t have any glucose problems al all. By learning how to manage the disease - monitoring my blood sugar levels, taking daily insulin doses and eating a carefully balanced diet - I have gained control and achieved my dream of participating in the Olympics."
I did a lot of testing early on, and found out what diet and regimen worked for me - and then I stuck with it, "Kris says. He takes a shot of NPH at night. During the day he rarely takes a basal dose, because his intense training - 3 1/2 to 5 hours a day - burns so much glucose. Instead he uses a rapid-acting insulin at mealtimes, using an insulin pen.
|"I’m always traveling to competitions and the prefilled insulin pen allows me to take my insulin whenever and I need to use it. It’s reliable and convenient. Most people don’t even know I’m taking my insulin because they don’t see a vial and syringe. Plus, if my schedule is thrown off by a time change, I’m able to make the adaptations T need using the insulin pen."
Kris strongly believes that exercise is important in the management of diabetes. "My doctors feel that my diabetes was probably starting a year or more before my diagnosis, "Kris says. "I think if I hadn’t been in such intense training I probably would have gotten sick. Exercise is essential. I can tell the difference in my blood sugar - it’s lower and I take less insulin when I’m in intense training. I think exercise should be part of everyone’s life - whether or not they have diabetes."
Kris started skiing when he was just one year old. He began racing as a young child with the Andover Outing Club near his home Andover, New Hampshire. By the age of 16 he had already won national junior championships and he came to the attention of the US Ski Team, which has supported his career ever since.
Kris goal at this Olympic games is to finish in the top 30. At the under 23 World Championships next year he hopes to medal. But cross-country skiers don’t peak until they’re nearly 30-years-old, so his real focus is on the Olympic games in 2006 and 2010. "I definitely want to medal in 2010, "Kris says.
He also has set himself the goal of helping other people with diabetes see that you can do anything you want with this condition." It’s time people started looking at this as a condition that is very, very treatable, "Kris says. "With the medicines available today, you can do whatever you want to do. I never line up at the starting line thinking I’m at a disadvantage."
|Kris advice to someone who is newly diagnosed.
"Talk to your doctor about what would be best for you. Evaluate what you want to do in your life what you have to do to get there. Diabetes will only affect you negatively if you let it. It’s not that much of a disability - it’s more of an inconvenience. Stay in control of your glucose, and you’ll be fine."