A Gymnast Superstar Lands on Her Feet
My name is Dempsey Foxson. I am 8 years old and live in Venice Beach, CA. I am a competitive gymnast and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May 2012. My mom and I decided to share my story in hopes it will inspire kids, parents or grown ups to always follow your dreams! It’s hard for me to remember what it was like before diabetes or gymnastics. I feel like both of them have always been a part of my life. Currently, I am on the competitive gymnastics team at AOGC in Hawthorne, CA. I was the Southern California Level 3 All–Around State Champion and won Balance Beam and Bars. This year I won the Balance Beam and finished third in the All-Around at the State Meet.
I have recently moved up to Level 5 … my last year of compulsory. (Yeah!) I train about 25 hours per week … that is not a typo … I really train 25 hours each week! My training schedule is Monday through Thursday from 2:30-8 p.m. and Saturday from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. My diabetes management plan consists of checking my blood sugar between 8-10 times a day and wearing an Omnipod insulin pump on my arm. I have eased into this type of training schedule and slowly increased the days and hours I practice over the last four years.
Similarly, my journey with type 1 diabetes has been an evolution. I had a really long honeymoon phase, almost two years, where I only had to have one shot of long acting insulin per day … those were the good old days. When my body started to require more insulin and I had to cover my meals, my parents started searching for a pump that would meet my needs. Being attached to any kind of tubing obviously would not work for me as I am rolling around the ground, flying through the air and being spotted by my coaches … so we found the Omnipod and it has made my life so much easier!
I am sure you can imagine I have to take really good care of my body! There are so many people who help me do this at home and at the gym. My parents, coaches, teammates and office staff all provide me with support! My mom always provides me with healthy food before practice and snacks for my break. Some of my favorite snacks are almond flour muffins or half a ProBar, tons of raw veggies and nuts. I usually try to have my blood sugar between the 150-180 range before practice.
During my break I will check my blood sugar again. My mom packs snacks that are low carb, so I only bolus small amounts of insulin or nothing at all. All my teammates know why I wear my Omnipod and if I feel shaky or dizzy that I probably need something to eat. They are all very supportive and kind! My friend Gigi always wants to know “my number”. She knows what is considered high or low and can sometimes even guess how much insulin I need. I like answering questions and informing my friends about type 1 and they seem to love learning about it! My mom sends letters to all of my coaches and office staff that explains my condition.
I have a box of emergency supplies in the office, which includes juice boxes, smarties, a glucagon pen, a vial of extra insulin in the refrigerator and extra pods. When I feel shaky, dizzy or just “off”, I always tell my coaches and check my blood sugar.
When I am at gymnastics I work very hard and my coaches expect a lot! My practices are long and I have to pay attention to any cues my body gives me. If my blood sugar is high I can feel thirsty or sluggish and if I am low I start feeling shaky in my legs or dizzy. It is a lot of responsibility but I know what to do and when to ask for help.
We do a lot of conditioning and strengthening exercises during practice, which keeps my body strong and healthy. Competitions are a little trickier because most of the time they are in the morning. I usually check my blood sugar after warm ups and anytime I feel off or maybe between events if the competition is taking a long time. I will let myself run higher blood sugars during the meet and then correct after I am finished.
I remember warming up on floor at a meet and feeling a little shaky, I checked my blood sugar and I was at 53 … uh oh … (Guess my mom over bolused for the pancake breakfast.) I ate a handful of skittles, rechecked and was back up to 171. When it was my turn I jumped on the floor, did my routine and got a 9.5 which helped me win floor that day!
Gymnastics, just like diabetes management, requires hard work, commitment and perseverance. Gymnastics is my life and everyday I work through tough times until I reach the top. That’s what makes a champion.