Women’s rugby international Amy Evans (pictured centre) overcame diabetes to clinch her place in the Wales team for the women’s Six Nations.
The 26 year old prop forward, from Aberdare, who plays for Swansea and the Ospreys, was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic at the age of 11.
To mark Diabetes Awareness Week, June 11-17, she has told how she was determined that her condition would not hamper her desire to represent her country.
Despite a disappointing championship this time for Wales, Amy was selected by the women’s rugby website Scrumqueens in their ‘Team of the Tournament’.
Amy had always been active at school but said her ‘hypos’ – hypoglycaemia caused by too much insulin and not enough sugar in the blood – could disrupt her efforts at sport.
When she was 19, she joined a gym in Aberdare set up by weightlifter Michaela Breeze and was soon lifting for Wales at venues across Europe.
But the combination of stress of competitions and adrenaline caused problems with her sugar levels. Amy switched to rugby after attending a WRU talent day and never looked back, turning out for Wales just five months later.
“My strength from weight lifting gave me an advantage when I started playing rugby,” said Amy, who works as a personal trainer, fitness instructor and studio class instructor.
But she still encountered problems making training sessions because of her hypos.
She had been using an insulin pen to inject her medications. But when she switched last year to an insulin pump and a device called a continuous glucose monitor.
The pump which is attached to her body is able to deliver medication 24/7 and is better able to control her blood sugar levels.
“It just controls everything throughout the day. I feel a lot more normal since I have been in the pump and CGM and I not had a proper hypo which had been a frequent event. I had five starts in the six nations and it shows a massive difference.”
She added: “When I was a kid going to diabetic clinics, all I saw was older people and overweight people and I wondered was I going to be like that when I was older.
“But I have shown that being diabetic doesn’t have to limit what you are going to do in life and with medicine and technology improving all the time it is going to get easier.”
Amy funds her own insulin pump at £500 every two months. She unplugs it during matches but leaves the CGM attached, which costs her £70 if she breaks it.
Now she is looking forward to the World Cup in August when Wales have been drawn in the same pool as New Zealand, Canada and Hong Kong.
There are now over 18,700 people living with diabetes in the Cwm Taf University Health Board area which is expected to rise to 25,000 by 2030.
Around 10% of these people have Type 1 diabetes, which cannot be prevented and is usually diagnosed in children or young adults, but can develop at any age. An estimated 90% have Type 2, which usually starts gradually and usually affects you later in life.
One in five hospital inpatients in Cwm Taf have diabetes. In addition to the personal costs incurred by the individual, diabetes accounts for 10% of total NHS health expenditure, largely due to the complications associated with it such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputations.
Consultant in diabetes Philip Evans said: “Early detection and intervention is key. Cwm Taf projects such as the cardiovascular screening programme will assist with the early diagnosis of those at risk of diabetes or with unknown but established diabetes.
“Education is an essential early intervention. Cwm Taf has an established menu of educational opportunities including award winning education services, X-PERT and DAFNE.
“While the majority of diabetes care takes place within the community, Cwm Taf is also developing innovative local services and continues to deliver the full range of specialist diabetic services including insulin pump therapy in its hospitals.
“The combination of empowered educated individuals and high quality services is the key to long term health and there should be no limit on an individual’s aspirations for a long healthy and fulfilled life.”
Amy Evans is pictured (centre) in the anthem line up for Wales game against France at Brive-La-Galliarde with team-mates Robyn Wilkins (left) and Catrin Edwards.
Picture courtesy of Neil Kennedy.
Many sportspeople manage their diabetes and compete at the highest level, such as multiple Gold medal rower Sir Steve Redgrave. More information about sports and diabetes can be found at runsweet.com