Hi, my name is Gabriella Sajedi. I was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of five, three days after my fifth birthday. People say it was the birthday gift that would change my life. And wow, it did. If you were to ask someone who knows me what the first thing they think of when they hear my name is, they will most likely say type one diabetes or synchronized swimming. Why those two things though? They have no relation to each other, you may be thinking. However, to me, how closely those five words are connected has shaped me into the young, independent woman I am today.
Growing up in the pool, I constantly hated having type one diabetes. I’d have to get out of the pool a lot when I felt low, missing valuable practice time. At the age of 10, I tried out for the U.S Synchronized Swimming National Team, expecting to make it fairly far in the tryouts, possibly even making the team. After the first out of three rounds, I was placed 5th in the whole country for my age. The second round was the next day, and unfortunately, nerves got to my blood sugars, as they spiked to over 400 for the whole day. My blood sugar being that high over a long period of time really impacted my performance, and I dropped to 28th place and only top 20 made it to the last round. I was devastated. For weeks, I blamed diabetes. It had taken away all my dreams. I wanted it gone. About three months after not making the national team, I came to a realization. I’m going to have diabetes for the rest of my life, or until there's a cure, so why not make the most of it? As that synchro season was coming to an end, we had one last national competition, and I decided I was going to swim to prove diabetes wrong. Going into my solo competition, my blood sugar was over 500 due to my nerves. However, I was not going to let diabetes stop me. Again. I went out there and swam as best as I could. To the audience and judges, my swim may have seemed just above average, but to me, it was everything. After swimming, I felt this sense of pride. Pride because I went out there, with a blood sugar of over 500, barely able to even feel the water, and yet, I swam my heart out. I ended up placing 20th in the country for my solo and to this day, I have competed in many national competitions all around the world. So ya, it was pretty great having this feeling of revenge on diabetes, but looking back I just laugh. I saw diabetes as my enemy, not a blessing. Now, I see it as my friend. A friend that some days gets annoying, but a friend that I’m not afraid of. A friend that I want people to know about, rather than hiding it from everyone. A friend that will make me a better person, that will not hold me back.
“It is more how you handle diabetes sometimes getting in your way that shows how strong you really are. It is because of diabetes, I have learned how to fight mentally.”
As I have been doing synchronized swimming for eleven years now, my diabetes management has played a huge role in keeping diabetes as my friend, rather than my enemy. I’ve been using the Omnipod for about ten years now, and I started to wear a CGM about nine years ago, which helped maintain my blood sugars outside of the pool. For inside the pool though, it took a lot of trial and error to find what worked best for me, but overtime, I found how to control my diabetes for practices. For competitions, I worked on settling my nerves before I performed, because those are what did crazy things to my blood sugars. But I will never say living with type one diabetes, especially as an athlete, is easy, nor that it will not hold you back, because frankly, sometimes it might. But that is just a diabetes lifestyle. It is more how you handle diabetes sometimes getting in your way that shows how strong you really are. It is because of diabetes, I have learned how to fight mentally. To not just give up when things get rough, but to push through, because to say you did something hard, even with type one diabetes, is a bliss not many people get to have.