Cleans For A Cure & SheaStrong Foundation advocate, Shea Farrish, tells her story of strength and perseverance.
How were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed on August 31, 2006 at the age of 7. My mom was actually taking my brother to a check up and I went along with them. A couple of weeks before I was diagnosed, my mom noticed I was losing weight and I was up all night urinating. My mom thought I had a bladder infection. So when I went to my brother’s checkup my mom started asking the doctor questions about my symptoms. My doctor had me take a urine test. The doctor’s assistant came in and showed my doctor something then came back and pricked my finger for blood. Right then and there my doctor told my mom I had Type 1 Diabetes. My blood sugar was in the 800’s! Lucky for me, my doctor was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was 15. She knew exactly what to look for.
What was it like when you were first diagnosed and how did you feel?
When I was first diagnosed I was terrified! I think my mom was in shock because she started to cry. I thought I was about to die! I was so scared. My doctor started to explain what type 1 diabetes was to me and my mom. She said my pancreas was not able to produce insulin and we had to go to a different hospital so my family and I could learn what to do and how to give insulin shots. I was only 7; I really didn’t understand what was going on.
I was so young, taking shots and pricking my finger. That was not the hard part because ever since I was little needles never scared me. What was hard was just the fact that I felt different. I remember going back to school in 2nd grade and people were asking me where I had been. I remember my teacher treating me differently than she did before. I slept in my parent’s room every night because I wanted to be close to my mom. I just hated the fact that I felt different! It was hard dealing with it everyday. The first few weeks I kept waking up thinking it was a dream… but it wasn’t. I did my tests and shots with my parents around because I hated other people having control over it. I would sit in my room asking myself what did I do wrong, now knowing that I had nothing to do with it.
How did you find CrossFit?
I found CrossFit when I was 12 years old. At the time, I had been playing soccer for about 7 years. It was the off-season and my mom wanted me to do something to keep me active. My mom was actually the one who started doing CrossFit about a year before I did. I would go with her once in a while to watch but I was not really interested in trying because I just saw adults doing it. Then one day she convinced me to try it because it would help with my conditioning and speed for soccer. I thought about it and thought, “Well if it helps with soccer, why not!” I agreed to give CrossFit a try for one week. The day came and I was so nervous. I’m pretty shy when it comes to stuff like this. Once my first trial was over and I became more comfortable, I immediately loved it! The coach said I had great potential and since that week I have been hooked. Shortly after, I started doing CrossFit on a regular basis.
What do you like about CrossFit?
This is one of the hardest questions people ask be besides, “What is CrossFit?” I think there are many reasons why people within the CrossFit community like CrossFit. For me, I don’t like CrossFit, I love it! I love the way it has changed me mentally and physically. To be honest, I don’t know if I would be the person I am today if it was not for CrossFit. I love that it pushes me to my absolute limit. I love the feeling I get during a WOD when I feel like I can’t do anymore. CrossFit has given me confidence that I never thought I would have inside and outside of the gym. I can honestly say that CrossFit is the best thing that has ever happened to me. The people at my gym, CrossFit Anywhere, are my second family. My coaches check in on me as if they are my big brothers. I love competing in competitions because my teammates are awesome! CrossFit as a whole is just amazing. It’s more than just a gym, or a WOD, or the people in your gym… it’s a community.
How did CrossFit improve your type 1 diabetes management?
My love for CrossFit helps me stay fit and active. Depending on the intensity of the WOD, my blood sugars can fluctuate. If it’s a high intensity WOD my blood sugars may be a little high during and after. But I don’t always take insulin because chances are my blood sugar will go low later. If I’m just lifting or working on some gymnastic movements, I’ll test and correct or eat something. The people within my gym play a big role in my diabetes management and care. They all make sure before, during and after wod’s that I’m ok.
Outside of how I manage my blood sugar levels, CrossFit has helped me to except my diabetes. Being a CrossFitter with diabetes is proof that having T1D is not something that’s going to hold me back. When those days hit where I’m feeling overwhelmed (burnt out with testing or giving myself insulin) and I just don’t want to deal with it, I think about how I would not be able to pursue my goals if I didn’t. CrossFit has changed my life for the better… no doubt!
What are your goals in CrossFit?
Within this next year I would like to qualify for the teenage division for the 2016 CrossFit Games. I competed in the 2015 CrossFit Open in the “Individual Woman’s” division for California to see where I would place. I placed 333. It was a huge jump from the previous year. 2015 was my 5th year participating in the CrossFit Open at a Woman’s RX level. I started at the age of 12. I plan to compete in Olympic lifting meets again. I have a meet on August 8, 2015. I would also love to qualify for the teen division for Wodapalooza in early 2016.
Long term… I want to be good enough to make it to the California CrossFit Regionals as a team and then as an individual. I know these goals are lofty but with determination, commitment, hard work and guidance I can achieve them.
What are your goals in life?
I have many goals. First, I want to live my life to its fullest potential. I want to live a healthy and happy life and be a walking, talking, positive example for others living with Type 1 Diabetes. I plan to finish high school with a 3.8 GPA or higher. I’d love to get a scholarship where I can study kinesiology, exercise science or sports medicine. I have short-term and long-term goals for the SheaStrong Foundation. I want to change how the world views Type 1 diabetics by sharing my life experiences. I want to raise money for a cure and teach people the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. I also want to show kids who live with T1D that no matter what, nothing can hold them back from doing what they love to do.
Would you be as good in CrossFit if you didn’t have T1 diabetes?
I think I would be just as good at CrossFit if I didn’t have T1D. I would just need a different reason to fuel my drive. Living with T1D gives me the determination and motivation to give 100%. I believe CrossFit helps me mentally, emotionally and physically with my diabetes.
How do people react when you tell them you have type one diabetes?
People usually are shocked when they find out I have Type 1 Diabetes. A lot of people in the CrossFit community are surprised to find out I have T1D. People I’ve never met before tell me that they admire me and that I’m an inspiration to them, which is the best feeling in the world! People within the CrossFit community think it’s pretty cool and some don’t know the difference between type one and two… but once they learn they think it’s awesome that I can deal with my disease and be a competitive CrossFitter.
A lot of people outside of the CrossFit community don’t really know the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. They make jokes not knowing the difference. For example, if they see someone eating a lot of junk food they say “dude your going to get diabetes” as a joke which makes me insecure about what they think of me. I try to educate people on the differences, and tell them I have T1D and make sure they know I didn’t get it from eating too much sugar or junk food. All my close friends know and they are super cool about it and they look out for me. If I go to a friend’s house, I will have to educate the parents because they too don’t know the difference and they will ask if I can eat this or that. It gets annoying, but once I educate them about it it’s kind of cool and that’s something I would love to do within SheaStrong.
Who inspires you?
From the day I met her, she was not just my CrossFit inspiration... but also in life. Her name is Jenny LaBaw. She is a CrossFit Games athlete and overall the most humble person I have ever met! Jenny and I share a similar story. We both live with a life threatening disease. Neither of us wanted people to know about it, but later on we used it to our advantage. Jenny LaBaw has epilepsy and the moment she shared her video, I was so inspired to use my diabetes as my own motivator. She is one of the original CrossFit stars. Another thing that I love about her is that she doesn’t just CrossFit. She runs, hikes and uses nature to her advantage.