Highs, Lows and Speed Skating: Mallory Zorman’s T1D Story
I will never forget the family vacation I took in the summer of 2001. We drove down the West Coast, all the way from British Columbia to California. It would’ve been a wonderful trip, if we didn’t have to stop for the restroom every twenty minutes. I was hospitalized and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) 2000 kilometers away from my home. I was only six at the time so I didn’t know enough about diabetes to know that it would be a tough, life-altering disease.
Two years prior to being diagnosed, I followed in the footsteps of my older brother and began speed skating. From the very first time I stepped onto the ice, I knew I loved it. I wasn’t going to let a T1D diagnosis stop me from doing what I loved most. This is the same attitude that still resonates with me today. As a child I thought diabetes meant lots of needles, diet pop and carb counting. As I grew older my peers knew me as ‘the speedskater’, rather than as ‘the diabetic’. I always found comfort that my friends knew me for my accomplishments rather than for my illness.
At age eleven I competed in my first national competition, placing seventh and so began my skating career. Each March after that I would travel across the country and represent Alberta at both National and North American Championships. I got to meet new people, see new places and even win some medals along the way. In 2008, I won a $5000 scholarship from the Diabetes Exercise and Sport Association (now known as Insulindependence). The money could be used towards sport, diabetes or education. I got to stay in Toronto for the weekend conference and give a speech in front of numerous other diabetics, doctors and researchers. It was a weekend I will never forget as I got to meet many other diabetic athletes who had accomplished some amazing things. It was the first time I really got to share my story with T1D.
A year after, when I was fourteen, I began to have blood sugar problems associated with puberty and the hormonal changes that come along with it. My training load increased and I started to develop lactic acid. As a teenager I got occupied with other things and often pushed managing my T1D to the side. It took me too long to realize that I needed to be on top of my diabetes if I expected to perform well. I became frustrated that I needed to work so hard to keep my T1D in check just so I could skate as well as others without the disease. That is when I realized that being an athlete is no easy task and that I had to work hard not only at training, but with my diabetes as well.
When I was sixteen I used some of my scholarship money and I got an insulin pump. I was initially hesitant, but looking back now I couldn’t be happier with my decision. At the time I truly believed that if I got an insulin pump, I might be able to skate well again. It didn’t happen right away, but within a year things began to look up. A year after getting my pump I achieved one of my lowest A1Cs ever. I also noted that around the time the A1C was taken, I was skating better than I ever had. I persevered through those three rough years and was finally seeing results again. I reinvigorated my passion for training and for the sport.
As of now I’m on the Alberta Development Team with hopes of becoming one of the fastest juniors (under 20 years old) in the country. Each day brings its own challenges. My sugar is never the same two days in a row and sometimes my sugar isn’t perfect for training. I think those three bad seasons made me a better athlete. Knowing I’ve achieved a lot of my goals feels even better when I think that I’ve achieved them despite having T1D. I’ve been speed skating for fifteen years and I’ve had diabetes for twelve. There was just no way diabetes was going to make me stop doing what I love, it only made me want to do it even more.
After my speed skating career I plan to go into medicine, with hopes of researching T1D and trying to find a cure for those like myself. Whether it's finding a cure, preventing the onset of diabetes, or developing better methods of insulin delivery I hope that I can contribute as much as I can to those living with T1D so that they may live their lives fully.