Teen athlete with type 1 diabetes pursues dreams while raising awareness
December 4, 2019
Beth Miller is a driven athlete with an indomitable spirit and a passion for life. At 16 years old, the Calgary resident has competed nationally in skiing and is currently a competitive rower who has represented her province twice at the National Rowing Championships – all while living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), an autoimmune disease that has challenged her daily since the young age of six.
“It was a shock,” says Beth, recalling her diagnosis. “I was dancing back then, too, and managing my condition with sports was incredibly difficult. Yet we worked on it as a family; my parents and two older brothers were very supportive, and after much practice and trial and error, the routine eventually turned habit.”
The Millers joined JDRF to be part of a community with other families living with T1D and began fundraising for the charity through its signature events like the annual Walk. A guest speaker at JDRF’s local gala when she was in just first grade, Beth succeeded in amassing a record number of donations.
“JDRF gave me a platform to connect with others and an active voice to move towards change and have an impact,” she says.
“Being involved (with JDRF) was important because we were helping to raise money and contribute to its mission and research towards a cure,” adds her mother, Heather, who served on the gala and Walk committees over the years.
Last year, Beth took part in JDRF’s Kids for a Cure Lobby Day where she travelled to Ottawa to share her experiences and raise awareness about the challenges of living with a 24/7 condition.
“It was so cool,” she relates enthusiastically. “It opened my eyes to the world of lobbying and advocacy.”
Today, Beth’s father, Ron, is vice-chair on JDRF’s National Board of Directors. As a long-time JDRF supporter, the family has decided to generously match all donations to the organization (up to $100,000) between now and December 31st.
“We wanted to give back,” says Heather, “and remind everyone that the holiday season can be a time of giving gifts towards change. Our hope is to motivate people to go one step further.”
As Beth prepares to enter university, she is hopeful for a day with more doors of opportunity and less limitations.
“Not many know the effort that goes into managing T1D each day and all the trials behind the scenes,” says Heather. “It is so time-consuming on top of school, sports and a job. Yet Beth is an accomplished athlete with big dreams and talents that run deep – someone who shows us that you can still do everything with T1D if you put in the hard work.”
While a world without T1D would be the ultimate dream come true, Beth remains inspired by recent advancements in research and their potential to change lives in the future.
“The movement towards a closed-loop system technology (i.e., artificial pancreas) would allow better self-management and give me more confidence as a competitive athlete,” she explains, “while research into stem cells feels like progress is being made and that we are closer to a cure.”