Sheridan Brummett’s equipment bag carries all the essentials for a college soccer athlete — uniform, cleats, shin guards, water, etc. But there are more items, ones that most of her teammates at William & Mary don’t have any need for.
Like a glucometer, which monitors her blood sugar. Like an insulin pump, which delivers doses on schedule or when needed. And like a glucagon injection kit, which is to be used when her blood sugar drops to a dangerous level.
For Brummett, a sophomore forward and Type 1 diabetic, it’s life as she’s come to know it.
“I’ve tried my best to just see it as a challenge,” she said. “The thought never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t play soccer. I was like, I’m going to manage this somehow and have to do some things that other players don’t have to do.
“I’m still going to play soccer and reach the highest level that I can. Diabetes won’t hold me back.”
Michelle Brummett, Sheridan’s mother, saw that determination from the start.
“Since the moment she was first diagnosed, she has given herself all of the insulin shots,” she said. “That very first one in the thigh was by herself.
“She wanted to take control of it. And now, there are so many things I think she almost does on auto pilot.”
It was seven years ago when, on a trip to Portland with her father and sister, Sheridan began feeling strange. Only 12 at the time, she was rapidly losing weight despite eating more than usual. She was downing water non-stop.
“I remember on the flight back, I asked the flight attendant like eight times could I have another water,” Brummett said. “And my dad said, ‘We’ve got to get you tested.'”
According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report, there are 37.3 million diabetics in the United States. Of those, more than 90% are Type 2, which usually comes later in life and is often caused by lifestyle factors and/or genetics.
Less than 10% are Type 1, which is because it generally develops in children or young adults and used to be known as juvenile diabetes. It is caused by an autoimmune reaction that results in the pancreas making little or no insulin. Family history can play a role.
Many who have neither don’t know one from the other. But a significant difference is that someone with Type 2 can achieve remission with lifestyle changes while someone with Type 1 cannot.
“When I tell people I’m a Type 1 diabetic, I really try to make sure they understand the difference between Type 1 and Type 2,” Brummett said. “I hate when I get a soda and someone is like, ‘Oh, are you sure you should be drinking that since you have diabetes?’ You don’t get Type 1 diabetes from eating a lot of sugar and you can’t cure Type 1 diabetes from not eating a lot of sugar.
“When people make jokes — like a really sugary drink and they say ‘Oh, diabetes in a bottle’ — I try to stop that and really educate them. As a Type 1 diabetic who has to manage her blood sugar 24/7 and work so hard to stay in range, those jokes hurt sometimes.”
Neither of Sheridan’s parents (Michelle and Russell) nor any of her four siblings (Mason, Gabi, Adrienne and Austin) have the disease. However, it’s likely that she inherited what is called a risk factor from her mother and father.
Risk factors lead to a Type 1 diagnoses only when something in the body’s environment triggers it. That’s what happened with Sheridan, but what triggered it is anyone’s guess.
It could have been a virus. It even could have been those cold winters in Bow, New Hampshire. Either way, she never played the “Why Me?” card.
Instead, she tackled it head on. And she has been practical. Instead of wearing a MedicAlert bracelet, which could always be lost or damaged, she has “type one diabetic” tattooed on her right forearm.
Brummett soon learned there is a long list of athletes, both professional and collegiate, who are Type 1. One is Stanford soccer player Lumi Kostmayer, who grew up about three hours from Bow in Southbury, Conn.
“We went to the same training centers,” Brummett said.
The most inspirational to her has been Jordan Morris, who played collegiately at Stanford and is now with Seattle Sounders FC. He was diagnosed at 9 years old.
“He has this foundation for diabetes, and I just admire how he doesn’t try to not talk about it,” she said. “He tells people that even if you have diabetes, you can do so many amazing things and it doesn’t hold you back.”
Part of not letting it hold you back is understanding what you must do to manage it. That requires constant attention, organizational skills, and yes, a full equipment bag.
Brummett wears a Dexcom, a small device that continuously monitors her glucose levels. Her phone needs to be within 20 feet, which isn’t optimal when she’s on the pitch.
“Usually during practices and games, I’m sort of playing blind,” she said. “I know my blood sugar is at a certain level when I start, but that can drop or go high at any moment. It was definitely hard at first, but after seven years, you kind of develop a sixth sense.”
Brummett has an insulin pump but is unable to wear it when she plays. When she comes to the sideline, she’s able to connect it and get a quick dose of insulin if needed.
“The good thing about soccer is that usually my adrenaline is pumping, so I don’t really need to worry about my blood sugar going low,” she said. “I usually just go off, do a bit of insulin, and I can keep going.
“I definitely travel with more stuff than other people. But it’s just what I have to do.”
One thing Sheridan wants to make clear: Type 1 diabetes doesn’t hinder her stamina.
“I’m fully able to play as much as anyone else plays,” said Brummett, who had an assist in the season opener against Temple. “I just need to make sure my blood sugar is on a level where if for some reason it drops, it doesn’t drop so low that I start getting symptoms.
“Or if it goes high, it doesn’t go so high that I start feeling symptoms. It’s a matter of finding that sweet spot.”
The need to monitor her blood sugar isn’t limited to soccer games and practices. It is, as Brummett puts it, “a 24/7 job.”
Recently, prior to a test, she pumped more insulin than usual because she was feeling a little stressed. But on the walk to class, her glucose level began dropping. She drank some Gatorade and paid close attention as the numbers return to normal.
Brummett said her professors have been very accommodating.
“If I’m in an exam and I notice my blood sugar has gone really high, I can take a break, do insulin and wait for it to come down,” Brummett said. “Or sometimes I can’t focus and I realize my blood sugar is low. Then I have some Gatorade, maybe some fruit snacks, and wait for it to come back up.”
Tribe Coach Julie Shackford never hears Sheridan complain.
“She doesn’t want it to be a crutch,” Shackford said. “And really, you would never even know unless you saw her tattoo. It’s a lot to keep track of, and she does it while keeping a 4.0 (GPA).”
Brummett also stays on top of her diet, so much so that she has learned to cook and prepares many of her own meals. As a kinesiology major, she studies not only how the body moves but which foods make it move better — and which make it move worse.
After graduation, Brummett hopes to become a registered dietitian and work with a sports team.
“I’m really interested in how proper nutrition can improve your athletic performance so much,” she said. “Nutrition is starting to come to the forefront and people are thinking about how you can use food to improve your athletic performance.”
And as Jordan Morris speaks frankly about being a Type 1 diabetic and an athlete, Brummett wants to do the same.
“I really like teaching people who have either been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes or younger people who might be struggling with it,” she said. “Even though Type 1 diabetes is such a taxing and difficult disease to have, it cannot hold you back from anything you want to do.
“I want to get that message out to anyone who is struggling with Type 1 diabetes. Just know you can reach the highest level you want, and diabetes can’t stop you from doing that.”
Brummett is living proof.