Canadian Diabetes Association
TORONTO, CANADA (Toronto Star) - Forever it will be a companion but not a crutch, a daily reminder of the frailties of the human body but not something that should stop a man from pursuing his dream.
Five times a day, Gary Forbes takes a tiny needle and plunges it into his body; every day he goes out and pushes himself to the limits of his endurance against some of the greatest athletes in the world, oblivious to the illness, the injections, the routine that is little more than, well, routine.
Forbes, an emerging late-season key piece with the Raptors, is a Type 1 diabetic, the injections are insulin, the monitoring of his condition is practically constant but a nuisance more than anything.
“It’s a manageable disease,” the 26-year-old Forbes said. “I’ve had it now for eight years, went through different ups and downs and learning and stuff like that but I’m still coming out here every day and competing with the best players in the world.”
Forbes has become a tireless worker for diabetes awareness and promoting the idea that it’s not an impediment to athletic excellence. Forget looking at his 6-foot-7, 220-pound body to see the evidence — he’s taking his message as public as he can.
He runs a camp for kids in his hometown that promotes diet and lifestyle as much as basketball; he works with the tireless Raptors community relations staff and the Canadian Diabetes Association, spreading the word.
Forbes knows first hand how relatively easy it is to deal with diabetes, but he feels it’s part of his job to get the message out.
“It’s a large, large issue, especially in the New York, the city where I’m from. The Latino community and African-American community are at risk from different factors, whether it’s nutrition-wise or the family-based things.
“I’ve been trying to do a lot about educating kids and families about healthy eating and things like that to stay away from this.”
The Raptors medical staff offers support any way it can for Forbes, who joined the team as a free agent at the start of the season.
There are glucose tablets and candy available if necessary; so far nothing’s been needed and there’s no suggestion it ever will be.
“It’s a lifestyle for him, he takes care of it himself,” said Scott McCulloch, the team’s head athletic trainer. “I have stuff available just in case and I carry stuff in my kit for emergency purposes but this is something he has monitored his whole life and something he’ll have to monitor when he’s done his career.
“It’s one of the things where he has to be responsible for himself. We’re here as a medical staff to help him in any way we can if there are any issues but it’s his responsibility.”
Diabetics are rare in the NBA but not in professional sports.
Pitcher Brandon Morrow of the Blue Jays deals with it; the highest-profile basketball player of late was former first-round draft pick Adam Morrison. Golfer Scott Verplank, NFL quarterback Jay Cutler, former NBAer Chris Dudley — there is a long list of diabetic athletes, many of whom are like Forbes, constantly aware of the need to test glucose levels but able to play to the best of their abilities.
That’s the message Forbes wants to get out, loudly.
“I met a kid the other day, I told him, ‘You can do anything, don’t let this be a crutch, don’t let this hold you back, it’s manageable,’” he said. “My nephew actually has it and he’s out there playing flag football and enjoying life.”
The family aspect of Forbes’s condition cannot be understated. His father, Roberto, has diabetes; his grandfather, Winston, died of the disease. When he was first diagnosed (“I lost 20 pounds in one week, all different types of symptoms,” he said) it didn’t take long to figure out what was going on.
“Once they said it was a possibility of diabetes, I kind of knew I had it; I’ve always seen my father taking needles,” he said. “It’s hereditary; my father has helped me greatly, and every staff I’ve been with, the medical people, have helped me to manage it and learn about it and be able to do what I do.”
The managing part has become routine. The five injections a day, the checking of blood glucose levels before each game, at halftime of each game and after each game is something he does as a matter of course. He eats well, get his rest and if there’s one little issue, it comes with sticking himself with that needle. But, like dealing with diabetes itself, that’s become normal.
“I’m petrified, petrified of needles, so, so scared of needles,” he said. “I trust myself, I don’t trust doctors but it’s routine now. I don’t think about it; I could do it with my eyes closed.”
Not thinking about it, just as he doesn’t think about the condition.
Copyright 2015 Toronto Star
Updated 1186 days ago Article ID# 1530809
Canadian Diabetes Association