Sideline Stories "At the end of those two weeks, I had lost nine pounds and could barely stand up by myself. Just four hours after my hospital admission, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes."

This is Sideline Stories. A platform where NE10 student-athletes can share their collegiate experiences in an unfiltered environment - using their voices to promote growth and positive change in our league and in all of NCAA Division II athletics.

Chloe Hanson, a sophomore runner on the Le Moyne cross country and track & field teams, has overcome one medical hardship after another in pursuit of her dreams. However, her diagnosis was just the beginning of struggles she would face. Here is her Sideline Story:

Hanson (fourth from left) with Le Moyne women's cross country team.

When I began running competitively in seventh grade, I anticipated the rigor and challenge of the sport, but never did I imagine running without a pancreas.

One day at practice during the early spring of my eighth grade year, my team and I were running our usual four-mile loop. By mile two, my legs were tight with cramps and fatigue overwhelmed my body. Used to the occasional off-day, I pushed myself through the run and made it back to my school.

As my Mom drove me home that evening, I sat in the car screaming as my legs cramped so aggressively that my muscles began to contort in different directions. After that, I spent two weeks in a state of persistent exhaustion. I had a constant thirst, but no matter my fluid intake, I felt dehydrated. There was a never-ending hunger too, and despite the amount of food I consumed, I became increasingly malnourished.

At the end of those two weeks, I had lost nine pounds and could barely stand up by myself. Just four hours after my hospital admission, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Hanson was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

My diagnosis was quick because my symptoms were textbook T1D. My blood glucose level had reached over 500 (goal range of a healthy adult is 70-120). I was very below weight. I was malnourished to the extent my body had begun to eat my muscle (hence the aggressive muscle cramps). All these are common symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis, which is when your body develops high levels of ketoacids in response to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

Type 1 Diabetes is a chronic illness that prevents the pancreas from producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone that processes sugar, allowing its conversion into energy. As one can imagine, running without a source of energy is problematic. The diagnosis marked an entirely new era in my life; the post-T1D diagnosis era.

Hanson's running career was in jeopardy as a result of her diagnosis.

For months after, I would spend every evening in my room, curled up in the dark under the covers. I responded to my diagnosis with a quiet and heavy rage. The disease was overwhelming enough to process, but the technology that comes with the disease management is even more confusing to a “beginner” diabetic.

First, they tell you your pancreas is broken, then they show you insulin pumps, syringes, CGMs, test strips, lancets, and a list of math equations that calculate personal insulin levels and doses based on a series of individual health factors.

But the nature of a chronic illness, is, well, it’s chronic and requires constant attention. There is no “T1D:101,” but the most stressful crash course of your now diabetic life and suddenly you’re alone in the deep end with one less functioning organ.

In response to my rage, I decided to fight against every limitation diabetes created; my battleground was a 400 meter track and 5K courses.

Running became Hanson's way of fighting back against her illness.

To approach running as a diabetic required patience. For me, I learned through trial and error. I had to learn how blood sugar levels impacted my performance, which was done by training and competing at varying blood glucose levels.

I had to try different sources of sugar for raising my blood sugar until one finally didn’t hurt my stomach. I had to control my insulin levels and meticulously calculate when to begin and cancel insulin deliveries from my insulin pump.

One race in eighth grade, not long after my diagnosis, I performed poorly in a 1500 meter race. That day my blood sugar was fluctuating up and down, causing me to struggle with managing my sugar in time for my race.

In the cool down after my 1500, my Dad jogged with me. As we ran, I quietly cried. I said to my Dad, “What if I will never get to run as fast as I want because of a disease I never asked for? What if I will never reach my full potential as a runner because my disease won’t let me?”

Neither of us had an answer in that moment. As I recovered from my 1500, I wondered if I’d ever be the runner I dreamt of becoming.

Hanson is a native of Saugerties, N.Y.

The first year of living with diabetes was extremely difficult. However, there was a quiet before the storm when I was in ninth grade and tenth grade. My times were improving, I had gotten a handle on my new diabetic technology, and overall life felt normal. But at the beginning of my tenth-grade track season, I broke my hip.

It was an interior, left hip fracture caused by in-ward hip rotation and you guessed it, diabetes. My left leg is slightly longer than my right, causing my left hip to consequentially have a greater degree of rotation than my right. Furthermore, diabetes can cause deficient calcium levels which very likely contributed to my fracture.

In order to heal, I had to take off from running for a year. In that year, I faced a heavy depression. Without running, I had lost my outlet for control and mental relief. I was riddled with insecurity and stress as I gained weight, which caused severe anxiety attacks.

Along with my anxiety, my diabetes began to become extremely difficult again. Without any source of exercise, I had to consume even less sugar than usual and blood sugar management felt impossible. First, diabetes made running even harder; now it had helped take the sport away from me entirely.

"first, diabetes made running ever harder; now it had helped take the sport away from me entirely. "

To remain in a state of self-deprecation and anger would knowingly get me nowhere in life. I had to accept type one diabetes is part of me rather than hate a part of myself I never could get rid of. Embracing my diagnosis was the first step in becoming the runner I dream of being.

Throughout my recovery period, despite the grief I endured from missing running and the endless perils of diabetes, I persisted. I poured myself into physical therapy, using strength training as a healthy outlet for my mental struggles. But beyond therapeutic exercise, I searched to resolve my relationship with diabetes.

Rather than resent diabetes for the anatomic and emotional burdens it gave me, I decided to accept these burdens as challenges. If I can run until I throw up, until my legs give out, until my arms feel numb, then I decided what is one more hurdle (pun intended).

Hanson with her parents (and support system), Bill and Joanna.

After a long and productive recovery, I came into my senior year of competition with fresh legs and a new level of confidence. During my final year of high school competition, I made it to states in cross country, achieved multiple PRs, and earned a scholarship to run Division II track and cross country for Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY.

Suddenly, diabetes felt minute.

I am yet to be the runner I aspire to be, but I no longer fear diabetes because I see I can achieve my goals even with it fighting against my body every day.

To be truthful, I barely discuss my diabetes in relation to running. I’ve grown so accustom to the illness that it is nothing more than a daily chore. My goal in writing this story is not to emphasize my strength as an individual, but place my story out there for other runners to read.

Hanson (second from right) on a NYC trip with Le Moyne's track & field team.

One of the most beautiful gifts running can give us is it allows us to push our own physical boundaries. It is a test of strength, resilience, determination, and courage.

If you let it, running will show you what your mind, body, and soul are capable of. Because of my love for pushing boundaries and embracing new challenges in running, I found the strength to face an illness I once believed would overcome me.

Hanson (left) with Le Moyne coach Robin Wheeless and teammate Olivia Snell. (Check out Olivia's Sideline Story)

My advice to any runner is let running show you the strength you possess, and in turn apply that strength to anything else that comes your way. Learn to embrace the hurt and the struggle until what once was a hindrance to you becomes a motivation for your success.

- Chloe Hanson

Hanson (left) helping her teammate Olivia Snell after a race.


Le Moyne Athletics/Greg Wall