“What does lacrosse mean to you?”

Lacrosse has been and continues to be, such an imperative part of my life. I have been fortunate enough to have been part of some of the greatest teams and have been coached by some of the most incredible minds and individuals in the game. Throughout my playing career I guess you could say the teams I have had had a lot of success. I attended Shoreham-Wading River (SWR) High School, a small school on Long Island in Suffolk County New York. During my time at SWR, my team and I won 2 NY State Championships, 3 Long Island Championships and 4 County Championships. I continued my playing career in college at Adelphi University, a small Division 2 school located in Garden City, New York. At Adelphi, my team and I won 3 NCAA National Championships and I finished my career as a 4 X IWLCA All-American and set the school record for points with 380. I graduated from Adelphi with a Masters Degree in Speech and Language Pathology and continued to coach at Adelphi for 4 years following my playing career. During my time coaching, Adelphi was crowned with  2 more NCAA National Championships. I have now began a new journey as a Speech and Language Pathologist in South Country School District where I was given the privilege to coach our Varsity team and pass on my love and knowledge for the game. 

So to answer the  question “What does lacrosse mean to you?”, I could probably sit here for days and talk about my love for this game but for now I will give you the “shortened” version. Lacrosse has taught me countless life lessons and has helped me develop the skills that I would need to succeed one day on my own. Lacrosse has taught me about about discipline, dedication, commitment, time management, and so much more. Lacrosse has allowed me to network and meet people I may have never had the opportunity to meet. I have met some of my best friends because of lacrosse and it even lead me to meeting some guy in college who soon after became my husband and is the love of my life. The big answer to this question and the most important of them all is that lacrosse taught me to overcome obstacles and allowed me to live my life with good health.

March 4th, 1998 was one of the scariest days of my life. In the months leading up to this day I had been sick with numerous viruses and was not getting better. I had been losing weight and was constantly lethargic. Numerous tests and doctor’s appointments later and my family and I still had no answers. The week leading up to this day I had fallen asleep in school several different times and my neighbor who had driven me to school told my Mom I did not seem right. My Mom had an appointment scheduled for the following week but her motherly instinct decided to bring me to the doctors sooner. After giving a urine sample, the doctor told my Mom I was spilling large amounts of ketones and had excessive glucose levels. All of this language was foreign to me. The news to follow would change my life and my family’s life forever. The doctor told my Mom I had to be rushed to Hospital because I had Type 1 Diabetes and was on the verge of possibly entering into diabetic coma. At 8 years old, I was still not sure what was going on but I knew that it was not good as my Mom let me sit in the front seat and she NEVER let me sit there. After the first few hours of being in the hospital, being poked by needles from every which way and seeing my parents who are two of the strongest people I know break down in tears I knew that the journey that would lie ahead was not going to be easy.

For those who do not know or are unfamiliar with the disease it can lead to serious complications and can even be deadly but when managed and taken care of you can live a full, normal and healthy life. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers, like a virus are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D, and at present, there is still no cure.

The treatment to diabetes is keeping your blood sugar levels within range by testing your glucose level with a finger prick and insulin injections or an insulin pump. After a year of being on insulin injections twice a day I decided to change my treatment method to an insulin pump. An insulin pump is a small, computerized device that works by delivering small doses of insulin continuously and variable amounts when a meal is eaten. The pump is worn on the outside of your body at all times and is connected through a tube that is connected to a thin cannula placed into the layer of fat under your skin. This injection site is changed every 2-3 days.

While there are no days off when it comes to managing Type 1 Diabetes and it has been no easy task, lacrosse had always given me more of a reason to keep my diabetes under control. At a young age I had already developed such a love and passion for this game and knew that I would not let diabetes take that away from me. Playing lacrosse and managing my diabetes was an ongoing learning experience. I learned quickly that playing with high or low blood sugars did not always result in my best performance on the field. My best games and practices were the ones where my blood sugars were in range. I do not think I would have managed my diabetes as close as I did if it were not for lacrosse. I owe my good health and life to this game and will forever be grateful for the opportunity it has given and continues to give me.

What does lacrosse mean to you? Tell your story!

Erica Vitale
Epoch Women Author

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