Hiding Your Diabetes

Dec 17, 2010
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I feel like in this day and age that playing professional baseball with diabetes shouldn’t be a big deal, and certainly not one that would require someone to keep it a secret from everyone around them. If you’re a Chicago native or a Cubs fan, you probably know from where my curiosity comes. We lost a hero this past week, Ron Santo, former 3rd baseman and current radio announcer for the Chicago Cubs baseball team. He was the reason that I chose listening to the games on the radio versus turning on the television. He was a huge supporter and fundraiser for juvenile diabetes later in life, but it was just amazing to me to that he felt he had to hide his diabetes when he was pursuing his major league career . . . . though yes, it was in 1959, which in medical advancement/technology years, it’s probably like aging a cocker spaniel.

Apparently when he was diagnosed, his own research at the time showed that life expectancy of someone with juvenile insulin-dependent diabetic was 25 years. (!!) He also read that it “would cause blindness, kidney failure and hardening of the arteries”. No wonder he was alarmed! For a young man whose dream was to be a big league ballplayer to read this first hand, I’m sure he felt that if coaches and league officials knew this information, they would be hesitant to sign him to any baseball team whatsoever. So he hid it and played (very successfully I might add) for years by managing his glucose levels by, get this, his mood! He finally shared his diabetes with the world in 1971 and then proceeded to raise over $60 million for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

I am glad we are living in a day and age where people feel less compelled to hide things about themselves in order to get a particular job or live out their dream (though I know it certainly still happens). I am also thankful that we are living in a time where the lifespan of someone with juvenile insulin-dependent diabetes is well beyond only 25 years old. One more thing I am very thankful for, is that, even though my years didn’t allow me to witness Santo’s Golden Glove in action or see his famous heel click, I did get to experience being a Cubs fan during the reign of his intense passion and contagious enthusiasm (as well as heartbreak) on WGN radio 720. He will be very missed.

Author: Blythe