Raising five children, all cheerleaders, would be a challenge for any family. But March Seay and her daughters face daily obstacles beyond their already busy schedules, as two of the Seay girls are living with type 1 diabetes*.
Mrs. Seay owns a cheer gym in a small town outside of Dallas, and her daughters have been a huge part of that gym’s success. Their motto is, “A family that cheers together, stays together!”
Savannah, now 15, received her diagnosis around her seventh birthday. That was when Mrs. Seay realized that teaching tumbling and cheer would give her the flexible schedule necessary for routine checkups and daily monitoring. Alyssa, 16, is the oldest of the five girls. She received her diagnosis just over a month ago. In fact, she first started noticing symptoms during cheer practice, but remembers how supportive and caring everyone at the gym was.
Through the years, the gym has become a second home to the Seays. Even as the girls have grown older and expanded their interests to other sports and activities, they return to the gym daily to help out.
Magic, their service dog, has been a member of the family for five years. “He barks when their sugars get above 190 and below 90,” Mrs. Seay explains. “He picks up on changes in Savannah’s blood sugar faster than she can with a self-test.”
Magic goes everywhere with Savannah – even cheer camp! They are working with him to become more alert to Alyssa, but are hoping to raise enough money to provide Alyssa with her own service dog.
Though diabetes adds a layer of complexity to Savannah and Alyssa’s lives, they remain dedicated cheerleaders at their school and all star gym. “My favorite part of cheering is learning new skills and helping people learn new skills,” Alyssa says.
That said, living with type 1 diabetes is not without its challenges. “The hardest part,” Savanah explains, “is having to stop what we’re doing at practice and competitions to continually monitor our blood sugar levels.” Mrs. Seay say adds, “They take an average of five to seven shots each day. Diabetes management among young athletes can be stressful, but I don’t see it slowing these two down.”
The Seays hope that sharing their story will motivate others in similar situations. They believe that nothing should stop you from doing what you love.
*Type 1 diabetes results when the pancreas loses its ability to make the hormone insulin. In type 1 diabetes, the person’s own immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Once those cells are destroyed, they won’t ever make insulin again. Click here to learn more.
– Amanda Hoppert