CHARACTER COUNTS

Casteel senior pitcher raises Type 1 diabetes awareness 1 pitch at a time

Jan 13, 2020, 3:42 PM | Updated: Jan 14, 2020, 8:53 pm
(Photo by Arianna Grainey)...
(Photo by Arianna Grainey)
(Photo by Arianna Grainey)

Sophia Lishner is a senior pitcher at Casteel High School in Queen Creek with a collegiate softball arm.

That much is evident.

But what may not be in such plain sight is that she also has Type 1 diabetes, a condition in which the pancreas does not create enough insulin, the hormone that allows sugar to enter blood cells to produce energy.

Lishner was diagnosed with Type 1 at the age of 12 back in May of 2014.

“The day I was told I have diabetes, I just thought, ‘Wow, I won’t be able to play softball or play sports,'” Lishner said. “My goal was always to play college softball and I just thought I would never be able to with this disease.”

On a day-to-day basis, Lishner has to take insulin before she eats and then take a longer-lasting insulin every 24 hours in addition to blood sugar tests multiple times a day.

“When I’m low [blood sugar], everything just seems blurry and it’s really hard to focus. So if I’m taking a test, I’ll have to stop,” Lishner said. “And with standardized tests, that was tough. But teachers are really supportive of it, so they let me do what I need to.”

But the classroom isn’t the only place that Lishner has had to overcome obstacles. En route to accepting an offer to play softball at Colorado State Pueblo, the right-hander also had to sacrifice playing time while playing outside in the Arizona heat.

“Especially with the heat, my blood sugar will rise, so I’ll have to take more insulin during a game,” Lishner said. “Some games if my blood sugar gets too high, I’ll have really bad migraines, so I’ll have to wait it out on the bench.”

Lishner has been a youth ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and spreading awareness of Type 1 diabetes in the community for five years now.

JDRF’s largest fundraiser is a gala, which raised over $2 million last year.

“This year I’m one of the oldest youth ambassadors. It’s tough being one of the oldest but it’s nice because then you can help the younger kids learn what they’re going to have to do when they get older,” Lishner said.

“They see me deciding where I’m going to go to college and it makes other parents and kids less afraid to let their kids go out of state because a lot of parents don’t want their kids to leave them. When kids go to college that have Type 1, that’s when it gets super scary and that’s when a lot of the scarier illnesses that come alongside with it.”

(Sophia Lishner)

But that’s not all the high school senior does. She also puts on a teeter-totter-a-thon at her school leading up to the annual 5K walk at Sloan Park in Mesa.

Scottsdale native and Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews — who also has Type 1 diabetes — was a contributor to last year’s walk.

“We chose a teeter-totter because it represents the highs and lows of Type 1, but you can always look across and find someone supporting you — kind of like a teeter-totter,” Lishner said.

“It’s easier to accept the disease when you’re around other kids that have it. It motivated me to not let the disease affect me anymore. I just want to keep bringing awareness because one day I hope to not have Type 1 anymore.”

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