Kate Holan is a Type 1 diabetic.
The Canada Winter Games Team Alberta Female Goaltender calls it her superpower.
“It makes you put in that extra thought and work a little bit harder because you have to manage so much on top of hockey,” said Holan.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas makes little or no insulin. A Type 1 diabetic must monitor their blood sugars and manage the condition accordingly.
“I was diagnosed when I was 15 so almost three years ago,” said Holan. “I started having symptoms and when we ran the tests, the results weren’t a surprise being that it’s hereditary.”
Both Holan’s mother, Lisa and oldest brother Jack, are also Type 1 diabetics, so when Holan was diagnosed, she was surrounded by support.
“Knowing that I had their support took the weight off my shoulders,” said Holan. “It showed me that there’s people that can play hockey and manage their diabetes at the same time and they do it seamlessly, it just takes a little more detail in my everyday life.”
Diabetes isn’t the only thing she has in common with Jack. He is also a goalie. Watching him manage his sugars, Holan knew she could continue to play hockey. But she also had questions.
“There were thoughts of uncertainty like will I be able to manage at a high level and take care of my sugars and all my little things,” said Holan. “I’ve learned the biggest thing is knowing my body and knowing how I feel.”
NHLer Max Domi is diabetic and has said he is able to check his blood sugar on the bench as part of managing his diabetes while playing. Being a goalie, Holan doesn’t have the opportunity to check between shifts.
“I have to trust that if I checked (my sugars) in between periods and they were fine, that they are still fine. But I also have to make sure to be alert and to be in tune during the game,” said Holan.
Her regime starts well before she gets to the arena though.
“I have to be organized and stay one step ahead,” said Holan. “That’s not taking too much insulin if I know I have a practice that day and cutting back and managing my day before I get to the rink. And checking in and being on top of it once I’m there.”
In her third year of playing in the Alberta Female Hockey League’s U18 AAA division with the St. Albert Slash, she’s proven that elite hockey is no match for managing diabetes. Now with Team Alberta, Holan is literally living out her dream.
“I have dreamed of this since I was a little kid,” said Holan. “You look back at the history of the teams before you and you see the names that are huge hockey names and I feel so grateful to have this experience to represent Alberta.”
After this season, Holan will look to university hockey as a Mount Royal Cougar.
“To any kid out there with diabetes, never let it hold you back,” said Holan. “You could look at it as something that makes you unique or different but never something that could hold you back.”