Learning about managing T1D by himself, this MMA fighter now works to improve awareness of the disease

Shawn Wicks was an elite athlete who held his health in high-regard, trained vigorously, and competed as an MMA fighter training in Muay Thai kickboxing, but he felt something was off – his feet were always sore and he was exhausted all of the time.

“I didn’t have the energy to train, I recall days sneaking out of the gym to drink an espresso so I could finish an hour-long workout… I just attributed it to work and stress.”

When Shawn visited his general practitioner (GP), he was told he had a high fasting blood sugar. He was promptly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and medicated accordingly, but his symptoms persisted. After repeated visits with his GP, he was eventually prescribed insulin and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

He was 29-years old.

With no immediate access to an endocrinologist, Shawn had to teach himself how to inject insulin and learn in real-time how his body reacted to it.

“I remember watching YouTube videos on how to inject and just giving myself little bits at a time so I could figure out what it was doing to me and how much I actually needed,” Shawn said in a conversation with us.

Fast-forward to today, and Shawn still competes as an MMA fighter while educating people living with diabetes on managing their glucose levels through exercise and diet.

“Being diagnosed was the scariest thing in my life,” he added. “I think it’s really important that people understand it takes work, but it can be manageable. T1D made me take control of my life and made me learn what I could do, and I want to inspire other people to take control of their life.”

Born in Newfoundland, Shawn’s journey led him across the country to British Columbia where he trains with Universal MMA in North Vancouver, but his fight with T1D began long before his arrival. He credits his fiancé with the perspective he needed to get help.

“Looking back now, I hadn’t been well for a few years. It wasn’t until I was in a relationship with someone who saw my behavior every day to tell me something was wrong. I had spiraled into a place where I didn’t realize my blood sugars were affecting my mental and physical health.”

It was a long road for Shawn to come to terms with it.

“As an athlete, I was someone promoting health. I didn’t understand [T1D], I was ashamed of it, I didn’t know if it was something I did. As I started learning more about nutrition and how to get a handle on it, I refocused my life to be an advocate and educate people about T1D… Now, I am proud of it.”

When you are routinely squaring off with 215-pound men trained in martial arts, managing type 1 diabetes on top of the task at hand is a major hurdle, but Shawn has mastered managing his blood sugars when he hits the octagon. He says he has never suffered a low during a fight.

“It’s tough because before a fight you feel adrenaline, you might get shaky and your hands start to sweat and it’s hard to tell whether it’s adrenaline or a low since the symptoms for me are the same,” Shawn said.

When asked if his team understands his T1D, he laughs as he remembers his coach’s reaction to one of the first times he went low during training and stopped to eat glucose tablets.

“My coach is really a suck-it-up type of guy, and I remember him looking up at me saying, ‘Come on man, what are you doing? Sitting there eating candy?’”, he recalled.  

Shawn credits them for coming a long way. Now all he needs to do is put his hand up and his coach immediately knows what’s up.

Being diagnosed as an adult, Shawn distinctly remembers his life before T1D. He describes the contrast between then and now like “playing a video game on expert mode.” Everything is tougher and the learning curve is steep, and much of what you learn is through the mistakes you make…

Like when Shawn accidentally gave himself 50-units of fast-acting insulin before going to the gym after mistaking it for his long-lasting insulin.

“I have 2 pens, one for my fast-acting and one for my long-lasting, I accidently put the fast-acting insulin into the pen that I normally keep my long-lasting in. I injected and went to the gym. I was on the stair climber when I had this flashback of what I’d done and I was out of there faster than the Roadrunner. My cupboards were empty, so luckily the store in my building was open, and I bought apple juice and 2-liters of pop and went to work on them until I could get myself to the grocery store,” Shawn said.

Shawn embraces a live and learn attitude, but every lesson amounts to a better understanding of himself and how he manages his T1D.

As a participant in the Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes for JDRF, Shawn credits the event as an incredible vehicle to drive awareness, accelerate T1D research, and unify the T1D community. “I feel like I’m really a part of something special through JDRF and the work that I do. It’s amazing being around people I can have open and honest conversations about living with T1D.”

Shawn is also fascinated with the research that JDRF funds, "I want to find out why and at what point the immune system starts attacking insulin producing cells; that to me is most important. I am also really excited about islet cell transplants; I would love to see a successful way to encapsulate them without the body rejecting them.”

By supporting the Walk, Shawn hopes his story can reinforce the critical awareness that the event brings to T1D and amplify JDRF’s mission. “I think the awareness is crucial; no one should live with the stigma or feel ashamed of having T1D. Awareness has to be a priority, but it’s empowering to know there are so many people working on a cure and out there helping each other to living with it. JDRF does an incredible job of helping people see that.”

To learn more about Shawn Wicks, follow his journey as a T1D MMA fighter at:









Finding inspiration in type 1 diabetes – a T1D dad shares his experience

There is not much that Cody Westman needs to do to convince his 6-year-old son, Graham, to be an active little boy, “he goes non-stop,” says Cody. “Ice hockey, road hockey, biking, skateboarding, drums, and I do it all with him. The hardest part can be remembering to stop for snacks while we’re at it.”

Graham was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) this past December and, like every family in this community, the news was tough to receive, “it was a lot to take in at once, knowing that he would need insulin for the rest of his life and constant care and attention to his diet.” And like many parents of young kids, mealtime wasn’t the easiest time of day, “Graham wasn’t the best eater before. Before this diagnosis, we would always take snacks with us wherever we go, but now we have to be so diligent about him eating every 90 minutes to 2 hours, making him finish his portions, or substitute with other foods to make up his carb count. We’ve learned a lot about nutrition lately – I’ve never looked at food labels so much in my life!”

Being a T1D dad can be tough but as a filmmaker, Cody uses the realities of type 1 diabetes as a source of inspiration, “I’m full of ideas and influenced by everything I’ve ever seen.” This creativity is what lead to the, now viral, Graham’s Growlers video, “I knew it would be more impactful showing a video rather than just having pictures on our [Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes for JDRF] fundraising team page.”

6 year old Graham is raising money for Diabetes research.

Our boy Graham is 6 years old. He is the most active kid ever, despite having diabetes. Here’s a video we made for his fundraising team Graham’s Growlers! He is fundraising for the 2019 Diabetes Walk in St. John’s NL. Funds go to diabetes research in Canada. DONATE at: jdrf.akaraisin.com/ui/jdrfwalk19/team/219258 (Featuring ‘lil bro Adam as the ‘bad guy’ and the ‘mad scientist’ !) Thanks to JDRF Canada for their research efforts!

Posted by Cats Eye Cinema on Tuesday, April 16, 2019

“Graham has always been able to deliver lines to the camera and we had fun with this one. His little brother, Adam, made a cameo in it as well, playing the ‘bad guy’ and the ‘mad scientist’.”

And the video was an incredible success, “In the first day we reached more than half our goal. Since then, the local news station called us to cover the story; we have had a ton of generous donors come out of the woodwork, and even a very special donation from [DONOR] in St. John’s that was awarded on the day of the Walk!”

Having every single T1D dad be a part of this community and bring their unique flavor to our collective goal is what makes us so powerful, “money raised from [events like Walk] goes toward research and treatments that can ultimately affect millions of people living with diabetes, and make their lives easier. My son is one of these people.”

Happy Father’s Day to every T1D dad and thank you for everything you do to keep us moving forward.

Ahead of the 2019 Walk, Max Domi joined Montreal-area kids living with T1D for a frank discussion on the disease


Fresh on the heels of Montreal Canadiens centre and JDRF National Spokesperson Max Domi’s announcement to join thousands of fellow participants at the Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes for JDRF in Montreal this Sunday, June 9, Max Domi joined 13 families in Montreal to discuss life with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

On Tuesday, May 28, Stéphane Lagrange – Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes for JDRF Co-Chair and father of a son with T1D – hosted a media day with Max Domi, during which 13 young people, all living with type 1 diabetes themselves and top Walk fundraisers, interviewed Max about his experience and what life is like as a professional NHL player while living with T1D.

More than talking about his daily routine, Max shared why this community is so important to him, “We all have something in common, and we’re like a huge family in a way. We’re all here to help each other and we’re going to help each other get to whatever we want to do.”

After spending the morning with members of the type 1 diabetes community, Max sat down with the media and continued sharing his story to increase awareness of T1D and the 2019 Walk, “[This community is] just one of the many positives of being in this situation,” said Max. “The other positives are learning, getting stronger, mentally and physically, being aware, meeting so many cool people and having a platform to share your story.”

Max will be attending the Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes for JDRF on June 9th at the Centre de la nature de Laval. Join Max and register at jdrfwalk.ca.