Cannons’ Eck isn’t slowed by diabetes
Rises to star status
Chris Eck dropped 20 pounds in two weeks in the fall of 2004. He couldn’t figure out why he was drinking a 32-ounce bottle of water about every 15 minutes. Then a freshman at Colgate University, the school’s health services thought he had the flu, or something like that.
One blood test changed everything.
Eck has Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to control blood sugar levels. Insulin helps derive energy from food, so diabetics must inject insulin or use a pump multiple times a day. Doctors figured out where his insatiable thirst came from; Eck’s body was trying to flush out the extra sugar because it couldn’t process it.
Doctors rushed him to Syracuse’s Joslin Diabetes Center to monitor his blood sugar and educate him about Type 1 diabetes.
The diagnosis meant a lot of things to Eck.
It meant he’d have to research diabetes, and it’d be something he’d have to manage for the rest of his life. It meant he’d have to watch his diet constantly and learn about insulin injections and pumps.
But, perhaps most importantly to Eck, it didn’t mean the end of his lacrosse career.
“It was more, ‘How am I going to do it?’ not, ‘Can I do it?’ ’’ said Eck, 25, the midfielder/faceoff specialist for the Boston Cannons. “I’d bounced back from plenty of injuries before the diabetes, so it was just another thing I was going to deal with.’’
Three of Eck’s friends managed diabetes while playing sports during high school, so he knew it was possible. One friend wrestled, another played volleyball, and the third was on the lacrosse team with Eck.
“They all kind of gave me advice on what to eat, how to eat, when to monitor, and how to monitor, especially when playing sports,’’ Eck said. “Eventually, you figure it out. Everyone’s body is a little different. For me, it means pricking my finger, testing my blood sugar four or five times within the hour that I’m working out or playing.’’
That’s Eck’s routine before every game. He also monitors his blood sugar level each quarter. Afterward, he checks it at 15-to-30-minute intervals until he goes to bed. If his blood sugar level gets too low while he’s asleep, he could have a seizure or fall into a diabetic coma.
Dealing with diabetes has taught Eck how his body works and how he can perform at his highest level. Through the Cannons’ seven games this season, Eck has won 121 of 206 faceoffs, has 34 ground balls, and 3 assists.
Eck and eight of his teammates will compete in the All-Star Game tonight at 7 at Harvard Stadium. It’s Eck’s second consecutive selection, but this weekend has special meaning for him because it’s not just about lacrosse.
Major League Lacrosse has partnered with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to raise money and awareness about diabetes. JDRF has chapters throughout the world with volunteers and staff members who raise money to fund research in hopes of finding a cure.
After the game, the All-Stars will sign their jerseys for auction. The New Balance Foundation will match the total amount, and all of the money raised will go to the JDRF.
Eck’s mother joined the cause after her son was diagnosed seven years ago. She helps organize events at the JDRF chapter in Fairfield County, Conn., where Eck grew up. Last May, Eck spoke at the chapter’s Spring Gala, sharing his story and encouraging people to donate to diabetes research. JDRF asked him to speak prior to the All-Star selection show last night.
Eck said he’s hosted lacrosse clinics for children with diabetes and he shares his story with them.
“So many diabetics are scared to play sports because it is complicated,’’ Eck said. “It is tough to deal with. For me, it’s all about reaching out to kids, and the best way to do that is through the JDRF.’’
Eck’s message is simple: “Don’t let diabetes be a crutch.’’
“[Eck], as an excellent athlete, is an inspiration for anyone with Type 1 diabetes to say, ‘Yes, you can achieve your dreams. You can do what you want to do,’ ’’ said Rachel Steinhardt, JDRF’s national director of marketing and communications.