Ryan Schafer: Bowling for Diabetes

Ryan SchaferPro-bowler Ryan Shafer, who's had type 1 diabetes since age 19, shares his time and talents to help others with this disorder. As part of National Diabetes Month for November, he's hosting a tournament at a bowling alley in his hometown of Horseheads, NY as part of an effort called Reason to Believe, and he'll also be out in Vegas for a national bowling tournament.

The goal for this exceptional athlete, who has four Pro Bowling Association Tour Titles and ten top-10 finishes, is to raise awareness about a chronic, life-changing disorder that can cause serious complications if it's not well-controlled.

A diplomat for the Diabetes Research Institute who now wears an insulin pump, Shafer has become adept at managing his diabetes while juggling a physically demanding career that requires quite a bit of traveling.

The summer between freshman and sophomore year of college, Shafer learned that he had type 1 diabetes. Prior to his diagnosis, Shafer says, he had lost nearly 25 pounds, was constantly going to the bathroom, and found himself eating and drinking constantly.

"My vision was affected and I was feeling like crap all the time," he says. "When I found out I had diabetes, I was just glad to know what was wrong."

He started his treatment by giving himself insulin shots and learning to test his own blood sugar, though he has since switched to an Animas® insulin pump.

Shafer had been a good bowler for some years before his diagnosis. "And at some point, I decided to try to bowl professionally," recalls the athlete, who was valedictorian of his high school class. "It was definitely more challenging when I was doing insulin shots before I got a pump. I'd be forced to eat at certain times."

Besides having a lot more freedom about when he's eating, traveling with the pump is a lot easier than carrying around syringes. "I've found that it's so much easier going through airport security," Shafer says.

As a bowler, in addition to owning four PBA Tour Titles, he was selected PBA Rookie of the Year in 1987. He won his first Tour title in the 2000 Orleans Casino Open in Las Vegas, and won his second title later that season. Shafer has made the finals in major championships 11 times, and finished as a runner-up four times. He also won the Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award for 2008 and 2009.

Known as one of the most superstitious pros on Tour, Shafer has to have either an eight or a five in the serial number of his bowling balls, he only picks the ball up with his left hand, and he wears his clothes in the same order every week.

Now 45, Shafer enjoys spending his leisure time with his wife and his extended family. He has encouraging words of advice for young people living with Type 1 diabetes:

"Sometimes kids with Type 1 diabetes think they are limited," he says. "But I tell them, you can do whatever you want to do and live your life the way you want to. You just need to learn to take care of yourself."

His advice to individuals with Type 1 diabetes? "Eat right, see your doctor regularly, and be diligent about taking care of yourself. You'll live a nice, full life."