Hannah McCook can vividly recall the day she was told she had Type 1 diabetes. She was eight years old and instantly thought her diagnosis meant one thing, her sporting ambitions would be over.
“I remember being off school because I had been sick every hour of the night before,” McCook, now 26, says. “My mum knew something wasn’t right and that it wasn’t just flu. She wanted the doctor to come to me, but they couldn’t. The next thing I remember was being taken in an ambulance to hospital and plugged into the insulin and IV drip. I was then told what diabetes was but not really having a clue what it meant. I thought I would be finished with sport.”
McCook, who has just completed her first year as a professional golfer on the Ladies European Access Tour, was a keen skier at the time of her diagnosis, hitting the slopes in northern Scotland close to her Grantown-on-Spey home as often as possible. Golf had just started to become another passion. Sport meant everything.
“After I was told, I didn’t speak for two days,” McCook reveals. “My parents went home and googled who else was diabetic. Sir Steve Redgrave was the first name who popped up. I instantly said that he was my twin and that everything was going to be all right.” Despite being six at the time of Redgrave’s fifth Olympic gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games, McCook was an avid viewer of that magical moment. “I haven’t had the chance to meet him yet. If I did, I’d probably tell him he was the person who proved that I could still do all the things I wanted to do,” she says.
McCook was discharged from hospital four days after her diagnosis, but her life would change from that moment on with injections and finger-pricks becoming part of her daily routine. She was not fazed. A week later she was back on the slopes.
Skiing remains a pastime of McCook’s, but golf is now her career. After making an instant impact in her first tournaments this year with third and fifth-place finishes, the Scot decided to ditch the part-time cleaning job she worked around her amateur days after completing her sport science degree at Stirling University.
Now managing her diabetes using glucose monitor Dexcom G6 and an insulin pump, McCook has finally been able to ditch the daily injections. Instead, she relies on instant readings via an app on her phone. The advances in technology have been crucial.
McCook knows her situation is different to those she comes up against on the golf course, but she has never felt held back by the condition. Yes, there remain obstacles. Managing the bursts of adrenaline she encounters at the start of every tee which causes her blood-sugar levels to spike.
Monitoring her levels throughout her rounds every few holes. Making sure her golf bag is equipped with plenty of snacks.
“It’s not been a hindrance,” she says of her condition. “I just know I have to keep on top of it at all times. I’ll check the app when I’m at the first tee and then every three or four holes after that. I sometimes look at it too much. Fortunately, there’s flexibility in golf that means I am able to have my phone on the golf course.
“When I’m playing I do look at the other girls who are working out the yardage, or how far round we’ve got to go, and I’m standing there looking at my levels and eating something. There is more on my mind than just golf, but I’ve just got to get on with it. I could be in much worse situations, thankfully it’s only diabetes.”
Hannah McCook uses Dexcom’s G6 Continuous Glucose Monitoring System to manage her diabetes on and off the green