By: Daniel Trecroci
Kellie Kuehne, 23, is in her third year on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour. Kuehne (pronounced key-knee), who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 10, is a two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion.
On May 30, 1999, the Texas native won her first LPGA tournament at the Corning Classic. Since then, Kuehne also finished third in the Women’s Open, where she recorded a record-setting round of 64.
Golf World magazine has characterized Kuehne as “the best thing to happen to women’s golf since Nancy Lopez.”
DIABETES HEALTH recently caught up with Kuehne to talk with her about managing type 1 diabetes and her busy career as a professional golfer.
DI: How did diabetes affect your ambition to become a professional golfer?
Kuehne: I was actually more determined because of the disease.
DI: What has having diabetes taught you?
Kuehne: Diabetes has taught me so much about life, discipline, patience, perseverance, adversity and tenacity. The disease has helped make me who I am.
Scheduling is a huge necessity in controlling diabetes. You have to realize that some days your blood sugar levels are just off. Diabetes has made me tougher. It has given me confidence in myself.
DI: How does traveling and participating in golf tournaments affect your blood sugars?
Kuehne: Traveling at times can make it difficult to closely monitor and maintain good blood sugar levels. I’ve been at it long enough to know how to make adjustments when necessary while traveling or playing.
The insulin pump has made a huge difference and made control much easier with my crazy schedule.
DI: How do you protect yourself from hypoglycemia?
Kuehne: I listen to my body. I prevent high and low levels by monitoring, maintaining and always taking care of myself. I always carry food with me in case of a low blood sugar. I am really in tune with my body and I can tell when my blood sugar is high or low.
DI: What kind of insulin do you use, and what is your diet and insulin regimen like on the days in which you are not golfing?
Kuehne: I use Humalog Regular insulin. At 8 a.m., I administer 3.6 units and eat a bagel. At 12 p.m., I give myself 3.6 units and eat a turkey sandwich with chips. At 3 to 4 p.m., I eat a snack or an apple, and take 1 to 2 units. At 7 p.m., I eat a dinner consisting of chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes and give myself 4.4 units
DI: How does your diet and insulin regimen change on days when you are golfing?
Kuehne: My bolus rates don’t change unless I’m having a high or low blood sugar. I change my basal rate (units per hour) and lower it depending on the intensity of practice, play or workout.
DI: How does wearing an insulin pump help you when you are golfing?
Kuehne: My insulin pump has helped me tighten my control. It is so exact and I know how much to cut back depending on time of play, heat and adrenaline. The pump enables me to turn down my rates. This is a great benefit.
DI: Do you have a horror story to share about your diabetes and a close call, perhaps during a tournament or another critical moment?
Kuehne: Not really. I have never passed out or been hospitalized-knock on wood.
DI: Do people often ask you about your diabetes? What do you tell them? What kind of reactions do you get?
Kuehne: People always ask me questions about it. I just encourage them to take control.
DI: Do you test in public? Have you had any problems with people staring or asking questions?
Kuehne: Absolutely! I test when and wherever I need to. Most people don’t even notice me or what I am doing.
DI: What do you think about the low-carb diet?
Kuehne: Low carb is a very trendy diet. I believe that high protein and moderate carbohydrates are more realistic. I try to eat 45 carbs for breakfast and lunch and 50 carbs for dinner. I usually eat a 15-carb snack.
DI: How has your family helped you face the demands of your career and disease?
Kuehne: My family has been so supportive and nurturing. They have been through the good and bad sugar-free desserts, the high and low blood sugars. They have been there every step of the way.
DI: Can you share some tips that have helped you achieve better control?
Kuehne: Monitor your blood sugar levels, your diet and your schedule. Take the time to know and understand diabetes and its effects. And never hide your diabetes. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Learn to live with it.
DI: What advice do you have for younger people with diabetes_ and what advice do you have for their parents?
Kuehne: Take the good days with the bad ones and realize that with good control you can achieve anything. Good control equals no boundaries.
Parents should take the time to learn about the disease-its highs and lows, the effects-and nurture and encourage your child. And always keep the child motivated. Be there during the struggles and doctor appointments.
DI: What are some programs you are involved with in the diabetes community?
Kuehne: I am involved with the JDF by doing Kellie Kuehne’s Teeing up to Cure Diabetes. It’s a golf tournament that has raised over $900,000 in the last three years.
I work with Aventis Pharmaceuticals (the maker of LANTUS) as the head of a new taking control of diabetes campaign.
I am also the spokesperson for the Estee brand of sugar-free and fructose-sweetened foods.