Chase Pelletier, Competitive Kart Racer

Chase Pelletier is an up-and-coming kart racer from Canada who is 14 years old. When he got type 1 diabetes just before his eleventh birthday, he recalls, “It was pretty overwhelming at first. But me and my family decided early on that we’re not going to get down on diabetes in general, and we’re going to try to think of positive ways to deal with it.”

And that’s exactly what Chase is doing. In addition to public speaking in the diabetes community and serving as a JDRF ambassador, he says, “My dad and I put together our own workshop for the newly diagnosed to help them go through the first days. When I was diagnosed, I didn’t know anybody with diabetes, and I didn’t know anything about it. The workshop shows other kids that they’re not alone with this.”

Chase and his father bring their race trailer along when they visit newly diagnosed children. Chase says, “We bring the kart with us and let the kids sit in it and take pictures, and we just talk and make it more of a positive thing.  We also go and speak to kids one-on-one in their house if they need that extra help. I went to one little kid’s house who was eight years old, and we brought along the kart and the trailer and everything.  He got his picture taken and I signed the picture for him, and we spent the day just hanging out with him and getting to know him. He really wanted an insulin pump, but he was just a little scared of the infusion sites.  I let him put a site in me, so after that he got comfortable with it. He moved onto an insulin pump after that, so that was a good experience for me.”

Chase notes, “I went on the pump my first year of diagnosis, so I’ve been on the Animas Ping for a few years now.  On the average day, I test about eight to ten times a day, so I’m testing a lot just to make sure that my blood sugar is always where I want it. But on a race day, it’s a little different because I’m racing at such high speeds.  I test up to 14 times a day just so I’m always safe when I go on the track. Since I’m testing all the time on a race day, I have pretty tight control. For example, there was a race weekend in March this year when my blood sugar was doing some really weird things, and it kept tending to try to go low. So the whole weekend we really worked hard.  It took 80 finger pokes in the three-day weekend, but I was always safe when I was on track.”

Chase describes his kart as “an open wheel car. They’re very low to the ground, about an inch off the ground, and they’re very quick. My kart will get up to 140 km an hour–that’s three G forces in the corners. Kart racing is pretty much the platform where most successful Formula 1 drivers and drivers in other championships, such as the Indy Racing League, started. My dream is to race in Formula 1, or else to have professional career in motor sports.”

“I think that diabetes has changed me for the better,” Chase says.  “I can public speak a lot better now than I used to before I got diabetes, and I’m better at talking with people. It gives me more drive in everything that I do.  I’m doing these workshops to show other kids that diabetes really isn’t stopping you from doing anything. If you follow your dreams and if you’re determined and manage your diabetes properly, there’s nothing you can’t do.”

“Of course, diabetes is a big challenge that you face every day, and it’s not always fun. Sometimes I really wish I didn’t have it and I could just go out and be like an average kid, but what really drives me is that if I really want to make a professional career out of racing and live the rest of my life to the fullest, I really have to keep my diabetes in good management.”

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