Athlete Spotlight: Savannah Pisarik Running with Diabetes

Savannah Pisarik ’24 is a cross country runner and rower. She also has been recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.


Lucy Thompson

Savannah Pisarik uses a diabetes patch to monitor her blood sugar.


  • What is diabetes?

Type one diabetes is a chronic illness in which your pancreas can’t make enough insulin. You have to physically take insulin either through a pump or injections in order to keep the sugar in your blood at an appropriate level.

  • When were you diagnosed?

November 28th 2021. I will never forget that day. 

  • What sports are you involved in?

I row and run cross country. 

  • What is it like being an athlete with diabetes?

You really have to monitor your blood sugar at all times and be careful about how hard you go while training. It has taken so much time to get used to. I’m still not completely comfortable yet but I will get there eventually.

  • Does it have a negative or positive impact on your success in sports?

 I try to see the positive, but it’s very difficult. It has definitely had a negative effect. If I have low blood sugar (which is always a surprise) I have to step out and take a 20 minute break while I treat it with something sugary. I definitely feel like an odd one out when this happens. It’s very frustrating watching your teammates work hard and not being able to be in there with them at the same time. I guess a positive is that it brings more awareness to sports that I’m in.

  • Has diabetes changed your everyday routines?

It drastically changes my everyday routine. I was so used to eating whatever I wanted without pausing and having to calculate the carbohydrates I’m about to eat or drink. That has been a huge game changer for me and has made eating a lot less fun. It also kinda takes the fun and freedom out of sports for me as well. I’m constantly having to monitor my blood sugar while I’m working out in order to make sure it doesn’t go too low to the point where I can pass out unexpectedly.

  • How has diabetes changed you as an individual? 

I definitely have a different perspective on things and a lot more empathy for people now.

  • What do you like to do for fun?

Well, I wish I could eat whatever I want when I want like I used to, but I can’t. But, I do like to go shopping, exercise, hang out with friends, and listen to a variety of music in my spare time.

  • Anything else you want to share diabetes-related?

Yes! There are different types of diabetes, not just type 2.  People often mistake that there is no difference between type 1 and 2 or don’t even know that there’s more than one kind. And a really common misconception is that I can’t eat certain things like candy or anything sweet AT ALL. That idea is ignorant. I can eat whatever I want, I just have to be more cautious than someone who can produce insulin normally. With the privilege I have, I can’t leave out how expensive it is for people all over the world to be living with this illness. It costs thousands of dollars each year for people who are facing this illness. The cost of insulin has tripled over the past decade alone. 20 states have capped copayments on insulin and other diabetes care. Unfortunately, Iowa is not one of these states.