Sarah Montes

When Sarah Montes was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, she had one question for her doctor, “Can I still swim?”

At age 14, Sarah was swimming competitively, training 6 days a week, and didn’t want anything to stop her from her dream of representing Canada in Olympic swimming. And she hasn’t allowed it to stop her. Diabetes hasn’t even slowed her down!

“Diabetes just makes me work that much harder,” says Sarah. “I feel like I’m more aware of what I’m eating now. The added bonus is that swimming helps keep my blood sugar under control.”

She was diagnosed in 2015, during her 5th season of competitive swimming. At that point, she had just started high school and began training at a higher level with Barrie Trojans Swim Club. A breakthrough in her swimming—qualifying for senior nationals—meant an even heavier training schedule.

During swim meets, it started to become obvious to Sarah’s mom, Yvonne, that something just wasn’t right with her daughter.

“The girls Sarah was carpooling with joked about how often she went to the washroom. After one swim meet, Sarah needed to stop 6 times during a 1.5 hour drive home.”

When another parent noticed that Sarah was also losing weight, Yvonne knew it was time to see a doctor. The family was sent straight to a diabetes clinic in their hometown of Barrie, Ontario.

Sarah was quick to take control of her diabetes, dealing with the day to day management independently. But as a young athlete still in the honeymoon stage of the condition, being on injections was limiting.

“I found she was limiting her snacks so she wouldn’t have to give herself another needle,” says Yvonne, adding Sarah’s insulin sensitivity meant it was difficult to give small enough doses accurately. “We needed to get her on the pump.”

A waterproof insulin pump was the only practical choice, so they turned to the Animas® Vibe® insulin pump.

“If I’m hungry, I can eat more and deliver insulin without having to take another needle,” she says. “And I really like that the pump tells me how much insulin is on board.”

Swimming about 16 hours per week in addition to dry-land training, Sarah needs to eat frequently throughout the day to fuel her thin, muscular frame. Her breakfast is usually around 4:30 a.m., and by noon she’s often had several snacks or meals.

A waterproof insulin pump was the only practical choice, so they turned to the Animas® Vibe® insulin pump.

As independent as she is, Sarah appreciates that she can count on her swim family for support when her sport takes her away from home. Shortly after her diagnosis, they arranged for a diabetes nurse to make a presentation to the swim team and coach. She’s also designated one friend to help her with infusion site changes when they’re traveling as a team.

“We’re together all the time, so we’re really close,” says Sarah. “They all know about my diabetes, and they’re very conscious of it. If they think I’m acting differently, they ask me to check my levels.”

But lows are a rare occurrence for Sarah. Her rigid and very full daily routine has consistency which makes it easier for her to manage her diabetes overall.

“I don’t let diabetes affect my outlook on life,” says Sarah, and she echoes words from her doctor: “Having to be more aware of what I eat because of my diabetes could actually make me a better athlete.”

With that positive attitude and unstoppable work ethic, Sarah just might get to wear the maple leaf and fulfill her dream of swimming for Team Canada at the Olympics someday.