Connor Genschaw: A Player and a Fighter

Connor Genschaw: A Player and a Fighter

Hannah Kos, Staff Writer

Wake up. Wash your hands. Prick your finger. Check your blood sugar. Low. Shove some food down your throat. Wait. Count the carbs. Don’t forget. Hurry up. You have to do everything else. You can’t be late for school.

This is the typical morning for Connor Genschaw, a junior who fights Type One Diabetes. However, Connor doesn’t let that define him and he most certainly doesn’t let it hold him back.

Connor is currently ranked 282 in the nation and he is in the top 25 in the Midwest in tennis, but it didn’t start off that way.  He had tried other sports like basketball and tennis, which he found enjoyable, but there was one major problem: he never actually got the ball. Even from that young age, Connor knew that some sports were not fitting for him, so his mom signed him up for his first beginner’s tennis class at the age of three.

“Ever since then, I was just hooked; I was hooked on tennis,” Connor said. “In tennis, you always have control of what you’re doing. It’s an individual sport with continuous action.”

From the moment Connor picked up his first racket, his life was sleeping, eating, and breathing tennis, and slowly he started becoming a very strong player. However, his mom noticed something was up.

Connor starting having recurring symptoms, such as an unquenchable thirst and always needing to use the restroom. Connor’s mom, Lori Genschaw, had seen this before in her own father, another victim of Type 1 Diabetes. She quickly took him to the doctor where he was blood tested.

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“Ever since then I was just hooked; I was hooked on tennis,” Connor said. “In tennis, you always had control of what you’re doing. It’s an individual sport with continuous action.””

— Connor

Soon, they learned that Connor has Type A Diabetes, just like his grandfather. This is a battle that he will be forced to take on for the rest of his life.

Genschaw is glad he didn’t have to be hospitalized.

“I think his daily involvement with tennis could actually help keep Connor out of the hospital at his time of diagnosis because doing physical activities makes your blood sugar go lower,” Genshaw said.

Upon learning he had T1D, Conner needed to learn a whole new way of life, which involves the use of Omnipods, which is what he uses to inject himself with insulin. He also learned how to use a Dexcom, or better known as a glucose monitor. He also counts his carbohydrates and monitors his blood sugar levels daily. But no challenge is too difficult for Connor because he is willing to fight.

Whether it’s waking up an extra hour early on game days to monitor his blood sugar, monitoring it through his play time, missing out on the first ten minutes of every meal to wash his hands so he can prick his finger, or sitting at the table ten minutes later to make sure he’s counted his carbs correctly, Connor has spent over a month of his life consecutively aiding his diabetes.

When Connor is on the court, he has to constantly check his levels, sometimes needing to take a medical break to get his insulin levels up or down by eating, drinking, or giving himself an injection. This makes everything harder.

“When I’m on the court, I have two opponents: the one across from me and diabetes,” Connor said.

His coach, Dan Bolhouse, is also a big part of his playing. When in the high school season, they are together every afternoon and every Saturday at tournaments. Sometimes, Connor gets so into a match that he has to be reminded to be cautious of his diabetes.

“He is so focused that I have to ask him what his level is at, and if he needs to eat or drink to get it back to normal.”

Along with going about his daily life, he is fighting for the cure. He does this through different events like walk-a-thons and galas. In one particular event, Connor spoke to 300 people, raising an average of $10,000 per person through his words and a video about him. He prepared a speech for months, practicing it over and over again. Also presented was a video about his life and his daily battle with diabetes. A camera crew followed Connor around for an entire day, from the moment he woke up, through his school day, and onto the courts, along with interviewing his mom, dad, and himself.

At the end of a long day of counting and checking his levels, Connor is doing just fine. He has learned to manage his diabetes and play alongside them; however, he doesn’t want to deal with it. He shouldn’t have to deal with it. Connor is fighting for a cure, a cure that he believes they are just on the brink of finding.

But until it is found, he will play on.