PBA Tour veteran Ryan Shafer has a message for kids who have diabetes and believe they can't achieve anything worthwhile:
"I just want them to know that that's not true," said Shafer, who will compete in Thursday's Round of 64 in the PBA Tour's Earl Anthony Memorial Classic at Earl Anthony's Dublin Bowl. "If you go to the doctor and take care of yourself you can live any way you want."
Shafer, 44, of Horseheads, N.Y., suffers from Type 1 diabetes but hasn't let the chronic condition keep him from pursuing his dreams.
He was first diagnosed at age 19 when he suddenly lost 25 pounds, felt lethargic and had vision problems, all classic symptoms. Uncertain of his future, Shafer abandoned his plans to attend Cornell University and decided to try his hand in bowling.
Dating back to 1986, Shafer has won four tour titles, made the finals in 11 major championships and placed second four times, both PBA records for someone without a major title.
Shafer is optimistic about his chances this week after finishing seventh at the Earl Anthony event last year.
One thing is certain, he has a big fan in Chris Barnes, one of the favorites this week. When Barnes' son Troy, now 8, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2008, Shafer was one of the first people to extend a helping hand. Troy Barnes' twin brother, Ryan, does not have the disease.
"Ryan (Shafer) was one of the role models that we've used as an example of how much you can succeed despite having (diabetes)," Barnes said, while sporting a strikeoutdiabetes.org wristband. "It's an issue, but it's not really a disability."
Barnes and his wife, Lynda, a Concord native, are big supporters of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Medical condition aside, Shafer is also known as the most superstitious bowler on tour. He likes to have 8s or 5s on the serial numbers of his bowling balls. He also only picks up a bowling ball with his left hand from the ball return and wears his shirts in a certain order each week.
"If I happen to bowl bad then I change the order," he said.
Shafer lives and competes wearing an Animas insulin pump, which supplies him with insulin and enables him to monitor his blood sugar and avoid taking injections as he did earlier in his career. He found when taking injections he would have to eat immediately afterward or else suffer from low blood sugar levels.
He switched to the new pump in 2007 and raves of the effects.
"The great thing about the pump is it acts like a normal person's pancreas," he said, "where you get a basal rate throughout the day so you're leveled off, in control, and your blood sugar level should be close to normal. If you don't want to eat you don't have to."
Once a private person about his condition, Shafer has opened up as more people have become aware of it.
"When I made TV show on ESPN, when the announcer talked about me being diabetic, I got a big response, especially from parents of diabetic children," Shafer said. "I thought, you know what, this is a chance for me to make a difference."
Notes: Dave Wodka of Chatsworth repeated as top qualifier in the Tour Qualifying Round on Wednesday, averaging 225.14 for seven games to pace the 13 players who advanced to the Round of 64. Wodka had a 1,576 pinfall, 41 ahead of Jon Brandon of Santa Clarita. The 13 players who advanced out of qualifying will join 50 members of the tour and Modesto's Wayne Garber, who was granted a PBA commissioner's exemption, for 14 qualifying games Thursday.