DRAPER — Les Hamilton wanted senior Cameron Fisher to play football this season. But the head coach of the Summit Academy Bears wasn’t sure it was safe.
“We worried about that,” Hamilton said of Fisher’s desire to play football after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. “Is football going to be a positive or a negative. I told him to go ask his doctor, and after discussing it with his doctor, he felt it could be a positive thing as long as he watched his blood sugar.”
At the end of his junior season, there was no doubt that Fisher was a critical part of the Bears' defense. Despite being one of the team’s biggest linemen at 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds, he was also one of its most agile.
But a few months after the season ended, Fisher became very sick.
“I started losing weight,” he said, noting he dropped about 50 pounds in just a couple of months. “I was lethargic, didn’t feel well and I was guzzling water. I finally told my parents I needed to go to the doctor.” Emergency room doctors did some blood tests and told him he had diabetes and he needed to be admitted to Primary Children’s Hospital for a few days. The news was shocking and terrifying.
“My entire life, I’ve always been a little afraid I might have it,” he said, noting that his grandfather had type 2 diabetes and he’d been diagnosed with type 1. “It was disheartening.”
His fears revolved around how his life might have to change, but he said he listened to doctors and tried to learn what he could. He didn’t, however, let himself sink into self-pity.
“I tend not to look at things with a negative outlook,” he said.
So once he got his diabetes under control, he approached Hamilton about playing football in his senior season. “He hadn’t been around much of the offseason,” Hamilton said. “As football got closer, he just wasn’t sure if he could do it.”
The coaches wanted Fisher to be able to participate as much as he wanted to play.
“Number one, everybody loves him,” Hamilton said. “We just love the kid. Number two, he’s our run stopper. He’s definitely an all-state player.”
Hamilton said there were realities that he hadn’t dealt with as a coach. Like the fact that Fisher had to wear a patch on his body that contained a needle that helped regulate his insulin.
“Almost every day in the first month of practice, he’d come running off the field, ‘Coach, I need help with my patch!’” Hamilton laughed. “Finding a place on your body to put your pump patch when you play football is virtually impossible.”
Fisher also had to bring a syringe and medication that either a trainer or coach had to have on them at all times in case his blood sugar plummeted quickly and he passed out.
“If my blood sugar drops, I could pass out and have a seizure,” Fisher said. “So I’d need someone to give me the shot in my leg and call an ambulance.” Fisher laughs at how routine this information became to him, acknowledging that it might scare someone unfamiliar with diabetes.
“I started eating a lot healthier,” he said. “I do eat a lot of carbs to keep my blood sugar up.”
Fisher is also a member of the school’s competitive cheer squad, as are a number of other football players.
Hamilton said he’s watched in awe as Fisher has adjusted to the “ups and downs” of a chronic condition like diabetes while continuing to develop as one of the state’s best defensive linemen.
“It’s definitely been an eye-opening experience for me,” Hamilton said. “It’s amazing the draw sports can be. Look at a kid like Cameron. He has all the reasons in the world not to play, but is willing to do whatever he can to play — all the ups and downs — he just keeps working. We’re just glad to have him and glad he’s feeling better.”
Fisher helped the Bears to a region title, including two fumble recoveries in Summit Academy’s 28-19 win over Juan Diego.Comment on this story
“He’s such a dominant player,” Hamilton said. “He was definitely the defensive player of the game Friday.”
Fisher said football and cheer have helped him stay in shape and regain the muscle he lost in the months before his diagnosis.
“Football has taught me hard work and perseverance,” he said. “That’s something I’ll take into my life.”
Hamilton said he’s learned a lot from working with Fisher this season. “I credit him with his courage and tenacity,” Hamilton said. “It would have been an easy excuse for him not to play. He’s chosen to do it.”