U snowboarder headed to Antarctica

By Whitney O’Bannon, Staff Writer

Sean Busby is leaving the heroics to his superhero Spiderman.

Speculators often accuse him of being a hero and role model to kids across the world, however, Busby denies it, claiming to be an everyday college student happy to be alive and doing what he loves.

From this description, you wouldn’t guess he is also a professional snowboarder that battled a near deadly misdiagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes and now spends countless hours helping diabetic kids.

“I honestly see (the kids with diabetes) as the heroes and inspiration,” Busby said. “I get those comments, “Well you are such a good role model,’ but it’s a total circle. I think that you feed off of each other.”

Busby found his passion in life, snowboarding, when he was 12. He began riding professionally six years later when he competed at Whistler, British Columbia, and took third place in the race.

Traveling the globe to compete against his idols, Busby was nearly on top of the world. He was living the dream, until he experienced symptoms of an unknown illness.

In Busby’s case, Murphy’s Law of “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” became apparent. The sickness came and went, which made it difficult to diagnose. After losing 30 pounds in two weeks and being turned away from the emergency room multiple times, Busby was finally admitted to the hospital with a severe case of pneumonia.

After 11 days in the hospital, he was sent to a hospital in California due to insurance issues. There, he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. He began taking medicine for the disease, but was only getting worse. Three months of complete misery followed until finally he was diagnosed again, this time with Type 1 Diabetes.

The first shot of insulin he received gave his body a glimpse of life again.

“I could feel nutrition again, I felt like a human being,” Busby said.

Working to get back into the swing of things, he spent countless hours getting into shape and learning everything he could about the disease in order to be able to continue his snowboarding career.

After regaining most of his strength, he decided to compete again. Showing up to his first event back, he was still underweight and unrecognizable, even by his teammates.

“No one really recognized me (at first) but when they did I got a lot of support from guys I looked up to,” Busby said. “It was really nice to be back. It felt like being at home again.”

Taking these experiences to heart, Busby said he realized there were other kids who had life much worse than him.

“I was able to read these stories of these 2-year-olds, these 8-year-olds that know life no other (way),” Busby said. “They are diabetics first before they are children. Here I was, 19 at the time, completely free of disease all my life. I was very fortunate and I saw that. So at the same time, that was very inspiring. I knew that if a 2-year-old could do it, so could I.”

The kids who inspired him to continue snowboarding also motivated him to start up a program called Riding on Insulin. This program hosts camps all across the world to teach kids with diabetes how to snowboard, but more importantly, how to manage their diabetes in order to live a normal life filled with all sorts of possibilities. Diabetes and sports do not mix easily together, but Busby’s goal is to be able to show kids how to control the disease and make sports an option in their lives.

The participants at all of the camps also get a special treat when Busby encourages them to sign his snowboard. This snowboard is one that he always competes on.

“I like to look down when I am in that start gate and look at that board and then see all the kids that have been coming to camp,” Busby said. “They showed me that I could still continue to live a life with my diabetes. When I look down, I want to know the reason why I’m racing again, the reason why I am snowboarding still and it’s because of them.”

Because of his snowboard schedule, Busby is now finishing his last semester at the U early with a degree in health promotion and education. He believes getting his degree is very important because he won’t be able to snowboard forever.

With school done, he looks to follow his dreams and embark on various expeditions to remote areas of the world. He has had the dream since his teenage years to snowboard in Antarctica and now will finally be able to in a couple weeks.

“(Antarctica) was a goal I wanted to achieve, it was something that I wanted to do in my life,” Busby said. “That was a goal I had before diabetes, and now being able to do that and actually have diabetes shows that I can still follow my goals and my dreams. It doesn’t need to restrict me.”

Busby said he was able to grow throughout all his hardships and can now be thankful for the life that he was blessed with. Looking back on it, he had opportunities where he could have called it quits and stopped trying, but his perseverance has made him the man he is today.

“At the time, it seemed much easier to just give up,” Busby said. “I was used to being someone completely different and what I have learned from it is that life isn’t much different at all. It just made me more responsible and brought me down to earth again. Now I get to really appreciate the things in life.”

Busby has only a few words of advice for going through hard times in life, “Just stick with it.”

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Sean Busby

U student and snowboarder Sean Busby has battled through diabetes and will now travel to Antarctica in a couple weeks to snowboard.