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The DX Diabetes Dish: Kevin Hansen

Gold medalist volleyball champ on life with type 1 diabetes

When 32-year-old Kevin Hansen was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 10 years old, he already had an understanding of the disease: His older sister had been diagnosed with type 1 two years before him. Although Hansen’s doctors warned him that playing sports with diabetes might be challenging, he was extremely active throughout his childhood and teenage years, playing every sport he possibly could. Hansen played varsity volleyball at Stanford University as a setter for five years and served as team captain for two years. After graduation, he joined the US Men’s National Indoor Volleyball  Team in 2005 and trained every summer until 2012. During that time, he played in two World Cups, one World Championship and earned a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. He also played professionally overseas in Portugal, Greece, France, Russia and Turkey. Since retiring from pro volleyball, Hansen has been working with Cushman & Wakefield’s commercial real estate brokerage in Irvine, CA, for about a year, and resides in Costa Mesa, CA, with his family.

What is your state of mind about diabetes today? 

Kevin Hansen (USA) sets
Team USA’s #14,  Kevin Hansen: Source FIVB

Diagnosed with diabetes at age 10, I have grown up with the state of mind only really knowing how to keep my blood sugar stable. I feel like I have great blood sugar control but there are always bad days that I don’t understand why my blood sugars are skewed. On those days, I am reminded of the dedication and discipline diabetes requires and also of the support from family and friends around me.

How did diabetes affect your training and performance during competition as a professional athlete? 

It took me a while to understand that I can be a better athlete by controlling my blood sugars before, during and after games and practice. Instead of pushing it away and trying to will my way through a situation, I realized that stopping and testing my blood sugar and responding to my body was a way to increase my potential and abilities as an athlete. As soon as this realization hit me, I feel like my career improved immensely.  Through the support of friends and family and maintaining a consistent regimen, I was able to excel in a sport I loved and am grateful to have played.

What three words would you use to describe who you are? 

Competitive, honest, extroverted.

How does diabetes change – or not change – who you are?

Diabetes is almost second nature since I was diagnosed over 22 years ago. I would like to think that my diet and active lifestyle are parts of who I am. However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that diabetes has had a strong influence directing me in the direction of a healthier way of life.

What inspires you to do what you do? 

My wife, Sarah, and my two kids, Avery and Grant.

What do you appreciate most in your friends?

I appreciate the loyalty my friends have shown over the years. In every chapter of someone’s life, your relationship with friends will change. However, there are some friends that will always know you to your core and ask the most important questions. I am blessed to have many of these friends in my life and I cannot emphasize how important each one has been in my diabetic journey and walk of life.

What would you pack for your favorite vacation?

A bathing suit and sunscreen, since I love being in the beach environment.

What’s in your refrigerator right now?

Because my professional career has ended, I try to limit carbohydrate intake due to the decreased exercise. Steak, chicken and more fish these days are staples, with as many vegetables as I can get!

What is your favorite way to relieve stress? 

Playing with my two kids!

What is your idea of happiness?

My idea of happiness would be a healthy family and friends!

What do you most dislike?


What’s your favorite diabetes management tip? 

If you do not have a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), test your blood sugar as much as possible! I was able to maintain stable sugars through the longest and most strenuous volleyball matches by testing every chance I could get. Also, teach and enlighten your family and friends to provide support and accountability on a day-to-day basis.

What words do you try to live by?

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” —Steve Bartkowski

What is your greatest fear? 

Not maintaining control of my [blood] sugar and experiencing the side effects of diabetes later in life as my kids are growing up.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Our home.

On what occasion do you lie?

I avoid this at all costs!

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

I wish I could spend more time with my family!

Who are your heroes in real life? 

My heroes are my parents, who raised not only me with type 1 diabetes, but also my older sister, who was diagnosed a couple years before me. They instilled the discipline to manage diabetes and loved us when we needed support through the challenges.

What would you choose for your last meal? 

In–N-Out Double Double® Cheeseburger!

What are you looking forward to right now? 

My kids growing up and being able to share more experiences together!

How do you plan to commemorate World Diabetes Day this year, November 14?

I have never been in town for this, but now that I live in California permanently, I will have to make some plans this year!

All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the interviewee and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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