I’ve been through it.
That’s how I’d describe myself, more than anything, both as a player and as a person: As someone who has fought real battles in their life.
As someone who’s faced off against adversity, and not just survived — but thrived.
I know that this next step in my journey, playing professional basketball in the WNBA, will be a demanding one. I know that it’s going to be like nothing I’ve ever experienced before — a brand new challenge at the highest level. But while the challenge itself will be a new one for me, the concept of overcoming challenges won’t.
Because like I said: I’ve been through it. When I was seven years old, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I was too young at the time to fully understand the gravity of my condition, but what I understood right away was the grind that comes with treating it. It’s the grind of knowing that every day, throughout the day, whether I feel up to it or not — my diabetes is a part of me.
Wake up. Test your blood sugar before breakfast. Take a shot for what you ate for breakfast. Test again two hours later. Test again before lunch. Take a shot for what you ate for lunch. Test again two hours later. Test again before dinner. Take a shot for what you ate for dinner. Test again two hours later. And that’s just the minimum. Any symptoms — that’s another test. If I test low, that means I have to get some sugar. Test high, that means another shot. And then repeat everything all over again the next day.Every day, throughout the day, whether I feel up to it or not — my diabetes is a part of me.
I can honestly say that it changed my whole life.
At seven years old, more or less overnight, I went from being this little kid without a care in the world to being a person with real responsibilities. And they weren’t the type of responsibilities that I could opt out of. You take a day off from treatment….. that’s not five minutes in the timeout corner or a stern talking-to or whatever. It’s life and death. You don’t have a choice — you have to do it.
You have to show up.
So why do I bring this all up now? Not for sympathy, that I can promise you. Sympathy has never interested me. And not for attention, I can promise you that as well. I’ve never wanted any attention for my condition, and I’ve gone out of my way to make sure that I haven’t been defined by it. The reason I bring it up now is because I think that managing a condition like diabetes and reaching the highest level of a sport — reaching the highest level of anything, honestly — actually have something pretty essential in common.
In both cases there are no days off….. which means there are no excuses.
And I think it’s been my refusal to give in to the temptation of excuse-making that’s really given me an edge. It’s been my refusal to feel sorry for myself after a bad possession, or a tough loss, or a disappointing postseason, or a serious injury scare. It’s been my ability to use each of the setbacks I’ve faced as fuel: to not just come back from them, but to come back better. And it’s been my insistence that I don’t want to be a “nice little story,” or a “pretty good player for a diabetic.”
I want to be great.
Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo
Which is why, on the day that I’m getting drafted, I wanted to publish this letter.
I wanted to write a message for anyone else who’s “been through it” — whether they’re diabetic like me, or suffer from another type of medical condition, or have endured any other kind of hurdle or setback. I wanted to write something for anyone who’s been told that the odds are against them. Anyone who has had a mountain put in front of them on the way to chasing their dream.
If you’re one of those people….. I want you to know that so am I.
And I want you to know that I’m not just the third overall pick in the draft. I’m not just Lauren Cox, 6’4″ power forward from Baylor. I’m so much more than that.
I’m also every other version of myself that got me to this point.
I’m that seven-year-old who sat there in the emergency room, trying to understand how her life would never again be the same. I’m that eight-year-old who couldn’t hold back tears as she watched her friends look so carefree and wondered, Why me??? I’m that 10-year-old who eventually got over asking Why me? and instead learned to ask Why not? I’m that 12-year-old who finally (finally!) beat her dad one-on-one in the driveway for the first time. I’m that 13-year-old who started to realize that she was a pretty special athlete — all while wearing an insulin pump. I’m that 15-year-old who held her own with some great players at the Team USA U16s….. and that 17-year-old who held her own with even greater players at the U19s.I’m not just Lauren Cox, 6’4″ power forward from Baylor. I’m so much more than that.
I’m that 18-year-old who walked onto campus in Waco expecting to be perfect….. and learned the valuable lesson that perfection takes time. I’m that 19-year-old who worked her butt off, both mentally and physically, and went from starting one game as a freshman and averaging 8 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist in 13 minutes, to starting every game as a sophomore and averaging 15, 10 and 3 in 30. I’m that 20-year-old who went down with a terrible-looking knee injury in the National Championship Game, but got herself right back on the court, on crutches — coaching and cheering and doing whatever it took to make sure her team brought that title home.
And I’m this 21-year-old, writing to you now….. who’s suddenly learning to deal with a brand new world, and an old world turned completely upside down. Diabetics, even at my age, are considered to be in the “higher risk” category when it comes to coronavirus — and I won’t lie to you guys, that’s pretty scary. But in a weird way, I also feel like it’s something I’ve been preparing for my entire life.
Because while MAKING IT THROUGH A GLOBAL PANDEMIC is definitely a new one for me, dealing with adversity isn’t. And as with any other adversity I’ve faced, my goal is not just to overcome this. It’s to come out of this stronger than ever.
And that’s really all I wanted to say here.
So to anyone watching the draft tonight, who sees some similarities between my story and their own: Know that I see you, back. And you’ve got this.
We’ve got this.
And to everyone else, I’ll just ask one thing: Don’t root for me because I’m a survivor.
Root for me because of what I’ve survived to become: A daughter, a sister, a teammate, a friend. A passionate leader. A fierce competitor. A consistent winner.
And in my humble opinion?
One heck of a basketball player.