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Chilliwack Chief Brett Rylance copes with diabetes diagnosis

The speedy forward hopes to have more good nights this season now that he’s managing his blood sugar
Chilliwack Chief Brett Rylance (left) heads into his final junior A season coping with a recent diagnosis of type-1 diabetes. But with changes to his diet and careful monitoring of his bloor sugar levels, the 20-year-old forward thinks he’ll be better than he’s ever been on the ice. (Darren Francis photo)

Brett Rylance suspected something was wrong during the Chilliwack Chiefs 2021 BCHL Pod season.

Some nights the talented forward would be flying around the ice, dancing around defenders like the lightning-fast player he is. Other nights it just wasn’t there. He felt tired. Sluggish. He couldn’t figure out why.

When the season ended, the 20-year-old started losing weight. A lot of weight.

“I got back home and I lost 24 pounds in about two weeks,” said Rylance, who is listed on the BCHL website as five-foot-10 and 150 pounds.

Rylance said he was tired and dehydrated, even though he was drinking a lot of fluids. To get to the bottom of this mystery, his parents convinced him to visit his family doctor and get some tests done.

“I got my bloodwork done the morning of June 17, and that night I got a call from the doctor telling me to go to emergency,” he recalled. “I spent a couple nights there and sure enough, they told me I was type-1 diabetic.”

Rylance was told he was losing weight because there was so much sugar in his blood. His body was eating fat trying to absorb the sugar.

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“I was pretty much a skeleton when I was in the hospital,” he said. “I remember stepping on the scale the day before I went there and telling my dad I thought the scale was broken. I hadn’t been that light since I was in Grade 10.

“When they told me I was type-1 diabetic, I didn’t know much about it, and I was freaking out, I’m not going to lie. But the doctors and nurses helped me a lot, and when I got out of hospital I felt 10 times better. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I left. It was night and day.”

All the weight Rylance lost was gained back in three weeks.

His energy returned and he started processing the experience. He took in a ton of information after diagnosis, enough to make his head spin.

“But I had a lot of support,” he said. “The (Chiefs) coaches. All the players. My family members. Also, my aunt and uncle both have it, so they helped a bit. But it was a scary time.”

Though he was diagnosed in June, Rylance was told he likely was type-1 diabetic for three months prior.

“So I played last season that way, and there were signs when I look back, but there were always reasons I could come up with for the things that were happening to my body,” he said. “But once I found out, a lot of things started to pop into my head. That’s why I felt that way. That’s why I was tired then.

“So while I’m not happy to be type-1 diabetic, I am glad I found out, because it is manageable, and I haven’t felt this good in a long time.”

As a high-performance athlete, Rylance was already eating pretty well. But some slight alterations to his diet are required to keep his blood sugars level. More carb counting, for instance. This season, Rylance will have a juice box on the bench, in case his blood sugar gets too low.

Now that he knows, he’s also monitoring his levels constantly, using the same device (Dexcom) that National Hockey Leaguer Max Domi (also a type-1 diabetic) uses. It’s taped to his abdomen, and it replaces the ‘prick the finger’ method of testing.

“They were pricking my finger every 30 minutes in the hospital, so this is a life saver,” he said. “It connects to my phone and gives me alerts if I get too low in the night, or when I’m on the ice,” he said. “I was down in the dumps about all this at one point, but the nurses told me that a lot of professional athletes and other great people in the world have this disease. That gave me a big boost for sure, and I’m a big Domi fan since I got out of hospital.”

Heading into his final junior A campaign, the future North Michigan Husky is wearing a new number (76 replacing 6) and looking forward to a successful season.

“Chilliwack’s been an amazing place the last three years. I’m trying to take in as many of the little things as I can and really enjoy my last year,” he said. “We have a really good team and we’re hoping to go real far. I play my best hockey when we’re having fun and I’m excited to play in front of fans again.”


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Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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