Ryan Shafer has a firm grasp on his abilities as a bowler, even when his fingers go numb.
“It’s not a death sentence. It’s not an ‘Oh you have to sit on your couch and do nothing,’” he says of the difficulties he faces leading up to the USBC Masters at the Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley. “It’s been a little challenging and I would never be a woe is me type of guy.”
Ryan Shafer grew up around a bowling alley, knocking down pins and marking down strikes and spares. So when he was diagnosed with type-one diabetes at age 19, Shafer didn’t know what else to do. He promptly picked up the difficult split from life and won rookie of the year.
“You can do anything you want to do when you’re a diabetic and I want to get that message to kids especially. You just have to take care of yourself and you have to be dedicated to what you do,” Shafer continued. He’s spent the entirety of his career competing against the best bowlers in the world while also battling his disease – including diabetic neuropathy.
“Once I became dedicated again and managed my diabetes – went to the doctor all the time and got the insulin pump – my career definitely went uphill,” he said.
The 45-year-old has won four PBA Titles since he joined the tour. It’s been a tough journey and many of his fans and opponents were unaware of the illness – some probably still are. It’s a testament to his hard work and commitment to himself and the sport.
Shafer used to have to eat during his rounds to maintain an even blood sugar but now he simply wears his new insulin pump that helps regulate his blood sugar at his hip. He’s proud of it and it also helps keeping his pockets empty as he aims for the potent 1-3 pocket.
“I could take my pump and I could wear it inside my pocket like a lot of people do,” he asserted. “But because I represent Animas [insulin pump manufacturer] and I want to inspire kids, I wear it out so people can see it and if they asked me a question about it that’s fine. I want them to ask me.”
He doesn’t shy away from diabetes, nor does he feign from bringing up his record in majors like the USBC at Ashwaubenon Lanes. He holds the impressive PBA record for final appearances (13) and runner-up finishes (5) while never winning the prized tournament.
“It would be very special,” Shafer said. “It’s kind of a dubious record but I do take pride in it because it means I’ve been there. It would mean a lot.”
But don’t tell him he cannot win – or cannot do something. That’s the surest way to have Shafer prove you wrong.