published Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Lady Mocs' Kayla Christopher dealing with diabetes

Kayla Christopher recognized the symptoms. She was losing weight, feeling tired, feeling thirsty all the time and hitting several other indicators of diabetes.

That was last January, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga guard knew something was wrong. She also had a very good idea what it was.

"My sister [Kelsey] has diabetes, so I knew a little bit about it and what the symptoms were," said Christopher, a senior averaging 13.3 points per game for the Lady Mocs (7-1), who host Jacksonville State (0-8) tonight at McKenzie Arena.

At first, Christopher thought she was just having a rough time during the grind of the season. Plus, her hip was giving her some trouble. Eventually, she knew.

"I had lost a little bit of weight but hadn't really thought much about it. And I had been going to the bathroom and drinking water like crazy," she said. "I went to [the Lady Mocs' trainer last season, Erin Weaver] and told her I'd self-diagnosed myself with diabetes."

A blood sugar test came back high and Christopher called her mother, Michelle, who not only had dealt with Kelsey's condition for many years but also was a nurse (and the basketball coach at Oliver Springs High School).

A trip to the doctor that day, Jan. 30, 2012, confirmed Christopher's diagnosis: Type-1 diabetes, just like her sister. Much to her annoyance, she had to sit out the Elon game that day.

Christopher started 27 games as a freshman and averaged 9.3 points, hitting 41.8 percent of her 3-point shots. As a sophomore she averaged 11.6 points and hit 41.2 percent of her 3s. Last season, her numbers dipped: Her scoring average was 9.4 and she made only 34.8 percent of her 3s.

While Christopher said she didn't want to blame her drop in long-range shooting on her condition, UTC coach Wes Moore said it was clear something had changed.

"I think the second half of last year, she seemed different," Moore said. "Tired, not as strong, got pushed around quite a bit more. You use your legs in everything, especially when you shoot as deep out as she does. She wasn't the same old Kayla second semester of last year."

Christopher missed only one game last season and said she has adjusted well to her condition and the management of it, which includes regular insulin shots. She's played well so far this season, including a 27-point game with seven 3s against St. Mary's. She's moved up to fourth all-time at UTC with 184 career 3s and has made 45 percent of the long shots this season.

"I feel fine now," she said. "Looking back, I didn't feel healthy, like the whole season last year."

Christopher is second on the team in scoring, behind center Ashlen Dewart (14.9 ppg). Dewart was named the Southern Conference player of the week Tuesday after totaling 19 points and eight rebounds in UTC's win at Alabama last Saturday. Christopher had 10 points and 10 rebounds in that game.

Contact John Frierson at jfrierson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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