Diabetes has not stopped former Bury Town left-back Ben Coker from realising his dream of becoming a professional footballer.
The 25-year-old, who now plays for Southend United in Sky Bet League Two, took to Twitter during Diabetes Week to reveal he suffers from type one of the condition — which means he has to inject himself with the hormone insulin four-to-five times a day to keep his blood sugar level under control.
Coker — who first moved into the Football League when he left Bury for Colchester United in 2010 — urged people who have the condition to get it under control by exercising, having a healthy diet and making sure they take their insulin.
“It’s tough when you first get diagnosed,” he told the Free Press. “You just have to get your head round it as quickly as you can and deal with it.
“You just have to look after yourself — I eat well and manage the best way I can.”
Coker was diagnosed at 15 when his mum noticed he was urinating a lot and drinking a lot of water — he believes it was brought about by shock after being knocked out during a Cambridge United youth team match.
Although type one diabetes means his blood sugar level is too high and needs insulin to bring it down, the level can dip too low, so Coker makes sure he carries a sports drink with him wherever he goes.
“I had a scare when I was playing for Bury where I had to run straight off to get something to drink, but I’m normally okay during games,” he said.
Coker’s season ended on a low note when Southend were knocked out of the League Two play-offs by Burton Albion at the semi-final stage in front of the Sky Sports cameras, denying the Shrimpers a trip to Wembley.
“We came so close, but we just faltered a little bit at important times during the season,” he added. “We have to go again next season and be stronger.
“On a personal level, I thought I had a really strong season. It was great to get back playing to the levels I know I am capable of.”
n Diabetes Week ran from June 8-14 and the theme this year was ‘i Can’ — information on diabetes can be found by logging on to www.diabetes.org.uk