Rising through resilience

She’s a champion in swimming and life, and from the moment you meet her you’re blown away by her positivity and bubbly personality. In the December issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants magazine, we spoke with Meagen Nay, whose drive, resilience and determination have helped her to overcome many life challenges while achieving great success along the way.

Describing herself as “resilient, strong and fun”, former Olympic swimmer Meagen Nay, who represented Australia at both the Beijing (2008) and London (2012) Olympic Games, is nothing short of inspiring.

Instantly on meeting the 32-year-old, her infectious, bubbly personality makes her seem like an old friend.

“[I’m] pretty normal, humble and down to earth,” she says as we begin our chat on a windy Thursday afternoon on the Gold Coast, her hometown.

“I’ve had some pretty hectic things happen in the past … [but] I like to take the positives out of everything,” she said.

The “hectic things” she speaks of include not only a recent diabetes diagnosis (more on that later) but also the tragic passing of her dad, Olympic swimmer Robbie Nay, in 1992, and then her brother, Amos Nay, in 2009, both in eerily similar circumstances involving motor vehicle accidents.

“When my dad died, I was young … I was three or four,” she said. “Not that it’s easier, but I just don’t have any memories of that. She adds that because this happened at such an early age, she “didn’t know any different” while growing up.

This wasn’t the case, however, when her brother died.

“When my brother passed away, I was racing at the World Championships, and my coach told me,” she said. “I think I was numb for a year or a year and a half. It was really kind of a weird time.

“I feel like I didn’t deal with it straight away. It took me a while to kind of deal with it and to come to terms with it. I don’t think there were one or two things that I did to [help get me through] … I have a really supportive network, which I think is important – my family.

“Everyone deals with things in different ways. We’re all different. And for me [eventually], I just threw myself into swimming. I’d wanted to give swimming away as soon as it happened … I couldn’t get back into swimming.

“But then I think the only thing that took my mind of it was swimming. After having a good break, I just kind of threw myself into swimming and kept busy.”

The diabetes diagnosis

While throwing herself back into the pool helped her deal with the loss of her brother, the skills she developed over the years of being an elite athlete also helped her to come to terms with her recent diabetes diagnosis.

“Being an elite athlete helped me because I feel, mentally, I’m very strong and very resilient to things that have happened and I’ve kind of got through them,” she said, admitting, though, that learning of her condition was a “bit of a shock”.

“I had all the symptoms,” Ms Nay said, recalling the lead-up to her diagnosis. “I was really thirsty all the time. I just put that down to training – that I was dehydrated because I was training every day, not swimming. I do F45 [now].

“And I thought that maybe I wasn’t drinking enough. Another sign is you pee a lot. So, I was like, well, I’m drinking a lot of water, so obviously I’m very hydrated then.”

She also experienced fatigue and blurry vision, which “scared me a little bit – I went to get my eyes checked”. Although given the all-clear on this, she went on to get frequent illnesses.

“I just kept getting sick,” she said. “I kept getting tonsilitis really bad. I just kept reoccurring and I went to my GP, and he was like, ‘let’s just get a blood test to make sure it’s [nothing] else’.”

She describes her GP explaining to her what a normal blood glucose level (BGL) range is – usually between 4 and 8mmol/lt, but this can vary from person to person – “and mine was up at 27.2mmol/lt”.

“It was a bit scary. You think you’re fit and healthy. I eat pretty healthily, [but] I think it’s a good kind of wake-up,” she said.

She was diagnosed with latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood in January 2020.

Her advice to retail pharmacy assistants

As someone told she has a life-altering condition and dealing with the shock and frustration that initially resulted from the diagnosis, Ms Nay’s suggestion to retail pharmacy assistants is to remember that “we’re [all] human”.

“Every single person is human … everyone is different, and I feel like everyone is dealing with things in different ways,” she said. “So, I always say, we’re [all] very different, so be kind to everyone, because somebody might be dealing with something you have no idea about.

“Just be kind. And make sure that you do things that you really love. Be kind, have fun and just remember that everyone’s human. Take [it] one day at a time.”

To read the full feature as it appears in the December issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants magazine, visit: rpassistants.com.au/magazines/retail-pharmacy-assistants-december-2020/