By Will LeBlond
Ithaca High School alum Charlie Estill experienced the same struggles all new college kids go through during the fall of his freshman year at Cornell.
He was getting accustomed to his new classes and new friend groups, and he was also acclimating himself to a higher level of lacrosse and tougher training regiments as he began his collegiate lacrosse career for the Big Red. All of those difficult rigors of college can be a lot to juggle, but Estill never anticipated the hurdle that would slow him down.
Toward the tail end of his first fall semester, Estill started to experience some odd symptoms. He lost about 30 pounds, was having difficulty sleeping and he was losing his strength. Luckily for Estill, his father, Matthew, is a doctor and had also experienced those symptoms earlier in his life.
Estill visited his father’s office and received the diagnosis of Type I diabetes. After seeing his father go through the same condition, the news was easier to handle for Estill.
“It was kind of a relief that I found out, because I was feeling terrible,” he says. “The daily changes, like diet, were tough at first, but it’s something that I’m dealing with every day, it’s kind of just second nature for me now.”
After decorated careers in lacrosse and hockey at IHS, Estill suddenly faced a threat to his playing career. “One of my first reactions was, how am I going to keep playing?” he said.
Those worries were soothed by his father, who told him about professional and Olympic athletes who also have diabetes, and how they have overcome it to enjoy successful careers. A former hockey player with the Little Red, an NHL player of the same age group, drew the interest of Estill.
Max Domi, who recently completed his rookie season playing for the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, was diagnosed with diabetes roughly eight years ago, and has overcome it to become one of the league’s elite young players.
“I read an article about him and it was cool to hear that he was succeeding in his sport,” says Estill. “It was interesting to see how he dealt with similar issues.”
Before he could make his full return to the lacrosse team, Estill took three weeks off before the spring season to adjust to the newly found condition, which was received with full support from the program. “The captains were always asking about how I was doing,” he says. “And the coaches let me get back into it once I was ready.”
He returned in time to begin his freshman campaign as an attacker for the Big Red, but it was not completely back to normal, as his condition altered certain aspects of his training with the team. Instead of going through practice without any issues, Estill had to stop usually once per practice to monitor his blood sugar levels. The training staff at Cornell was aware of his needs and no significant issues came up throughout the season.
As a local kid, Estill had developed a relationship with Cornell head athletic trainer Jim Case after playing hockey and lacrosse with Case’s sons in the area. Estill provided Case and his staff with a glucometer, which monitors the levels of glucose in a person’s blood. With that in hand, the training staff has been able to stay sharp and on top of any issue that arises, should he need the assistance during a game or practice.
“They can take it out in a second,” Estill says. “They’ve been really helpful and they always have Gatorade and sugar cubes for me if I need it.”
Fast forward to the present, and Estill has now completed his sophomore season with the Big Red and dealing with diabetes has become old hat for him and the team’s training staff. That consistency has helped him expand his role with the team.
After playing in just five games during his freshman campaign, Estill was on the field in 10 of the team’s 13 games, while contributing his first four career points, all on assists. It was a trying season for Cornell, as they ended with a 6-7 mark, while winning just one Ivy League contest, but Estill is optimistic about the team’s future and he wants to be a part of it.
“I’ve been working out a lot this summer and I’m always keeping a stick in my hand,” he says. “We want to get back to the place we know we can be in the Ivy League. We have a ton of talent coming back and we’re really looking forward to getting back on campus and getting back to work.”
By Will LeBlond