Whitney Lee tackles multiple challenges

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Whitney Lee looks to pass the ball to a teammate. Photo by Paul Muyskens.
Whitney Lee looks to pass the ball to a teammate. Photo by Paul Muyskens.

In the middle of a game, Whitney Lee is constantly testing herself, athletically and personally.

Lee, a Type 1 diabetic, wears her insulin patch under her swimsuit in hopes it doesn’t get ripped off by opponents. She tests her blood sugar by poking herself with needles in between quarters. 

Lee’s barriers extend beyond the pool, she was born with severe dyslexia. 

Between her medical diagnosis and her dyslexia, she is familiar with challenge. 

“I have had this my whole life so it is normal to me,” she said of the back and forth dealing with all of her challenges. 

Lee, an Oakdale High graduate, now plays water polo for the Mustangs.

In school, she found herself in an Advanced Placement class by accident, which drove a teacher to rant about her inability to locate nouns.

Her mother had to write a letter to the teacher informing her of Lee’s dyslexia, which turned the rant into tears. 

“My mom made the teacher cry,” she said.

“I was embarrassed at times, I remember reading scripts with my family and I needed my mom to read aloud for me while my five-year old sister was reading fine,” she explained.

Until the fourth grade Lee couldn’t really read, her mother pulled her out of school for a year to try and get her comprehension on level with her peers. 

“In the 6th grade I was reading Junie B. Jones and failing classes,” she said. 

Her dealings with disabilities have in turn made her more able. She learned at a young age not to limit herself. 

She was even born on Leap Day, Feb. 29, in just another attempt by the universe to confuse her.

“It would be easy for me to say ‘I can’t do sports, I can’t be smart, instead I push myself harder. Now I’m the nerd that picks up a book when others are chatting,” she said.

Lee was raised on a farm in Oakdale surrounded by dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and ducks. She recently found that her duck was on the wrong side of the food chain. 

“It was killed by either a hawk or a coyote,” Lee laughed. 

Being somewhat secluded on a farm with her loud family of 10 is crucial in teaching Lee to distinguish herself and keep a light heart.

 “It’s nice to have distance between us and our neighbors,” she said. “You have your own identity because there are no people around that you have to (accommodate).”

Her family plays water balloon baseball, throws tomahawks and screams loud songs unbothered.

These are part of a number of things that helped Lee become self-aware.

In a couple of months Lee is going to put her sport, which she has known since she was eight, to the side to go on a mission.

She will be making a missionary trip to Fort Worth, Texas to serve any in need and to solidify her Mormon faith.

She still plans on keeping active in her sport by being in contact with four year schools to play water polo after her 15 month mission is complete. As well as to continue her studies to become a history professor.