November is Diabetes Awareness Month.
I’d love it if you would help spread awareness against the stigmas associated with diabetes. There are so many negative stereotypes associated with this disease. I want you to know that there are so many things that come into play for a diabetes diagnosis. Sometimes your pancreas just stops working, and you end up with Type 1 diabetes from no fault of your own. Sometimes you have genetic and cultural factors working against you and no matter how healthy you think you are, you wake up one day with Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes happens. Sometimes it’s preventable, sometimes it’s not, but every single time it’s an emotional kick in the teeth. A diabetes diagnosis means you now think like a pancreas. It means every meal involves math, every bit of exercise requires a calculation so your brain and hands can manage insulin levels in your blood that so many people take for granted.
In 1921 Sir Frederick Banting discovered insulin. It was a discovery that, no hyperbole, has saved millions of lives. Because of insulin many people can manage their illness and live not only normal lives, but remarkable ones.
As we celebrate Diabetes Awareness Month, I’d love it if you would scroll through the list of people who take diabetes in stride, are heroic in their management, and rise above the stigma to achieve greatness. Oh, and when you get to the end of the list, there’s a chance for you to meet one of them and learn, first hand, how diabetes can be beaten.
Mary Tyler Moore – Legend
Mary Tyler Moore has long been an advocate of awareness for diabetes. She was diagnosed at age 33 with Type 1 diabetes. Since then, she’s become the international chairwoman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“When the doctor said I had diabetes, I conjured images of languishing on a chaise longue nibbling chocolates. I have no idea why I thought this.” [source]
Damon Dash – Music Executive
Damon Dash is best known as the former CEO and co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records with Jay Z. He’s also run several clothing and shoe lines and his own film label. Oh, and he’s a Type 1 diabetic.
“I don’t know if anyone knows I am diabetic — I think it’s important to let people know that it’s okay to be diabetic and to know how to take care of it.” [source]
Max Domi – Hockey player
“My first question wasn’t about how my diet would change, how to take insulin shots or how it would change my lifestyle. All I wanted to know was, “Can I still play hockey?”” [source]
Charlie Kimball – Race Car Driver
Charlie Kimball’s Type 1 diagnosis was sudden. He was 22 yrs old, healthy, had no family history, but when he lost 25 pounds over 5 days, something was up. He is the first licensed driver with diabetes in the history of IndyCar racing.
“The typical response from people when I tell them I’m diabetic is, Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. You know, I’m not. I’m a better athlete because of diabetes rather than despite it. I’m more aware of my training, my fitness and more aware of nutrition. I’m more proactive about my health.” [source]
Brett Michaels – Musician
Depending on your age you might recognize Bret Michaels as a rocker, or a reality tv star. He’s been on VH1’s Rock of Love, The Apprentice, and spent a lot of time on stage fronting Poison. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 6, but didn’t go public about his condition until shortly after the release of Poison’s first album.
— Bret Michaels (@bretmichaels) September 4, 2016
“Accept that you have the disease. Keep taking your insulin. Keep it under control. Also, enjoy your life. I have stayed in good physical shape by having mind, matter, and music over the disease.” [source]
Anne Rice – Author
Author Anne Rice learned the hard way that she had type 1 diabetes. It was 1998, and Rice, known for her Vampire Chronicles novels, awoke to a painful headache and problems breathing. It was only after she slipped into a coma that the diabetes diagnosis was made. These days, Rice has the condition under control and encourages others not to ignore symptoms.
“If you think you have any chance that you might have diabetes, for God’s sake, go get the blood sugar test. It’s a simple test.” [source]
Kris Freeman – Cross Country Skier, 4x Olympian
Kris is an Olympic silver medalist who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 19, the same year he was invited to his first national camp with the US Ski Team.
— Kris Freeman (@TeamFreebirdXC) June 25, 2014
“Did my dreams falter? No. But I was very confused about what it all meant. The way to not be terrified was to learn as much as I could about [diabetes].” [source]
Scott Verplank – Golfer
Scott Verplank was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 9 after lapsing into a coma. In 2002, he was named winner of the Ben Hogan Award, given by the Golf Writers Association of America to an individual who has continued to be active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness.
“Testing is my best remedy to stay on top of my control, and then I adjust my insulin and food to my results while I’m out on the golf course.” [source]
Nick Jonas – Singer
A teen heart throb as a member of the Jonas Brothers, Nick is now a bona fide solo star. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2007 at 17.
“The thing that drives me in a lot of ways is being able to help other people, talking about the real life challenges of this disease and ways to approach it to make it easier. I want to build a community that is open to talking about diabetes.” [source]
Jean Smart – Actor
Jean Smart, of Designing Women and 24, was 13 years old when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She has dedicated herself as a mentor, fundraiser, and activist.
“Personally, I think life offers us the opportunity to take chances and make changes all the time.” [source]
James Earl Jones – Darth Vader
The voice of Darth Vader was living as a Type 2 diabetic for more than 20 years before he came forward to share his story this year. Despite having a history of diabetes in his family, and being part of a high risk ethnic group, Jones didn’t think it would happen to him. Until it did.
“I would certainly like to encourage more screenings. You won’t ever make it go away, but you can make it better.” [source]
Randy Jackson – Musician
In 2002, music producer and American Idol judge Jackson weighed more than 300 pounds. He was diagnosed with diabetes after experiencing “flu symptoms” that turned out to be high blood sugar. (His was over 500, while normal is between 80 and 120.)
“There is no magic cure, and it’s not always easy. But I believe everyone has the potential to take charge and manage the disease in his or her own way. I am living proof that type 2 diabetes can be managed. In fact, taking charge of my lifestyle and making a change to be healthier has made me a stronger, happier person.” [source]
Tom Hanks – Actor
Tom Hanks announced in 2013 that he had type 2 diabetes. He had elevated blood sugar levels for years before being diagnosed, a not uncommon pattern with type 2.
“It’s controllable. Something’s going to kill us all, Dave.” [source]
Sonia Sotomayor – United States Supreme Court Justice
When Justice Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to the high court in 2009, people wondered whether someone with diabetes could effectively serve. She was diagnosed when she was 8 years old and her condition didn’t stop her from climbing out of a childhood in a public housing project, to studying at Princeton and Yale, to sitting on the nation’s highest court.
“My diabetes is such a central part of my life… it did teach me discipline… it also taught me about moderation… I’ve trained myself to be super-vigilant… because I feel better when I am in control.” [source]
Luke and Jedi – A boy and his dog
Luke Nuttall is a 7 year old boy who has a dog named Jedi constantly by his side. Jedi is Luke’s service dog who can smell his blood sugar and alerts Luke’s mother or family when something is wrong. Luke and Jedi went viral this spring when Luke’s mother shared a story of Jedi’s amazing skills on Facebook.
Sam Fuld – MLB Fielder
Sam Fuld is a 9 year MLB veteran with the Oakland A’s. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 10 yrs of age and had a chance to meet pitcher Bill Gullickson (also a diabetic) a few years later. That meeting inspired him to follow his dreams of baseball all the way to the big leagues and continue to inspire other kids wondering if they can make it.
“I think there used to be more of a negative stigma attached to [diabetes] or this idea that you can’t do things like sports. If you’re on top of it, you certainly can, but it just requires a lot of work.” [source]
Jay Cutler – NFL Quarterback
Okay, I don’t know which is a bigger struggle for Jay, having Type 1 diabetes or trying to succeed in the NFL. Cutler is often a source of anger for NFL (especially Chicago Bears) fans, but he’ll always get my respect for making it to the best league in the world while living with diabetes.
“It’s hard enough as a kid these days to feel normal and just try to fit in. To be a diabetic is just a dramatic thing to go through.” [source]
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