Diabetes has been a part of my life since my 7th birthday, and those who know me well are familiar with my story:
It’s the weekend before my birthday.
I leap out of bed at 7 A.M. sharp, eager for Saturday morning cartoons and sweet, sugary breakfast cereal.
I turn on the TV (must have been Pokémon), bolt down a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and chug a glass of orange juice.
I throw it up almost immediately.
My parents are concerned. They make me another bowl of what we later learn is pure carbohydrates.
I throw that up too.
This isn’t the first sign that something is off. I lost almost 15 pounds in the past couple weeks alone. I’m using the bathroom constantly, and, despite my usual enthusiasm for early morning cartoons, I have little energy and frequent mood swings.
My parents are smart people. They immediately take me to a local hospital. Four hospitals and countless doctors, nurses and non-diagnoses later, with my parents’ visible concern becoming more apparent by the minute, we finally arrive at the Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center.
The nurses inject me with an IV. I’m so dehydrated that it takes them 12 tries to find my vein.
The diagnosis comes back quickly: I have Type One Diabetes.
As an almost-7-year-old (back in my younger days, when age was measured by halves and quarters), I believe I know exactly what this means.
I start writing a will. I begin with my bike, and quickly realize I have nothing else to give and no one to leave it to.
(Note to future doctors: telling a kid he has DIE-abetes requires some serious explanation)
I tell this story because I believe it gives some measure of insight into the culture shock that is being diagnosed with diabetes — both for an individual and their family.
I remember my family’s worry and confusion. I remember them trying to explain what diabetes was — and why it happened to me — to friends who visited me in the hospital.
I remember those same friends and classmates asking if hanging out with me would make them sick too.
I imagine getting diabetes is not too different from finding out that you are a parent: Sure, there are books to read and doctors to consult, but the experience is inherently personal. It’s a learning experience that not only tells you who are, but also helps shape the person you become.
And I’ve experienced plenty. Constant diet monitoring and injections included; I am intimately familiar with the tough times everyone associates with diabetes. There is no question that this disease is a daily battle for all involved, and there are no days off.
But realizing your own mortality at an early age has its advantages. I know that tomorrow is never guaranteed, and I have tried to live my life accordingly.
I am a better man for having Type One Diabetes. It has taught me patience, the importance of self-care and most importantly, it has taught me how to overcome adversity.
In my professional life, I started two businesses (so far), launched two podcasts and maintain a personal blog (from which you are currently reading). I worked on the team that won the PRWeek Best in Corporate Branding Award and wrote a thought leadership platform on artificial intelligence for an $11 billion technology company.
As a counselor at Camp Conrad Chinnock, I led a group of diabetic kids 25 miles uphill to summit the highest peak in Southern California.
I ran a marathon, have biked 100 miles twice now for charity and, with your help, I will bike another 100 miles in Death Valley this October.
But the point of this story isn’t me. The point is to help young diabetics like my little sister, Grace, and thousands of kids who don’t know what having diabetes is like. Hopefully they never will.
It’s for that reason that I served as the South Bay Charity Walk Ambassador and a Congressional Advocate for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation funding. With the help and hard work of my family, friends and the diabetic community, we have raised tens of thousands of dollars for diabetes research, providing medical coverage and life-saving technology for thousands of fellow diabetics.
So, if you managed to make it this far, here’s what I ask: Give what you can.
Every little bit helps. Each dollar you donate goes straight to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the leading global organization funding Type One Diabetes research.
With your help, we can build a world where 7-year olds don’t need to learn how to inject themselves, much less think about writing a will.
Together, we can turn Type One into Type None.