A Very Lucky Man
|My Diabetes Story you ask? Ok let’s do this! It’s been 21 years since I was diagnosed, so my diabetes is a full-fledged adult now! How is that even possible?! What is impossible is me forgetting my day of diagnosis. I went from the joy of celebrating my 11th birthday a few days earlier to being informed by the doctor that I had type one diabetes. The word hit me so hard that I broke down and cried. Mostly because at the time I had no idea what diabetes was. The unknown is scary.
The next several days in the hospital were tough. Being taught how to give myself insulin, undergoing changes to my diet, planning out a precise eating schedule. But my family was amazing at that time, and have been ever since. It all started with my parents. So much love and support. I even had several teachers visit me in the hospital with get well soon cards from all my classmates. To say I was a lucky kid would be an understatement.
I’ve always been open with people in my life about my diabetes. Even as a kid in school. There was the occasional student who’d try to make fun of or mock me at the lunch table, making painfully misinformed jokes about diabetes in general. Although it hurt in the moment, I think even at that young age I realized the ignorance from which those jokes came. All those trying moments did was make me an even stronger person.
At 16 years old, I was a kid who loved to sing and act. An avid fan of the show, I decided to audition for the fifth season of American Idol. Many rounds later, in the middle of an improbable run, I found myself in the Top 24 contestants and singing in front of millions of people each week on live television. I ended up performing for five weeks on live tv before being eliminated at Number 11. This was my first professional experience and the platform was enormous. Not once did I mention my diabetes while I went through that run on the show. And it wasn’t because I was ashamed of it, not at all. Quite the contrary. It had become such a routine, second nature part of my life that I didn’t feel it necessary to acknowledge it on the show. Looking back now, knowing how many people were watching and the general awareness that could’ve been spread, I would’ve proudly mentioned my diabetes on air.
After my elimination from Idol, I was asked to come and give a surprise performance at the 2006 Friends For Life Banquet in Orlando. My first time attending, I was absolutely amazed to discover everything that this conference offered. Hundreds of kids just like me bonding over their shared experiences. Sessions for parents and loved ones of Type Ones to help further educate them on everything diabetes related. I was naive and had been in my bubble at home for so long, that I’d never known or seen anything like this huge, amazing community for people just like me. It was a wonderful thing to discover.
Since that surprise performance in 2006, I made several more special guest appearances at FFL Orlando conferences before becoming a full time staff member back in 2017. Since then I’ve worked with the teens, terrific kids just like me at the age when I first discovered this amazing conference. Working with them for one week every summer has meant the world to me. The dear friends I’ve made throughout the years of conferences have meant just as much.
Today I’m a FFL Conference regular. I’m a Dexcom user. I’m an actor and a singer. And most importantly, I’m a proud Type One doing my absolute best to take care of myself each and every day. Back then I was a lucky kid, today I’m a very lucky man.
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