Nick Jonas, the youngest member of the Jonas Brothers band, is used to selling out arenas, making tween and teen girls scream, and battling type 1 diabetes. Here he reveals what it's like living with the all-too-common disease.
November isn't only National Diabetes Month—it also marks the fifth anniversary of finding out you have type 1 diabetes. How did that happen?
A. When I was 13 and on tour with my brothers, I lost 15 pounds in two weeks and was thirsty all the time. I also had a bad attitude—which was rare for me. My parents took me to a doctor, and we learned that my blood sugar was dangerously high. I was rushed to a hospital, where they made the diagnosis.
Q. What was your reaction?
A. At first I was afraid. I didn't know if I was going to die. But once I realized the disease can be managed, I started to feel better.
Q. Has your family helped you?
A. Most definitely. There was one time on tour when I couldn't get my blood sugar in check, and I had a bit of a breakdown. But my brothers and my mom were there to calm me down and offer words of encouragement. They're always there for me.
Q. You've spoken to the Senate about giving more government funding to diabetes research. Your charity, Change for Children Foundation, has raised money for the cause. And you've even written songs about the disease, like "A Little Bit Longer." Why'd you share your story with the public?
A. Getting diabetes gave me an opportunity to inspire people who may be feeling the way I felt when I first got diagnosed—unsure and alone. I want adults and kids to know that there are new tools that make living with the disease easier than ever. For example, I love using Bayer's USB contour meter. It tracks my blood sugar for me and plugs into my computer, so right away I can send my numbers electronically to my doctor or whoever needs to see them.
Q. Did you find it awkward telling your friends you are diabetic?
A. I'm not ashamed. It's not something I could have helped or even something I want to hide. It has become a part of my everyday life and a part of who I am. Being honest about the disease with people who are close to me is key to being comfortable with it myself.
Q. Does anyone else in your family have diabetes?
A. Actually, yes. I've never talked about this before, but my grandfather was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It was such a shock. First I felt sad for him, because it's not something that's fun to live with, but he's strong enough to get through it. And now that I know a lot about diabetes, I can help him. We were always close, but sharing this disease makes me feel connected to him in a different way.
Q. What advice would you give to kids living with diabetes?
A. Rely on others. You can be the most independent person in the world, but if you ever need help, don't be afraid to say so.
Q. How's your tour with the Jonas Brothers going?
A. The U.S. leg of the tour has been fantastic, and then we're heading to South America. I always look forward to playing there, because the fans are so passionate.
Q. This fall, 8 million people watched your latest Disney Channel TV movie, Camp Rock 2. What was making the sequel like?
A. Filming again in Canada was amazing. Fans showed up to our set every day to come say hi, which is always nice. And it was fun reuniting with Camp Rock cast members from the first movie.
Q. You also just launched a music side project, Nick Jonas & the Administration. Is it hard juggling acting and two bands?
A. Nah, it's fun. My goal is just to stay true to myself. I was starting to write songs that were stylistically different than the Jonas Brothers music, so I ventured out with the Administration to see where it takes me. So far it's been a gratifying experience.
Q. What's planned next for you and your brothers?
A. It's all up in the air right now. But there will be a lot coming from the Jonas family in 2011—whether it's stuff we're doing together or separately—so look out for it!
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are lifelong conditions that develop when the body fails to process sugar correctly. Type 1 (also known as juvenile diabetes) usually strikes children and young adults, and the exact cause is unknown. Type 2 can strike at any age, but eating healthy and exercising regularly may help reduce risk. For more info, go to diabetes.org.
Originally published in the November 29, 2010, issue of Family Circle magazine.