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September 25th, 2009
10:07 AM ET

Nick Jonas shares his diabetes journey

By Leslie Wade
Producer CNN Medical News

I had the pleasure of meeting pop star Nick Jonas when he and his band were touring in Atlanta, Georgia, in late August. I know he's had media training and been in front of cameras for years, but I was impressed with his composure as he told me about his journey with a disease that affects one in 300 teens.

Nick Jonas talks about living with diabetes.

Nick Jonas talks about living with diabetes.

Four years ago Nick, the youngest member of the Jonas Brothers band, spent three days in the hospital. He'd lost 15 pounds in the previous three weeks and he and his family knew something was terribly wrong. Nick had developed type 1 diabetes - his body was no longer producing insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar into energy for our bodies.

Nick made a promise to himself that day. "My commitment to myself, when I was on my way to the hospital, was that I would not let this slow me down. And I didn't," said Nick.

Nick and his family jumped into action, learning all about diabetes and how to treat the disease. "I was devastated. I didn't know anything about diabetes, had no knowledge,” said Nick's mother, Denise Jonas. “I knew he was very ill just by looking at him."

"We had to take steps to have everyone in our family and my brother, who toured with the boys on a regular basis, trained on how to care for Nick. How to monitor him, how to administer his insulin shots, how to test his blood, how to give him a glucose shot if for some reason he passed out and went into a diabetic coma. It's a lot of work," said Denise.

After leaving the hospital, Nick was determined to write a song about his experience. But the piece didn't come together for another 2½ years. "I was having one of those days where it [the blood sugar] was out of range, things were not where I wanted them to be with my diabetes. I sat down at the piano and wrote the song and it came out in 15 minutes," explained Nick.

His song "A Little Bit Longer" seems to touch a chord in teens with diabetes, some of whom feel stigmatized and ashamed to have the disease. "He's had a great voice in helping encourage children and teenagers with type 1… to let other people know they have it,” said Denise Jonas. “I didn't realize how much of the population was ashamed."

Nick's doctor, pediatric endocrinologist Francine Kaufman of Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, California, also knows about the concerns of teens. "The real driving force for a teen is to be just like every other teen, so having anything different - and particularly a chronic illness - sets you apart and many, many of these teenagers feel it, " explained Dr. Kaufman.

Nick is trying to raise awareness and money for diabetes through the band's Change for the Children Foundation. (He's also a paid spokesperson for Bayer, which makes a device to monitor blood glucose levels.)

Nick checks his blood sugar 10 to 12 times a day and his doctor says he takes his disease seriously. "Nick does what somebody with diabetes needs to do: wears an insulin pump, worries about how much insulin he's taking, monitors his blood sugar, stays healthy and gets exercise," says Dr. Kaufman.

But if the demands of his schedule mean a skipped meal before show time his brothers sometimes have to improvise. "I just give them a look and tell them to cover for me while I go off stage and take care of some stuff," says Nick. Which usually means grabbing a little apple juice, orange juice or a bit of food to normalize his blood sugar before heading back out on stage. "All of the crew on the tour are aware that I'm diabetic and they all know how to react in case of an emergency or a situation where I may need assistance," says Nick.

And fortunately those times are rare - a testament to his promise to himself four years ago: Nick, now 17, has not let diabetes keep him from sharing his craft and living his dream. "I'm just thankful to be able to be out here doing what I love with diabetes... and if there is something that I can do personally to inspire and encourage somebody that means the world to me, " says Nick.

Question: Do you or anyone you know struggle with telling others about diabetes? Tell us your story.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Juandy Liem

    The Jonas Brothers earned an estimated $12 million in 2007, and have donated 10% of their earnings to their charity, Change for the Children Foundation.

    Jonas and his brothers are a real inspiration to many people especially to the Young Generation today...

    September 26, 2009 at 06:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Leaveit toBieber

    As the daughter of a latent onset diabetic I applaud this young man for his open and honest dealing with his disease. Teenagers are so self concious and it it helps teens deal with their diabetes openly and honestly this will be blessing!! Keep up the good work Nick, Bless you!!

    September 26, 2009 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sandy List

    One of my best friends from childhood was a diabetic and died at the age of thirty from the effects of the disease. The Jonas brothers are famous for their music, and I applaud Nick Jonas's forthrightness about the disease. He may save lives just by his opening up and talking about diabetes. Kudos to him and other celebrities who lay the facts on the line regarding serious illnesses.

    October 1, 2009 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • katie mccurdy

      I am also onset diabetes to you got to help me with this illness the symptoms is happen to me all the time i think is my range is way high i went to use the bathroom all the time i think to develop type 1 diabetes

      September 28, 2010 at 18:14 | Report abuse |
  4. CA Dover, NH

    I was just out of my teens when I developed Type 1 (early 20's), but the social stigma felt devastating. Friends were sometimes reluctant to go out with me because I needed to be on a regular schedule, and several young men I dated throughout many subsequent years dropped me like a hot potato the first time they witnessed a low blood sugar reaction. It's wonderful Nick has such supportive people around him. I know the few women who cared about me, regardless of how my needs may have inconvenienced them, made the difference in helping me see my self-worth in those early and troubling years.

    October 1, 2009 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. IGANOBI john

    Keep up de good work nick.Yu are an inspiration to de youths with similar problem in lagos in Nigeria

    October 2, 2009 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Nicole, a diabetes mother - Germany

    My daugther has diabetes since Feb.2008, is 12 years old. A little bit later she got to know the music of the Jonas Brothers and the news Nick has the same problems.
    It means a lot to her. Somtimes when she is to high and struggles deep inside her with her being diabetic: we look up the wall to the poster and she feels better because she is not alone with that feeling.
    And for this I decide we got to see the concert, eventhough we have to go all the way to zurich and stay overnight.
    The doctor told me, that she is one few kids that handles diabetes almost perfect and still is a happy and normal girl.
    Thanks Nick for your support and a special thank for your wonderfull song !!!!!!! Whenever you feel bad just give my girl a call :-)))

    October 7, 2009 at 04:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. G.A.Khan

    My thanks to CNN.COM for presenting the storey of a diabetic,a celebrety to the world.It has inspired many.I am a diabetic pt.I am really inspired.Thanks.
    With regards.
    G.A.Khan

    October 16, 2009 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Julie

    Nick Jonas is a true inspiration. We met him in person in Detroit this year. He was a polite and sincere young man. I suffer from diabetes, as well as my neice. It is a chronic, life altering disease that affects the entire family. I truly don't know how Nick handles such a rigorous schedule with this disease, but that what makes him such an inspiration to all of us who live with diabetes everyday. Just tonight I had a "low" at a Halloween Party with friends, the power went out and everyone else was having a fantastic time laughing in the candlelight. And all I could think about was how I needed to get some food in me fast. Since our dinner was delayed due to the power outage, I had to grab a snack out of my purse (discreetly). It's hard to explain but I don't always want to make a big deal out of it. I was the only one eating...one of the guests, noticed and commented "Well...someone brought her own food...care to share?" The next thing I knew, all eyes were on me and I felt embarrassed. I didn't want to announce to everyone that I was low. I just smiled and finished my snack making a joke about "not having time for dinner after work". There are many times that people are insensitive...but I have to remind myself that not everyone understands diabetes. There are moments when I am proud and I can easily explain my condition, and others when I feel ashamed and different. I almost always feel judged. I actually had someone say to me "Isn't that the disease that you get when you don't eat right or exercise." Education is the key. Nick Jonas has the star power to influence so many people and educate them about this serious disease. Thank you Nick.

    October 24, 2009 at 01:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Rebecca s

    Nick Jonas is a true inspiration. We met him in person in Detroit this year. He was a polite and sincere young man. I suffer from diabetes, as well as my neice. It is a chronic, life altering disease that affects the entire family. I truly don't know how Nick handles such a rigorous schedule with this disease, but that what makes him such an inspiration to all of us who live with diabetes everyday. Just tonight I had a "low" at a Halloween Party with friends, the power went out and everyone else was having a fantastic time laughing in the candlelight. And all I could think about was how I needed to get some food in me fast. Since our dinner was delayed due to the power outage, I had to grab a snack out of my purse (discreetly). It's hard to explain but I don't always want to make a big deal out of it. I was the only one eating...one of the guests, noticed and commented "Well...someone brought her own food...care to share?" The next thing I knew, all eyes were on me and I felt embarrassed. I didn't want to announce to everyone that I was low. I just smiled and finished my snack making a joke about "not having time for dinner after work". There are many times that people are insensitive...but I have to remind myself that not everyone understands diabetes. There are moments when I am proud and I can easily explain my condition, and others when I feel ashamed and different. I almost always feel judged. I actually had someone say to me "Isn't that the disease that you get when you don't eat right or exercise." Education is the key. Nick Jonas has the star power to influence so many people and educate them about this serious disease. 17years old. A little bit later she got to know the music of the Jonas Brothers and the news Nick has the same problems.
    It means a lot to her. Sometime when she is to high and struggles deep inside her with her being diabetic: we look up the wall to the poster and she feels better because she is not alone with that feeling.
    And for this I decide we got to see the concert, even though we have to go all the way to Zurich and stay overnight.
    The doctor told me, that she is one few kids that handles diabetes almost perfect and still is a happy and normal girl.
    Thanks Nick for your support and a special thank for your wonderful song !!!!!!! Whenever you feel bad just give my a you are a real inspiration to many people especially to the Young Generation today...

    February 3, 2010 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Peter Evans

    Thank you for the interesting post. Certainly food for thought. I think that's why I like the Internet so much. Loads of information at your fingertips.

    February 8, 2010 at 09:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Micaela

    Hola, ami a los 8 años se me declaro diabetes ! fue muy duro para mi y mas especialmente parami familia , ahora con 15 años tengo mi enfermedad bastante controlada,pero no es algomuy bueno, tengo muchos desvarajustes no me siento muy bien. Yo leyendo a nick sabiendo muchas cosas de el de su vida, me siento muy identificada, y el es un ejemplo que siento que tengo que seguir, me da mucha fuerza de que con esto se puede ! Siento que el estaconmigo en mis momentos mas dificiles y leyendo sus palabras me siento que esuna motivacion para mi, una ayuda para decir que SI PUEDO, que una simple enfermedad que la tengo conmigo ya hace varios años y la llevare para toda mi vida no me puede PODER. yo tengo que poder contra ella ! Daria MUCHO para conocer a Nick,poder comunicarme con el que me de consejos.. El cuando vino a Uruguay tuve la posibilidad de verlo de lejos, ver su camioneta de cerca,pero nada mas ! Nick segui asi sos un ejemplo para MUCHOS♥

    July 12, 2012 at 01:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Danielle

    Patty McPeak's DiaCea is an herbal aid that naturally helps to control blood sugar. DiaCea steadies your blood sugar throughout the day with Gymnema Sylvestri. The leaves of Gymnema Sylvestri contain gymnemic acids. Studies show that it helps to slow transport of glucose from the intestines into the bloodstream. this helps to keep blood sugar in the normal range. To learn more about DiaCea, go to: http://www.nanacea.com or call 88-933-1007

    October 25, 2012 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.