Looking Back: Nick Jonas Reflects on his T1D Diagnosis
Throughout November 2021, Beyond Type 1 co-founder Nick Jonas is using his platform to help the world #SeeDiabetes, featuring stories of people around the world living with diabetes on his Instagram channel. This National Diabetes Awareness Month campaign is part of The Global Movement for Time in Range, an initiative launched earlier this year by Dexcom with support from several nonprofit partners including Beyond Type 1, Children with Diabetes, College Diabetes Network, JDRF International and Taking Control of Your Diabetes.
On November 16th — Jonas’ diaversary — the multi-platinum recording artist, actor and philanthropist opened up about details of his own diagnosis in an interview with Beyond Type 1.
BT1: Thanks for speaking with us Nick! Can you talk about what you recall from your diagnosis? Were there any warning signs?
NJ: The warning signs and the symptoms were all in line with the normal symptoms for undiagnosed Type 1. My blood sugar must have been above 38.8 mmol/L700mg/dL for an extended period because I was losing a significant amount of weight in a short period of time, almost 25 pounds in two weeks. I was constantly thirsty, having to use the bathroom. My attitude and everything was off. I was very irritable which is also a sign. And I was getting cramps regularly. I just knew something was off and that if I didn’t get care soon I’d be in real trouble.
How old were you? Do you remember what that day was like?
I was 13. We were in the middle of a school tour where we were basically rolling into venues at 8:00 a.m. (and venues is a funny word because it was actually just schools) and playing in the auditoriums for the students. This was in the early days of our career. I remember I told my parents that I needed to go to the doctor, something didn’t feel right and they had already seen the significant weight loss and some of the other symptoms so they brought me in. It was there that my pediatrician informed me that I had Type 1 diabetes. At first I was devastated, naturally. But I didn’t really have time to be devastated because I had to get right to the hospital. It was the start to a crazy new journey.
Did you have any concerns about whether or not you would be able to continue your career in entertainment? How’d you address those concerns?
At the time I was thinking that this might end my dream of being able to tour the world and play our music. It was frightening. And really saddening. I think seeing my parents so distraught as well was really tough. I don’t think most people realize the impact that a diabetes diagnosis has not only on the individual but on their family and their friends.
I did have concerns about not being able to continue my career. But the thing for me was always to say “let me jump right back into work.” That way I’m kind of committing to not letting this slow me down. And there have been many moments where it has. Where I’ve had tough days. Where my blood sugar was high or low and I’ve just had to figure it out and push through. I’m grateful that I’ve got a good support system around me.
How did your family and friends help you adjust to your new life with diabetes?
My family and friends really helped. I’ve always been a very independent person and I think for me, part of this, even though I was only 13, part of this journey was really about me doing it myself and having the ability to just take this on my own and push through it. I definitely relied on my family and my loved ones at different points in my life with diabetes and now especially in my marriage, it’s a big thing. Having a partner that is loving and supportive and thoughtful in that way is really important. And I’m really grateful for that.
Is there anything you know about life with T1D now that you wish you knew when you were diagnosed?
The thing I wish I knew was that not every day was going to be perfect. There are going to be days that are tougher than others and it’s just important not to get down on yourself. It’s a journey. And if you can take a deep breath in those tough moments and allow yourself to have a beat to reset, then it’s going to be okay.