As a freshman in high school, how difficult was it adjusting to a new setting while also getting adjusted to diabetes after your diagnosis?
It was a very tough transitional period for me. I was tying to meet friends, play sports and meet girls. I still remember days when I would go into the bathroom to check my blood sugar and take my insulin because I didn’t want people to see or ask questions. Unfortunately, I was the only person I knew with diabetes so at the time; I felt like an outcast.
Fortunately, my mom is a nurse and helped smooth the transition. She took me to diabetes-management classes and helped get me into a basketball camp. It was there that I met kids from all around the country with Type I. I was a camper there for three years and a counselor for 10. The Chris Dudley Basketball Camp for Kids with Diabetes was pivotal in creating my identity as a kid adjusting to life with diabetes.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face today as a diabetic? How do you get over them?
Managing diabetes is all about routine — eating on time, eating foods that aren’t high in sugar or carbs and getting proper exercise to help lower your blood sugar. I’m constantly asking myself these questions: How much exercise have I gotten today? Do I have any other insulin on board? How many carbs are in this food? Do I have anything on me in case my blood sugar gets low? It can be a frustrating daily struggle if I let it get to me.
By telling myself that I won’t be restricted by a condition and being as prepared as possible. Now, I’m able to do things I’d otherwise be scared to do. For example, traveling the country playing music, hiking mountains and playing sports. I think being a competitive kid in sports while growing up helped that a lot, too. No person or condition is going to tell me how to live my life. It’s also beneficial to educate my band and others around me on how to handle high and low blood sugar if it were to happen.
Are you usually good with testing your blood sugar or does family/ friends help keep you in check?
Fortunately, my mom and my wife are both nurses, so they help keep me in check. However, with life as a touring musician, there is no such thing as routine. I’ve played shows at 10 a.m., and I’ve also played shows until 2 a.m. I keep my Accu-Chek blood glucose meter nearby to test before, sometimes during and after my shows — sometimes up to 12 times a day. My mom once told me a saying that I try to live by now: “Pay for it now or pay for it later.” So if I ever get frustrated by the cost of medical supplies, I can hear her in the back of my mind.
Is there any advice you would give your younger self on what you know now about diabetes?
I would tell my high school and college self that I shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed about being diabetic. We all have little quirks that make us who we are. So much of my character today has been shaped from living life with Type I diabetes. And now while being a brand ambassador for Accu-Chek Guide, I have the opportunity to share that good news with others living with a chronic illness. It’s not about the instruments God gives you; it’s about the music you make with them.