Jay Cutler, quarterback for the Chicago Bears, first learned he had type 1 diabetes in May of 2008, when he was 25 years old. Though he doesn't know what it's like being a kid with diabetes, he's using his sports status to relay a very important to message to young people with type 1 diabetes:
"You can live with the disease and still live the way you want.'
Cutler makes time to visit hospitals across the country and meet with families affected by diabetes. During the 2009 football season, he also partnered with Eli Lilly and Company and the American Diabetes Association for "Touchdowns for Diabetes," a program that funds diabetes camp scholarships.
Though Cutler may be an inspiration to kids with diabetes, he's still only just beginning his journey with the disease. Read about his early experiences with type 1 diabetes—living with the disease in the public eye, cutting back on sweet tea and peanut butter cups, and coming to terms with needles. But most importantly, readjusting to a new title: type 1 role model.
Jay Cutler: The toughest part is that it's there every day, no matter where you go. You wake up with it, you go to sleep with it. First thing I had to learn was giving myself the shots with the needle. That's the biggest step. The finger prick, that's okay. But when you have to jab yourself with a needle, that's where it gets a little iffy.
What's easier? I don't think anything is easy about diabetes, ever. But it's probably easier for me as an adult than for the kids I've met who are trying to learn to manage it as they grow up.
EW: Your diabetes awareness efforts are centered on children and adolescents. Do you have any plans to get involved in programs that help people diagnosed as adults?
JC: I really wanted to connect with kids first. So many kids I meet with diabetes just want to know it's okay, and they're going to be able to live their dreams and do what they want to do in life. They inspire me and give me energy. It's been a great experience for me just getting to know some of them and hear what it's like for them to grow up with this disease.
But obviously, I was diagnosed as an adult, and it's clear there is an overall lack of awareness of the signs and symptoms of type 1, whether you're talking about kids or adults. I was sick the entire 2007 season, lost 35 pounds, felt fatigued—all the classic symptoms. I thought I was dying, but I wasn't diagnosed for six months.
I think anything we can do to raise awareness of the symptoms of type 1 and help people understand what type 1 is—at any age—is a positive step, and I hope I can do that by telling my story.