The Jonas Family Talks Diabetes
Nick Jonas and his parents, Denise and Kevin, share their story of Nick’s diagnosis with type 1 diabetes and how they manage it — together
Denise Jonas — mother of the teen heartthrobs Kevin, Joe, and Nick Jonas of the boy band the Jonas Brothers — was shocked when her youngest, Nick, now 16, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2005. We sat down with Denise, her husband, Kevin, and Nick — a spokesperson for Bayer Diabetes Care — to talk about how he’s able to control, even transcend, the disease.
GH: Nick, what were your symptoms right before you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?
Nick Jonas: All these things were happening. I was losing weight, drinking tons of water, using the restroom all the time. I was peeing 20 times a day! I couldn’t close my mouth because I was so thirsty and my tongue would get very hard. We were staying in a hotel at the time, and I remember going back to the room and sitting in a chair. I sat there by myself for 15 minutes, and didn’t fall asleep. My parents walked in and that was the moment they knew something was wrong. We went to the doctor the next day, and found out it was diabetes.
GH: Many people experience intense cravings before they’re diagnosed. Did you?
Nick: Yes, I was really, really hungry for certain foods, like Pizza Hut pizza. I actually had this whole plan the night I was diagnosed. I had this craving for steak and Pizza Hut. Obviously I didn’t have either one that night.
GH: When you found out you had diabetes, your blood sugar level was over 700 milligrams per deciliter, right? (Normal is about 70 to 120 mg/dl.)
Nick: Yes. My doctor actually told me at 500 mg/dl, I could have lost my vision.
GH: Denise, was it a complete shock to learn that Nick had type 1 diabetes?
Denise Jonas: Well, I knew Nick was hungry and thirsty and very moody, which is unlike him. Those are classic signs of diabetes, but at the time I thought maybe they were related to growing.
GH: After the diagnosis, what were you thinking initially? Were you scared?
Denise: I was terrified that diabetes might ruin Nick’s life. I thought that his being diagnosed would completely stop all the progress that he had made so far. I thought all his hopes and dreams would be completely devastated by it, and it might stop him from touring and performing and doing what he loves. But he proved me wrong. Taking the time to be educated was a big factor for both of us, and for our family. We started learning as much as we could, to help him manage his condition.
GH: How do you manage your diabetes day to day, Nick?
Nick: It starts in the morning. When I wake up, the first thing I do is check my blood sugar, see where I am. Then, I usually eat breakfast, typically an omelet because it has eggs, which are good, and other things that help me stay stable. Throughout the day, I check my blood sugar regularly, probably 9 to 10 times a day.
GH: Your shows are so full of energy. You do flips, stunts — you don’t stop! I’d imagine you’d have to be in top shape to perform the way you do.
Nick: Yeah, it could be dangerous if I had a low and then went out on stage. The good thing is that the Bayer Contour meter I use is very accurate. Say my blood sugar was 20 mg/dl off when I went on stage — that 20 could mean a lot by the end of the day.
GH: So you use the Bayer Contour meter to check your glucose levels, but you also give yourself insulin shots, right? Denise, were needles scary for him at first?
Denise: There is very little that actually scares Nicholas, but yes, he does give himself shots when needed. He wears an insulin pump, so shots aren't needed all the time. The shots were an adjustment for him at first, I think, but he is more adjusted than I am to everything! He is pretty amazing and has handled this tremendously well.
GH: How has Nick’s diet changed since the diagnosis? Is there anything he can't eat anymore?
Denise: He certainly has removed a lot of his sugar intake and stays away from regular soda. He no longer drinks regular Coke, or eats things like syrup on waffles and pancakes. He misses it, but he has adjusted.
GH: Kevin, what do you think families need to know if a child is diagnosed with a chronic health condition?
Kevin Jonas: Well, obviously we’ve seen that you can live your dreams and do what you want while still dealing with a chronic illness. Life is difficult as it is. You add diabetes on top of it, and it becomes even more difficult. So I think it’s important to find ways to simplify life with diabetes. That’s what we’ve found. I believe that’s possible when you rely on other people, like your family. I’m an independent person and always have been, but I also rely on my family’s support and their help with it all.
GH: Denise, what advice do you have for moms?
Denise: If your child develops a chronic disease, you can’t let your fear hold him back. You have to help him live his dreams — healthily. And try not to be too hard on yourself as a mom. I can be really hard on myself sometimes. You just have to remember that you’ve been given this child as a gift, and it’s your job to support him and let him flourish