Musician Bret Michaels seems to have done it all. Earlier this year he won NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” and raised more than $300,000 for the American Diabetes Association. To help the Association raise awareness about the seriousness of diabetes and the importance of prevention and control, Bret is representing the “Face of Diabetes” and is involved in various activities including being featured in a public service announcement campaign that he helped produce.
Bret and I have at least two things in common: the same birthday and the same chronic disease; type 1 diabetes. So I wanted to hear what he has to say about living with diabetes, being part of American Diabetes Month®, and more:
You’ve had a very busy and extremely successful year so far – what inspired you to add representing American Diabetes Month as the Face of Diabetes to everything else?
This cause is so important to me. Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at such a young age had a profound impact on me – it’s a huge part of who I am, so of course this is something I feel incredibly passionate about.
Diabetes doesn’t have to derail your dreams. I’m so proud to be the “Face of Diabetes;” if my work can remind other people who are struggling with the disease that it is possible to manage diabetes and still live an amazing life, then I’m happy.
What’s your daily diabetes routine look like?
Every day is a battle. You have to wake up and say to yourself, ‘I accept that I have diabetes, and I’m not going to let it run my entire life.’ It’s a fine line, a catch-22, a balancing act. I work to enjoy my life like a regular human being and at the same time keep my blood sugar levels as decent as possible.
Do you find it harder to maintain when you’re on tour?
For sure, being on the road for months on end can mess with my routine. I test my blood sugar about six to eight times a day and eat smaller meals all day long to keep my blood sugar even.
Did you ever struggle with how diabetes fits into your identity? If so, how did you overcome this?
This is disease is something I’ve been struggling with for more than four decades. Diabetes is undeniably a huge part of who I am and it is definitely something I’ve worked hard to come to grips with. At the same time, I’ve never let it limit me or hold me back. All I can do is take it one day at a time and be thankful for every day I handle successfully.
You were diagnosed at a young age – what do you remember?
I was six years old when I was diagnosed with diabetes; I remember I was in between kindergarten and first grade. It came on really quickly and I will never forget how extremely sick and dehydrated I was. Everything I drank or ate immediately came out of me. At two or three in the morning my mom and dad took me to the Harrisburg hospital (in Harrisburg, PA) – the doctors in the emergency room knew what the problem was right off the bat; they recognized that it was type 1 diabetes immediately.
What do you wish someone had told you when you were first diagnosed? What would you say to kids who have just been diagnosed?
When I was first diagnosed I had no idea what was happening to me or going on inside my body. Before my parents took me to the hospital, my stomach was bloated and I was literally drinking almost a gallon of water at a time. Because my parents didn’t know what diabetes was, they were giving me soda to drink, which was not only dehydrating me more, but making my blood sugar go up twice as much. Learning more about the disease and how to keep your blood sugar stable is hugely important in living with the disease, so I would tell kids who have been diagnosed to definitely accumulate as much knowledge as possible about diabetes, just be aware and arm yourself with as much information as you can.
We just celebrated Halloween a few weeks ago, which can be tricky for kids with diabetes. What was that like for you as a kid? And, because we’re curious – what did you dress up as? (I’m secretly hoping David Cassidy is an answer here…)
I love Halloween now with my daughters, and I loved it as a kid, too. Even without all the candy. Just dressing up and having a good time going out with all of my friends – for me that was what the holiday was all about. And you know, I never dressed up as David Cassidy as a kid but maybe I should borrow your idea for next year, it might make a good costume…
Thanks so much for taking the time to share a little about you with us. We hope you have a very happy American Diabetes Month! Do you have any special activities planned for November to celebrate/acknowledge this?
This being American Diabetes Month, I’m trying to speak out about the disease as much as possible. I really want to be a positive role model for others in the diabetes community who are suffering, so I’m going to stick to my daily routine, keep my blood sugar stable, serve as a positive role model, and take every opportunity to spread awareness about the disease.
Sounds like a great plan! If you could tell the world one thing about diabetes, what would it be?
Diabetes is a disease, yes, but it’s manageable one. You can have diabetes and still accomplish all kinds of unbelievable things. If I can help remind people of that, then I’m incredibly honored. If anything, diabetes is just a challenge to overcome – a prompt to be mindful of and grateful for my health, and a cue to dream bigger and do more.