When you’re living with an incurable illness, even the simplest tasks can feel like a struggle.
On days like that, it’s nice to have a reminder that diabetes doesn’t define you. It doesn’t control you. Diabetes is a part of you, but it’s the part that makes you stronger and forces you to be better.
If you’re in need of that reminder today, here are 10 celebrities who prove diabetes doesn’t have to stand in the way of living your life or achieving your dreams.
One of the most fascinating things about the Jay Cutler diabetes story is that this talented football player was well on his way to achieving his dreams of an NFL career BEFORE his T1D diagnosis.
Jay was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2006. Throughout his first year in the NFL, he struggled with weight loss and fatigue. It wasn’t until 2008, at the age of 25, that he finally received his diagnosis.
But the timing was actually perfect. Jay had the entire summer to learn about the disease and find the treatment regimens that worked best for him. By the time the 2008 season rolled around, he had his blood sugars under control, felt stronger than he had in years, and was ready to get back on the field.
Jean Smart is an actress who has performed on Broadway, on TV, and on the big screen. She is most well known for her role in the series Frasier, and the movies Garden State and Sweet Home Alabama.
Jean was diagnosed with Type 1 at the age of 13. But it wasn’t until she became pregnant at the age of 36 that the importance of managing her blood sugars really hit home. At that point, she had already starred on Broadway and was currently involved in the TV series Designing Women.
Despite less than perfect numbers early on, Jean gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Today she relies on exercise, eating right, and frequent blood sugar checks to keep herself healthy. She is an avid supporter of the JDRF and ADA.
Surviving the 80s as the frontman of a hairband is a feat but doing so while living with type 1 diabetes is even more incredible.
Bret Michaels, the lead singer of Poison, was diagnosed with type 1 at the age of 6. Bret always used his music as a type of therapy to help him deal with the grueling nature of the disease. But it wasn’t until he collapsed on stage from low blood sugar in 1987 that he finally shared that struggle with the world.
Today, Bret works with multiple diabetes organizations and has even founded his own charity to help children suffering from the disease.
As if being the first Latina and Hispanic Justice on the Supreme Court wasn’t a large enough accomplishment, Sonia Sotomayer was able to get there after living with type 1 diabetes for most of her life.
Sonia was diagnosed in the early 60s at the age of 7. She recalls boiling her syringes to sterilize them before giving herself insulin injections when she was young. At the time, talking about a disease like diabetes wasn’t something people did. And Sonia, especially, didn’t want people to pity her.
Today, Sonia is very open about her diabetes and has even recently released an autobiography, My Beloved World (Amazon), in which she describes her life with the disease as well as her historic rise to the Supreme Court.
As one of the most famous young celebrities with type 1, Nick Jonas has always been vocal about his struggle with the disease.
Nick was diagnosed at the age of 13 after extreme weight loss landed him in the hospital. It was the same year he formed his now-famous band with his brothers. Rising to fame while learning how to deal with a life-changing condition was certainly challenging, but it also forced Nick to be open with his fans about his diabetes.
As a co-founder of Beyond Type 1, a social media-based community for kids with T1D, Nick continues to be an outspoken role model for those living with diabetes today.
Author Anna Rice, best known for her book Interview with a Vampire (Amazon), was in her late 50s when she was diagnosed with type 1. Years of symptoms including weight loss, headaches, and stomach pain finally ended in a coma.
By that point, Anna was already well into her career as a writer and has since written short stories about living with the disease. She frequently uses her brush with death as a muse for her fiction and recognizes that diabetes can be both a curse and a driver for positive change.
Vanessa Williams has accomplished a lot. She’s a model, actress, dancer, and singer. And she has done it all while living with type 1 diabetes.
Vanessa was young when she was first diagnosed with the disease and credits her mother for helping her develop healthy eating habits and encouraging her to stay active. She doesn’t focus on the disease or other common measures of health like the number on a scale. Instead, she focuses on how she feels inside and adjusts her diet and activity level in response to that.
Gary Hall Jr. was following in his dad’s footsteps as an Olympic swimmer when he received his T1D diagnosis. It was 1999, three years after Hall had already won four medals swimming in the 1996 Olympics.
At the time, his doctors told him he would never swim competitively again. With the same determination that drove his athletic career, he aimed to prove them wrong. He won four Olympic medals the following year, despite suffering both extremely low and extremely high blood sugars during competition.
Surprisingly, one of Gary’s biggest challenges post-diagnosis was obtaining health insurance. Despite being a world-class athlete, he was forced to pay tens-of-thousands of dollars for insurance until the ACA was passed.
Gary continued to collect medals in the 2004 games and today spends much of his time advocating for diabetic athletes.
Crystal Bowersox placed 2nd in the 2010 season of American Idol despite suffering from a severe episode of DKA halfway through the season. In fact, she had to beg the network to let her stay on the show after she was hospitalized.
Luckily, after agreeing to have a nurse stay with her 24/7, Crystal was allowed to finish the competition. She has used her newfound fame to speak out about diabetes. She is also a passionate supporter of the JDRF.
Sam Fuld is a former Major League Baseball player who spent time batting for the Cubs, Twins, Athletics, and Rays.
Sam was diagnosed with T1D at the age of 10. But, even as a kid, he had his sights set on playing in the big leagues, and diabetes wasn’t about to change that. He continued to follow that dream through college and the minor leagues while keeping a close eye on his blood sugars.
Now that his MLB career is over, Sam dedicates much of his time to running baseball camps for kids with T1D and raising money to find a cure.