Elliott Yamin and Inspired by Diabetes
During our interview, we talked about his type 1 diabetes diagnosis at the age of 16. "I was feeling ill for about 2 1/2 weeks. My mom [who has type 2 diabetes] tested my blood sugar and it was high. This all happened on a Sunday, so we went to the emergency room, where they tested my blood sugar at 870 mg/dl."
Holy crap, 870 mg/dl?
"So it was an instant change for you and your family, I'm guessing."
"Sort of. We had a gradual change in diets, but I was rebellious about it. I had to learn the hard way to take care of myself."
We traded stories about some of the more difficult moments with diabetes. He talked about being on stage and under the hot lights, then dipping neatly into a low.
"There was a regular Pepsi there, so I grabbed it and drank it down real fast. I felt better, but it was tough because drinking down all that carbonated soda so fast, I kept burping through the sound checks. You know?"
I couldn't help but laugh - I'd love the opportunity to burp through a soundcheck.
Elliott spent several years on multiple daily injections and experienced a number of hypoglycemic seizures. It wasn't until he was 21 years old, when he met a co-worker who was wearing an insulin pump, that he started thinking about pump therapy.
"He showed me his pump and how it worked and all that." He made an appointment with his co-worker's endocrinologist and worked hard to lower his A1C in preparation for the pump. About four months later, he was hooked up and pumping.
As diabetics often do, we touched upon "a cure."
"I want a cure. Of course I want a cure. And I think we're getting close. I'm happy to be able to use my position and my voice to be involved in these great programs and charities. It would be a sin for me not to do anything [to raise awareness]."
I agreed. "Raising awareness is important. It's good that you're public about your disease, unlike some celebrities."
"Well, it sucks. Diabetes sucks sometimes."
Finally, a celebrity who acknowledges that it's not an easy condition. He gets it. Diabetes can really suck. Raising awareness and working towards a cure is crucial.
One event that Elliott is involved with is the Inspired by Diabetes campaign. This campaign asks people with diabetes, as well as their family, friends and healthcare professionals, to express how diabetes has impacted their lives — and share those stories with others around the world. Elliott will be helping to judge entries in the Inspired by Diabetes Creative Expression Competition and is donating a package of concert tickets and backstage passes for U.S. grand prize winners.
"Dream big," he offered his words of wisdom to the diabetes community, as we ended our phone call. "Always dream big. And continue to watch your blood sugars. It's hard for young people to see how diabetes affects us long-term. Understand that it's controllable. We can live long and healthy lives."