Jay Cutler Says He Likes Blogs.
Jay Cutler plays football and knows a lot about it. Quarterback for the Denver Broncos, Jay know what all those flags and whistles and snaps and other football terms mean.
So far, Jay Cutler and I have very little in common.
However, last April, Jay was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Jay and I now have a whole lot in common.
Jay took a few minutes to talk with me about his diabetes diagnosis, bringing diabetes onto the football field, and his passion for the Inspired by Diabetes campaign.
Kerri: When, and how, were you diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?
Jay: I was diagnosed in April 2008. I knew something was wrong through most of the 2007 season, and I lost about 35 pounds. People said it was the stress of playing in the NFL, but all kinds of things go through your mind, like maybe I have cancer. After six months not feeling well, the doctors diagnosed me with type 1. My blood sugar level was about 550. It was a relief, really. It’s not easy to live with diabetes, but I was glad to know it was something I can manage.
Kerri: Most people with type 1 are diagnosed when they are small children, leaving us with no real sense of "before" and "after." Do you feel that there is a benefit to being diagnosed as an adult?
Jay: I just can’t imagine what it would be like to be diagnosed as a kid. I visited a children’s hospital in Tampa during Super Bowl week and met a 4-year-old boy who had been diagnosed when he was 1. And I’ve met a lot of other kids who were still young but are really veterans because they were diagnosed at 4, 5, 6 years old. Those are tough kids, and tough parents, to have to deal with this at such a young age.
Kerri: What has been the most challenging part of the "diabetes learning curve"? Or the easiest part?
Jay: I think the toughest part is that first few weeks, while you’re getting used to taking insulin shots and pricking your fingers so many times every day. The easiest part? There’s nothing easy about diabetes. But I’m lucky to good people around me to help manage every day.
Kerri: How do you manage your diabetes during a game? Have you had any lows on the field? Felt affected by highs?
Jay: I usually check my blood sugar four different times, about an hour before the game. I try to stay around 150-160 before the game. In the first half, I’ll test a few times to make sure I’m not getting low. The adrenaline and emotions of the game can make me drop in a hurry, so I try to stay in check. If I’m steady in the first half, I don’t check as often in the second half. I’ve had one time, when we played Kansas City earlier this season, when I felt low during a series on the field, but we always have some Gatorade ready in case I need it.
Kerri: What are you using, technology-wise, to manage your diabetes? Do you have any interest in an insulin pump? A continuous glucose monitoring system?
Jay: I tried a pump and a continuous monitoring system right after I was diagnosed, but using the pen just fits better into my line of work and lifestyle.
Kerri: Since you're in the public eye, do you feel you have a responsibility to disclose your diabetes? Do you feel pressure to be the perfect diabetic?
Jay: I didn’t want to shy away from it at all. I think I can be an inspiration for people dealing with diabetes, especially kids. I think it’s important to let kids know they can achieve their goals and dreams, and that even though having diabetes is tough, it’s possible to do what you want to do in life. That’s why I wanted to team up with Lilly on the Inspired by Diabetes campaign. But it is tough, and I know I’m not going to be perfect. I’m going to have my ups and downs too, just like everybody else.
Kerri: You're probably used to being interviewed by ESPN junkies and football fans, but now kids with diabetes specifically are looking up to you. What kind of message do you have for kids in the diabetes community?
Jay: I love the message of the Inspired by Diabetes contest being run by Lilly. First, we want to hear the stories of people affected by diabetes, especially kids, to hear how they’re dealing with it. A lot of people know my story, but all these stories can be inspiring to other people. There’s also a great message behind the campaign, that by telling your story you can help other kids with diabetes through the donations Lilly is making to the ADA for diabetes camps. It’s a great cause with a great message.
Kerri: Since you are new to diabetes - less than a year since your diagnosis - what kind of message do you want the diabetes community to offer you? Do you turn to things like blogs, message boards, and other online resources for that sense of "community?"
Jay: When I was diagnosed, I noticed there’s a lot of information on the internet, but not as many personal stories. I think blogs are a great forum for that.
Kerri: Thanks, Jay, for being part of the community.