Denise Jonas is the mother of a kid with diabetes, only her kid with diabetes happens to be Nick Jonas (known in the teen circles as “OMG Nick Jonas,” first name “OMG”).  Denise recently stepped in as celebrity spokesmom for the Disney Online and Lilly Diabetes collaboration I (and lots of others) blogged about this morning, and she was able to take a few minutes out of her whirlwind media schedule for the Once Upon a Time Contest to chat with me on the phone.  Gracious, kind, and definitely not in denial about the challenges of life with type 1 diabetes, Denise is as sweet as she seems.  Pun sort of intended, I guess.  😉

KERRI:  Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Denise!  When I was diagnosed with diabetes, support was only within my zip code.  Things are, thankfully, different now.  When your son Nick was diagnosed at age 13, where did you turn for support in those first few weeks?

DENISE:  At first, most of our support came from the hospital.  The medical staff that surrounded us in New Jersey were tremendous.  We had three days of training, and educated us about everything, even about our emotional health.  Everyone around Nick was trained to check him and administer his insulin.  Early on, I consulted mostly with her nurse for information.  But my sons are from the younger generation, and my other two sons immediately went online and found out as much information as they could.  They were scouring for information.

For Nick, he just wanted to know who else had diabetes.  “Who are other celebrities who have type 1 diabetes – give me a list,” he asked after his diagnosis.  Only I didn’t know of any.  We knew about a lot of athletes, but not many other public figures.

KERRI:  As the mom of a person with diabetes, the worry doesn’t stop even though your son is now managing his own care.  How did you let go a little and help him take the reins on the control of his diabetes?

DENISE:  I have to say, if you know Nick, this is the person he’s always been.  He’s an old soul.  He’s always taken the reins with his life.  We all, as parents, have to learn how to let go.  It’s hard.  Diabetes affects those who can handle it.  I’ve always said that about my son – he can handle this.

KERRI:  I know that my mother and I battled incessantly about two things growing up:  boys … and diabetes. How do you maintain a good relationship with Nick when it comes to his diabetes management, and what advice would you have for other parents or caregiver?

DENISE:  It’s hard to parent.  You always have to remain a parent and not try to be something different.  You’re always the parent.  But don’t be afraid to be concerned and care and to inspire.  Try not to let anything limit [your child].  Which is why I believe in this partnership.  The inspiration that is being offered is amazing.  That’s why I believe in this.  

KERRI:  Which is the perfect segue to my next question.  Even though both your son and I are now “grown ups” (technically) with diabetes, it’s still nice to have fun and relatable role models.  How do you feel about the addition of type 1 diabetes to Coco’s character?  What was Nick’s reaction?  

DENISE:  Nick is always in support of an influence encouraging awareness of type 1 diabetes.  We meet lots of families with younger children who want someone to identify with.  I’ve had several parents tell me [laughs] that their kids have dressed up for Halloween as Nick. 

KERRI:  That is what makes Coco and Nick so inspiring.  Not that Nick is a cartoon character, but he and Coco have made having diabetes cool, you know?  Something that kids think is cool.

DENISE:  That’s exactly it.  I believe so whole-heartedly that this is the most exciting thing I’ve seen in a long time.  The education [for families of the newly diagnosed] is limited to a certain extent.  Medical information is absolutely important, but day-to-day encouragement of how to live with this every day and deal with emotions and find the magic in things is needed, too.  This is why I wanted to partner [with Lilly and Disney] on this project.  To help people find the magic.

KERRI:  And can I just say that I think it’s awesome that the prize for the winning contest entry helps bring a family to next year’s Friends for Life conference?

DENISE:  It is amazing.  So truly amazing.  [And at that point, I could honestly hear her smiling, even over the phone.]

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Thank you to Denise Jonas for her endless support of the diabetes community.  You can click here to learn more about the Once Upon a Time contest.  Hope to see the Jonas family at #FFL12!  

Now if only she could get Nick to visit the ladies at Clara Barton Camp … I mean, he never had a chance to attend diabetes camp.  I’m sure they’d love to have him stop by.