There’s a bunch of famous T1Ds who would be really cool to meet: Victor Garber, Sonia Sotomayor, Derek Theler, to name a few. And obviously, there’s Nick Jonas, who is probably the most popular of them all. But there’s a different musician with diabetes who I’d be even more eager to meet than Nick – nothing against the guy, of course.
Who do I have in mind? Why, the one and only Bret Michaels, the lead singer of the rock band Poison.
This might surprise some of you – I don’t exactly seem like the type who’s into that sort of music. But I totally am. Nothin’ But a Good Time, Unskinny Bop, and Talk Dirty to Me are among my favorite Poison songs. They’re simply excellent to dance and sing along to, and to play on Guitar Hero (which I did often in the game’s heyday, and absolutely pretended to be a rock and roll guitar QUEEN every time I played it).
And I somewhat ashamedly admit to indulging in Rock of Love when it regularly aired on Vh1. It was Bret’s dating show, and it was like The Bachelor on steroids. Total reality TV trash, but I was hooked on it and never missed a season.
Okay, so you get the idea that Bret Michaels might be a stereotypical rock star who revels in big hair, eyeliner, and female company…but he’s different from most because like me, he has type 1 diabetes.
From what I’ve read and understand, he was only a couple years older than me when he was diagnosed. Growing up, he was the only kid with diabetes in school, which presented its challenges. Arguably, the stigma surrounding diabetes in those days was much stronger, and Bret struggled when his classmates and their parents misunderstood his condition and how it came about. But that didn’t stop Bret from developing into a self-motivated individual. Along with his parents, he started the first youth camp for T1Ds, which still exists today in Pennsylvania. As he grew into adulthood, his passion for music and creativity flourished, and he became a founding member of the band known as Poison today. It took time for Poison to achieve success, but through hardship Bret persevered and took comfort in music as a therapeutic outlet.
It must’ve been difficult for Bret to admit to the world that he had diabetes, but after collapsing onstage at the Madison Square Garden in 1987, he had little choice but to share his story. Instead of dwelling on possible repercussions, though, he chose to work harder rather than give up. Poison’s popularity grew over the years as they found widespread commercial success, but Bret never forgot about supporting diabetes charities like JDRF and the American Diabetes Association. He even founded his own charity that supports youths with diabetes and helps them afford diabetes camps.
I can’t help but appreciate the fact that he’s devoted much of his life to being a performer as well as a philanthropist – neither are easy, and to do both and still manage to take care of his diabetes is something that I think is amazing. That’s why I say move over, Nick Jonas (though he has also done so much for diabetes organizations) – I’d like to meet who I consider the OG T1D philanthropist/celeb, Mr. Bret Michaels.