Bret Michaels Appreciation Post

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.

It would be friggen’ sweet if Bret Michaels saw this post.

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.




TypeOneNation, Boston: A Wicked Fun Family Reunion

St. Patrick’s Day is a favorite holiday of mine because I enjoy celebrating my Irish heritage. Almost every year, I eat a traditional boiled dinner, listen to Irish music, and wear an excessive amount of green.

This year, though, was a little different. In addition to all of the above, I attended the TypeOneNation summit in Boston. The event was organized by JDRF and just about 900 people with diabetes attended, along with their families and caregivers.

There’s nothing like being in Boston on St. Paddy’s day, even if it is for an event that has nothing to do with the holiday’s shenanigans. The spirit of the day made it slightly less painful to wake up at the crack of dawn in order to catch an early morning commuter rail into the city. As I sipped an Irish cream iced coffee from Honey Dew (absolutely delicious) on the ride, I got myself pumped up for what would surely be a fun day.

Once we arrived at the Back Bay station, I was one frigid (and mercifully short) walk away from the event space: the Boston Marriott Copley hotel. I went straight to the registration table so I could receive a name tag and itinerary, then made a beeline for the vendor hall. You can never have too much free diabetes swag, am I right?

Within the hall, I recognized many familiar faces and happily made the rounds to chat with some of my T1D friends in attendance. I couldn’t help but feel like I was at a family reunion of sorts as I reconnected with people who I don’t get to see often enough.

I was pumped to see some friends I’ve made through the CDN at the summit!

Before long, the events of the day got into full swing as the keynote speaker, Nicole Johnson, addressed the crowd. Nicole won the Miss America pageant in 1999 soon after she received her diabetes diagnosis. She’s done many incredible things since earning that accolade, and she delivered an inspiring speech about living life with diabetes to the fullest. As she spoke, I looked around the room and noticed all the little kids who were there. It warmed my heart to see how they received Nicole’s words. Many of them looked at her in absolute awe. It was obvious that they thought she was pretty great, and I bet that having diabetes in common with her helped them to feel just as cool. Nicole is definitely a wonderful role model!

The rest of the day went by much too quickly as I went to two different talks offered at the summit. One was about going to college with diabetes, and the other was about sex and drugs – the “taboo” diabetes topics. Even though I’ve already experienced what it’s like to go off to college with diabetes, I wanted to go to this talk because it was given by my friends from the CDN. I also wanted to meet the parents and children at the session because I was curious to learn about their concerns. As someone who went to a very similar talk seven (?!) years ago, I felt that I could potentially offer reassurance to these families, especially since the whole college experience was so recent for me. And it turned out that the woman seated next to me was an anxious mom who seemed receptive to the words of encouragement I spoke to her at the end of the panel. While I believe that the session could’ve lasted many more hours (everyone was so engaged in the conversation), I think that the session acted as a good launching point into future discussions for many families who are going to make this transition soon.

I wolfed down a quick lunch – I loved seeing the food labeled with carb counts – before heading to the next session. I chose it because, c’mon, a title like “Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll” can get anyone’s attention. Plus, I feel very strongly that the touchier diabetes topics SHOULD be talked about more often. They can be scary to approach, but it’s important to know what to expect in certain situations in which diabetes can play a major role. I had to duck out of this one a bit early to catch the commuter rail back home, but they were delving into some pretty juicy stuff when I got up to leave. I give major credit to all of the panelists in that one – it can’t be easy to talk about highly personal intimate matters in a room filled with strangers!

Although my time at the summit was truncated, I’m so glad that I took the time to go to it. It’s no secret that I enjoy talking with other people with diabetes. Hearing their stories and sharing experiences makes diabetes feel less isolating. And I’m thrilled that I finally got to meet a few people I knew from the DOC but had yet to see in person!

Diabetes conferences, meet-ups, summits…they’re the types of family reunions you actually get excited about and want to attend.