Diabetes can be scary not only for the person with the diagnosis, but their loved ones as well. In their new documentary “Chasing Happiness,” the Jonas brothers, as well as their parents and manager, opened up about the concerning symptoms they noticed that eventually led to Nick’s diagnosis with type 1 diabetes in 2005 at age 13.
The documentary, released on Amazon Prime June 4, chronicles the musical trio’s life story. While the brothers were on tour in 2005, that’s when they saw the first sign something was different about Nick. As dad Kevin Sr. explained, the band members said Nick was starting to get more moody, direct and agitated.
Greg Garbowsky, the Jonas brothers’ former manager, said while on the road, Nick frequently demanded they pull over so he could get pizza and diet Coke.
“He would say, ‘I need it,'” Garbowsky said.
Kevin said Nick would get a massive Big Gulp soda from 7-11 every time they stopped. Band members were concerned that he was so thirsty — Garbowsky said they’d have to pull the car over, Nick would get out, run into the woods to pee, then get back in the car and they’d have to stop again two miles later.
“We’d stop every 15 minutes because Nick really had to pee,” Joe said. “It was like a running joke.”
Kevin said a scary moment for him came when he, Nick and Joe were sharing a room. When Nick changed his clothes, Kevin realized he could see every bone in his body. As Nick’s health got worse, it became clear it was time to get help.
“I went to my parents’ house crying and said something’s wrong with Nick, we have to bring him to the doctor,” Joe said.
Nick said his pediatrician looked at him, listened to his symptoms and started to tear up. She told him to go straight to the hospital. Mom Denise said when he was told he had type 1 diabetes, Nick asked, “Am I going to die?”
Joe said he passed out in Nick’s hospital room because he couldn’t see him hooked up to the machines.
“It was a really life-shifting moment for everybody,” Joe said.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic illness in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that allows sugar in your blood to enter your cells. Without insulin, the level of sugar in the blood can swing dangerously high or low. Symptoms of low blood sugar include excessive hunger, irritability, sweating, lightheadedness and confusion.
High blood sugar causes symptoms like increased thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, fatigue and blurred vision. Type 1 diabetes has no cure, but is manageable by monitoring what you eat and taking precise amounts of prescription insulin to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Kevin Sr. said in addition to being worried about Nick’s health, there were also professional concerns — they had an upcoming show all the executives from Sony, their label, were planning to attend. They agreed not to tell the label about Nick’s diagnosis, which they were afraid would make them think he couldn’t work.
“You don’t want to give a label an excuse to drop you, which would have been the lowest thing anybody could have done, but it’s a crazy business,” Kevin Sr. explained. “Nick said, ‘Get out of my way, we’re doing the show and we’re going to kill it.’ And he went from the hospital to the stage and the three of them just rocked it.”
Nick went public with his diabetes diagnosis in 2007 and since then has been an advocate for diabetes support and awareness. He co-founded Beyond Type 1, a non-profit organization that funds programs dedicated to education, advocacy and funding scientific research.
While it may sometimes feel like you’re alone in your diabetes journey, there are so many out there who understand exactly what you’re coping with. Check out these stories written by people living with diabetes:
- Yes, I Can Eat That: How to Deal With the Diabetes ‘Food Police’
- Mental Illness: The Diabetes Complication We Don’t Talk About
- The Divide Between People With Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes That Needs to End
“Chasing Happiness” is available to stream on Amazon Prime.