Nick, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2005, is a diabetes ambassador who blogs about his experiences on nickssimplewins.com.
According to the 15-year-old boy bander, rapid weightloss, frequent bathroom usage, changing attitude and food cravings were signs that he had developed the medical condition, but his parents didn’t notice his decline because they weren’t with them on tour.
Wait, a bad attitude?
“A bad attitude is an uncontrollable thing and that’s one of the symptoms,” Nick says. “For me, being on tour, having a bad attitude with people at 7:30 in the morning is not a good environment. I was also having weird cravings where you have things that come up and I was like ‘I need Pizza Hut.’ That was it, that’s all I needed. Our tour manager was like ‘we’re going to stop for some food, what do you guys want?’ and I said ‘Pizza Hut. I need to have Pizza Hut.’ And I am a very nice person, and usually I’m flexible when it comes to food choices, but in this case I wasn’t really flexible. I made them pull the car over to go there.”
Mom Denise says, “As the mother of teenagers, I heard a lot about ‘oh they’re just being a teenager’ but we never let ourselves think with that whole philosophy that kids when they’re two have to be terrible twos. We were like ‘we’re going to call it the terrific twos, and we’re going to teach them what’s proper behavior.’ So when our kids were acting unusual, we didn’t think ‘oh, they’re acting like teenagers.’ We let them know that life is not about themselves all the time – it’s about this family and other people. Nick was an exceptionally wonderful child – he was a little different from his brothers [laughs] – he really didn’t need to be corrected. That’s how he got the nickname Mr. President. So when he did start to show those signs, we didn’t say ‘he’s just acting like a teenager.’ As a parent, don’t just blow it off. Pay attention to their mood swings.”
Mom Denise urges parents to get their kids tested if they see signs.
“Move quickly because it could take over very rapidly and it could be very serious,” she says.
How did his brothers react to the changes and diagnosis?
“We were on tour and we shared a room, and we went to the pool,” Joe, 19, says. “He took off his shirt, and you could see his bones, so I was really scared. I said to my parents ‘mom and dad, there’s something wrong with Nick. We have to go to the hospital today.’ I remember my dad being like ‘when I was growing up, it was kind of the same thing.’ I was like ‘I don’t know dad.’”
Joe continues, “I remember going to the hospital and freaking out and actually passing out on the floor because I didn’t know what diabetes was. I’m happy that he’s OK now, and I’m happy that he’s in the band. At every meet-and-greet, thousands of kids walk through thanking Nick for being such a positive light. You get onstage, and he talks about his message and his story, and a lot of kids can relate. It’s really cool.”
Explaining the condition to their brother Frankie, now 7, proved comical.
“I told him there’s something wrong with my pancreas,” Nick says. “Once I got comfortable, I wasn’t so sensitive and I could take a joke. I do pull it some times, like ‘I’m diabetic, you know.’ Once I started pulling that, Frankie used to call me Pancreas Boy. That was the nickname I got.”
Kevin, 20, says, “We all sat down with Frankie and said ‘Nick is in the hospital, he’s being taken care of and he’ll be home in a couple days.’ I remember this look over his face, and he told us [confidently] ‘he’ll be OK.’”
How do his costars like Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez handle it when he tells them he’s diabetic?
“It’s always ‘oh my cousin or my friend had this,’” Nick says. “When I tell them ‘this is how it works, and this is how this works so if I’m ever in an emergency, this is what you need to do,’ then I can educate.”
“And one thing for all the dads out there who tell their kids to ‘just walk it off,’ don’t, because I made every excuse possible,” Dad Kevin says. “Typically, if they strained their ankle I was trained to say ‘walk it off’ and they’d end up with a broken foot. In diabetes, it was a case of rapid weightloss, he was lethargic.”
Nick chimes in, “When I said ‘Dad, I lost 15 lbs. in two weeks, is there something wrong?’ he was like ‘I lost 15 lbs in two weeks when I was your age.’”
Nick adjusts for high blood sugar with insulin, and low blood sugar with food.
Dad Kevin continues, “We operate as a family, so when Nick has a low before he goes onstage, everybody’s on call and they’re just watching Nick onstage, waiting with supplies, snacks and juice ready to help him.”
It’s all worth it for Nick.
“Hearing people say to me that ‘you’re an inspiration’ just means so much because all I’m doing is trying to make it through another day with diabetes, and they’re doing the same,” Nick says. “We need to do that for each other.”
The Jonas Brothers tune A Little Bit Longer was inspired by Nick‘s diabetes fight.
“Originally the concept of the song started out as a love song,” he says. “It really had a strong impression when we were on the set of Camp Rock about nine months ago. My sugar was so out of range, and I was having a rough day, so I sat down at the piano and wrote a song in twenty minutes. I think it was because I had the inspiration from how I was feeling. It says ‘you don’t know what it’s like to feel so low.’ Lyrics that I write – I always try to have a double meaning to them. The low concept, the whole concept is you don’t even know.”
Nick continues, “People always say ‘so you can’t eat this, you can’t eat that’ and I say to them ‘no, I just have to manage what I eat and make sure I take insulin for it.’ It’s a little frustrating to be like ‘this is how it is, this is how it works.’ That whole concept is ‘we can relate with each other but knowing I don’t know specifically how you feel.’ A lot of people have told me that they’re happy I can share my story, and they can relate to it.”