We first learned of Nick at our OmniPod training in April 2007. Caleb was diagnosed only months earlier and one of the things that provided me great comfort was learning about people living full, enriching lives with diabetes. I heard of everyday people – someone’s friend’s daughter or other patients of Caleb’s endo. There weren’t too many public figures living with diabetes that I found relatable. So when I heard of a young man who was diagnosed shortly before Caleb, using the same pump as Caleb, and was continuing with his career in the public eye, I was intrigued.
Since then, Caleb has become a true Nick fan. He owns his music, has been to his concerts, and has various books, magazines and paraphernalia featuring Nick and his brothers. Caleb enjoys singing, plays the piano, is learning the guitar and recently acquired a set of drums which he practices daily – sound familiar?
When I saw the tweet from Amy about Bayer’s Express Your Simple Win contest last spring, Caleb and I got to work. In October he found out he was one of three grand prize winners and would be meeting Nick in Orlando.
Caleb, his brother Colin and I had the privilege of meeting Kevin, Joe and Nick at their concert in Bethel Woods in August 2008. It was a fantastic experience. We waited two hours to meet them for about 2 minutes. As soon as Nick heard that Caleb also has diabetes, his focus was 100% on Caleb. There were high fives, fist bumps, some words exchanged, a picture taken and huge smiles. Caleb’s reaction was priceless. He skipped out of there declaring, “that wait was totally worth it!!” I saw firsthand the real, tangible influence that Nick has. Two minutes was a thrill; I couldn’t imagine what an intimate meeting would be like.
Here’s how it went:
Upon checking in at the hotel, we heard, “Are you here for the Simple Wins contest? Is that Caleb?” It was Bradley, one of the other winners, and his mom. Caleb was so excited to meet them. That night, Caleb and I stepped out on the balcony of our room and heard, “Oh my goodness – is that Caleb? We’ve been looking for you all day!” It was Lauren, the other winner, with her mom and sister on the balcony next to us. Another great thrill. Meeting Bradley and Lauren was a prize in and of itself to Caleb. They were able to talk amongst themselves, whether about baseball, singing, helping the community, or about diabetes, and feel connected. There was an instant bond.
On the day of the meet, the winners were brought to a grand conference room. Inside they chatted, took pictures and waited. First came Big Rob. He greeted everyone (or perhaps scoped out the room for Nick’s safety) and took pictures. Caleb was on top on the world. Rob left and while everyone talked about what fun that was, Nick nonchalantly entered.
The first thing I remember him saying was to Caleb: “I know that YOU are a Yankees fan. You’re a good man.” I didn’t think it could get better than that moment. The four of them spoke of their interests, their stay in Orlando, the music they liked and they talked about diabetes too. He asked Caleb if he ever went low while he was playing baseball. It was nice. It was comfortable. It was exciting.
They took some pictures, Nick autographed Caleb’s Burning Up book on the page where Nick talks about his diabetes (Caleb proudly declaring, “I read the whole thing”). Then they sat down and chatted some more. Caleb talked about the concerts he attended. Nick recalled being under the weather at one of them. They talked more about the Yankees and the World Series. Nick described how he watched the series on a laptop in Italy at six in the morning. Then “Bounce” became a topic of conversation and Caleb was invited to perform his version of Bog Rob’s “chicken wing” and “ham and cheese”. Big Rob came back in to watch. It was a reserved performance on Caleb’s part, but still great to see it bring smiles to everyone’s faces.
I spoke with Nick’s father, another kind and gracious man. Upon thanking him, he responded, “we understand”. It’s true. They know. He explained that Nick does this because when he was diagnosed, he wanted to know of the athletes and musicians and other public figures who were living with diabetes. The list was short. Nick understands the comfort it brings, and his ability to provide it. So he does.
I spoke to Nick. I took the chance to explain why what he does is important to us. Caleb doesn’t wonder if diabetes will limit him. He has virtually always had Nick as a point of reference to know that it won’t. I don’t think Caleb has yet to even consider if diabetes could be an obstacle to anything he wants to do. I credit Nick a great deal for giving that to him and I told him so.
As things were wrapping up, Caleb mentioned to Nick that they used the same insulin pump. They took turns pulling up their shirts showing each other their Pods.
I have never seen Caleb smile so big or for so long. Ever.
Thank you Nick. Thank you Bayer. You have created meaningful, lifelong memories. The day itself was a thrill, but what I hope is that at least one day in Caleb’s future, when diabetes is proving difficult, he will think back to this meeting in Orlando. He will remember a young man that was not all that different from himself: a young gentleman, with a curl to his hair, a love of music, a charming smile and the same daily challenges to manage his blood sugar.
I hope he will think of Nick and remember that diabetes didn’t slow him down and it doesn’t have to slow Caleb down either.