Jay Cutler

In the past, people with serious, chronic illnesses were expected —even ordered—to remain inactive out of fear that too much activity would be harmful. They would often also hide their disease as if it were something shameful, or hide themselves from the public eye because they believed acknowledging their illness would damage their reputation. Fortunately, as Jay Cutler and other athletes are demonstrating, such beliefs are outdated.

To watch Cutler on the football field, it is impossible to know that the young, 6-foot, 3-inch (2m) quarterback for the Denver Broncos has type 1 diabetes. His throwing arm is strong, he is energetic and powerful. He is still fast on his feet. And he is working hard to remain that way. Jay was diagnosed in April 2008, after mysteriously losing thirty pounds the previous fall, along with having severe thirst, fatigue, frequent urination, and unstoppable hunger.

"I was just crushing food," he recalls. "I was eating six meals a day—I'd eat a meal and like 30 minutes later I'd be ready to eat again. Yet I kept losing weight, and they were telling me it was the stress. I was like, 'I'm not that stressed.' I mean, my jeans were falling off my body and I was all pale."36

Bronco coach Mike Shanahan praises Jay for taking control of his illness. "Jay has met this thing head on," Shanahan said. "I'm really not surprised. I mean, he was diagnosed with a very serious disease, and he has just gone after it and is treating it. He's done a great job of dealing with it. Jay has great discipline. To be a successful quarterback in the National Football League, you have to have discipline, and Jay has plenty of it. It is really helping him deal with it."37

Now the quarterback, who comes from Santa Claus, Indiana, faithfully checks his blood glucose levels and injects himself with insulin several times daily. He eats meals carefully prepared by the team's nutritional staff. His weight is back up in the 220 range, a good weight for him. He says he feels fine and does not experience many highs or lows in his blood sugar. He and the team believe he will be a better player than ever.

NFL quarterback Jay Cutler has maintained his skills on the football field despite being diagnosed with typel diabetes in April 2008.

Today, millions of people have diabetes. They come from all ethnic and social groups. They can be rich or poor, college graduates or uneducated, old or young. But as this very tiny sample of four people shows, having diabetes does not mean that normal life comes to an end. People with diabetes can still have good, productive lives. That does not mean it will be easy, because managing and coping with diabetes is hard work. It requires patience and determination. But oftentimes, coping with a serious illness can make people stronger and more willing to face other challenges. That is certainly true for Linda Koehler, Robert Mandell, Nicole Johnson Baker, and Jay Cutler, just as it is true for many other people with diabetes.

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