Our family has been through a lot with the Type 1 diagnosis of Cooper first, and then Joey a few years later. Since our multiple family diagnosis, we’ve met many families like ours, except that their multiples are usually siblings, not nephew/uncle. It’s a blessing to know that we aren’t alone, that others have similar situations there’s just something about knowing that you aren’t alone that gives you a certain peace of mind. Ha-Ha. (Not that we would EVER wish Type 1 on anyone.)
It’s nice to find people that you can relate to, especially with a disease like Type 1 Diabetes, where support is essential. It’s especially nice to find friends that have things in common with you, along with Type 1, but yet, it’s not the focus.
Joey discovered that he had something in common with a college football player, Jake Byrne. We’ve told the story at least 100 times, now 101, about how Joey wanted to play football, but because he has Type 1, I was very hesitant, and kept telling him, “maybe next year, when your’e older.” Tony told Joey that there were several players in the NFL and in college that play football, with Type 1. Tony knew that Jake Byrne, #82, TE for the WI Badger’s was one of them. “Jake had type 1, and he is right here in WI?” So Joey, being the kind of kid that doesn’t take no for an answer, decided to take a chance and message Jake through social media. I remember finding out about it, and telling Joey not to get his hopes up because this young man had a lot on his plate, he plays college football, and has a lot of homework to keep his grades up, so he probably wouldn’t have time to answer him.
To our complete surprise, this young college kid who happens to have Type 1, and happens to play on our favorite team, the WI Badgers, messaged him back. This was one of those times that I was happy to be wrong. We all sat at the computer, just reading in amazement, that he answered. That was 2 years ago that Joey took that leap of faith, and wrote to Jake. Thankfully, Jake took the time to write this little 10 year old boy back and a friendship started. This past weekend, after 2 years, Joey’s dream came true, and he got to meet Jake in person, at our home. Jake even attended mass with us, at our church, which is also where Joey goes to school, so pretty cool. He brought his friend Courtney, who was a pleasure to get to know as well. After church we came back to our house, where my amazing husband had the most delicious Italian meal waiting for us all.
I had talked to Jake prior to his visit, to see if it was okay with him if we invited a family to come over and meet him, they have a 15 year old son, a football player too, that could use some encouragement after being diagnosed with Type 1 a year and a half ago. We felt like we should share Jake’s great attitude and knowledge with someone who needs a little encouragement. Jake is someone who went after his dreams, in spite of being diagnosed with Type 1 as a 15 yr old. How can he not be inspiring to boys and girls alike. He was in high school when he was diagnosed, a lot of kids are in denial and rebellious at that age, but Jake, who admittedly didn’t have anyone to talk to about this disease, figured it out, and persevered.
That is one of the reasons that Jake likes to mentor kids, because he didn’t have anyone to ask questions to, about how to protect his pump while playing, or what foods are good to eat before a game to keep his blood sugar up, or what is a good drink to have to stay hydrated during hot practices, all these very important questions, he had to figure it out himself.
We also had my daughter here, with her two boys, Cooper and Eli. Eli, her 4 year old loves football, got a Packer jersey for Christmas that he wears all the time, he’s pretty much convinced that he is already a professional football player. He told Jake that he was a football player too. We had our friends Julie and John here, along with two of their boys. They are friends who are always super supportive, if I need to vent, I call Julie. And our friend Sue was here, I met Sue on a diabetes group that she started on facebook, it’s brought a lot of parents together to talk about different diabetes issues, it’s a great support group. Sue now works for the American Diabetes Association, she recommended Joey and Cooper for the Youth Ambassador program.
Something that Jake said stuck with me, he said that for parents of kids with Type 1, it’s like they have it too, because of how we have to do everything for them, even when they are older, we still worry about them, that will never change. So true.
We couldn’t have had a better day, truly, everyone felt all warm and fuzzy on this cold afternoon. Jake is a very special person, football player or not, he is an exemplary young man, who has given Joey hope that he too can pursue his dreams and reach all of his goals.
We are looking forward to seeing Jake again before he leaves Wisconsin for Texas, where he will fulfill another one of his dreams, to play in the NFL. We will follow his journey, and when they come to Green Bay to play the Packer’s, we’ll be there to root him on, not saying we’ll root for the Texan’s, but for you Jake. Thanks for making my little boy’s dream come true.