I once had the pleasure of working with someone who affected my life in a great way; he was on my team for almost a year. I’ve been blessed in that I’ve had many who have affected me in such a great way; and I like to think that I have affected their lives in a positive way as well. It’s why I love what I do.
Almost that entire time working with him, I didn’t know what he was going through, until years later. Diabetes is a serious thing. That experience taught me that no matter how close you get professionally to someone, that you may never really get to know all the demons that person goes through; and that’s no knock on the relationship. He met someone while we were on the same team; she was a close friend of mine, having started the same day that I did. I admired him for knowing the moment he met her, that he knew she was the one. And through what at the time could have been insurmountable odds, they became a couple. Though his heart was kind, he wasn’t an easy one to deal with on so many levels, she was a good woman, and she saw his good; and she fell in love with him the way he fell in love with her.
I don’t talk to them as much as I used to, but I still call them friends. I always will, cos that’s the type of people they are. Good people. Real people. And they are parents now to a wonderful baby boy.
My buddy (who actually hired him) and I called him The Hammer. He has an inspirational story to tell. After reading this, if you feel the compelled to do so, I urge you to contribute to the Jay Cutler Fund and the Brandon Marshall Fund.
While I am and will always be a NINER fan, I stand by this Chicago Bears fan.
And now here is The Hammer’s story…
My name is Chris Shelhamer, and I am a type 1 insulin dependent diabetic. Wow. That was weird. I can’t think of a time in the 23 years I’ve been diabetic that I have uttered those dreadful words. But I’m sick of living this lie. I’m sick of being ashamed of something that I had NO control over. I’m sick of not being honest with myself and those around me. Many of you that know me, know that I can ramble on. All I ask of you, is to read this. Please. At the age of 7 years old, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aka juvenile diabetes. I remember it like it was yesterday. After I had peed for the 10th time in less than 4 hours, I fell asleep in my third grade class. I felt like death. Literally. My Dad picked me up from school and took me to the doctor. After examining me for all of 5 minutes, the doctor instructed my father to take me to Loyola hospital ASAP. “This child is diabetic” he said. My Dad drove us back to our home where I packed a backpack with some clothes. Keep in mind, I’m 7 years old. I had NO idea what diabetes was. I remember leaving my house with my father to drive to the hospital and my younger brother Matt was riding his bike in our driveway, sobbing. He thought I was slowly fading away. And so did I. We arrived at Loyola and 3 hours later I was told that my blood sugar was 375 and I would have to take shots the rest of my life. I remember thinking to myself, “what the hell are these people talking about? Do I have cancer or something? Will I live to see Friday? Crap, I’m never going to get a girlfriend now”. Yes, even at 7 years old, I had girls on my mind. I spent the next 5 days of my life in the hospital. Doctors would come in every couple of hours to ask me how I was doing. A nurse would come in 4 times a day and prick my finger to test my blood sugar. The first night they showed me how to give a stuffed animal a shot of insulin. Then they said “ok sweetie, we’re going to give you this shot now”. No way. I wasn’t letting those nurses or ANYONE near me with a needle. If I had to take 2 shots a day to survive, the only person sticking anything in my skin, was me. To this day, no one has ever given me a shot. Well, other than my wife once or twice in case I’m ever unconscious and can’t give myself one. I had to take charge at 7 years old. I didn’t know what miserable sickness was inside me, but whatever it was, it didn’t stand a f*ucking chance. 5 days after being admitted into the hospital, I was headed home. I had gained a basic understanding of what being diabetic meant. I had also lost about 15 pounds from my already slender frame. I felt like death. The diabetes was already waging war on me. Not only my body, but also my mind. I immediately became depressed. I hated my life. I was ashamed of this sickness. I didn’t want anyone to know. “People will never want to shake my hand. I’ll never get a girlfriend”. Diabetes of course is not contagious. But I had already made up my mind. I was sick, was never going to get better, and I was going to be depressed about it and feel sorry for myself. Years and years went by. My best friends had no clue I was diabetic. I dated girls that had no idea I was diabetic. I became furious with my parents when they would tell someone to make sure there was sugar free candy or diet pop at a party I was going to. I sank deeper and deeper into the hell that is known as depression. I saw doctors, took meds, but ultimately, as long as I was diabetic, the depression remained. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I went off to college, my room mates had no clue I was diabetic. I would go to parties and drink myself into mess. Why would I tell anyone I was diabetic? The last thing I wanted was someone telling me I shouldn’t drink because diabetics can’t drink alcohol, eat sugar or anything that tastes good, have fun, play sports, be cool, be good looking, or any of the other stupid stereotypes I’ve dealt with over the past 23 years. You’d be shocked and probably disgusted to hear some of the things I’ve heard and seen along the way. People are just uneducated. Fast forward a few more years and now I’ve entered corporate America, still hiding my diabetes. I met a girl and all the same fears were still there. I never told her. We became serious. We fell in love. She was the one. I knew I’d ask her to be my wife someday. And yet, I couldn’t manage to tell her about this horrible monkey on my back for the past few decades. It was MONTHS into our relationship when she finally confronted me. “You’re either addicted to heroin, or diabetic. I’ve seen the needles in your fridge and I know you’re not on drugs”. I came clean and prepared myself to be broken up with. Except, that didn’t happen. Instead, she asked me if there were some healthier meals she could learn how to cook. Or what was the best cocktail for a diabetic. In case you’re wondering, it’s vodka and soda water. Hardly any carbs in that good stuff. Well fast forward another 8 years and as I type this, that amazing woman is currently feeding my beautiful son his dinner while he watches videos on her iPad. I recently turned 30. I had LASIK eye surgery a few years back and my doctor told me he has only seen a few set of non diabetic eyes healthy as mine. You see, I managed to keep this secret from the world, all while taking incredibly good care of myself. How ironic is that? Why am I doing this? Well, for one, I’m SICK of carrying around this burden. I want to set an example for my son. I don’t want him to ever be afraid to tell anybody ANYTHING regardless of the reaction he thinks he might get. I could have probably told everyone I knew about my diabetes as soon as I was diagnosed and been perfectly OK with it. But THAT is where this disease attacks. It doesn’t just attack your body. It also attacks the mind. 9 out of 10 type 1 diabetics will experience some form of depression during the course of their lives. If you have never been depressed, I envy you. I can’t tell you how many nights I cried myself to sleep as a child, teen, adult, thinking “why me? It’s not fair”. It’s made me question everything including my faith. You see, there are no “off days” from diabetes. It’s with me 24 hours a day. Whether I want it to be, or not. I have scars all over my finger tips from testing my sugar so much. Sometimes, my ass cheek is sore for 3 days from giving myself a shot with a needle tip that bends when I go to inject it, ripping up my flesh when I pull it out. It affects my mood…drastically at times. You think Jay Cutler is just an a$$hole for the hell of it? Nope, he’s diabetic (love ya Jay). Think about the worst hangover you’ve ever had. You’re throwing up, you’re entire body hurts, you feel like a train hit you. That’s 10% of what it feels like when you’re blood sugar is 400. Imagine coming home from a 10 hour day in corporate America, you’re 16 month old son runs up to you and wants to play for 2 hours, and you can barely stand from the physical agony you are in because you decided to eat a handful of gummy bears 3 hours prior. Diabetes f*ucking sucks. No ifs and or butts about it. Many diabetics describe it as “dying a slow death”. And in some aspects, I completely agree. I’m not doing this for pity either. If I wanted you to feel bad for me about this, I wouldn’t have held it in for 23 years. But we are getting off track here. Back to my point. I’m doing this for my son Jaxon. I want him to know how hard his father fought this horrible monster inside of me, and that I stood up after it all, doing a victory dance and saying “I’m not afraid for people to know the truth”. You see the hardest part of this crap for me is the fact that I know, no matter HOW well I take care of myself, I probably won’t be able to celebrate my 60th birthday. And that’s OK. I accepted that years ago. I live my life to the fullest like there is NO tomorrow. But when I had my son, everything changed. I HAVE to see 60, 70, 80. No choice. He needs me. And I will be there for him. But when I am gone, I want him to be proud to say “I’m Chris Shelhamers son”. I could care less about the success I’ve achieved in my professional career. That’s great, but it doesn’t have an effect on the world. So I’m doing this to raise money. 50% of the money raised here I am donating to Jay Cutlers diabetes foundation. The other 50% I am donating to Brandon Marshall’s foundation that helps treat folks that are battling depression. Donate whatever you can. $1. That’s it. If you can’t donate $1 well then a) get a better job and b) I will donate $20 in your name. Just send me a text or email or whatever. I want to help other diabetics out there that may be fighting the same war I fight day in and day out. Stay strong, talk to someone, don’t bottle it up. I caused myself a lot of emotional distress by living my life this way for 23 years. That stops now. I’m diabetic. Deal with it.
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