Brothers Alex (15) and Eric (18), Nebraska
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Eric, age 18, says:
I was seven years old when my brother, who was then four, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. For years I watched as he endured thousands of finger pricks, insulin shots, and restrictions from sweet foods. Seeing the fear in Alex's eyes caused me to not only fear for him, but also for myself, as I wondered whether I, too, would get diabetes. The doctors told my family that two siblings with diabetes were rare.
I was diagnosed with diabetes three years after Alex. Being diagnosed with diabetes is a terrifying and traumatic experience. I cannot imagine being diagnosed with diabetes and learning how to battle it alone. Luckily for me, I had two parents who were completely supportive and a brother who was going through the exact same thing. Because both Alex and I had to learn to deal with diabetes, I felt our battle against the disease became two vs. one.
My brother is always there to support me when I get scared about possible future complications or have trouble coping with the day-to-day problems of living with diabetes. When I was first diagnosed, I could ask Alex questions about high or low blood sugars and insulin shots. Now, we help each other recover from insulin reactions and give each other test strips when one of us runs out.
By far, the worst part about having a sibling with diabetes is that you have to watch someone else suffer from the disease. It's one thing to have to put up with the disease myself, but to watch my brother go through it is terrifying. There is no choice. We have to find a cure, and soon.
Alex, age 15, says:
My name is Alex Bonness and I have had diabetes for over 11 years. My brother has it too, and it has been an unbelievable experience.
I was the first to be diagnosed and that was very weird considering no one in our extended family had it. For three years I was lost, confused, and alone. I was scared of my new disease.
A little more than three years after my diagnosis, my brother was also diagnosed. You would think this would be a bad thing, but to me it was the biggest relief. I felt bad that Eric was about to go through so much pain, but I finally felt needed, and most of all, I no longer felt alone.
My brother asked me questions about what to do in certain situations. He asked me little questions, but to me it felt like I was the one he looked up to and that I was the one to come to when he was curious about something. I think from then on I felt more in place and not so alone.
Only a few years later though, things turned for the worst. My brother hit his growth spurt and I saw what it did to his sugars. I couldn't believe the highs he had. It scared me. His blood sugars were unpredictable and uncontrollable. I knew I could have the same fate. I remember crying myself to sleep thinking about it.
More about Alex and Eric
Alex and Eric are delegates to the 2003 JDRF Children's Congress. Their dad, Rik, is "chair dad" for the event. They shared their stories in the Summer 2003 issue of Countdown for Kids magazine.