In the Thick of Diabetes Advocacy with Alan Thicke
Like many of you, I remember watching the antics of the Seaver family on the TV show, “Growing Pains.” During those seven years I grew to love all of the cast members including Alan Thicke, who played the father, Jason Seaver. Since then, I’ve followed Alan in his career, but it wasn’t until I started in my current role that I became aware that he has a son who lives with type 1 diabetes. Alan remembers when his then four-year-old son was diagnosed during a family vacation in northern Ontario.
“We noticed he was a little cranky, had a loss of appetite, and was going to the bathroom a lot,” Alan said. “After a couple of days, we chatted with a relative who was a nurse. She very quickly pointed out those were classic symptoms of diabetes, which was a completely foreign idea to us.”
The news was followed by a sleepless and tear-filled night as Alan and his family had to wait until the next morning to take his son to the hospital for tests. The tests revealed sugar in the blood and urine, and confirmed a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
“Within hours we were on a flight back to Los Angeles where we spent about eight days in a children’s hospital getting his blood sugar under control,” he said. “That was a life-changing experience for all of us.”
Alan also remembers an early milestone in his son’s diabetes journey. About a month after his diagnosis, his son decided he didn’t want to take his insulin shot. No amount of cajoling, teasing or coaxing would convince him.
“I knew I had to get his insulin into him,” Alan said. “An hour went by, then two hours. I finally had to wrestle him to the ground and physically pin him down to give him his shot. He was screaming and wailing and then I started crying. When he saw that, he seemed to understand that this was hurting me too. It was a life-altering moment for us because I think he recognized that we were in this together. We’ve been a team that way ever since.”
Alan soon became involved in several organizations, such as JDRF, the American Diabetes Association and the Diabetes Research Institute. In 1989, he established the Alan Thicke Centre for Juvenile Diabetes Research in London, Ontario.
“As a parent, you get involved in everything for your own selfish therapy,” he explained. “You have to do something. You need to be proactive or you’d go crazy in your futility.”
As an Emmy® and Golden Globe®-nominated actor, Alan believed he had a certain profile that could help him make a difference in diabetes advocacy efforts. “Every year I have fundraisers or make personal contributions and we fund research to work toward a cure. They seem to be making progress, although any parent would tell you that the progress in diabetes research is not fast enough. As long as diabetes is still there, it’s too slow.”
Alan encourages other parents of children living with diabetes to get involved in diabetes research as well. “It’s important for you to get involved,” he said. “You’ll feel better and feel like you’re doing something. Secondly, when you know how things get funded and what progress is being made, you can help keep the ball rolling toward a cure. It’s good for you, and it’s good for the cause.”
I admire how active Alan is in diabetes research and advocacy, especially considering his busy career. As a mother, I was particularly moved by his parenting milestone moment with his son. My thanks to Alan for taking the time to share his story.
All the best,
Disclosure: Alan Thicke received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
Emmy® is a registered trademark of The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Golden Globe® is a registered trademark of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.