NFL tight end Tom Crabtree held the 2010 championship trophy high and savored it all: the confetti, the wild crowd, the knowledge that one of his key receptions had helped bring the Green Bay Packers to that moment in sports history. Could anything in life possibly be better?
Crabtree doesn’t hesitate in his response: a cure for the type 1 diabetes his wife has lived with since she was a child. In fact, he said, “that victory will be sweeter to me.”
“It won’t even be close. It’s not even in the same discussion. You know: Someday I’ll be done with football and it will be in the past. But my wife? She’ll still be on that line fighting diabetes every single day until we find the cure,” he said. “That day we do will be the best day of my life.”
Crabtree and his wife, Chelsea, were high school sweethearts. In fact, his icebreaker conversation with her was to inquire about the thing clipped on her cheerleading waistband: her insulin pump. From the start, he said, he was dedicated to learning all he could about her life with diabetes, and helping in any way he could.
Today, as the parents of two small children, that means using his football celebrity to raise funds and serve as a national spokesman for JDRF, and to support his wife in her active life as a young mom in every way he can.
Both their son and daughter are healthy and thriving, but the pregnancies, Crabtree said, “were challenging.” Frequent blood glucose checks and appointments with Chelsea’s diabetes care team were wearing. When he was home, Crabtree rose often at night to help her; and was by her side at every appointment and moment he could be (with Chelsea’s mother stepping up when he was on the road). And while some may salute his deep dedication to his wife even with his challenging football schedule, he shakes that off.
“I’ll tell you what: You can call me a hero, but in my eyes, she’s the hero one hundred percent of the way,” he said. “Seeing her do this everything she’s done – it’s incredible. To me, there’s no one with more guts and determination than Chelsea.”
Crabtree, now playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, finds himself on the road often, and thinking of his wife, her busy life with two small children, and her need to balance diabetes into every moment of that life.
“It’s always in the back of my mind,” he said. “You know, I can’t escape it. But she does such a great job of keeping tabs on things and taking care of herself. She’s twenty years into this, and she’s just great at it.”
Still, he said, he always feels better when he is at home, and at least a bit better when she has someone like her mother around. “When she’s home alone, I worry. I think that’s normal in this situation.”
Crabtree and his wife have embraced JDRF, and in particular their Walk to Cure Diabetes program, where they not only raise funds and walk, but bond with the many other families doing the same.
Crabtree said what drives him to do that is simple: hope for the future.
“Ultimately, the goal is a flat-out cure,” he said. “I always say: It would be great to not be involved with JDRF! It would be awesome to some day have absolutely no reason to have anything like the JDRF. Until there is no reason, we’ll be there though.”
Crabtree said as much as his wife’s brave life with diabetes on board motivates him, so too do the faces of his two small children. “It can be scary to think that possibly they could face this,” he said. “So you know what? JDRF is working toward prevention. If we can prevent this from starting, that would really be something.”
Something better than his championship ring?
“Oh,” he said, without missing a beat, “You know it.”
Moira McCarthy is an acclaimed writer, author, and public speaker who has shared her story – and lessons – on raising a child living with type 1 diabetes in the media, through books, and on her popular blog, despitediabetes.com. McCarthy has appeared on CNN Live, Good Morning America, and Fox News. She was recently recognized as the JDRF International Volunteer of the Year. Her six books include the top-selling The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children With Juvenile Diabetes and the upcoming Raising Teens With Diabetes: A Survival Guide For Parents. McCarthy is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience