SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Type 1 diabetes affects more than three million Americans. It's not caused by lifestyle choices, and is typically diagnosed in children, juveniles and young adults. That diagnosis is also a stunning one to accept.
Jack Schwinkendorf isn't the only one in his family who was scared when he learned he had type 1 diabetes about four years ago.
"He had lost a lot of weight, thirsty, using the bathroom in the middle of the night. It just kinda clicked all of a sudden the Friday before Thanksgiving. I thought, holy cow, I think he has diabetes," mother Tina Schwinkendorf said.
But they found a helpful staff at Children's Hospital, and a calming influence from the people at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, who they were put into contact with. They've been working together ever since.
The family even put together a team for the Walk to Cure Diabetes shortly after the diagnosis. The team's name: Jack's Army.
"That's just the greatest feeling to have, to know you have your friends and family and sometimes even strangers to back you up and say you can do it, it's okay," Jack said.
These days their fears and concerns give way to a focused determination to manage the disease and live life to its fullest, sugar level be damned. But there are bumps along the way, like the time Jack had to be hospitalized during a family vacation to Palm Springs.
"Away from home it can be really scary bcause you don't know if it's going to get really, really bad," he said.
Fourteen years old now, Jack swam competitively for a few years, and is trying out cross country and lacrosse, not letting diabetes hold him back.
"But we figured out ways I can keep my glucose up and keep myself in the game and play. Just like the game of life, you always have to keep going," he said.
What's more, Jack's not just living for himself. He puts a lot of work into educating others about type 1 diabetes and has become an awareness advocate. It's the kind of thing that makes a mother proud.
"Jack's my hero, truly my hero," Tina said. "I don't know how he does it, honestly. I think he's such a phenomenal kid, he really is."
The Walk to Cure Diabetes is this Saturday, November 10 in Balboa Park. Registration starts at 6:30 a.m. and the walk is at 8 a.m. News 8's Carlo Cecchetto will be there to help out.
There's no charge to register, but if you raise or donate $100, you get a t-shirt. It's a great family-friendly morning, so come on down.