Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Our Crystal Bowersox Story

As my short bio notes, not only am I a wife, a mother, and a pancreas, I am also a lover of reality television.  I know what you must be thinking but … I can’t help myself.  I have watched every season of Survivor.  I never miss an Amazing Race, So You Think You Can Dance, or my all time favorite, America Idol.

The year that Ben was diagnosed was Season 9 of American Idol.  This was the season of Crystal Bowersox and Lee Dewyze.  During the audition rounds Crystal Bowersox stood out as my favorite.  I loved her voice, her dreadlocks, and her cool demeanor.  She reminded me of how cool I thought I was in college (but most certainly was not!)  Early in the season Crystal had been hospitalized and almost had to leave the competition.  At the time I was not aware that she had suffered complications from her Type 1 diabetes.  As the season progressed we became more aware of her struggles.  And I slowly became a super fan.

Now if you are going to be a super fan you also have to be a super voter.  When it came down to the finals, Crystal versus Lee, I got the phone and started my hour of voting and redialing.  I figured I had personally saved both David Cook and Kris Allen (I am still waiting for my thank you cards) and now it was time for me to save Crystal.  Sadly, my super voting did not help, and Crystal lost.  My boys watched the finale with me and witnessed my disappointment.

So in the summer of 2011, when we learned that Crystal Bowersox was going to be at the Children with Diabetes conference we were all thrilled! (Admittedly, I was the most excited.)

At the conference during the family banquet, Crystal played a few songs (and yes, she sounded even better in person).  Then after her mini-concert she encouraged the kids to come closer to the stage and she would answer any of their questions.  The kids mostly asked questions about her diabetes.  “When were you first diagnosed?”  “What type of pump do you use?”

As Crystal was talking to the kids, Jeff and I were standing outside of the circle of kids with the rest of the adults.  Then we hear Crystal say, “Young boy in the back with the Bruin’s hat, do you have a question?”  Jeff and I looked at each other and I said, “Oh God, that’s Ben!  What is he going to ask?”

Ben stands up and asks, “What did it feel like to lose to Lee Dewyze?”

I looked at Jeff again, “Seriously?! Did he just ask that?”

Crystal chuckled, and explained that she always felt like a winner.  And the night of the finale after Lee’s name was announced she felt no different. That night as the stage was showered with confetti she focused on one piece of paper as it fell and she grabbed it when it was within her reach and she saved it.  She still has that piece of confetti today.

I thought that was a beautiful answer.

She ended her time with kids explaining that during her American Idol experience she mistakenly made the competition her number 1 priority and ignored her diabetes.  And because she had done that she got very ill and ended up in the hospital.  She had almost lost everything.  She explained that if you take care of your diabetes first, and always first, then you can do anything you want.

This summer Crystal Bowersox returned to the CWD conference.  She again performed during the family banquet.  And again after her set she asked the kids to come forward and she would answer their questions.  Ben again rushed to the stage.  As the rest of the kids settled in Crystal said, “Last year at this conference I took questions and I remember one boy who asked my favorite question.  He asked what it felt like to lose to Lee Dewyze.

I practically fell off my chair laughing!  She remembered Ben.

She then asked if the boy was here again.  But Ben refused to stand up.  Later I asked why he didn’t and he explained that he was embarrassed and thought maybe she was upset.

The following day, Crystal Bowersox was at the exhibition hall working at the One Touch booth.  If you stood in line you could get your picture taken with her.  So Ben and I stood in line, but as we approached the front of the line Ben got nervous and walked away.  Because I am a super fan, I stayed in line.  Crystal had noticed that Ben had walked away and I explained it would just be me taking the picture.  I explained Ben was the boy that she had mentioned the night before.  He had asked the question about Lee Dewyze and he was embarrassed.  She asked me if he was still here in the hall.  Ben was standing nearby next to Jeff and I pointed him out to her.  She then left the booth and walked right over to Ben and gave him a big hug.  They chatted a couple minutes. She then returned to the booth and I smiled and we took this picture:

(And yes, I am overdressed for a summer day in Florida … but the hotel conference center was freezing!)

Later I asked Jeff and Ben what she had said to them.  Jeff said she wanted Ben to know she was not at all upset and that in fact that was one of her favorite questions she has ever been asked.  To this day I am not sure why she liked Ben’s question so much.  I assume it might be because Ben was brave enough to ask the question everyone really wants to ask, but won’t.  It was an honest question asked in a way only a child could ask.

In the end I was touched by how gracious she was to Ben.  She gave me hope.  Hope that no matter how much you struggle with your diabetes as you grow up you can still become a lovely, kind and successful adult.  She really is as cool as I had imagined (even while rocking an insulin pump)!

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