Nickelodeon TV Star Brec Bassinger Talks Type 1 Diabetes, Shots, Carbs and Nick Jonas
Texas teen doesn’t mind setting example for other kids
At a time when she needed inspiration the most, Brec Bassinger looked to Nick Jonas. Now at 18 years old, she hopes to be an example for children with Type 1 diabetes.
Brec was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 8 years old. Shortly after her diagnosis, she spent a week at Cook Children’s Medical Center. Even with a busy career as an actress, Brec flies from her current California home back to Fort Worth every three months for a checkup.
“Of course an 8 year old doesn’t know what’s going on,” Brec said. “Doctors are talking to you and telling you that you are going to have take shots and do this and this and this. I didn’t know what was going to happen. But Nick Jonas had an article in People magazine in that same week I got diagnosed, and my mom brought it to me and said, “See if he can do it, you can do it.’ I remember feeling so inspired and so motivated. I’m like, “I want to be someone’s Nick Jonas.”
Brec, who is currently on Nickelodeon’s “School of Rock,” became well-known to kids as the star of “Bella and the Bulldogs.” She also has appeared in two episodes of ABC’s “The Goldbergs.” Brec grew up in Saginaw, Texas where she played volleyball, basketball and ran track. She also competed in beauty pageants and was an Our Little Miss World winner.
It was during an Our Little Miss World pageant in 2008 that Brec began to show symptoms of Type 1 diabetes. She was staying at a hotel in Alabama with her mother and grandmother.
“They noticed very easily there was something off with me,” Brec said. “I was wetting the bed. I didn’t do that normally. I had lost a lot of weight. I was very thirsty. My mom planned on taking me to the doctor when we got back. But when she typed in what was going on, before we even went to the doctor, she knew what the diagnosis was going to be.”
Shelley, Brec’s mom, said she couldn’t believe it at first. The family has no history of diabetes. But she couldn’t ignore the facts. In one week she spent at the pageant in Alabama, Brec needed her fitted clothes taken up numerous times because she had lost so much weight.
They flew home and as soon as the tests returned and Brec was sent to Cook Children’s.
During the week that she spent at the medical center, Brec learned to take care of her “life-changing disease.” She learned to count her carbs and by the second day, she was learning to give herself injections of insulin.
“For me that was very emotional because you never want to see your child have to do that. I remember that was a very emotional time for me as a parent,” Shelley said.
Brec, laughing interrupts. “How about when you had to learn to give me a shot!”
Shelley recalls, “Oh, I struggled probably just as much as you did the first time the nurse had me give you a shot. I remember saying, 'I don’t want to poke her.'”
Brec recalls the teddy bear she received from Cook Children’s staff to help her practice giving shots and how that began a relationship with Cook Children’s that lasts to this day. While she was at Cook Children’s today for her checkup, she took time out to visit the Child Life Zone and talk to other patients.
You know, basically being their Nick Jonas.
“I just turned 18 and so I’m probably going to transition to a doctor out in California,” Brec said. “That’s unfortunate because Cook Children’s just seems so safe for me and change is always weird. I’m nervous. This place, they are so nice here and so welcoming. It is a little scary and this place just makes me feel like a kid, which I love. I want to always feel like a kid. I cried when I had to leave Cook Children’s after that first week I came here because I had such a good time.”
While Brec looks back on that first week fondly, she remembers other kids who took the news of their diagnosis hard. She said she remembers one little girl vividly. She “just seemed so sad.” Brec wonders now if that child didn’t have the supportive family that she had as a child.
Brec’s dad, Raymond, wouldn’t allow sadness into his daughter’s room. Everyone had to remain upbeat during a visit.
“When Brec was first diagnosed, her dad told her, and I don’t know if she knew how literal this was, but he said, “(Type 1 diabetes) is going to be a pain in the butt the rest of your life,” Shelley said. “But it changes nothing. His whole mindset was even though this is a big deal, it never should be treated like a big deal. She was still Brec. The only difference was she had to count her carbs and take a shot every time she ate. But I think that set the tone for her and for all of us. She never felt different. She never felt like it was that big of a deal in her life, even though it is.”
Brec has taken that positive attitude from her dad and carried it into her own life. She wants to serve as a positive example for other kids living with Type 1 diabetes. She is an ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and never shies away from talking about her condition.
“For newly diagnosed kids, specifically, I just want you to know that it’s going to be a daily struggle, but it’s just something you are going to have to deal with and you will be able to deal with it,” Brec said. “It doesn’t change who you are. Yes, you now have diabetes, but you are not diabetes. And in the long run, it will just make you a stronger person.”
Who knows? Maybe there’s a child reading this right now thinking, “I want to be someone’s Brec Bassinger.”
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