For more than a decade, Nick Jonas has been living with type 1 diabetes. After being diagnosed with the disease at age 13, the singer-musician-songwriter-actor decided to become a role model for other young people affected by the disease. He co-founded the not-for-profit organization Beyond Type 1, focusing his efforts on education and raising funds to help find a cure.

During his concert tour last summer, Jonas teamed up with Sun Life Financial to help raise awareness about the disease, meeting young fans with diabetes across Canada along the way. Here’s what he has to say about his incredible journey:

Recognizing the early signs of diabetes is crucial. What were your first indications that something wasn’t right?

A month or two before my diagnosis, I noticed I was losing weight – around 15 pounds in 2 or 3 weeks. I was thirsty all the time and felt irritable. I really felt my body was shutting down.

Between acting, singing, recording and performing, your schedule is very hectic. How do you prepare yourself physically?

I try to think 10 steps ahead every day. Before I go onstage, I check and make sure my blood sugar is okay, using a continuous glucose monitor. When I’m onstage, I’ve got juice on the side of the stage in case my blood sugar goes low.

Nick JonasWhy is it important for you to share your story publicly?

Diabetes is something I live with every day. And any time you have a personal connection to something like that, it can become a priority to speak up about it and make it something you can share and find ways to break down the misconceptions about what diabetes is.

I hope to be an example of someone who has dealt with challenges – something that could have really slowed me down. But I made a commitment to myself that I wouldn’t let it and I would live beyond my diagnosis.

What do you hope to accomplish through your charity, Beyond Type 1?

We’re about education, advocating and finding a cure, and a big piece of that is connecting with people within their communities, both those living with diabetes themselves, and their families and friends. I want to bring some awareness around the disease as a whole – and that you can do what you want to do while living with a manageable disease.