Diabetes isn’t a funny subject.
But the Rev. Jeremy Scott treats the serious chronic disease with a light touch in the book he’s written titled “Rotten Hobby, A True Story of the Unspoken Epidemic Sweeping America.”
In the 157-page paperback memoir, the software developer-turned ordained minister recounts his own journey with the disease in an effort to encourage others.
“So this is my story, or part of it, at least,” Scott writes early in his book. “Some of it may be your story, too. If so, I want you to know one thing most of all: You are not alone.”
He calls diabetes “a rotten hobby,” one that is assigned by fate.
“Like the universe just declared: You will be a Green Bay Packers fan, but you don’t live in the Midwest and you don’t like cheese!” he adds. “Though, that might be worse, now that I think about it.”
Scott, 39, serves as the vital-congregations developer for the Mountain Sky Area of the United Methodist Church. He lives in Billings with his wife, Daen, and their two children.
Daen Scott, a nurse practitioner who specializes in endocrinology, works with diabetes patients. She provided the medical expertise for the book and has a “with” credit on the book’s cover.
In an interview at his office, Scott tells how just out of college at age 24, he was hired for his first professional job as a software engineer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The job came with health insurance, and Daen Scott insisted the pair get physicals.
“Being the typical man I thought, ‘I feel fine. I don’t need to go to the doctor,’” he said.
But Scott went, and much to his dismay, he learned that the blood sugar in his urine was way out of whack. When he returned for a blood test, his A1C level was 13.5.
“Which is way more than it should be,” he said. “The average for normal people is 6.”
Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Scott knew his grandfather had the disease, though he rarely talked about it. Scott initially didn’t think it would be a big deal.
But then he attended a nutrition class.
“Eating is a big part of my life. I love food. I love cooking,” Scott said. “It’s definitely my go-to for stress relief. I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs — I eat cheese steak.”
He’s also a big fan of regular soft drinks, Coke in particular. When the dietitian told Scott he had to limit carbs to 60 grams per meal, he knew his days of drinking 12-ounce cans of pop that totaled 39 grams each were over.
Trying to find time to exercise was difficult because much of Scott’s time at work was spent in front of a computer. He traveled 45 weeks a year, which made smart eating a challenge.
And he started taking medication, which last year grew to include insulin injections. That affected one of his longtime dreams.
“It’s hard to get your pilot’s medical certificate if you’ve got insulin in your diabetes regimen,” Scott said. “And learning to fly has always been a goal of mine.”
In the book he recounts how a trip for his company to Louisiana in 2005 sent his career in a new direction. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Scott went to New Orleans to help with a vaccination program.
Despite working 20-hour days in the midst of tragedy, he felt like he was “doing something valuable.”
“I remember standing at a window and praying about the week and feeling I’d done something important, but I felt completely inadequate, there was so much to do,” Scott said. “I was asking God ‘what’s your plan here, how are you going to make this right?’ ”
And Scott felt God nudge him, remind him that he was there and he was part of the solution to help the survivors. He went home to a job he enjoyed, but Scott decided to pursue a new path.
He and his family moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Methodist Theological School and served a church for two years. He graduated from the seminary in 2010, before moving to Billings.
Scott led Evangelical United Methodist Church for four years and then in 2014, he accepted his present assignment. In December, Scott took a one-month renewal leave.
He decided to take on a project.
“I had been feeling like I wanted to talk about my life of having diabetes because I didn’t see anybody else doing it,” he said. “And the numbers are so huge: 30 million Americans have it, and I’d read a lot of great books that people write about their lives but I’d never seen one like this.”
He wasn’t sure if he wanted to shoot videos for a YouTube channel or write a series of blog posts. So he started writing down his thoughts and before he knew it, he had an outline for a book.
Scott felt that in the national debate over health care and insurance coverage, a stigma was attached to chronic diseases, including diabetes. Health care can cost more for people with chronic medical conditions, and politicians, including Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, put the blame for the conditions on the patients.
Brooks, in May, was quoted as saying that “people who lead good lives” wouldn't have to deal with pre-existing conditions.
“There’s still a lot of shame associated with diabetes, in the sense that if you have it, you must somehow deserve it,” Scott said. “If you just eat a little better or exercise a little more, you wouldn’t have it.”
No one chooses a disease like diabetes, he said, and genes can also play a role. Scott shares a deep level of honesty with readers, telling of his struggles with the disease, and even talks briefly about erectile dysfunction.
He ran everything he'd written by his wife and a couple other friends, to make sure he wasn’t over-sharing.
“As a pastor, I feel I have a calling to live a more open and transparent life — and if not me, than who?” Scott said.
At the end of the book, he includes a three-page small-group reading guide. Scott hopes churches might consider reaching out to people with the chronic condition who feel isolated and alone.
Faith plays a part in his battle with the disease.
“I’m not one who says ‘God gave me diabetes,’” Scott said. “But I do see it as somewhat of a cross given to me to bear, and I want to do that in a way that gives hope to others. That’s what my faith calls me to do.”