The phrase, “never, never, never give up” has served as a guiding force and a source of inspiration for Greg Weintraub, a 20 year old junior at Lang School for Liberal Arts, a division of the New School, who has lived with type 1 diabetes since the age of eight. This kind of optimism and perseverance enables Weintraub to successfully navigate his diabetes while actively pursuing his passion for utilizing art to facilitate a healing process for those with chronic diseases. This passion is what brings Greg to Joslin Diabetes Center, where he is in the process of planning his next photography exhibit with Joslin patients.
Like many people with type 1 diabetes, Weintraub was diagnosed at a young age. He vividly remembers the night before his diagnosis and the initial fear following his diagnosis.
“In the twenty-four hours leading up to my diagnosis, I consumed a tremendous amount of water,” explained Weintraub. “I remember waking up every 15 to 20 minutes the night prior to my diagnosis, simply to drink another glass of water. Although I was drinking so much water, I never felt satisfied.”
“Upon learning that I had something called ‘diabetes,’ my first question is one that I now know is all too common amongst newly diagnosed individuals with type 1,” recalled Weintraub. “Sitting in my primary care physician’s office, I asked my doctor if I was going to die. The good news is that I had no prognosis to die in the near future. The bad news is that, upon this diagnosis, I immediately inherited a mountain of diabetes treatment behaviors that were not departing from my daily routine anytime soon.”
Shortly after his diagnosis, Weintraub began searching for an outlet to confront his emotions about living with diabetes. He found this release at a bar mitzvah, just two weeks after learning he had the disease, where he engaged in a night full of dancing. It was this foray into the arts that provided Weintraub with the ability to cope with and express his emotions regarding his diagnosis.
Weintraub’s connection to the arts did not end here and he continued to explore his passion of the arts through photography.
While on a class trip in the eighth grade, Weintraub was late returning to the bus and during his rush to get back on the bus he snapped a picture overlooking a bridge. When he finally got the chance to take a look at the photograph, Weintraub said he realized that he captured a magnificent view overlooking the bridge.
His love of photography prompted Weintraub to search for a venue that would allow him to combine his photography talent with his desire to share the many untold stories of children with type 1 diabetes.
Weintraub got the chance to transform his hopes into a reality at the annual “Hearts and Heroes Gala,” hosted by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). At the 30th anniversary of the gala, Weintraub’s parents were honored, which provided him with the opportunity to become involved in the planning process.
“I photographed approximately fifty kids leading up to the 30th annual ‘Hearts and Heroes Gala,’ said Weintraub. “My work with the JDRF has continued in the years since that Gala, [and] it is an incredible honor to ‘give a face’ to type 1 diabetes. The opportunity to show a different aspect of type 1 diabetes is very important to me.”
This collaboration with the JDRF also enabled Weintraub to facilitate his creative expression into a form of healing and an escape from diabetes for himself as well as his subjects.
Weintraub is currently working on establishing an art therapy program for teenagers living with type 1 diabetes with the organization Foundation for Art & Healing (FAH). FAH is a Boston-based art therapy foundation that aims to tell the stories of individuals who use creative expression as a means of healing, and aims to conduct empirical research about the role of creative expression in treating pathologies.
Weintraub’s upcoming partnership with Joslin will once again allow him to use his artistic skills to reveal the untold stories of children with diabetes.
“I plan to create portraits of individuals who visit Joslin as patients,” explained Weintraub. “There is much to come, and I look forward to collaborating with Joslin going forward. It is an absolute honor to be involved.”