"I couldn't live a normal childhood," says Theler
Credit: Bradley Meinz

Derek Theler doesn’t remember a time before he was a type 1 diabetic.

“I was just 3 years old when I was diagnosed,” the Baby Daddy star says in the current issue of PEOPLE of living with the autoimmune disease that results in high blood-sugar levels and can lead to death if left untreated.

Growing up in Colorado, “I couldn’t live a normal childhood,” says Theler, 30. “I couldn’t stay overnight at a friend’s house or have cake or soda or candy at a birthday party.”

But managing his disease was even harder on Theler’s parents. “My sister Ashlea is also diabetic,” he says. “I remember my mother and father taking our blood and checking our blood-sugar levels in the middle of the night almost every night because they were afraid we’d go into insulin shock.”

RELATED: We Tried to Have a Serious Conversation with Derek Theler – and Then He Started Stripping

For more from Derek Theler – including how he booked the role of a lifetime despite a severe hypoglycemic episode that resulted in his “worst audition ever” – pick up the latest issue of people, on newsstands Friday

Thankfully, technology has made Theler’s life easier in the form of a Dexcom glucose-monitoring system he calls “a game-changer.” And now Theler hopes to have a long future ahead of him that includes children of his own.

“Growing up with diabetes, I’ve realized you only get one life, and the most important commodity is time,” he says. “Not only time but healthy time, doing the things that you love with the people you love. I want as much of that time as possible.”

The new season of Baby Daddy premieres Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on Freeform.