Okay, I’ll be the first one to admit that maybe I need to lay off the YouTube for a while, because I personify the type of person who slips down the rabbit hole and finds way more than he expects to. Then I keep watching, and watching… And watching… But I found this video interesting, because it involves someone I’ve been watching on television over the past few months that I wasn’t even aware has Type-1 Diabetes! This catches me with a bit of egg on my face, because one of my biggest pet peeves is when someone tells me, “You don’t LOOK Diabetic…” What the fuck is someone “supposed” to look like if they have Diabetes?
The video depicts the Diabetes journey of American actress Mary Mouser, who has most recently played Samantha Larusso, the daughter to protagonist (depending on your perspective of the storyline) Daniel Larusso, in the popular web series, Cobra Kai. Now, being a long-time fan of the original Karate Kid movies, I jumped on this series without hesitation and watched both available seasons within days and am greatly anticipating the third season, which is said to be coming out in early 2021.
In the included YouTube video, Mouser describes her discovery of Type-1 and how it affected her life. She was diagnosed in 2009 at the age of 13, which I can say from having many friends in the same boat, is incredibly rough. I had the benefit of being diagnosed at the tender age of 4, which means I had barely a clue as to what the hell was going on. But you can see Mouser become visibly emotional at certain points in the video, and it definitely brings it home for me. Check it out:
Mouser talks about the tenth anniversary of her diagnosis and the video was posted on YouTube by Mouser herself, last year. I can’t help by note the similarities in the fact that although she’s only portraying it in a role, she plays a character who grew up in a karate environment. This rings true with a great deal of my own upbringing, as I grew up training in karate, as well.
I was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes in 1982, after passing out in a bowl of Froot Loops. Honestly. That’s what got me diagnosed. There were a number of symptoms that presented themselves for months before that incident, including weight fluctuations, severe mood swings and I even started wetting the bed again. One of the big problems with having a brother with Epilepsy, kidney failure and Fanconi Syndrome (a post for another day), is that my aches and pains often went ignored. Despite all of these symptoms, nothing appeared to be “seriously” wrong, so it was chalked up to growing pains or being a moody kid (which I was).
This wasn’t a slight on my parents’ part, it was simply the result of my brother constantly being on death’s doorstep where I was not. At least not that they knew of… Apparently, they were wrong. Imagine passing out on a Tuesday and waking up on a Wednesday… Of the following week! That’s how my journey started. And it was all downhill, from there.
When I woke from that first incident, I had severe Diabetic Ketoacidosis and my blood sugars were being slowly lowered and I was being rehydrated by way of an IV infusion. I had a number of family members present, including my parents, brother and grandparents. They already knew what the doctor hadn’t yet told me: I had Type-1 Diabetes. My life and my future were effectively changed, forever.
Over the two weeks that followed, I was taught a number of things including how to test my blood sugars, how to take insulin injections, dieting (which basically just involved avoiding sugar) and what would be involved in my day-to-day life for the rest of my life. It was hectic and stressful. I can admit that at the young age of 4, I only understood a small percentage of it. A lot of it went over my head, which created strange combination of indifference mixed with anxiety.
To my mother’s credit, she practiced injecting saline water into her own arms as opposed to practicing on an orange, which is what doctors and educators would provide, back in the day. Her perspective was that she wouldn’t allow anything to be done to her child that she hadn’t experienced herself. She bruised herself up pretty good, before starting to help me take my daily injections.
It was a disgustingly rough journey and over the years that followed, which included no less than 5 comas (the longest of which lasted almost two weeks), multiple changes in therapies and doctors and constant adjustments, I faced the inevitable lack in most of the advantages that kids my age enjoyed. I never joined sports, never had sleepovers and never enjoyed the usual social normalcies that kids my age had. But I adjusted and fought through all of it. My brother, who is now deceased, saved my life in almost every instance of the comas I mentioned, as he shared a room with me and would be the one to alert my parents that I was in distress.
In 1988, I faced a situation that no child should ever have to. I was told I was going to die. It wasn’t said in those exact words, but the reality sunk in regardless. Severe Diabetes complications including insulin resistance were causing my body to fail. Doctors really had no solution at the time, other than changing up my insulin type, which did absolutely nothing. Insulin resistance can be dangerous, since it prevents the proper use of glucose in your body.
That’s when I took matters into my own hands and joined karate. I started taking responsibility for my own diet and fitness and started to develop myself, physically. It worked for me. It may not work for everyone. But the important thing is to keep fighting and find what works for you. The nay-sayers over the years, have stated that they don’t believe that martial arts and fitness would help overcome medical complications. But the question is, how could it not? There may be no cure for Type-1 Diabetes, but you can still kick its ass. There are tons of ways to improve your health and stretch your life expectancy as opposed to what we faced, even 20 or 30 years ago. Keep fighting. Keep looking for a way.
And if Mary’s video inspired you or touched a chord, be sure to check her out on Cobra Kai, which is currently available on Netflix. There are only two seasons, with Season three coming out soon, but it’s definitely a hard-hitting show that covers martial arts, karate, the social condition and stars a lot of talented people from the 1980’s and modern day. ☯