Happy Valentine’s Day! Hopefully amidst the state of the world, y’all have someone special to curl up under a blanket and stay warm with. And if you don’t, remember that loving oneself is just as important and something special can still be done. Despite my typical habit of being sarcastic and making puns, I genuinely mean that and am not trying to be lewd or suggestive. Here are a few quick facts about the origins of this particular day:
Valentine’s Day is based on Valentinus, a martyred saint that is thought to have defied the Roman Emperor by continuing to perform marriages in secret for young lovers after they were outlawed;
Some historical writings suggest as many as three different men who may have been the actual “Valentine,” who were all martyred and executed;
One of the stories depicts Valentine being imprisoned and falling in love with his jailor’s daughter. When Valentine sent her a note prior to his execution, he signed it “From your Valentine,” which is the popular phrase still used today.
I’ll keep this one short and I don’t have any sources to cite. These are just facts that I’ve read about throughout the years that have stuck with me. There are even articles that explain how Valentine’s Day was created by the Christian church to cover up and outlawed pagan holiday called “Lupercalia.” But I ain’t gonna get into any of that.
In modern days, Valentine’s Day has become heavily commercialized, with the sale of cards, chocolate and various “romantic” trinkets becoming a huge cash cow for retail locations. I’ve always been a fond believer that if you’re genuinely in love, you don’t need one specific day of the year to express it. Such a thing can be done on any day of the year and in fact, should be done all days of the year. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some chocolate to go eat… ☯
Hey folks! I know I’m not in the habit of drafting two posts in a day and it’s a bit late in the game to be posting a second one, but I’ve decided to put my face on camera and started my own YouTube channel. I only have one video on there, which is scheduled to go live in about ten minutes. But I’m hoping to use the video aspect to discuss and demonstrate things that are a bit difficult to explain with words and photos. If y’all wouldn’t mind visiting the channel and clicking those little “like” and “follow” buttons, I can start pumping out videos in tandem with my blog posts. For any one interested, here’s the link to the YouTube channel.
Check out this first video, which I recoded tonight…
Hopefully, it doesn’t bore everyone any worse than my long-winded posts usually do. I look forward to sharing more in the future. If anyone has any thoughts on something I should be posting in video format as opposed to in written form, please let me know in the comments. ☯
I think one of the more important things we learn in life is that family isn’t always a blood relative. I can certainly attest to the fact that I’ve met a number of people who have had a profound effect on my life and have become family to me, without having any sort of blood relation to me. The best and most obvious example of this would be my wife. She’s family, and I couldn’t imagine what life would be like without her in the daily grind of my life. But often there are people who introduce themselves into our existence unintentionally, and leave a lasting impression.
A couple of years before I started karate, I met Guillaume (we just call him “Guy”). Guy was the same age as me, in the same class at school and lived in the middle of my Point “A” to Point “B” walk to school. We got to know each other reasonably well, and started befriending each other. Although we had some things in common, Guy was a bit of a complemented reflection of me. I was short, he was tall. I was stocky, he was thin. He had an obvious athleticism and was actually able to participate in sports, both at school and intramurally. But he also had a deep curiosity for science and the way things worked; a fact that was made obvious from the time he somehow made an incendiary powder from a kid’s chemistry set. But I digress…
I think one of the things that always drew us to befriend each other was the fact that both of us were outcasts and were picked on and bullied by a lot of people at school who considered themselves better and “cooler” than we were. Back then, there was no such thing as cyberbullying or using words to inflict harm, not that I’m belittling people who feel targeted now. But during my childhood, being bullied meant you were beaten to a pulp by one and/or many assailants. It seemed less prominent with him; maybe because he could walk both sides of the line with the sports side of the social circle and outside of it.
It wasn’t until the late 80’s that I realized he had a lot in common as well. We were sitting in his living room, eating chips and watching a martial arts movie (he was eating chips. I was sitting there snack-less). I had been dabbling in the martial arts for a couple of years at this point and had tried a couple of different schools. Nothing suited my health and purpose. That’s when Guy told me he studied karate. As was my custom, I started asking some key questions such as why he did it, what was required and why I had never seen him use it. He explained that martial arts didn’t require strength or speed, going in. It simply required commitment, dedication and the willingness to concentrate. He went on to explain that I had never seen him use his karate, not even in a bullying situation, because if he harmed someone else using the skills he was taught, he would be no better than they were.
To be honest, I thought he was full of shit and didn’t know karate. I figured he was just talking big and had actually never studied the martial arts. I mean, we were just about ten years old, full of pomp, piss and vinegar. Kids often say the damnedest things, and most often to impress their peers. I thought nothing more on it, until a later time when I called him on it and he challenged me to a “friendly” sparring match… Then he kicked the living shit out of me. Keeping in mind that my martial skills were far from their peak, I still had some rudimentary martial arts skills and should have been able to hold my own. That is, against an untrained opponent who had never actually done karate. This was obviously not the case with Guy.
A few weeks later when I was contemplating the next step in my martial arts journey, I considered the fact that Guy seemed not only skilled and competent, but there seemed to be almost a flow to his movement when we sparred. It seemed effortless. I decided that it might be worth looking into, so I called him. You know, since we’re talking about a time when texting wasn’t a thing and you actually had to dial someone on a shared, home phone and hope that your parents weren’t listening in. I called him up and explained that I was interested in trying out at his karate school. I asked him the usual questions, tuition cost, days and time, etc…
Curiously, he’d say “hold on a second” and talk to someone off the line after every question before providing a response. It didn’t dawn on me at the time that he was asking all these questions to someone who was there in his house. I would come to find out the following week that his instructor was none other than his father, my Sensei. In some ways, a lot of ways, if I had never befriended Guy, I never would have found Uechi Ryu Karate. As Jean de la Fontaine once said, “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.”
From that point on, Guy and I became brothers. We grew up together and progressed together through the many challenges that young life threw at us, including karate. And of course, we enjoyed many more intense sparring matches that became more and more evenly matched as the years and my skills progressed. I was reminded of this last week, when Guy wished me a Happy New Year and sent me this photo:
The photo is dark and old, and I believe it’s from 2000 or 2001, but I’m actually wearing a shirt, tie and vest as we were going to a formal dance. I had my back to him he had my current girlfriend at the time hold a camera at the ready and asked me to turn around. When I did, he delivered a roundhouse kick to my face! Ah, brotherly love! I like to think that the fact I got my hands up in the blink of an eye before the kick was delivered speaks to the level of intensity I had back then, but he rang my bell pretty good.
We’ve grown somewhat apart in the past decade. We both got married and built families of our own. And of course, the fact I live on the opposite end of the country now kind of prevents even the occasional visit. But as is evidenced by the obvious smile on both our faces in that photo (mine might be pain, I honestly can’t remember), the brotherhood and connection will never be lost. And such is the way of it with family. The years come and the years go, but the memories remain. ☯
Welcome to 2021! Happy New Year and best wishes to all of you, going ahead. I know that the previous year wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. And I swear by the Light, if I’d have had to listen to one more person say “2020 is gonna be my year!” I probably would have vomited a little. I may be a little bitter, since life has been sending me down rough waters long before 2020 settled its talons into all of us, but with COVID-19 taking a firm hold on the world, I haven’t really heard anyone saying that “2021 is gonna be my year!”
Some things that I’d like all my readers to remember as we step into yet another digit on the calendar, is that life and nature do NOT recognize the Gregorian calendar. What this means is that just because we’ve turned a page from ’20 to ’21 doesn’t mean that the fight is over and everything is going back to normal. The coming year will still require all of you to fight hard, make goals and accomplish wonderful things under your own power. The next is that like I always say, life doesn’t care about your plan. Despite whatever goals you set for yourself, be ready to be flexible and change to accommodate whatever gets thrown in your way. While navigating the river’s currents, you’re pretty sure to alter your course if there’s a huge rock in your way (unless you’re an idiot!) and so it should be with life and one’s goals.
Last but not least, let’s all try to eliminate as much suffering in the world as we can. Both within our own lives and within the lives of others. Often, we become so focused on our own pain that we don’t care that our words and actions may affect someone else. At least in my own experience, some of the worst things that have happened to me have come as a result of someone else’s words and actions. And those people likely aren’t even aware of how much suffering they’ve caused.
Despite the time and opportunities lost in 2020, let’s look forward and focus on working towards the things we may accomplish, the experiences we may get to have and the loved ones we still have in our lives, near or far. All other resolutions aside, this year should have you focusing on simply making things better, for yourself and others. When you feel like you’ve been running uphill for so long that your legs are about to give out, remind yourself of the reward that’s waiting at the peak. And the only way you’ll get there is to keep on running. ☯
It’s the time of year when it’s nice to take a break from complaining about all the side effects that come with having Diabetes and just be grateful for what you have. A home to sleep in, food on the table and clothes on one’s back are essentials that not everyone has, but most of us who do, tend to take them for granted and always yearn for something more. But there’s usually plenty to be thankful for in each person’s life, even when we don’t always see it.
One of the things I’m most thankful for in my life, is karate. It’s hard to believe that in a few short months, I will have been practicing the martial arts for almost as long as most people I know have been alive. Longer than some, in fact. And although my reasons for getting into karate may have been particular, STAYING in karate was a choice. One that I’ll never regret making. And like any journey, this one may have begun with a single step. But I’ve been walking the path long enough now that I’ve lost count of how many steps I’ve taken. And the stories that accompany those steps could fill oceans…
I don’t think I’ve actually ever told the story of how my black belt test went down, so buckle up; this’ll be a bit of a long read. Although black belt should never be the end goal of a martial artist, it’s an obvious important step and should be given the weight it deserves. I’ve seen some folks go through something that’s referred to as a “test,” which involved little more than doing a couple of forms, breaking a couple of boards and answering a few questions before the pomp and ceremony of kneeling in front of the head instructor to remove their old belt and replace it with a black one. For some schools, the involved ceremony outweighs the actual need to be tested for black belt. But I digress…
Many of these people got their black belt without even breaking a sweat. And although I won’t get into the specifics of the testing, since you need to get to that point if you wanna find out, I think that sharing the experience of what I went through is important. Not only is it important because it’s a story to tell, but because it signifies the challenge that a traditional black belt test SHOULD pose to a practitioner. That may come off as a bit subjective, but my blog is my soapbox, so here we go…
In late 2001, I travelled to Okinawa with Sensei, his wife and two other students. I was a brown belt at the time, and one grade short of qualifying for Shodan (black belt). It was the trip of a lifetime, despite the fact it almost didn’t happen. The terrorist attacks on 9-11 had taken place literally one month before our scheduled departure, and many travellers were cancelling their plans for fear of being on a plane. Our group met to discuss the issue and it was decided that we had invested the money and resources, plans were in place and we would proceed unless the airlines stopped us.
My time in Okinawa was amazing. I’ll never be able to say otherwise, but there was something missing. The experience wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. We attended two karate classes a day, one in the morning and one in the evening. We’d spend our afternoons on the beach since, despite being mid-October, temperatures were in the high 40’s. My thought, and my intention, was to test for black belt in Okinawa at the parent dojo, where my name would be forever registered with the masters. This would ensure the future of Sensei’s student lineage, since the day would inevitably come when he’d step down and retire. But this was something that I would need to be invited to attempt. I couldn’t ask for it.
Even though our dojo closed during summer break (we adhered to the public school schedule), I trained like a mad man all summer in anticipation of studying with the masters. I did karate four days a week and filled the remaining days with cycling and swimming. I worked on body conditioning and some light weights. I had no idea what to expect or what I would be subjected to once I reached Okinawa. But I vowed to be ready. With the exception of Sensei, I was the only one who trained throughout the summer. The impression we gave the Okinawans left something to be desired…
I enjoyed travelling with the team, genuinely and honestly. But when it came time for us all to demonstrate for Nakama-Sensei (my Sensei’s Sensei, try to keep up!), I performed a brown belt kata that put all my heart and energy behind my karate, which is what any true practitioner should do on every form. Sensei’s wife could barely remember the steps to the kata she was currently studying. Daniel, the other white belt who came with us, was very much in the same boat. Philipe, who was the other brown belt who came with us, was able to perform his kata without issue, but there was no energy or spark behind it.
Sensei would later tell me that my kata was done well and he couldn’t have done better himself. But we demonstrated as a team and Nakama-Sensei was left unimpressed. He asked Sensei, “Is this it?” to which Sensei merely shrugged and said yes. What else could he do? The culture prohibited Sensei from “defending” the quality of his students. In fact, the students were meant to demonstrate not only their prowess but the quality of Sensei’s teachings by showing effort, skill and energy. Apparently, I was the only one who got that memo…
The rest of our time on Okinawa was… nice. We visited some museums, neighbouring dojos and even attended the All-Okinawan Karate Tournament, which was interesting to watch. But because of the poor, total effort put forth by the others, I was never invited to test for black belt during my time in Okinawa. The masters were unimpressed with us and we were not worth their time. I returned to Canada feeling slighted. I was hurt, angry and resentful of the others as I believed they should have trained harder and that my loss was because of them. In retrospect, that sounds profoundly selfish but I was young and committed to the next stage in my development and I wasn’t used to having others stand in my way.
I spent the next six months focusing my anger and rage into my training. It wound up being a useful tool as well as being a healthier way to focus that negative energy than placing blame. But I’d be lying if I said there are days that I think back to 20 years ago and still wish it had been different. Karate has an unfortunate way of being political, a fact that I experienced firsthand in Okinawa. After some lengthy discussions and one-on-one training with Sensei, my black belt test was scheduled in the early months of 2002. And since the content of the test is a well-kept secret by the select few who have passed it, I won’t be sharing the specifics.
The night before testing, I had grand plans to get to bed early and get some rest on the night before testing. Then I fell asleep around 3:30 in the morning and woke again at 6:30 when my alarm went off. So much for getting some rest. There was a tight knot of fear and anxiety in my stomach and I had no idea what I was in for, which is likely what had me worried the most. Green and brown belt testing had gone very well for me, but the content of the tests were known to me before taking them. I couldn’t say the same for this test, which was only described as an all-day, 8-hour test of absolutely everything I had learn in karate since day 1.
The next hour consisted of eating a very light breakfast and packing my gym bag, which included a sandwich, granola bar and some fast-acting carbohydrates in the event I suffered a low. Sensei had instructed as such, saying that we would take a break for some lunch. I drove to the dojo and was there at 7:45, thinking that as per usual I would change and stretch prior to the start of testing, which I was told would be 8:00. I sat nervously in my car for the next fifteen minutes, wondering where Sensei was and thinking I had mixed up the days, until I saw him turn the corner and walk towards me with a jovial smile on his face.
We changed in silence and went upstairs to the training floor where we took several minutes and stretched properly prior to beginning. Much to my surprise, the actual test was started at about 8:30. Once it began, I was all-in. That morning felt like the longest three and half hours of my life. I was put through the ringer like I never had before. I may have thought I’d sweated through workouts, but it was nothing like this. Sensei was relaxed, pensive and observant of everything I said and did. And that was the clincher: everything involved in-depth explanations of EVERYTHING I was doing. That’s what made it so intense. Ask me to fight? No problem. Ask me to fight while simultaneously explaining what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and why I’m doing it? Not so easy!
We broke for lunch around noon. I was of the impression that we would be taking a quick half-hour, wolf down our food and carry on. It was, after all, an 8-hour test and we needed to be conservative with our down time. This is why I began to wonder what was going on when we had reached nearly forty minutes of lunch break and Sensei was calmly looking outside, commenting on the weather. I was pacing on my spot, anxious and raring to continue, and he was acting like we had all the time in the world. I thought that maybe this was part of the test; maybe it was to test my patience and ability to keep calm. If so, I was failing miserably but said nothing.
The afternoon was a blur, with everything being mostly applied techniques and the physical aspect. We were done with words and if I thought the morning was tough, the afternoon was tough and painful. I didn’t break any boards. I didn’t demonstrate for a gymnasium full of friends and family and I wasn’t testing in tandem with a handful of other students. Everything was real. If I got struck, I suffered the actual result. Our only bodily protection was a pair of thin, white sparring gloves. Every part of my body held a mixture of sheer exhaustion, pain and adrenaline. The final stages of the test involved a couple of timed endurance exercises. Yes, you read that right; I had to do this AT THE END OF THE FUCKING TEST!!! Imagine doing a plank for twenty minutes after running a full marathon. That kind of thing.
When the timer finally rang, I unceremoniously dropped to my knees. My body begged me to let go and just close my eyes. My blood sugars were all over the place with a mixture of lows from exertion and highs from the adrenaline and glycol release. To this day, it was the most intense and physically-demanding challenge I’ve ever been through. It was made all the more important by Sensei dropping my black belt in my hands and saying, “I guess this is yours to wear now…” He went on to explain that I shouldn’t become complacent and that passing Shodan was a student’s way of formally asking his Sensei to learn karate. The true learning could now begin.
Sensei invited me to his home after the test and we cracked a cold beer (of course). His son, who has been one of my best friends for decades and also holds a black belt, came rushing into the house like a tornado and hugged me tightly in celebration. Just about every inch of me hurt worse after that. But it was all worth it. Sensei explained that we were able to take a longer lunch and the test ultimately only lasted about six and a half to seven hours because there was very little he needed to correct me on. After we reminisced about the previous years I’d spent as his student, I made my careful way home where I enjoyed an overdue long shower and took a nap. When I awoke, I was able to share my accomplishment with my parents as well as a brief visit to the cemetery to visit my brother.
Since then, I’ve had schools of my own. I’ve trained a little bit everywhere, sharing knowledge and techniques with different schools, different styles and different people. I’ve taught others and continue to be taught, myself. A true martial artist will NEVER be done learning. And I can truthfully say that not only has karate played an integral role in maintaining my health and fitness, I’ve used it in defence of myself, in defence of others and in the line of duty. For the nay-sayers or MMA freaks who like to say that traditional martial arts don’t work, I know firsthand how very wrong that belief is.
In over forty years of teaching, Sensei has only ever graduated less than a dozen students to black belt. At the time of writing this, there are only seven or eight of us. And that’s the mark of how challenging the style may be. If you walk into a dojo and there are black belts floating all over the place, including on the kids, you can expect that you may not be getting the quality of training that the rank deserves. But those of us who have achieved Shodan in Uechi Ryu Karate can say without question that only those who are truly committed and have the will to do so, will succeed.
The greatest gift that karate has given me, other than saving my life, is having the opportunity to teach and protect others. And this is also the mark of a true martial artist, when your skills are used for the betterment of the world. I still have days when I look down at my black belt, which is starting to fray and come apart at the edges, and remember all the blood, sweat and tears that I paid in order to wear that particular colour around my waist. And it’s near and dear to me but you know what? I’m still a student. I’m still learning. I’ll continue to train and learn something new until the day they nail my coffin shut. And that’s why my belt may be black, but my soul will always be white. ☯
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I’m not a big fan of the extreme cold. Being born and raised in New Brunswick means that I’ve grown up accustomed to reasonably mild winters, albeit heavy snowfalls. So the past decade and a half of -50 degrees during the winter months have managed to find the chink in my armor and the ache in my joints. If I had to choose, I’d opt for the spring or the fall, where temperatures are on the cooler side without freezing me half to death. But I digress…
I have to admit that one of the pleasant aspects of parenthood is the opportunity o relive some of the more enjoyable aspects of childhood. Namely, sledding! There’s a small mount near our home called “Mount Pleasant,” which is identified as a “toboggan hill.” Plenty of people go there to go sledding, and I brought Nathan there for the first time last week. He has a black sled that his grandmother bought him a couple of years ago, and since the weather was mild and the skies were sunny, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do something other than have him skim the back yard with it.
I had a really wicked video of Nathan and I shredding down the hill. But for some reason, my damn iPhone won’t upload the video. So I guess we’ll have to settle for this photo:
As you can see, there were some other people using the hill that day. But everyone was pretty good about staying the hell away from one another and some people were even wearing masks outdoors. Besides the few assholes who insisted on climbing back up the hill from the spot they came to a stop, thereby causing a collision hazard with other sledders, it was a fantastic afternoon with fresh air, sunshine and one hell of a workout getting to the top of that hill every few minutes.
We brought snacks, drinks and Diabetic supplies and we took a break halfway through the afternoon to enjoy the snack before taking turns, hefting the sled up the hill. It just goes to show that fitness doesn’t have to be all weights and cardio. Sometimes, good old fashioned fun can be great exercise. As long as you watch your blood sugars and recognize the winter temperatures will affect your levels and insulin absorption, there’s plenty of joy to be had despite all the white shit on the ground. ☯
Today is always a bit of a difficult day for me. It’s my brother’s birthday. Born on December 3rd 1972, he would have been 48 years old today, had he lived. Born with both kidneys in failure, epilepsy and fanconi syndrome (Google it!), he didn’t survive to see his 19th birthday. Despite all his health problems and constantly riding the rail between life and death, he was always quick to a smile and always ready to tell his family he loved them.
I was 11 or 12 years old when my brother passed away. They say that when someone loses a limb, they’ll often feel pain in that limb. Like a phantom pain, gone but still felt. This is how it’s been for the past 29 years. My brother may be gone but I feel the pain every day, like a phantom limb. Gone but never forgotten. Happy birthday, bro. ☯
In 2014, my wife and I performed something akin to a miracle. We gave birth to our son, Nathan. Born in the early morning hours of November 26th at Cypress Regional Hospital in Swift Current and named Nathan David Peter Cook, he came along on the promise of defeating yet another obstacle that Type-1 Diabetes had presented in me. His birth was a long process, having started the previous day. But when he finally arrived, he proved that even a chronic condition such as mine can be overcome. He not only represented a piece of myself, but hope.
Although not necessarily proven, men with Type-1 Diabetes with usually face fertility issues, altered and damaged DNA as well as neurological damage; all of which can make the conception of a child difficult, if not impossible. I had lived through most of my 20’s confident that I would never sire any children, even if no doctor in New Brunswick would help confirm my fertility until “you and a stable partner have been trying to conceive” for some time, first. Total bullshit.
This was a problem because since I HADN’T met the woman of my dreams yet, I also wasn’t ready to conceive children. But many (if not most) adult relationships can be defined by the decision and/or the ability to bear children. Such information would definitely be an asset when establishing those potential relationships. A fact that made it all the more heart-breaking when I couldn’t get the help I needed to secure that information.
When I met my wife and the subject of a family was considered, I was lucky enough that my wife was understanding and knew what she was getting into. A lesser woman wouldn’t have understood and wouldn’t have been as accommodating as she was. She has a strength she isn’t aware of. But that lack of awareness is what makes it a strength, I suppose. We were happy with each despite the prospect that we likely wouldn’t have children.
Since his birth and my refusal to leave his side at the hospital, Nathan has stuck to me like glue. He’s been my shadow and has quietly followed my every move since the doctors put him in my arms. Although he drives me nuts on the best of days, he has a spark of life that reminds me that there are more important things in life than perfection. There are more important things than money, accomplishments and time. As he’s often told me himself, “you can’t say no to love.” And the only other person who could show me more unconditional love than his mother is Nathan.
Today is Nathan’s 6th birthday. It seems as though that semi-sleepless night in late 2014 was a lifetime ago. Since then, he continues to amaze me with his intelligence, his stubbornness and his wantonness to seek out nature and absorb everything he can. Never lacking a question, the entire world is his classroom. Although not practical from a “structured” educational perspective, I know that his curiosity will never waiver. It will carry him far. No matter my failures, he is my greatest success, my greatest accomplishment and my best hope for the future.
We recently had Nathan tested for Type-1 Diabetes. My greatest fear is that I would have passed my condition on to my children. Believe me when I say that there is no greater feeling than knowing that his metabolism and immune system are clean and he shows no signs of Diabetes, Above all else, this is likely the best gift I can give him.
As you read this, Nathan is at school, likely bragging to everyone who will listen that today is his birthday and repeating the number 6 until people are sick of hearing it. When he gets home, he’ll be greeted with cake, gifts and his choice of favourite supper (he chose shepherd’s pie). I don’t know what the future will bring; I’m no oracle or prophet. But I know that if Nathan continues on his current path, he’ll no doubt forge a way through life that no one else has considered. And I can’t wait to see the outcome, should life will it so. Happy birthday, son! ☯
I was sitting in my living room last Wednesday, basking in the aftermath of a solid supper of two jalapeño cheddar burgers. I’m totally kidding. Not about eating two burgers; I totally demolished those! I’m kidding about the fact that I was basking in anything but pain. The jalapeño burgers were painful to eat, digest and think about. But I digress… Shortly after supper, while I was in the living room with my wife and infant son, I received a text from a friend of mine.
Now, one might be inclined to ask, “But Shawn, don’t you ALWAYS get texts from friends?” First of all, shaddup! Second of all, texts rarely have this level of importance or solicit as much of a reaction from me. This text message contained a link to an Edmonton CTV article indicating that there is a possibility that a cure for Diabetes may have been discovered. No, that’s not a typo. You read that right.
The article, published on November 17th by CTV News Edmonton, opens with a bold statement in its first line, “Scientists at the University of Alberta say they may have discovered a cure for Diabetes.” Apparently, their new process has already cured Diabetes in mice and the research team is hopeful that they’ll eventually be able to test it on human test subjects. You can read the article for yourself here.
The lead researcher is Dr. James Shapiro, who is a well-known rockstar in the Diabetes community as the creator of the “Edmonton Protocol” some twenty years ago. This protocol involved injecting Diabetes patients with insulin-producing islet cells in order to allow their bodies to produce and regulate blood sugars without daily injections. This was a fantastic breakthrough and an amazing step forward in Diabetes treatment. I had even looked into it myself, when it first came out.
One of the big problems is that the protocol doesn’t work for everybody. There are conditions that make the patient receptive to the treatment, and even for those who can get the treatment are usually stuck using anti-rejection meds for the rest of their lives in order to keep their bodies from rejecting the injected cells. Dr. Shapiro and his team have apparently found a way around this obstacle.
According to their new claims, the research team have somehow found a way to turn a patient’s own cells into islet-producing ones, circumventing the need for all the anti-rejection meds and side effects that accompany the Edmonton Protocol. Their current research has shown that they’ve been able to reverse the effects of Diabetes in mice to the point where the Diabetes is effectively cured. If successful in human trials, there is a very real possibility that we could see a cure for Diabetes within our lifetime.
Just reading the article brought tears to my eyes. After all, finding a cure for Diabetes is the “hopeless hope” of every T1D. And I’d be lying if I said that I even remember what life is like without Diabetes. But it’s gotta be better than this. Watching the video made even more misty-eyed (Thanks, Kristen!). As is the case with most scientific research, funding is the main issue. Dr. Shapiro requires additional funding for equipment and research in order to perfect this new treatment.
The video that accompanies the article discusses a man, whose son has Type-1 Diabetes, who has decided on a goal of raising 22 million dollars by 2022. He made a pretty good point; if every Canadian with Diabetes donated simply $22, Dr. Shapiro would be well beyond the funding required to make this work. With over 400 million people with Diabetes worldwide, it would really suck if there’s a cure on the horizon but no one could get it because of funding.
Between drying all the tears the article caused, I tried finding where one can donate for this specific cause. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything so if one of you does, please include it in the comments so I can share it and pass it on. Diabetes has taken up such a large portion of my life and has helped mold me into the person I am today. I’ll admit that I would likely feel a bit lost if I suddenly found myself clear of it. But I’d adjust. Definitely. Read the article. In case one link wasn’t enough, HERE! ☯
I know I harp on many of these so-called “holidays” that seem to riddle the calendar with every passing month. But this one just happens to be personal to me, for obvious reasons. Every year on November 14th, which is the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, we celebrate World Diabetes Day. November is already Diabetes Awareness Month in most medical circles, but today is a day where focus is brought to the growing number of people being diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes.
World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 but the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization, and is often recognized by the signature blue circle logo and is usually accompanied by a different theme every year. But rather than get into all the hubbub that is yet another yearly holiday, I thought it would be a good idea to remind folks about the actual discovery of insulin and a bit of its history.
As most may know, insulin is a peptide hormone created by beta cells inside the pancreas. Insulin helps with the processing and regulating of carbohydrates by absorbing glucose from the blood into various tissues of the body. Beta cells release insulin into the body in response to blood sugar levels, specifically high ones. Insulin plays a number of different roles outside of this, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll keep it simple.
Although the discovery of insulin is attributed to Sir Frederick Banting and his lab assistant, Charles Best, it should be noted that the road to insulin’s discovery started over 50 years before Banting made the discovery. The relationship between the pancreas and Diabetes was therefore established during the late 1860’s and 70’s, with a number of experimental treatments never quite hitting the mark. It also surprised me to discovery just how many of these experiments were performed on dogs. Whether this is because they constitute a large mammal or because they were simply available is beyond me. Oh, how they were different times!
Starting in the early 1920’s, Banting and Best began experimenting with islet cells and injecting them into a Diabetic dog, which resulted in a dramatic drop in blood sugar levels. In January of 1922, the first injections to human patients were given and the rest is history. Banting won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1923, for the discovery of insulin. He shared the prize with Charles Best and sold the patent for insulin to the University of Toronto for a dollar.
The world would be a significantly different place if insulin had never been discovered. Obviously, I wouldn’t be here. But the millions of people who have been diagnosed with Diabetes certainly wouldn’t be either, as that diagnosis was basically akin to a death sentence before insulin came along. This isn’t really a “celebratory” holiday; you won’t likely catch people throwing parties or going crazy in any significant way. I mean, good on them if they do! Hopefully, they take the time to count the carbs in their drinks while they celebrate… ☯