Zippora Karz should have been ecstatic.
After three years with the New York City Ballet, the 21-year-old ballerina was about to star in a new ballet, Les Petits Riens, in a role created especially for her. But Karz was chronically exhausted, suffered from excessive thirst and frequent urination, and had developed raw, ugly sores on the underside of her arms. The problem, as Karz would soon learn, was that she had Type 1, or juvenile, diabetes.
Dancing was Karz’s passion, and she was determined to perform in spite of her disease. But between rehearsals all day and performances at night, Karz had little time to measure her blood sugar or take insulin injections.
After being told, incorrectly, that she had Type 2 diabetes, which can be reversed through diet and exercise, Karz stopped taking insulin while continuing to dance. She ended up making herself dangerously ill — the five-foot-six-inch dancer dropped to 95 pounds and battled stiffening muscles and constant infections.
“I looked terrible and felt just as bad, but I was deluded enough, and determined enough, to decide never to go back on insulin, and I came up with any excuse I could think of except uncontrolled blood sugar for my worsening condition.” writes Karz in her book, “The Sugarless Plum: A Ballerina’s Triumph Over Diabetes,” (Harlequin; November 1, 2009; $22.95 US/$25.95 CAN; Hardcover ).
Karz eventually learned to balance diabetes and her career as a ballerina. Now a dance teacher and a diabetes spokesperson and educator, Karz wants to stop others from making her mistakes. “Never let anyone tell you that diabetes will stop you from doing what you love, but don’t — as I did — put your health at risk for the sake of achieving success,” she cautions.
Karz offers the following tips that can help not only diabetics, but anyone struggling with a chronic condition:
Find your passion. Whatever your passion in life, it will give you motivation to stay healthy.
Take care of your body. Eat right — Karz focuses on organic foods -; and get enough sleep.
Find doctors you trust. You should feel comfortable talking to your doctor. A good doctor will discuss any recent advances and will explain the best treatment protocols.
“I hope by telling my story that I have been able to encourage others to take responsibility for their health so that they can make good decisions about how to take care of themselves and live full, passionate, lives, even with serious conditions,” says Karz.
To read Karz’s story in full and to receive more tips, read the book “The Sugarless Plum: A Ballerina’s Triumph Over Diabetes.”