A little boy wanted ice cream after dinner one night. Because his parents had already counted his carbohydrates and given him a carefully calculated dose of insulin, his mother tried to dissuade him.
Anybody with kids knows they are master negotiators, and this kid did not let up—he wanted ice cream.
“What if I exercise?” he asked.
What could his parents say to that? Taking out a small trampoline, they told him, “OK, if you exercise for 20 minutes, you can have some ice cream.”
The kid got on the trampoline. “I can do it, I can do it. Ice cream, ice cream,” he chanted while he jumped. And he didn’t stop.
When he got off the trampoline, the parents tested his glucose. It was 85 mg/dl. He got to have some ice cream. And, as his blood glucose kept falling, he also got to have some cookies and some juice.
This shows the power of desire, motivation and exercise all at once.
My First Job
I was 16 years old in 1975 when I got my first job, at a Sambo’s Pancake House. I was the dishwasher.
I was in hog heaven. I could eat all I wanted—pancakes, chocolate sundaes, fountain drinks. Unfortunately, the thirst was unending. I was constantly refilling my 7-Up. I also had to go to the bathroom every five minutes. Other than that, I felt fine.
But Mom was concerned and made me go to the doctor anyway. I was put in the hospital immediately and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
After a week in the hospital, I was discharged and told to take one shot of 70 units of NPH insulin every morning. I had no support. No education. No meeting with a diabetes educator. I was just thrown out there.
I reached out to talk about my diabetes, and people said the most shocking things to me.
“Oh, yeah,” one friend said, “my uncle had that. They had to cut his leg off.” Another told me I would grow out of it.
Preacher, Heal Me
I wanted to be done with this disease, so I went to see a faith healer named Kathryn Kuhlman, who was appearing at the Oakland Coliseum. I joined her hundred-plus choir.
At one point during the evening, Kathryn turned toward me. “Someone in the choir,” she said, “has just been healed of diabetes.”
Hallelujah! I threw down my syringes. I was elated!
As I drove home, I was dancing in my seat as I listened to the radio. This was it!
Unfortunately, I had to stop at every gas station to use the bathroom.
Starting the Magazine
My doctor didn’t have time to educate me about diabetes. I had never heard of an endocrinologist, so I turned to the library.
There, I found a wealth of information: studies on how to calculate insulin doses, studies on the effects of exercise and the effects of alcohol, studies on the benefits of vitamins. I read about intensive therapy before it was popularized.
I learned that it can take up to 15 years for good clinical findings to be commonly prescribed. There were people out there doing fantastic work, and it was available in medical journals.
That led to a stint as a radio talk-show host, interviewing hundreds of luminaries about diabetes. This magazine began with transcripts from that radio show, thus the name Diabetes Interview.
Here we are, more than 11 years and 3,500 articles later. Diabetes has given me a meaningful career—I’ve turned my lemon into lemonade.
The Light Goes On
When Thomas Edison was developing the lightbulb, a journalist asked: “You know, Mr. Edison, you’ve tried this 8,000 times now and failed. Don’t you think it’s an indication that man was meant to light his way with a candle?”
“Young man, you don’t know how things work,” Mr. Edison responded. “I have not failed, but rather discovered 8,000 ways that will not work.”
After 10,000 tries, Edison invented the lightbulb.
It’s a good lesson for all of us who want to learn more about controlling our diabetes: Keep looking, don’t give up, try new groups, new therapies, new insulin, new strategies—until you achieve good blood-glucose control.