A Ballerina’s Triumph Over Diabetes: Zippora Karz Shares Her Personal Journey Through Denial and Rage


November is American Diabetes Month. This year the American Diabetes Association is taking the campaign to the next level to stop diabetes.

Over 24 million children and adults in the U.S. have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. An additional 57 million are at risk for having diabetes. The trend is growing and becoming an epidemic. If it is not stopped, one in three children born today will become a diabetic at some point in their life. The ADA is asking Americans to confront the disease, fight it and stop it.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Zippora Karz was at the beginning of her career as a ballerina with the New York City Ballet when she began to experience excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplainable non-healing sores in her underarms, and extreme fatigue and exhaustion. At the suggestion of her dermatologist, she saw an internist and had some blood work done. But then for weeks she ignored the urgent message to call the internist back.

When she finally made the call and went to see the internist, she received news she never expected to hear. She was diagnosed with diabetes. She didn’t have time to learn about the disease and how to care for herself until she was so exhausted she couldn’t carry on. At first she ignored it and lived in denial.

Misdiagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes

As she began her treatment, she was originally thought to be type 2, but was unable to gain adequate control of her blood sugars. Karz did not go willingly into this arena. Like many people who receive the diagnosis of diabetes, she spent a lot of time in denial and yet in intense fear of developing the possible complications she was warned about such as stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and blindness.

When Karz was finally correctly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes because her body fails to produce insulin, she began to gain glycemic control. However, trying to balance her blood sugar, insulin and the demands of her career as a dancer, Karz attempted to adjust her own insulin dose and almost paid for it with her life.

Denial, Shame and Rage

As she finally began to put herself first and learned more about her disease and treatment, she gained control of her disease. To do this, Karz journeyed through her own deep denial and feelings of shame. She raged at the disease for the ways it limited her life and career. When she finally got good information and education, she was able to turn things around and lived the life she always wanted as a soloist with the NYC Ballet despite being insulin-dependent.

After 16 years, Karz retired from the ballet and became a diabetic educator. She also set out to write her own story to share her struggles with others. In The Sugarless Plum A Ballerina’s Triumph Over Diabetes, Karz takes the reader on her journey. The book is easy to read and captures the reader on page one and doesn’t let go until the story is has been told.

Anyone struggling with a diagnosis of diabetes and how to incorporate the strict regimen into their lifestyle will greatly appreciate the passion and intense honesty Karz shares. She takes the reader through her own experiences to be inspired, and gain confidence and understanding that until diabetes is stopped, those who are diagnosed can triumph and adapt.

The Sugarless Plum A Ballerina’s Triumph Over Diabetes, by Zippora Karz ©2009 Harlequin, Ontario Canada. ISBN-13: 978-0-373-89203-7. In the interest of full disclosure, Kathy Quan received a free review copy of this book.

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