Diabetes Forecast Interviews Ballerina Zippora Karz about the Ultimate Balancing Act
Having diabetes can feel like a balancing act among blood glucose (sugar) levels, food, exercise and the ways in which each of these elements affects day-to-day life. Add to this more than 12 hours of dancing each day in pointe shoes, late-night performances and flip-flopping diagnoses, and it’s no wonder that ballerina Zippora Karz “felt like a human yo-yo.” Diabetes Forecast, the consumer magazine of the American Diabetes Association, interviews Karz about her experience in the New York City Ballet with type 1 diabetes.
As a 21-year-old member of the New York City Ballet in 1987, Karz began to experience some common symptoms of diabetes, such as extreme thirst, constant hunger, and frequent urination. She ignored these until they began to interfere with her performances. “I went to the doctor because I was freaked out about my performance, not because I was worried about my health,” Karz says. When the diagnosis of diabetes came, it didn’t exactly clear things up – at first she was told type 2 diabetes, then type 1, then type 2 again from another doctor, and finally back to type 1 diabetes.
Once she was properly diagnosed, Karz had to confront the emotional side of balancing her diabetes treatment with her dance regimen and personal perfectionism. “I almost quit many, many times; it was a very difficult thing for me,” Karz tells Diabetes Forecast. “But I stayed and didn’t use diabetes as an excuse, and really gave my insulin regimen a chance.” Six years after being diagnosed, she was promoted to be a soloist ballerina in the company.
With so much time spent on their toes, ballet dancers must be careful in treating the blisters and infections that can occur. For a ballerina with diabetes, this is even more important. “I had to be very meticulous with my feet because I was on pointe all day,” comments Karz, who took time to learn that she would do better if she stayed off her feet when infections developed. “Trying to find the right shoes was also important … but I never found [the right fit] in 16 years!”
Now retired from the New York City Ballet, Karz is a teacher and a repetiteur for the George Balanchine Trust, traveling across the globe to stage the famed choreographer’s works. She is also an author, having recently published The Sugarless Plum: A Ballerina’s Triumph Over Diabetes. And she is a motivational speaker, sharing her personal story about the way she learned to balance blood glucose and ballet. “I feel very balanced,” Karz says, “in the way I’ve learned to live my life.”
Also in this issue of Diabetes Forecast: “Don’t Duck the Yuck!” Struggling with bad breath? Dealing with toenail fungus? Problems in the bedroom? Problems in the bathroom? These topics can be so embarrassing that many people will avoid talking with their health care provider about them – which is a mistake. Some of these “yuck factors” can be symptoms of more serious problems, so Diabetes Forecast frankly discusses some of the most common ailments associated with diabetes.
The February issue brings you even more:
- Lovin’ Spoonfuls – Share the gift of healthy eating with your loved one this Valentine’s Day
- A Hypothesis for the AGEs – Exploring the link between high blood glucose and diabetic complications
- Focusing on the Future: How a couple works to improve diabetes care through supporting the American Diabetes Association’s Research Foundation and young scientists.
Diabetes Forecast has been America's leading diabetes magazine for more than 60 years, offering the latest news on diabetes research and treatment to provide information, inspiration, and support to people with diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association is leading the fight to Stop Diabetes and its deadly consequences and fighting for those affected by diabetes. The Association funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes. Founded in 1940, our mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. For more information please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit www.diabetes.org. Information from both these sources is available in English and Spanish.