Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Of needles, green aliens and (mental) health

IT'S MIDNIGHT and I'm snoring and without warning The Missus poked me in the side and uttered these familiar words: "Wake up, it's time to take your needle."
Jabbing that "needle"filled with insulin into me has become a familiar routine. Yes, I am a full-fledged diabetic and this once mediocre athlete has turned into a 260-pound weakling and dependent on the "needle."
Of course, others have no means to vent their frustrations. I do with this column.
Before wallowing in the pit of self-pity, let me tell you I am not alone with this disease, which has sapped so many of their vitality and, in later stages of life, their memory and brought on unexpected temper tantrums (my diagnosis).
You know what I'm talking about if you are a diabetic or in the family of a diabetic. My late father also suffered through the miseries of the chronic disease
.And it's no respecter of persons. Both rich and poor can be victims of it.
The reason for writing about this disease was two fold: A list of famous persons with the disease has appeared on the Net and also an article by Michael Silver concerning Denver Broncos' quarterback Jay Cutler and his journey in the NFL.
In checking the list of athletes, who have or had diabetes, it includes hockey's Bobby Clark and the late Arthur Ashe from tennis.
Then there was the very angry Ty Cobb, the mild-mannered Joe Gibbs along with boxing's Sugar Ray Robinson, James (Buster) Douglas and Smokin' Joe Frazier. From baseball the names include Jackie Robinson, Ron Santo, Catfish Hunter and Boomer Wells.
Other diabetics, who certainly gained fame, included the likes of Thomas Edison, Jack Benny, James Cagney, Dick Clark, Larry King, Elizabeth Taylor and Mae West.
Then there was the Soul Man, James Brown, the Man In Black Johnny Cash, the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, Waylon Jennings, B.B. King, Neil Young and the king, himself, Elvis Presley.
In the writing trade was Ernest Hemingway and Anne Rice (Interview With a Vampire).
And the list goes on and on. So if you, too, have been prodded to take your needle, do not feel all alone.
In just the last few days I have started to re-read To Teach, To Learn, To Live by Diane O'Grady, whom I talked with at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
In it, one of the most striking statements was this one: "Diabetes is now a global epidemic."
Although it is called the Complete Diabetes Education Guide for Health Care Professionals, O'Grady certainly outlines the signs and symptoms in laymen's terms such as increased thirst and urination, excessive hunger, weight loss, fatigue and blurred vision.
Now excuse me while I draw some blood, take a reading, and then take another "needle."
Although I've written a number of columns concerning UFOs, the most striking report showed up the other day from over 'ome.The British Ministry of Defence (stiff upper lip types and all that) apparently have files on 11,000 sightings dating all the way back to the 1950s.Of course, like the U.S. Air Force the sightings have been scuttled as so many hot-air balloons, etc., etc., but it certainly makes one wonder
The archives (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ufos) are filled with stories and one which struck my fancy was about a 78-year-old out fishing at midnight and his account "of following aliens in green overalls onto a spaceship." According to the Reuters report, the ancient geezer was told to go away "because he was too old and decrepit for their purposes."
During my newspaper travels throughout the world, I have met numerous fascinating people, but Sandy Naiman rates at the top of any list. She was my friend and colleague at the Toronto Sun and an outstanding writer and speaker.
Just in the last few days I have read her autobiographical article, 'Coming Out Crazy,' which appeared in the October 1999 issue of Chatelaine.
However, Naiman has also been an inspiration to countless thousands throughout this country and the world, for my friend, Sandy, has lived with a serious mental illness since the age of 12.
Sandy Naiman has to rate as a true "overcomer."
Finally, speaking of an "overcomer," Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, who threw a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals is definitely one.
Lester, a left-hander out of Tacoma's Bellarmine High School, was diagnosed with lymphoma and his chances to succeed were rated as slim and none.
However, such a fate wasn't in his future for he worked his way back and certainly has shown the meaning of "true grit."


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