Monday, October 12, 2009

The Sugarless Plum

The Sugarless Plum
A Ballerina's Triumph Over Diabetes

By Zippora Karz

For dancer Zippora Karz, a rising young star with the famed New York City Ballet, being diagnosed with diabetes could easily have ended all her dreams. She was just twenty-one when she was plucked from the corps de ballet to dance solo roles like the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker. It was near the end of a grueling season when she became exhausted, dizzy, and excessively thirsty. Heavy pancake makeup covered the sores under her arms that would not heal, but still Karz neglected to return her doctor's urgent calls. When she finally went to the doctor, she learned that her blood sugar was excessively high. If she continued to ignore her symptoms, Karz risked heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and amputation of toes, feet, and legs. Because she was over twenty, doctors misdiagnosed her with Type 2 diabetes, when in fact she had juvenile (or Type 1) diabetes. Her weight dropped and she became dangerously ill as a result of being prescribed the wrong treatment. Once correctly diagnosed and placed on an insulin regimen, she would inject herself with unsafe doses before going on stage in ill-judged attempts to obtain peak performance. The potentially fatal result of Karz's self-experimentation became all too real when she nearly put herself into a coma.

Balancing ballet and her blood sugar would be a long and difficult struggle for Karz, but eventually she learned to value her body and work with it, rather than rage at its limitations. In The Sugarless Plum, Karz shares her journey from denial, shame and mis-education about her illness to how she lead an active, balanced, and satisfying life as an insulin-dependent diabetic and ballet star. Through her fascinating story, those struggling with diabetes and other serious illnesses can find encouragement and inspiration as well as practical advice on achieving physical and emotional wellness.

After sixteen years with the New York City Ballet, Karz retired and took her passion and skills into a whole new arena as a diabetes educator and advocate, where today she inspires people to not just manage their illness, but to thrive and fulfill their passions. The Sugarless Plum takes readers deep into the heart and soul of a young dancer, and is a remarkable testament to determination and perseverance.

Author Bio
Zippora Karz, author of The Sugarless Plum: A Ballerina's Triumph Over Diabetes, is a former soloist ballerina with the New York City Ballet where she performed for 16 years on stage and in televised performances. She was featured in a variety of roles choreographed by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins (The Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker being one of her favorites) as well as works choreographed for her by such choreographers as Peter Martins and Lynne Taylor Corbett. Miss Karz danced with the New York City Ballet from 1983 through 1999. She now serves as a teacher and repetiteur for the George Balanchine Trust, rehearsing and staging Balanchine's choreography for a host of national and international dance companies. She is also a diabetes spokesperson and educator who regularly addresses major diabetes conferences and organizations worldwide. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

For more information please visit Zippora Karz and

My Review:
In recent years I've met multiple moms whose children have been diagnosed with diabetes - the preschool daughter of a longtime friend, the school age son of a neighbor, a high school boy in our church youth group as well as a school age girl in our preteen youth group - the list seems to keep growing. When The Sugarless Plum was available for reviewing, I knew I had to read it and I'm glad I did.
I was surprised to find out that Karz is a contemporary of mine since I can't remember knowing any teens/young adults with diabetes while in high school or college. It seemed to be a disease of old overweight people.
I enjoyed Karz's story of both her struggle with diabetes and her journey in the world of ballet. I had hoped this book would be great for teen and tween girls with diabetes but alas there is a too descriptive scene of an encounter between her and a doctor. I wish that had been written more discretely so more teens could benefit from reading her story.
I would recommend this book to parents of children with diabetes, college students and young adults with diabetes and anyone that wants to learn how one woman managed her diabetes while dealing with the rigorous training and schedule of a professional ballerina.

Thank you to FSB Media for providing me with a copy of The Sugarless Plum to read and review.

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