Mondays with Mike: Mary the miraculous

January 30, 2017 • Posted in blindness, Mike Knezovich, Mondays with Mike, Uncategorized by

Well, we sure live in interesting times.

I still have about a thousand too many thoughts to sort out before I try to make sense of it all. Not that I can do that, but it’ll be therapeutic to try.


Meantime, I turn my attention to Mary Tyler Moore, who—between the Dick Van Dyke show in real time, the Dick Van Dyke Show in after-school reruns, and the Mary Tyler Moore Show in real time, and in reruns—always seemed to be part of the fabric of my own and so many others’ lives.

Others have done a fantastic job of chronicling and evaluating her show business career. It was fantastic—and for anyone who knows anything about type 1 (or juvenile) diabetes, it borders on the miraculous.

Beth had already been listening to one of Moore’s memoirs when the news broke last week about Moore’s death. The two were diagnosed with type 1 about the same time, in 1966. Beth was much younger, of course, but Moore has always been something of a role model. The book Beth was listening to is called Growing Up Again: Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes. It includes details about the always dreary and often terrifying slog that is being a type 1 diabetic.

One particularly poignant passage about experiencing a low blood sugar episode:

I was enjoying myself window shopping, and even though the weather was warm, I was surprised when my reflection in a storefront revealed dark stains on my favorite shirt.


I was perspiring like a race horse. No, like a farm animal. Suddenly I felt like I was sinking into a swamp of anxiety.

I was surprised to find myself digging in my handbag. For what?

I couldn’t remember.

Ah, yes. Lifesavers. I’d been told to keep Lifesavers always with me in case I experienced an episode of low blood sugar. I preferred all cherry.

Yes! That’s what it was! Low blood sugar! I was now trying to deal with the shakes as I continued digging. Eureka! Under a crumbled handkerchief, and just to the right of my wallet, there lurked my salvation. Have you ever tried to open a roll of Lifesavers when your hands are shaking?

She also provides a vivid description of laser treatments to her eyes. The short of it is she suffered, though less severely, the same condition that cost Beth her eyesight. In people who have type 1, the tiny blood vessels in places like your kidneys or your retina can get clogged up over time. The body tries to compensate by growing new ones, but they’re weak, and they burst or leak. In the eyes, that leads to blobs that obstruct vision. Lasers are used to cauterize the new, unwanted vessels.

Her vision fluctuated, and she describes being in what I call visual limbo states—when she could see a little, but just enough to embarrass her self at parties or public outings.

One time when she accidentally took the wrong kind of insulin before bed, she passed out and was rescued by her husband. One kind of insulin is fast acting—you take it right before a meal or snack. The other is time-released. You take it before bed and it works to maintain a constant blood sugar level. She took the wrong kind before bed and it nearly killed her.

Beth and I have experienced every one of these situations, with slightly different details. There’s a tendency to think, “Well, you just take insulin.” I’m here to tell you, it’s not that simple. You can be totally vigilant, totally committed, and still have low blood sugar reactions. The alternative—to avoid passing out or suffer impaired judgment—is to run a little high all the time. But that can lead to long-term consequences.

And any time your hormones change—say, menopause (and pregnancy turns everything nutzoid), you have to find a new pattern of new doses, which almost always includes some trial and error.

That MTM could carry off her career the way she did, well, like I said, it’s miraculous. Here in Chicago, there’s another similar story—Ron Santo, the Hall of Fame Cubs third baseman, managed to play major league baseball at a star level. This, before we had things like two kinds of insulin or home blood testing devices.

I hate the damn disease. Absolutely hate it. So, if you, like me, enjoyed Mary Tyler Moore, think about giving to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. JDRF is a terrific organization—she had served as the international chairman of JDRF since 1984. In that role she testified in front of Congress and raised billions of dollars for research.

That research is promising on several fronts, and perhaps, maybe even in our lifetime, we can celebrate wiping type 1 diabetes off the map by tossing our hats in the air.

Dean Fischer On January 30, 2017 at 4:24 pm

Mike, I always enjoy your writings, especially today’s. And yes, you have every right to hate that disease.


Mike On January 31, 2017 at 11:27 am

Thanks Dean. Hope all is well your way.

Marilee On January 30, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Thank you for sharing the other big part of her life. The best piece that I have read about MTM this week.

Laura On January 30, 2017 at 5:30 pm

Steve once gave himself a high dose of fast acting instead of long-acting insulin. That was a scramble of calculations and making sugared koolaid so that he could drink enough sugar quickly enough to keep him from completely crashing. I’ve always told him that if I have to shoot him in the butt with glucogon (SP?) I am only bringing him back so that I can kill him. Yes, I am a really good wife. 😉

Mike On January 30, 2017 at 6:12 pm

Yeah, when Beth did it it was a very sinking feeling the moment we realized it. And she’s sort of not on top of her game and…well, you know. It’s just such a tightrope.

Sharon Kramer On January 30, 2017 at 5:50 pm

An inspiring post. Thank you. I didn’t know a lot of that about mtm.

Pick On January 30, 2017 at 5:59 pm

Brilliant piece. Special place in my heart for MTM, Beth, and all who deal with the disease. You should be a writer…Oh, that’s right, you are. Keep up the good work.

Charlene On January 30, 2017 at 7:50 pm

Love you Beth & Mary T Moore! ❤️You are the strongest ladies ever!

Leone Anderson On January 31, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Thanks, Mike. A beautiful tribute to two wonderful ladies. It choked me up.

Mary Lou Wade On January 31, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Always enjoy your writing and am
Huge Beth Fan!! And loved MTM,

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