My life: Taekwondo and Diabetes

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Two things consume my life, entirely. Two things have shaped who I am today.  They have made me strong, courageous, responsible, and given me the will to overcome any challenges I face.  These two things are Type 1 Diabetes and Taekwondo.

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I began my taekwondo journey at the age of 6 (almost 10 years ago). Two years earlier, on a day I will never forget (April 22, 2005), I was diagnosed with a disease that would change my entire life. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin the body needs to survive. At the age of 4, I was forced to grow up faster than most kids, learn how to count carbs, give myself shots, prick my finger 10-12 times a day and endure the hardships of highs and lows. I even had to explain why I had to do all of this to my classmates, who were full of questions. Once I realized that every time I had to eat I would get a shot, I stopped eating. Imagine trying to force your child to eat a piece of cake or a cookie who simply refused – not a likely scenario for many children. I fell off the growth chart and the doctor’s office became my second home, until I got my insulin pump.  To a four-year-old this felt like a cure, but was really far from it.

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Soccer, basketball, softball, cheer, and dance; I did it all.  None of these sports helped in the way that Taekwondo has helped me in my fight against Type 1. On August 6, 2007, my mom, brother and I were driving around and I noticed a small building named, “Taekwondo” (before it became KOMA). I was so intrigued that my mom decided to stop by.   I didn’t know what it was about the studio or the children kicking and yelling but I knew that it wouldn’t be just another sport or activity.   Little did I know that walking into that studio 10 years ago was the best decision I would ever make. Elated is too weak a word to express how excited I was about starting Taekwondo. My mom and brother started with me but one by one they began to drop off beginning with my mother and soon after my brother; but I stayed.

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I was just like any other student when I started, uncoordinated and fidgety with a lack of focus, except for the fact that I had to closely monitor my blood sugars, step out of class when I was too high or too low and worst of all sit out of class when these things happened. I went to class often, and soon I gained the leadership skills, confidence and responsibility to join Leadership Team. However, it wasn’t until my first black belt testing where I realized this was my passion. I knew I liked Taekwondo but I had never really took it seriously. Then, I failed my first black belt testing. I was devastated, this would have been the point where I would quit in any other sport but I had no urge to walk away. Anger built up and I vowed that I would never fail another testing. It taught me the importance of drive, hard work and determination. I practiced more than ever before and passed my black belt testing, joined competition team and was given the honor of becoming an Instructor and earned my 3rd degree black belt. Another personal challenge for me was breaking boards.  After working incredibly hard at it, I still find myself struggling, but the improvement I have made over the years only gives me hope for more ameliorations to come.

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From ages 6-14, my blood sugar monitoring was impeccable. Doctor’s continually told my parents and I how great we were doing and used us as examples for the families who weren’t as successful and when I strayed from the right path, I knew Master Ko would always lead me back on track. At the age of 14 or 15, however, things started going downhill. After having to take my blood sugar 10-12 times every single day for 12 years, I had decided I was done. I was tired of waking up every day with this disease; it was easier to pretend it didn’t exist. I maintained my responsibility in school and home and worked hard at pretty much everything but my diabetes. Not only did this decision to pretend I didn’t have this disease put a strain on my health but it has also put a huge strain on my relationship with my parents.

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Master Ko took it upon himself to help me through this time. Now, to a stubborn teenager, this seemed more like torture than help but it was much needed. He set up a few systems to track my blood sugars and got on me about it when I didn’t follow through. I didn’t need someone to tell me I would get through this, or encourage me to fight through. I needed someone to tell me how closed-minded and childish I was being in not caring for my diabetes and that’s exactly what Master Ko did for me. He knew that despite my actions, I knew what was right and that things needed to change.

The determination, ambition, confidence, integrity and indomitable will  Taekwondo has taught me, carries through school, my community and most importantly my life.  These are lessons that unlike, flexibility, strength and skill, will never fade away. One day a cure for Type 1 Diabetes will be found, I’ll go to college, start a career and begin a life for myself but Ko Martial Arts and the culture and character instilled into me will always be a part of who I am.

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