For two young girls in the East Lincoln area, being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes has been a life-altering event.
Apart from the diagnosis, what sets 11-year-old Victoria Scott and 9-year-old Jacquelyn Popoff apart is their determination to control their condition through Kung Fu.
Both girls are students at the Shaolin Kung Fu School on N.C. 16 in Denver. Owner and instructor Mark C. Williams, 48, has been practicing and teaching Kung Fu since he was 16. Williams moved to Denver in 1995 and opened a school to teach Kung Fu in 2005. The school motto and guiding principle is "No excuses!"
In addition to increased physical fitness and coordination, said Williams, practicing Kung Fu can lead to "strong character and peace of mind."
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"It is an essential discipline for the integration of physical and mental powers," he said.
These qualities are necessary for people learning to live with Type 1 diabetes, which calls for lifestyle changes.
Angelica Scott, Victoria's mother, said diabetes is a 24-hour-a-day condition. Victoria must be constantly aware of her blood sugar levels and monitor everything she eats.
Victoria is a sixth-grader at Lake Norman Christian School, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in May 2008.
With Type 1 diabetes the pancreas no longer produces insulin, which controls blood sugar levels. If not properly taken care of, diabetes can lead to blindness, nerve damage and kidney failure.
Children with Type 1 diabetes can develop severely elevated blood sugar levels, which is where Kung Fu comes into play. The exercise helps keep blood sugar levels down.
Victoria and Jacquelyn both wear pumps to administer insulin. Jacquelyn's father, Bob, said class is one of the few times they can remove the pumps. "When I come into Kung Fu, I forget that I'm diabetic and I concentrate on my forms," said Victoria.
Jacquelyn is in the third grade at SouthLake Christian Academy. Currently a green belt, she has studied Kung Fu since she was 6. When diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in November 2008, one of her first concerns was whether she would be able to continue Kung Fu. But the exercise and other benefits enable her to more effectively control her condition.
For Jacquelyn, Kung Fu is just one part of her exercise regimen. She also participates in a summer basketball camp and swimming at school.
Victoria had tried participating in basketball and soccer, at her mom's behest, to become more active as a way to regulate her blood sugar. Then, while attending a Kung Fu banquet with her brother Jacob, 6, who was already in Kung Fu, she spoke to Jacquelyn, whom she knew from a diabetes fundraiser, "Dribble Out Diabetes."
Both girls are now strong advocates for Kung Fu as a means of controlling blood sugar levels through exercise.