Beware of the “Silent Killer” #Diabetes

One Christmas morning in the late 1970’s, Santa Claus brought bicycles for my brother and me.  My brother, who is almost two and a half years older, already knew how to ride but I still needed to be taught. I’ll never forget my dad teaching me to ride that bike in the front yard of his Montgomery, Alabama, home that chilly Christmas morning.

My dad, Randall Fuller, was just like any other dad, albeit with one exception; he was blind.

Factor in his blindness with my stutter and it was an accident waiting to happen and boy did it ever. He simultaneously held the left handle bar and the back of the seat, took off running and told me to pedal. As a person who stutters, I have particular difficulty with words beginning with the letter S. I tried yelling “S-S-S-S-S” but by the time I got out “STOP!” it was too late. I was already lying face down in the sticker bushes.

Before losing his sight, he was a barber.

For a short period of time, he cut hair at Campus Barber Shop in Auburn.  He even cut former Auburn quarterback Pat Sullivan’s hair a time or two. Although he was a devoted Alabama fan, he swept up and kept some of the Heisman Trophy winning hair in an envelope. I remember that envelope full of hair being around the house for a few years. I’m not sure what ever happened to it.

Later, he owned the Playboy Barber Shop in the breezeway of the Midway Plaza shopping center in Opelika. Perhaps some of our readers remember the pet mongoose he kept in a cage there.

My dad was also a champion coon hunter. People came from miles away just to go hunting with him. I can’t go anywhere without someone telling me about some of the late night coon hunting adventures in the freezing woods of Tallapoosa County.

Predictably, after losing his sight, he couldn’t get anyone to go with him. I can’t say that I blame them.

My dad was a diabetic. He had “the sugar.” In fact, he was diagnosed with what has been coined the “silent killer” when he was just four years old.

I’m not here to bash my old man, but the cold hard truth is that he didn’t take care of himself the way he should have. He didn’t go in for checkups, because, according to my mother, he said he felt fine. By the time he started experiencing problems with his vision, it was too late.

He did, however, immediately enroll at the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega, which helped him cope with his impending predicament.

In spite of his blindness, he continued to work every day, just not as a barber. He set a great example for his two boys. My dad was a flawed hero.

He would have turned 67 years old on November 16; however, this dreadful disease prematurely ended his life at 35. His boys were only 11 and 8.

This is one of only two pictures I have with him. The other is from a large family gathering. Glad to see my parents had the same haircut. Wylie was growing into his. I always was a little different.

This is one of only two pictures I have with him. The other is from a large family gathering. Glad to see my parents had the same haircut. Wylie was growing into his. I always was a little different.

The startling statistics below come from JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.)

Diabetes affects nearly 24 million Americans.

In the U.S., a new case of diabetes is diagnosed every 30 seconds; more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed each year.

Forty-one children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each and every day.

More than $174 billion is spent annually on healthcare costs related to diabetes in the United States.

Diabetes kills one American every three minutes.

November is “Diabetes Awareness Month” but we should always be conscious of the “silent killer.”

Don’t be a victim. Educate yourself. Get tested. Add exercise to your daily routine and watch your diet.

The author of this article needs to do the same.

Jody Fuller is comic, speaker, writer, and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com

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Stuttering is Cool

I come from a long line of disabilities. I stutter, my father was blind, and my mother and brother are Alabama fans; however, since May 13-19 is National Stuttering Awareness week, I’ll st-st-stick to stuttering.

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When I was in the second grade, one of my classmates asked me why I stuttered. I told her that when I was a kid, I was eating a piece of meat and it got stuck in my throat, so whenever I tried to talk, it bounced up and down which caused me to stutter.

She bought it hook, line, and sinker.

I can’t recall whether she moved, transferred schools or what, but I didn’t see her again until we were in the seventh grade. After a brief conversation, she said, “Jody, it sounds like you still have that meat stuck in your throat.”

Indeed, I did.

Indeed, I do.

I’ve stuttered my entire life, although it was much more severe during my childhood.

There are varying degrees of stuttering, from mild to severe.

There are, perhaps, as many different patterns of stuttering as there are people who stutter. I’ve often said that a person’s stutter is as unique as fingerprints and snowflakes.

The exact cause of stuttering is not known.

Throughout history, some of the more laughable proposed “causes” of stuttering, per Wikipedia, have included tickling an infant too much, allowing an infant to look in the mirror, eating improperly during breastfeeding, cutting a child’s hair before the child spoke his or her first words, having too small a tongue, or, my favorite, the “work of the devil.”

People who stutter often experience physical tension and struggle in their speech muscles, as well as embarrassment, anxiety, and fear about speaking. Together, these symptoms can make it very difficult for people who stutter to say what they want to say and to communicate effectively with others.

I borrowed the previous paragraph from my friends at the National Stuttering Association.

The National Stuttering Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing hope and empowerment to children and adults who stutter, their families, and professionals through support, education, advocacy, and research.

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For centuries “cures” such as drinking water from a snail shell, hitting a stutterer in the face when the weather was cloudy, strengthening the tongue as a muscle, and various herbal remedies were used.

These “cures” are equally as laughable as the “causes.” There is no cure for stuttering. Some of us may outgrow it or control it better than others, but once a stutterer, always a stutterer, and that’s okay. It’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it should be embraced.

Danny, one of my Canadian pals who also stutters, says stuttering is cool. I couldn’t agree more.

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(My Canadian pal, Danny, eh….at the 2011 NSA conference in Ft. Worth)

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees.

During Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, I was told by an officer from another company that I couldn’t be an officer because of my stutter. I wish I’d caught his name because I would’ve looked him up and sent him a message by now letting him know that upon arrival at my first assignment at Ft. Lewis, my bosses had enough confidence in my abilities to appoint me as the platoon leader of the third largest platoon in the Army.

Clear and concise communication is important; however, it is not the be all end all.

Only 1% of the adult population stutters but 4% of children do, which means 96% do not. If I had a nickel for every time I was made fun of, I could have retired at 12.

We all have perceived flaws. Yes, all of us. You, too. None of us are perfect.

We’re all unique in our own way and all have the ability to shine, regardless of the perceived flaw. At the risk of sounding arrogant, there was a time in my life where people made fun of me for the way I spoke, yet, today, people pay to hear me speak.

Due to, in large part, to stuttering, there was also a time in my life when I wanted to be any but me, yet, today, there’s no one else I’d rather be.

My advice to anyone who stutters is to truly accept it. I know that can be hard for some of us, but if you don’t accept it yourself, then how can you truly expect it from others?

Accept it, embrace it, and let it shine, because loving yourself really is cool, no doubt about it.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.