Walking For a Cure

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Frank Buckley with his son, Ben, at a Lakers game, shortly after Ben was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. (Courtesy of Frank Buckley)

By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF

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Every morning and every time he eats, 14-year-old Ben Buckley has to prick his finger to check his blood sugar. The eldest son of KTLA morning anchor Frank Buckley was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes nearly three years ago during a routine physical. Speaking with his father, you can sense a parent’s love and anguish.

“The first few months my wife and I couldn’t talk about it without crying, it was so devastating to see him go through this,” said Buckley in an interview with The Rafu Shimpo.

Since his son’s diagnosis, Buckley has become a passionate advocate for juvenile diabetes awareness. His family will be leading this Sunday’s Walk to Cure Diabetes at Dodger Stadium.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved.

There is no cure for the disease, which requires rigorous management with daily injections of insulin. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, sponsors of Sunday’s walk, estimate that as many as three million Americans have the disease. Type 1 is different from Type 2, the more common form of diabetes, in which being overweight and inactive are risk factors.

The Buckley family rides in the 2009 Nisei Week Parade. Frank is joined by his wife, Elena and sons, Ben and Sebastian. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

For Ben, an active teen who loves to play basketball, the diagnosis has meant careful daily management of the disease.

“He weighs out the carb grams before he eats anything and adds up all those grams, a lot of it is estimation. Then you inject the appropriate amount of insulin,” explained Frank. “If he gets it right, he’s fine. If he goes low, he feels horrible. If he goes high, he can also feel ill. If you don’t manage diabetes, it can have life-threatening consequences.”

KTLA is one of the sponsors of Walk to Cure Diabetes. As news anchor, Frank has profiled individuals with diabetes who live successful, active lives, including ex-UCLA safety Matt Ware of the Arizona Cardinals and Olympic swimmer Gary Hall, Jr.

“You never overcome it but you learn how to manage it, and with management you can live a wonderful life,” said Buckley.

Buckley, who is of Japanese heritage, has been a fixture at Japanese American events, including emceeing the upcoming welcome reception for Consul General Jun Niimi in Little Tokyo on Nov. 22. But he said he was at first reluctant to ask for support from the Japanese American community.

Ben and Sebastian Buckley (Courtesy of Frank Buckley)

“I haven’t contacted the JBA (Japan Business Association) or JACCC (Japanese American Cultural Community Center) or USJC (U.S.-Japan Council) or JANM (Japanese American National Museum) because I always feel awkward about asking people for money,” Buckley said. “But if they see this story and it’s something that speaks to them, I hope they will step forward.”

As for Ben, he has learned to live with Type 1 diabetes and is thriving – playing football, volleyball and tennis in between honors courses. He’s even following in his dad’s footsteps and is learning Japanese.

“My Japanese mother was thrilled. She loves it even more when he calls her for help on his homework,” Buckley exclaimed.

The JDRF 5k Walk to Cure Diabetes will take place on Sunday at Dodger Stadium. Walks will also be held in Santa Barbara, Bakersfield and Fresno. Registration starts at 8 a.m.; the walk will begin at 11 a.m. For more information, call the JDRF LA office at (213) 233-9901 or visit www.jdrfla.org. To join Team KTLA-BB (Ben Buckley) visit www.ktla.com/community/jdrf

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