Mary Tyler Moore Worked Hard to Raise Awareness of Diabetes

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Mary Tyler Moore testified at a Senate hearing for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in 2009 on the need for federal funding for Type 1 diabetes research. (Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage)
Mary Tyler Moore testifies at a Senate hearing for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in 2009 on the need for federal funding for Type 1 diabetes research. (Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImage)

TV icon Mary Tyler Moore passed away on Wednesday at the age of 80. She had long suffered from a variety of health problems and most notably was a type 1 diabetic. Amid the Oscar-nominated actress’s many accomplishments, the one that was nearest and dearest to her heart was her tireless efforts to raise awareness and funds to help bring an end to diabetes.

Moore was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 33. While typically described as juvenile diabetes, type 1 can affect children and adults at any time. Type 1 is diagnosed when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin to help keep blood glucose levels in check.

Rather than let the diagnosis weigh her down, Moore rose up to become a spokesperson and create an admirable network of support for others who were also suffering from the disease. As the international chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), she spearheaded many fundraising efforts designed to help raise the profile of diabetes and fund research efforts surrounding it, with the hope of finding a cure.

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Her efforts were so appreciated by the JDRF that the organization launched an entire research initiative named after the actress, calling it Forever Moore. The initiative was created to help support the JDRF’s Academic Research and Development program, along with its Clinical Development program, which focused on turning research advancements into treatments and technologies that could help support people living with type 1 diabetes.

Moore also shared her passion for diabetes activism through a series of commercials discussing the advancements that the JDRF had made in researching the disease and what it meant for people who were affected. As she shared in a commercial back in 1986, “12 million Americans have diabetes. The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation has invested more than $30 million to help find a cure.”

In another commercial, in 1989, Moore noted, “Twenty years ago, insulin was the closest thing we had to a cure for diabetes. But in reality it was far from it. That’s why a handful of people formed the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Today, the organization gives more money to diabetes research than any other nonprofit agency. We’re closer to finding a cure, but if we stop now, it’ll be as if we never started.”

For a time, it seemed that Moore felt she had her diabetes under control. In 2009, she wrote a second memoir called Growing Up Again: Life, Loves, and, Oh Yeah, Diabetes, and told People magazine that she was in a good place with the disease. “I thought I’d have to recline on a chaise the rest of my life,” she said, adding, “There have been challenges, but I’ve triumphed.”

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Unfortunately, her health fell into decline. She had surgery to remove a benign brain tumor in 2011 and told the New York Times in 2012, “I do have problems with my eyes, one eye in particular, and if I fall, I generally break a bone.” In 2014, she declined further, with reports suggesting that she was having heart and kidney problems and was nearly blind. Her former onscreen husband, Dick Van Dyke, told Larry King in 2015 that he was concerned for Moore’s health. “[Diabetes] has taken a toll on her; she’s not well at all,” he said.

But through it all, Moore maintained her passionate support of the JDRF and her nonstop efforts to help bring an end to the disease. Her influence on diabetes research and awareness will undoubtedly be felt for years to come.