In 1957, Jerry Mathers was hired for what would become the acting gig of his life. At just 9 years old, the Iowa native landed the role of Theodore Cleaver, otherwise known as “The Beaver,” on the hit sitcom “Leave it to Beaver.”
The show filmed for just six seasons but would stay in the hearts of fans for years to come. In fact, it went on to be aired in 80 countries, in more than 40 languages.
Mathers was set.
After the show ended, he took time to attend school, join the Air Force National Guard, and graduate from college. However, he didn’t stay away from the entertainment business for long.
This time, however, show business wasn’t his only endeavor. In a recent interview with Fox News, he said aside from acting, he also set up a few booming side businesses:
“I had side businesses and one of them was a catering business. And I was doing a lot of motion picture and television catering for crews, which is for about 100-200 people. It’s like setting up a whole restaurant.”
He reflected back on the time:
“I was living the good life.”
But with the successful catering company came all the time he’d have to spend around food:
“I was around food all the time and I was a very good cook. Of course, that entailed sitting down with people so I was sometimes eating 5-6 full meals a day … I was making a lot of money, everything was going great, and everyone around me was at least as fat as I was.”
Unfortunately, by 1997, when he was 49 years old, Mathers was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and he had high amounts of bad cholesterol.
He was told if he didn’t make some lifestyle changes — and soon — he’d only have three-to-five years to live.
Type 2 diabetes means the body does not use insulin properly and develops an insulin resistance, according to Diabetes.org. It’s caused by genetics, as well as a lack of exercise and poor diet, per the Mayo Clinic.
If untreated, Type 2 diabetes can be life-threatening, leading to heart and blood vessel disease, significant nerve damage causing loss of sensation in limbs and loss of digestion control, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Thankfully, the diagnosis was enough to kick Mathers into gear.
The now-69-year-old actor began exercising and eating well, telling Fox:
“I sold the catering company and went on a very strict diet. I’ve been controlling my weight with diet and exercise ever since. I walk everyday about 6-8 miles. And I am now pre-diabetic because of that.
… Dying from diabetes is a terrible way to go. It’s really a horrible death. It basically burns different parts of your body.”
He soon lost 55 pounds, but keeping the weight off has always remained a challenge:
“It’s really tough, especially when I go out to eat. But I think, ‘I can have this, but do I want to run further to get the weight off? Could I even get it off?’ It’s a daily struggle. I’m not cured.”
He told Fox News that by sharing his experience, he hopes he can make the difference in people’s lives — possibly even preventing someone from ever getting as close to death as he was:
“This is something I have to deal with all the time. And I’m hoping that by going out to educate people on diabetes, I can save my fans.”
And throughout his entire health journey — which was definitely terrifying at points — his “Leave It to Beaver” family was never far away. He told Fox News that to this day, they still get together:
“If anything important happens in their lives or with their grandchildren, because we all have grandchildren now, we reach out. And when someone marries. And sadly, when someone passes. Whoever finds out first calls the rest of us.”
Mathers is currently touring the country to educate people about the slow-creeping disease and what measures people can take to prevent it.