Susan H., a 27-year old woman living in Massachusetts, has Type 2 diabetes. She was recently diagnosed and answered the following questions about living with this condition.
How did you find out you had type 2 diabetes?
I went in for a regular physical. For several years, I had been tested because of my family history; everyone in my father's family has or had diabetes - my father, my grandparents and even my great grandparents. This year, the test came back and it was official. I have had it since September 2003.
How has diabetes impacted your life?
I feel like the question should be "How hasn't diabetes impacted my life?" I have had to change a lot of old habits. I have had to change my eating patterns. This includes, what I eat, where I eat, how much I eat and especially how often I eat. I have a high stress, busy work schedule. Before, I would often go 12 hours without eating and then eat the wrong things.
What steps do you take to currently manage your diabetes?
I regularly check my blood sugars and take my medication. I have changed my eating and eat regular meals now. When I started adding breakfast and lunch at work, I found that I didn't need to overeat at the end of the day. I also limit myself to eating only in the kitchen as opposed to eating in the living room in front of the television.
Have you been working on losing weight?
Yes, I have lost about 20 pounds. I had tried to lose weight before but I was not successful because I would only change my behaviors for short time spans. I have made lifestyle changes now. I have come to realize that I can no longer do things the way that I was.
Have you been able to maintain your motivation?
Yes, numbers motivate me. When I see my blood sugar numbers and they are high, I don't want to feel like I am failing. I tend to eat better on days that I test my blood sugar than days I don't. I see how what I eat can affect my blood sugars. My father also motivates me. My parents live on the west coast but I talk to them about every other week. When we talk, we compare numbers. He has been doing it a lot longer than I, so it is a challenge to even get close to his numbers. I also want to see my hemoglobin A1c decrease as well. I know there has to be consistently lower blood sugar numbers over time to get that to reduce. That makes me push forward too.
Did you have to give up any favorite foods?
Yes, I love to have juice every morning. Most people have coffee, but I don't, so I had juice every morning. Juice has too much sugar in it, and so I don't have it any more on a regular basis. I have given up soda too. That was very difficult. I had never realized how much soda I drank. I instantly noticed that when I stopped drinking it my blood sugars dropped. I also love red meat but I have tried to start eating more chicken. Now, I have also seen my cholesterol numbers drop. These changes have been very difficult but rewarding.
Did you change any other lifestyle factors like exercise?
I have had a hard time motivating myself to exercise. I know that if I exercise, I would probably be dropping more weight. I haven't been able to master that part yet.
Do you feel differently now than when you were originally told you had diabetes?
At first I was scared. I didn't know if I could succeed at changing my diet and getting the diabetes under control. I remembered all the times in the past that I had tried to lose weight and hadn't gotten anywhere. I felt uneducated as well. I didn't know what to eat. I thought about it all the time. It was a huge adjustment but I have had good support. I was able to approach my boss and talk to him about making changes to my schedule so that I could fit in breakfast and lunch.
Also, I have a great group of friends who have encouraged and helped me. My nutritionist has been a huge help as well. She has helped me to make better choices. She has held me to be accountable but has made me feel like I can do this and succeed. The fear has gone away. I don't have to think about it every minute of every day, like I did at first.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Two things: (1) I ask myself how important is this to me? Denying that I have diabetes makes things worse and can hurt me in the long run. There is a way to live with diabetes that leads to a better life. (2) A good support network helps. My family, my co-workers and my healthcare providers are there to help me. None of them will think less of me, which is a fear that I had at the beginning. Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is not the end of the world but the beginning of a whole new experience to bring me to a better, healthier life.
Nancy J. Rennert, MD, Chief of Endocrinology & Diabetes, Norwalk Hospital, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Previoulsy reviewed by Ari S. Eckman, MD, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. (5/13/2010)
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