Meet Deb (optimisticrealist), a self-described optimist who found no challenge too daunting, exercised daily and maintained a healthy diet. We recently caught up with her and she told us how her type 2 diabetes diagnosis changed the way she thought about what it meant to be healthy.
Learn more about Deb’s story and what she had to say about empowering herself through education, finding veganism and learning to live with her new normal.
Tell us a little bit about who you are. What was life like before your diagnosis?
I have always been an optimist, nicknamed Pollyanna for my focus on the bright side. I had the sincere belief that with creativity and perseverance there was no challenge that I could not surmount. If all else failed, I could reframe the situation to find the positive.
How has life changed since your diagnosis?
Having had none of the classic symptoms, my diagnosis of type 2 diabetes completely blindsided me and caused me to wonder if optimism was just another word for denial.
I was diagnosed while in the hospital and sent home with prescriptions but no instructions about how to live with my new reality. I will never forget standing at the pharmacy counter at 10 pm on the day I was discharged, exhausted and confused, getting a crash course in how to use my glucometer and lantus.
For the first weeks, I slept with the lights on as if somehow that would protect me from…what? I awoke each morning thankful for having awakened but my second thought was that there was another deer-in-the-headlights day ahead.
I couldn’t live like that, didn’t want to live if that was to be my life. I had believed myself a healthy person, exercised almost daily and had a physical job, ate no junk — yet here I was with a serious, chronic, progressive condition. I struggled with self-blame and regret and became depressed. I knew that the only course for me was to take charge of the situation, and that meant learning everything I could about diabetes management.
I spent every free moment online and I began to have hope that I could improve my condition or at least delay its progress and avoid complications. The greatest revelation was reading about veganism and diabetes. I found a registered dietician who is also a certified diabetes educator and herself a vegan. I was already vegetarian for many years so I decided to give it a try. It has changed my life, and my diabetes, for the better, in a number of ways.
Within two weeks of my last bite of animal food, I was off all insulin completely. After a lifetime of struggling with my weight, the pounds came off at the rate of about 1.5 pounds/week — effortlessly. As I approach the two-year anniversary of my diagnosis, I have had three consecutive a1c tests under 6%, test my blood glucose only once every other day, and never count a carb! I have been able to lower my blood pressure and have maintained my weight loss for over a year.
In the forums you talk about the importance of maintaining an exercise routine. What motivates you?
I am a lifelong exerciser, but due to extreme fatigue I was unable to work out for months. After many tests to rule out other causes, my doctor was persuaded that the drug side effects were the culprit. I couldn’t wait to get back to the gym! But it has been a long and winding road to regain lost strength and endurance. I am motivated to keep at it because I know that both my blood pressure and blood sugar are dramatically improved, and I even break a sweat some days! I have not missed a day in about 6 months…some days are easier than others but my mantra is “do what you can when you can.”
In your profile you mention struggling to come to terms with your condition and the way you thought about your health. What advice can you offer others who may be going through the same thing?
My advice to others who are feeling overwhelmed by their diagnosis is education, education, education! An educated patient is an empowered patient. Learn everything you can from reliable, evidence-based sources, then teach your doctor. If your doctor is resistant to an educated, empowered patient, fire them and find a new one.
Has PatientsLikeMe has helped you manage your condition? What does it mean to you to donate your data?
PatientsLikeMe has been a tremendous resource for me in managing my condition. I have explored a number of online sites and it is by far the most comprehensive compendium of information about a wide array of conditions. I love being able to read about real patients’ REAL experiences with treatments, it is invaluable as a way of tracking my own data, and most of all, I find the forums a wonderful, welcoming, civil place to learn from and help others. PatientsLikeMe is as much a necessary part of my day as eating, sleeping and exercise!
I have been empowered to face the challenges of my condition by reading evidence-based research. Donating my data is a way of “paying it forward.”
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