Stories of Success

With American Diabetes Association Alert Day® taking place tomorrow, March 27, we thought we’d share some inspirational stories of people who learned their risk for or were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes — then took steps to take control of their health.

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Leanne SteeleName: Leanne Steele
Age: 31
Location: Trussville, Ala.

In 2008, when I was 18 weeks pregnant with my first child, my doctor decided to test me early for gestational diabetes. At every appointment I was “spilling sugar” in my urinalysis. I failed the first glucose test so badly there wasn’t a need for a follow-up test—I had gestational diabetes.

I met with the hospital’s diabetes educator and immediately began following a diabetes-friendly diet. However, diet alone could not keep my blood glucose within a healthy range. I was put on two types of insulin injections, fast-acting and long-release.

The next five months were frustrating and disheartening. No matter how diligent I was with my diet or with testing and administering my insulin, I continued to have high blood glucose. But in the end, my hard work paid off, because my son was born perfectly healthy.

I was aware that I was at risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life because of my gestational diabetes (I also have a family history of diabetes). In December 2010 I went for my yearly checkup, which included an A1C test. My doctor was quite impressed with the work I had put in over the last year. I had begun running and practicing hot yoga and had lost 35 pounds of baby weight. I was also training for my first half-marathon. I was in the best shape of my life!

But a few days later the diabetes educator called with the results of my A1C: 6.7. I officially had type 2 diabetes, and it was more out of control than it had been during my pregnancy. I filled her in on my healthy and active lifestyle and she was completely shocked. I was not the typical person to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She referred me to an endocrinologist for further treatment.

I expressed my desire to have a second child, and my endocrinologist explained the precautions I needed to take, how it may be necessary to use an insulin pump to better control my blood glucose. I was ready to tackle this whole diabetes thing.

Within a few months, I was thrilled (and terrified) to discover I was pregnant again. Before even telling my husband or my OB-GYN, I called my endocrinologist and scheduled an appointment. By the time I was eight weeks pregnant, I was on 1,000 milligrams of Metformin and daily insulin injections. It reminded me of my first pregnancy, but I was determined to fight the good fight.

Today, I am expecting another healthy baby boy in June. I have continued to exercise as much as possible and in February even participated in the Mercedes Marathon Relay—with a “baby on board” sign on the back of my t-shirt! Our team of five runners completed the entire 26.2 mile distance in 4 hours, 22 minutes. I received countless cheers of encouragement and pats on the back during my leg of the race. Turns out I was also motivating others . . . no one wants to get passed by a pregnant chick!

At my last checkup, my A1C was a remarkable 5.9. Maintaining control of my diabetes has been a profound challenge. Dealing with the highs and lows that come with this disease, as well as normal pregnancy side effects, has taught me to respect my body. I refuse to let diabetes ruin or control my life. With education and dedication, it can be managed.

One thing I know for sure: I sleep well at night knowing I’ve done everything in my power to keep myself, and my baby, as healthy as possible.

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Name: Mariana Lopez
Age: 28
Location: Houston, Texas

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2004, two weeks before I turned 21. I believe I developed diabetes sometime in late 2002, because that’s when I started to show symptoms. I noticed that I was always thirsty and used the restroom often. I felt dizzy and tired all the time and no matter what I ate, I stayed thin.

I first had my blood glucose tested at a health fair offered by a church in Charlotte, N.C. I went to the doctor the following Monday, where they confirmed the diagnosis and gave me my first glucometer and medicine. I was devastated. For a moment, I thought my life was over and that my plans for the future were no more—not to mention, I was alone in a city away from my family. Overwhelmed by all that was happening, I decided to pack up and move back home.

Diabetes runs in my extended family, so this was not new to me. However, I still had to learn a better lifestyle in order to survive. I was lucky to be surrounded by people willing to educate me and guide me on my new life. These included some of my mother’s coworkers who also have diabetes.  As I learned more about diabetes, I realized I could still live a long and happy life, just like anyone else.

I drastically changed my diet and started counting absolutely everything I ate. I even kept a diet journal. I mainly ate chicken, vegetables, deli meat and yogurt or milk. Lately I have also discovered that many vegetables have a great impact in controlling my blood glucose.

Within a month of being diagnosed, I managed to take my blood glucose readings from 380-plus to under 100. It took a lot of hard work and discipline, but I am happy with the outcome.

I have had no complications and am currently pregnant and healthy. I want to live to see my baby grow, so I am always doing my best to be in control of my diabetes. It’s been a long journey, but I am confident I will succeed.

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Millie Jackson and her trainerName: Millie Jackson
Age: 52
Location: Tuscaloosa, Ala.

I grew up watching the impact of diabetes on my mom and my aunts. My mom lost her leg due to diabetes and died as a result of complications from the disease. Now I watch my sisters deal with it. Because of this family history, I have always monitored my blood glucose levels, but I haven’t always monitored the rest of my health as well.

A few years ago, I was headed in the same direction. My doctor was concerned that I already had the signs for type 2 diabetes, also known as prediabetes—and I knew that I did. I was obese and I had high blood pressure, sleep apnea and problems with circulation in my legs. I had been trying to exercise regularly and eat better, but I was too stressed about other things in my life and my health to really make significant progress.

In May 2010 all of that changed. My doctor cared enough to have a very serious talk with me about my health. At that point type 2 diabetes and heart problems both seemed to be in the near future for me.

I also had an experience on a business trip to Washington, D.C., that catapulted me into changing my life. The temperatures were over 100 in the nation’s capital and I had a horrible time getting from place to place during the conference. It was the breaking point for me. I wanted to be healthier, fitter. I needed to address my health issues.

About the same time, I began working with a new personal trainer, Sam, who totally changed my life. I became serious about my diet as well as about exercise. Since June 2010 I have lost 140 pounds and I have become a triathlete. I no longer have high blood pressure, sleep apnea or prediabetes. I chronicle this journey on my personal blogThis image is associated with an external link..

In addition, I joined the Community Leadership Board for the Alabama/Mississippi office of the American Diabetes Association and have worked on a number of fundraisers so far. I have become involved in diabetes advocacy and education on the university campus where I work and in my community.

I know I have to continue to be vigilant about my health. Given my hereditary factors, there is no guarantee that I will not one day have type 2. However, I have done everything in my power to prevent or delay this. It is possible to change your life.

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Terri JonesName: Terri Jones
Age: 52
Location: Springfield, Mo.

I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes with both my pregnancies. After my second child was born, my blood glucose numbers remained high. I was diagnosed with prediabetes and sent to a dietician for more education. That was in 1985.

My numbers remained high but manageable until 2004. Then I began to have problems with my right kidney. I had a birth defect that caused my kidney not to drain properly. I had corrective surgery in 1994, but now scar tissue was causing it to not drain efficiently again. From 2004 to 2006, my blood glucose numbers were too high and I was put on Metformin to help control them. In 2006, after four surgeries, I lost my right kidney. Several months later, the doctor took me off Metformin.

For years I was able to ward off type 2 diabetes with diet alone. But despite my best efforts, time eventually caught up with me. In August 2011 my A1C and blood glucose readings crossed the threshold and I was officially diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Since then, I have lost 15 pounds and lowered my A1C, cholesterol and triglycerides. I am watching my diet, walking and doing water aerobics three times a week.

I’ll admit, my diet changes have been difficult for me, because I am a junk food junkie at heart. But I simply count my carbs at every sitting. I read all my labels and measure my food before placing it on my plate. I now eat more fresh foods, especially salads, and whole wheat bread, pastas and tortillas. I changed potato chips for corn chips.

As I love to eat out, I have a small book listing nutrition information for most of the menu items at national restaurants. If I cannot find a restaurant in my book, I check their website. Deciding what to order before I go helps me to keep my blood glucose on target. And when I want to eat out or have a treat, I do it on days that I know I will work out or walk.

I only have one kidney. My goal is to keep it healthy until I succumb to very old age. One more thing: I could not do this without the love and support of my wonderful husband!

P.S. I got some great news earlier this month: My doctor cut my oral medications in half! Diet and exercise do work!

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Thanks to Leanne, Mariana, Millie and Terri for sharing their personal stories with the Association!

You too can learn your risk for type 2 diabetes and make simple yet effective lifestyle changes to improve your health. There’s no better time than Alert Day. So plan to take our Diabetes Risk Test tomorrow — it only takes a minute — and then share it with everyone you know and love.

Starting March 27, the new Diabetes Risk Test will be available in English and Spanish on Facebook, at stopdiabetes.com or by calling 1-800-DIABETES.

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13 Responses to Stories of Success

  1. Jennifer says:

    Although I agree we need more awareness of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes – because it is becoming such an overwhelming epidemic in the US – I am truly upset by the distinct lack of success stories you post regarding type 1 diabetics.
    I am 36. I have no family history of diabetes. I had no idea what the symptoms were. Yet I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a year ago. I also have high cholesterol, hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease. I lost 35 pounds in a month (going from a healthy 130lbs to 95lbs). I could barely walk because my legs cramped constantly from the sugar overtaking my blood. When I was first diagnosed, my blood glucose was 517. My A1c was 13. My pancreas no longer produces any insulin; I am pump-dependent.
    For the last year I have struggled to manage and overcome my disease but it’s been tough, mostly because all the discussion out there centers around type 2 diabetes.
    Adults do develop type 1. I am proof of that. And, had I been made aware of the symptoms, I might have gone to a doctor before I was on the brink of a coma. I hope you will put a bit more of a spotlight on educating people about the possibility of developing type 1 diabetes.

    Thanks,
    Jen

    • ADA says:

      Hi Jennifer, thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your story. We posted these particular stories in relation to American Diabetes Association Alert Day, which is a type 2 awareness campaign — hence why nobody here has type 1.

      Adults diagnosed with type 1, and educating audiences about the possibility and symptoms, could be an interesting topic for a future post. Thank you for the suggestion — I’ll be sure to follow up with you again shortly.

      Anna (ADA staff)

    • I couldn’t agree more. Not only is it manageable, its reversible. I’ve said so, published a how I did it video but my comments seem to disappear. But since I didn’t go to a doctor, do what the dr said… that’s not allowed… to me it feels like a campaign to lasso more ‘customers’ rather than educate them with the full truths.

      • Mariana says:

        For now we can just try our best to keep it in control…

      • Wendy says:

        Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and I am impressed! Extremely useful information specifically the last part I maintain such information a lot. I used to be seeking this certain information for a long time. Thanks and best of luck.

  2. Shannon Anderson says:

    This is great to serve as inspiration for others to get their diabetes in check and knowledge that it can be done. I was told my doctor on November 30,2011 that I had type 2. It was the shock I needed to wake me up and start changing my life as well as my young daughter who was overweight to. December 9,2011 i signed us both up at our local gym and we started attending Zumba dance classes.March 4th,2012 my daughter went to er because of pneaumonia and brochitis and the Doctor tested her while she stayed in the hospital sadly she was told she had type 2 diabetes. We still continue to exercise and take our meds and watch our diets. We have lost some weight and will continue to get healthy so one day maybe we will not as much as the meds we currently take now. .

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  4. Sherry says:

    I was diagnosed pre-diabetic in May of 2011. I have a friend who lost both legs and an eye because he didn’t take care of his diabetes. I decided then and there that I would never let that happen to me! Less than a year later, I have lost 40 pounds and want to lose at least 30 more. I go back for a checkup this May. Crossing my fingers!

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