Fifteen years ago, when the doctor told me I had diabetes, I just shrugged it off. I wasn’t terribly scared, but on the other hand, I was in denial and not well educated about the effects it would have – was already having – on my body. I took my diabetic medication Metformin, and that was about it.
Jump ahead 12 years. I was insulin resistant, had metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea and needed shots for back and knee pain. I had several doctors, and each suggested bariatric surgery to curb my appetite, lose weight and get my diabetes under control.
Bariatric surgery. The very idea finally shook me awake. Why? I’ve faced breast cancer, too, and got lucky. I had good doctors, good treatment, we caught it early and I made it through the challenge. There’s no logic to this, but I worried that if cancer returned after bariatric surgery, I wouldn’t have the physical strength to survive cancer treatments. And I kept thinking about my daughter Kate, my only child: what was I doing to her future as well as my own? No doubt, I was going to become a burden to her and compromise her quality of life.
So the idea of bariatric surgery triggered my epiphany. For the first time, I began doing everything my doctor told me to do, and started seeing improvements immediately. Next, I put together a team of helpers. My endocrinologist Jennifer Wyckoff, M.D. was my team captain and I added a diabetic nutritionist, Sacha Uelmen. I meet with them every month. I’ve also taken Marilyn Migliore’s The Hunger Within workshop – three times! I’ve really absorbed her message and still use what I’ve learned.
Friends became my support group and I insisted on accountability. Every month I told them what I was doing, and then reported back, not just on my progress, but also on problems and successes. I’ve taken meditation classes and practice that, and now exercise and use a personal trainer.
As I trained and learned from my team, I began to improve and feel healthier. Weight loss was a measure of success and a goal, but not the only measure of success: lower blood pressure, greater mobility, tightly controlled sugar levels, how long I work out, the number of laps in the pool, how well I slept, comments from my doctor and how I feel are all measures of my success.
There have been some months when I would feel discouraged and frustrated. But failure was never an option, so I just keep plugging away. Thinking of Diana Nyad inspires me. She’s the 64-year-old athlete who kept trying to set a record swimming from Cuba to Florida without protection of a shark cage. She finally succeeded earlier this year on her fifth attempt. We are similar in age, so I’ve felt a bond because of her perseverance to succeed with a difficult goal.
Today, I tell people my age they CAN get diabetes under control and even reverse certain aspects. It’s hard to lose weight while on insulin, but I did it. It took more than two years. I never gave up, and I can say today that I’ve succeeded. I’ve lost 80 pounds. My sugars are tightly controlled. I’m not insulin resistant and I don’t have metabolic syndrome anymore. I was taking short acting insulin before every meal, and now I don’t. I was taking 46 units of long acting insulin every night, now I take six. In a few months, I’ll say goodbye to insulin entirely and just need Metformin. If I can do it, others can too!
Take the next step:
- Hear more of Margaret Smith’s inspiring journey during her talk at the U-M Comprehensive Diabetes Center’s 7th Annual Diabetes Health Fair. Learn more here or by calling 734-763-0177.
- Learn more about diabetes care at University of Michigan.
The U-M Comprehensive Diabetes Center’s 7th Annual Diabetes Health Fair, Saturday, November 16, from 9 a.m. – noon at the Sheraton Ann Arbor Hotel, 3200 Boardwalk, in Ann Arbor. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged. Learn more here or by calling 734-763-0177.
The University of Michigan Comprehensive Diabetes Center offers support groups, educational classes, patient resources, and an expert care team to help you stop coping with diabetes and start living with it.