November is National Diabetes Month and PVMC sat down with Toya, a patient who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2018. Toya has done a remarkable job at managing her condition and has gained much educational insight through the help of her dietitian, Janet, and educational programs that she participated in.
If you would like to learn more about managing diabetes and the programs PVMC offers, you can reach Janet at 303-498-1699.
Toya is a wonderful example of living life to the fullest and is proof that through hard work and lifestyle changes, the disease can be managed. See below for her full interview.
How did you feel in the beginning and now with regard to managing your diabetes and your overall health?
Over the past 20 years, my glucose has been increasing where in fall 2018 my glucose was dangerously high. Medical intervention was now needed. I was depressed. I cried. I knew this day would come and I was terrified. In my attempt to get my diabetes under control, I took medications (oral and injection). My doctor gave me the option of meeting with a dietician. An OPTION? It was a necessity. I was headed in that direction when I received a newsletter from SCL Health. It contained information about free lectures and classes that were available on diabetes. Right away, I sought out more information and attended a class.
From the very beginning I knew that I had found the right person – Janet Rausch, RD – and the right place – SCL Health to help me understand how to live with diabetes. Initially I attended a lecture. When I walked in the room, it seemed I was the youngest person there – I felt I was too young to be diagnosed with this disease. It was a lightbulb moment that this would be a lifelong journey. After that first class, Janet shared information about the Healthy Lifestyles program and the ways to get involved. I enrolled in spring 2019.
Enrolling in Janet’s class was the hope and support that I needed. I learned about balanced meal portions, healthy snacking between meals, carb healthy (and non-healthy) foods, exercise, and more. In the first six months I was nearing my goal weight. I finished the class near my goal but not quite there.
In spring 2020, I was contacted by Janet, inquiring if I wanted to continue the Healthy Lifestyles program. She shared that there was revised curriculum and she had designed new approaches to the program. I agreed and enrolled again with a new goal weight.
Since my diagnosis in 2018, I was working with my doctor and nurse practitioner in hopes of getting off medication. I was on insulin and I admit it was scary. My body was responding to treatment, but I hated being on insulin. I didn’t’ want to be insulin dependent. I told myself I wanted off insulin completely and oral medication too! I worked closed with my doctor and nurse practitioner for over a year. They agreed to work with me, and I am now completely off insulin.
At my last doctor’s visit, my doctor was thrilled with my progress. When I stepped on the scale I gasped. I had met my goal weight. I was thrilled! After chatting with the doctor, she said that I am no longer pre-diabetic. My hemoglobin A1C dropped by more than half to within range. It lowered nearly 8.5 points – that’s huge! The doctor also lowered my oral medication, and we’re meeting in spring 2021 to revisit going off medication completely. But this also means I need work more to lose additional weight.
I feel great! This past weekend, I completed a virtual 5K. I walked over three miles in less than one hour with no problems. I try to be diligent and walk 2-4 times per week with Tazi my rescue dog. Tazi has kept me on track as dogs need regular exercise. She is a motivator and my best friend. I also started lap swimming at Brighton pool and, I purchased an adult hoola-hoop that is weighted.
What was your greatest challenges/concerns with managing Diabetes and what the reward meant for you when you met your goal to go off or reduce medications?
My greatest challenges were eating at regular intervals and holding my blood glucose steady throughout the day. I wish knew (and practiced) this years ago. Diabetes necessitates eating well. In the beginning when I was on insulin, I would feel yucky. My blood glucose was lowering – what I call normalizing – and my body resisted. It had been operating on high volume for too long. During this time my glucose never went under 80, and it stabilized, but there panic moments for me. I would break out in sweats and get nervous about going places. What if I freaked out somewhere? My blood glucose is in low 100’s and I feel fine.
The rewards of eating well, lowering carbohydrates, no alcohol, etc. does not mean that I can’t enjoy food or life. It simply means I must choose wisely and live with the decisions that I make. I admit there are days that I stumble. The voice in my head reminds me to be kind to myself, stick with the program, you can do this, and “you don’t want to go on insulin.” Basically, it’s the self-talk that motivates me and keeps me working to be my best self.
Have you learned anything in the process that changed your level of focus, confidence and perspective for the better for other areas in your life?
I have learned to accept that I have to maintain, even lose more weight to be fully diabetes free. Diabetes could be a reality for the rest of my life if the pendulum swings the other way. I don’t want that!
All the hard work over the last year and a half has paid off. This fall, Janet was the first person I called with the good news when my doctor said I was no longer pre-diabetic. She lowered the oral medication. It was a sense of euphoria and accomplishment because I achieved what I sought out to do and finally met the established Healthy Lifestyle goals the second time around.
I owe a great deal to Janet because she guided me through sometimes scary times. She provided the vital help that I needed. She was always open to scheduling weigh-ins at her office because I did not have a scale at home at the time. She has been the coach and support that I needed. She was a strong motivator who told me I could do it, and we did it together!
Here’s a big confidence booster, I’m wearing smaller sized clothes - tops, pants, and I even went down two skivvie sizes. LOL
How have your successes in managing the condition impacted other friends, families or providers?
Truth is I could have done more before my diagnosis – been more proactive. I was in denial that diabetes would be an eventuality. You see, I am enrolled with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma. Diabetes is high in indigenous populations. My father was diagnosed with diabetes. He suffered serious health challenges from the disease. I was heartbroken when he passed from complications of diabetes in 1980.
My brother and sister are diabetic. My sister and I chat about living with diabetes. Because our father was diagnosed with diabetes at a young age, he suffered serious health challenges from the disease. We talk about how we can be healthy with diet and exercise.
We are both well. Last year she took a three-week trip to Africa. I am so proud of her for living her dream and seeing the wild animals of the safari as a photographer. She traveled to the other side of the world and she was totally fine and she experienced a wonderful trip.
Although the pandemic has been negative to so many, I have been able to turn it to a positive where I primarily walk with my dog, cook meals at home, exercise, and have expanded my own photography skills exploring the beautiful Colorado outdoors. In 2020, I have taken over 20 trips to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in north Denver to photograph the bison, the birds and other wildlife. I have entered my photos in local contests. I am also thinking of launching a website to share my art and start merchandising greeting cards.
Thus far, I have completed three virtual races in 2020. I took a day-hike in Golden Gate State Park in September and accomplished a difficult uphill trail at close to 4 miles (roundtrip). Of course, Tazi was pulling me up the mountain a good portion of the way, but we did it together. Life is about challenges and successes. I am grateful for my current health. I drink water, eat fruits and vegetables, and am learning to cook delicious meals using my Insta-Pot and Ninja Grill.
Today, I am more optimistic about taking control of my health than I was in fall 2018. I am extremely HAPPY and RELIEVED I opened and read the SCL newsletter that day. I am grateful to dietician extraordinaire Janet Rausch who freely shares her knowledge and expertise with others in my situation.
My friends, family, and Tazi (my best friend) are also inspirational. They are the love and support I need. They teach me to be happy and healthy. Each day is a gift, so take good care of yourself. Life is a journey so make it a good one.