Diabetes Forecast

Learning to Live

It was a year ago last fall that I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. At age 53, I was terribly overweight, smoking one to two packs of cigarettes a day, eating poorly, getting little or no exercise, constantly thirsty, and urinating often. Every day I pretty much felt awful but chalked it up to getting older. I was scared to see a doctor.

One day a friend I had not seen in months told me that I looked sick. That scared me even more and made my fear of seeing a doctor pale in comparison. The result was predictable: My doctor told me I had diabetes. My initial A1C was 14.2 percent! I was rushed to the local hospital to begin treatment immediately. So began the most tumultuous year of my adult life.

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My initial feelings of fear, guilt, and anxiety gave way to a determination to face my problem and work at getting my situation under control. The nurses, educators, and nutritionists at Columbia-St. Mary's Diabetic Treatment Center in Milwaukee were fantastic, showing me how to deal with my diabetes—in essence, teaching me how to live. I started with a heavy insulin regimen, completely changed my diet, and began to get some exercise, mostly walking.

This new lifestyle worked to bring my blood sugar levels down, and I began to lose some weight. Over the next three to four months, I was able to reduce my insulin dosages and begin taking metformin. Within eight months, I had stopped taking first insulin and then metformin, and was relying solely on diet and exercise for my "treatment."

Since then, without medication, it's been a little rocky. It's harder for me to control my blood sugar levels, but every day I face the challenge and keep at it. I continue to lose weight, and the quarterly weigh-in at the doctor's office is my own version of The Biggest Loser! I now actually look forward to my next A1C test. My next challenge is to quit smoking. With the success I've had with diabetes, I think I can do it.

I have been lucky that my body has reacted so positively to the changes in my lifestyle. I have been very lucky to have found the courage to face this challenge. This bravery came from all my doctors, nurses, diabetes educators, nutritionists, friends, and, lastly, from thousands of people I "met" through Diabetes Forecast. You are all my "coaches," and I can't thank you enough for the encouragement you have brought me. I keep coming back to the words of Kiley Flynn, the 15-year-old author of Reflections in last October's Forecast. She wrote: "You never know how brave you are until being brave is your only choice." So true for her, and so true for me.

I am a new person because of my diabetes. It is now a real part of who and what I am and what I will be for the rest of my life. Diabetes has redefined my life—in a positive way.

Peter A. Amster is a certified public accountant who resides in Milwaukee.

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