Faces of Type 2: Jeremy Dickstein
Success in the face of setbacks
“I have good news, and I have bad news.” Jeremy Dickstein of New York City heard these words from his doctor four years ago. The good news, the doctor said, was that Dickstein was in pretty good health overall. The bad news? He had type 2 diabetes. “That’s when I was first exposed to the diabetes world,” says Dickstein, who was 45 years old at the time.
Unlike many people at risk for type 2, Dickstein, now 49, did not have a family history of the disease and was not overweight. At the time of his diagnosis, he had recently lost a significant amount of weight. “The endocrinologist I ultimately saw believed [the type 2 diabetes] was stress induced,” he says.
After the endocrinologist verified that Dickstein had type 2 diabetes, he prescribed an oral medication. Things went well for about two years. Dickstein says his numbers were good and he was able to eat whatever he wanted, but the pill had a significant side effect: an upset stomach. “I found [the side effect] was a quality of life changer,” he says.
Trial and Error
Instead of consulting with his doctor, Dickstein took matters into his own hands and stopped taking the medication. “My endocrinologist was already talking about cutting the dose in half or even dropping the pill, so I just went ahead and did it on my own.”
Dickstein quit checking his blood glucose and stopped seeing his endocrinologist. “I felt great for six to nine months,” he says.
Then everything came crashing down. All of Dickstein’s symptoms (extreme thirst, excessive urination, fatigue, and blurry vision) came rolling back, but this time with a vengeance—even after he restarted his oral medication. “I still couldn’t get my numbers under control, so I went back to the hospital,” he says. “It was quite a scare.”
As frightening as that was, Dickstein says it taught him a lesson. “It was a wake-up call to pay attention, see your doctor regularly, take your medications,” he says. “Just because your numbers are good and you feel fine doesn’t mean you’re not creating a problem if you decide to deviate from the plan.”
Back on Track
Dickstein decided that to turn his ship he needed to learn as much as he could about diabetes. Not only did he go back on his medication and formulate a diet and exercise plan, but he also sought out diabetes information. He walked into his local American Diabetes Association office and asked for educational resources on how to manage his blood glucose. “They gave me a tremendous amount of material,” he says, “and I honestly believe that helped save me.”
Today Dickstein feels comfortable sharing his diagnosis with others. When he first put it out there on Facebook, he received a huge response. Seeing people click “like” or give a voice of support was gratifying and compelled Dickstein to continue telling his story to help people in a similar situation.
“The stigma and the myths and the misconceptions need to be addressed,” he says. Doing so would make it easier for people to be open about their diabetes. “I think the challenge is that people put their head in the sand,” he says. “But [diabetes] is something that’s bigger than you. It’s something that you have to manage.”
Taking oral medications?
If you take an oral medication for diabetes and are experiencing side effects, talk to your doctor about your treatment plan. Medications can be adjusted to suit your needs.