Bedford Thaxton Spreads the Word About Diabetes Care
In honor of Diabetes Forecast magazine’s 70th anniversary, we’re kicking off a series of profiles about people whose lives have been touched by diabetes—and who have touched the diabetes community.
Bedford Thaxton, 72, of Glen Allen, Virginia, has always been outspoken about his type 2 diabetes. “I never tried to hide my diabetes, and that’s gotten me to where I am now,” Thaxton says. When he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1982, his doctor immediately prescribed insulin to manage his very high blood glucose. “I don’t like needles and I never have, so I asked my doctor about my options,” he says. The doctor told him that some people can manage diabetes without using insulin by making lifestyle changes. “I decided I [was] going to do what I need to in order to get off insulin,” he says.
During the three days he spent in the hospital, Thaxton worked with his doctor and a staff nutritionist to hammer out a plan to manage his diabetes. After he left the hospital, he started a more intensive workout routine, followed calorie guidelines recommended by the hospital staff, and checked his blood glucose daily, exercising on a treadmill if it was too high. His lifestyle changes paid off: Five months after his diagnosis, he’d dropped about 10 pounds and his doctor took him off insulin.
Conversations with other people with diabetes were the biggest motivators for Thaxton as he learned to live well with type 2. As he told his friends, family, and coworkers about his diabetes, he heard other stories about diabetes, including tales of the past, when treatments were less refined and outcomes weren’t as good. When Thaxton was tired of dieting or didn’t feel like exercising, he’d think of those stories. “I don’t want to go through what some of those people went through: amputation, dialysis, losing my sight,” says Thaxton.
Knowledge and learning are also important parts of Thaxton’s diabetes management regimen. The education and nutrition training he received in the hospital after his diagnosis helped him improve his eating plan and exercise program. And the complex nature of diabetes means that there’s always more to learn. For example, he needed to take prednisone for an unrelated health problem. While he’d heard that steroids could raise blood glucose, he hadn’t realized how much he would need to compensate for the medication’s effects. “My glucose shot up to 240,” he says. “I wasn’t aware that medication could affect your blood glucose levels like that.” Later, when he talked about this experience, he heard from others who had gone through it as well.
Thaxton’s belief in the power of knowledge and dialogue led him to volunteer for the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for the past 16 years. At workshops, health fairs, and community centers, Thaxton delivers ADA presentations on the basics of diabetes care. He believes that when people with diabetes teach others, they can provide encouragement as well as knowledge. “If they meet someone who has made changes, and those changes are beneficial, they’ll understand that they can make changes [as well],” he says.
Thaxton serves as a voice for diabetes management within his own family, too. “My family is really heavily hit by diabetes,” he says. “I have cousins up and down the East Coast, and every time I see them I find out that more have been diagnosed, so I try to talk with them about what I’ve done to manage my diabetes.”
Thaxton benefits from keeping the conversation going as well. “I continue to talk to people and encourage them, but it also reinforces what I need to do myself,” he says. “I’m glad I can get to the point where I can talkto people about diabetes, and I always do it when I can.”