Earlier this year, I previewed TCOYD's new Extreme Diabetes Makeover program, giving seven lucky PWDs struggling with their diabetes management the chance at a full revamp of their care. Viewers can watch the process unfold in this first-ever reality series on diabetes (airing online) that "delves into the challenges, time and persistence that go into managing diabetes and helps to validate the multiple emotional and physical barriers that people with the disease must face day after day." (Amen)
Over the course of 20 weeks, the participants — including five type 2s and two type 1s — had the opportunity to work with a "dream team" of diabetes specialists (three of whom have diabetes themselves!). The experts provided personal guidance and loads of resources to get these struggling PWDs back on track. The series is currently airing on TCOYD's website and at Real Age, a consumer health website, and will run through the month of January. It's pretty cool, IMHO.
Check out the trailer:
We spoke to a few participants to hear more about their experiences:
Renee, a 55-year-old with type 2 diabetes, didn't even realize her diabetes management was starting to slip. Having been diagnosed in the early '80s, Renee says, "I thought I was under control because after so many years, you just know what to do." But after changes at her job contributed to a slip in her diabetes management, Renee was shocked to discover her A1C had climbed to 11.3%.
To get Renee back on track, Dr. Edelman, the endocrinologist on the "dream team" and founder of TCOYD, put Renee on insulin in addition to her oral meds, defying the common misconception that a type 2 on insulin is a "failure." Renee says, "I didn't realize how many people fear insulin and its effects, but it's really wrong. Dr. Edelman picked up something that I had told doctors before, that my blood sugar is always elevated in the morning. He said, 'That's easy to fix. We'll just put you on a small amount of insulin.'" We're pleased to hear that Renee's last A1C dropped to 7%.
David, a UCSD student with type 1 who has also had diabetes for many years, came into the program with what he calls "spotty" D-management. After being approached by Dr. Edelman, who was also his personal endo, he joined the XDM program. "I was hesitant to participate at first, as I was uncomfortable with being on camera and sharing my ups and downs with anyone who wished to view them. Eventually I realized that people could learn from what I had gone through in the past and apply some of the knowledge to their own lives."
"The best part of this whole program was that the Dream Team didn't try to force us all to manage our diabetes the same way. They worked extremely hard with us to make changes in our lives that we could live with and maintain over the long run, while still being able to eat and do the things we wanted to do," David says. In the D-community, we call that YDMV - Your Diabetes May Vary! (also title of a popular blog). David adds, "For me specifically, the Dream Team provided direction, purpose and a Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor!"
Elizabeth, a 30-year-old events professional who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 15 years, says, "My biggest take-away was that I need to make my diabetes a priority every single day. It is very easy to put it on the back burner and go about your life and I need to think about it, focus on it and literally look at it every day."
While the XDM program certainly gave a boost to the participants, not all of us are as lucky (especially since all the participants had to live in SoCal). If you're looking to accomplish your own personal "diabetes makeover," psychologist and "dream team" member Dr. William Polonsky has this advice:
"You might feel overwhelmed and hassled by all the stuff you think you need to do; it's easy to think that every task is equivalent. And a mistake we all make is that we pick something we can work on, but it may not be very important. Instead, work with your health care team to figure out one change you can focus on to give you the biggest 'bang for your buck.'"
David, who participated in the makeover show, also has a suggestion: Reach out to family and friends, and to your doctor and diabetes support groups in your local area. Don't be afraid to ask questions! As readers here know, online diabetes forums are also a great resource that allow different people with similar experiences to learn from each other. "I believe that we are each other's greatest resource, and that sharing our collective experiences will help," David says.
Right, David! Congrats to all those who were selected for the XDM program, and for the rest of us — let us say a hearty: Thank goodness for the D-OC, right?!