When people find out they have diabetes, they sometimes do crazy things. As we've discussed recently, lots of people go into denial mode and do nothing, which is what turns this disease into a death sentence over time, sadly. Then there are the few who stand up and fight right away.
Denise Armstrong, a 52-year-old secretary from Mount Carmel, Illinois, was recently featured in Reader's Digest in a story called "How I Saved My Own Life." Take a look at it. Compellingly written and inspiration pure. Despite being "chunky" and inactive all her life, when she was diagnosed in February 2004, Denise immediately took the reins and changed her ways. She's lost 97 pounds (dropped from a size 24 to a size 10!) and reduced her blood pressure from 180/90 to a near-normal 135/70. She's looking and feeling better than ever before.
Denise was kind enough to talk with DiabetesMine.com this week about what got her going:
DM) Denise, you said in the Reader's Digest story that you've been overweight all your life. How did you manage the sudden drive to shed pounds and get yourself healthy?
DA) I was scared to death when (the nurse) told me. I had myself convinced that I would explode if I ate sugar. I knew it was time that I took control of myself. I have grandkids to watch grow. And when someone tells you they don't think you can do it, well... I guess what my husband says about me is true: I am a little hard-headed ;)
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AND NOW ...
DM) You've become a role model because you now carry a glucose meter, exercise every day, and are very strict about what you eat. What words of inspiration do you have for others?
DA) This is not a death sentence. You can control it and live a quality life. It is your decision to make. For me, diabetes has been a positive thing.
DM) RD reports that you've never once cheated on your 1800-calorie diet since diagnosis. Doesn't everyone slip up now and then?
DA) For years I watched mother hide and eat candy, cakes, cookies -- and I would think what is she hiding for? Who is she hiding from? That is why I know that everything you put in your body affects your body. So I just didn't put anything in my body that would have negative effects on my sugar readings. You see, if someday I do have problems because of diabetes, I want my son to look back and be able to say that "My mom did everything she could to stay healthy."
DM) How would you handle it if you did cheat?
DA) I will tell you, one time early on I wanted some ice cream and I felt I shouldn't have any, but reallllly wanted it. So I had some sugar-free ice cream with strawberries on top. But I felt so guilty that I ate it walking on the treadmill!!!
DM) How would you describe your approach to having diabetes at this point?
DA) I educate myself as much as possible. I still log everything and exercise every day (walk 8 miles a day weekdays, 6 miles on weekends). When I know that I am under control, I'm calmer about the diabetes and face it head on. I still have down days, but I just deal with them and move on. I have helped our local hospital set up a support group, which I feel very good about. When you help others you are helping yourself.
Thanks, Denise, for sharing your common sense and drive. Maybe you will visit the OCNewMe Challenge folks and inspire them a little, too? :)