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Living Well with Diabetes

Sheron Myers is keenly aware of how insidious type 2 diabetes can be. "I didn't really have symptoms. I was having trouble seeing, so I went to my eye doctor. I was told to get my sugar checked, just to make sure it wasn't diabetes." She admits to being a little thirstier than usual and fatigued but, like many people, she chalked it up to a busy lifestyle and helping care for the farm she and her husband Terry own in rural Bollinger County.

During a follow-up visit to her family physician, she was shocked – and frightened – when she learned her blood glucose had tested out at an astronomical 673. The normal range is 90 to 120.

After immediate intervention at the doctor's office, Sheron was referred to the Southeast Diabetes Center, where the staff is dedicated to helping people with diabetes live well. Sheron's physician placed her on an oral antihyperglycemic and a low dose of basal insulin.

Janet Stewart, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, CDE, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator at the Center, explains. "Sheron wanted to make sure she had no health risks, so she chose this course rather than waiting to begin insulin. If you need insulin and use it as a therapy when indicated in type 2 diabetes, it can be temporary and may reduce the lifelong commitment to use."

When she began her individualized education at the Diabetes Center, after adhering to a very low carb diet for two weeks, "my blood glucose had dropped to 420, but it was still no prize."

Sheron says she is grateful to the staff at the Center – Stewart and fellow certified diabetes educators and registered dietitians Mary Etta Dunaway, RD, LD, CDE, and Kay Litwicki, RD, LD – and the education and support they provided. "They explained carbs, how to count them and how to manage meals. I learned so much that I didn't know before. And I felt right at home with them."

Sheron says the Diabetes Center staff was totally committed to learning to manage her diabetes.

"Diabetes requires you to make multiple decisions throughout each day to successfully manage blood sugars and guard against diabetes-related health problems. You are your own nutritionist, your own lab technician and you may have to take medication several times a day. It can be demanding."
- Janet Stewart, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, CDE

"Diabetes requires you to make multiple decisions throughout each day to successfully manage blood sugars and guard against diabetes-related health problems," Janet explains. "You are your own nutritionist, your own lab technician and you may have to take medication several times a day. It can be demanding."

Demanding, yes, but a commitment that paid off for Sheron. After being on an insulin regimen for several years, she was able to stop insulin in March.

At the Diabetes Center

Sheron attended a number of educational sessions with staff. Topics addressed everything from blood glucose testing and dining out strategies to foot care basics and weight loss. The Southeast Diabetes Center serves patients receiving care from primary care physicians and specialists. These patients may be newly diagnosed or having a review in their diabetes education plan. Sheron and other patients take advantage of an annual "booster" session and participate in the Diabetes Self-Management Support Group.

At Doctors' Park, the Center conveniently shares a building with Southeast Endocrinology and has an excellent working relationship with Endocrinologists Wu Wen, MD, PhD, and Darren Allcock, DO. This arrangement provides for seamless care of patients with diabetes.

Spreading the Word

Sheron is willing to share her experience with others who are facing similar health concerns. One gentleman who also attends the church in Marble Hill just lost 50 pounds with her encouragement. And at church dinners she brings healthy dishes and gets rave reviews. "If I can help just one person like me, I am happy."

"We eat healthy food now," Sheron says. "That includes tons of salads. My husband jokes that he feels like he married a rabbit. What it amounts to is do I want to be healthy or sick? I choose healthy." These days, Sheron's blood glucose, which she checks daily, runs between a healthy 88 and 95.

Not Entirely a Villain

Dunaway explains that while counting carbs allows consistency of the day to keep blood sugar levels where they need to be, carbohydrates are not a villain. "We need carbs. You can't eliminate them completely. The choice of how you 'spend' your carbs is up to you."

There is a healthy way to enjoy a buffet, she continues. But – spoiler alert – most sugar free desserts have just as many carbs as those with sugar. "You can eat a little bit of the real thing for more enjoyment."

We need carbs because of the fuel they provide for our bodies, Dunaway says. "Carbs are 'gas for our cars.' The key is to choose wisely and make it count."

She also reminds people that just because a food doesn't have carbs, you can't have all you want such as bacon or sausage. "It's important to remember that you have to take care of your heart as well. Pork rinds are not our friend."

Stewart notes that Sheron's blood sugar was "one of the highest we've seen. She has been a stellar student, accepting her diagnosis and realizing treatment will help. Sheron sets her own goals and stays with them because it helps her be her best."

She is at her best at home on the family farm. With "boundless" energy now, Sheron loves to work outside, bush hogging 50 of the farm's 105-acres, driving the tractor, gardening, weeding and picking wild pears to make her signature preserves.

Encouragement every step of the way is what it's all about at the Diabetes Center. "Failure" is not a word you will hear at the center. "One of our responsibilities," Stewart says, "is to help people celebrate their successes."

Sheron's Pear Preserves

Serving size: Approx. 2 tablespoons
Ingredients: Pears, Splenda and Cinnamon

Wash, peel and slice pears. Remove seeds. Cook pears in a crock pot until very soft. Push pears through a sieve or puree in a food processor. For every 3 cups of pulp, add 1 1/2 cups of Splenda and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Cook until thick stirring frequently. Fill jars and boil in water bath for 10 minutes.

NUTRITION PER SERVING Calories: 50 Fat: 15 grams