Cynthia - Erie, PA

Updated:Sep 9,2010

Age: 61
Name: Cynthia K
Location: Erie, PA


If I were to offer a person newly diagnosed with diabetes I would say to find someone or a group of someones who will help them work through both the emotional and physical changes that need to be made.

I was first diagnosed with diabetes about 10 years ago. At first I took it quite seriously since both my parents had it. I starting being careful about what I ate and went on a 1500 calorie eating plan, with the hopes of losing weight. However, I wasn't very successful with this and before long I was taking diabetic pills to keep my glucose levels low.

Over the years I tried to lose weight, but was unsuccessful. Since one of the side effects of most diabetic pills (or at least the ones I was prescribed) was weight gain I finally gave up the idea of ever losing and each year seemed to add more weight.

I was born with a bi-cuspid aortic heart valve (it is supposed to be tri-cuspid). Most of my life I had no problems resulting from this. However, in late 2007 my cardiologist became very concerned and in May 2008 I had the valve replaced. Upon being discharged from the hospital the nurse warned me to be on the look-out for symptoms of depression (apparently heart surgery patients often experience this). I thought I had made it past it, but at four months I started experiencing it. I knew I needed not only medical intervention but also a support group.

I started aggressively searching my area for help. What I found was The Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Heart Disease Reversal. Technically I don't have heart disease since my coronary arteries are clear. (But I have been told that having diabetes is the equivalent of having heart disease.) However, I did have the high blood pressure,diabetes and obesity. I am five foot five and at my highest weighed 214 pounds. And I never want to have open-heart surgery again, not if I can help it.

The Dr. Dean Ornish program is a year long program and has 4 components to it: exercise, group support, stress management and eating plan (low fat, vegetarian, caffeine free). As of October of this year I will have completed my year in the program. At various times throughout the year it has been difficult, from being nervous about my exercise capabilities; being totally unfamiliar with yoga, which is used to assist in stress reduction; learning to be transparent about my feelings with others as well as listening to their concerns; and making the diet changes.

Now remember that I had been unable to lose weight in the past. I am now down to 167 pounds. I have gone from a size 22 to a size 14/16, something I thought would never happen. In fact I still have difficulty in stores looking at that size. The first time I went to a store and didn't have to go to the Plus size was an emotional moment I will always remember.

My AIC at my last appointment was 5.4, my cholesterol was 135 and my blood pressure was 110/70. I used to take 3 different doses of diabetic medicines: now I only take a half pill. I've discovered there are things I can do to positively affect my health and I try my best to be a participant in choosing my lifestyle.

If I were to offer a person newly diagnosed with diabetes (notice that I did not call them a diabetic, since that cannot be their identify, but merely their diagnosis) I would say to find someone or a group of someones who will help them work through both the emotional and physical changes that need to be made. You need to have people who you can be honest with about how you feel and people that you can at first whine to about the diet changes you are making, be able to share recipes that have worked for them and to have someone to be an encouragement to you and you to them as you make these changes.

My husband and family have been very supportive of me as I have made changes. And my support group and staff members of the Dean Ornish Program have been extremely helpful. Another piece of advice I would give is to seek any professional help that is available, even counseling if that will help you (and how will you know unless you try it?). They need to realize that they are not defective, some of the functions in their body may not be operating correctly, but they themselves are not defective.



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