Did you know you’re in the presence of royalty? It’s true. I’m the Queen of Denial. That’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s the truth.
In August of 2001, I had a mild heart attack. I was following in my father’s footsteps, and not in a good way. While genetics played a big part in it, I knew I needed to take responsibility and make some big changes.
I was eventually diagnosed with diabetes, but I felt fine most of the time. I also had no idea there was a direct connection between heart disease and type 2 diabetes. And since I never felt sick or in pain, it was easy to ignore. But my body was not ignoring my neglect.
And then I had a wake-up call: stage 4 renal failure. The contrast dye used when getting multiple cardiac stents took a serious toll on my kidneys, as did a kidney stone. Suddenly, I could no longer take oral medication to manage my blood sugar. I had to make some drastic diet-related changes in my life. I needed to eat properly to help myself.
I had a decision to make. Did I want to start using insulin to treat my blood sugar, or did I want to try revising my diet as my “medicine” of choice? I chose the latter, re-educating myself about how to cook and eat, and learning what affected my daily blood sugar levels and my A1C. With the changes I’ve made to my way of eating, I’m now maintaining an A1C that meets the goal I have set with my healthcare team. By cutting out most refined carbohydrates – the “beloved” carbs that have always been my downfall – I no longer fell into a carb-induced haze after eating.
Keeping my A1C and daily blood sugar levels within range, according to the diabetes guidelines, was my top priority. That meant I had to face the truth about eliminating certain foods from my way of eating. No more sugar-laden treats, most bread and baked goods, or even certain fruits.
I may need insulin in the future, but for now, I can manage my blood sugar by making informed decisions about what I choose to eat. This means being prepared by having foods available to me that will not cause my blood sugar to skyrocket. This takes effort, but in the long run, it will help to extend my life so I don’t miss out being with my family for years to come.
I’m far from being perfect, which I know I’ll never be, but that’s okay. Doing my best and being prepared with acceptable food choices is not as much of a daily struggle. When I do stray, I also know that I can get right back on track, because a fresh start is always a choice.
As I was coming to my senses about my health challenges, I found DiabetesSisters through the Suppers Programs in Princeton, New Jersey. It was the eye-opener I needed. Finally, I found a support group that was filled with loving, compassionate women. I found peers who were dealing with some of the same health issues and challenges. They helped me leave behind the guilt associated with my heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and chronic kidney disease. They help me focus on taking charge of my health.
I’m now a co-leader of a local DiabetesSisters PODS Meetup. I have had the extraordinary opportunity to share my story with others at DiabetesSisters events, on national television, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, and with medical professionals. This has become part of my education and recovery. All of this has helped me to face my health challenges head-on.
I am now at the point in my life where I feel lucky. No more hiding what I’m dealing with. No more guilt, which makes a world of difference for my family and I. And I now have a wide circle of dear, supportive friends with whom I can share experiences and, most importantly, recipes!
UPDATE: Anne is thrilled report that on January 22, 2019 she had a kidney transplant. Her son, Josh, was the donor. He did every single thing the doctors requested to prepare for donation and he passed with flying colors! Before the surgery, Anne's creatinine level was above a 5. Drum roll please...less than a month after surgery it went down to .8!
Anne D has been married to her loving husband, Jim, for over 40 years, and has two wonderful adult children, Nancy and Josh. Anne has been a “Jersey girl” her entire life and has raised money and consciousness for many organizations over the past 30 years, including Ronald McDonald House, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (Race for the Cure®), National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Dr. Susan Love Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and America's Second Harvest food banks in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Her fundraising efforts have included producing concert series and community awareness events, bringing in much-needed funds for charity. Anne’s focus is now on helping others who live with diabetes and other health challenges, through her participation in DiabetesSisters, and sharing tasty low carb recipes.