Written by: Maria Lissandrello – Diabetes Health Monitor
Diabetes educator Michelle Sheldon Rubio, RN, BSN, CDE has collaborated with Milner-Fenwick, now a division of The Wellness Network, for many years. She has served as a content consultant on our patient education videos and PowerPoint teaching units. Diabetes Health Monitor tells the story of Michelle and her patient, La’Juan Way. We believe you will find it informative and inspiring.
When La’Juan Way met certified diabetes educator Michelle Sheldon-Rubio in 2015, she was taking multiple pills and three shots a day to manage her type 2 diabetes. Although she had been diagnosed with the disease in 2008, she hadn’t taken it seriously. “I was a mess” admits La’Juan. “I didn’t want to accept that I had diabetes.” But in 2015, the then 50 year old had no choice. She was at work, when she felt lightheaded and short of breath. “When I went to stand up, I got up and hit the floor. I went out in an ambulance and woke up in the ER with an IV in my arm,” says La’Juan.
After narrowly escaping a diabetic coma, La’Juan agreed to see a doctor and a dietitian, but the regimen was overwhelming. Despite oral medication, she was waking up with blood sugar levels in the 300 to 400 mg/dL range. And the nutritional advice was confusing, too: “I thought I could still eat the way I used to-bread, fried food and soda-just moderate my portions and dilute my drinks. But it made things worse. They added more pills and shots twice a day. Then three.”
“I finally started listening”
In Michelle’s office, La’Juan vented all her anger and frustration. “I was combative; I didn’t want to listen to what anyone wanted to say:’ says La’Juan. “I felt like nobody cared about me. ”
“I listened to her holler for 45 minutes;’ says Michelle Sheldon-Rubio, who works at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore. “When she quieted down I said, ‘Are you ready to get started?'”
“The tears started flowing” remembers Michelle. And La’Juan said, “I was finally led to the person who is going to help me.”
La’Juan Way (right) credits her diabetes educator Michelle Sheldon-Rubio with helping her get her diabetes under control… “I was finally led to the person who is going to help me.”
“I can control diabetes so it doesn’t control me!”
With Michelle’s guidance, La’Juan starting making simple changes. One of the first? Reading up on the disease. “It was the first time I realized how important it is to control your diabetes. I thought, Why am I giving up my life when I can actually beat this? I might have it for the rest of my life, but I can control it so it doesn’t control me!”
Next, she declared her intentions to her family. “I had been living a life for other people, but I needed to get healthy and to learn how to love myself!” says La’Juan. That meant putting herself first. It also meant taking her new treatment – a medication that works by flushing excess blood sugar through the kidney – exactly as prescribed. “It was a magic drug” says La’Juan. “It helped me lose a little weight and brought down my numbers.”
She revamped her diet, too. A typical breakfast is now yogurt, hot tea and an egg; lunch is tuna and whole grain crackers; dinner, grilled chicken, salmon or turkey with green beans and broccoli. A protein bar or shake is a frequent snack. “I don’t eat fried foods or sugar anymore,” says La’Juan. “My stomach rejects it!” It’s a far cry from her old staples: soda, fried chicken, candy, popcorn, pizza. “Every time you turned around, I was eating out. I never cooked a nutritious meal,” says La’Juan.
And while a typical pre-Michelle workout included walking to her car or to the bus, these days, she wakes up with some Pilates stretches, walks during her lunch hour and hits the gym most nights after work. “I do the treadmill, the stepper, the weights, and I’m taking jiu jitsu, too!”
“I wouldn’t change a thing!”
The rewards of her new lifestyle? “When I met Michelle, my AlC was 12.3,” says La’Juan. “Today, it’s around 6.0. And my blood sugar is consistently in a healthy range.” That’s not all: She’s also lost 70 pounds, and has been able to stop taking all her medications. ”I’m a new person;· says La’Juan. “I just got a tattoo that says ‘new beginnings’ on my shoulder. It’s a butterfly. I’m now out of my cocoon. I’m spreading my wings!”
She’s even become an inspiration and a mentor to others: “People knew me when I was heavier, angrier, meaner,” says La’Juan. “They ask me my secret. I say, ‘Do you really want to know? C’mon, let’s go get a cup of tea!’ ”
Adds La’Juan, “The journey has been hard but spectacular; I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Little Steps That Make A Big Difference
Tackling diabetes one goal at a time makes it easier to tame. Here, diabetes educator Michelle Sheldon-Rubio shares the steps that helped La’Juan turn her life around.
- Set specific targets. “Pick something you can measure,” says Michelle. For La’Juan, weight loss was one of her goals. Walking a certain distance each day might be one you could try. And striving toward your personal blood sugar goals yet another.
- Look for your wins. When La’Juan started checking her blood sugars and seeing that her exercise, diet changes and medication were lowering her blood sugar, she started screaming, “Oh my god, it worked!”
- Eat breakfast within an hour of the same time each day. “It’s like an alarm clock,” says Michelle. “You give your body the fuel it needs and won’t have breakthrough hunger.” She recommends including protein, such as Greek yogurt, a boiled egg or peanut butter. “Combine it with a complex carb, like whole-wheat bread.”
- Gather a team.Michelle put together a group of healthcare professionals who could help La’Juan tackle her diabetes from all angles!
- Ask yourself the important questions. “Do you love yourself? Do you feel you’re important? Do you feel that only you can bring whatever it is you’re supposed to bring to this world? You can’t do that if you’re sick or in a hospital,” says Michelle. “So you have to make a decision that you are priority no. 1.”
- Pat yourself on the back. “Any forward momentum is positive,” says Michelle. “Even if you think your A1C is out of the park, the fact that you went to see your diabetes educator, for example, means you want a change!”
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