Janice Sweitzer’s life changed instantly when routine bloodwork revealed that she was diabetic. An active Mercy Service League volunteer, she was initially treated for Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 is a chronic disease commonly diagnosed in older adults whose bodies are not able to make or use insulin well. She was familiar with the treatment because her husband, Dr. Kirby Sweitzer, colorectal surgeon, medical director of Trauma and Blood Conservation at Mercy Medical Center and president of Mercy Medical Staff, has Type 2 diabetes. Some people can control their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise, while others may need medication or insulin to manage it.
But more extensive bloodwork revealed another unwelcome surprise: Janice had Type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Once known as juvenile diabetes, Type 1 has no cure and makes up only five percent of diabetes cases. It is most often diagnosed in children and young adults.
“I was shocked,” the Jackson Township resident said. “It’s unusual for someone almost 60 years old to be diagnosed with Type 1, and I had no symptoms, underlying conditions or family history of diabetes.” Janice was very anxious because her sister-in-law, who has uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes, has suffered severe complications from the disease including blindness and diabetes-related amputations.
It’s normal for people who are newly diagnosed with diabetes to feel scared, angry, frustrated, or discouraged. “The first time I saw an endocrinologist, I felt so overwhelmed,” Janice said.
“IT WAS THE BEST THING I COULD HAVE DONE.”
After her diagnosis, Janice participated in Mercy’s Diabetes Education series. Coordinated by Nicole Selinsky, RDN/LD/CLC, the comprehensive program gives newly diagnosed people the tools and knowledge to manage their diabetes and improve their overall health.
“It was the best thing that I could have done,” Janice said. “Nicole is friendly and outgoing, and has a you-can-do-it attitude, which is just what you need when you’re learning and coming to terms with diabetes.”
The education series includes individual appointments with a diabetic educator to learn how to test and monitor your glucose, and with a dietitian who helps develop a personalized meal plan and provides tips to help you stay on track.
Group sessions address topics like how exercise can help control blood sugar, reading food labels, dining out, managing stress, medications, preventing and treating chronic diabetes complications, and more.
“My group had about eight people,” Janice said. “Aside from the practical knowledge that we were taught, we learned from each other. “I’m very grateful for this program, and I recommend it to anyone who is recently diagnosed.”
MONITORING AND STAYING IN CONTROL
Janice initially used a glucometer and testing strips to monitor her glucose levels. She has since switched to a continuous glucose monitor, a device that is adhered to the back of her arm that monitors glucose levels through tiny sensors, and transmits the information to a wireless-pager-like monitor.
This method of collecting data appeals to Janice, a tax-season CPA at Sherritt & Associates in North Canton. “I’m a numbers person. With the continuous monitor, I can check 20 times a day. I’ve figured out what I need to do to stay in control. For example, if my levels are high, I don’t eat carbs; if they’re low, I eat carbs.” Through insulin injections, she is able to keep her glucose levels in a healthy range.
For the first two years after her diagnosis, Janice saw her endocrinologist, Dr. Arvind Krishna, every three months. Now that she is more knowledgeable about the disease and better able to manage it, the visits have been reduced to twice a year.
The mother of three grown sons said that her friends and family have been supportive of her new dietary restrictions. When people offer her food, she makes healthy food choices in appropriate portion sizes.
Celebratory foods are not off the table, just a bit different. “My 88-year-old mother bakes me a birthday cake every year. This year, she baked me a delicious cake using special flour and sweetener.”
When dining out, Janice is learning to make good food choices. “Recently, my husband and I ate dinner at 91 Woodfire Grill. I ordered fettuccine alfredo with zoodles (zucchini noodles) instead of pasta. It was really good.”
She’s also adjusted her cooking at home. “I don’t make desserts anymore. We limit carbs and focus on proteins, vegetables and salads. Lucky, that I like those foods.” Keeping track of what she eats has helped her lose weight and maintain the weight loss.
‘MY BLOOD SUGARS ARE PERFECT ON THE DAYS THAT I EXERCISE.”
Because she’s a Mercy volunteer, Janice enjoys a discounted membership at Mercy’s Fitness Center, and she’s devoted to boot camp classes led by fitness instructor John Bennett. During the early days of COVID-19, she participated in the bootcamp classes that John offered on Facebook.
Staying active is not only a heart-healthy way to lose weight and stay fit, but for diabetics, it’s also a way to help lower chances of developing other complications. “My blood sugars are perfect on the days that I exercise,” Janice said.
A diabetes diagnosis can seem overwhelming but with knowledge and the proper management techniques, the disease hasn’t stopped Janice from living her life.
Mercy is Here to Help.
Mercy’s Diabetes Education team can help you take charge of your diabetes.
If you are one of the more than 29 million Americans with diabetes, then you probably know this chronic condition can increase your risk for developing serious complications, including heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, and kidney and nervous system diseases. However, proper diabetes management can delay or even prevent the onset of complications, allowing you to live a healthy, productive life.
Mercy Outpatient Diabetes Education can equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to take charge of diabetes. Recognized by the American Diabetes Association, Mercy Diabetes Education program offers individual instruction and group classes that focus on prevention and long-term diabetes management. Whether you have insulin-dependent Type 1, the more common Type 2, or pregnancy-induced gestational diabetes, we can show you how to make positive lifestyle changes that will benefit your health now and in the future.
For more information, visit https://www.cantonmercy.org/diabetes/ or call 330-489-1484.