How I Learned to Live with Type 2 Diabetes

By Sanho Steele-Louchart

Editor’s note: This is American Diabetes Awareness Month and VisionAware is featuring the extensive material we have available on diabetes and its ramifications for people with vision loss. This year’s theme, established by the American Diabetes Association, is #ThisisDiabetes Campaign. Sanho Steele-Louchart’s story is his “this is diabetes” contribution. infographic showing use of glucometer to test blood sugar

Being Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes Came As a Shock

The diagnosis forced me to question who I am, the choices I’ve made, and how well I live.

I was diagnosed just before I turned 22. I went into the doctor’s office with a sinus infection and came out with a chronic illness. On the outside, I was a mere twenty pounds overweight. What the doctor didn’t know was that when he wasn’t looking, I spent most of my time on the couch, and my diet was primarily sugar and processed carbs.

On May 13th, 2014, my fasting blood-sugar was 240. My two-hour postprandial was 490. My A1C, (which tells you your average level of blood sugar over the past 2 to 3 months) was 8.9%. I was severely diabetic. Unfortunately, I was also severely in denial. It took months of repeated doctor visits to convince me that I was sick. Eventually, though, diabetes became something of an opportunity for me.

I took diabetes as a personal challenge. I read everything I could get my hands on. I talked to everyone I knew. I was going to beat this. I was going to change.

A year later, on May 19, 2015, I’d done it. My fasting blood-sugar was 96. My A1C was 5.5. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t out-of-control, either.

So How Did I Do It?

First of all, I was incredibly well-supported. My friends and colleagues came together to assist me in an unbelievable way. Friends and family began helping me learn new recipes and offering me different foods when I visited their homes. Friends would go on walks with me instead of sitting at coffee shops, and we’d have tea instead of coffee-drinks or soda. Most importantly, nobody blamed me for my situation, but they did offer unconditional support and the space in which to make changes as I became ready.

Next, I became comfortable making mistakes. I stopped blaming myself for every time I didn’t know whether to choose between the social expectation of Sunday morning doughnuts and the doctor-recommended scrambled eggs with black coffee. But if I didn’t beat myself up, I also didn’t give myself a free pass. A mistake was a mistake. I took note of how it made me feel and I remembered it the next time I was in a similar situation.

The largest contributing factor to my success was that I set incremental goals. One month I’d replace all bleached flour with whole-wheat. I’d do one set of extremely basic bodyweight exercises. I’d be awful, and I’d be okay with that. Soon I was walking, running, swimming, and weight-training. Shortly thereafter, I’d cut out all foods that weren’t nutritionally benefiting my body.

Today, a setback is nothing more than another learning opportunity for me. I’ve taken time to support myself and to learn what I need to do to get back on track. And I still set monthly goals. Although my doctors say that I don’t have to check my blood sugar anymore, they make it a point to monitor my A1C every 3 months so that I stay within a target range. So far, I’ve managed to stay off of medication completely, and I hope to keep it that way.

Living with Type 2 Diabetes Can Be a Challenge

There are still weeks when I don’t exercise, or days when I opt for carrot cake instead of carrots. But I’m learning.

I’ve learned to make eating right, getting plenty of movement, and performing self-care some of my top priorities. I remind myself that even though my numbers might be low, I’m still diabetic, and the choices that I make today have a direct impact on my wellbeing now and in the future.

With all of that being said, everyone’s journey is different. It’s important to remember that your diabetes isn’t anyone else’s diabetes. If I could offer advice to someone going through a similar process, I’d say to do what works for you. Take it slowly. Make the changes that fit your personality and lifestyle, and don’t give up on yourself. Your treatment starts with you.

Additional Information on Diabetes

What is Diabetes

Blood Glucose Levels

Diabetes Guides

Have Diabetes? Education, Guidance, and Support Are Essential