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For more than 20 years Audrey Redfurn of Saint John, N.B., lived with the stress of poorly managed type 2 diabetes. As a single parent working full-time, she admits she often neglected her health. It did not help that she often could not afford the medication (metformin, and later insulin) that she needed.

Coping with diabetes and the stresses of life

“As a working single parent there were times when I didn’t even have time to eat a meal. And there were times I lived on fast food. I didn’t pay attention to my diabetes when I was younger and it got really bad,” says Audrey, 61, whose three sons are now adults. “And the medications were expensive. I often didn’t have the money for them after I paid the bills, so I went off them.” This contributed not only to her high A1C levels (which reflect average blood sugar over the past two to three months), but also to her stress levels. She also experienced tiredness and nerve pain, known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

But that all changed in six years ago when the retired nursing home attendant began working with certified diabetes educator (CDE) and consulting pharmacist Rob Roscoe, who works out of 18 family practice offices in southern New Brunswick and sees more than 600 patients with diabetes every year. Rob advised Audrey to go back on insulin, and gave her a helpful plan for taking her insulin in the day and evening. He also helped her get financial assistance for her medications through industry and government drug programs.

Sharing the challenges of managing a chronic disease

Once Audrey started taking her insulin regularly, she found she had more energy for walking and gardening—two activities she enjoys. Over the next two years she lost 50 pounds. She also improved her diet, switching to water from pop, making more home-cooked meals, and having healthy snacks regularly. Her A1C reading was almost half of what it had been, and Audrey feels much better. She credits Rob: “He’s been helpful and understanding. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t even be on insulin. I might have died.”

“We aren’t here to point fingers or tell people what to do. We are here to help—to provide a better understanding of diabetes and offer patients the options they need to better manage their condition,” says Rob. For him, one of the greatest rewards of his job is seeing Audrey and other patients improve. He says,

Audrey now has good [diabetes] management and very few lows, is well balanced on her meds and has accessed the coverage she needs. And she’s not afraid to adjust her insulin when needed [now that she knows how. It’s great to see [her] increased confidence.

For Audrey, the rewards are equally meaningful. “Seeing [Rob] on a regular basis helps keeps me accountable and keeps me on track. It makes me feel better just to talk to him. [Our] meetings give me peace of mind,” she says.

Ways to take charge of your diabetes

There is no doubt that living with diabetes can be stressful. Pharmacist and diabetes educator Rob Roscoe offers the following advice on how not to feel overwhelmed.

Get a grip on your fear It is easy to think the worst when you have been diagnosed with a chronic disease such as diabetes. For example, many people do not take their insulin because they are afraid of needles. “I show my patients that doing an insulin poke is actually less painful than doing a blood sugar poke,” says Rob.

Have an action plan What do you need to work on: adjusting your medication? Finding a fitness routine that works for you? Having more downtime? When you are feeling overwhelmed, it helps to figure out your key goals.

Get financial assistance “I see a lot of people who have trouble paying for their drugs,” says Rob. “There are government and industry funding programs that can provide access to coverage.” Ask your diabetes educator for advice on where to turn. You can also contact Diabetes Canada, which advocates on behalf of people impacted by diabetes.

Make time for yourself “Go to bed early, listen to music, read a book, meditate, or go for a walk,” says Rob. “Diabetes can sometimes feel overwhelming, and that’s why ‘me time’ is important— even if it’s just a few minutes a day.”

Did you know?

2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin. Today, more Canadians have diabetes than ever before. Diabetes or prediabetes affects one in three Canadians. One in two young adults will develop diabetes in their remaining lifetime. We cannot wait another 100 years to End Diabetes. Visit 100 Years of Insulin to learn more, including how you can support those living with or at risk for the disease.

This story originally appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Autumn 2017.

Author: Anne Bokma

Category Tags: Healthy Living, Impact Stories;

Region: National

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