She felt another wave of guilt come over her, as she thought what it had taken to make it a high enough priority. But it had now become her top priority.
As an elementary school teacher, she was very familiar with conducting research, and she put that experience to good use. She learned that a growing number of American’s are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes each year. She read that an estimated 24 MILLION Americans now have type 2 diabetes, and another 78 MILLION are pre-diabetic or well on their way. So, in 10 years, the U.S. could have over 100 MILLION diabetics. She marveled at that number, which would mean that 1 out of every 3 Americans, would have type 2 diabetes. Her guilt flared again, as she read that we are passing our bad habits on to our kids, and there are now children with Type 2 diabetes, which was formerly known as adult onset diabetes.
Her anxiety got even worse when she read about how type 2 diabetes can lead to several other diseases, such as heart disease. She started to feel sick when she read about the disease process and how, over time, it can take your vision or lead to amputations and, possibly, death. All she could think was, “Oh, my God, what have I done!” As she continued to read, she wondered why people don’t take it more seriously. Then she realized that the problem is that it doesn’t kill you quickly; it is a slow, insidious disease and, like her son, you don’t feel sick until the disease has advanced. But it had become serious to her, as she came to grips with the stark reality that uncontrolled type 2 diabetes will eventually shorten your life, decrease your productivity, and reduce your quality of life. She was not going to let that happen to Tommy or anyone else in her family.
She called her doctor and made appointments for the physicals that she and her husband had been putting off. She had a new focus and wanted to know if there were any other issues she should know about. She then looked up the additional test that the doctor had ordered for Tommy, something called an A1C test. She learned that it’s actually called the glycated hemoglobin test. This blood test measures average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. An A1C level of 6.5% or higher on two separate tests indicates diabetes. A result of 5.7% to 6.4% is considered pre-diabetes, which indicates a high risk of developing diabetes. Now, it made sense why the doctor wanted to see Tommy each month: He thought Tommy might have this!
As she searched the Internet feverishly for a program that could help her son, she kept thinking about the Einstein quote and how she wanted something new and different, not just another pre-packaged exercise and diet program. If those types of programs worked, why was the failure rate so high? It seemed like everywhere she looked, people were talking about health and wellness, yet she also saw that the number of people with obesity and chronic diseases seemed to be climbing. There had to be more to it than just eating better and getting more activity.
She called Tommy’s doctor back and asked if he knew of any local programs she could turn to as a resource. The doctor’s response wasn’t what she had hoped for. “You know, that’s a great question,” he said. “There are a ton of different people doing them but most don’t really work. Let me know if you find anything.” With her frustration level rising, she decided to call a few friends, but they all had the same stories about programs they had tried, only to stop doing it and have any weight they had lost come right back. Her appointment for a physical was the next day so she thought she’d ask her doctor for recommendations.
The next day, she did her normal morning routine of getting the kids ready for school and her husband off to work. She then headed for her doctor’s appointment, with a newfound curiosity about her health. She was embarrassed to learn that she hadn’t been to the doctor’s office for a couple of years. “Wow, she thought, time really does fly by.” As she sat in the waiting area, she leafed through a magazine that was lying on the table. The title of it had caught her attention: “Live Well.” She flipped through the pages and noticed articles on nutrition, exercise, and therapy programs, as well as other areas of health. Before long, she heard her name called, and she headed back.
As the nurse walked her to the scale, she felt a sudden dread; she realized she had been avoiding the scale for some time. When she stepped on the scale, the nurse noisily clanked the weights into position, seemingly drawing way too much attention to the procedure. Tracy looked down at the weight and thought, “That’s not right! The scale must be broken! I know I’ve gained some weight, but that’s not possible!!” The nurse escorted her to a private room and took her blood pressure and pulse. Still irritated by the “broken” scale, Tracy asked how her blood pressure was and the nurse responded, “A little high.” When the doctor came in, she looked over the numbers, conducted the physical, and then summed it all up, “It looks like you’ve put on quite a bit of weight, and your blood pressure is on the high side of normal. We’ll go ahead and have some blood tests done, just to check things out but, overall, it just looks like you could stand to lose some weight. Make sure you are eating well, and get some more exercise.” Tracy then told the doctor about Tommy and her sudden interest in her family’s health and asked if she had any recommendations for a wellness program. The doctor turned to the nurse and said, “Make sure they run an A1C when they do the blood work.” Turning back toward Tracy, she said, “There are a variety of different programs, but most of them don’t work very well. Maybe try walking a little more.”
“Will that bother my low back? It’s been hurting quite a bit lately,” responded Tracy, acknowledging, for the first time, the low back pain that had been increasing over the last several weeks. The doctor poked around a couple of places, and Tracy was surprised at how sore she actually was.
“Let’s go ahead and have you do a little physical therapy to get that under control, and we can also start you on some anti-inflammatories,” said the doctor. “Let’s have you check back in with us in 30 days to review the blood tests and see how the back is doing.” With that, the doctor walked out, and the nurse handed Tracy the referrals for her blood test, therapy, and anti-inflammatories.
More frustrated than ever, Tracy got dressed and walked to the front lobby. “Just what I need, more things to do and no answers.” She saw the magazine still sitting on the table, and asked the front desk girls if they minded if she took it. She took their apathetic shrugs as approval, picked up the magazine, and walked out.
Curious about her blood levels, she drove immediately to the lab to have the blood drawn. As she was waiting for her turn, she took out the magazine she had picked up, noticing an article on low back pain that she hadn’t noticed before. As she read the article, she decided that she did want to get the back pain under control and that she would make an appointment with the physical therapist. She thought it would be one less excuse to keep her from exercising. Her mind returned to Tommy and how to help him. The more she thought about it, the more frustrated she became. She thought back over all the recommendations she had tried that had failed and both doctors’ acknowledgement that there really wasn’t a good solution. It was too important to give up on so she vowed to keep looking.
A few days later, she received Tommy’s lab results, and his A1C level was in the pre-diabetic range. Her test had come back elevated, not quite in the pre-diabetic range, but still too high for her liking. To make matters worse, her husband had reluctantly gone to his appointment, and he tested in the high pre-diabetic range. She knew that something needed to be done and quickly.