There is comfort in finding others who share one’s interests, experiences or goals. I think that’s part of the power of the diabetes online community – those shared experiences that help people feel like they aren’t the only ones, that they aren’t alone. Local diabetes support groups may also provide this comfort. Rachel Tobin mentioned that meeting other kids through JDRF helped her after her type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Teens in the Barbara Davis Center Team Clinics have reported they like being able to learn from other people their age. Today I’d like to introduce you to Cynthia Jones, who recently participated in the Diabetes Group program hosted by the PCC Community Wellness Center in the Chicago area.
In March 2013, Cynthia started experiencing intense thirst, frequent urination and generally felt ill. She eventually wound up in the emergency room, with a blood sugar level of over 600 and a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. “I really wasn’t aware,” she said. “I didn’t connect any of my symptoms to diabetes. I was real surprised when I found out I was diabetic!”
The diagnosis alarmed Cynthia, with fear of the unknown. “I was panicking because I didn’t know what to do,” she recalled. “People my age, they often connect diabetes with potential complications, like losing your eyesight and amputation. So I was terrified. Once I got out of the hospital, I didn’t know what to eat. I tried to replicate the meals I had gotten in the hospital, but that got old after a while. You can’t eat the same thing every day. I got a little information from a dietitian and the doctor at the hospital, but they really didn’t tell me that much.”
When Cynthia was discharged, she saw her doctor at PCC the next day. “My doctor knew some things about diabetes, but he couldn’t give me all the detailed information I needed,” she said. He connected her with Maureen Milota, APN, a family nurse practitioner at the health center, who enrolled her in the next Diabetes Group.
The Group met monthly, over the course of six months, with support from Maureen, two registered nurses, and specialists like a podiatrist, a dentist and a social worker. Sessions started with a brief one-on-one medical appointment with Maureen to discuss medications, as well as a general health update. Then the eight to 12 participants came together as a group for diabetes education on topics such as stress relief, carb counting, cooking tips, exercise, and dental and eye care. Each session wrapped up with a healthy meal.
“The biggest thing about the Group was that they explained to you why you have to do certain tasks and why certain results may happen,” Cynthia said. “If you do this, this may happen; this will be your benefit. When people explain stuff to you, it’s easier for you to do it.”
One of Cynthia’s favorite parts of attending the diabetes support group sessions was talking with other people who live with diabetes. “It’s easier to manage those types of life experiences when you share it with people going through the same thing,” she said. “It made me not afraid as much. I didn’t feel as alone as I did after my diagnosis. As I attended the Group, the fear left. Knowledge is power. It really is. At first, I was scared, but Maureen showed me how to better manage my diabetes and I realized I could lead a good life, eat tasty food and be happy.”
Upon completion of the program, PCC hosted a graduation ceremony for the participants. “Graduation day was really fun,” said Cynthia. “We met the new Group starting and explained to them some of the ins and outs of the Group and encouraged them to stick with the Group.” The ceremony also included prizes, achievement awards, a meal and a speaker.
“From what I’ve learned in the Group, I see now that diabetes management is not as hard as I thought it would be,” she said. “If I had not attended the Group, I don’t think that I would have adhered to the new lifestyle. It didn’t seem relevant and I didn’t see how it would work. But they broke the information down so it was really simple and easy to understand. Now I’m motivated to lose more weight. Managing my blood sugar seems to have improved my overall health a lot, too.”
The Group was so well-received, attendees decided they wanted to continue meeting, moving to a session every three months.
I just love hearing about programs like this that provide much needed services on the community level. It sounds like PCC is off to a great start! My thanks to Cynthia for sharing her experience.
All the best,
Disclosure: Cynthia Jones received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.