Type 2 diabetes is serious business, but it's not a death sentence. With proper management, people can live relatively normal lives. "I think sometimes people still understand diabetes as being the disease where you get your legs cut off and go blind," says Thomas Blevins, MD, an endocrinologist and founder of Texas Diabetes and Endocrinology, a private practice in Austin.
Diabetes management has come a long way in recent years thanks to a flurry of research, more drug options, advances in home glucose monitoring, and in many cases earlier diagnosis. While diabetes has become more manageable, it isn't necessarily easier.
Learning how to cope
You'll need to cope with added health costs, diabetes burnout (a point when the daily grind of finger pricking, food monitoring, and exercise may get you down), social functions like the office holiday party, and family members who may be less than supportiveor overzealous in their support.
Turning down a second piece of cake is no piece of cake. But you may need to cope with temptation as well as well-meaning family and friends who morph into the "food police," interrogating your every food choice.
Your first ally in learning how to live with diabetes will most likely be a diabetes educator, a health professional who teaches the finer points of living with diabetes.
Penny, a 67-year-old who lives in New York City, took a five-week course in diabetic self-management at the Montefiore Medical Center. It was the best thing to ever happen to her, she says. She gained a much deeper understanding of the anatomy and physiology of diabetes; learned how to read food labels and eat in moderation; and got the low-down on complications and how to stave them off.
"I truly think every diabetic should take a course like I took," Penny says. "Doctors don't have the time to explain all that needs to be explained."
You might find other allies in online communities or in-person support groups.
Sheri Gibson, 49, of Chicago, says she "swears by" the website dLife, which she credits with helping to manage her disease and live a healthy life. Gibson frequently posts and responds to messages on dLife's message boards. "One thing that I found the most enlightening is that we realize we're not alone," she says. "Although our symptoms vary in nature, they're all basically the same."