"A1C Champion" Tamra Sanders Shares Her Story to Encourage Others During National Diabetes Awareness Month
Tamra Sanders, 34, of St. Michaels, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 12. “First I was in denial, I didn’t think a disease could really happen to me,” she recalls. “Then I was miserable – I wondered, what did I do to deserve this? I was scared of needles. My grandfather showed me how to use the needle and made me realize that I needed to do it to be healthy,” she recalls.
From the time Sanders was diagnosed, her mother, Linda Prince, always has been her greatest support. “She has always helped me to care for my diabetes and on several occasions saved me when my blood sugar dropped so low that I couldn’t care for myself,” Sanders says.
At age 18, Sanders got a job and began living on her own – and taking care of her health seemed less a priority. “There were times I couldn’t afford the medicine and maybe on some level, I thought my diabetes would go away. I didn’t feel bad, so I didn’t think that not taking my insulin or testing my blood sugar was such a big deal. The people I was spending time with weren’t health conscious and there wasn’t a focus on making a better future for ourselves. I began to think that I didn’t deserve better.”
Within a few years’ time, Sanders was experiencing symptoms that indicated her health was deteriorating. “My vision was affected and that scared me. My feet were tingling. I was constantly battling between lows and highs. Overall, I felt I was going downhill.”
She eventually moved back home with her mom, and in 2014 and became a patient at the UM Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology. Under the treatment of Faustino Macuha, MD, the Center’s medical director, Sanders was prescribed an insulin pump and learned how to use it with the help of the diabetes education team. She began to regain control of her blood sugars and now monitors her blood sugars at least four times a day, watches her diet and stays active.
“The insulin pump has really improved my life,” Sanders says. “I feel healthier and more stable – fewer highs, and lows — than when I was using injections. I also am happier and more confident, because I have taken control of my diabetes. I am on the waiting list for a kidney and pancreas transplant as a result of poor compliance with monitoring my blood sugar when I was younger, but for now I am doing everything I can to stay well.”
“Education on diabetes, learning the steps to manage the disease — and putting that learning to good use is key to avoiding complications,” says Doris Allen, lead educator for the Center. “There are new medicines and devices that make self-care easier and many strategies patients can undertake to maintain their best quality of life. Tamra is the perfect example of how anyone can gain good control of his or her blood sugars, despite having had poor compliance in the past. It’s never too late to make a positive change and achieve a much better quality of life.”
She attends the monthly diabetes support group in Denton and volunteers in the Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, assisting staff and also encouraging fellow patients to learn how to manage the disease — and to follow their treatment plans.
Sanders is especially looking forward to the upcoming Center’s Open House events, where she will be on hand as one an “A1C Champion” to talk with guests about strategies she has learned on her path to wellness.