Surviving and Thriving with Diabetes
A diagnosis of diabetes – whether Type 1, Type 2 or gestational -- is a life-changing event. It’s possible to live well with diabetes, but doing so requires intensive education about the disease process. It also requires adopting strategies that will help prevent progression of the disease and severe complications such as kidney failure, vision loss, nerve damage, heart disease, stroke and amputation.
The latest statistics on the prevalence of diabetes indicate that approximately 10 percent of Kent County residents are affected. Because many of these individuals are asymptomatic, they are unaware they have diabetes and have not sought treatment.
That was the situation in which Rock Hall resident Terri D’Angelo found herself last January.
“I felt very sick,” D’Angelo recalls. “I had a scratchy throat and I was constantly thirsty. I went to my doctor and she thought I might have a virus. I went back nearly three weeks later, with the same symptoms, but I also had lost 10 pounds. She sent me for bloodwork and called me over the weekend to tell me to go the hospital as she believed I had diabetes.”
D’Angelo, 63, spent the night at UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown where she learned that she has diabetes – not the Type 2 that is prevalent among adults, but a late onset of Type 1 diabetes.
“When you are in the hospital, you know it’s serious,” D’Angelo says. “I knew my life would change and I didn’t know how I would handle it.”
Fortunately, D’Angelo – a former teacher – is smart, strong, and had the educational and support resources of staff from the UM Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology who provided outpatient, follow-up treatment for her at UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown
“They are excellent – just top-notch,” says D’Angelo. “I saw Dr. Macuha and attended diabetes self-management classes. The nurse educators and other staff members are all so positive; they don’t let you get defeated and they support you in every way possible. They don’t sugarcoat anything but they let you know you can lead a healthy, normal life.”
D’Angelo also has had the full support of Paul, her husband of 37 years. Paul’s response to the diagnosis was, “Thank you, God, it’s not cancer. We can live with this.”
“Terri is an inspiration,” says Chrissy Nelson, diabetes nurse educator at UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown. “After the initial shock, she made up her mind to do whatever is necessary to be healthy. She goes out of her way to safeguard her health; she is totally positive and compliant with the changes that she needed to make.”
According to D’Angelo, the most difficult challenge is having to structure her day around checking her blood sugar, counting carbs and eating at specific times every day. “That has meant planning very carefully – even taking a cooler of my allowed foods to a ballgame at Camden Yards,” she says.
Armed with the knowledge she has acquired, her planning skills, and the support of her family and the UM Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology staff, D’Angelo has established a “new normal.”
“Life will never be the way it was before my diagnosis,” she says. “However, I am now healthier. I feel blessed – I know I have to take care of myself. I eat better, I live better and I am looking forward to more years with my family and friends.”
The Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology is offering two events in Chestertown during November, which is National Diabetes Awareness Month: and Open House, Wednesday, November 16, 1-4 p.m. at UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown; and a diabetic-friendly grocery store tour at Redner’s Market in Chestertown, Monday, November 28, 1 p.m. Both events are offered free of charge.
Faustino Macuha, MD and certified registered nurse practitioners Anna Antwi and Bobbi Atkinson see patients at UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown every week. Nurse educator Chrissy Nelson teaches diabetes self-management and leads a monthly support group at the hospital. More information may be obtained at http://umshoreregional.org/programs/endocrinology or by calling 410-822-1000, ext. 5195.
Terri D’Angelo and her husband, Paul, with their two grandsons.