Darryl, 64, Kenora, Ontario
Age diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
Number of years in remission
Life before diagnosis
I’d always been heavy but I thought I moved okay and I thought I felt okay. But when I look back on pictures of myself from a decade ago, when my sons and I were roofing our house in the summer, I can see I was really large and really struggling with excess weight. I was close to 300 pounds.
Symptoms prior to diagnosis
I didn’t really have any diabetes symptoms, that I knew of, but looking back I can see that I didn’t have a lot of energy and I didn’t feel well compared to how I feel now. I had gone through a very difficult time of grieving after the accidental death of one of my sons and then my wife died. Before her death I got the diabetes diagnosis.
I went to my doctor for a regular checkup and had blood work done. When I went back to see him, all he said to me was to watch my blood sugar. I didn’t even know what that meant. A week later, in June 2019, I had bug bite that wouldn’t heal. When I saw the nurse practitioner, she looked at my medical chart and told me that my A1C was 7.9% and that I had type 2 diabetes. I was shocked. She suggested medication but I said no, I wanted to try to deal with it with diet and exercise. She told me I would have to lose weight and watch my sugar consumption.
Why did you try remission?
I didn’t want to be on medications and I also did not want to have the life of worsening type 2 diabetes. I had seen what diabetes could do. I had recently lost a good friend to the complications of diabetes. I had sat by his hospital bed as he died. Over the years he developed every complication. He lost his vision in one eye, then the other. He lost limbs. He developed kidney failure. The whole gamut. I knew that was not a path I wanted. I wanted to be around for my son and daughter-in-law and my young grandchildren.
What did you do?
I did a low carb diet without even knowing at first that was what it was. I took a look at what I was eating and I knew I loved bread and I loved pizza and I knew I should cut both those out. I told myself I could have pizza once a month, and put it on the calendar as a treat once a month. And I went from eating a large pizza to a medium to a small one. I realized over time that I just didn’t need it. When I started, I didn’t really consume a lot of sugar, but I did eat a lot of jujubes and I just cut those out, too. I also decided to walk everywhere. I would walk at least 15,000 steps a day after meals. In winter I would walk around an indoor track.
I lost 60 pounds in about four months and my A1C went down to 5.7% - no longer diabetes! I have now been able to keep the weight off and keep my A1C between 5.4 and 6.6% ever since. But more than that, I feel better than I have in years, so much better than I felt in my 50s, maybe even my 40s. I have energy again.
What are you doing now?
On a typical work day I wake up at about 5 am and do some exercise. For breakfast I will either have some eggs, or, one day a week, I have cheerios without sugar but with a bit of fruit and milk. Some days I do intermittent fasting and so I might just have a cup of coffee when I wake up and then not eat until dinner. On weekdays, I then drive 70km to the First Nations reserve where I am a vocational teacher at the high school. For lunch on those days it would usually be a protein – chicken, fish, steak – and a salad. Dinner is early, about 5 pm, and usually a protein, veggies, and salad. After dinner I will try to do another walk. This year I finally gave up the diet sodas, that was probably the hardest change I’ve made. I now just have sparkling water or flavored no calorie sparkling water like Bublé water.
What are your favorite go-to meals?
Bacon and eggs, chicken and salad. I love a Cobb salad.
What do you want others to know?
You can do this. It is never too late to get healthier. With dedication and will power you can get type 2 diabetes under control without drugs. While there are other ways to do it, for me walking after meals and counting my carbs is the easiest way to beat diabetes. I don’t care what size you are you are not going to lose weight overnight. Don’t get disappointed if it goes slowly. Don’t get on the scale everyday because your weight can go up and down. Just weigh every week or two. And just stick to it. Even if you don’t put your diabetes into complete remission, any improvement in your blood sugar will improve your health and reduce your risk of complications. Do it for yourself, not for other people.
Plan ahead what you are going to eat; don’t leave it to chance. Even if it is just planning one day at a time. Take the chicken breast out of the freezer that morning so you can easily cook it that night when you get home for dinner. If you are going out with friends, take a look at the restaurant menu in advance and plan what you are going to eat. The second tip is to make exercise a personal priority. Don’t put it off if something comes up like staying late at work. Don’t let other things in life bump it down the list. Make a commitment to regular exercise and keep that commitment no matter what else comes up. It doesn’t have to be hard. Just walking can do it.