Maria, 72, Victoria BC
Age diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
Number of years in remission
I’m not there yet, but I hope to be soon.
Life before diagnosis
I had gestational diabetes, in my 30s. I was quite sick. At the time the doctors said there was a high risk that I would end up with type 2 diabetes eventually. Sure enough, I developed prediabetes and then type 2 diabetes by my 50s. I didn’t think there was much I could do to stop it.
Over the last decade, my symptoms were getting worse. I was gaining weight. I developed heart disease and had triple bypass surgery. If I ate something really sweet, like a piece of birthday cake, I would feel nauseated. I also had frequent dizzy spells. Sometimes I would even pass out when my blood glucose got too high. I was put on metformin and I tried all sorts of diets, but I was definitely getting worse.
Why did you try remission?
At Thanksgiving in 2021 I passed out after dinner at my brother’s place. I went to hospital by ambulance. My blood sugar was very high. I was in hospital for a number of days. They told me I had to go on insulin and they showed me how to inject it. That was the point where I knew I had to do something to help myself get better.
What did you do?
In the hospital they showed me how to use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which I now wear on the back of my arm. It lets me see with an app on my phone exactly what different foods do to my blood sugar. Seeing how carbs spiked by blood glucose led me to the low carb, keto diet. My husband’s genes let him eat anything with no health issues, but fortunately he decided to join me in eating this way, which has definitely helped make it easier to do. I also do intermittent fasting. I skip breakfast and have my first meal at noon. That keeps my blood glucose low for longer.
It’s amazing. I have lost 50 pounds in 18 months. I don’t miss breakfast at all, I am just not hungry. I’ve gone from 10 units of insulin a day to 4, which I just inject at night, and my doctor thinks I can soon reduce my dose to 2 units and then eventually remove it when my HbA1C gets to around 5.4%. Right now my HbA1c has gone from 14% to 7 % and I am making progress. I feel confident I can get it down below 6 for sure. My doctors are really supportive and encouraging me to keep going.
What are you doing now?
I am not always strict keto. I will have my slip ups, but I am mostly low carb. And I can see what happens to my blood glucose immediately on my CGM so I can get back on track pretty soon. I am very cognizant of my sugars. It’s funny, if I eat sugar, I can feel my feet go a bit numb. But I know that if my blood glucose is a little high, just walking for 20 or 30 minutes will bring it down. I have a Fitbit and I set a goal to get 10,000 steps a day. I love my walks. I also have six grandchildren who keep me very active .
What is your favorite “go-to” meal?
We love a stir fry. I take a lot of vegetables like broccoli, snow peas, onions and celery with a protein like chicken, shrimp or fish. I love any seafood. And just mix it all in a stir fry. I also love cauliflower rice.
What do you want others to know?
I want women with gestational diabetes to know it is not inevitable that you go on to develop type 2 diabetes and heart disease. For me it seemed like a self-fulfilling prophecy, that I had no control over, and no one told me I could prevent it. People should be told. If I had only known about reducing my carb load in the diet back then, I think it might have really helped.
Social outings are harder, so make a plan before hand, but don’t worry too much about telling other people what to cook for you. Just eat around it. I eat the protein, vegetables and salad. At a restaurant I will eat a steak and a side of veggies. I actually don’t find it very hard to do.