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Sandra's story: how she's keeping type 2 diabetes in remission

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Sandra Ewers

Diagnosed in 2017.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve lost 2.5 stone and my HbA1c is now in the healthy range, so my type 2 diabetes is in remission.

Despite a strong family history of type 2 diabetes, Sandra didn’t pay attention to her own risk of developing the condition until it was too late. After losing 2.5 stone she has now put her diabetes into remission.

Journey with diabetes

Sandra’s experience with type 2 diabetes

  • Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in September 2017, with an HbA1c of 116
  • Prescribed metformin and started making lifestyle changes such as walking, joining a gym and eating a healthier diet.
  • After losing 2.5 stone, her most recent HbA1c was 35
  • Now working on keeping her diabetes in Type 2 diabetes remission
     

Family history of diabetes

Both my parents and two of my sisters have type 2 diabetes, but before I was diagnosed with it myself, I didn’t know much about the condition. I didn’t bother to find out the symptoms. I thought it was something that was not going to touch me. Now, I know that I should have thought about it because statistically, if your parents have type 2 diabetes, you are more likely to get it.

My husband has been very supportive of my lifestyle changes. I think my diabetes has probably brought us closer together. It’s been a shock for him, too, seeing me lose so much weight, but he enjoys the healthy food I make now.

My son has also changed the way he eats because of me. He’s ditched takeaways in favour of stir-fries.

Diagnosis

Signs and symptoms

Looking back, I can see that in the lead up to my diagnosis, I was an emotional wreck.

In September 2017, I went on what I call ‘the holiday from hell’ to Jamaica. While we were standing in hotel reception queue, a lady offered me a fruit punch. I drank it down and immediately asked for another. I was so thirsty. At no time did I not have three drinks in front of me, but my thirst was never quenched.

Every time I sat down, I’d fall asleep. I was irritable. I was constantly going to the loo, but I couldn’t work out what was wrong. Two days before the end of the holiday, my eyes went blurry. My husband thought it was the bright light of the sun, but when we got home, I said, ‘I think I’m diabetic.’

I made an appointment with the doctor who tested my urine and confirmed I had type 2 diabetes. I was shocked. I felt sorry for myself for five minutes, but there was some relief as well, because the diagnosis meant I knew what I was dealing with. 

Food and healthy eating

Sandra's biggest challenge

My biggest challenge has been eating. At first, when I was trying to get my blood sugar under control, I had to train myself to not want unhealthy things. Cutting down and knowing that I can’t stuff my face anymore was tough at first. I was a person who used to eat. It left a big void in my life.

I also meditate. That really helps. People think you are airy-fairy if you say this, but I listen to positive affirmations. Like listening to conversations where someone is giving you positive messages. You listen to a mixture of relaxing music and positive words. Knowing that I look good in the mirror, that made me want to sustain it. 
 

Temptations at work

I was always very busy at work, but I never considered the impact it had on my lifestyle. I worked in schools in a variety of roles ranging from teaching assistant to supply teacher to admin. Some of the jobs were really busy and stressful, and they’d often have cakes and biscuits in the office, which I’d eat constantly. People would say, ‘you never stop eating!’

Activity

Diet, nutrition and active living

I tried many diets and my weight fluctuated, but I’d always end up a bit heavier than when I started. I never thought, ‘do I want a healthy lifestyle?’. 

I would work out sometimes, but I never combined it with healthy eating. I’d go for a jog so I could eat more. After my diagnosis, I said to my husband, ‘I’m going for a walk.’ Up until that point I drove absolutely everywhere, but I started going for regular walks and found that I liked it.

Soon, I could walk further and further and I started feeling great. When I started feeling the benefits, I could see my body was changing and my type 2 diabetes is in remission.

That’s when a person with type 2 diabetes has healthy blood glucose levels for the long-term, without taking any diabetes medications. Diabetes UK is working with international experts to agree this, but their researchers used an HbA1c level of 48mmol/mol (6.5%) or less to define remission.

Treatments

What has helped you most?

My family, the NHS and Diabetes UK have all really helped me, too. When I was first diagnosed, I felt like I was alone. There have been times when people have commented on my weight loss and keep going on about it, not always in a positive way. That’s been hard at times. 

When it comes to my diet, I’ve found that planning is so important. If I’m going out for a meal I will plan ahead, look at the menu and make the right choices. I know what I’m going to have for breakfast each day, and instead of going to the canteen for my lunch, I take it in ready prepared. I’ve always got a snack ready, too. Some people might think that’s boring, but it’s what I have to do to survive. 

When I started taking my metformin tablets, they really helped me, because that was when I started to feel better. At diagnosis, my HbA1c was 116, which is crazy, but I didn’t have a clue what HbA1c was. I did some research and realised it was at dangerous levels. I’d been playing with fire. Now, I've reduced my daily metformin tablets from 4 tablets to 1.

Eventually, I hope that I’ll be able to stop taking them altogether, but they have to be reduced slowly.

Diabetes UK and me

Helpful resources

After I received my diabetes diagnosis, I started doing research online. I found the Diabetes UK website had recipes and healthy eating ideas, and that really helped me. I went on the forum and felt less alone. That all inspired me to start making changes. I decided to be proactive about my situation.

After a bit of research, I went to the supermarket and started picking up vegetables. I didn’t know what I was doing! I worked out how many grams of sugar made up a teaspoon. I realised that the yoghurts I’d eat, sometimes twice a day, had four teaspoons of sugar in them.

 

Is there anything you wish you knew before?

I wish that I’d known what the symptoms of diabetes are. I suppose I knew deep-down what I was doing to my body when I was eating, but I wish I’d taken control of my habits earlier. 

I wasn’t aware of the fact that my ethnic background increased my diabetes risk. I knew that diabetes was prevalent in the African-Caribbean community. In the West Indies, they’d say, ‘she’s got “sugar”,’ to refer to someone who had diabetes. But I didn’t know the statistics – that we’re two to four times as likely to get it than a white European.

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