“I had been working hard to avoid this diagnosis, not knowing it would probably happen at some point,” said Stevens, 46, initially diagnosed with pre-diabetes in 2007. “When my doctor told me I had diabetes, it felt like a great weight was lifted off me. I felt like I could breathe again.”
Stevens knows what it’s like to be in good health: She was a dual athlete in college at California State University-Long Beach, starting on the women’s volleyball and basketball teams. She recalls, “I was in phenomenal shape until I was out of college, and then I ended up over 300 pounds. When I got to 310 pounds, I said, ‘this is terrible.’”
She struggled with her weight for 15 years prior to her diagnosis of pre-diabetes. She was living in Washington state at that time, but she only remembers receiving basic information about healthy living from her doctor.
“My doctor said my numbers were here, and I didn’t want them to get here,” Stevens said. “I did get some counseling and I’d work at it here and there, but things always got in the way.”
In 2013, she was living in Albany and learned about the free Diabetes Prevention class at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital. She took that class and, after her diagnosis of diabetes in 2014, she took the three-week Diabetes Education class at Samaritan Albany General Hospital.
These classes armed her with information she hadn’t been told when she had pre-diabetes. “Education makes a huge difference. I learned this is not a death sentence, and that it doesn’t define me. It’s been life-changing in a good way.”
Today, Stevens has dropped 25 pounds, is journaling everything she eats, and is preparing for bariatric surgery. “I’m looking forward to being healthy and fit for the second half of my life,” she said.
She’s also developed a career in blues music. She initially had her own band but recently joined Sonny Hess to form the Vicki Stevens-Sonny Hess Band, which has become a popular blues band around the Northwest.
And because she’s so grateful to the diabetes teams at Samaritan for their help, she and her band will perform at the Samaritan Health Services Diabetes Day symposium on Saturday, April 11. Participants will be invited to dance along to the band’s performance at the end of the symposium.
The free event, which will run from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., is open to anyone with diabetes, pre-diabetes and anyone who would like more information on healthy living. Session topics will include new information on medications, lifestyle changes and preventing complications that diabetes can generate. The TV Network’s Curtis Aiken will give a keynote presentation, courtesy of Novo Nordisk.
The symposium will take place at the Samaritan Center, 605 Mullins Drive in Lebanon. Doors open at 7:30 a.m. For more information, call the diabetes team at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital at 541-451-6313.