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Feature Article Toledo Woman Takes Her Diabetes Diagnosis by the Horns

By Heather Johnson, BSN

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“I don’t want to live with diabetes. I don’t accept that I’ll have it forever.”

These are the words of Jennifer Potter, 39, who came to me last summer with a hemoglobin A1C of 11.3. Today, her A1C is 5.5 and she’s lost 82 pounds.

Jennifer ended up with diabetes after not taking great care of herself, and as the result of other health conditions. “I kept getting infections and didn’t feel right,” she said. “I knew something was wrong with me, so I went to a walk-in clinic where they diagnosed me and immediately put me on metformin.”

Jennifer’s doctor placed her on several other medications as well, and instructed her to check her blood sugar multiple times a day. She was not a fan of any of this, and being married with five kids, she wanted to be healthy for her family’s sake as well as hers.

“I was determined not to live like this, poking myself so many times a day and taking so many pills,” Jennifer said. “I started meeting with Heather at the hospital, and she did a great job explaining to me how carbohydrates worked.”

“Learning to live with diabetes is easy when you finally learn what carbs do to your blood sugars,” she continued. “Eating 30 grams of carbs or less per meal is easy once you change your mindset.”

We also talked about exercise, and Jennifer has taken all of this to heart. She swims at least five times a week, and she’s cut virtually all carbs out of her diet. When she and her family go out to eat, she orders off the children’s menu, or she splits a meal with her husband, Brian.

“I’ve learned that we can have a meal without pasta or potatoes,” she said. “I’ve found new ways to prepare vegetables, and we love it! This isn’t to say I’ve cut all carbs, though. I don’t say no to bread; I just try to make the best choices. And one bite of a sweet is enough now.”

Today, in addition to the exciting weight loss and improved A1C numbers, Jennifer has been able to stop all but one medication. She’s doing so well that her doctor was absolutely shocked when her A1C came back so low.

What would Jennifer say to others struggling with diabetes?

“Just hang in there,” she said. “Make small changes and find a way to motivate yourself. There were days that I didn’t have the strength to walk down the hall, so I would sleep in my recliner. But I feel so much better now eating the way I do, and I love swimming!”

Inspired by Jennifer’s story? Meet Chris Campbell and see how running has helped him take control of his diabetes.

Heather Johnson is a diabetes nurse and educator at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital.