I met Jules through a friend-and though she doesn’t know it, she has inspired me and encouraged me throughout her journey. I asked her to share her Sugar Mama Strong experience because I know it will resonate with so many of us. Here’s her story, in her own words. <3
It was a Tuesday, and I was driving down the freeway on my way to work, when I get call from my doctor. I was scheduled to have knee surgery that Wednesday, so I was very shocked at the words that came out of the phone.
“You are unfit for surgery…you are extremely anemic…and you have Diabetes…”
I don’t remember pulling, over but I do remember sitting in my car on the side of the road just staring into space, and then covering my face with my hands and crying. Not the heaving sob of sorrow, but the private whimper of a strong woman feeling sorry for herself.
“How come I don’t feel sick?” This question made me really start to pay attention to what my body had been telling me for years. Like many women, I pushed through what my body was telling me during work, and school, and family events, and time with friends. I made excuses for what my body was doing rather than paying attention to it. Never really noticing how tired, and thirsty, and dizzy, and confused I was all the time. I just pushed through all of it until those feelings became normal and part of my personality.
“How long have I felt like this?” I started to think back and tried to and remember the last time I felt good all day. What I realized was, that for years at every event that should have been a great experience and every day in between, there was a moment when my body was screaming at me. Times that I needed to sit down or I was going to pass out, when drinking a beer hit me like four beers, when I would sleep for 15+ hours on the weekends or when I couldn’t sleep for weeks on end. Then came the hardest thing I had to admit…and accept, “I don’t feel good, and I’m not ok.”
In July of 2018, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. I was approximately 150 pounds, my fasting blood sugar was 257, and my A1c was 10.0.
I have a favorite quote, “In this, The Information Age, ignorance is a choice.” I started with my good friend, Google. The ocean of information on Diabetes that came flooding into my world was so intimidating. What to eat, what not to eat, how often to test and all the medication pros and cons. Not to mention all the consequences that can happen if you don’t get it under control. Needless to say, I became very overwhelmed and scared.
My then boyfriend knew Mary Van Doorn and asked her to reach out to me. He knew that she was knowledgeable about fitness with Diabetes and passionate for other people and their wellbeing. I didn’t know it at the time, but Mary and her Sugar Mama Strong group would become a vital source of support to me on my journey to wellness.
I started taking medicine and trying to make better food choices. Over the course of the next three months, I really saw an improvement on my numbers and my health. I began taking Metformin and eating better carbs. Not completely cutting out candy or pastries, but limiting my sweets. While my numbers were going in the right direction, they were still not in the desired range.
My number always hovered around 200, so the doctor increased Metformin and added Glipizide. I also started limiting my foods a little more, but again not making any real drastic eliminations. At first, my numbers came down again hovering around 180, but with very high meal time spikes. This went on for months, until I was taking the maximum doses of both medicines, except my average number was going in the wrong direction.
The cycle of medicine, food, and failure…started to become normal and routine. Though outwardly I was still telling people, “it just takes time to figure out what works,” I was beginning not to believe it myself. And, I fell back into my old way of just pushing through my days, not feeling well physically and now emotionally. The depression that accompanied my daily failure to take care of myself was like driving a car in the fog. I knew that I could keep on going but having Diabetes was everywhere and clouded everything that I did every day.
Mary would check in on me periodically, always at the right time, and encourage me. She and the ladies in the group were always there to bring clarity and calmness on days that I was feeling the worst. Especially after the times I had rebelled against my Diabetes and binged on cake and cheese bread. Always empathizing and sharing stories of when they had done the same thing. Although I had never met these ladies, they knew me and what I was going through and made it known that I was not alone.
In September of 2019, I absolutely could not bring my numbers out of the high 200 with meal spikes in the high 300. I was meal prepping, drinking water with fiber, went low carb with almost every food option, being diligent with my medicine…and none of it was working. My doctor said something to me that I didn’t even know was possible, “I think you might be Type 1.” I felt gut shot, like I had just been told I had a terminal illness. I saw my future with needles and vials like leashes that would limit anything I tried to do with my life. There I was again, with my face in my hands. Holding back tears and so afraid of what I didn’t know.
In October of 2019, I tested positive for the GAD65 antibody, and was re-typed as Type 1. My whole medicine routine was immediately halted and I started taking insulin and Trulicity. The first shot of insulin took me 35 minutes of deep breaths, hovering the needle over my skin, and crying before I actually did it. To my surprise, the needle didn’t hurt and the insulin was only mildly stingy. Nevertheless, I cried for about 10 minutes after. I still can’t really explain why. I wasn’t feeling scared or sad…I just wept.
Over the course of the next month, the units of insulin I took increased and my average numbers were going way down. It felt amazing to see my number at 160, and feeling like the actions I took with my life were working, but my mealtime spikes were still going up to 280. Now under the care of an Endocrinologist, he explained to me that “you’re not really a true Type 1 or a Type 2, but a little bit of both. You have the antibody that is attacking your pancreas, but you also make a little of your own insulin so traditional treatment for either type is not going to work for you.” He then reduced my insulin by two thirds, doubled my Trulicity and started me on Synjardi (Metformin and Empagliflozin).
On November 15, 2019, I heard my alarm clock going off like it was so far away and at the end of a long pipe. I rolled over and sat up. Something was very wrong. I was freezing, my vision was blurry, and my body hurt like pins and needles all over. I knew I had to test right away but my hands were shaking so badly that I dropped the first two strips and had a very hard time lining up the droplet on the third. 42! I was crashing! I had never experienced a diabetic low and worked very diligently to eliminate cookies and candy from my apartment. I immediately ate 3 pieces of fruit, and started looking for anything that had sugar. But the combination of medicines was making it impossible to hold anything down.
Over the course of the next few hours, Mary gave me ways to get out of a crash but after four hours of being below 60, my Endocrinologist advised me to go the emergency room. I was in the E.R. for 14 hours. They gave me 25 grams of dextrose immediately and that picked me up to 190, but within an hour I was back down to 92. They put me on a Dextrose I.V. and checked my sugar every couple of hours. I never dropped below 80 after that, so after 12 hours they ramped up the speed on the I.V. machine to give the rest of the bag and try to pick me up as high as they could. My number was 248, and they sent me home with the caveat, “if you drop below 70, come right back.” Thankfully, that never happened.
Laying in the hospital bed, with nothing to do but focus on what my body was feeling, I knew I had to do something to get this under control. However, I know that managing my foods and being diligent with my meds is not a problem for me. So, what was my problem? Fourteen hours in the E.R. is a long time and I thought about all my problems and there are plenty. But in all my considerations, I realized the root of all my problems is…my attitude. The way that I think about things determines the way I regard and react to everything in my life. That’s when I made up my mind…I will change the way I think about my Diabetes.
First, I took ownership of my Diabetes. It’s not something I have to put up with, it’s a part of me and of who I am, like my smile or my laugh. I started reading articles and watching media about Diabetes. I started talking about my Diabetes to everyone, as an opportunity to educate others, but also so talking about it would become normal and natural. Now, I talk about my Diabetes frequently and with a casual freedom. Usually, people’s reaction to learning that I have Diabetes is to apologize. I always reply the same way, “Why? I’m not. I am living my best life right now. I had to get Diabetes to become the healthiest I have ever been.” It was a lie at first, but the more I said it the less and less it felt like a lie, until it wasn’t a lie at all.
Second, I changed my language regarding Diabetes. I stopped saying things like “I can’t eat that birthday cake” or “I have to test my blood sugar.” The old language made me feel like my Diabetes was depriving my life of its pleasures and controlling my every move. Now, I say “I don’t want to eat that cake right now,” I am doing what I want when I want which very much appeals to my nature in every way. In the beginning, it was often a lie too. I also say, “I want to know what my blood sugar is.” Wanting to know what my numbers are was never a lie after my crash. But, I don’t test out fear like I used to, it’s a genuine want. I made some simple decisions by including the word “don’t” as in “I don’t eat that.” While this is a control word, it’s my control word. In the same way that “I don’t do drugs” and “I don’t hurt people,” I don’t eat candy. Removing the “can’t” and “have to” from my language about my Diabetes allowed me to take the control of my life back from Diabetes.
Finally, I got involved. While Mary’s support group has been and is still a source of support for me, I knew I had to do more. Mary had been encouraging me to join the Fitness and Wellness program for some time, and now I was ready. I joined the program in January 2020 and I absolutely love it. This inner group of women are taking steps toward health, genuinely care about each other, and enjoy it. I have found that there are some aspects of the program that are more effective for me than others. I get the most out of weekly conference calls where I get to see everyone’s faces and hear their laughs or sometimes, tears. The topics we discuss always hit a few nails on the head and keep me motivated for self-improvement. The ladies in the Fitness and Wellness group have grown into more than a support system for me, but a sisterhood that I am very proud to be a part of.
As of February 19, 2020, I am 158lbs (I went up to 176 during all that), my average blood sugar is 120, and my A1c is 6.4. I take 16 units of slow acting insulin once a day and 0.75 ml of Trulicity once a week. I eat about 30 to 40 carbs a day, but not because of any limiting restriction. It’s just a calculation of the incidental carbs that might be in salad dressing or peanut butter. I am by no means a crazy person, I like pasta and I really miss pizza, but I am absolutely in love with feeling fantastic and being healthy.
My name is Juliena Bustamante. I am 38 years old, and I am Sugar Mama Strong.
Are you ready to join the sisterhood of Sugar Mama Strong Fitness and Wellness? Just click here to enroll <3 Can’t wait to lock arms and watch you achieve your goals! xoxo-Mary