“Diabetic” and “morbidly obese” are the harsh-sounding labels that I always thought defined me. Labels I felt that I completely deserved. They are the first things I would see when I opened up my medical chart, what I saw when I looked in the mirror, and what I “perceived” everyone else thought about me wherever I went.
I knew these labels didn’t represent the person I was inside. I have a wonderful family, an amazing faith, a great job, and more friends than I could ever count. I should feel blessed, as I have more than most people in this world. But these labels held me back. I could not get past the feelings of self-loathing which started as an abused young child when I began overeating to hide the pain inside.
I developed gestational diabetes while pregnant with identical twins. I didn’t really know anything about diabetes at the time, but I was very careful for the rest of my pregnancy. Tragically, I still lost one of my sons, and then took home a 4 1/2 pound little boy on a heart monitor. My diabetes went away as soon as he was born, and unfortunately, so did my thoughts of trying to become healthy. I buried my sadness and insecurities once again, and poured my heart into raising my children.
It wasn’t until 13 years later, on a routine trip to the doctor’s office that I learned I officially had type 2 diabetes. What should have been a wakeup call was pushed aside for the next few weeks while my father was diagnosed with cancer, my son broke his femur bone literally in half, my daughter was in a car wreck, and my husband of 18 1/2 years divorced me. It seemed like everything that could go wrong had, and I didn’t know how I was going to move forward with my life.
My hope started to come back in January 2019, when I received word that Nebraska Medicine, my employer, was going to pay for the unique Virta treatment for employees with type 2 diabetes. Initially I was skeptical, and just resigned myself to my supposed fate. I’d already dealt with the debilitating effects of type 2 diabetes for the last 17 years, and I didn’t expect that burden to ever be lifted. My mind was changed by the wonderful and caring nurses that I work with, who all suggested Virta might be worth looking into. With their encouragement, I decided to give it a try. I went into it feeling like I would give it a go, but I honestly didn’t expect too much. In fact, I remember on my initial phone call with my health coach I said “So when I cheat, what happens?”. Clearly I was not “all in” at that point.
I officially started Virta in mid-February 2019, and something inside me changed immediately. All of the challenges that I experienced throughout my life suddenly were fuel for my fire. I decided to pour my whole heart and soul into doing something FOR myself, instead of letting those things that HAPPENED to me dictate my life. This was the chance for better health and a longer life, and I was determined to make the best use of it.
After 6 months on Virta, I have reduced my A1c from 8.7% to 6.0% while taking less diabetes medication. After just 8 weeks, my Virta medical provider told me that I could stop taking Byetta, which I had been using to reduce my blood sugar for over 10 years. I’ve also already lost 35 pounds, and gained so much more energy and self-confidence.
The support you receive on Virta is so valuable! My medical provider has provided the safety and reassurance that I needed, and my health coach continues to take a sincere individual interest in me. She offers so much encouragement and guidance whenever I need it, with helpful suggestions and amazing recipes.
With all this support, my focus was so strong that I didn’t slip up for about 4 months. Then I tried a few things that would add balance to my life within my diet. Guess what happened when I cheated? The world didn’t end, and I found myself eager to get right back on track to continue feeling great and taking advantage of this wonderful gift.
I am very thankful to Nebraska Medicine for offering the Virta program to their employees, and I urge more employers to do so as well. I also encourage everyone who has been offered this opportunity to take advantage of it and join me in feeling great and eliminating costly medications. Trust the process, and know that a healthy life is within your reach.
In the future, my hope is that the opportunity to reverse diabetes with Virta is offered to every single person with diabetes.
As I write this, I am pleased to report that the labels “morbid” and “obese” no longer define me. I have found an inner strength and confidence that I never dreamed would be possible. In fact, having reached a new BMI milestone, those words will no longer reside in my medical chart, OR in my heart.