Veterans interested in learning more about our partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can visit our Veterans for Virta page for additional information.
By Sheila, on Virta for 7 months
I am proud to say that I have lived a rather storied life.
I am a classically trained singer and was the youngest member at the time to join the New York City Oratorio Society. I am a chef, raised in a Caribbean family, and I can whip up a gourmet dish of rice and beans at a moment’s notice.
I am also a proud Veteran, having served in the US Navy for over 17 years. I was stationed in Norfolk, VA and overseas in Iceland as an anti-submarine warfare tech. I could listen to an engine and immediately know when something was wrong or if a tune-up was needed.
And finally, I have type 2 diabetes, diagnosed in 2018. Prior to this diagnosis, I was already suffering from the symptoms: chronic pain, extreme lethargy after meals, and insomnia and otherwise poor sleep. My doctor told me that my A1c level was 8.5% and that I needed to do something to get it under control. As a Veteran, I had no problem with discipline and following a regimen. I just needed to know what to do.
So when the doctor prescribed metformin, I dutifully took it, even though it caused digestive issues. We then tried glipizide, Januvia, and Ozempic, all of which helped but did not effectively bring down my blood sugars. They also caused weight gain and made my lethargy even worse. I also couldn’t use exercise to manage my blood sugar because, like many Vets, I am partially disabled.
When the doctor referred me to a diabetes education program, I signed up immediately. I then promptly walked out after the first session because I was given a pamphlet written in 2008. I refused to believe that a 10-year-old pamphlet could possibly be the most up-to-date information available about type 2 diabetes.
I was actively searching for the right treatment, but I couldn’t seem to find it. Then I started noticing ads on Facebook about a pilot between the Veteran’s Health Administration and Virta, talking about diabetes reversal. Before signing up, I learned as much about Virta as possible, and what got me was that I would be paired with a health coach. I loved knowing that I would have someone available to listen to my concerns and answer questions.
I think sometimes, we Veterans have difficulty expressing ourselves. Whether that is because of the nature of our service, PTSD, or just who we are, it’s hard. So when we do speak up, it is vital that we feel like we are being heard. My Virta health coach, Denise, is so good at that. She is also a Veteran, so I immediately felt a kinship towards her, as we share similar values. She continues to guide me through my journey with support and just the right amount of information.
As a chef, I know my way around food, but I didn’t know how to make the food I eat become the treatment for my diabetes. I now know tons of Virta-friendly foods and have found ways to easily make the right meals and snacks for myself. I sleep better, have less pain, and know that I am making healthier choices for myself. Virta fits into my life, and I feel motivated to fit my life into Virta in return.
With the help of my health coach and the rest of the team at Virta, I know I am on the right track. My weight has gone down, along with my A1c. I've also eliminated a number of medications including glipizide for type 2 diabetes, along with losartan and meloxicam for other conditions. Most importantly, I am much better prepared to handle my own health care issues. Though my A1c is not where I would like it to be yet, I am now confident that I am moving in the right direction.
I would tell anyone with type 2 diabetes who is considering joining Virta to prepare for a life-changing journey. Don’t expect it all to happen at once. It is a steady journey, full of rewards, education, progress, and yes, occasional challenges. But through it all, you learn so much about yourself, and you have your health coach to guide you every step of the way. Together, you’ll be armed with the skills and knowledge to make it work for you.
Without the VA’s partnership with Virta, I would not have been able to participate in this incredible treatment. The VA needs to know that there are countless other Vets out there suffering from type 2 diabetes, just like I was before Virta. They have served our country and are now asking for help. I hope the VA will listen, respond, and give them the same lifeline that was given to me.
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