Erin McCullough headshot

This month is Diabetes Awareness Month, where multiple organizations like the American Diabetes Association and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) spend time bringing awareness and attention to the disease.

For those who don’t know already, I’m diabetic. I was diagnosed several years ago after spending a year actively trying to turn my health around, which was an ironic stroke of bad luck, if you ask me.

To my credit, though, I was (and am) fighting an uphill battle against my genetics, as well as my terrible diet and exercise routines.

Both my grandparents on my dad’s side are diabetic. Well, my Poppa passed a few years ago, so he was diabetic, but my grandma is still living her best life despite her diabetes.

Knowing that a lot of the weird health quirks in my family tend to skip a generation, I decided to whip myself into shape a few years back. I decided to kick the sodas and drink nothing but water. I even bought one of those insanely large water bottles that holds a couple liters back then to try to force myself to increase my water intake. I was taking a couple different gym classes multiple days a week and spending time on the elliptical or treadmill on the weekends. My diet, well, let’s just say I was working on it.

I felt great! And then I went to get an eye exam.

The optometrist frowned while looking at my chart, or at least I think she did. I didn’t have my glasses on. She took a look at my eyes looking for whatever she was looking for and said my refractive error shift had increased significantly.

Being a not-optometrist, I asked her what she was talking about.

She asked me if I was diabetic.

“No, not to my knowledge,” I said with increasing nervousness.

“Go see your doctor and ask for an A1C check,” she said.

So I put my glasses back on, scheduled an appointment with my doctor and left the optometrist’s office without a new prescription.

And it turns out, she was right. My A1C was high – too high. I was diabetic. My doctor started me on medication to lower my blood sugar, and I was given a prescription for a glucose meter, test strips and lancets to prick my fingers every day multiple times a day and monitor my blood glucose.

Since then I’ve given up regular sodas, though I will enjoy the occasional caffeine-free Diet Coke; I also don’t eat pasta anymore, which was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I still eat bread, though I try to limit which breads and how much. And I do my best to cut back on sweets, just like every diabetic.

I’m not perfect, by any means, but I try my hardest.

Having organizations like the American Diabetes Association and NIDDK help, as they provide tons of resources I turned to when I was first diagnosed. My doctor also helped a ton, but using the online resources and help lines from these organizations gave me the confidence to navigate the formerly-terrifying world of Type 2 Diabetes.

If you haven’t, check out the campaigns put on by ADA and NIDDK. This year’s theme for ADA is #WeStandGreaterThan, while NIDDK’s campaign theme is “Taking Care of Youth Who Have Diabetes.”

Staff Writer

Erin McCullough has won awards for her news reporting, community lifestyles and education reporting in the three years she's been a journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and currently lives in Tullahoma with her cat, Luna.

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