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New book helps diabetes patients deal with diagnosis

Meagan Esler Aurorhas struggled with her diagnosis diabetes.  |  Submitted

Meagan Esler of Aurora has struggled with her diagnosis of diabetes. | Submitted

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Updated: November 30, 2012 11:02AM

Blurry vision, extreme thirst and hunger, frequent urination, weight loss — Meagan Esler had classic symptoms of type 1 diabetes. Yet the then 18-year-old delayed being tested for more than a month. She went to an eye doctor, who gave her a stronger prescription, and ran diabetes by her mother, who said no one else in the family had the condition.

But Esler did. Upon receiving her diagnosis, she cried and had a hard time accepting it.

“And then with time, I kind of realized that I can actually do it,” she said. “It’s not easy. It is a life change for sure, but it’s not so bad.”

Esler of Aurora shares her experience of learning to manage diabetes in “No Sugar Added — Straight Talk from Those Living With Diabetes,” a collection of real diabetes stories written by Jean Norris and her son Michael. Proceeds from the book will go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Illinois.

Esler, now 36, is a system resale manager for Cadence Health and a freelance writer who has written several articles about diabetes.

She noted that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.

“That was something thing that I had trouble coming to terms with. It was nothing that I did (to cause diabetes),” she said.

Another hurdle was that Esler was terrified of receiving insulin injections. She tried changing her diet, exercising and taking pills, but she still needed the shots.

“I didn’t realize that it’s not an option with type 1,” Esler said. “You have to have insulin. I’ll need this until they cure it.”

Dr. Grazia Aleppo, director of the Endocrinology Clinical Practice at Northwestern University, said many diabetes patients go through denial. Even years after a diagnosis, some people will neglect checking their blood sugar levels or skip insulin injections.

As for why denial is so common, Aleppo said diabetes “affects the entire person because it’s so tied to food and eating and physical activity.”

She said people think incorrectly that they need to adjust their life to diabetes.“When they learn to adjust diabetes to their life and incorporate it that’s when they become successful and they do fine,” she added.

Otherwise, Aleppo warned, “Diabetes will cause complications if you don’t take care of it.” In that case, it’s a question of when, not if, and which organ will be affected. Patients could develop kidney problems, eye problems or neuropathic disorders, she said.

Finding the right doctor is also important. Aleppo stressed denial has a root, which the physician needs to understand and address for the patient to begin properly managing his or her condition. For example, she had a patient who didn’t take her insulin because she felt her schoolmates would make fun of her.

It took some time, but Esler found a doctor who she trusts. She also receives support from her husband of 11 years, who has even tested his blood sugar to help her try out a new device.

Rick Esler described his wife’s story as “basically her taking control of her diabetes instead of the other way around and having diabetes take control of her.”

Esler acknowledged challenges come with diabetes, but said being alone should not be one of them. The book “shows that you’re not alone,” she said. “If more of us came out and spoke about our diabetes then more people would understand about diabetes.”

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