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Alanna Quewezance, a member of the Yellow Quill First Nation, is more confident about managing her health today thanks to the help she has received from Calysta Priddy, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator (CDE) at the Westside Community Clinic in Saskatoon. After being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the age of 18 and then having a stroke four years ago at age 31 that left her with a feeling of weakness in her legs, Alanna wanted help getting back on her feet so she could go back to her job as an educational assistant at the Catholic school board in Saskatoon.

Taking stock of her health

Certified diabetes educators are an important part of a diabetes team, especially if you experience changes in your diabetes treatment, general health, or life circumstances. They can play an important role in helping you set goals, and can identify strategies that will help you manage your diabetes and live a happier and healthier life.

In Alanna’s case, the first step was to find out more about her health. Calysta did a chronic disease management assessment for her, and discovered that Alanna was frequently experiencing low blood sugars (also known as hypoglycemia) that were causing dizziness. “She was having a lot of anxiety around having these lows and with her history of stroke, this made her anxiety even higher,” says Calysta, who recommended that Alanna be switched to a newer once-a-day insulin that stabilized her blood sugars. Alanna’s care team also looked at adding an SGLT-2 inhibitor (which reduces sugar levels in the body by increasing the amount of sugar passed in the urine) to her medication plan since the drug offers important cardiovascular protection and would be fully covered under Alanna’s health plan.

Finding ways to be independent

Calysta, along with other members of the diabetes team, also helped to connect Alanna with an occupational therapist who arranged access to a scooter to allow for greater independence, and a physical therapist to improve her physical strength. She now walks short distances, and built her strength by using the treadmill and swimming.

Calysta describes herself as a “non-diet/weight-inclusive dietitian” who works with her clients to emphasize healthy living strategies such as carb counting, meal balance, and mindful eating. “Many clients struggle with body image and may feel blamed or shamed for their weight. It’s important to remember that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes and we need to take the focus off the number on the scale,” she says. “Part of my role is to help clients understand the aspects of their lives that they can build upon that will bring them joy and help them feel their best. If we build healthy behaviours, we will see improvements in health independent of weight loss.”

Looking ahead with hope and knowledge

Alanna feels hopeful about the future, and improving her health and building her strength so she can go back to her job. She says,

Working with Calysta has been amazing. I am doing so much better—my energy level is good and I am getting back to my old self. I am stronger and am able to do things that I couldn’t do before.

Calysta describes their relationship this way: “We are driving in the same car—Alanna is the driver and I’m along for the ride. Sometimes I’ll point out something interesting or we’ll decide together to take a different path. Sometimes I provide the directions when [Alanna] needs help,” she says. “At the end of the day, my job is to help patients like Alanna have the knowledge they need to support good self-management.”

Make the most of expert advice

The Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada offer key messages to help people with diabetes better manage the disease, including:

Ask for diabetes self-management education and support when you are first diagnosed, as well as whenever there are changes in your diabetes treatment, general health, or life.  

Work with your diabetes team to get personalized goals for caring for your diabetes and overall health.

Choose the learning approach that works for you: A variety of diabetes education and support programs are available, including group classes and individual counselling sessions, as well as strategies that use technology (such as Internet-based computer programs and mobile phone apps).

This story originally appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Autumn 2019.

Did you know?

2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin. Today, more Canadians have diabetes than ever before. Diabetes or prediabetes affects one in three Canadians. One in two young adults will develop diabetes in their remaining lifetime. We cannot wait another 100 years to End Diabetes. Visit 100 Years of Insulin to learn more, including how you can support those living with or at risk for the disease.

Author: Anne Bokma

Category Tags: Healthy Living, Impact Stories;

Region: National

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