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Cheryl Krueger, 59, remembers being the only teenager with type 1 in the hospital in Saskatoon where she was diagnosed and hospitalized for a week in 1982. “I was 18 and had never even heard of diabetes,” she says. “Once my sugars and electrolytes were stabilized, my education began: I first was taught how to puncture an orange with a syringe before injecting myself in my leg the next day, and then my stomach later that week.” She also had daily visits with a nurse educator and, occasionally, a dietitian. “Eager for knowledge, I read the Canadian Journal of Diabetes, which was provided by the Canadian Diabetes Association [now Diabetes Canada], from cover to cover,” she says. “I learned that this was an organization where I could always find answers and support.”

Back in the real world

Once she returned home, Cheryl and her mom attended diabetes education classes in the evenings. “This changed my life, as I soon realized I wanted to become a registered dietitian and help patients in the same way [as I had been helped].”

For the first seven years following Cheryl’s diagnosis, she saw her doctor annually, but, she says, “I was very isolated in caring for my diabetes, as there was no team approach. I was not introduced to an actual diabetes team until 1989 when my husband, Norbert, and I moved to Hamilton [Ontario].”

The move impacted her diabetes care in ways Cheryl could not have imagined. She says,

What a difference a team approach makes in motivating a patient who has diabetes! Each visit to the clinic meant I would see the diabetes nurse educator and a physician who specialized in diabetes. I had access to a dietitian, a pharmacist and even a social worker, if I wanted. This diabetes clinic linked me to other specialists I had never seen before to monitor my eyes, kidneys, and feet—things I had not previously considered.

“A diabetes team has continued to be a large part of my life ever since, even though we moved to Alberta in 2000 to be closer to family.”

Knowledge is power

Throughout her diabetes journey, Cheryl has gained many important insights. “Early on, I learned to think of balancing the three-legged stool of diabetes care that I always need to focus on: my meds, my diet, and my stress which includes my activity, all of which affect my blood sugars,” she says. “Each day living with diabetes is a challenge, as each leg is equally important.”

When it comes to her diet, Cheryl says she wishes she could go back in time and make it easier for her mom to deal with the company that would show up looking for her mom’s delicious meals. “They would inevitably say [to me], ‘Should you be eating that?’ and thought I had eaten something wrong to cause my disease. It was so exhausting to have these old judgments thrown at us. I have spent decades not eating desserts to make other people happy. Nowadays, I know how to count carbohydrates and adjust insulin, but still people tell me how to control my own diet. It’s interesting listening to others tell me—a dietitian, and someone who has lived with diabetes for 41 years—how to eat.” 

Another big lesson? “I wish I’d known then what I know now about taking care of myself. Keeping blood sugar levels in a target range as much as possible can help reduce the risk of complications from diabetes, so the sooner I learned about control, the better. Over time, I also realized that staying in my target range helped improved my energy and mood.” 

The pace of change

Cheryl remembers learning how to test her urine to find out her blood sugar levels, but says, “it actually reflected what your level was a few hours earlier, so I learned it was not very accurate.” In 1982, when she was diagnosed, blood glucose monitors which improved testing were not covered by any insurance plan, she says, and were extremely expensive. 

“The biggest improvement was in 2015, when, after much research about all the variety of insulin pumps, I started on an insulin pump. I went from four needles a day to one poke every three days whenever a pod [a new small wearable device filled with insulin] was placed on me. I decided on a system with no tubing, and I’ve been extremely happy with my decision ever since.

Research has made a huge difference in my life. I work hard to control my diabetes, so it does not control me. Giving myself insulin and checking my blood sugars has all become easier than when I started this journey back in 1982.

Supporting others like her

After her diagnosis, Cheryl began making small regular donations to Diabetes Canada. “Whenever I’d receive a letter, I would send a little bit here and there to support research and others like me with diabetes,” she says, adding, “I’ve always been so grateful for the education that Diabetes Canada offers to patients and healthcare providers.”

When Cheryl and Norbert created their will, their lawyer asked if they would like to include any charitable organizations among their beneficiaries. “We knew right away that we would support the illnesses that have touched our family, and included Diabetes Canada,” says Cheryl.

Leaving a legacy gift is an opportunity for Cheryl to reciprocate the support she has received from Diabetes Canada over the years. “My husband and I talked about how we can make an impact after we’re gone. This is our way to do something for future generations and make a difference for the people after me. Researchers can’t End Diabetes without us,” she says. “We got a lot of satisfaction from setting up this type of gift. We feel like we’re part of something bigger.”

“Cheryl has a heart of gold and has real hope for the future of those dealing with this disease,” says Diabetes Canada’s planned giving senior manager Kate Hicks. “We could not do what we do without people like Cheryl, who is very devoted to Diabetes Canada.”

Did you know?

May is Leave a Legacy month. Legacy giving is a way to leave a generous and lasting gift and support a cause you care about. Make Diabetes Canada an important part of your life story just as Cheryl has. Visit Leave a Legacy for Diabetes Canada now to learn more.

Author: Denise Barnard

Category Tags: Healthy Living, Research, Impact Stories;

Region: National

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