Donna W "I'm Young and I Want to Live"

“It’s all about making the necessary adjustments that will help me to become healthier and live my best life.”

How one woman took control of her diabetes--with help from RWJUH Rahway

At one memorable visit, Donna Whaley’s doctor gave her news she didn’t want to hear: She had Type 2 diabetes and would need to be on medication. Though unwelcome, the news wasn’t entirely surprising. “I had been in denial for years,” Donna recalls. “My weight was increasing, I was always hungry and thirsty, and my vision was blurry when I drove.” She was afraid of blindness, amputation, stroke and the myriad other possible complications of diabetes. But something her doctor told her had stuck with her: “You can beat this,” the doctor had said, “and live a healthy life.” Donna was up for the challenge. “I’m young and I want to live,” says the 54-year-old Union Township resident. “My ‘why’ is to be a healthier person and to get off medication.”

Step by step

She began by going to the Diabetes Self- Management Program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) Rahway. There, she learned how to monitor her blood sugar and about food pairings that would help balance it. She also learned that if she lost weight, continued to exercise and consistently ate balanced, nutritious meals, she could ultimately be taken off her medication. Donna joined a weight-loss program through her church, Agape Family Worship Center in Rahway. She took a hard look at her diet and began making cuts and substitutions.

Instead of super-sized sodas, she drinks water flavored with lemon. She no longer eats bagels and submarine sandwiches, opting instead for whole grains, tuna, chicken or salads. Her go-to for breakfast is oatmeal, and she has a salad with every meal. For a snack, she will spread peanut butter on apple slices. She doesn’t go to a party hungry.

With a friend, Donna now regularly walks the local high school track for 12 to 18 laps, then goes up and down the bleacher steps. She’s trying new things: Recently, she took a water aerobics class and participated in a 5K race/walk.

Celebrating progress

Her quest to beat Type 2 diabetes goes on. In the summer, Donna took a free, six-week diabetes management class, funded by Merck and led by experts at RWJUH Rahway and The Gateway Family YMCA–Rahway branch. There, she learned more about controlling blood sugar through food and exercise. And she’s seeing results. Donna has lost 27 pounds and is well on her way to reaching her goal of losing 50 pounds. Her A1C number—a measure of average blood sugar level over the past two to three months—had been around “8 or 9 percent” and is now 5.1 percent. She has been able to reduce her medication.

“Yes, I am celebrating my progress,” Donna says, “but this is a journey that I’m still on. It’s all about making the necessary adjustments that will help me to become healthier and live my best life.”

The ABCS of the A1C test

What it is: a simple blood test that measures a person’s average blood glucose (sugar) level over the preceding two or three months.

What it measures: percentage of hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen) coated with sugar.

What the numbers mean: the higher the level, the higher your risk of developing diabetes or complications of diabetes. As a general rule, below 5.7 percent is normal; from 5.7 to 6.4 percent indicates prediabetes; and 6.5 percent or above indicates diabetes.

RWJUH Rahway can help

For personalized help with diabetes management, or to avert diabetes if you are prediabetic, call the RWJUH Rahway Diabetes Self-Management Center at 732.499.6109. For information about the next six-week Lunch and Learn program at The Gateway Family YMCA– Rahway, call Leeanne Muller at 732.388.0057.