Diabetes Forecast

My Black Suit

The author and her granddaughter, Ava Nicole Montgomery.

When my diabetes story begins, I was an assembler for a major cosmetics company, working on the line preparing orders to go out to salons. Driving to work one day, the streetlights and signs seemed blurry and extremely cloudy. My vision seemed to be changing.

Soon I was in the emergency room, with blood sugar well over 400 mg/dl. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, hospitalized for three days, and told how to live with diabetes.

That was in 2003. I was devastated. Over the next seven years, my doctor told me to lose weight, but I kept eating whatever junk food I wanted and packing on the pounds. I could barely keep up with my little granddaughter, Ava Nicole. I was always out of breath, so very tired. I remember her telling me to get on my bike and exercise so I could play with her.

Before I knew it, I was a whopping 270 pounds. I tried not to look in the mirror or be seen in public. It was a nightmare.

I didn't know it then, but my turnaround began on the day of my little sister's wedding, Oct. 2, 2010. Just the thought of attending had depressed me. None of my clothes fit, but I had no desire to buy anything new.

There was one black suit I wore to every occasion. I had cut the labels out of it to hide its size. My sisters and friends had to help me get the pants on, and I used a big baby pin to keep them fastened.

I made it to the wedding but sat in the back during the ceremony, hoping no one would notice me. I was so miserable and embarrassed. When it was over, I made a quick exit out the back door. My sister was a beautiful bride, but I never even considered going to her reception.

Three days later, I joined a weight-management program. I knew that if I wanted to live without complications, the first step was to lose weight. I started eating better: oatmeal or cereal at breakfast, sometimes an egg. Baked and broiled foods; fish or turkey with lots of vegetables. Snacks of fruit or nuts instead of chips or a candy bar. I finally started exercising regularly and still do. A daily trip to the gym is a must. I keep a log of what I do and what I eat.

Today I have lost 85 pounds. My blood sugar readings now normally range from 90 to 115 mg/dl, and my doctors have taken me off some medications, including insulin.

Many people motivated me to make this journey, from my doctors and family to Dr. Oz and Michelle Obama. I thank the Lord who gave me strength and willpower, and my little Ava Nicole, who is God's gift. I credit magazines' recipes and success stories. I desperately hope my own story may help someone save a life or limb.

That black suit is still in my closet. It hangs off me now. I keep it as a reminder of times that were bad but could have turned out so much worse. And I pat myself on the back every day: I was the one who had to take full control of the situation, and that is what I did. I feel I saved my own life.

Edwina Dixon, 54, lives in Warrensville Heights, Ohio.

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