Diabetes is not end of the world

As a new Diabetes Care Centre opens in Cork, CHRIS DUNNE talks to a woman with the type 2 condition, who says it is possible to lead a normal life
Diabetes is not end of the world
Amanda Stuart.

EVEN though Amanda Stuart-Heaney doesn’t eat desserts as a rule, she spends a lot of time deliberating over which one to choose from the menu.

“Desserts are tough for me, they are one of my favourite things,” admits Amanda, who has to watch her sugar intake as she has type 2 diabetes.

“When I am out in a restaurant having dinner with my friends or my husband, they ask, is it to be ice-cream or chocolate? Then, when they order, I indulge in one delicious forkful, and I am done. Occasionally I might steal another forkful from my husband’s plate!”

Amanda, originally from New York, who lives in Douglas, is among 27,000 people who have been diagnosed with diabetes in Cork city and county.

“I don’t drink, which is a huge plus,” she says. “I don’t like the taste of alcohol. I took a sip of wine once and I thought it was disgusting.

“But I do have a sweet tooth which can be a problem.”

She is a great baker too. There is an Oreo chocolate cheesecake lurking in the fridge.

“I bake with Splenda and half a cup of sugar, or Sambucol, which is another sugar substitute,” says Amanda. “Then I can have a sliver of cake. Instead of having 10 Oreos, I have one Oreo.”

Amanda knew from a young age that she was a high risk for diabetes.

“My entire family has diabetes type 2,” she says. “At 10, I was pre-diabetic, so from then on, I had to watch it. It is ingrained in my family. I am 66 now and at 50, I crossed the line; there was no avoiding it. I was aware of being pre-diabetic and I watched it carefully to keep it under control. I made sure to eat properly in order to keep my blood sugars down. But at 50, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.”

Amanda, who moved to Cork with her husband from Galway, says the new diabetic Care Centre in Cork opened recently is a wonderful facility providing essential care, information, and support.

“By some strange quirk of fate, my doctor, who I used to attend in Loughrea, Co. Galway, moved down to Cork too. I told her that I was stalking her!” jokes Amanda. “So now I have my doctor and the Diabetes Centre both near to me.”

She goes to the centre for regular check-ups.

“The people who work at the centre are wonderful, caring people,” says Amanda. “They are a great bunch. Everyone looks out for you.

“There are a lot of health factors associated with diabetes. The eyes can be affected and it is possible to go blind. I get my eyes checked once a year at the centre. It’s free.

Developing cataracts is an issue for some people, but that can often be an age thing that is unavoidable. But regular eye-tests are a huge help.”

Amanda says the team at the diabetes centre are of huge help.

“You can pop in any time. At the centre, the nurse tells you how best to handle your medications, she offers tips on lifestyle and exercise. There is a podiatrist available to check your feet with a full foot screen and assessment. The chiropodist will give you a foot and nail treatment and check for infections. A hearing test is offered to you for a very small fee.

“It is so valuable to have the proper knowledge and information, plus the support from the staff and the other people attending the centre is fantastic. We often meet each other for coffee or a bite of lunch. Everybody knows you. It is very social. New friends are great!”

Amanda is on a medication called Vitoza. 

“And I take a tablet three times a day before each meal. Vitoza, one injection each morning, suits me and I have no side effects from it.

“Actually it has one good effect, which is that it slightly quells my appetite, which is no bad thing! I find that the medication kills my cravings for sugary foodstuffs like sweets.

“My willpower means I can be more disciplined about how much I eat. Before, I could eat an entire chocolate cake. Now I am satisfied with one forkful.”

Amanda has her weight under control.

“I am slim, but I could be slimmer,” she adds with a smile. “By nature I am a lazy scut, but I do swim three times a week at the Rochestown Hotel pool. That keeps the flab at bay.”

Amanda doesn’t let her diabetes infringe on her life. “It is not the end of the world,” she says. “You give it your best shot. You have to take care of it and have regular check-ups.”

Amanda gives everything her best shot.

“I moved to Los Angeles once years ago in a bid to become a famous actres,” she says. “It didn’t quite happen.”

But she still made fame.

“Yes, I got a part in the TV drama Hardy Bucks. That was huge fun. It was like going to a party every day! And I was a nun in an advert for Lidl””

Diabetes is a condition that is not apparent and can often go undiagnosed.

“People can drop into the diabetes centre and get tested,” says Amanda. “Their door is open to everyone and you will receive the best support there.” How did her family fare with the condition?

“My Dad lived to be 86,” says Amanda. “He had a good innings.”

It’s time for a sliver of Oreo chocolate cheesecake. I hear Amanda is famous for it.

ABOUT THE NEW CENTRE:

The new Diabetes Care Centre is based at Enterprise House, 36, Mary Street, and provides support and information on the many facets of the condition.

It is especially helpful for newly diagnosed people who are waiting for their first hospital appointment, and for those who have been living with the condition for many years who may need some additional support to manage their condition more effectively.

Pauline Lynch, Regional Development Officer for Diabetes Ireland, is very proud of the new Cork premises. The 200 square feet space “is a walk-in service where people can avail of services including eye screening”, she explains. “Also we have a podiatrist on site who will provide a shoe-fitting service at a reasonable cost, which is very important for people with diabetes.”

One in 10 people aged over 45 could have diabetes by 2020, according to research by the Institute of Public Health Ireland It predicts that by 2020 the number of people over 45 with both diagnosed and undiagnosed type 2 diabetes is expected to rise to more than 175,000.

There is no cure , but it can be managed. Balancing the carbohydrates (sugars and starches), you eat, with physical activity and medicine can keep your blood glucose in a healthy range.

Self-management means you keep track of your blood glucose and take an active part in the treatment of your diabetes. This is important, as many things you do in your daily life affect your blood glucose.

Phone; 021-427 4229

Email: corkcarecentre@diabetes.ie

Website: www.diabetes.ie

FACT FILE:

Diabetes is a chronic condition whereby the body fails to process sugar and glucose in the same way as a non-diabetic.

This causes complications as the glucose stays in the blood and can cause harm as a result.

There is no clear consensus as to what causes diabetes and at present there is no cure. The correct medicine can reduce the effects to allow a person to live a fairly normal life.

Type 1 diabetes occurs in childhood or early adult life and it always requires treatment with injections. It is caused by the body’s own immune system destroying the insulin-making cells (beta cells), of the pancreas. Typically a parent or sibling may have the condition and that, combined with environmental factors and a common infection can trigger onset.

Type 2 diabetes develops slowly in adulthood and is often associated with poor diet, being overweight and being sedentary.

It is progressive and can be treated with diet and exercise. Often Type 2 diabetes may require anti-diabetic medicine and/or insulin injections.

Both types can be effectively managed to achieve stable blood sugar control.

Symptoms are similar with both types and include:

Blurred vision

Fatigue and lack of energy

Extreme thirst

Frequent trips to the bathroom

Weight gain or weight loss

Frequent infections

Numbness or pain.

Tingling in hands or feet.

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