Two years ago, when his doctor told him he had type 2 diabetes, Andy wasn't surprised or even that worried. His blood sugar had been creeping up for the past few years. His doctor had even warned him to make some changes—to lose some weight and get more active. But he felt okay. If he was sick, he couldn't tell.
"I just couldn't take it seriously," Andy says. "Even after I found out I had it, diabetes just didn't seem that big of a deal. I didn't think it was something I had to worry about."
But he admits that it did nag at him a little bit. So when the doctor's office called to remind him to take a diabetes education class, he finally signed up. At the class, he heard about the kinds of foot and nerve problems that can happen if blood sugar isn't controlled.
As a grocery manager, Andy is on his feet all day. He also likes to bowl and play basketball with his buddies. He started thinking about what he would do if he couldn't walk, work, or play.
He decided it was time to do something about managing his diabetes. Andy asked his doctor for help.
"It finally just hit me how serious this disease is," he says. "I couldn't keep ignoring it."
Andy worked with a diabetes educator to create a plan for healthy meals and snacks that he could make himself, instead of bringing home some fried chicken or macaroni and cheese from the store deli. He learned how to count carbs. But he struggled to get his blood sugar under control.
"I tried to eat better, but my levels just didn't come down. It's hard, because everyone who has diabetes is different. You just have to find out what works for you, and stay with it."
Test, don't guess
He started using his blood sugar tests to learn more about how his body was using the food he ate. Writing everything in a food log also helped.
"Probably the biggest thing I've learned is to test, don't guess," Andy says. "That's something my doctor told me, and it's really true. You can't know what your numbers are unless you test."
He tests in the morning before breakfast and again before lunch. He also checks his blood sugar a few hours after lunch and before he goes to bed.
Testing regularly was a big step, Andy says. "I knew I needed to get a routine. But testing is a hassle. The strips are expensive. And I just didn't like doing it," he says.
One testing tip he learned from a nurse is to prick the side of his finger, instead of the tip.
"That way, you're not always poking at the same spot and making it sore," he says.
Focus on feet
About 6 months ago, Andy found that if he took a short walk after lunch and dinner, his numbers got better. He looks forward to his walks at work and around his home neighborhood.
The walks give him a chance to work out some of the stress of his job. And they remind him how much he cares about his feet.
Checking his feet has become part of Andy's daily routine. He looks for sores, cuts, scrapes, or cracks on his feet and between his toes. It's hard for him to bend over, so he uses a mirror to look underneath each foot.
"I never even thought about my feet before. They're so far away," he says. "But your feet are too important not to take care of."
Andy says his life has changed a lot since he found out he has diabetes. But he still struggles sometimes.
"I'm doing so much better than I was 2 years ago," he says. "I eat better, I take walks, and I feel pretty good. I talk to other people I know who have diabetes. But I have to remember that what works for them may not work for me. Diabetes is different for everybody."
This story is based on information gathered from many people living with type 2 diabetes.