The story below was written and submitted by a patient in the Central East LHIN and describes her experience with the Central East Centre for Diabetes Care (CCDC).Patient stories are written to track the evolution of the Central East LHIN and the participation of stakeholders from across all healthcare sectors - including physicians, nurses, other healthcare professionals, community leaders, patients and caregivers. The views and opinions expressed in this story are those of the patient and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Central East LHIN.
THE BEGINNING OF MY STORY
“I suffer from many ailments such as depression, anxiety, stress, diabetes, arthritis in knee and back, and asthma for a long time. I was so low in life at one point I wanted to leave this earth. Only my faith and my promise to my Grandmother kept me here. I have been on my healing journey for over 15 years now.
A huge part of my healing journey was finding myself again and connecting to my spiritual side of my culture. I am an Ojibway woman from Curve Lake First Nation but also have family from Henvey Inlet First Nations. My parents divorced when I was a teenager, and my dad was an alcoholic and diabetic. My maternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, younger brother and I also have diabetes.
I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes at age 35. In 2003 I was at my heaviest at 328lbs, and was drinking, smoking, an emotional eater, and just an overall emotional mess with the mental health issues I didn’t know I had. I was isolated in the Curve Lake community. I wore what I call ‘a mask’ for years. I
would participate in community events with a smile on my face but inside I was beyond unhappy. My great uncle called me “smiley” and when I realized I was sick was when my smile went away and he didn’t call me that anymore. I had a toxic relationship with my mother and my father had become sober but was so unhealthy. He was diabetic, obese and mostly bed-ridden. I was headed in the same direction.
In 2012 things had been progressing for me in my health journey but I ended up being kicked out of my home and I had to move away from the community I called home. It would become a blessing in disguise.
THE CCDC TEAM
I was so stressed from the major change of moving that I stopped taking my medications. I had been taking 17 pills a day and most of them I had no idea what they were for. I had an appointment with my heart specialist a few days after I moved into my current apartment. He told me my heart was good but my diabetes was very high and he sent me to the hospital to see the diabetes nurses.
After an interview with the diabetes nurses, they immediately connected me with the Central East Centre for Complex Diabetes Care (CCDC) team. All aspects of my life at that point were in turmoil and being sent to be taken care of by a whole team of workers has been extremely beneficial for me. I met with most of the CCDC team in my first meetings – Jeannie, a registered nurse; Jenn, a counsellor; Jen, a nurse; Calvin, a pharmacist; and later Pat, a nutritionist. These people were so friendly and so helpful, and it was so beneficial to me to have them all working together because I find it beyond frustrating to have to bounce from organizations to organization repeating everything to different health professionals. They had all my progress right in one chart and it could be passed to whoever needed to see it at my appointments.
I had severe trust issues and was in such a bad state of distress that I would often breakdown and cry during many of my CCDC appointments. This team of professionals easily gained my trust and worked so slowly and patiently with me. We started with medications. I absolutely needed help with medications for depression and diabetes because I had just stopped taking all my medications when I was in crisis. Slowly, I got back to taking medication and insulin. The team counselled and gently informed me of what the medications were and why I needed to take them. Anytime there was a change I was consulted and asked if it would be okay to make the changes knowing how I felt about not wanting to look at a huge handful of medications and feeling hopeless having to take them.
I was always feeling guilty about sometimes not testing or taking the medications regularly but the team always reassured me and worked with me to build up my confidence. It was okay and I was taking small, positive steps in the right direction. I always felt like I should be scolded for not doing as directed but that was just coming from myself – never the team. They let me go at my pace always pointing out the positives I was doing because I always focused on the negatives.
Working with the CCDC team I was able to explain my culture and the ways it helps me such as becoming an Elder helper, hand drumming, water walking, and traditional dancing. It helped me to share my culture but also gave the team the knowledge to help other Indigenous patients in the future and build networks with some of the local organizations and First Nations communities.
The CCDC team continues to work with me in all aspects of my life including counselling, answering my questions, helping in the CCDC garden, getting YMCA passes and even helping me financially when I needed help getting new lenses for my glasses after cataract surgery.
I am so very grateful for all they have done and I want to be a positive success story for them in appreciation for all their work with me. I want to be a role model and give hope to those who are in the same place I was. They told me that along this journey that I would be a success story and that gave me the confidence and motivation to be successful – not only for myself to succeed but as a team effort for all of us. I am loving life and moving forward.
TODAY AND MY FUTURE
Over four years, I became more active and have a crazy lifestyle with the things I started to do. I started working with Elders and getting more involved in life and community. I was 328lbs and am now down to 252lbs. I lost over 20lbs just this summer because my Elder had a triple bypass, and I lived with her and nursed her back to health for two months. Her eating habits and activity level helped me put my effort in while taking care of her but also myself.
I love to dance Pow Wow and went to as many as I could to stay active and it has made a significant difference as the weight loss shows.
I am also going back to University in September 2018 for a two-year Indigenous studies diploma. I will celebrate my 50th birthday in my first semester but eventually I want to write articles to help my people. My body is not capable of a regular nine to five anymore but my mind is good.
Each of us has our own backgrounds and culture so the only way to understand and connect with each other is to share these stories. I want to reach back and pay it forward so that others will receive the help they need. This will build happy, healthy futures for all humans on this beautiful planet.
I am a success story in progress. “Smiley’s” smile is back. In all my pictures now I see I am happy.”