Surprise Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis triggers the fight in Gurnee resident

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Baby love: Women with diabetes can have healthy babies but it takes a great deal of preparation and effort. “I just have to be fit and make smart choices,” Tanya Byrd (right) said. “This disease is difficult, but it is one of the few you can control with diet and exercise.” | SUPPLIED PHOTO

Diabetes is scary. According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 26 million Americans are living with the disease; that’s 8.3 percent of the population. Diabetes is usually a lifelong chronic disease in which sugar levels in the blood are high. This is an ailment that has multiple possible complications including: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease, amputation, dental disease and even death-thousands upon thousands are reported every year. Diabetes is also the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults. Indeed, diabetes can be perilous.

Gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy and often goes away after the baby is born, is one form of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, another major type, is present most often in children, teens or young adults where the body makes modest or no insulin-there is no cure, it’s not yet preventable and insulin must be taken daily.

Being overweight or obese, which can keep your body from making and using insulin properly and can also cause high blood pressure, is the leading risk factor for Type 2 diabetes-the most common form of diabetes. Early on in Type 2 diabetes, you may be able to reverse the disease with lifestyle changes.

Discovering that you have diabetes is never easy. Tanya Byrd was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in 2009 after she visited the doctor due to feeling ill. She was suffering from many of the customary symptoms: blurry vision, tingling or numbness of hands and feet, irritability, excessive thirst, fatigue, hunger and frequent urination. Several tests, including blood tests and urine analysis, were conducted, and she wound up in the emergency room.

“It didn’t even register that I was just told that I had diabetes,” remembered Byrd, mother and resident of Gurnee. “The next thing I knew, I was in a hospital gown, hooked up to machines and I learned that I wouldn’t be leaving for a couple of days. My body was sick and I didn’t know how to make it better or what my next steps would be. I felt very discouraged and disappointed in myself for allowing my body to get so unhealthy.”

After a few days, Byrd was educated on the disease and she left the hospital feeling inspired for her new chance at a healthy life.

Diabetes has the serious potential to affect many parts of the body, however, the complications of diabetes may be reduced by preventive care — moderate weight loss, healthy eating, regular doctor’s checkup’s — and by controlling the levels of blood glucose, blood pressure and blood lipids.

“I understood that this is something that I can take control of. From that moment on, I was going to be a fighter. I was going to show the doctors that I could have this under control,” Byrd said.

Every morning, Byrd had to take medications and insulin and she had to live with a new idea of what was normal.

“The things I knew about diabetes-losing your limbs, being in a wheel chair, gaining weight-plagued my head daily, but I wouldn’t let it get the best of me. I started working out, eating on the diabetic diet and I started dropping pounds,” Byrd said.

A year later, Byrd got married and wanted to have a child. Getting pregnant proved challenging. Her medications had to be changed and she had to make increasingly frequent visits to her endocrinologist, watch her weight gain and treat her pregnancy as high risk. Women with diabetes can have healthy babies but it takes a great deal of preparation and effort. High glucose levels during pregnancy are dangerous but they can be controlled.

“I gave birth to a hale and hearty 8-pound, 14-ounce baby boy,” Byrd said happily. “I just have to be fit and make smart choices. This disease is difficult, but it is one of the few you can control with diet and exercise.”