Living with Diabetes - Robert's Story

In recognition of November being National Diabetes Awareness month, we would like to make those with diabetes, whether newly diagnosed or not, aware that the Diabetes Care Center at Firelands Regional Medical Center offers a self-management, educational program to help you learn more about diabetes through open discussion with others who have the disease. 

Diabetes is a life-changing diagnosis. It takes ongoing education and commitment to properly self-manage the disease. This program is designed to provide educational information and self-management skills while encouraging patients to live an active lifestyle and prioritize their health.

Robert Mesko is a recent participate of the program. He wanted to share his story, and how the program really changed his life. 

In 2010, Robert found out he had diabetes after being admitted to the ER with what turned out to be a heart attack. 

“You wake up, and they tell you ‘you have diabetes’, well what does that mean? I remember my Grandma having diabetes, and I remember what that meant for her - taking injections. So that’s what it was for me. Just a disease that involved vials and needles,” said Robert. 

Being overwhelmed with what had just happened, and then finding out he had diabetes, is an understatement. Robert didn’t know what to think of the news that had just been delivered to him. For years, he ignored his diagnosis - something he knows now was a mistake. 

“I didn’t take any real steps to combat that. I was like ‘oh ok’,” Robert said. “There was no real urgency that I built into my daily routine that said ‘things have changed for you, and as a result, you need to do these things differently’. I didn’t feel the want, or need, at that time to look into it further.” 

After some time, he decided he needed to find a new primary care physician, one that was closer to him. He decided to see Niharika Juwarkar, MD, internal medicine with Firelands Physician Group. She was the one who told Robert about the diabetes self-management program at the hospital. Getting to know him, and seeing what he had been through, she thought it would be a good fit for him, and Robert agreed. 

“Any information, new information, and a forum for conversation sounded exactly like what I needed. Before I had been so cavalier about it [diabetes]. I thought ‘I am lucky I am still here’. I was a bit less overwhelmed at this point in time, and I was ready to take things more seriously,” said Robert.

Being open to accepting the disease, and wanting to learn more about it and how to live with it, was Robert’s first step to managing his life better. The program gave him a way to communicate with others in his position. The Diabetes Education team believes that education empowers the patient with diabetes to better manage their disease, avoid complications associated with the disease and help the patient achieve optimal health status.

“I didn’t really know what a ‘blood sugar low’ was before the program,” Robert said. 

Now he tracks his blood sugar levels daily, and makes sure he has a source of glucose on him. 

“You have to unlearn your habits. You have to utilize the information you are given. You need to be able to understand it, and actually use it. And then be in an environment with other people who are also experiencing this, and learning from them,” Robert commented. 

Robert mentioned that staying on a healthy low-sugar diet has been the hardest thing for him so far. He even said that quitting smoking was easier than quitting sugar. However, he is making big strides in his daily diet routine.

Robert said, “I don’t drink anything sweetened now. I used to go through a liter or two of Coke a day. But no more. I used to love sweetened cereals, but I don’t eat those anymore either. My palette has changed now - If I do have some sugary drink, it tastes way too sweet now.” 

When asked what advice he would give to the public, or anyone that was recently diagnosed he said, “Don’t be afraid to fail or falter in managing this disease. Try to accept that that is part of your life now – and you need to deal with it. That’s something that I struggled with for a very long time, and I still am to a certain degree. And that’s why a program like this is an amazing thing. It creates a venue, and it gathers people in a similar situation, and allows them to learn in a constructive way.”

The diabetes self-management education program is beneficial to those with diabetes, type 1 or type 2, as well as those with pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes. You will need a referral form from a provider to participate in this program. If you call and would like to set up an appointment, a referral request can be sent to your physician. If you do not have a primary care physician, the Firelands Center for Coordinated Care can assist you with this. For more information please call 419-557-6992 or visit: firelands.com/care-treatment/diabetes/