Nancy, like many 50-something women, wanted to lose a little weight. She had a history of high blood pressure, but on the whole thought her overall health was good…until a routine doctor appointment surfaced a new set of concerns.
“My glucose readings had been creeping up, and my doctor at Harvard Vanguard, Dr. Ramchandani, began watching them carefully. She asked me to have some regular lab tests done to monitor them,” Nancy says. “I had two elevated readings in a row. Based on that, Dr. Ramchandani delivered the news: I had Type II diabetes.”
While Nancy understood there were repercussions, she did not fully absorb the news. After receiving her diagnosis, Nancy met with Colleen Donahue, RN, with whom she bonded right away. Colleen provided Nancy with information on Type II diabetes, gave her guidance about the right foods to eat, and served as a helpful support system.
In addition to arranging Nancy’s appointment with Colleen, Dr. Ramchandani also introduced Nancy to the idea of a shared medical appointment, or SMA, where multiple patients with the same condition meet with a doctor in a group visit.
“Dr. Ramchandani explained not only how the SMA worked, but also how I might benefit from being able to share experiences with the other people who attend.” Nancy explains. “I knew it was a new thing in healthcare, but I didn’t know how I felt about it.”
Nancy put her uncertainty aside and decided to attend. At the first appointment, each patient’s glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure readings were displayed on a blackboard. While Nancy’s levels were not the highest of the group, they were still too high for comfort. Based on this information, Nancy was put on new medication for her cholesterol as well.
“For the next 3 months, until the next SMA visit, I think I was in denial. I wasn’t taking the medication, I wasn’t using my glucose meter, and I wasn’t doing well as a result. I did speak with Colleen in between appointments, and while she gave me good information, I just didn’t want to listen.”
At the next SMA, Nancy “came clean,” explaining that she just couldn’t wrap her head around all of this news, and that she was in denial about her health. Dr. Ramchandani explained that the reaction was very common and in fact denial is often the first reaction people have to their diagnosis.
“In that second SMA visit, something clicked; I was listening to everybody else talk and I told myself even if my progress is slow, in some ways that’s better. I just had to keep moving in the right direction. Even if I make a mistake, it’s not the end. It’s not like I just totally blew it. There’s another day to do it better or do it right.”
As for Nancy’s realistic approach? It’s working. She lost 13 pounds between January and April and is walking more, taking her medications and eating better in general. As a result, the dosage for her blood pressure medication has been reduced, her cholesterol level was back down in the normal range, and her diabetes is now in good control. She is excited to attend her next SMA to share her progress and story to help others.
While originally skeptical of the SMAs, Nancy now is happy to share her experience with others.
“I tell people how much I like them, and people have seen that I’ve changed my habits and that going to the SMAs has helped me. Because of the group atmosphere, not only does everyone seem prouder about what they’ve accomplished, but they seem to get motivated by what other people are doing.”
Nancy continues to manage her condition day to day, and hopes that one day she can get to the point where she can be taken off the diabetes medication.
“I’m taking it little by little and trying not to talk myself out of it! It’s the little goals that add up.”
Nancy is 58 and lives in Peabody.