Angela Evans, Patient Partner on our Path to Health: Diabetes study!

Meet Angie. A loving mother and grandmother with a contagious smile. She’s been able to maintain a “glass half full” perspective even after her type 2 diabetes diagnosis in her 20’s and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) diagnosis in her 30’s. Having been through the ups and downs of chronic disease self-management, Angie has learned over the last several decades how to take better care of herself and stay in control of her health.

Angie comes from a solid family history of diabetes – her grandmother, mother, brother, and sister all were affected by type 2 diabetes and her other sister and brother had type 1, requiring insulin treatment. Angie struggled with weight issues even at a young age. “I knew that if I didn’t get that under control, I would eventually become a diabetic”, as family history and weight issues coupled together can drastically increase type 2 diabetes rates. Sure enough, the day came when Angie received her own diabetes diagnosis. “I immediately became more mindful of what I ate and started to exercise.” This helped for a while and things were going really well. Unfortunately, 10 years later Angie found out she also had MS, an auto-immune disorder that attacks an individual’s central nervous system and causes vision, mobility, and sensation complications. The MS diagnosis really threw things off for her. “I needed to find a new balance.”

At first, it was quite challenging. Angie was prescribed different types of medication to manage her MS, many of which were steroids, causing her blood glucose levels to soar. She was only able to remain on steroids for a short period of time and then had to take insulin until her blood glucose levels were back at a good level. After trial and error with different MS medications, Angie found what worked well for both conditions. She needed to take an ACTIVE role in her health and she needed specialists with whom she could have an open dialogue about what was working and what wasn’t. “You need a good physician who listens to you. I always had to make sure I brought my list of medications to all appointments so this could be communicated to each specialist I had to see for diabetes or MS. I would also read up on side effects to make sure there were no contraindications.” It was also hard to figure out how to manage the varying symptoms both diseases brought. While many symptoms are similar (neuropathy, loss of balance, vision issues), MS exacerbations come in waves and can be intense whereas diabetes symptoms are more predictable and in some cases avoidable with proper diet and exercise. Angie was able to improve both conditions by becoming educated and discovering what worked best for her – she has become a more proactive patient because of this!

Angie has juggled both of her conditions for many years now but has gotten some reprieve when her MS goes into remission. Periods of stress can cause exacerbations and also disrupt her diabetes but she works hard to keep her blood glucose levels under control through healthy eating, exercise, and plenty of rest. Some days are harder than others and over time she has become more limited in her mobility due to her MS but that doesn’t stop her. “I try to find types of exercise that work, such as bands and hand weights.” Through her insurance she is able to participate in the Silver Sneakers program, which provides her access to several different facilities/gyms and gives her a better chance of finding equipment she can actually use. “What I’ve found over the years was the more I take care of my diabetes, the more it helps with my MS.” Finding support in others going through the same thing, reading up on both conditions, and maintaining good communication with her doctors have also helped Angie find a new balance within chronic disease self-management.

Angie’s MS is currently in remission and her diabetes is under control. “Overall I am good health-wise, although I never know what the day may bring. I know if I get up and have some MS symptoms, I take it slower. I take what life deals me and keep going because I enjoy life.” Her 3 grandchildren keep her motivated. She also actively participates in research studies related to her conditions and is currently serving as a patient co-Investigator on the PaTH to Health: Diabetes study to help educate others and pass on what she’s learned through lived experience. Angie’s advice to patients dealing with diabetes and other health conditions: “Be mindful of your body – if it doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to let your doctor know. Take care of yourself now to avoid complications down the road. If you don’t address diabetes early on, it can get worse. However, it’s not a death sentence. It’s a disease you can live with if you do the right things.”