Diabetes in the Family

After experiencing the symptoms her mother did, Sabrina Burroughs realized she had type 2 diabetes too

About two years ago Sabrina Burroughs, now 38, started feeling light-headed and unusually hungry. To make herself feel better, she ate from her stash of peppermints and Hershey’s and Snickers bars. “I brushed it off,” she says. She chalked it up to the stress of her demanding job as a human resource manager at Fort Snelling in Minnesota.

Then she began to shake, feel like she was going to faint and even vomit. She was urinating more often and feeling unusually thirsty. One day, Burroughs felt especially terrible. She thought about how her mom—an insulin-dependent, type 2 diabetic—experienced the same symptoms when her blood sugar was elevated. Burroughs checked herself with a glucose meter that her mother had given her, and found that her own blood glucose was unusually high at 266.

Having a grandfather who also had type 2 diabetes and a brother with type 1, Burroughs knew this was serious. She headed straight to the hospital, where a doctor immediately diagnosed her with type 2 diabetes.

When Burroughs met with her regular doctor, they discussed bringing down her blood sugar levels without resorting to insulin. “My doctor was very skeptical about starting me on any type of meds,” says Burroughs. Instead, she was prescribed a healthier diet. She visited a diabetic nutritionist, who talked to her about eating smaller portions and limiting carbohydrates. Her downfall is potatoes—baked, fried and mashed—as well as biscuits and cinnamon rolls. Burroughs now tries to limit these foods, indulging in bread just once a day instead of at every meal. She also stocks a refrigerator in her office with vegetables and fresh fruit.

Burroughs walks two miles, either on a treadmill or outside, three times a week. When she walks outside she often brings her 7 and 13-year-old daughters. “That’s pretty much what I can fit in my schedule,” she says. Her 7-year-old is helping in another way, too. “She asks me every day, ‘mom, did you check your blood sugar?’” (She checks it every morning and every night.)

It’s all paying off: Burroughs is keeping her blood sugar levels around 132. Her target is 125. If she gets her levels below 130, she will be out of the diabetic category. “It’s nowhere near 266 any more,” she says. She remains optimistic that she’ll reach her goal. “[This diagnosis] is not the end of the world,” she says. “It’s not a death sentence.” And, at least so far, she hasn’t even needed to take medicine. With her new and improved diet and exercise program, Burroughs hopes to keep it that way. After all, she still remembers giving her own mother insulin injections. And she’d rather not need them herself.

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