By Aletha Stolar
For The Fayette Tribune
(Editor’s note: The Take Charge! Live Well series is an initiative of the Fayette County Living Well Workgroup in conjunction with The Fayette Tribune. The workgroup is funded through the Marshall University Center for Rural Health through the Appalachian Regional Commission, and Community Transformation Grant through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
In his late 40s, Randy Housh’s energy slowly dropped. He just felt tired a lot. His feet sometimes went numb. It had been coming on for a while. “I just felt blah most of the time,” he recalls.
In 2004, after a routine visit to the doctor, the Fayetteville resident was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, at age 50.
Randy knew he was much more likely to get diabetes because of his weight and family history. His grandfather had diabetes. His dad had heart disease.
Although his blood pressure and cholesterol levels were well within acceptable ranges, his weight was not. He knew — the doctor didn’t need to tell him — that he needed to lose weight. “But, the doctor told me to exercise and eat better, anyway,” he said.
For the next seven years, he tried to exercise and eat a better diet on his own. He did not have much luck. He didn’t have time to walk the recommended 30 minutes per day, three times a week, he said. He knew he was an “anxiety” eater. “If there were potato chips or other crunchy snacks around, I would eat them,” he said.
Then in early 2011, his co-workers at Seneca Health Services in Summersville mentioned a program called Face-to-Face, offered through their health insurance company, the Public Employees Insurance Agency. On July 29, 2011, Randy signed up.
He had to sign an agreement stating that he would visit six times in the coming year — once a month for three months, then every three months — with a participating pharmacist of his choice for diabetes counseling. Teresa Rosiek of Wood’s Pharmacy in Oak Hill agreed to help him: a) stay current on all recommended testing and treatment; b) understand how to properly take his medicines; and c) help him design a physical activity and nutrition plan that would work in his life.
After a year in the Face-to-Face program, Randy lost 30 pounds. His Metformin, a drug for those with diabetes, was reduced to once per day instead of twice per day. His A1C, a blood test that tells an individual’s average blood sugar for a period of 2 to 3 months, dropped from 6.8 to 6.1.
“Mostly,” Randy says, “it’s because of the meetings with the pharmacist that increased my awareness and accountability.” Rosiek charted his blood sugar levels. When there was a spike, Teresa asked him what happened that day.
Randy recalls eating a piece of pecan pie, for instance, at a conference. That one piece of pie caused a sharp spike in blood sugar levels. “It’s all about taste and how much I eat. I don’t want to give up pecan pie, so what I do now is just take one bite so I get the taste. Seeing that spike in my mind’s eye keeps me from eating the rest of the piece of pie.”
Randy has found different foods to snack on when he feels stressed. Chips have been replaced by small quantities of nuts, plain popcorn, grapes, or carrot sticks with low-fat dip. He says he’s eating cleaner — decreasing sugary food, increasing fruits and vegetables. “Taking the time to cook at home, eating less fast food, and decreasing portion size have all become a part of my new habit,” he adds.
For exercise, he has chosen to walk for five to 10 minutes at a time because it suits his schedule much better than 30 minutes at once. His favorite walk is around the neighborhood with his dog, Roscoe.
How does Randy feel now? “When I started the program, I’d say I rated 5 on a scale of 1-10. Now, I’m confident I can rate myself at 9. I have lots of energy and I just feel good about the changes I’ve made and continue to do.” He pinches his thumb and index finger to where they almost touch each other, and with a grin, says, “I’m this close to getting off of insulin. You know, all the information out there that says exercise, better eating habits, and smaller portions can lower blood sugar levels. It’s true, and I’m proof that it can work.”
“The big key for me is the Face-to-Face program and being accountable for my behavior change. Quite honestly, having the support of my wife, daughter, and granddaughter is a significant impact. We’re all making the changes together,” Randy emphasizes.
By participating in Face-to-Face, Randy also saved himself hundreds of dollars because PEIA waives diabetes-related prescriptions and lab costs for Face-to-Face participants. But, Randy says, “I didn’t do it for the money, I did it for my health. I needed someone else to be accountable to.”
Says Teresa, the pharmacist, “He’s my poster boy!”
(Stolar is the Fayette County Family Resource Network director. The FRN is a network of agencies working together for children and families. Contact info: fayettefrn @gmail.com or 304-574-4338.)