Janice Thompson Grant has a self-professed love affair with food- particularly baked goods- and that obsession nearly was her undoing.

Despite a family history of diabetes and the death of her grandmother at age 46 from the disease, the 58-year-old Charlotte resident said she paid little attention to her blood sugar levels. “After my last physical, my primary care doctor had told me that I needed to lose weight and exercise because I was prediabetic,” she said. Her A1C blood test showed her sugar level at 6.3 percent. A reading of 6.5 percent or higher is considered full-blown diabetes.  

“I was really going to town on food. I really love Southern cooking,” she explained. Last spring, Thompson Grant began to feel unwell. “I noticed that my eyesight was getting blurry but I told myself I needed some new glasses. I also felt so tired all the time, but I thought it was just my thyroid giving me problems.” And she was always thirsty.

At church, a friend who was a confirmed diabetic offered to test her blood sugar levels and found it to be 451 mg/dL. The target range for blood sugar for people with diabetes is between 80 and 130 mg/dL before a meal and less than 180 mg/dL an hour or two following a meal, according to the American Diabetes Association.

The friend urged her to go the nearest hospital immediately.   Thompson Grant was already feeling poorly. “I thought I was going to pass out and asked my husband to take me to the emergency room,” she said.

At the hospital, staff ran tests on her kidney function, administered fluids and gave her two medications to help manage her Type 2 diabetes. She was now officially diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. That was a wake-up call for Thompson Grant. “I was so depressed because I realized this situation is real,” she recalled. “I was angry because I had allowed this to happen to me but I told myself I wasn’t going to allow the disease to control me.”

She said she knew she had to make lifestyle changes to be there for her family. “So I decided to cut all sugar from my diet. No bread, no rice. I ate broiled chicken and fish, kale, collards and squash. I stopped drinking juice and began drinking water.”

She also began testing her blood sugar religiously and kept track of all her measurements in a chart to follow her progress. She also made an appointment to see endocrinologist Dr. Adam Spitz with Novant Health Endocrinology-Randolph in Charlotte.

“When I went to Dr. Spitz’s office with my color-coded chart, he was amazed,” she said. While Thompson Grant had made big changes in her diet, the doctor said she had to start exercising if she wanted to stop taking medications for diabetes.

“I hate exercise but I am working with a nurse coach through my insurance company to work my way up to using my treadmill,” she said. Since March, Thompson Grant has made significant progress. Her dress size is now 12 down from size 16. “My A1C following the hospital visit was 10.5 percent. As of July 12, my A1C reading is 5.9 percent.”

She is determined to stay on track with her diet and exercise. “I never want to feel that way again,” she said of her health scare. “I now have more energy and don’t feel spaced-out any longer.”

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that more than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. The agency said that the disease continues to represent a growing health problem. More than 9 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes and another 84 million have prediabetes, a condition if left untreated that will develop into Type 2 diabetes within 5 years.  

Thompson Grant’s advice for others facing a diabetes diagnosis: take care of yourself. “If you want quality of life, you need to take care of yourself first. You can’t take of your family if you aren’t well.”

Are you concerned that you may have diabetes or prediabetes? First, talk to your primary care provider about your concerns. He or she may refer you to a specialist for care. If you don’t have a primary care provider, find one at novanthealth.org/doctor.