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Nan Hilton

Type 2 Diabetes

Date Posted: Friday, April 22, 2022

nan-hilton-type-2-diabetes

Nan Hilton was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2006 at 23 years old.  After years of taking medications and insulin, she made lifestyle modifications resulting in a 90 pound weight loss and she's no longer on any diabetes medications.

She was newly married and blood tests during her annual physical exam indicated elevated blood sugars.

Her primary care physician suggested diet and exercise, prescribed Metformin and referred her to an endocrinologist at Marlboro Hospital.

“I wasn’t taking my diabetes as seriously as I should have,” said Nan.  “I was in my 20’s and took my medication but ate whatever I wanted.  The Metformin doses kept going higher.”

That continued for four years until she became pregnant in 2010.  Her endocrinologist at the time was not comfortable treating high risk diabetic pregnancy, so Nan transitioned to a team of doctors at Emerson Hospital where she was planning to give birth.

During a difficult pregnancy, she developed severe diabetic retinopathy that caused vision loss and required invasive surgery including multiple laser treatments on both eyes and painful injections.

“I became physically and mentally stressed out because I was in and out of doctors’ offices two to three times a week,” she said.  “Those eye treatments were very uncomfortable, but the doctors assured me they would do whatever it took to keep me from going blind.”

Her endocrinologist prescribed high doses of short-acting and rapid-acting insulin to treat high blood sugars, trying to lower them into a controlled target range.

Nan gave birth to a healthy boy during the 2010 holiday season.  She remained on insulin and oral medications for uncontrolled blood sugars.  She started exercising however the high insulin dosages were working against her as she attempted to lose weight.

In 2017 Nan found the UMass Memorial Diabetes Center of Excellence.  Her care team consists of endocrinologist Julie Chan and nurse practitioner Taylor Boudreau.  “I have a wonderful relationship with both of them and they’ve helped me a lot,” she said.  “They’re similar in many ways but each provides a unique point of view which is helpful.  Everything they have suggested has worked as long as I was committed to follow through and put in the effort.”

Nan has made the commitment to herself and is enjoying the results.  “Their plan from day one was to get me off insulin entirely and remove of as much medication as possible.”

For a few years, Dr. Chan and Taylor suggested Trulicity but Nan was hesitant to try it because she was finally off insulin and didn’t want to go back to injecting herself, even once a week.  “They kept recommending it and I kept saying no,” she said.  “I finally agreed to try a low dose in 2019 and literally lost 15 pounds in less than a month!  I wasn’t getting hungry as often and got full faster.”

That initial weight loss was the turning point that set a new healthy lifestyle into motion.  “It was like an out of body experience that pushed me to continue,” she said.  “I jumped in with both feet.  No more excuses.”

She also added 30 minutes of aerobic activity every day and has been committed to doing it seven days a week ever since.  “When I went to my follow-up appointment three months after starting Trulicity and incorporating daily exercise and healthy eating, I had lost another 10 pounds,” she said with a smile.  “Every three months I was losing another 10 to 15 pounds!”

She started her journey wearing size 16 pants and XL shirts.  Today she’s down to women’s 4/6 pants and small shirts but prefers to wear junior clothing because they fit her better.

“Now my body craves vegetables,” she said.  “I love them.  I eat chicken breast and veggies every day and I’m perfectly happy with that.  The more weight I lost the more motivated I became to eat healthy.”

Nan grew up on a traditional Cambodian diet that consisted of rice with almost every meal.  Exercise or physical activity was never a part of her life.  She no longer eats rice and says she doesn’t miss it.  “My carb intake reduced significantly,” she said.  “I ate rice three times a day growing up until 2019 and now I allow myself a couple of tablespoons of rice only when I crave it, which isn’t often.”

She credits her son Pierin and husband Darin with providing necessary support and motivation to keep her on track.  “At the end of the day it’s up to me to do what I have to do,” she said, but my care team and my family provide a support system that helps me to maintain this healthy lifestyle and remain successful.”

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