Ray Luistro

Ray with his own creation – Transitional Art – Bob Marley “BM:BM” (check him out on www.torchegalerie.com)

Ray was trying to tie up some loose ends in his life, which led him to decide that he needed some life insurance. This led him to a pre-screening physical and the surprising news that he would be denied life insurance because he had diabetes. He had just had a physical six months before. How could this have been missed? Or, had his health situation changed that rapidly in such a short time?

Ray works as a Quality Assurance Documentation Specialist in a medical device firm. In his spare time, he is an artist and a part time partner in an art gallery in Belmar NJ doing everything from building the gallery’s web site to helping with renovation of the space. His first reaction to this new health challenge was pure denial. It just didn’t make sense.   He thought; “I’m only in my early 40’s. I’m super active with work and in my personal life (volleyball, snowboarding, mountain biking). I’m not overweight.” He shared his blood tests with some of his medically oriented colleagues – they confirmed that his fasting blood sugar and Hemoglobin A1c both pointed to diabetes. It appeared to be true. When he looked back on how he had been feeling in the past several months, the diagnosis made total sense. He was struggling to keep up his energy. When he was feeling sluggish, he did what he thought was right – chug a sugary iced tea or a container of orange juice (people say that sugar gives you quick energy, right?). Afterward, his energy would completely tank and he would feel much worse.  Even after four cups of coffee (with extra sugar), he was dragging. The diagnosis correlated with his unexplained urgent need to urinate, especially during the night. And, his dire sense of thirst, even though he was constantly drinking water. He knew all these things weren’t normal but, somehow found a way to rationalize it all.

Following the diagnosis, Ray’s physician started him on aggressive oral medication then changed the dose and drugs a few times in order to optimize his blood sugar levels. He was frustrated with the whole process and was feeling worse than before he had been diagnosed. He wasn’t used to taking medication every day and carrying the gear to test his blood sugar was terrible! He took the medications but, in the weeks when his blood sugar appeared to be in reasonably good control, he was tempted to stop. Maybe it wasn’t real? Then another Hemoglobin A1c test would confirm that his long term blood sugar control was not as good as he thought. His denial hung on for a long time though, it gradually became more real. When he disclosed his diagnosis to his parents, his father admitted that he also had diabetes – a fact that he had kept hidden from his children for many years.   Ray took time to see an eye doctor, who confirmed some early changes in his vision due to his diabetes – that news was sobering!

Ray is the kind of guy who is always in motion. He felt truly lucky that he could eat anything he wanted and not gain weight. He felt that he had always been in great health. In fact, people were jealous of the volume of food he could pack away each day without gaining an ounce! Could that have been another symptom of the disease? The diet changes required were daunting at first. He was confused by the information his doctor had given him and, without clear food choices, he drastically cut back on his daily calories dropping more than 10 pounds in just three weeks. His friends were concerned. He was worried that he would be sentenced to eating bland, terrible tasting food for the rest of his life. One friend recommended he see a dietician for guidance. She knew of one near his work that was a “Certified Diabetes Educator” and who accepted his insurance (6 sessions per year with no co-pay!). But, he wasn’t sure he needed this – he felt he didn’t have time – he could handle this on his own.

Coming to grips with the whole scenario was a gradual process. He read websites and books to learn what to eat.   He realized that some of the choices were not so terrible and that he could still eat a lot of the foods he liked. He focused on drastically reducing carbs and increasing protein. He has learned to cope with some of the diet changes by “saving” his carbs for the things that are most important to him – like rice, which is now brown rice, in moderation. He realized that he can actually live without soda and “Frosted Flakes”. The changes in medication have settled down and he is feeling better. His energy levels fluctuate less and the symptoms are moderating. He realized that his constant motion at work and the extra part time work at the art gallery he led him to cut back on his weight lifting and volleyball.  This constant motion at work didn’t equate to true exercise. He rejoined a gym and started playing volleyball again. He asked his gallery partner to take some of his hours watching the shop so he could workout. He quickly recognized that his lack of exercise had made everything much worse.

He has realized that, if he doesn’t take this seriously, his future may bring irreversible health issues. This is motivation enough for him to stay on track.   He is still learning but, he now fully understands the importance of diet. He hopes that, with consistent diet changes, his physician will reduce his medications over time. He has subscribed to a weekly newsletter for diabetics to keep him up to date on the latest research and, he believes it may someday be possible for him to achieve the goal of a totally normal life without daily medication.   His research has also given him hope that he may be able to further influence his health through holistic approaches to diabetes – meditation, yoga, other lifestyle changes and alternative medicines. He plans to work with his doctor to incorporate these into his treatment plan. He has adjusted his priorities which now include taking time to focus on his health and this had made all the difference in his quality of life.   Not only is he teaching himself to be healthy, he admits that he often finds himself preaching his new found knowledge to family, co-workers and friends. This year he plans to reapply for that life insurance and knows that this time, he will definitely be APPROVED!