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A Life-Saving Lesson That Took Decades to Learn

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors diagnosed Ronda Keys with type 2 diabetes when she was 19 years old and a student at the University of Maryland.

Now 38 and living in Montgomery Village, Md., Keys had been suffering the classic symptoms before her diagnosis -- fatigue, extreme thirst, frequent urination. "That prompted me to just go to the doctor," she recalled. "That's when I found out."

But the news wasn't completely out of left field. Her father was diabetic, as were her grandmother and several aunts and uncles.

"There's a long line of it in my family," Keys said. "It wasn't really a surprise once I was told that I had it, but I guess I had never thought of myself as getting it, especially that young."

Nonetheless, Keys admits, she took the diagnosis with a small amount of resentment. "I was a little taken aback," she said. "I didn't do anything to go out and get this. I thought it was kind of unfair. You're just told you have this, and oh, by the way, there's no cure."

Keys's doctor put her on oral medication and encouraged her to exercise more and eat a healthy diet. But she was young and at college and found it hard to reconcile her diabetes treatment with her lifestyle.

"The issue for me was just being different from my friends," she said. "I didn't want to be the odd ball out. I just wanted to fit in with everyone else."

Those college years established a pattern for Keys. She would half-heartedly pursue self-treatment for her diabetes, and then get serious about it when she began to feel really sick. "I would try for a while, and then I would fall off the wagon and stay off," she said.

Things continued that way until three years ago, when Keys was hospitalized with a serious infection. Her body didn't respond to treatment, which she was told was due to her diabetes.

"My blood sugar was fighting against the medicines the doctors were giving me," she said. "I was very, very sick. As a result, I had to go on insulin, which I had been fighting."

Keys was hospitalized for 14 days. The insulin helped save her life, but she hated having to resort to it. "It just felt like failure," she said. "Insulin equals failure. You didn't do what you were supposed to do, and now you have to take insulin."

That feeling didn't last long, though.

"I found out it was the best thing that could have happened to me," Keys said. "I love to travel, and I'm very active, and I didn't feel well. I was getting sick. I was having trouble with my kidneys. After going on insulin, it was an immediate turnaround for me."

Since then, Keys also has become more serious about her exercise and diet, getting to the gym three times a week and practicing moderation when she eats.

"I'm doing a lot better than three years ago," she said. "I feel better. I'm able to do everything I want to do. I'm very active. Diabetes is not stopping me now."

More information

A companion article offers more on the link between childhood obesity and diabetes.

SOURCE: Ronda Keys, Montgomery Village, Md.

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