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AHRQ--Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Advancing Excellence in Health Care

Explore Your Treatment Options: Patients Share Their Stories

Steve Thurner

Learning about diabetes was key to Steve Thurner improving his life

Steve Thurner completed his first 100-mile bike ride—the San Diego Tour de Cure—in April 2010. That accomplishment represents a high point in Steve’s personal battle with diabetes, a battle that has had its ups and downs.

In 2005, when he was 33, Steve was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. An engineer, Steve weighed 300 pounds and was struggling to stay awake at his desk. With a family history of thyroid problems, he figured his condition could be solved with medication. When the doctor told him that he had diabetes, “It was a shock,” he recalls.

In essence, Steve learned that his body either does not make enough insulin or it does not use insulin as well as it should. Sugar was therefore building up in his blood because his body could not use it without the help of insulin. If blood sugar stays high for a long time, people with diabetes have a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney damage, and other serious problems.

There are different ways to treat diabetes. Steve’s doctor prescribed metformin, a pill to help control his blood sugar, and recommended Steve change his diet and join a diabetes education group.

But the diabetes education group met only once a week, while Steve was at work. “It was not convenient,” Steve says.

Meanwhile, Steve switched to a new diet—fewer carbohydrates and more meat. He lost a lot of weight. But there was a downside: “My cholesterol numbers were way out of whack,” he says. His doctor then prescribed additional medicines for his diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood pressure.

In hindsight, Steve wishes he’d spent more time learning about his disease and treatment options right after his diagnosis. “I missed all of the psychological processing of understanding that I have a disease,” Steve says.

He decided it was time to compare his treatment options.

“I made a commitment to learn about my disease to help me figure out what I could do,” he says. Steve read books about living with diabetes and visited the American Diabetes Association Web site. He learned how different diabetes medicines worked. He improved his diet and began exercising and biking. He eventually switched to another injectable medicine that works better for him than the one initially prescribed.

Thanks to all these changes, Steve finally started getting his diabetes under control. “My A1c [an indicator or blood sugar levels] is fairly good,” he says.

He got married and started a family. In late 2009, he began training for the San Diego Tour de Cure. After 6 months of training and logging more than 1,500 miles on his bike, Steve completed his first century (100-mile) ride on April 17, 2010.

“It was a time of huge personal growth in taking responsibility for my health and well being,” he says, now looking ahead to other century rides and further accomplishments. Knowing more about diabetes and his treatment options opened the way.

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Rick Thornton

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Jennifer Jaff

Thirty-five years ago, Jennifer Jaff was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. It has only been in the last 8 years that her quality of life has improved. What made the difference? Making a shared treatment decision with her doctor after exploring all her options. Read more.

Marti Denk

Marti Denk considered different treatment options for breast cancer after her doctor gave her homework—to talk to other patients and do some reading. Marti says that advice led her to being perfectly fine today. Read more.

Julia Hallisy

Over a decade of helping her young daughter deal with eye cancer, Julia Hallisy’s determination to understand treatment options led to an improved quality of life and ultimately less pain for her child. Read more.

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