A proud resident of Bardstown, Kentucky, the Bourbon capital of the world, in the heart of Bluegrass and horse-racing, Cindy Betz has made major strides after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes following her retirement. A married mother of three children and one grandchild, Cindy received news of her diagnosis on her birthday in January of 2015.

With no other family history of diabetes, she knew she had to take the struggle into her own hands and get healthy not only for herself but for her family –which she says includes her two boxer ‘furbabies’ that live indoors and keep her constantly on the go. When she’s not busy with her dogs, she loves to relax by playing piano.

Cindy recently spoke with Everyday Diabetes Magazine from her home in Bardstown.

What was your initial reaction to your diagnoses?

I was devastated and so scared. No one in my family had this, so I had no knowledge about it. It didn’t help when my initial blood tests after fasting was 158. I then knew just enough to understand that I had already crossed the barrier into diabetes, and even then the doctor didn’t say ‘diabetes’, she just told me that my glucose was high and i should reduce my carbs. I was on a first visit to this doctor when they drew the blood.

I came home, and got online to confirm my fears. I can honestly say I was sure this was the worst birthday I ever had. My mom was very sick and I felt as though I had a death sentence.

My proudest moment was when my doctor told me that he heard about diabetics like me in medical school but had never seen it in his years of practice; the one diabetic that takes charge and diets so strictly that there is no need for medication.

After your initial response, what did you and your doctor do next?

I collected myself and phoned the doctor the same day, and asked to see her again the following day. I walked in and said, “Why would you let me walk out of this office and not tell me I have diabetes?” She told me it had not been confirmed since an A1C test had not been done so I asked for one. I also asked her why she didn’t explain what lowering my carbs looked like since I am not a dietitian.

You were frustrated and no one seemed to be helping. How did that feel?

I was handed a prescription with no instructions and was told to come back in three months. I hear the same devastating story in support groups. I came home, researched diets online, and began a very proactive journey.

You did so much of this on your own. Did you ever find help from doctors?

Two weeks later, my son was diagnosed with a brain tumor and my mom went into hospice care. He was treated and is doing well now. I moved from home to stay with her, and did until she passed in May. During that time I happened to see the doctor that had treated me for years before I moved to LA before my retirement. He was seeing patients in the hospice facility and when he asked what was going on with me, I told him. His initial response was for me to get over to his office and he saw me that afternoon.

He was the first to tell me that I didn’t do this to myself and to let go of the guilt. To this day, I continue to drive two and a half hours to see him, but also see an endo from the area I live in. There is nothing like having a good medical team on your side. It makes all the difference.

After finding such a great medical team, what was the plan?

I found my own dietitian, and called my insurance company to make sure they would cover it. I was already using a diet I had found online when I finally met with her, since there had been no time for a dietitian appointment with the situation as it was. I self-taught with a Relion Prime meter from WalMart as my guide, since I had still not been prescribed a meter and test strips.

I was finally given the meter and test strips, but was prescribed no medication. I have been able to keep my A1C between 5.1 and 5.3  for almost two years now and my endo says that as long as I can continue this with my diet then there is no need for medication.

I asked him how long I would be able to go without medication and his response was “maybe forever if you maintain your weight in an ideal range, like it is now.” This gives me hope.

For other diabetics looking for a great diet to follow, what was your plan?

I started on a low-carb and high fat diet and wrecked my blood work due to the family cholesterol gene. I now use lillydiabetes.com as my diet plan and lost weight rapidly. I lost weight on both plans, but my blood work liked lillydiabetes.com’s plan better. It brought my cholesterol back to a normal range, despite the gene. I also had a little help from my dietitian. I only did the low carb high fat for the first three months, and the blood work said no to it.

What do you consider to be your major successes throughout this battle?

My proudest moment was when my doctor told me that he heard about diabetics like me in medical school but had never seen it in his years of practice; the one diabetic that takes charge and diets so strictly that there is no need for medication. I walked out of the appointment on cloud nine feeling like “YES!” All of those hours of reading, poking my fingers and testing so often had paid off in a big way. I lost 70 pounds in only nine and a half months. I dieted very strict, and I did a lot of walking and keeping myself occupied by decluttering my whole house.

However,  running close second is when someone new comes into the Facebook support group for type 2 diabetics I created and I tell them my story. I sometimes get to watch them take control of their lives just like I did and see how proud they become of themselves.

If you were to speak to someone right now who just received a diagnosis, what would you tell them?

I would tell them that this is not a death sentence even though right now it feels like it. You are in control of what happens now. Be proactive, educate yourself as much as possible, then begin your journey one step at a time.

If you could change one thing about the medical community and treating diabetes, what would it be?

I hope one day the medical community realizes that it’s better to give patients the full story upon diagnoses and also go ahead and book an appointment with a dietitian or Certified Diabetes Educator, so patients have all the facts they need to work with from the start. From there, it’s the patient’s choice whether they will latch on to the diet and control as much as possible on their own.

It’s been a pleasure talking with you. Anything else you would like to add?

My favorite quote is “Well-managed diabetes is the leading cause of…nothing!” If there is one thought that I want everyone to recognize it’s this; what I thought was a curse put on me with this diagnoses has turned out to be a true blessing in my life. If I can accomplish this at age 60 and be healthier than I was for the past 40 years of my life, anyone can accomplish it!