Dori’s Story

Facing Down—and Fighting Back—Diabetes


Often doctors’ warnings to lose weight go unheeded. For Dori Carlson, the serious consequences of repeatedly ignoring those warnings reached a climax in July 2010 when she was diagnosed with prediabetes.


The active community volunteer and English as a Second Language instructor recently moved to Carpinteria to enjoy her senior years, and the diagnosis of prediabetes left her feeling alone and uncertain about her future.


Marked by higher than normal blood glucose levels, prediabetes almost always precedes type 2 diabetes. An estimated 79 million Americans can be classified as prediabetic, and another 25 million already have diabetes, which is ranked as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Diabetes can damage the eyes and kidneys and cause nerve damage that sometimes makes limb amputation necessary.


Facing the reality that, if left unchecked, her health was on a downward spiral, Dori remembered, “I went into panic mode. I have many more years of life ahead of me.”


Although a teacher by profession, Dori became a student of the topic by searching on the internet and in books from the library. “I read, read, read as much as I could. I had to know about this stuff,” Dori recalled from her research.


Dori Carlson



What is Diabetes?

Learning about Diabetes


The 74-year-old began to recognize the urgency for changes to be made in her lifestyle, especially in an area where she had for so long resisted—food. In the past, an almost personal mantra of hers had been, “Don’t ask me to do it with food.”


During her research, Dori’s outgoing personality led to many interesting conversations on diabetes with family and friends, including one with Mike Betliskey, her neighbor and a Cottage Health System volunteer. Mike shared with her information about educational diabetes classes at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital (GVCH)—information that helped transform her life.


Offered for free and open to the public, the ‘Living Well with Diabetes’ educational classes at GVCH discuss the basics of diabetes self-care and spotlight one diabetes topic per month. Classes are taught by registered dietitians, Joanne Garcia and Jeannee Diaz, and are available in both English and Spanish.


“Oftentimes your primary healthcare provider does not have hours to sit and teach you, and that’s what we’re here for,” instructor Joanne Garcia explained. “What makes people successful and able to live with diabetes is self-care, and that’s what we’re there to teach.”


Dori started attending classes and discovered that she was not alone in her battle for health. The classes were welcoming for her and the instructors very personable. Her fellow students, all of whom happened to have diabetes already, were open in sharing their own stories and an encouragement for Dori.


The classes discuss how diet and exercise can play a key role in treating diabetes and can prevent the onset of diabetes in someone with prediabetes. During one class, Dori remembers every participant sharing what he or she ate for breakfast, “It became clear to me that it was food that was causing the problem.”


Dori really began to scrutinize her dietary choices. She stopped eating and drinking some of her favorite things, including orange juice and white bread. She started controlling her portion sizes and went back to basics by eating fewer processed foods.


Her pantry shelves even look a bit slimmer these days compared to times past. Dori knows her limitations in that she can still be tempted to eat poorly. Her plan of action and new mantra: “Don’t buy food that you can’t eat.” As instructor Jeannee Diaz reaffirms with her own favorite saying, “You can’t eat what you don’t buy!”


These changes are not easy to make. Joanne recognizes, “Lifestyle changes are difficult. People need support, and they get that support from the classes—in the educators and students.”


As teaching turned to learning and learning to lifestyle changes, Dori’s health spiral began to make a reversal as she lost a total of fifteen pounds. In a visit to her doctor in September 2010, she was elated to hear her doctor say, “Congratulations, Ms. Carlson. You’re no longer prediabetic.”


Dori knows that her journey for health has only just begun. Aware of the dangers of not listening to her doctor and not maintaining a healthy weight, Dori feels more certain of the components that lead to a healthy lifestyle and has committed to following them.


“She is a very special person; she did all of the work,” Joanne beams. “Dori went out and got the information and made the changes, and that’s what it takes.”



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