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“About fifteen years ago, my cardiologist sent me to my primary care doctor because he was a little concerned about the glucose numbers in my blood work,” recalled Janet Lancaster, 80, of West Deptford.
That “little” concern led to a diagnosis of pre-diabetes, followed by an active and forward-looking response by Janet and her care team.
“He told me that I could start managing my numbers through diet and lifestyle, and that’s what I started doing just about immediately.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, lifestyle modifications can prevent or delay the transition from pre-diabetes to diabetes. However, even when recommended lifestyle changes are adopted, a person can develop diabetes over time.
Janet said it is her nature to plan ahead and understand circumstances that will impact her life.
“When I heard that diabetes was likely in my future, I decided that I needed to learn about it, so I’d be prepared,” said Janet.
She began by following her doctor’s advice and looking into Inspira’s Diabetes Support Group at Inspira Health Center Woodbury, led by registered nurse and diabetes educator Marita Schroy.
“I started attending the group even before I was diagnosed as diabetic. That’s where I met Marita,” said Janet. “People there were talking about A1C, and checking their eyes and feet, and exercising. My first thought was ‘what did I get myself into here’?”
Any hesitation Janet had about joining the group went away quickly.
“I realized I was learning at least one thing at every meeting,” Janet said. “It’s amazing how much information you need to manage something like diabetes in your life. Some of the people in the group had been managing their diabetes for decades. I learned so much. I like to say that I was ‘almost prepared’ for the changes in my life when I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and had to start taking oral medications to control it.”
Janet admits that the diagnosis was scary, but without the knowledge she’d gained and the support of Marita it could have been “terrifying.”
“Marita talked me through everything,” Janet said. “She told me, ‘You cannot pretend this isn’t happening – you have to manage it.’”
Last year, when Janet needed to transition from oral medications to injectable insulin to control her diabetes she was again supported and reassured by Marita and a team that included endocrinologist Jenine Vecchio, M.D., and registered dietitian Gayle Gasparon.
“Marita and my participation in the group made me feel safe,” Janet said. “Her dedication, concern and compassionate help were very comforting to me and my family, who were learning about these changes along with me.”
Marita’s expressions of concern for Janet weren’t limited to their appointments or the support group meetings.
“Marita called me regularly for weeks to see how I was doing. She even told me she was going to be traveling for a bit and wanted to make sure I knew who to call if I had questions. She didn’t have to do that. But she goes above and beyond all the time. And it’s not just for me. She cares about every single person in that group.”
Janet said that her husband, Jerry, a retired South Jersey school principal, also learned a great deal from the diabetes support group.
“My grandmother had diabetes,” Jerry said. “Since my family had been adversely affected by diabetes, I wanted to get educated too. Marita was outstanding. She gave such personal care to my wife. She felt as much like a member of the family as she did a medical professional.”
Since the start of the pandemic, the Inspira Diabetes Support Group has operated virtually. Each meeting addresses a different topic, often with guest experts brought in to speak with the members.
“Education is essential. These support groups are so good and so necessary. You learn what to do and what not to do. I knew who to turn to. I would recommend Inspira’s Diabetic Support Group to all people confronting diabetes in their lives.”