A Diabetes Success Story: “You Become a Person You Didn’t Know You Had in You”


Janet O’Brien of Brooklyn is a living testimony to the benefits of controlling pre-diabetes.

“You become a person you didn’t know you had in you,” says Janet.

Working with Lakewood Hospital dietician Kimberly Karp, O’Brien lost 60 pounds over the past two years. She brought her blood sugar levels back to normal levels. She has averted a future of medications and a real threat to her health.

“People need to know pre-diabetes can be controlled with diet and exercise. Most people want a quick fix, a pill or surgery. But it can be controlled with diet and exercise,” says Janet.

Her journey is a wellness roadmap for others to follow.

“The biggest and most important thing for a person with pre-diabetes to know is that they sit in a very unique seat,” said dietician Karp.”They can delay or completely offset Type 2 Diabetes with lifestyle change. But many people miss this opportunity.”

Janet’s Story

Janet was diagnosed by her endocrinologist as pre-diabetic in 2011. She found herself confused and scared over her diagnosis.

Janet was referred to Lakewood Hospital Registered Dietician, Kimberly Karp, RD, LD, CDE, for medical nutrition therapy (MNT). Janet shared her strong family history of diabetes with Kimberly and realized her chances of becoming a diabetic were very high.

“It is not something you want to ignore,” said Janet, admitting that the knowledge of her mother and grandmother’s diabetes scared her.

“I went in one time and they wanted to put me on medicine. That was my ‘Come to Jesus’ moment. I knew I had to change my life,” said Janet.

The Journey

Like many pre-diabetic patients, modifying Janet’s diet and adding exercise made the difference. With Kimberly’s expert advice, Janet learned what things worked for her.

“Like anything else, in the beginning it wasn’t necessarily easy. You can always find an excuse not to do it. But my dietician Kimberly is just great. I could always email her and she would give me encouragement and advice,” said Janet.

“It is not easy. You’ve got to embrace a new lifestyle and give yourself the direction you deserve to achieve your milestones,” said Kimberly. “But people are surprised at how easily you can reduce your caloric intake every day without making that big of a change.”

The Magic of Exercise

“Spinning,” or exercise bicycling, was the magic bullet for Janet.

“I found spinning at Psycle in Westlake. It is so great,” said Janet.

“Exercise in this patient group is often instrumental,” said Kimberly. “It is one thing I encourage every person to do. At first, not everyone wants to adhere to an exercise program. But they find it is addictive in a good way. Once they get over that hump of discomfort, the results can be phenomenal.”

The aerobic influence helped Janet realize her wellness program was less about giving up things she habitually liked, and more about becoming a person she wanted to be.

“It completely changes you. You become a person you didn’t know you had in you,” said Janet. “I never knew you could look forward to exercising so much.”

The Outcome

Today, Janet O’Brien is 60 pounds lighter than she was in 2011. Just as important, Janet’s A1C, the (a statistical picture of diabetes control), went from a 5.6-5.8% (Pre-diabetes range is 5.7-6.4%) in 2011 to a 5.2% in 2013 – placing her outside the pre-diabetic classification and positioning Janet for a healthy future.

“To watch her transformation through her personal journey is touching to me,” said Kimberly. “She sat in front of me through multiple visits, doing what her doctor told her to do. And then something clicked. Maybe it was the fear of medication. But she has worked so hard. Each person travels through their own journey. We are here as providers of the support and knowledge they need in that journey.”

Know Your Numbers

Janet O’Brien’s story is one of a patient who controlled her destiny. “If you come across the fact that you are pre-diabetic, it is not something you have to have. You might not have to take medicine. There are a lot of things in life you have no control over. But you have to take the things you can control by the horns,” said Janet.

“I think anyone who knows they have this condition or precondition needs to realize it will not just disappear,” adds Kimberly.

“When I look at a picture of myself from 2012, it is amazing,” adds Janet. “And not just in the way my body looks, but in the way I present myself. I am happier.”

One in 4 people – 79 million Americans –  has pre-diabetes. It puts you at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There are no clear symptoms of pre-diabetes, so, you may have it and not even know. The first and most important step is to know your numbers.

At Lakewood Hospital, a recent Diabetes Day screening helped ensure that any community member at risk for pre-diabetes is equipped with the knowledge that they need to write their own version of Janet’s Story.

“This can be especially important with the pre-diabetic patient. They have that unique opportunity to not be pushed into Type 2 Diabetes,” concludes Kimberly. “Knowledge is power. And when they know what to do, they can accomplish anything.”

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