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All wise caregivers know, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.” But for many caregivers that advice is hard to follow. I was recently privileged to interview Sharon Semler, a PTFW member and faithful Walking to Wellness participant, who embodies the wisdom of self-care and models it for others.
When Sharon and her husband, who has Parkinson’s Disease, learned that their A1c levels were going up, she was told by a nurse, “You need to get a handle on this for yourself…and your husband!” Sharon, who is one of those smart, focused, goal-oriented people who when facing a challenge always rises to the occasion, did just that. Without fanfare, she immediately enrolled in a year-long Pre-Diabetes Class offered and covered through Medicare at her local hospital. It was quite a commitment, but one Sharon willingly made knowing that if she didn’t care for herself, she wouldn’t be able to care for her husband.
At the first class, along with seven others, Sharon signed a commitment paper promising to attend weekly sessions for the first six months, bi-weekly classes for the next three months, and meet monthly with the group for the last three months of the year. As Sharon said, “Signing the pledge wasn’t an issue for me because I knew I wanted to succeed!” The class, facilitated by Aspen Flook, who is warm, encouraging, and supportive, bonded over their common desire to lower their A1c, shared delicious yet healthy recipes, spoke of their struggles, and cheered each other’s weight loss successes. Sharon said, “It was good to know that others really understood what I was going through. I wasn’t alone. We became friends. It was actually fun!”
According to Sharon, the class members were never told that certain foods were forbidden or “off the table” (pun intended!) “We were respected, treated as adults who wanted to learn.” The curriculum focused on setting an achievable weight loss goal, learning about portion control and what foods elevated blood sugar levels, the importance of exercise, and the need for support and encouragement when changing eating habits. Sharon received a FitBit, which she now loves! She easily tracks her daily calorie intake and the macro and micronutrients she consumes, the number of steps she takes in a day, and her sleep. “It’s very helpful, a real game changer,” Sharon said. Sharon, who started the year at 173 pounds with an A1c of 6.6 ended the year at 134 pounds with an A1c of 5.3. Now that’s a positive example we should all emulate!
Sharon understands that diabetes can cause high blood pressure, kidney disease, and vision loss and is committed to modeling healthy eating habits for her family. She’s grateful that her success is empowering her grandchildren, both whom weigh over 400 pounds, to pursue life-saving changes to their eating habits.
When asked what advice she would give others struggling with pre-diabetes, Sharon said, “Let go of shame, it’s not helpful.” She continued, “I constantly remind myself that I am worthy of everything and can do anything through Christ that strengthens me.”