Living well with diabetes
SUMMIT COUNTY – Since doctors told Herb Sumerfield, now 65, he had Type I diabetes at age 27, his quality of life has actually increased.
“I have lived better from the standpoint that before, I was a little overweight, and I learned I didn’t need all the weight,” said Sumerfield, a resident of Frisco. “I eat whatever I want, even sugar in moderation, and I exercise. I don’t let my diabetes dictate my lifestyle. I adapt my lifestyle to what I need to do to function.”
Sumerfield discovered he had diabetes 38 years ago, when managing diabetes included using nondisposable, glass syringes with needles that dulled, but he always kept a positive outlook.
“My state of mind is that it’s something I live with,” he said. “There are other diseases you can’t live with – that knock you off in a heartbeat. My doctor always said that if I couldn’t care for myself, I would be an invalid. His point was, the first time I inject the insulin myself, I take control of myself. I’m free.” Sumerfield injects insulin morning and night and checks his blood sugar with a finger prick five to seven times throughout the day. Taking insulin and monitoring his blood sugar allow him to remain active – hiking, biking, skiing and working at Verlo Mattress Factory Store.
He first suspected he had diabetes when he began waking up at night to urinate and experienced vision problems and an increase in thirst. His father developed diabetes in his 40s, so Sumerfield visited his doctor, who confirmed the diagnosis. Since then, he has experienced a few physical problems including diabetic retinopathy, a weakening or swelling of tiny blood vessels in the eye that can cause blindness if left untreated.
“Some things are catching up with me because of my age, but there’s nothing restricting me,” he said. Sumerfield sat on the board of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation for six years and supports the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a charity where 80 percent of the funds raised are used for research. He believes younger children with diabetes have more to look forward to because recent studies in Canada have shown it may be possible to reverse the disease, he said.
“The days of not telling anyone you have diabetes are long gone,” he said. “It’s important to tell people so they have a clue about what’s going on with you related to diabetes. If people don’t know why you’re behaving like you are (during a low blood sugar incidence) – you babble, you can eventually go to the degree where you lose ability to make choices for yourself – they won’t know you need to find something with high energy to ingest.”
Sumerfield also believes it’s important to raise awareness about diabetes so people know the symptoms and ask their doctors to check for the disease.
“We see a lot of diabetic people here,” said optometrist Dale Lervick, who practices in Dillon and has caught diabetes in patients during routine eye exams.
“Almost 167,000 persons are diagnosed with diabetes (annually) in Colorado, and another 86,000 are likely to have the disease but do not know it. The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in Colorado adults from 1997 to 2000 was 4.3 percent, and the Hispanic population is at greater risk for diabetes,” he said, referring to statistics from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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