In 2002, Dan Shea was at the top of his game — he had a loving wife, three kids, and was a partner in a successful investment firm. His company owned more than 100 Hardee’s restaurants in the southern U.S. and three Donovan’s Steak and Chop Houses in San Diego and Phoenix.
It was at that time that Shea was told by his family physician that he had high blood sugar and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
His doctor told him that he needed to do something about his condition. Not fully understanding the potential health implications, Shea simply cut out desserts and thought that would fix the problem.
Each year after that, Shea would return to his doctor for a check-up and he would again tell him that he needed to get his blood sugar under control.
“But for some reason it did not register with me what the long-term consequences could be and unfortunately I continued to disregard his advice,” Shea says.
After more than 10 years of blissful ignorance, reality finally caught up with Shea. While on vacation in Cabo San Lucas in 2013, Shea fell and injured his hand. He had to visit a local clinic to have it checked. The doctor informed him that the problem was not with his hand, but was related to his uncontrolled diabetes and that he was in danger of slipping into a diabetic coma.
Shea received his first insulin shot that day and was put on an insulin drip for four hours. He also had to promise to follow up with his doctor in San Diego as soon as he returned home.
This was a big wake up call for Shea. He had three teenagers and he wanted to see them grow up. So he started with the simplest thing, which was to lose some weight. Shea started by eating half portions and eating healthier foods.
He also did what he refused to do 10 years earlier — he got educated. He began taking classes and seeing a dietitian at the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute. They showed him how what he ate had a direct effect on his diabetes.
“The professionals at the Scripps Whittier Institute for Diabetes told me that 50 percent of patients referred to them won’t even return their calls. They want to live in denial — just like I did for so many years,” Shea says. “Because I wasn’t having any symptoms, I thought I was fine and could just ignore my diabetes. Unfortunately my diabetes didn’t ignore me.”
For Shea, all those years of neglect resulted in irreversible neuropathy, a common and serious complication of diabetes.
“Had I listened to my doctor, controlled my blood sugar and adopted a healthy lifestyle early on, I wouldn’t have constant pain, tingling and numbness in my feet and legs,” he says.
Through diet and exercise, Shea has been able to lose almost 60 pounds. This has made a tremendous difference in his life. Not only does he feel better, but his diabetes is much more manageable and he has even been able to get off some of his medications.
“I am doing today what I could and should have done 10-plus years ago to manage my diabetes,” Shea says. “I eat a low-fat, low-carb diet, and exercise regularly. I also keep close tabs on my blood sugar and insulin levels through a continuous glucose monitor. Most importantly, I listen to my doctor and follow his advice to avoid any further diabetes-related complications and to live the best life that I can.
“Remember, it’s not up to the doctors to make you well all by themselves — it’s up to you to help yourself!”