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Angie Beck has come a long way since she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at the age of 48. Now at 71, she power walks along the Humber River every morning and last year, climbed the CN Tower to raise funds for a local charity.
But more than 20 years ago, these physical feats didn't come as easily for Beck.
"When I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, my first family doctor handled it by telling me that I should lose weight," said Beck.
But the hard part was getting there. Beck realized that at moments of stress and anxiety, she would internalize her feelings by eating lots of different foods at night.
"I was a compulsive eater," said Beck. "I would eat at 10 p.m. at night, sometimes eating five pieces of bread with butter. I didn't understand that I was doing that for comfort."
A 'tough-love' approach
Beck's wake-up call came when she was referred to Dr. Gary Lewis at the Sun Life Financial Banting and Best Diabetes Clinic. From the start, Lewis had a tough-love approach.
"Dr. Lewis said that if I continued with the way that I was going, I would have constant problems with my organs. And I said, is that the worst case scenario? And he said, no, you'll lose a limb, or go blind… he basically scared me until I changed," remembered Beck.
But it was the brutal honesty and trust that made the difference.
"He was always frank with my results. I always ask for a good explanation of the medications I am taking and what it's going to do to me. He always takes the time to explain it to me," said Beck.
The thorough treatment and multidisciplinary approach at the Sun Life Financial Banting and Best Diabetes Clinic helped fuel Beck along. Lewis referred her to a foot clinic and she switched from taking oral meds to insulin, while receiving regular consultations with a dietitian.
"[The dietitian] asked to look at the list of foods I ate, when I'm exercising and when I needed to eat more protein. Every time I asked to see a dietitian, I got lots of answers," said Beck.
"Dr. Lewis saved my life"
"From my first day, [Dr. Lewis] kept telling me to quit smoking. He was always on me about it," said Beck. "Then one day, he said 'alright you haven't quit, so this is what I'm telling you… I can try to fix your lungs… I can give you all types of medication to help you. But there is one thing I can never fix and that is what you are doing to your lungs now."
Beck recalls going to her car, taking her cigarettes and lighter and immediately tossing them into the garbage can.
Beck, who has been off insulin for 19 months now, consistently eats healthy and stays active. She recently donated to
UHN's Honour Your Hero program in recognition of Lewis.
"Dr. Lewis saved my life," said Beck
When asked whether she will climb CN Tower again, she said "next year for sure. I like a good challenge."