By Brenda Neugent
Stan Bush wasn’t really surprised to find out he had type 2 diabetes. An unhealthy diet that regularly featured containers of ice cream before bed had left him primed for the disease. But how he handled the news was a surprise, at least to his doctor.
Fittingly, the Georgia resident was about to embark on a personal empowerment program he called the “F words” (much to the chagrin of his wife), which focused on faith, fitness, finance and family. The fitness portion was to start in early December of 2010, when a blood test revealed his diabetes diagnosis.
Already set for a transformation, Bush didn’t waste time feeling sorry for himself, but instead decided there was no time like the present to transform his body through diet and exercise. He found himself even more motivated after a trip to the pharmacy, when he realized that his new pharmacological regimen would cost him more than $100 a month. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t,'” he says. “I’m not going to do this if I don’t have to.” After reading about the side effects of the medications-heart disease, liver damage and kidney failure, among others-he was even more determined to do the work himself.
Bush took the medication for the first week, vigilantly tracking his blood sugar levels. During the second week, he exercised, watched his sugar intake, and skipped the medication, charting his test results on a spreadsheet that he sent to his stunned doctor after four weeks. “My numbers were about the same,” he says. “Everything was within five points; it wasn’t that drastic. My doctor said, ‘Everything looks good.'”
Bush immersed himself in a hardcore regimen that included a 4 a.m. trip to one gym, followed by a workout at another gym and a mall walk with friends. The program eventually led to his running multiple races, including a half-marathon last month. He also charted his sugar intake. Anything that included six or more grams of sugar per serving made him question whether he wanted the food-or his feet.
While Bush realizes that his program might sound harsh to some people, he didn’t want to take a complacent stance when it came to his own healthcare and didn’t want to rely on pills. “It’s two things,” he says, “diet and exercise. Nothing else is going to fix it. It’s just going to cover it up.”
As with any journey, Bush has had some ups and downs along the way, including gaining a few pounds after losing almost 80, as well as a bout of uncertainty after the death of major league baseball player Ron Santo from the type I version of the disease. “He was a professional baseball player,” Bush says. “I thought, ‘How could I beat this if he couldn’t?’ It was that whole self-doubt that sits on all of our shoulders.” But then he realized that Santo, who had lost both legs below the knee to amputation, might not have been as vigilant about his disease as Bush himself planned to be. “I opted to believe that I could do something different,” he says.
And he has, although the past two years haven’t been easy. “Doing exercise is hard,” Bush says. “Getting up at 4 in the morning, it’s hard. But I don’t really have much of a choice.” With his efforts, he has brought his A1C down from 9% to 5.3%, while his blood sugar levels tend to remain steady at 80 to 110 throughout the day, thanks to a diet that focuses on fresh veggies he packs every Sunday for snacks throughout the week.
Bush has been so successful that his doctor removed his diabetes diagnosis from his list of preexisting conditions. Despite the success of his own regimen, Bush realizes that dealing with diabetes is a personal journey for everyone who makes it. “Everybody’s going to tell you the way to do it,” he says. “But the only way you can do it is your way.”