Type 2 Profile: Tony Flores

Tony Flores is a 50-year-old native of El Salvador who works as a construction foreman. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 12 years ago, after an eye doctor told him it would be a good idea to get his blood sugar checked. He recalls, “I did the test, and they got all freaked out and told me, ‘Oh my god, your A1C is at 12%. You have diabetes type 2. You’ve got to cut the sugar, you’ve got to stop drinking orange juice and soda.”

“They prescribed some pills for me at the time, Glucophage and some other pill, and they added Actos a couple of years ago. When they told me about the pills, they mentioned to me that I was going to go on insulin eventually-when, they didn’t know. It was up to me. So I knew it was going to happen.”

“Before the insulin, I felt so tired, I got this void in my chest and I could hardly breathe, and it freaked me out. And I thought, ‘This is something that has to do with diabetes.’ So I went to the doctor a couple of weeks ago and did another test, and they told me, ‘You know what, the pills are not working. They’re not doing the job anymore, and we are afraid that something might go bad, like your kidneys.’ I said, “So what’s the next step?” I knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time that my pancreas was going to completely go bad. And that’s when they told me, ‘You need to take the insulin.’ So I said, ‘Okay, let me have it.'”

“What are my options? I don’t have any, so I have to work with what I have, with what they are going to give me, and then I have to help myself. They started me with 10 units of insulin, and I got it pretty much under control at 18 units. I take a shot once a day at bed time. People figure that insulin is the end of the game. They don’t realize that you can live longer with insulin than with the pills. Now, I don’t get tired. I am walking about two miles, after only two weeks! And I have lost 11 pounds so far in the last two months.”

Tony is five feet, seven inches tall and weighs 241 pounds. He reports, “When I got diagnosed, I weighed 250 or so, so they told me that I had to lose weight and start being active. I kept at it. I cut down on my food intake, and I always had A1Cs of 7% or 6%. But no matter how good I was doing, it was never enough for the doctors.”

“That’s the only thing that gets to me, that no matter how good you are doing it, still, when you go and see the doctor, they want more. The goal that you’ve set for yourself, it’s always not good enough. It kind of frustrates me because I am working on it, I’m doing what I am supposed to do and trying to keep it going.”

“But if I have my A1C at 7%, they want me at 6%. What’s going to happen, you think, at 6%? They will say, ‘Go down to 5%!’ That’s something that they have to change. They have to tell people, ‘Hey, you are doing great, so keep it up.’ Don’t go telling them, ‘Okay, get it down more.’ Because people are going to think, ‘What’s the point, why bother?’ It got to me before, but now, I don’t worry about them-I worry about me. If I’m between 90 and 130, I’m not going to do anything else. If I keep it in that level, I’ll be okay. That’s my goal, that number. I’m not worried about them because I know that they’re going to tell me again, ‘Not good enough.'”

“These last couple of years, with the economic situation and family problems, it all piled up and I didn’t follow what I was supposed to for a year or so. That’s when things got kind of side-tracked. I still took the medicine, but I was doing other things that weren’t helping, like not exercising, eating a little bit more than normal. It built up to the point that my sugar came up high again, and that’s when they gave me the insulin. But I’ve been pretty much controlling my food intake for the last two months. I cut down to 1200 calories a day, and it’s working, and now that I’m exercising it’s even better. I’m going to have to keep it up because I have a grandson now to live for, and that’s the goal, to keep what I have.”

“You have to have a positive attitude. I’m not going to worry, because if I worry, it’s going to make me sicker, and what do I get out of it? Nothing. I can control this. I don’t worry. I’ve got my numbers, and that’s what I’m working on, nothing else.”

“Back home in El Salvador, once they tell you that you have diabetes, you know that you’re going to die. The medicine is too expensive. People cannot afford to buy it, even the tester. They don’t get to test their blood every day-they do it once a week. Here, we’ve got the chance to do something. Here, I don’t worry. There are things that I can work with. Since the day that they told me, I cut down on everything. I figure, ‘This is it.'”

“People have to be explained about diabetes. There’s got to be someone who will tell you what’s going to happen if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do. They can’t just tell you, ‘Okay, this is the medicine. Take it and you’ll be okay.’ No. You have to let them know that there is something else behind it, that they’re going to die if they don’t change. A lot of people that I know, they tell me, ‘Oh Tony, I don’t know how you manage. I’ve been trying hard, and I’m still at 300.” Meanwhile, they’re drinking soda. They are still just playing with the idea. Diabetes doesn’t make you feel anything. There’s no pain until they tell you, ‘Okay, that’s it, you are done, the game’s over.’ You don’t want that. You have to let people know in advance, ‘This is what’s going to happen, and when it is happening, it will be too late: We’re not going to be able to help you.”

“You know, when I was smoking, that lady with the hole in her throat, that did it for me. That’s what we need for diabetes.”

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