Sometimes we need a little push to make a move that will end up changing our life for the better. Steve Simms had been juggling type 1 diabetes, a demanding job as an attorney and raising a young family with his wife Cherryl in Houston when a new diagnosis stopped him in his tracks.
“I had been dealing with a lot of stress, a lot of travel, eating at different times every day, and work trumped worrying about my diabetes and trying to control it. So when I began to develop retinopathy in 1985, I started thinking I should get a little more serious about taking care of this disease, and a big part of that was thinking about changing careers. Which I did.”
Steve and Cherryl packed up their family, a life they had worked hard to build for themselves in Texas and moved halfway across the country to northern California. He ventured out in a different business direction with a more traditional 8-5 job, and he was able to establish a routine that benefited his health and a more family-friendly lifestyle. He had more time to devote to learning how to take care of his diabetes, and he relished the education. As his stress level went down, his quality of life went up.
“Steve has often said that if he had stayed in his original profession, he probably wouldn’t be here today,” Cherryl says. “After we moved to California, he started taking classes about nutrition and he got very involved with the JDRF. He was also asked to sit on a board at a local hospital so they’d have a diabetic involved in meetings discussing how to educate diabetics on diabetes. So it’s been very positive. He’s been involved in the diabetes community a lot more than he ever would have been had he stayed in Houston with his same career.”
Steve’s pursuit of diabetes education led him to a TCOYD conference in Sacramento in 2014. “I was amazed. Listening to Dr. Edelman describe his life experience living with diabetes – he’s so unlike most doctors who say you have to do things a certain way. He says to live your life and accommodate the disease. Don’t let the disease control you, you control the disease. And when he said his last A1c was 7.4 I thought, holy crap that was mine too! I didn’t think that was very good, and he’s a doctor!”
Steve and Cheryl learned a lot about CGMs at that conference, and hearing a couple of the speakers talk about the Dexcom led Steve to try the device himself. At the time he had been struggling with hypoglycemic unawareness, so he and Cheryl were searching for a device with alarms to alert them of lows.
“Before the CGM there were a few times I had to call 911 because of an extreme low,” Cheryl says, “And the paramedics would come and get him out of it. A lot of times I was able to get him out of a low on my own, but ever since he’s had the CGM he’s not had that issue. When he notices he’s going low he can react to it right away by ingesting something that takes care of the problem.”
They’ve always been big believers in education, and Steve encourages others to do what they can to learn as much as they can about taking care of their health.
“The best advice I received after we moved to Sacramento was to go to the Mercy Medical Diabetes Education Program. It was a 3-day program, and I probably learned more in those 3 days than I had learned in the 25 years before. Getting educated about diabetes was the greatest benefit for me, and how I deal with the disease still today.”
Steve and Cherryl have two milestone anniversaries very close together, although as Steve says, “One we celebrate, and the other I try to forget as much as I can. We will be celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary in June, and I have also been a diabetic for 60 years. Cheryl has been a participant in that journey for 45 years.”
We think both occasions are worth celebrating. Because sometimes when it seems like life has thrown you a huge lemon, it turns out to be something that shapes your life in ways you never could have imagined.
“Diabetes led me down a different life path, and it worked out terrifically. We’ve enjoyed living in California, we’ve raised two great kids, my diabetes is in really good control, and I’m still kicking.”
Steve and Cherry’s commitment to diabetes education will have a lasting impact at TCOYD and in the diabetes community as a whole. If you would like to help provide access to educational programs in communities where healthcare resources are lacking, please visit tcoyd.org/donate.