Maria’s Story: Getting Diabetes Fit 

maria exercisingShe was a prisoner of pain. A complicated ankle fracture led to seven surgeries, including a total ankle replacement. Daily living became a painful struggle for 57-year old Maria Miguel. Maria began to spend more and more time at home alone. Chronic pain, inactivity and isolation led to depression and weight gain. To make matters worse, her doctor told her that she now had type 2 diabetes.  

Maria knew that she needed help to not only manage her severe pain but also her diabetes. That’s when she learned about the Diabetes Fit program offered at the YMCAs in Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo.

“I was on my way to see the doctor about my diabetes, when I came across a Forever Young magazine. There was a YMCA ad with the tagline: Take Control of Diabetes,"  Maria recalls. “I asked about it at my appointment and right after I went to the A.R. Kaufman YMCA in Kitchener and enrolled in the program.” Maria says answering that ad really changed her life for the better. 

Diabetes Fit was financially supported by the Waterloo Wellington LHIN and managed collaboratively by Langs Community Health Centre and the AR Kaufman YMCA with satellite programs at both Langs and the Cambridge YMCA.

Crystal Hughes, Wellness Program Supervisor at the YMCAs of Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo says: “Our first test program was delivered five years ago with positive results. We have continued to see many participants make changes that have impacted their health in a significant way.”

Diabetes Fit provides customized exercise and education support for individuals at risk of, or diagnosed with diabetes mellitus type 2 (DM2). Participants get the support needed to start and maintain an exercise program and learn the basics of healthy eating. The program also provides community-based support that extends the continuum of care from health care settings to the community.

“When I first came to the Kaufman Family YMCA for the Diabetes Fit Program I was not really sure how they could help me.”

Nancy Munn, Diabetes Fit Program Coordinator, recalls Maria’s early days with the program. “She would tell us she couldn’t do much because the pain in her ankle was so bad she couldn’t walk very well. She was unsure of what she could really do in the program so we helped her to modify exercises so she could get the benefit of doing activities without too much discomfort.”

This approach paid off quickly. Within two or three weeks of participating in the Diabetes Fit Program Maria was able to rely less on the cane that she used to help her walk and began coming to classes without it. That was a real turning point for her. As with all participants of the program, Maria would meet twice a week for 1-hour sessions for a total of 8 weeks. Each 1-hour session included a mix of healthy living education and exercise customized to each participant. Maria particularly enjoyed riding the recumbent bike and using free weights to get her strength back in her legs and arms.  When she graduated from the Diabetes Fit Program, she had lost weight, increased her fitness, reduced her diabetes medication and made new friends. She is now enrolled in the Live Smart program, another customized exercise and education program offered at the A.R. Kaufman Family YMCA, to maintain her healthy lifestyle. She enjoys coming to the YMCA to participate in other fitness classes like gentle strength and yoga.

“Living with pain takes so much away from you,” Maria says. “This program has opened up a new way of looking at things. It really has been a life-saver for me and I am so grateful for the program and the new friends I have found “

No one could be happier for Maria’s success than her son, Jason.  He’s become her motivational coach. “I can’t believe the change in my mom since joining Diabetes Fit,” he says.

Today, Maria has a new positive outlook on life.  She has learned how to manage her pain and diabetes. “I am more motivated than ever to stay healthy and not go back to that dark place I was in before. I am in my own happiness bubble and I like it there.”

For information on the Diabetes Fit program please visit the YMCA website.