A1C Champion’s Wake-Up Call Leads to New Perspective
In speaking with people living with diabetes, I have learned that many have their “light bulb” moment at very different times in their lives. For some, it may be upon diagnosis; but, for others, it may be years before something clicks and triggers a greater effort to manage blood sugars. For A1C Champion Kirk Kenyon, that “light bulb” moment changed his life.
Kirk said he was laying in a hospital bed when it finally clicked for him. He had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes five years prior, in the mid 1980s, but said that he had not paid much attention to the diagnosis and had hardly changed his lifestyle. But things were about to change – for the better.
“I wanted to see my son grow up, so I knew I had to take care of myself,” Kirk said. “I thought when I got out of the hospital, I had to make changes to my life. That was the period of time where I decided to stop running from diabetes and to start running with it. It’s been a long road and it’s one that I am still on today.”
This road has led Kirk to actually make those changes he committed to in the hospital and he’s now an A1C Champion. Kirk’s story of how he went from hardly caring at all about his diagnosis to now being quite faithful to his health needs is one that he tells during his presentations and is a message that I suspect plenty of people could learn from.
Kirk has a strong family history of diabetes, with his grandmother, mother, aunts and other family members all having type 2 diabetes. He said he remembers as a child seeing syringes in a glass dish at his grandmother’s house and being a bit intimidated by the diabetes supplies, which were much different 50+ years ago. He said his mother served as his guide for how to make healthy choices while living with diabetes, as she led a full life up to the age of 92.
“I kind of think of her as my inspiration when I decided I needed to manage my disease,” Kirk said. “She made some noticeable lifestyle changes when she was diagnosed. She had a healthy diet, kept her weight at a healthy level, and was always walking. Even in the winter months, she would get up early to go to the mall before the stores were open. She took her diabetes in stride and didn’t let it become the center of her life.”
After a visit to his eye doctor, who informed Kirk that glucose could be seen running through the veins in his eyes, Kirk’s primary care physician determined that he did, in fact, have diabetes. Kirk said he initially chose to use oral medication alone to treat his condition as opposed to making changes to his diet or physical activity levels.
After his stint in the hospital, Kirk said he sought out more education to help him make better informed choices.
“I got into healthier eating,” Kirk said. “I also took diabetes management classes and got some counseling from a CDE. I also got hooked up with an endocrinologist in the hospital that I still see today. I was able to meet with a dietitian, both one-on-one and in a group setting. I tried to learn as much as I could about it to turn my life around, as far as my health is concerned.”
Kirk says he has moved from oral medication to insulin as a part of his diabetes treatment plan. He is also using an insulin pump to help regulate his blood sugars. Now that he is retired, Kirk said he has more time for exercise and tries to make it a point to get in regular exercise with his wife, Kathy.
In 2008, on another mission to learn more about diabetes, Kirk said he attended an American Diabetes Association EXPO in Boston and saw an A1C Champion presentation by Curtis Story that was so impressive that he asked Curtis how he could learn more about the program. Kirk said his CDE also encouraged his participation in the A1C Champions program.
Now that Kirk has been a part of the program for nearly four years, he says, “For me, it’s been a two-way street. I’ve gotten as much from the participants with whom I’ve been able to share as they’ve gotten from me.”
In his A1C Champion presentation, Kirk said he tries to convey a message that managing blood sugars is possible and that goals are achievable.
“One of the things I’ve learned to do is strike a balance of healthy eating, taking medicine, and getting into an exercise routine,” Kirk said. “I also talk about goal setting and how that has helped for me. If you take a little time now to set a goal and move toward it, these things become habits. It’s not an effort to do anymore, it’s a habit.”
“At the beginning of my presentation I say that the good news is that you can do it and you can take control of your blood sugars. It’s not easy but it can be done.”
One of the best examples of the message that Kirk is trying to convey when he makes a presentation also appears on a handout provided to guests in attendance. The Henry Ford quote reads, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” To me, that speaks beautifully to what Kirk has gone through in his journey and what he’s now trying to help others learn from.
My sincerest thanks to Kirk for taking the time to share his story, with us as well as with A1C Champion program attendees. I wish him the best of luck in delivering his important message to those living with diabetes!
All the best,
Disclosure: Kirk Kenyon is a trained volunteer through the Sanofi US A1C Champions Diabetes Education Programs. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
Note: A1C Champions is a registered trademark of Sanofi US.