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Diabetes can be reversed

Today I have a special guest blogger here, Elaine O’Keefe who not only had diabetes, but has been able to reverse it.

Since 1988, she has worked as a change agent helping people live authentic, healthy and purposeful lives. Her practice is based in the belief that all of us have the power to open ourselves to new opportunities.

Here is her story.

Elaine’s Story

Having diabetes is hard. I know because I’ve been there.

Yes, there.

Past tense.

Let me tell you my story.

After suffering with extremely painful chronic pancreatitis for several years, I developed enzyme insufficiency and the combination was terrible.

I ended up malnourished, having to take opioids 24/7 for pain management and staying in a hospital more than 70 nights in 36 months. I had more than a dozen surgical procedures and what felt like a gazillion tests. On top of all that, I was tube fed and unable to eat by mouth for months.

I lost my dream job as a director at a YMCA and basically lived on the couch.

Eventually, I was told it would take extreme measures to save my life or I could continue the rapid decline and consider hospice.

I was not ready for death.

So, I elected to have my pancreas removed through a procedure at the University of Minnesota called TP/IAT on December 28, 2016,. I was the 677th person to have that procedure at the U of M where it was pioneered in 1977. After they removed my pancreas it was whisked to a specialty lab where technicians removed cells called the Islets of Langerhans – they produce insulin – and infused into a special liquid that would then be injected into my portal vein with the hope that they would build a new home in my liver.

Yes, this is a rare procedure that most people have never heard of and it works about 1/3 of the time. The version of diabetes it leaves you with, until/if the islets wake up is called Type 3C or pathogenic diabetes (meaning the pancreas is dead or missing).

So, on December 28, 2016, I became a full-fledged diabetic. Essentially swapping chronic pancreatitis for diabetes.

Yes, I chose this.

Chronic Pancreatitis was that bad.

Fortunately for me, it was for just one year because my islets woke up and were strong enough to make insulin.I’ve been fortunate enough to have not had to inject insulin since January 6, 2018. But, because I too have insulin sensitivity issues just like a Type II patient, I also manage my condition with diet, mindset work and daily exercise.

So, I check my BG’s daily. Report to my endocrinologist monthly and live life as if I were a person living with Type II Diabetes. With one major difference. Unlike someone who can actually reverse their Diabetes Type II, my body does not have the ability to regenerate more Islets of Langerhans. My supply is limited. The risk of killing them off by the choices I make is very real. But, truly, it is not much different from those living with Type II in that what I – we – choose to put into our bodies really matters!

Today I live well for a 54-year-old without a pancreas, spleen, gallbladder, appendix, part of my stomach and intestine…plus all my female parts they took years earlier for different autoimmune disease.

A new twist on an old career

During my illness and my recovery, I was grateful for family and friends who continued to visit and help me practice gratitude. Being grateful for the little things while trying to get my body and mind working again.

Also, during that time, I was learning so much about the part mindset plays on your health. My caregivers noticed that and saw my potential to be a health coach for others.

They noticed that I am good at incorporating change into my system. That’s partly because I’ve worked as a change agent for most of my life.

 

With their suggestion and the support of my family who had also been suggesting this as a career path, I’ve since become a Nationally Certified Health and Wellness Coach. I absolutely delight in helping other people living with diabetes prevent their condition from getting worse and in many cases, getting off Metformin or Insulin as they work to bring their bodies back to homeostasis.

It was in teaching a class called Everyday Gratitude that Karin and I reconnected. Technically she is my cousin, but mostly she is my friend. She discovered this part of me when my colleague from the Mayo Clinic (where I trained) asked me to do a podcast on how I infused my practice with gratitude and teach a course called Everyday Gratitude. There are a few versions I teach but all of them are based on the knowledge that YOU are the expert of YOU.

Here is what I’ve learned over the course of my 30+ years in personal change management.

  1. You are SMART
  2. You know WHAT to do to stay healthy.
  3. You have all you need in order to make a transformation inside of you already.

My gift is in helping people figure out the HOW.

As in:

  • How do I stop the continual stopping and starting BS?
  • How do I stop the guilt?
  • How do I get a habit to “stick”?
  • How do I stay positive?
  • How do I make healthy choices more appealing?

I get it. It’s tough to know that no one else can do it for you.

Living in a society obsessed with fast food, sugary drinks, diet drinks, alcohol, and “relaxing”, of course it’s overwhelming! And, marketers have us believing that everyone but us is FINE doing those things. So, I guess there is one more how to add to the list…HOW do I resist all of this marketing?

How I do it…

First, I was blessed with an inquisitive mind that my family nurtured. As a child I had an imaginary husband, Marhrerah, and dreamed up great adventures for us. As a hospital patient this skill served me well as I used visualization to see myself living in a pain free body, eating food, celebrating holidays and enjoying family fun, traveling and working in a career I adored.

With much effort extended, and a lot of therapy, I was able to endure the 11.5-hour surgery to evict the offending pancreas and the other organs that needed to go to prevent complications. It was a slow road to recovery and even now, 3 years post-transplant, I get tired, I have moderate gut issues, and I still experience some pain but it’s minor compared to having chronic pancreatitis.

The main thing that helps me get through tough times is having a robust and well-rounded resiliency tool box. The foundation of my tool box is a daily meditation & gratitude practice. Add teaching the Everyday Gratitude Course and coaching people who earnestly want to change – to improve their lives – to be there for their loved ones, heck, to be there for THEMSELVES – that keeps me ALIVE and THRIVING.

Something I ask people living with diabetes…

Let me ask you, when did you stop loving yourself?

If we don’t love ourselves, how can we ever truly love another?

And, if I truly love myself, why would I feed myself poison?

If I love you, why would I feed it to you too?

Hmmm. That’s a lot to think about, right?

Let’s go back to gratitude…

One discovery I made after doing a ton of research was that in a study done by Dr. Robert Emmonds who found practicing gratitude can actually boost the immune system. There are many aspects of whole life wellness that are improved by practicing gratitude.

Feeling depressed? Write a letter of appreciation to someone who you don’t believe you’ve thanked adequately, and hand deliver it to them.

This experiment, which has been replicated multiple times, found that those completing the task were happier and had fewer symptoms of depression than the placebo group for up to a month! Here is a YouTube video of a replication of that study – I needed tissues for it so be forewarned!

So, whether you keep a gratitude journal, write letters of appreciation and hand deliver or mail them, record 5 things you are grateful for in your calendar…or any of the other creative ways you can practice gratitude, know that it has the power to change your life.

We all have decisions we need to make every single day.

Some are hard, like consciously deciding to remove your pancreas and accept that you may be a brittle diabetic for all, some or none of my life.

Some are easy, like making a decision to practice gratitude in your own unique way.

And some create a beautiful space where they converge, and mental and physical wellness collide creating a life that is more amazing than you ever imagined.

Yes, it’s a fact that tomorrow I could become a brittle diabetic. Today I choose to take care of my body, mind and spirit as best I can so I have a shot at another day living in control. Truly and fully loving myself, I joyfully accept the fact that I’m here, just like you, doing the best that I can with the information I have right now.

Elaine O’Keefe is a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach and National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach with over 30 years of experience as a change agent. When a health crisis hit her in 2014, it changed her life for good. Recently celebrating 3 years post-transplant, Elaine recognizes that mindset, and specifically gratitude, played a huge role in her miraculous recovery. Feeling called to share the gifts of gratitude, she developed a course called “Everyday Gratitude” which has caught like wildfire and she has shared the content internationally.

Elaine O’Keefe is a Licensed Social Worker and Health & Wellness Coach and is the Principle at O’Keefe Solutions Inc. She enjoys creating new programs and opportunities for her clients to stretch and grow.

If you would like to know more about Elaine, check out her website at:


Thank you for visiting my site. I would love to hear your thoughts on this post. Please leave questions or comments below and I will get back to you very soon!

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About the author

Karin Nauber, is a professional journalist who has worked in the newspaper business for the past 24 years. She is also a grandmother who, along with her spouse, is raising one of their granddaughters. Karin has nine grandchildren with whom she enjoys spending as much time as possible. Karin also was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 12 years ago and has faced many challenges with the disease. If you would like to contact her, please do so at: karin@diabeteshealthnuts.com.

30 thoughts on “Diabetes can be reversed

  1. Hi

    Thanks for sharing your experience with your recovery from diabetes and your operation. I didn’t know there are now procedures such as what you went through to reverse your diabetes.

    I have a lot of family and friends who have one. Is the procedure that you had is available for everyone or is it just a case by case basis?

    Another important part of your recovery is your mindset to overcome. There are some groups of people who would not count your way of reversing diabetes is a legit way of reversing it, but I do believe it has its own merits.

    I do believe that if we have the desire to live, positive outlook, and faith, we will be able to overcome trials such as this.

    Any other advice you can give to those who are suffering from diabetes?

    Regards,
    John Greg

    1. Thank you for visiting our site, John Greg.  I believe that mindset is everything in overcoming any disease. When doctors have no answers, often it is the spirit of the person that has been shown to be the winning force in recovery.

      I speak for myself when I say that food and the particular foods that we eat are key to overcoming diabetes along with many other inflammatory illnesses. The processing of the food we eat has been the downfall of many. If we start to eat “cleaner” we will also start to feel better and actually BE better!

      I will be adding recipes and menus soon, so be on the lookout for those.

      Thank you.

      Karin

  2. Hi John Greg, Thanks for reading my post!

    I’ll try to address your questions as I understand them. Please correct me if I’ve got it wrong.

    First, the TP/IAT is a rare and risky surgery to relieve the pain of pancreatitis. It causes immediate diabetes type 3C until/if the transplant takes and the islets wake up. The patient could be insulin sensitive (like me – similar to type II) or the islets may not take to the transplant and the patient becomes insulin-dependent like a type I.

    Second, is this an option for anyone with pancreatitis? Because this is a highly risky surgery the eligibility requirements are stringent and involve physical ability to tolerate the surgery, mental stability, social support, caregiver ability & availability, insurance coverage for the procedure and aftercare, and patient compliance among other things. In most facilities, prospective patients are screened very carefully. You may suggest they visit The National Pancreas Foundation for a list of the hospitals around the country that perform the TPIAT. The NPF also has contact information and a really cool animated pancreas patient to show the variety of procedures available to help solve the pain of pancreatitis. You can check the NPF out at https://pancreasfoundation.org/

    Here is a great article from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine on sending Diabetes Type II into remission: https://www.lifestylemedicine.org/ACLM/Lifestyle_Medicine/Research/ACLM/About/What_is_Lifestyle_Medicine_/LM_Research.aspx?hkey=dde46b29-faec-459b-b719-6432ad5172d0

    Mindset is critical to taking on a disease like Diabetes Type II and all the changes that are necessary to put it into remission or even to reduce the amount of impact that disease can have on a body. Anytime we need to shift habits mindset is a critical component. We can have a growth mindset or a closed mindset – the choice is ours!

    Hopefully, this reply answers your questions, if not, I’m happy to dive in further.

    To your good health,
    Elaine

  3. Wow! Now this is really informative and very great to see here. To be very honest, I haven’t been hearing about something like this and I have actually not seen anyone who has reversed his/her diabetes. It always seems like when people are diabetic, they are condemned to their fate until they die. However, seeing that it is really possible to reverse it with the right diligence and willingness to give it a trial is really great to see here. Thanks

    1. Thank you for visiting our site, Phillip. The miracles of medicine are truly amazing. But the power of gratitude may be even greater! I hope you were able to see the video we shared. Truly an experiment in the power of being grateful.

      I hope you will visit our site often as we will be adding a lot more!

      With 2020 Vision,
      Karin 🙂

    2. Hi Phillip,
      If you are really curious about how diet can impact diabetes, check out the book called “How Not To Die” by Dr. Michael Greger. There is an entire chapter dedicated to reversing diabetes.

      Unfortunately most physicians have very limited training in nutrition. This is starting to shift as more research is coming out.

      Another great resource is On Netflix the documentary Forks Over Knives.

      So glad this conversation is happening in this important space!

      To good health for all,
      Elaine

  4. I was taken aback with the title of this post and it gave me such a huge amount of hope. It truly was an incredible and inspirational story, an admirable woman indeed. I’m 24 and have been struggling with type 1 diabetes for the last 18 years of my life. Have been diagnosed with CKD, diabetic retinopathy (which has me partially blind) and so many other things including my immune system and heart function. At this point – and being a type 1 diabetic patient – I think it’ll be practically impossible to reverse all of the damage that has been done. I’ve had multiple eye surgeries to help my eyes out with the retina but sadly I completely lost my vision from my right eye. It’s been a challenging and really difficult journey. I’m currently using an insulin pump that my endocrinologist recommended and it has really helped me these past few – 6/8 – months. To anyone who is struggling with diabetes, please know that you’re not alone – I wish someone would’ve told me that when I was really struggling to keep myself alive. 

    1. Thank you for visiting our site, Stephanie. Elaine’s story is certainly one of hope.

      My heart goes out to you, Stephanie, but please, never give up hope! While you may not be able to reverse all of the damage caused by the diabetes, you can certainly prevent or slow the progression of some of the other effects of diabetes. Have you ever heard of iThrive? It deals primarily with Type 2 diabetes, but has relevant information for Type 1 as well. Here is a link to the free 9 part video series. 

      https://www.risewithjon.com/ithrive-series

      I hope that this can offer you some hope.

      Best wishes,

      Karin 🙂

    2. Hi Stephanie,
      Thank you for your comments. My goal in sharing the story is to inspire others to keep hope.

      I’m sorry to read of your struggles and the side effects of the disease. There is so much unknown about Type I, however, I do know that there is research going on at the University of Minnesota looking into islet transplantation for Type I children with chronic pancreatitis with much success. Which, they hope will lead to a potentially trying islet transplantation in Type I diabetics.

      Yes, we who suffer from diseases of the pancreas need to stick together! Thank you again for your comments. I appreciate them!

  5. That was a very sad story for Elaine. She had gone through a lot. But despite all that, she has turned her life around to live like a normal person. That in itself is admirable. I am happy for her. People don’t really get it until they become a statistic. You’ve pointed out something important and that is what we consume in our diet. Most people ignore that key important part or they lack the know of what they consume. You have your story too. And you’ve made the changes necessary. I’m pleased that you are posting this to help others as well. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for visiting our site, John.

      Yes, Elaine’s story is sad, but it is also one of hope and victory. She now is a health and wellness coach and does an amazing job. She doesn’t give people the answers, because, as she says, the person likely already knows the answer, she just points them in the direction so they can find it!

      With 2020 Vision,
      Karin 😎😎

    2. Hi John,

      Thanks for your feedback. I really have been blessed with this second chance at life and know that it’s so important for me to continue to share my story to give hope to others. I really needed to hear other people’s storys – the good and the bad – before I had the TP/IAT.

      Thanks, also, for speaking up about the need to watch what we put in our bodies. It makes so much difference! In fact it might just save your life.

      In solidarity to keep fighting the good fight,
      Elaine

  6. Wow and good to know; to be very honest, I haven’t heard about  this and I have never heard or seen anyone who has reversed his/her diabetes. It always seems like when people are diabetic, they are on medication until they die. However, seeing that it is really possible to reverse it with the right diligence and willingness to give it a trial is really great to see here. I worked with clients of different kinds of diabetics and what a bad healthy condition to have in a person body.

    Thank you for the information, I will share with the people I know.

    1. Thank you for visiting our site.

      Reversing type 2 and certain other types of diabetes is very possible! I am glad you found us and this article and were able to see that recovery is possible. It also takes making smart choices. Elaine went through a lot and a very difficult decision to have the procedure done. Fortunately, the procedure worked for her and she is living proof that diabetes can be reversed.

      With 2020 Vision,
      Karin 😎😎

    2. Thank you for your comments, Jumo. I appreciate your feedback.

      The TP/IAT is a rare procedure for helping alleviate the pain of Chronic Pancreatitis. While pancreas transplants have been an option for a long time, perfecting the transplantation of islets has now become a part of many programs throughout the US and some places abroad – I believe there are currently 34 centers worldwide right now. I was so fortunate to have it in my home state of Minnesota.

      I agree diabetes is a very hard condition to have but with mindset, eating a plant-based diet and reducing/eliminating oil we can do a lot towards mitigating the damage it can otherwise cause, even if it’s not totally reversed. The plant based no fat diet is definitely worth exploring!

      With peace and gratitude,
      Elaine

  7. Thanks for sharing your experience. With this, you have given many people informative insight, hope and inspiration.

    My niece was born with diabetes. Into her teens, it was hard seeing her injecting insulin herself every day. Even on holidays, she will bring along her medications that last the entire trip. Every child loves sweets, ice-creams and chocolates. Back in those days, it was really difficult to buy chocolate bars for diabetic unlike now. Nonetheless, her family especially her two elder sisters are very supportive of her and together they keep a very strict diet with low sugar. 

    1. Thank you for visiting our site, Sharon. It is difficult when we see children with the disease and having to struggle with it all of their lives. There is more and more research and maybe, with hope, one day there will be a cure. In the meantime, we do all we can to keep positive and inspire hope.

      With 2020 Vision,
      Karin 😎

    2. Hi Sharon,

      Watching children experience diseases like diabetes is so hard. It sounds like she learned early on that sugar is not her friend. It’s great she has good family support. I suspect she has Type I, which, unfortunately, does not currently have a cure.

      I’m so glad my story of recovery gives you hope.

      With peace and gratitude,
      Elaine

  8. Thanks for sharing the inspirational story. It is useful for me. I have diabetes and right use insulin daily. I am so excited to hear that diabetes can be reversed.

    I was just diagnosed few months ago. I followed my doctor’s suggestion to use insulin immediately after my diagnosis. I regret now and feel that I need to have full evaluations on my case. Elaine’s story is inspirational, since she is able to reverse it. After reading her story, I feel that I should also be able to reverse my diabetes. It may be too early for me to use insulin. I should try natural ways to improve my blood sugar first. At least I should try herbs and I am definitely going to give myself a try.

    1. Thank you for visiting our site, Anthony. I am sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis. Type 1 or type 2, if you don’t mind answering?

      Elaine’s story is incredible and an inspiration.

      Take care and check back soon.

      With 2020 Vision,
      Karin 😎

    2. Hi Anthony,
      Thank you for your kind comments. It means a lot!

      If you are serious about wanting to get off insulin I recommend you work with your physician. One great source to use is the book How Not To Die by Michael Gregor MD and share it with your doctor. It’s always good for your physician to see how serious and committed you are to your health. It truly is the most valuable thing we possess!

      With peace and gratitude,
      Elaine

  9. I truly enjoyed reading this article. I love to read about inspirational stories of people struggling with their illnesses or major difficulties in life and turning the odds against them! 

    I try to be happy most of the time, by enjoying and celebrating the little things in life (like, for example, being thankful for having a healthy, smart daughter rather than complaining she doesn’t obey me all the time). 

    I can only feel a deep respect for people that do the same after going through major ordeals. I mean to go through an 11-hour surgery, being submitted to more, knowing you had some of your internal organs removed… all the recovery and healing time… this can cause serious PTSD, which is something most people don’t remember. Still, to be positive and overcome all the challenges and barriers, it’s a major achievement, and it’s inspirational.

    I’ll definitely read more about “Everyday Gratitude”, and the art of meditation and practicing gratitude (I’ve read about it before).

    Cheers, Sofia

    1. Thank you for visiting our site, Sofia. I am so pleased that you enjoyed the guest post on the site and that it has sparked a renewed interest in gratitude!

      With 2020 Vision,
      Karin 😎

  10. Hi!

    Thank you for such an amazing post! I have to say that what caught my attention the most were your thoughts on gratitude. Daily, as soon as I wake up, I spend sometime writing somethings in my journal and many times it is mostly filled with gratitute, ever since I started I feel a lot better I am certain that it can be used as a path to a healthier life, both physically and mentally.

    Thank you very much for this post, and for sharing your thoughts about diabetes!

    1. Thanks again for visiting our site, Juan. I am glad you enjoyed this article, as well. Gratitude can make a world of difference in our lives! I love the fact that you write in your journal every day! That is so important!

      With 2020 Vision,
      Karin 😎

    2. So. Much. Love!

      Thank you for sharing what inspired you in the article. Living with deep gratitude makes my world so much better! I’m glad it resonated with you.

      To your good health and wellness,
      Elaine

  11. What a nice story.  I myself was diagnosed since age 16 so this really touches me.  Mindset…the mind is very powerful. I have never heard of a procedure like that.  On the contrary, I always heard that diabetic is not reversible so I am very thankful for your article.  Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for visiting our site. I am glad you liked the article. In my research, I have even found that while type 1 can’t be reversed, it can be kept in better control. Thanks for your comments.

      With 2020 Vision,
      Karin 😎

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