Aranza was just 18 when she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in January 2019. With a an A1C at 14.2%, she was immediately admitted to the ICU unit of Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. “My mother and I had to rush there, and they were waiting for me,” Aranza recalls.
With dangerously high blood sugar levels, Aranza and her mother were scared. “We didn’t know anything about diabetes,” she says. “All I knew was that people could die from it.” She began learning about the disease and how to control it with diet, exercise, and insulin. “My mom and I were like, ‘OK, we have to do it. I want to be OK.’”
Aranza’s father, uncles and grandfather in Mexico all have type 2 diabetes. “I know it’s hard for them. And thought it would be hard for me, too.” But Aranza and her mom took on the challenge of type 2 diabetes together. They learned which foods can help lower blood sugars and how to shop for healthier foods by reading the labels. Together, they enjoyed healthier meals.
When Aranza left the hospital, she needed to take injectable insulin four times a day to control her blood sugar levels. “In the beginning, my mom would inject the insulin because I was scared to do it by myself. She helped me a lot.” At school, Aranza needed to give herself insulin at scheduled times, even if she was in class. And it was hard to watch her friends enjoy a bag of potato chips or other snacks when she couldn’t.
But with the support of her mom and her friends, Aranza made steady progress. At her two-month check-up after being in the hospital, her doctor reduced her insulin from four injections a day to a single nighttime dose. Seven months later, her A1C was 5.5% — well within normal ranges—and her doctor took Aranza off insulin completely. “When that happened, my mom and I were so happy about it because we worked so hard to get it to that point.”
Aranza learned to control her diabetes through diet and exercise. Most important, she’s learned that The Beast doesn’t control her life. Once, she says, “I felt, ‘Oh, I can’t do this, I can’t do that because I have diabetes.’” Now she advises other teenagers with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes to take the steps they need to beat The Beast: “Don’t feel like you’re sick. Just do what you have to do to get better.” As of July 2020, Aranza’s A1C is 5.9%.
Aranza participated in Community Health Innovation’s Pediatric Wellness Program which is funded by the Montage Health Foundation. To learn more about this program and others, check out our Programs and Resources page.