Stepping out to stop diabetes

Adjusting to a lifelong diagnosis of diabetes at age 22 was not easy for Ashley Blythe Chlebus, who had just graduated from college and later moved to New York, where she landed work as an extra on the TV shows “The Good Wife,” “Smash” and “Royal Pains.”

As a financially struggling actress, she could not afford her insulin and wasn’t dosing properly. So, when she came back to Jacksonville to visit family in August 2012, she was so sick that her mother took her to the emergency room at Baptist South.

Ashley, now 28, has Type 1 Diabetes, which is common in children and young adults. Today, she’s on a healthy track thanks to help from her doctors at Baptist Health. She’s on an insulin pump and taking care of herself. After moving back to the Mandarin area, she recently started working as an office specialist at Baptist Endocrinology at Baptist South and feels a connection to the patients and provides encouragement.

Ashley, in red dress, performing at ABET. “It’s important to just take it one day at a time. I try to wake up and say I will eat healthy today, I will exercise today and I will dose properly today,” Ashley said.  She also does community theatre in the area, including a role in the comedy “One Man, Two Guv’nors” at Atlantic Beach Experimental Theater (ABET). Her stage name is Blythe Scott.  “Being able to be a positive influence in someone else’s life, who is going through the same thing, feels really good.”

Her endocrinologist, Wasim Deeb, MD, of Baptist Endocrinology at Baptist South, said treatment options in the last 10 years have improved, so getting diagnosed early and starting treatment is key.

“There are so many tools, from glucose pills to insulin, that treatment is a lot easier and more effective than in the past,” Dr. Deeb said. “The sooner a person begins treatment, the better.”

Dr. Deeb said there are prevention steps that can be taken at least when it comes to Type 2 diabetes such as exercise and diet.

“Some studies show you only need 20 minutes of exercise a day to help decrease your chances. But if you do more exercise, it’s even better,” Dr. Deeb said. “You need to balance your diet and have one third carbs, one third fat and one third protein.”

Ashley said that when she came to see Dr. Deeb she was so sick that she would come to appointments in tears.

“I didn’t realize how horrible I felt until I didn’t feel horrible anymore,” Ashley said. “Dr. Deeb always has a positive attitude and he always addresses me as a person as opposed to a diabetic and that makes a big difference. He said I could take good care of myself and that has helped me to believe it too.”

Now she’s doing so well, she will be participating in this year’s American Diabetes Association’s Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes event in Jacksonville on Nov. 22 with a team from Baptist Endocrinology.

National statistics estimate that 29.1 million people or 9.3 percent of the U.S. population have diabetes, which is a disease in which blood glucose, or blood sugar levels are too high. Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form where a person’s body does not make or use insulin well causing glucose to stay in their blood. Some symptoms include extreme thirst and fatigue, frequent urination, blurry vision and numbness and tingling of the feet or hands.

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