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Ana Mota Ana Mota

From Diagnosis to Dedication

“Making healthy choices when you have a chronic condition is so important. Being diligent can add so many quality years to your life.” – Ana Mota

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Ana Mota, RN, BSN: Family Medicine Triage Nurse, Summer Creek Clinic

July 2024

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a teenager, Ana struggled for years to come to terms with having a disease she would have to manage for the rest of her life. But her journey taught her resilience, the value of balance, and the importance of self-care. Her positive experience with healthcare professionals inspired her to become part of the healthcare field so she could help young people understand and navigate their own medical conditions.

How did you find out you had Type 1 diabetes?

I was 16 years old, and in a matter of about two months, I had lost around 20 pounds. I was 4’11” and about 76 pounds. It all happened very quickly. When my mom took me to the doctor, they did a routine finger stick. The doctor told me my sugar was over 500 and I needed to go to the hospital immediately. They told me it was a good thing I came when I did because I could’ve gone to sleep and ended up in a diabetic coma.

At such a young age, how did you deal with that diagnosis?

It was very startling. It’s a change you have to come to terms with. You have this illness, and it’s going to be for the rest of your life. You have to make sure you take your medication so that you’re healthy. There was definitely a month or two where it was an adjustment. I wanted to be healthy, I wanted to take care of myself, but I wanted to be able to eat what my friends were eating. It was definitely hard, but I had the amazing support of my family.

Have you dealt with any misconceptions about Type 1 diabetes?

There’s a misconception with not only Type 1 diabetes but diabetes overall that you have to look a certain way, have a certain body type, or weigh a certain amount. Or that you have to look very unhealthy. That’s not the case at all. I think it causes a lot of our population to not have good management of their diabetes, whether that’s Type 1 or Type 2. They feel as if there’s no reason to make better diet choices or make healthy lifestyle changes because they already have that stigma that there’s no way they’ll ever be healthy anyway. Or, on the other hand, you don’t ‘look’ sick, so maybe you don’t really have to make any changes.

How did having Type 1 diabetes at a young age influence your health as an adult?

My journey with Type 1 diabetes has fundamentally shaped my approach to health. I've learned to be meticulous about reading nutrition labels, considering the carb contents of all foods and drinks. I have to be diligent about what I eat, but it’s made me focus on my health overall.

Other than paying special attention to your diet, how else do you stay healthy?

I learned very quickly that the more active you are, the more you’re able to manage your sugar balance. I was always a relatively thin person, but I was what some people call ‘skinny fat.’ I was thin, but I wasn’t fit. So, a couple of years ago, my husband and I started taking a 30-minute walk at least three days a week. I’ve also walked and ran in 5k events. At the beginning of 2023, I put my mind to it to run in either a full or half marathon and registered to run the Santa Hustle half marathon last December. I also do 20 to 25 minutes of weight training three or four days a week.

Did you notice any changes when you started to become more active?

I feel really, really good. I feel like I've just had this burst of energy. Although my goal wasn’t to lose weight, I did want to feel healthier. I wanted to be able to walk up a flight of stairs and not be short of breath. I’ve been working out pretty hard, and want to carry on with this for the rest of my life. I feel great!

As a busy working woman, how do you find time to focus on your health?

In the beginning, I thought, ‘How am I supposed to work all day, commute, get groceries and laundry and get everything done and still exercise and eat right?’ On Saturdays, I do my grocery shopping, and then on Sunday I try to do as much meal prep as I can for the week so I can just heat them up quickly for lunch and dinner. During the week, after my husband and I have dinner, I rest a bit, and then I like to work out in the evening. My husband helps me with the laundry and cleaning and other things while I do that. He really supports my health goals.

In your profession, how has your experience with Type 1 diabetes influenced your interaction with patients who are dealing with chronic conditions?

As someone with diabetes, when I give advice to my patients, I share my situation openly. Giving advice or guidance about a chronic condition is one thing, but it’s totally different having lived it. I tell my patients I’m not just another person speaking from a book. I let them know that it’s very important to take their medication, but managing their condition is also about changing their lifestyle and changing their diet habits. Combining those things can make a drastic change in how you feel now and for many years to come. I’m a living testament to that.

What is your motivation to stay on track?

I see so many young patients in their early- and mid-20s who are dealing with Type 1 diabetes, and they’re already in kidney failure and having other complications. My husband and I don’t have children yet, but I want to be at my healthiest when we do decide to have kids, and then I want to be there for them for many, many years to come.

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