November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and resident Jeanette “Jean” Koen shares her story about how she is managing her diabetes.

At age 88, Rolla resident Jeanette “Jean” Koen had not given much thought to diabetes – a condition that results in too much sugar in a person’s blood.

While her grandmother, mother and two sisters were all diagnosed with the disease, Koen did not have diabetes on her mind when she visited her care team earlier this year.

“I was given blood work to check my cholesterol, but when the results came back, my blood sugar was high,” Koen recalled.

The high blood sugar levels concerned her primary care provider, Aaron Cohlmia, a Phelps Health nurse practitioner who specializes in internal medicine.

In June 2020, Koen was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which occurs when a person’s pancreas makes insulin, but the body has a hard time processing it.

Koen is one of more than 30 million people in the United States who have diabetes. Nearly 700,000 of those individuals with diabetes live in Missouri.

“Diabetes is a common condition, and while there is no cure at this time, if people with diabetes continue to follow a healthy regimen, they can manage the symptoms and lead a normal lifestyle,” said Pati Cox, a certified diabetes care and education specialist with Phelps Health.

After her diagnosis, Koen wanted to try managing her diabetes by changing her diet.

Cohlmia referred Koen to the Phelps Health Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) program, where she met Cox. Koen attended several diabetes education sessions, where she learned about diabetes and what she could do about her condition.

“I learned about managing my diet, counting proteins and carbohydrates,” Koen said. “Pati [Cox] was so helpful, and she made the material easy to understand.”

Before her diagnosis, Koen said she had been active, but walking any distance became a struggle. She is now back to exercising and walks about two miles a day.

“I’ve been really thankful for all of the help I’ve received,” Koen said, “and I’d definitely recommend the Phelps Health diabetes education program to those with diabetes.”

Services offered through the Phelps Health DSMES program require a referral from a primary care provider. Talk to your doctor today if you are concerned about diabetes.

For more information about diabetes, including risk factors and symptoms, visit phelpshealth.org or call (573) 458-7314.