Lorraine Candido has had Type I diabetes for more than twenty years and has been my patient for ten. She is in her sixties, and she and her husband, Lou, her “copilot,” work together to keep her blood sugars normal. Like a lot of happily married couples, Lorraine and Lou sometimes almost speak as one. When Lorraine comes in for treatment, Lou is with her. When she calls on the phone, Lou is on the other line. They talk about how starting the program changed their lives:
Lorraine: “I had a lot of complications. Bladder infections, kidney infections—and then my eyes. My feet were numb up to my heels. As a matter of fact, one day I was walking barefoot and I wasn’t aware of it but I had a thumbtack in my foot all day long. I had neuropathy of the vagus nerve. I had an ulcer from medication. My mother had had eye problems, and so when I went to an ophthalmologist, he said, ‘You have some of your mother’s problems. We’ll keep an eye on you; come back in a year.’ And I thought, ‘Uh-oh.’ When I saw Dr. Bernstein, he said, ‘Oh, I’ll make an appointment for you.’ Right away I had laser surgery.”
Lou: “I firmly believe that if she hadn’t gone to Dr. Bernstein, she would’ve been blind. Her last two visits to the eye doctor she got excellent reports. As a matter of fact, he said he had no idea where the fluid in one eye had gone, but it was all gone.”
Lorraine: “I was elated. He said my left eye had made great progress and I was doing well.
“When I first met Dr. Bernstein, I had no idea what I was getting into. All I knew was that I wasn’t feeling well and I was going nowhere. I was kind of scared, didn’t know what I was getting into, and didn’t know if I wanted to. It was plain and simple. I liked Snickers candy bars. He said, ‘No.’ I couldn’t have anything I liked and wanted, and we kind of butted heads—but then I realized, ‘Hey, come on, is there really a candy bar worth dying for?’
“He’s a very gentle gentleman. I think he’s extremely caring; you’re not treated like cattle, you’re treated as a person, and he answers all your questions. Between the two of us, at the beginning we had a lot of questions. Really, I don’t know if I could live without him.
“We found him—it’s kind of embarrassing, but our son used to have a newsstand, and Lou would go help him out on Sundays, and Lou would bring me home the papers to read. Well, in one of those horrible tabloids—you know, when they run out of weird stuff, they run unusual medical stories reprinted from somewhere else—the headline on this was ‘Diabetic Heals Himself,’ and you know, we didn’t think that much about it. But I wasn’t feeling well, and so we made some inquiries. Now of course we’re in a different state and nobody I knew had ever heard of him, but we called his office. I didn’t talk to a nurse or someone, he got on the phone himself and he offered us references. Well, that settled it right there. I mean, how many doctors do you know of who’d offer you references? So Lou said, ‘Pack up honey, we’re going.'”
Lou: “She had a doctor up here in Springfield, Massachusetts, she was seeing and I was getting pretty concerned about it. Her feet were getting numb, she had kidney problems. I don’t have diabetes, but I happened to have the same doctor as my internist, and I said to him, ‘Isn’t there something you can do for my wife?’ He had a son who worked at the Joslin Clinic, which we had heard was very good. ‘Can we take her to the Joslin Clinic?’ But he said, ‘What can he do for her up there that we can’t do for her here?’ We got sort of scared. They were running her the standard way they treat diabetics—standard but safe. Safe for them, but not much help for Lorraine.
“At Dr. Bernstein’s, to start, it was a 10-hour training period—two 5-hour sessions that she had to take at the start.”
Lorraine: “It was my husband, me, and the doctor. No waiting room for hours. Now, to be honest, when we walked out of there—it’s a 2-hour drive between our house and there—I didn’t want to do it. But on the drive back home after the first session, we talked. We talked constantly, and I knew I didn’t want to do it, but I also knew I was going to do it. Common sense just dictated it. I wanted to live, and I wanted both feet and both eyes. It was plain and simple. The feeling in my feet has come back almost 100 percent, by the way.”
Lou: “We found out about the diet on the first visit, and it took about a month to get her blood sugars into the target range. She had been running 300, 400 mg/dl blood sugars pretty regularly.”
Lorraine: “I was kind of reluctant to start with. It was clear that Dr. Bernstein’s program wasn’t a ride in an amusement park. In some respects, it was a whole new way of living, and we had to change all our grocery lists—but I had a supportive friend here in Lou. When I started on the diet, we pretty much ate the same food. He didn’t have to, but he did. He would have a few extras here and there and I wouldn’t, but it was years before I could go into the supermarket, because it felt like I couldn’t have anything there. It was very hard to get used to. I resented being told what to do and how to do it.”
Lou: “It’s very difficult. You have to understand something. When she started the program she was close to sixty years old, and we were accustomed to living in a particular way.”
Lorraine: “We have grandkids—we’ve been married forty-five years—we have six kids and seven grandkids, and they come over for chocolate chip cookies and ice cream.
Lou: “The program works—”
Lorraine: “Because I’m still here.”
Lou: “—but it’s difficult to do, because you really have to be dedicated.”
Lorraine: “Let’s put it this way. There are no hot fudge sundaes here. Ever. Not for Thanksgiving, not for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries—there are no deviations from the program. The first week, because of the change in diet, I lost 15 pounds. You looked at what you were eating, measured it—”
Lou: “It was a combination of things. The amount of insulin changed a lot. She was taking sometimes 80 to 90 units of insulin on a daily basis, and now she’s taking 131/2 units. Insulin is the fat-building hormone, so reducing your dosage changes things substantially. And you’re changing the amount of carbohydrate you’re taking in, and so she lost all this weight.”
Lorraine: “Altogether, I lost 85 pounds. I wear junior size clothes. Call me stubborn, but I still resent being told what to eat.”
Lou: “Let me put it this way. You live a quality of life and give up what you have to—”
Lorraine: “Like fudge.”
Lou: “Or potatoes. The point is, you have to decide somewhere along the line. Are you going to live and enjoy the rest of your life without problems, or are you going to fight the reality of the situation and go down the tubes? It’s a choice.”
Lorraine: “It’s an attitude. I don’t like his program, but it works. I’m still here. I miss the goodies I give my grandkids, all the cookies, candy bars, ice cream. And the holidays. Everything’s kind of restricted.”
Lou: “The irony of this is, my wife, since she lost all the weight, she dresses in very sporty clothes. Now, I’m a race walker. She doesn’t exercise, but because of heredity or whatever, she has beautiful, strong legs, and so she wears these spandex tights and such, and people ask her, ‘How much do you run?'”
Lorraine: “He’s a champion race walker, very self-disciplined. Not me. I had a conversation with God, and He said, ‘Don’t sweat.’ I’m Lou’s cheerleader. I stay home and read books.”
Lou: “She walks with me sometimes. But I laugh my ass off.”
Lorraine: “It’s fun to go shopping and buy junior sizes with my granddaughters—but I don’t let them borrow my clothes. Before I started the program, I never thought about how I looked, how I felt—all I know is, the clothes I was buying were one size fits all.”
Lou: “Now look at her.”
By the way, Lorraine’s cholesterol/HDL ratio has dropped from a high cardiac risk 5.9 to a very low risk 3.3.