Health counselors help people make a plan, then help them figure out what things might get in the way. They talked about ways Glenda could eat a healthier diet on her budget. Go light on potatoes, Jill said. "They metabolize into sugar". Try brown rice instead of instant white. "It takes a little longer to cook, but it's better for you, and you can eat more without problems." Then they walked down the hall to weigh her.
In following month, Glenda kept checking in with Jill. She was writing down what she ate and drank. They talked about things that get in the way of her walking, teenagers racing up and down the road in cars, for instance. "It helped a lot, knowing I'd be talking with her," Glenda said.
Five weeks later, she was standing on the scale, looking at a needle that said she'd lost 15 pounds.
That night at the nursing home, she was handing out hugs at one wheelchair after another. "You sweet thing," a white-haired woman hollered from her bed as she passed down the hall.
In the dining room, a man in a wheelchair banged his cup on a table. "You're ornery!" Glenda said, bending down to hug him. He turned pink.
With a bounce in her step, she went into the kitchen to puree the vegetable soup and fix the salad. "I lost 15 pounds," she told a friend. "I'm going to beat diabetes!"
She bought an exercise bike, she said. This summer, she might get a real one.
By the end of March, Glenda had lost 25 pounds. "And more to come," she said. Her blood sugar is mostly below 100, she said. "It spiked up high a couple of times, but I knew what to do."
She had connected with Jill Weingart by luck. More than half of West Virginia's quarter million diabetics have never had a chance to work with somebody who teaches them how to manage their diabetes, according to a Centers for Disease Control survey.
Many, like Glenda, don't realize they can prevent diabetes. Many have little idea where to look to find help.
People can find diabetes classes or counselors at most community health centers, a few public health departments, most hospitals, some private clinics. Some are free. Some are not. Nobody keeps a statewide list of diabetes prevention/control programs. People like Glenda may have a hard time finding them. Or they may get lucky like she did.
"I help people figure out how to eat healthy even if they don't have a lot of money," Jill said. "We talk about practical things, where you can get the best deals, how to get a ride to the grocery. Whatever stands in their way. I teach them how to evaluate their food, how to count carbs."
The Belington Clinic offers Weingart's services free because the community health center is federally funded.
"It's a no-brainer for us," said Debbie Schoonover, clinic administrator. Diabetes, at the end of life, can cost more than $100,000 a year, if the person is on dialysis, she said. "It costs a lot less to keep Glenda from getting diabetes than it would cost for her to have it the rest of her life."
"I thought I knew all about diabetes before I went to Jill," Glenda said. "After all, I'm a cook. My grandmother and mother had diabetes. But I've learned so much from her, I call her my lifesaver.
Her blood sugar still teeters back and forth between normal and prediabetic. "I don't know what's going to happen, but I know now there are things I can do, and that helps."
Reach Kate Long at katel...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1798.
"The Shape We're In" was written with the help of the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism, administered by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.