Laura Pacillo, 72, is enjoying her retirement in Zephyrhills, Florida after a life of wearing multiple hats. She worked as a claims processor and as a hairstylist–something she still occasionally does. These days, you can find her doing a wide array of volunteer work or helping out neighbors by driving the elderly to doctor appointments and checking in on them. She also gives these same individuals company and comfort when they need an ear. Additionally, Laura is very active in her church, and helps teach children's classes there.
But one of the few things people might not know about is that 15 years ago, Laura was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. She says she tries to not pity herself, but instead, educate herself about her diabetes every step of the way. With her drive and acceptance of her diagnosis, she is stronger than ever. Here is her story.
Tell us about your experience receiving your diagnosis. What have you learned or wish you knew?
I was upset – very upset. I was just trying to dig and see how this could happen. Where did it come from?
It stemmed from being overweight. I always thought I was active, but I wasn't as active as I should have been. But mostly, I'm upset at myself. No one in my family is a diabetic except for me. And I come from six children, of which I am in the middle. That really upset me. So then I started working on it.
(Editor's note: Even though receiving a diagnosis for Type 2 Diabetes can be scary, it is not the end-all, be-all -- you can make an impact on your own health. Learn about lifestyle changes you can make here.)
What was it like adapting to your condition? What challenges have arisen?
Some of the biggest challenges are that you have to get your A1C checked every three months. I was always afraid. Even though I still do get checked every three months, it was always like, '"Oh my gosh, how's that going to be? What is it going to be this time? Am I going to be lower?" Diet was probably the biggest challenge to this.
Just because you get it later in life doesn't mean it's too late. It can be controlled. I will always be, as they said, a Type 2 diabetic–always. So when I'm asked that, or get a question at a doctor's office about whether I'm diabetic, the answer is yes–because you never know if it will creep back up. But with diet and exercise changes, it's controllable and that's a good message.
As far as feeling sorry for myself, I rarely ever did. I was just scared when I first found out. It just scared me. It scared me straight.
What have you learned through having Type 2 Diabetes?
One of the biggest things about Type 2 Diabetes is that you can control it. It might take a long time, but you need to do what the doctor tells you to do. You need to follow instructions because without following the instructions, you're lost. And that's why I chose to go to classes. I think you have to really educate yourself. I had a really good doctor who sent me to the hospital here in our area, to a class for diabetes when I was first diagnosed.
Getting yourself educated is the best part of it. I think the more you learn about it and put yourself through a learning cycle, the more you learn how to eat, how to act, how to deal with it. But it's also up to the individual. I believe it is, with anything. If you have a question, look for the answer. There's so many opportunities out there to find the answers.
Do you feel like this experience has made you a stronger person?
Yes. Definitely. I've had cancer a couple times. It made me stronger, and I got through that too. It just makes you realize more things about your life, and about your loved ones and everyone else around you. It just makes you open up a little bit more. And that's made me stronger.
Having Type 2 Diabetes wasn't easy at first, by any means–it was not easy at all. But once I went through it–you know, there's always a learning curve with everything, even a disease. And that's what I saw with me. All of a sudden, everything just clicked. So that's a great feeling. You didn't realize how naive you were until it clicks.
My faith is strong, as well. So that really helped me a lot too. Everyone has to lean on what gives them comfort.