My Connection to Diabetes

November marks American Diabetes Month -- a time for all of us to stop and take notice of this epidemic and take the necessary steps to prevent its spread. This means taking an active role in managing our diabetes if we've already been diagnosed, or doing whatever we can to prevent it if we're at risk.

I first learned about diabetes when I was just seven years old. A good friend was diagnosed when we were in second grade, and I had so many questions. He always carried a packet of sugar in his back pocket in case he needed it -- which is how they managed diabetes in 1950.

As a teenager I watched tennis players deal with the disease -- from legendary doubles champ Bill Talbert to the great Ham Richardson (who battled type 1 diabetes from the time he was 15). I remember going home and reading more about diabetes so I understood it better. My cousin and my aunt were diagnosed. Later, two close friends, both of whom worked with me at World TeamTennis (one is still my personal assistant) were diagnosed when they were very young. So yes, it seems I've been around diabetes for years.

When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about three years ago, I felt well-prepared. My blood sugar started to get elevated and I tracked it with my doctor and I knew I had to make some changes in my life. Like so many people, I have battled with my weight for years, and I realized this was a factor I must address as well.

But I also knew that I had to focus on the present. This is when I started to plan and accept responsibility for my health. There is a saying many of us know, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail" and that is exactly what came to me. Nutrisystem is part of my plan. Over the long term, I shed 35 pounds of excess weight, which led to me becoming a spokesperson for the company. At the same time, I made sure I exercised moderately and began to think more consciously about what I was eating. But most importantly, I am good to myself.

Diabetes is a serious disease with deadly consequences. Nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes and another 57 million are at risk. In the next few weeks, I'll be posting more blog entries that share my personal experiences managing diabetes and advice for readers. Together, we can end the devastating toll that diabetes takes on people and their families all across the country.