Mary Jo Bump poses for a photo.Mary Jo Bump had a quick reaction when told in 2008 that she had Type 2 diabetes: No, I don’t.

“I was very stubborn,” she recalls. “I used to say to the doctors, ‘If you delete the diabetes from my file, I’ll be OK.’ I just didn’t want to have diabetes.”

Her denial, she now recalls ruefully, resulted in undisciplined eating habits, with a predictable result: her high blood sugar continued, despite ever-increasing insulin shots. She was sometimes, as she puts it, “in a diabetic fog.”

“It’s very frustrating to have diabetes,” Bump says. “A lot of diabetics simply withhold their efforts rather than do the detailed research. When you sit down for a meal with your family, you shouldn’t be dreading it. And I was dreading it.”

“But you can only go so far with that frame of mind. I’ve learned that you can’t let that frustration take over.”

Finding a partner

Bump, 54, is a lifelong resident of the Grand Rapids area now living in Byron Center. She’d been diagnosed with diabetes by her primary care physician following repeated symptoms that were similar to a virus.

After her diabetes failed to respond to medication and dietary restrictions about four years ago, Bump’s doctor suggested she contact his medical school classmate, Greg Deines, DO, a diabetes specialist with the Spectrum Health Medical Group.

With the help of Deines and Spectrum Health’s diabetes educators, Bump says she began seeing her adjustment to diabetes not as a solo struggle, but as a partnership.

She began taking a concentrated form of insulin. But she didn’t react well to the drug, going from the fog of high blood sugar to occasional dizziness from low blood sugar.

“There has to be a better way for me to live,” she recalls thinking at the time.

Then one of Spectrum’s diabetes educators suggested that Bump consider wearing a glucose pump, and she agreed. “But first, I had to prove that I could take care of my diabetes,” she said. It was time to “shut up, forge ahead and do it.”

For about six weeks, Bump monitored her diet and checked her glucose level repeatedly every day, properly re-dosing herself with insulin as needed.

And she succeeded.

“After that, I got the pump, and it changed my life,” she reports.

Checking the menu

Today, Bump maintains that personal discipline, which has several benefits. First and most important, her blood sugar levels have stabilized. And there’s the secondary, pleasant benefit: that stability has reduced the number of visits with her Spectrum diabetes team.

Last Christmas, Bump reported no high blood sugars, an accomplishment for anyone with or without diabetes.

“I’ve been able to control my diabetes like a normal person,” she says.

A waiter takes a person's order at a restaurant.But the challenges, she cautions, are not just during the holidays. And she reminds people who are new to diabetes that it’s not only sweets, but also carbohydrates that require special attention.

“Almost everything you put in your mouth has some carbs in it,” she says. “When you go out to dinner, you have to think about what you’re getting, starting with the salsa the waiter puts in front of you.

“And it’s not just the meal itself. If you get a burrito, it’s the shell and the sauce, and all the individual components” of the meal.

Calculating carb intakes and checking menus is time-consuming and often frustrating work. But in Bump’s case, her renewed commitment has led to an important result: having the life she wants to lead.

And from her own research and her Spectrum Health counselors, she has learned this: “You can eat anything you want. But you have to know what’s in your choices.”

Bump’s diabetes may be chronic, but it is now manageable and far more stable than she originally imagined it would be.

“It’s very frustrating to have diabetes,” she says. “I’ve learned you can’t let that frustration take over.”

She now looks forward to meals with her family, and has a bigger goal, too: “I have two granddaughters I’d like to see married with children.”

That might take a while as the two girls are still in elementary school.

But that doesn’t worry Bump. After all, she’s stubborn.