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Rick Becker

Date Posted: Wednesday, February 06, 2019


Rick Becker was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (T2D) at the age of 31, with an A1c of 12%.  He was living in Florida at the time, weighed 379 lbs, and his kidneys were failing.  He was on dialysis, however while treating his kidneys, his doctors in Florida neglected to send him to an eye specialist, a podiatrist, or help him to create a lifestyle change of healthy eating and exercise. 

Rick had issues with his feet as result of diabetes, and he is now legally blind.  He believes the visual impairment was avoidable, had he been educated about the complications associated with diabetes, and was treated by doctors who fully understood the disease and its other serious health risks.

When he moved to Massachusetts, Rick began receiving his care at the UMass Memorial Diabetes Center of Excellence, where he underwent a kidney transplant.  He speaks very highly of his UMass care team consisting of liver and kidney specialists, a podiatrist, urologist, ophthalmologist, behavioral psychologist, endocrinologist and nurse practitioner.  “They are all in communication with one another and with my primary care physician,” said Becker. “I love how they listen to me and work with me instead of using a one-size-fits-all solution.  Dr. [Andrea] Kassai, Dr. MacGregorand Nancy [Sidhom, Nurse Practitioner], are so down to earth and explain things to me in language that I can understand.  That’s what I need.”

Nancy Sidhom got Rick started on a healthy eating program that he calls “realistic and sustainable.”  It stabilized his blood sugars, especially overnight when he was having major issues. Today, 19 years after diagnosis, his A1c stays between 6-7%!

“Nancy taught me moderation and portion control,“ he said. “She recommended keeping a journal to monitor my food, how much insulin I need for various food, and how it affects my blood sugar.  I bring it with me when I go out to eat, and it’s a big help.”

Rick exercises 6 days a week and says, “even small changes in your eating and a little bit of physical activity can make a big difference.”

He has 6 brothers and 6 sisters, 9 of whom also have type 2 diabetes.  The disease runs on both sides of his family.  His mother's side is French and his father is American Indian.  Since Rick was 5 years old, he's taken an interest in his Native American ancestry, and has made dream catchers, jewelry, rattles, feather fans, and more.  As a young man he would sell his crafts at local Pow Wows.  Today, despite his visual impairment, he continues to create the items as a hobby, using muscle memory.    

His story speaks of the importance of respecting your diabetes and its many serious complications.  It also proves that it’s never too late to make changes to minimize the risk of future health problems.  Rick also shows us that despite challenges, one can still do the things they enjoy doing.  His strength and perseverance is contagious.

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