Getting to Know You: Dominique Wilkins

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We all know there are lots of other people out there with diabetes, but who are those people? How do they deal with their diabetes? What challenges have they faced and how? Diabetes Self-Management talks with one of the millions of Americans with diabetes to uncover both the common threads of living with diabetes and also what sets Dominique Wilkins apart.

Dominique Wilkins

Dominique may be a Basketball hall of Famer, but his true calling emerged with an unexpected diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes at the age of 40. He now works with JDFR (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Special Olympics, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and American Lung Association, among many other causes. In his free time, Wilkins enjoys cooking healthy meals with his wife, Sunny, and shooting hoops with his children.

DSM: Tell me about your diabetes diagnosis. How did you react to the news?

DW: When I was first diagnosed at age 40, shortly after retiring from the NBA, I was in denial – but I decided early on that I was going to stay committed and do everything possible to better manage my diabetes. I lost both my grandfather and father to diabetes; knowing my family history, I decided that I would do everything I could do to better manage my diabetes and share my story with others to hopefully inspire them to do the same.

DSM: At what point did you take charge of your diabetes, and how did you do it?

DW: Through conversations with my doctor, I realized that Type 2 diabetes is a complex disease that I could not fight alone, so I formed a team of people around me to help me: They’re my “Diabetes Dream Team.” My Diabetes Dream Team includes my physicians, a diabetes educator, a nutritionist, and a fitness trainer. By working together, we devised a plan that encompasses a balanced diet, regular exercise, and finding the proper medication. And my Diabetes Dream Team wouldn’t be complete without my family. They play a big part in keeping me on track.

DSM: Tell me about your work with Novo Nordisk to encourage people with Type 2 diabetes to develop an individualized diabetes management approach. Why is this important to you?

DW: I’ve partnered with Novo Nordisk, a world leader in diabetes care, on this initiative to help people living with Type 2 diabetes learn how to design a full-court approach to managing the everyday challenges they face, using their doctors and other members of their Diabetes Dream Team. As part of the campaign, I’ll attend a number of diabetes health fairs across the country, where I’ll share personal stories and offer advice. We’ve also created my “Diabetes Coaches’ Clipboard,” which is full of insider tips and even some recipes from my team of experts. People can visit to download their own clipboard and learn more about the initiative.

DSM: What challenges do you still face in your own diabetes care, and how do you cope with them?

DW: Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen is not easy, especially when I’m on the road. When it comes to eating healthy, I try to eat lean proteins, fresh fruits, and vegetables, but I still enjoy the foods I love, like apple pie, in moderation. For exercise, I choose an activity I enjoy, such as running and shooting hoops with my kids – my trainer says that even walking around the block can make an impact. And finding a buddy to exercise with can also make it more enjoyable.

DSM: What piece of “diabetes advice” can you share with the readers of Diabetes Self-Management?

DW: Implementing lasting lifestyle changes will take time – just start small and stick with it. Keep working with your doctor and the rest of your Diabetes Dream Team to take steps toward managing the everyday challenges of living with Type 2 diabetes in a healthy way that’s right for you. And remember, diabetes doesn’t have to define us.

Originally Published September 22, 2014

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