By Ashli Findley

When Andrea Caldwell was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in January 2016, she knew she had to face it head on. She was struck with temporary blindness, giving her a glimpse at just how debilitating the disease could be.

Andrea’s diabetes was deemed to be medically-induced, the result of antidepressant medication she was taking at the time. Once her vision returned, she began taking classes and reading all she could about the disease.

In the short span of two years, Andrea has gone from uneducated about diabetes to advocate. She is the founder and owner of the Caldwell Community Resource Center (CCRC), a fellowship of individuals and organizations bridging the gap of diabetes education, prevention, and outreach.

Andrea Caldwell helps diabetics learn how to manage their disease. Photos by Melissa Donald 

“Anywhere and everywhere I can get the word out about diabetes, I’m there,” Andrea says. “It needs to be talked about.”

The 54-year-old mother and grandmother credits her grandson Jayden for motivating her to do something about her diagnosis. She had to make a choice to either stay depressed or get up and fight it.

“I just thank God for Jayden and for giving me life again,” she adds. “Diabetes had taken away my dreams, and then Jayden gave them back to me.”

Andrea eats six times a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snacks. Breakfast is usually eggs, cereal, oatmeal, or a smoothie. Lunch and dinner are typically a salad with tuna, chicken, or fish or sometimes a sandwich. Snacks include almonds, breakfast/protein bars, or small fruit.

For the first six months after her diagnosis, Andrea ate no processed food. The goal was to “clean out” her blood by getting rid of the sugars and carbohydrate-turning sugars that had consumed it.

Andrea prepares her homemade beef and bean chili in a crockpot and shares it with friends, family, and neighbors. 

She provides a few health tips for others who battle with diabetes or are just looking to eat better in general. First, when going to the grocery store, shop the outside aisles “because everything on the inside aisles is going to have sugar,” she says. She also suggests decreasing meat portion sizes and increasing your intake of greens and salads.

“I found out salad is the key to helping keep your blood sugar (level stable). If you can, have two salads per day.”

When finding dishes that are catered to diabetics, Andrea simply goes online and looks up recipes, taking “a little bit from here and there,” she says. “Just make it your own.”

Andrea prefers to buy prepackaged salads, because they are quick and easy to prepare. 

She does splurge one to two times per month when eating out at restaurants but is careful to keep portions small. “Everything in moderation” is her motto.

For those who have been recently diagnosed, Andrea advises, “First, get a team together because you can’t do it by yourself.” She says having others who are also diagnosed to lean on when you’re struggling provides a great support system. She also advises having an educated doctor who can keep you motivated and answer all of your questions.