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Primary Health Organisation Navigator finds her own Way

Primary Health Organisation Navigator finds her own Way: Nancy’s Story

Ko Ngai Tùhoe te iwi
Ko Nancy McNoe taku ingoa

Discovering, to her horror, that she was pre-diabetic in her early fifties and coming from a whanau with known health risks, put Nancy McNoe, her whanau and her friends on a new path to health and fitness.

Nancy is a Long Term Conditions Health Navigator with the West Coast Primary Health Organisation, and is sharing her story of hope to encourage others facing similar health issues.

Her ‘weight journey’ started after she had her first child. As a newly married teenage mum, the weight ‘started to pile on’ and at her heaviest Nancy tipped the scales at a level that would make a Crusaders prop proud.

One of the masking factors for the weight was the fact that Nancy was active and into her team sports and supported her children with their sports, and as a young mum she was constantly running around keeping the family happy and healthy.

However, she wasn’t really keeping herself healthy. Food was a comforter, and whilst she yearned to lose the weight, she took solace in food. She also was forever cooking for her family and food was an ever present ‘issue’. Besides, as in any loving family, her family loved her for who she was, not for her size.

She was aware of family health concerns though. Her father died when she was 40 and he was 63. He had his first heart attack at 43, and a quadruple bypass at 45. In his early fifties he developed type 2 diabetes and then became insulin dependent in his 60’s. He wasn’t a hugely overweight man and he increased his exercise after his first heart attack. However, the diabetes took its toll on his body, including cataracts and numb toes.

When she turned 45, Nancy’s doctor suggested getting a free Health WOF, which included a Cardiovascular risk assessment. The results were a little shocking for a person who thought she was healthy enough, just a little overweight! Not only did she have anaemia, she also had high cholesterol. She started to take Iron tablets, and went onto a statin for the cholesterol. This brought her bloods back into a more acceptable ‘range’ and Nancy breathed a sigh of relief, believing she was now healthy.

However one of her regular and routine blood tests in her 50’s showed an escalation in blood sugars and the start of ‘pre-diabetes’ . This was scary. She was heading down the same path as her dad. In addition to this she developed Grade 2 Osteoarthritis in her right knee which provided pain 24/7. According to her physio, this was the result of playing sport, tramping, skiing, whilst carrying the extra weight which had been wearing her joints out. Also scary was the fact that to improve this she would have to stop moving!

Her turning point on her road to health came from her family. Her eldest daughter came home from Australia with her grandchildren for a month and said “Mum its time for me to look after you”. For the entire month she prepared all the meals, including snacks and Nancy was amused and surprised to not only lose some weight, but also to be learning from her children about healthy food, a role reversal she never imagined. However, as a loving mum, she trusted her daughter and listened and learned and accepted the support offered.

Every day her daughter talked to her about food, what to eat, when to eat it and how often to eat. To be fair, Nancy had heard a lot of it before but the difference was she was now doing it.

So how did this support from her daughter Narell as well as husband David and other daughter Shannon. A mention must also go to Nancy’s mum Leone, which helped Nancy lose 40kgs (which has now been kept off for over 18 months) change things? In Nancy’s own words there were two reasons ”firstly having the scare of becoming pre-diabetic and heading down the same path as my father ( who died way too young with limited quality of life) , and secondly, my beautiful daughter. She gave me all the love, support, understanding and courage to, for once, look after myself.”

Life is now so much better. Her knee, which ached 24/7 , no longer aches. Movement is easy now. Simple things like getting up off the floor after playing with grandchildren, or the pets isn’t an issue whereas it used to be such a painful and exhausting mission.

Other unexpected benefits include:

• Wanting to be involved in more activities with family.
• A new attitude to stress (“I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore”) and a new understanding and tolerance of family and friends and their issues.
• A new appreciation of her appearance and a new love of shopping for clothes.
• Improved sleep patterns
• Goal setting and being able to inspire others particularly friends and family, (who are very proud of the new Nancy ) who have themselves lost weight in a healthy way.

The last words in this story need to go to Nancy “I am so pleased to be feeling and looking better and for once to be in control of what I eat, and knowing how to keep myself healthy for years to come. If I can do it, so can others, and then they too can enjoy what I have enjoyed, a new attitude, a new outlook and a new direction. I have set up a group of whanau and friends who meet once a week to support each other with exercise and weight loss. Everyone has lost weight in this group. We are a mixed ethnicity crowd having fun being healthy. And no diabetes or sore knees!”

Ka pakeke to haere kaua e hemo
When things are difficult don’t give up


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