Her Cause is HER Cause

A diagnosis of diabetes was a shock for Mercille Locke, R.N., a physically active cycling enthusiast, who has been known to pedal more than 100 miles in a single day.

For five years, Mercille Locke, R.N., has been a champion for diabetes education and awareness. She helped found NorthBay Healthcare’s Ride to Defeat Diabetes fundraiser for local programs, she participated in and volunteered for the National Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure bike ride in Napa, and she raised thousands of dollars for the cause.

But on Oct. 11, 2013, everything changed when she learned that her cause is indeed her cause.

Mercille, NorthBay’s Infection Prevention Program manager, has Type 2 diabetes.

It was a shock for the physically active Mercille, a cycling enthusiast, who has been known to pedal more than 100 miles in a single day. Exercise was her friend, giving her peace of mind from stressful situations. As a nurse, she knew enough to eat healthy, and take care of herself.

She didn’t see it coming.

She started feeling tired more frequently. Then a cycling trip to Lake Solano from her Vacaville home—a mere 34 miles round trip—really knocked her out. “I couldn’t make it. I thought, ‘What’s the matter with me?’ I actually had to call my daughter to come and pick me up.”

So she went to her doctor, who ran a battery of tests, looking at everything from thyroid problems to anemia. “She called back in 48 hours to tell me, ‘You are diabetic.’ There was a pregnant pause. I said, ‘Me? Huh? No, that can’t be.'”

Diabetes Symptoms

  • Urinating often.
  • Feeling very thirsty.
  • Feeling very hungry, even though you are eating.
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal.
  • Weight loss, even though you are eating more (Type 1).
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (Type 2).

She slipped into a six-week funk, feeling depressed and confused. “I didn’t know what to do anymore,” she recalls. “The fruit I thought was so healthy for me was hurting me. All the things they usually tell new diabetics weren’t relevant for me. They say to exercise. I was exercising. They say to eat healthy. I thought I was. Now I had to learn to eat in a whole new and different way. For a while, I just pulled into my little shell. I thought, ‘What now?’ There were some bad days.”

She realized she didn’t have any close friends who were diabetic, but she did have siblings—six of them—so she started making calls. “I didn’t want to tell my mom at first, but I called my sister and then my younger brother, both who had been diagnosed as pre-diabetic years ago. My sister reminded me that our father’s side of the family had the disease.”

Then she called her mom, who reminded Mercille about her grandmother. “I was just a little child when I last saw my father’s mother, and she scared me to death. She had no legs. She was in a wheelchair. I never put it together as an adult that she lost her legs to diabetes.”

Mercille knew early on that she wanted to be a nurse and became a licensed practical nurse right out of high school. She attended college in Detroit, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing, before deciding she wanted to travel. So she joined the Air Force as a flight nurse, which eventually brought her to Solano County, where she met her husband Kevin, a pilot.

She worked as a commissioned officer in the ICU at David Grant Medical Center and later became a reservist, working as an on-call administrative coordinator at NorthBay Healthcare in 1999, and later as an infection preventionist. She retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2007 and accepted the full-time management position at NorthBay Healthcare last year.

Looking back, she says, getting diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes was a blessing. “I had an ‘aha moment,’ when I finally realized what was going on,” she admits. “And while it has taken me a little time to regroup, I’m finally feeling good again.”

Husband Kevin and daughter Nikki, 19, are learning what works and what doesn’t for Mercille.

She remembers that shortly after her diagnosis, Nikki went on the Internet and found a low-carb recipe for spaghetti squash, with tomatoes and onions that she fixed for her mom. “It meant a lot to me that she’d do that,” says Mercille. “Now it’s my new comfort food.”

She realizes that if she didn’t have such an active lifestyle, she probably would have experienced stronger symptoms earlier in her life.

And while she’s had to change her menus, she certainly hasn’t changed her focus on helping spread the word about diabetes awareness. This past May, in her role as the safety and volunteer coordinator at the Napa Tour de Cure bike ride, she proudly wore her red Tour de Cure jersey—a color symbolizing that the participant is riding with diabetes.

She’s also actively involved in planning NorthBay’s Ride to Defeat Diabetes (R2D2) this October. (See related story, Page 29.)

She’s not riding as far or alone these days, but she hasn’t lost her passion for cycling. In fact, one of her goals is to ride in the Tour de Cure Women’s Series in October. “That will be the one-year mark from when I learned of my diagnosis. “It’s taken awhile, but I’m back in control, and I’m still riding,” says Mercille. “And that feels good.”

What’s the Difference?

TYPE 1: People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy.

TYPE 2: People with Type 2 diabetes produce too little insulin or cannot use it effectively.

How prevalent is it?

In 2011 and 2010, the most recent years for which statistics are available, Solano County had the dubious distinction of having the most diagnosed cases of diabetes per capita. In 2011, Solano reported that 10.7 percent of its population was diagnosed with diabetes, up from 10.4 percent in 2010.

Fast Facts

About 95 percent of people with diabetes have Type 2.

It can occur at any age, and can be prevented or delayed by maintaining a healthy weight, eating sensibly and exercising regularly.

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes usually occur in childhood or young adulthood.

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