Six Words That Led to Better Health

Anne Heidecker had no idea she had diabetes. She was visiting a friend in the hospital. As she chatted with the doctor, it became clear that Anne needed to be tested for diabetes.

When her results returned, Anne, an Anacortes resident, discovered that she would join the 10% of Americans with diabetes. Adopted during her childhood, she had no previous knowledge of a family history of diabetes or any indication that she should be monitoring for diabetic symptoms. In an unpredictable turn of events, Anne began her first steps in an unexpected journey: life with diabetes.

After her diagnosis, Anne began taking diabetes medication to help regulate her blood sugar and other symptoms. Like many others with diabetes, she struggled to balance healthy eating, exercise and weight.

Anne’s battle to manage diabetes continued to worsen until her son and daughter-in-law intervened with six key words, “We want you to be around.” In that moment it became clear to her that she had to make a change and she was going to need help learning a new way to take care of her health.

Her primary care doctor referred her to Mary Beth Robinson, MS, RD/LD, CDE at Island Hospital. Mary Beth started the Diabetes Education Program to help people, like Anne, learn how to cultivate healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices to better manage diabetes. Anne is a strong woman who adores her family, so when the resources to change her life were presented to her – she had to act. “Health and family have to be first” she said when reflecting on her journey.

Education is often the first step towards a healthy lifestyle. That is why Island Hospital is prioritizing the opening of a new Health and Wellness Center later this year. The center will be available to all in the community and will provide educational resources that support diabetes patients and their families among other educational resources and preventative health programs.

Since Anne began her journey with exercise and educated eating habits, Anne has seen transformation that people dream about. Anne has lost 100 pounds and even had to go shopping to get clothing that suited her success. When asked what the greatest reward was she said, “Losing the weight. Going to a smaller size is so rewarding!” She couldn’t help but smile as she said, “I’m very pleased, I’ve come a very long way.”

When asked what people should know if they or their loved one is diagnosed with diabetes she said, “Take them to someone like Mary Beth.” Access to the education and resources that support diabetes patients is crucial. Not only for the patient, but also for the family of the patient. Anne’s family has been critical in her journey to better health; they have also learned along the way with her. She remarked that “It’s not just you going through it, it’s the whole family.”

At the new Health and Wellness Center, Island Hospital will provide something for the whole family. The center will host cooking demonstrations in a teaching kitchen and nutrition and exercise classes open to all ages. Not only will there be educational resources, there will also be rich opportunities for group therapy, behavioral and mental health resources and expanded health screenings.

Coming May 17th – 21st, the Island Hospital Foundation is hosting The Well Journey Adventure: A Virtual Adventure through Health and Wellness. This week-long fundraiser will offer classes, entertainment and more to raise funds for the new Health and Wellness Center. Visit for a schedule of events or to make a donation. You can inspire better health for your loved ones and neighbors, like Anne, by participating in the Well Journey Adventure. Join us, and help build a healthier community, together.