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For more than 20 years, Audrey Redfurn of Saint John, NB, lived with the stress of poorly managed type 2 diabetes. As a single parent working full-time, she admits she often neglected her health. It did not help that she often could not afford the medication (metformin, and later insulin) that she needed.

"As a working single parent, there were times when I didn't even have time to eat a meal. And there were times I lived on fast food. I didn't pay attention to my diabetes when I was younger and it got really bad," says Redfurn, 59, whose three sons are now adults. "And the medications were expensive. I often didn't have the money for them after I paid the bills, so I went off them." This contributed not only to her high A1C levels (which reflect average blood sugar over the past two to three months) but also to her stress levels. She also experienced tiredness and nerve pain, known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

A helping hand

But that all changed in 2015 when the retired nursing home attendant began working with certified diabetes educator (CDE) and consulting pharmacist Rob Roscoe, who works out of 18 family practice offices in southern New Brunswick and sees more than 600 patients with diabetes every year. "We aren't here to point fingers or tell people what to do," he says. "We are here to help — to provide a better understanding of diabetes and offer patients the options they need to better manage their condition."

"We are here to help — to provide a better understanding of diabetes and offer patients the options they need to better manage their condition."
– Rob Roscoe, Certified Diabetes Educator & Consulting Pharmacist

Roscoe advised Redfurn to go back on insulin and gave her a helpful plan for taking it in the day and evening. He also helped her get financial assistance for her medications through industry and government drug programs.

Once Redfurn started taking her insulin regularly, she found she had more energy for walking and gardening — two activities she enjoys. Over the next two years, she lost 50 pounds. She also improved her diet, switching to water from pop, making more home-cooked meals, and having healthy snacks regularly. Her A1C reading was almost half of what it had been, and Redfurn feels much better. She credits Roscoe for the transformation: "He's been helpful and understanding. If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't even be on insulin. I might have died."

A lasting change

For Roscoe, one of the greatest rewards of his job is seeing patients like Redfurn improve. "Audrey now has good [diabetes] management and very few lows, is well balanced on her meds and has accessed the coverage she needs. And she's not afraid to adjust her insulin when needed [now that she knows how]," he says. "It's great to see [her] increased confidence."

Dr. Jan Hux, President and CEO of Diabetes Canada, adds, "A team-based approach is key to managing this complex disease. As a pharmacist and diabetes educator, Rob has the training to help his patients with diabetes navigate a variety of challenges."