Jim Potter

Senior operations supervisor Jim Potter poses for a portrait near YRC Freight on Hannon Road on Friday. In 2010, Potter was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Prior to his diagnosis, he smoked two pack of cigarettes a day and drank cases of soda. He has since lost weight and quit smoking and drinking soda.

You can't drink 12 Mountain Dews a day for decades and expect it not to wreck your health. 

Jim Potter started his Mountain Dew habit years ago while he was driving long-haul trucks. He was also smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. 

It was 2010, Potter weighed 328 pounds and "I was on my way to destruction," he said. 

One night, he climbed in bed to go to sleep and he felt his heart pounding like a machine gun firing in his chest. Worried, he and his wife rushed to the hospital, where the doctor told Potter he was surprised Potter had been able to walk through the door. 

Potter's blood sugar was at a 798. For normal adults, that number should be below 200. 

Potter was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and since that night in 2010 he has completely turned his life around. He's dropped his weight to 268 pounds and hasn't smoked or drank a Mountain Dew since. He walks every morning, closely watches what he eats and manages his diabetes with a pill he takes every morning. 

"You have to fight this every day," he said. "You gotta take control of your life."

Undiagnosed

Tuesday is Diabetes Alert Day and Potter, along with his support group, is looking to get the word out. 

Like Potter, many adults in the Billings area are likely living with Type 2 diabetes and unaware they have the disease, said Jordan Teller, a nurse practitioner at St. Vincent Healthcare who focuses primarily on advanced diabetes care. 

"Most people with (Type 2) diabetes are undiagnosed," she said. 

Teller is passionate about raising awareness of the disease. When people know they have Type 2 diabetes, they can manage it, become proactive and immediately improve their quality of life, just like Jim Potter did. 

"What Jim has done is absolutely something other people can do," Teller said. 

To help, St. Vincent Healthcare will hold a free diabetes screening today at the Mansfield Health Education Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., where people can learn on the spot whether they're at risk for diabetes. 

The best way people can stay out of the risk group is doing something active for 20 minutes every day and cutting sugary drinks out of their diet, Teller said. 

In fact, the hospital is holding a healthy diet seminar from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday to educate people on good food choices. The seminar will be held in the Mansfield Education Center. 

Hard work and help

Those simple steps have worked for Potter. For the past seven years, he's worked to cut down the amount of calories he consumes, to exercise every day and to keep a positive outlook. 

"I don't want to go back," he said.

But more than that, he said, all these changes would have been impossible without his wife. 

"If you're trying to fight it on your own, you can't do it," he said. 

Potter has had enormous support from his family and friends. He's also had the help of the medical staff that saved his life in 2010. Teller has remained an active participant in Potter's recovery, something for which Potter is grateful.

He tells people if he can make the change and turn his life around, then anybody can. He said the secret is having a good support group. 

"Find your support and make the change," he said. 

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Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.