What if the saying “Happy wife, happy life” could change your life forever? That’s what happened to Jack Aponte; thanks to the help of his wife, Joyce, he reduced his risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It all started at a truck show. Jack, a former long-haul trucker and current radio host and personality, partnered with the Healthy Trucking Association of America (HTAA) to bring health and wellness messages to the trucking community. Jack – or “Kaptain Jack,” as his fans know him – was in charge of drawing a crowd with lively music and his connections to country music stars. Bill Gordon, a representative from HTAA, was in charge of talking to truckers about type 2 diabetes prevention. Bill’s goal was to get truckers to take a prediabetes risk test to find out if they were at risk for type 2 diabetes. Together, Jack and Bill worked a booth at 26 truck stops around the country.
“We were at the Mid-American Truck Show in Louisville,” says Joyce, who tagged along on the truck stop tour. “Some of the truckers walking by stopped to take the prediabetes risk test. Some said they’d come back and do it later, and some of them were with their wives who encouraged them to do it. So I said to Jack, ‘Why don’t you do it?’” At first Jack resisted. “He said, ‘I’m fine.’ But I told him to go ahead and give it a shot. What’s there to lose? It’s just a minute. What can happen?”
Diabetes is not something that Joyce takes lightly. She’s still devastated by the loss of her twin sister, Marilyn, who passed away from complications of type 1 diabetes. Joyce and Jack both have a family history of type 2 diabetes as well.
“I was always worried about the future,” Joyce says. “A diabetes diagnosis would affect both of us in every way. It’s everything. I wanted him to do it not just for him, but for us.”
Joyce continues, “We looked at each other, and Jack said, ‘Do you want me to do it?’ I told him ‘Yes!’ So he said, ‘Oh alright.’”
“I’m a firm believer in happy wife, happy life,” Jack says with a laugh.
Jack took the prediabetes risk test and found out he was at risk for type 2 diabetes. He knew that he was eligible for CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) lifestyle change program, which would show him how to eat healthier, increase physical activity, and manage stress to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. After talking with Joyce, he decided to sign up.
“At first I grumbled a little bit,” says Jack. “But once you start the program and get into a rhythm, things turn around. It changes everything. Not just for the time when you’re a part of it, but for the rest of your life. I’ve been off the program for a year. Now I live my life differently.”
Jack’s eating habits were one of the biggest changes he made while participating in the lifestyle change program. Growing up, Jack’s family owned a restaurant; he loves to cook and has a strong appreciation for Italian-American food like pasta, pizza, and “beautiful Italian bread.” The program taught Jack that he doesn’t have to give those things up. By using moderation, portion control, and learning how to incorporate healthy ingredients into family favorites – like veal parmesan – he can celebrate his Italian-American culture while sticking to his health goals. Even Joyce has noticed the difference in Jack’s food choices.
“If he might have had 6 slices of pizza before, now he’ll have 3,” she says proudly.
“I really enjoy cooking, and I love seeing Joyce enjoy the meals I make for her,” he says. “But I’m using healthier ingredients now. I’m not a vegetable eater, and before I wouldn’t eat them at all. Now, I’ll eat them but only if I cook them the way I want. Take string beans, for example. If you combine them with crushed tomatoes, then you get string bean marinara.”
Says Joyce, “That never would have happened before the program!”
Through it all, Joyce, of course, is right there beside Jack in support.
“We’ve been married 49 years,” she says. “We’re doing this together. I’m not going to order a pizza while Jack makes broiled fish. We talk about it together. We’re going to make it together.”
This November for National Diabetes Month, Jack has something he wants everyone at risk for type 2 diabetes to know: “Take the step,” he says. “You won’t regret it. There’s no downside. I promise you, you’re going to feel much, much better. Your life will change in a way that you always hoped it would change. So many people wish they could make a change. It will help you make adjustments that will last a lifetime.”
Joyce has something to say too: “If someone said you had an opportunity to prevent cancer, you would do it. This is a gift. I know the effects of having diabetes because I lost my twin sister to it. If you’re at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, you can take that control back.”
You can be like Jack and reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Learn more about IMPACT Diabetes, part of CDC’s National DPP lifestyle change program at https://www.impactdiabetes.org/.