Welcome to Jaynie's World

A Life Full of Blessings and Personal Achievement

It’s a pleasure to introduce myself; my name is Jaynie Higgins. I married my high school sweetheart, I am a proud Step-mom to a wonderful daughter, the mother of two precious girls and the daughter of Victor & Joan Crawford-Hanington.

I am a former Mrs. Maine America & State of Maine Ambassador for the Bureau of Tourism, certified Recreational & Activities Coordinator, the developer/owner/administrator of a licensed senior boarding home, a marketing/pr/fitness model and believe it or not - a Guinness World Book of Records title holder. These are just a few of my extra curricular life time accomplishments.

My present career of 14 years is that of many hats. As a Health & Wellness Consultant, Nutrition Generalist, Certified Personal Trainer, Fit-Rx. Studio Owner, Life Coach and author of the "Ultimate Diabetes Meal Planner"; and a visionary entrepreneur with oodles of energy. Areas of service include being an advocate and mentor for Diabetes awareness, an inspirational speaker & motivational life coach by sharing my real life obstacles and how I turned them into opportunities. Some of my life accomplishments have been featured in several National and International Fitness Publications. They include, receiving the Maine State 2002 Bronze "Executive Achievement Award of Excellence" in recognition of outstanding contributions to the implementing of their programs that form the basis of Nutrition for Life (International of Texas) and the Beta Gamma Lady of the Year "2002" Award. Having been a former Beta Sigma Phi sister for 20 plus years, it was truly a privilege and surprise being recognized as the State's Beta Gamma Lady of the year.

I also served 10 years as a Charter member of the ‘Information Resource of Maine’, appointed by the Senate Presidents Office, serving on the Board of Director’s from 1997 -2007 for my beautiful State of Maine.

I am known for my positive mindful practice, love & passion for seniors and for the creating the "World’s Largest Epsicle-Popsicle" which weighed in at 17,450 lbs. This was a record achieving event according to the Guinness World Book of Records and consisted of the original formula donated by "Good Humor" and has never been broken. The making of this ‘World Record’ popsicle was done as a benefit and funds raised by the event purchased a handicapped assessable Van for our area Senior Citizen’s. This endeavor made the Front page of "Stars and Stripes" in Germany and was picked up by the Associated Press.

While I take great pride in these life achievements nothing can compare to my greatest achievement of all raising our children, being their mom and a therapeutic foster parent.

Overcoming Life’s Storms

While it may seem that my life has been filled with many achievements with a wonderful career, a loving family and many personal achievements still I have not been exempted from the dark side of living with Diabetes. May my message of endurance shed some hope and light as we join forces to ‘Stop Diabetes’!

Most of my childhood, junior and high school years revolved around hospitals, surgery and adversity. In my childhood years I suffered with visual impairment. I had to wear patches on my eyes and thick ‘Coca-Cola’ glasses. I endured severe migraines and had a frail body frame that sported long skinny legs which the rest of me hadn't caught up with. All of this led to being quite a spectacle and the victim of constant bullying. Having a strong family unit made up for the unkind and cruel peers that haunted me outside my family walls. I remember one incident that cultivated and stayed with me throughout my life journey ahead.

A neighborhood bully hit me in the eye with a rock, shouting crushing comments of being a “freaky four eyed ugly kid”. I ran home crying. Standing there with my broken glasses and blood running down my face, my mom nurtured me while cleaning the wound to see if stitches were necessary. I'll forever be grateful for this childhood experience and let me tell you why...

I asked her to please make him stop hurting me and call his mother. I can still hear her cracked voice and her sincere reply that instilled empathy and compassion for the broken hearted, from that day forward. In so many words her message in that inspirational moment was, "from the mouth the heart speaks", sharing – ‘We need to look beyond the angry words and see behind their clouded eyes. There’s a crushed spirit lashing out, and we have no idea what goes on in the life of a hurting person. Sadly they find comfort, attacking anyone that appears weaker then them which gives them false strength! Remember to always pray for them’!

Health Challenges Continue

But as time would dictate, my health concerns would escalate. By junior high school my visual impairment began to improve with on-going medical treatment and endless prayers though I continued to suffer with severe migraines. So much so that very often I was unable to participate in after school activities. I filled that time with family, church and singing. I sang at home, and in church. I competed at the Festival of Life, church competitions, special events and the music ministry became my passion.

Being active in my church, (a very strict doctrine) had its peer issues all of its own. Because of church doctrine as a teenager I did not attend dances, movies, or wear make-up. Yet, the power of faith came into play many times over because of this wonderful thing called Christianity. Yes, there were times when the rules were stretched and even broken - but the gift of faith, wisdom and forgiveness was always there.

As the migraines ruled havoc on my productivity, new issues from medication and digestive problems took over. After years of experimental medications, the ability to digest food took its toll on my body. I was often unable to eat. In time I was seen by a neurologist who saw beyond what was diagnosed and admitted me into a hospital. I was weaned off all medication to which I had become addicted. This process was so horrible that to this day even a basic aspirin is usually declined.

A few weeks after my release from the hospital the same old battle with ingesting and digesting food remained. I would sit staring at a plate placed before me struggling to eat. Finally one evening the issue came to a head. In severe pain I was rushed to the hospital. Emergency surgery was performed, finding a rare condition of a reversed anatomy of the internal organs and an inflamed appendix that nearly took my life.

The new diagnosis and surgery finally had me moving in the right direction. Recovery was slow and came with a new finding that I had Thyroid Disease. Meetings with dietitians, nutritionist, allergists and doctors became routine. My meal plan started from the very beginning from the ground up baby food to puree, to a soft diet and eventually to whole foods. Struggles with hypoglycemia became a new battle and included additional modification of my diet switching to a ‘grazing’ meal plan or eating more frequently smaller meals. This concept became the prescription for fighting these horrible low blood sugar events! Nausea, sweats, shakes, vision issues, weight loss and dull headaches were happening daily. But slowly improvements began. With the proper treatment and medical care, within a year I was eating healthy and beginning to find wholeness as a young lady.

My senior year in high school brought more drama as a growth was discovered on my left shoulder. Surgery was again required. I was blessed and relieved when it was discovered that the growth was benign.

In my late twenties I began having a difficult time swallowing and often experienced choking when eating. My voice slowly became hoarser and hoarser, going days without speaking. I finally decided to see an ear, nose and throat specialist. A diagnosis was made which would require surgery. The surgery was scheduled and the waiting game began. While I made some initial progress following the surgery within a very short period the problem returned. A repeat surgery was required and led to more complications and left me without a voice. Two years of speech therapy, three sessions weekly came to an end when physicians concluded I'd probably never regain full use of my voice. Over many years of a music ministry it had become a focal point of my life. This news was devastating.

I continued my vocal practices and drills at home determined to prove them wrong. My children sensed my sadness being unable to sing. My girls began using my accompaniment tapes and sang to me on a regular basis. There vocal skills became so defined as to go beyond my expectations. My oldest, seven years of piano, two years of voice lessons and my youngest, a natural when put in front of an audience, both excel in music outreach, and have developed strong people skills and share their talents even today. They got their voice as I was losing mine. But, I persevered. I pursued self taught sign language which I now sing with my hands, developing a second language.

Considering all of the surgeries and repair of critical anatomy doctors were expressing their concern about my ability to have natural childbirth. But again I was blessed and after marriage and four years of trying I became pregnant with our first child. I miscarried after the first trimester but later gave birth to two beautiful girls. We later added three amazing foster children.

My health trials still, were not over. In my early twenties I had a flare up with my hypoglycemia after a bout from strep throat and a bad cold. Having a low resistance and thyroid disease, the ability to fight infection and what appeared common viruses put me at high risk for health issues. Some Endocrinologists believed my pancreas shut down from the strep throat and cold. Other's concluded the hypoglycemia was releasing what was left in my pancreas, an already strained organ and the insulin pooling was finely used up. Lab work was ordered and my first A1C was 12.9, confirming there was a period between the hypoglycemia and viral issues when the pancreas stopped producing insulin.

Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. All the signs associated with diabetes were present but with all the other medical problems and no family history the symptoms were overlooked. I was again blessed thanks to a chance encounter with a lady and her little girl who both had diabetes. The lady recognized my severe weight loss and asked if I had ever been screened for diabetes. All I needed was another diagnosis and I intentionally ignored her concerns. But being persistent she wouldn't let it go and insisted that I be checked.

My avoidance would cost me just a few days later when I collapsed on the floor with severe muscle cramping in my legs and was unable to stand up. First I thought it was a hypoglycemic reaction however after treating what I thought was a low blood sugar I had no relief. The following day I arranged a lunch date with the diabetes lady agreeing to let her test my blood sugar. Surprisingly her meter presented a high reading meaning the glucose level measured beyond what her meter could calibrate. I asked her not to tell anyone for I needed time to figure out what to do. She also was a registered nurse and called my family sharing the results of her findings. Off to the emergency room, a diagnosis of Type I/Juvenile Diabetes was confirmed with hospitalization required. Being newly diagnosed, I was transferred from my local hospital to an outpatient diabetes educational program for several days.

Both Type I (insulin dependent) and Type Two (diet & often medication controlled), patients attended the educational program. There were mostly Type II patients that fell into the obesity classification and no one in my age category. Even though I weighed in at 114 pounds, I thought all diabetics would end up obese in time. The doctor put me on a 2800 calorie diet and high doses of injected insulin, four times daily. Within three months I was tipping the scales at 146 pounds. Panic set in and the vision of the Type II diabetes patients nagged at my well being. I begged my physician to change my dosage and modify my meal plan, which he refused.

With years of frustration, I made the decision to take action on my own. The game plan was, I'd eat my large meal then run 5 miles. Everything I ate was measured and then cut in half. I decreased my insulin to match my 900 to 1000 calorie diet. Let me tell you I was some good at portion control, what was complex carbohydrate, which G.I. Index foods to ingest, lean meats and best in low fat and etc. Yet over time my knowledge soon diminished. Before I knew it I was in a real mess. The mind began to control healthy choices as I continued to lower my daily calorie diet, dropping down to 108 pounds. Diabetes Anorexia was now the diagnosis, for I associated high glucose readings with weight gain and lack of self control. I was not concerned about body image, but I just felt if I ran a little longer, ate a little less, and took less insulin, I would beat the diagnosis.

Recognizing my eating disorder my family contacted Dr. Leonard Levy who agreed to set up a consultation. Within the hour of our meeting we had an agreement. He would take me on as a patient, agreed to work with me, providing that I stayed within 120 and 130 pounds and enter counseling for this eating disorder. There are so many facets to Diabetes Anorexia yet, over time the treatment was working. Within a year, my weight was 119 pounds and the exercising piece was within a healthy spectrum. Another positive development was that within weeks of going on insulin my migraines stopped. Once again another blessing. Unless you've truly experienced living with migraines one will never understand the bondage associated with them.

The help of Dr. Levy and my family were a great benefit to me during these difficult days. But I took on a new accountability and began to research other ways to improve on my fitness level. I began studying and exploring weight training and my thirst for knowledge about diabetes was all encompassing. Endless trips to the library, visits to my local bookstore and I couldn't get enough information. I focused on diet, exercise and positive mindful practice.

A Life’s Dream Realized – The Ultimate Diabetes Meal Planner

My passion for knowledge and personal accountability began to inspire others. Over the years I developed my own personal meal plan called ’Jayniology Fit-Rx’. People began to notice. Whether living with diabetes, struggling with weight management, event fitness enthusiasts and lifestyle change seekers were seeking my material and advice. I began cataloging my menus, recipes and other tools that impressed attendees at workshops, in-services and fitness classes. All of my meal plans were based on the American Diabetes Association food guide pyramid. (which by the way is in my opinion one of the healthiest diets for most all populations).

My confidence in establishing my own personal food guide for people with diabetes was growing. Having been the prior owner of a Licenses Senior Assisted Living Facility I re-connected with David Groetizinger, a residential care specialist who setup the dietary piece for my boarding home. It was from there that we married our work together. We set out on a journey of eight years to develop a masterpiece that would help diabetics take the guesswork out of what and how much to eat to keep the blood sugars and overall wellness not only under control but at peak levels of fitness and we did it in four easy steps.

I was so pleased that the American Diabetes Association (ADA) found merit in our efforts. The Ultimate Diabetes Meal Planner was well received by the ADA because it really met the guidelines that they recommend. One year later our book was published. Finally… meal planning from advice from someone with diabetes. The book employs my simple process, just select a calorie level, use the grocery shopping list, and prepare delicious yet nutritious meals and the meal planner removes the stress of what and how much to eat.

The book details meal plans for 16 weeks with seasonal variation. Over 325 yummy recipes are included. Each of the recipes in the daily meal planner meets the nutrition guidelines of the ADA which have been specifically designed to support people with diabetes who strive to improve blood glucose management.

Since the publication of the Ultimate Diabetes Meal Planner I have been so gratified with the testimonies and reviews from so many people all over the world. I will cherish these inspirational and motivating comments and stories forever.

I look back now on all of the challenges the many years of struggle and the mix of joys and sorrows and I can not help but remember so many people who questioned by willpower, what I was doing, what I was eating and now are asking, ‘Can I work out with you? Can you design me a custom diet? Who would have believed that a girl from Northern Maine that freakish skinny kid would go on to co-author a book that will ultimately help millions of people world wide live a better, healthier life. If is had not been for being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, none of this would have happened. God does work in mysterious ways.

I feel for all those people who, like me, live in rural communities with little access to gyms of fitness facilities. Interestingly, a physical education teacher made a comment that people with diabetes couldn’t build muscle, stating that high blood sugar not only eats fat but also lean muscle.

If he could see me now, the winner of numerous body building awards and still on insulin several times every day.

Diabetes Without Health Insurance – A Book in the Making

I also recognize that people struggle with diabetes when health insurance is not available. Been there, done that. At one point in my career my husband’s family business that had been operating for 28 years was forced to close when the major industry in our Northern Maine community shut down. My life without health insurance brought an entirely new meaning to living with diabetes. For nearly six years the financial struggles with the expenses and the ‘silent’ care associated with diabetes became the foundation of an entirely new manuscript in development. Beyond the financial challenges were the games that had to be played to keep my lack of insurance private to protect my community profile and wellness practice. . I look back now and wonder how I ever found the energy to persevere without health insurance. From diabetic ulcers, sterilizing needles (using them over and over again), stretching insulin, eating less, training more, limited doctor’s appointments and on and on it went. Just in an attempt to stay alive! Glucose testing, monitoring, record keeping, became a luxury thing of the past if one can imagine that. No one should ever have to deal with such anxiety. My new book, “Put on Paper” will be the challenges people face with diabetes who are uninsured

I understand the struggles and I am on a personal mission to prevent diabetes from every happening. That is my life’s work to Stop Diabetes.
A Special Moment – Singing With and New Voice

Along my journey there have been many special moments. I was encouraged to participate in the Mrs. Maine Pageant. It was during the time I was struggling with my voice and had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My co-workers, family and friends encouraged me to seize the opportunity to establish a platform of diabetes. Though pageantry was something I had never considered, I was hosting benefits and fundraisers for a nursing home van which gave me the incentive to explore the possibilities.

Imagine me, who had been bullied as a freak during my teen years, attending the Mrs. America Pageant in Las Vegas standing on the runway (with those long lanky legs) representing our beautiful State of Maine as their title holder!

The title of Mrs. Maine America opened many doors for me. One special moment stands out in particular. I was invited to open and close the Maine Winter Special Olympic Games. Earlier I pointed out the vocal problems that ended my music ministry. But I had another idea. Having learned to sign I decided to use my new skill and to sing in sign. At the closing ceremony a team of deaf athletes recognized what I was doing and quickly came to the center of the stage. Tears filled my eyes as I watched their participation and excitement. It was then that I realized that all things happen for a reason, proving that from every storm comes a beautiful rainbow.

What Does the Future Hold

My career choice has revolved around personal earthly trials which have nourished my well being and hopefully others in so many different ways. One of my most rewarding efforts has been the work I have done with teens who have eating disorders. This challenging component of life-coaching has brought be tremendous personal rewards. During those dark days of my own personal experience with Diabetic Anorexia it would have been hard to believe that one day I would be counseling others. Receiving calls in the middle of the night, talking a panic stricken teen through their battle with an eating disorder or having fellowship with a newly diagnosed child and parent overwhelmed and scared to death with this unfortunate tribulation all have become part of my life’s mission.

One thing that the creation of my web site and this short story of my life’s experience have taught me when we are given crosses to bear, they can be a gift if only we can perceive it in this way. I do not believe I would be in the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual shape that I am in today if I would not have been diagnosed with diabetes. Having diabetes most of my life, which requires ongoing daily injections and an ongoing search for vanishing injections sites. Yet the needles that bring me discomfort also give me life. So the next time you look at that needle, smile with me and give thanks for its life line.

This idea that one’s trials can be used to ease another’s burden has a spiritual dimension. My philosophy established over these many miles of journey to wellness is to see what is right rather than what is wrong, in all things. Years of reading inspirational stories, self help materials, and inspirational music have helped to train my mind to see the positive in every situation. This attitude of recognizing simple blessings and recognizing God’s favor has cultivated a personal strength and complete peace which can not be put into words. Using the resources, services, tools and support systems with faith, hope and contributions in charity to a Global initiative we can all participate in.

Right now there is no cure for diabetes or any guarantee one will be protected from its complications. If we can put and watch a man walk on the moon then let’s passionately come together in a combined effort to stop diabetes. A child newly diagnosed with this disease is a major reason why the mission of a cure should be a top priority. Trying to control this incurable illness is an every minute, every hour and every day affliction that never goes on vacation.

For me personally my own struggle with diabetes continues. I am continuing my education every day. I hope to produce new books and a DVD called, ‘Sit Happens – Diabetes Exercise’. I have a diabetic children’s series ready for illustration and my ‘Dia-treaties (a collection of Holiday and Entertainment Deserts) manuscript is ready for food images and publishing. I would also love to learn and study the Harp. I have looked into taking lessons, however, my wonderfully hectic schedule and career does not see it possible at this time. You can bet, some day, I will minister in Harp.

It has been a true joy for me to share my life’s story with you. I hope it brings you a renewed spirit and hope as well as challenges you to new heights of personal wellness. Remember, “life each day as if it was borrowed, making every day a celebration of life”. Always see what is right rather than wrong for this truly is the sign of a healthy individual – remembering that quality of life need not be compromised because of age, disease or disability.

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