Leland "Upset. Reset. Continue."

I really had a normal childhood without any trauma or anything. My dad had diabetes so I had an idea of what I would be facing when I was diagnosed with it later in my life. When I was 18, I left the tired little town that I called home. After I left, I stayed around Springfield to pursue my dream in music. I played in a couple bands, we got to play at a few festivals and we won the Battle of The Bands. When you’re a rockstar you get all the beer you want and don’t have to work a lot so I just had fun without any worries. After about four years, I left the music scene and married my wife. We had two little girls and I knew it was time to step up and take care of them, and being a rockstar suddenly didn’t matter to me. My girls needed me. I don’t think they would be who they are now if they didn’t have me to make sure they were doing alright.

The money in rock and roll was absolutely terrible so I didn’t have anything saved. I got a job at a seafood restaurant to support my family, and I kept that job for 20 years. But life does this funny thing. It upsets, resets and then it continues. I split up with my wife, and I got very sick. I had to take a year off of work and spent 90% of that time in the hospital. It was terrible. After that was over, I had to go back to the hospital with a blood sugar of 1500, while an average blood sugar is 100.

Photo by  Randy Bacon

Photo by Randy Bacon

My life totally flipped upside down. I had only been in the hospital once for tonsils and then suddenly my guts are exploding everywhere, literally. My colon had ruptured and was spilling into my gut which was full of pus and goo. To correct the problem, they had to put two different bags in me to drain. That wouldn’t work because I wouldn’t stop smoking cigarettes, so it just got worse and worse. I ended up having several surgeries which finally cleared everything up. So here I am now and, fortunately, everything's fine.

While I was in the hospital I had a lot of time to think about my regrets and what I would have done differently. I’m almost 40 years old, and if I would have taken care of myself instead of destroying my body for 20 years, I wouldn’t be full of scars with my intestine missing and diabetes. Thinking about all of that used to be really discouraging. I've always thought you did what you did, to deal with it, grow up and move on. If you dwell on the past, you're just going to fall deeper into that sadness, and the whole point of being alive is to make an impact on other people's lives. If you're a lump hiding under a rug, you're not going to do that.

Photo by  Randy Bacon

Photo by Randy Bacon

I’m proud of myself for how hard I’ve worked. I changed my eating habits and stopped drinking. It’s improved my life, my mood and my relationships 300%. Everyday I go to work sober and I go home sober. It’s nice. I don't have to worry about getting a phone call in the middle of the night saying, “Something has happened to your daughter.” and me saying, “Oh I can’t drive”. Such a peace of mind. My diabetes is completely under control. My doctor said that it was impressive how quickly everything fell back to normal. But just because my blood sugar is normal doesn’t mean it will stay like that, so it is still a little worrisome.

I’m living with my family now and I have a lot of support from them and my friends. My stepdaughter is already in college, and it’s my dream to watch her and my other daughter grow up. They’re so smart and I’m so proud. At that age, they just need someone to listen. I’ve already had my time and I’m happy with that. I just want to make sure they get where they're going. That's the whole point. Since they were just babies, it's those two and that's it. They’re the only thing that matters.

Photo by  Randy Bacon

Photo by Randy Bacon

If you want to get yourself out of that dark place, if you’re struggling and you want to keep from falling over the edge, you have to cut the people that are knocking you out of line from your life. It’s hard but it has to be done. If there are people in your life that are doing things you don’t agree with or want around you, they shouldn’t be there. If you’re in a bad situation, you can change it. You can fix it. You just have to focus and do it. If you give up, you’ll just slip right back to where you were before. That’s a terrible feeling because you know you were so close to a breakthrough. You can’t help anyone if you don’t help yourself.

LeLand’s Story brought to you in partnership with

“For many in our community, routine doctor visits and prescription medications are far too expensive to access. Every day, people are forced to choose between food and medication or delay treatment for health issues until they are life threatening due to an inability to pay. MSU and Mercy partnered together to break the cycle of poor health and offer hope for the uninsured in our community. The only clinic of its kind in Missouri, the MSU Care Clinic offers uninsured patients top-quality primary care and prescription medications completely free of charge. We know every story—every person—has tremendous value. That is why at MSU Care, we are proud to give compassionate care and exceptional service at no charge to those in the greatest need.”