We hear how volunteering at Diabetes South Africa changed Caine Tibbs career pathway and how he is using his Type 1 condition to help others.
Caine Tibbs (42) lives in Lakeside, Cape Town.
Diagnosed at age four
Caine was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was four years old. “I was told that I got up often during the night to drink water as I was unusually thirsty and would urinate a lot. My mom kept telling me to stop drinking water at night. When this continued, it was thought that I had a bladder infection, and I was taken to a doctor and then was diagnosed with diabetes,” Caine explains.
“Since there is no history of diabetes in the immediate family, it was thought that it could have resulted from a virus which I had a few months prior.”
From the time Caine was diagnosed, he has been taking insulin injections. “I think I started on two to three per day, and now over the past 10 to 20 years I use four injections per day. I recall initially taking regular insulin and insulin isophane human in my youth but over the past years I have been taking insulin glulisine (fast-acting) and insulin glargine (long-acting) which seem to be providing me with more consistent and stable glucose levels and in general more regulation regarding my glucose readings.”
The 42-year-old says that his good management consists of strictly keeping to routines regarding his testing, eating habits and exercise.
Change of eating habits
Caine says as a family, their way of eating changed once he was diagnosed. “My mom would not have any cakes, biscuits, sweets or cooldrinks in the house. We ate balanced meals, ensuring that the whole family was an example to me.”
“I have to admit that my condition has generally been quite stable, barring the occasional hypo due to environmental and emotional circumstances. Although there definitely has been a slight degradation regarding my body’s ability to use insulin effectively and with the general way in which the disease progresses, I have managed to remain relatively fit and healthy, also as a result of keeping to a controlled and balanced diet and what works for me individually.”
Volunteering changes life
“For a few years, I struggled to find permanent employment and went through a very depressive, self-loathing almost destructive state and was feeling like I had nothing to offer and that I wanted to give up.”
“I sat down one day and gathered my thoughts regarding my life experience, the work I had done so far, the challenges and problems I had faced as a result of having diabetes and how I had overcome them. I thought that if I, just an ordinary person, was dealing with all of this and could overcome the majority of obstacles thrown at me, then there must be other people experiencing the same, and perhaps in some way I could use my condition and experience to assist, support and uplift others,” Caine explains.
Caine applied to volunteer at Diabetes South Africa (DSA), Cape Town branch last year November and was afforded the opportunity. His volunteer duties involved assisting with processing membership applications, telephonic support and basic administration and operational duties.
Thankfully Caine’s ability and willingness to help the diabetes community was rewarded by him being offered a full-time job at DSA at the beginning of the year.
He goes on to explain that his duties are similar to when he was volunteering. “However, I have taken on more of a managerial role and helping to co-ordinate and run a project with the National Manager and one of our large sponsors, aQuellé with their Have a Heart for Diabetes campaign.”
“I have taken over as the Branch Manager of the Western Cape operation and this includes a more focussed approach to finding funding opportunities and increasing our membership numbers. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Structure and routine
The 42-year-old admits that he is a methodical and systematic person in that he likes structure and keeping to schedules. “I eat the same foods for breakfast and lunch each day. I only drink one cup of coffee in the morning and ensure I drink a litre of water every day and monitor my glucose level before each meal and generally try to follow the same routines in life.”
He adds, “I find that this helps with controlling my glucose levels. I believe that eating regularly, testing my glucose regularly and eating balanced and healthy low glycaemic meals can only better improve my control.”
When asked what his healthy habits are, Caine responds, “I don’t smoke or drink alcohol and ensure I drink more than 1 litre of good quality spring water every day, not tap water. I hardly ever eat junk food or highly processed foods; I believe that if you want your body to function at an optimal level, then you need to supply it with the best possible ingredients. I stay away from taking medication for every ache and ensure I don’t consume products containing added sugars; this is effectively an acid and a contaminate and your body needs to remain at a balanced pH level, or at least a slightly more alkaline state otherwise it degrades internally and allows for more disease to grow and increases the possibility of internal inflammation.”
“My grandfather always used to say, ‘You are what you eat’ which is a saying I try to live by. Thus, I eat low-GI food often and a balanced meal every night, consisting of protein in the form of meat (limiting red meat), starch in the form of potatoes, brown rice, or whole grain pasta with two different colour vegetables.”
Thankfully, Caine hasn’t experienced many diabetes complications other than occasional peripheral neuropathy in his arms and hands, and damaged blood vessels in his eyes which resulted in laser surgery on both eyes and a vitrectomy on his right eye.
He adds that he occasionally suffers with sleep issues. “This is mainly due to hypoglycaemia, but not often. Since I’ve been on a more stable night-time insulin and I have taken the time and trouble to test my glucose before I go to bed, in the interest of putting my mind at ease, I find that I’m able to sleep better and more soundly, and I don’t often wake up feeling concerned or being hypoglycaemic.”
“Stress also plays a big role in that if I have had a very stressful day or have over-exerted myself physically or even emotionally, it can lead to my glucose level falling quite drastically when I’m asleep at night, and then my body and my muscle’s feel completely drained, sore and weak the next day.”
He adds that when he is very active on days when there is high humidity or temperatures can also cause his glucose level to drop suddenly, so it is important that he doesn’t overexert himself in these conditions.
We wish Caine all the best in his new role at DSA and thank him for his desire to help the diabetes community.
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Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Feel free to email Laurelle on [email protected]
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