Ethel Magidela – Eight years living with Type 2 diabetes

Ethel Magidela recalls the day she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and how far she has come since then.

Ethel Nonkosi Magidela (50) lives in Pretoria, Gauteng. She has three adult children.

One evening in 2014, I was watching a movie and my eyes started getting blurry. I thought perhaps there was something wrong with the picture and decided to move closer to the television but there was no change. At the same time, I became so thirsty like an unusual thirst, with my mouth so dry as if I had run a marathon and needed to drink lots and lots of water. I remember I finished a 2-litre jug of water and could not understand what was happening. Added to that, I started feeling extremely tired so went to bed. In the middle of the night, I went to the bathroom back and forth to urinate.

Having lost my late brother and niece from Type 1 diabetes, I thought to myself those could be the signs, but I was in so much denial and told myself it can’t be, not me. So, I ignored the signs, got up the next morning, got into my car and drove my kids to school thinking everything was going to be fine. Boy, was I wrong!

After dropping my kids at school, I started feeling more fatigued. Around 11am I experienced extreme thirst and hunger. I decided to Google, and the symptoms were exactly spot on. Still refusing to accept it, I got ready to pick up my kids from school and afterwards decided to take a nap but was not able too. Finally, I decided to go see a doctor that same afternoon.

Admitted to hospital

When I got to the doctor and told him what I experienced, he did a blood and urine test, and told me my blood glucose was 28.9 and that I definitely had Type 2 diabetes due to the blood test results.

I was admitted into hospital immediately. In fact, the doctor was even surprised that I was still aware of my surroundings and had to ask me twice if I was aware that I’m in his consultation room because of how high my blood glucose was.

The next day I was discharged the following day with medication (metformin 500mg) and had to embark on this new unknown journey of diabetes. I now needed to change my lifestyle and get used to living with it. I started reading every article about diabetes to know what I’m living with. Knowledge is power.

My medication was only changed once in March 2019; I was put on Glucophage 500mg twice a day with a 1.8mg Victoza insulin injection once a day.

The hardest part

I found the following extremely hard when I was first diagnosed:

  • To learn how and when to prick and test on my own.
  • What would be a high or low number for my blood glucose during testing.
  • How many times to test per day and how to stick to the same testing time.
  • To watch my diet, as to what to eat to avoid hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose) or hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose).

Thankfully today I can say I have my daily routine down and have gained knowledge on the tasks I found hard due to constant education about diabetes.

My advice to fellow people with diabetes

  • First accept the diagnosis. Don’t be in denial, take it as a transition to a living a healthy lifestyle.
  • Get as much as possible knowledge about diabetes, by reading articles.
  • Educate your family and close friends so they understand what you are dealing with daily. In that way you’ll have their support, so you don’t feel alone, because you are never alone.
  • Join support groups both on social media and attend in person in your area

Making the best of it

To me the saying Bloom where you are planted means to take advantage of the opportunities in my life (like starting my own support group for diabetes) and be grateful for my current situation and make the best of it.

Currently, I’m eating healthy as possible and watching my starch intake and have lots of veggies in my diet. Soon I will start with Banting. Unfortunately, I don’t exercise as much as I want to, but I do take long walks thrice a week.

World Diabetes Day

This World Diabetes Day, I plan to participate in a local Diabetes Awareness Walk, light up my home in blue, make my friends and colleagues aware about the importance of World Diabetes Day.


Darren Badenhuizen – wake up and try again

Darren Badenhuizen, DSA PE management board secretary and joint co-ordinator of the DSA Young Guns, tells us more about his journey of managing Type 1 diabetes.

Darren Badenhuizen (39) stays in Port Elizabeth. He is in a relationship with Paula Thom and has a 11-year-old daughter.

Diagnosed in the UK

I was living in London, UK, in 2007, when I got sick. I was ill for a while and thought I would get better eventually. I thought I had flu, not knowing anything about diabetes. I lost a lot of weight and was weak. I struggled to climb up stairs and urinated a lot. Luckily at that time my mother came to visit friends in the UK. I fetched her from the airport. She was shocked to see what state I was in and dragged me to the hospital. At age 24, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and remained in hospital for three days. They called me a medical miracle as I wasn’t in a coma with a glucose reading of 36.  The doctor prescribed me Lantus and NovoRapid insulin which I still currently take.

A week later, I came back to South Africa. I was upset as it wasn’t on the cards to come back yet. It was only my fourth year living and working as a carpenter in London. But I suppose life obviously had other plans.

Took a while to accept

Honestly, I didn’t handle my diagnosis well. I was 24 and was only living on my long-acting insulin for a while. I don’t think I was educated enough in the UK with the five minute session with a diabetic nurse educator. It took me a long time to accept and understand that I had diabetes as I was set in my ways.

I struggle to think of a positive of living with diabetes and wouldn’t wish this on anyone. The reality is that a person with diabetes always has to consider their diabetes in whatever they do. Diabetes is hard but all you can do is wake up in the morning and try again.

DSA Port Elizabeth

In 2018, a friend was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she fell pregnant and wanted to get involved with DSA. She invited me to go with her to meet up with Paula Thom, who is the co-ordinator of DSA Young Guns. I learnt that there is a group for youngsters living with diabetes. This was very interesting; I wish I had been part of a group like this when I was diagnosed. So, I started attending these get-togethers and that’s how I got involved in DSA Young Guns.

I like to joke that my role is the muscle but I assist Paula with organising the events. I have also been co-opted onto the DSA management board as the secretary.

Being part of this group has enriched my life as I have met many other people living with Type 1 diabetes.

Dating another Type 1

Being in a relationship with someone who also has Type 1 diabetes has its benefits like being able to speak to someone at any time about anything and they understand what you’re going through and where you’re coming from without even having to say that much as they have had something similar at some point or just yesterday.

It also helps with small things, like getting your injection for a meal and then getting theirs too, or doing your long-acting shot and checking if they have done theirs.

Those little things all add up and make it easier which some non-diabetic might not get. Though, I don’t think both having diabetes automatically makes the relationship easier, you still have to work at it but it definitely doesn’t hurt.

Ready for spring

I’m looking forward to spring as it’s a season closer to summer and then I don’t stand out so much for always wearing shorts. I prefer to wear shorts as it’s easier to inject in my thighs.

World Diabetes Day

Megan Soanes, the DSA Port Elizabeth fundraising manager, is organising a walk in and around Port Elizabeth. I’m hoping to spend it with many other Type 1s.

Darren Badenhuizen

Lynne Vorster – Being an Oumie keeps me active

Lynne Vorster - Being an Oumie keeps me activeLynne Vorster tells us how being an Oumie keeps her active and her role as the librarian for DSA Port Elizabeth.

Lynne Vorster (64) lives in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape with her husband of 38 years. They have three daughters, two granddaughters and a grandson on the way.

Family first

First and foremost, I’m a wife, mother and Oumie. My husband and I are extremely proud of our three daughters: Nicola (36), Eleanor (34) and Christine (32). We are very blessed to have all three living in Gqeberha and incredibly lucky to have my two granddaughters, aged 3 years and 10 months, with me most days. We have a grandson on the way and are looking forward to meeting him in August.

Besides spending time with my family, I’m happiest in the kitchen; where my passion lies in bottling a variety of garlic, chilli and rosemary-infused olives. I also enjoy pickling peppers, beets, onions and cherry tomatoes.

Diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes

I was diagnosed in 2015 after going through a traumatic time. My doctor sent me for a complete blood work up and, unfortunately, his suspicions were correct.

I was constantly lethargic, went to the toilet often and mostly during the night, suffered from insomnia, and my eye sight became blurry.

My doctor prescribed metformin, half an aspirin, hydrochlorothiazide (blood pressure), simvastatin (cholesterol) and dual-acting human insulin. I was already on levothyroxine for my hypothyroidism.

Some positive news this year is that my metformin and levothyroxine dosage were lowered. I have, however, been prescribed another blood pressure tablet at night.

Veggie lovers

Fortunately, my family are veggie and salad lovers. We mostly eat chicken and fish. We seldom eat red meat with the exception of winter, where we tend to cook hearty stews and soups with lots of veggies and of course some starch.

I try to follow a meal plan but find myself derailing when I’m busy. Meals then become an afterthought and take a back seat unfortunately.

Being an Oumie helped me lose weight

I lost a considerable amount of weight looking after my first granddaughter from her birth, until she went to playschool last year. She is a very active and busy little girl. Running and skipping replaced walking at all times.

My 10-month-old granddaughter comes to me daily and will soon be walking. I guess I’ll be running and skipping once more. Exercise at the moment is getting up and down onto the play mat.

I do my own housework, cooking and all other tasks that come with running a home. I also run an aftercare service from my home and I have five children that come to me after school, during the week, assisting them with their homework, as well as helping them prepare for assessments, projects and orals. Added to that, I also do extra lessons in Mathematics and Afrikaans.

DSA librarian

Being nominated as the Librarian for the DSA Port Elizabeth branch was both a shock and an immense privilege. My duties include: ensuring that the books are available for everyone to browse during our monthly meetings; filling out a card with all relevant particulars; and ensuring that the books are returned by their due date.

I also create pamphlets with a variety of facts and information, which is available for everyone to take home and read at their leisure. My hope is that this information is shared with family members and friends who may also have diabetes.

Support and education

My family have been fantastic in supporting me and ensuring that I stay on the right track with my eating, medication and exercise.

If I was in the position to bring greater awareness to this disease, I would recommend sending medical staff to Government clinics and schools with a fun theme, ensuring that sessions are relatable and memorable.

I believe that more can be done to highlight diabetes on all forms of media, ensuring that the public is educated on symptoms that a friend, family member or loved one may be displaying. Having grandchildren, myself, I believe in teaching children the importance of a healthy and balanced diet and feel strongly that this should be taught at school as part of a formal curriculum. In turn, children can teach parents by sharing what they have learned at school and having fun activities to do at home.

Jane Mapfungautsi: Living with diabetes for 42 years

Single mother, Jane Mapfungautsi, tells us about her diabetes care in Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Zimbabwean Jane Mapfungautsi (52) lives in Kanye, Botswana. She is a single mother of three, Rungano (31), Rutendo (29) and Ashley (23).

In the family

Diabetes isn’t a shocking word in my family; my daughter, sister and late nieces, cousins, aunts, and my late paternal grandmother all lived with diabetes.

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 10-years-old, in 1980, in my home town, Gweru, in Zimbabwe. I was doing Grade 4 and my young sister, Blessing, had been diagnosed two years earlier. My mother, who was a nurse, noticed that I was drinking a lot of water and urinating a lot, especially at night. Before even going to the doctor, she said that she knew I had diabetes.

I was immediately admitted at Gweru Provincial Hospital under Dr Taylor, the resident physician. I still remember him well. Just like I remember all the doctors who’ve looked after me and have done such a wonderful job.

Living testimony

Forty-two years of manging my diabetes with insulin hasn’t been easy, but I’m a living testimony that it’s possible to survive. I was first put on a long-acting insulin. While I was been stabilised in hospital, I was taught how to inject myself. I would be given an orange and syringe with water and told to imagine that the orange skin was my skin and to prick at an angle of not more than 45°. It was a fun way of learning.

Once home, my mum would talk to my sister and I about diabetes care: the do’s and don’ts, what to eat and not to eat. Till now I admire the way she would place a flask of warm milk and some bread on top of the bedside cabinet in our bedroom and would wake us up at 2am every day to eat this snack. She had noticed how difficult it was to deal with a hypo attack in the middle of the night.

As I have grown older, I’ve realised that eating a snack just before bedtime helps me get through the night. The body actually uses a lot of energy while sleeping.

School years

Primary and secondary school were not easy. I would envy other children eating all the candy, biscuits, chocolates, and ice cream and so on. My parents would try to get non-sweetened substitutes for us, though of course they were not readily available.

When I started high school, I refused to be in boarding school after just a term. I didn’t like the fuss that was made over my diet and the strict monitoring of all my movements as my teachers were so scared that I would fail to inject or would eat the wrong food.

My parents tried to make sure that I enjoyed my childhood while adhering to the regime set by my doctors. My sister and I often attended Diabetes Association meetings, which gave us a chance to meet other people who had the same condition as us and share experiences. I remember Dr Lutalo, my physician, saying I needed to have a life like other children. I played a bit of netball and basketball, taking note of my blood glucose levels.


One of the biggest challenges I had was during my pregnancies. For all my three children, I had Dr Purazi as my physician and he always referred me to good gynaecologists. All my children were born prematurely. Of course, the doctors always knew the expected complications and always helped me to the best of their ability.

Keeping active

Exercising is quite important for people living with diabetes as it helps insulin to work better as well as keeping us strong and feeling good. I do my own household chores and enjoy attending to my vegetable garden. Listening to some music and dancing along helps me relax. I don’t overexert myself as there is a danger of having a hypoglycaemic attack. Being a teacher, when I’m hungry or tired, I quickly sit down and eat. I’ve to be careful about what I eat, how much I eat and when I eat.

Brittle diabetic

I’m what is called a brittle diabetic. This means I have subtle to severe swings in my blood glucose levels and have had frequent episodes of hypoglycaemia. Brittle diabetes is hard to control. The changes in my blood glucose levels are unpredictable and sharp, like going to sleep with blood glucose level over 20mmol/L and waking up with a reading ranging between 2mmol/L and 4,5mmol/l. Thus, I’ve had my fair share of hospitalisation. My doctors always need to work out a care plan, aimed at stable control of my blood glucose levels. I always have to make sure that I have enough test strips for my glucometer and of course I always have it with me in my handbag or on my bedside table.

Most people with diabetes complain that their glucose levels go high when they’re stressed; with me the opposite applies. Dietary control is essential; I eat a lot of different vegetables, fruits, more white meat than red meat and avoid fatty foods and try to replace excess salt with different spices (not too spicy so as to avoid gastric pain). Of course, eating regularly in recommended portions is needed.

Been on various insulin

I have been on six different types of insulin in a bid to stabilise my blood glucose levels. It has since been realised that since my blood glucose levels can go from one extreme to the other, the best regime is for me to take insulin (Humulin R) or insulin aspart (which are both short-acting) pre-breakfast, pre-lunch and pre-supper, and then take insulin glargine insulin (long-acting) as I go to sleep.

My doctors have a care plan for me which I try to adhere to and I always diarise and discuss with them any problems or adjustments I would have made. I have been taught how to titrate my short-acting insulin dosages. I’m given a certain range within which I adjust the insulin dosages according to my blood glucose levels. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to afford an insulin pump, or a continuous glucose monitor and avoid the pricks.

I also try to always have my routine blood tests done for Hb1AC, kidney and liver function and have my eyes checked annually.

Finding out about DSA

One Saturday morning, I was watching TV as I always try to watch programmes which address health issues. On Mzansi Insider, Diabetes South Africa (DSA) was addressing diabetes and Covid-19. I listened and learnt from the discussions. I found it interesting, so I visited the website and made contact to get more information.

Diabetes care in Botswana

I moved to Botswana in early 2007 and the diabetes care is quite good. What I appreciate most are the two big diabetes clinics the government has set up since 2012, one in the capital city, Gaborone, and the other in Francistown. I attend the Gaborone clinic.

These are facilities specifically built to attend to diabetes patients only and manned by teams of doctors well-versed in diabetes care and control. The facilities also have rooms where you get to have your eyes checked, get to see a dietitian, foot-care specialist, diabetes educators and so on. They also have well-equipped laboratories and pharmacies. Other government hospitals and private facilities also run diabetes clinics. The Botswana Diabetes Association holds meetings monthly and one can easily follow them on Facebook.

Taking care in winter

In winter, my biggest challenge is peripheral neuropathy, which causes a burning, painful pain in my hands. For this, I constantly take Vitamin B complex and a strong painkiller. I have since learnt the trick of sleeping with my gloves on and socks on my feet, with a hot water bottle. I have to make sure that I keep very warm all the time.

Just before the cold season starts, I have the flu vaccine. I usually tend to get throat infections and always make sure that I seek medical attention speedily, as any infection in my body makes my blood glucose levels to rise.

Winter also means taking multi-vitamins, not forgetting my green or mint tea with lemon. A warm cup of water first thing in the morning helps me detox. Although we don’t have a winter break at school, I make sure I rest indoors a lot and keep very warm. I try to avoid crowded places, worse now with the current Covid-19 pandemic, as having diabetes and having other underlying conditions means I’m at high risk of catching infections.

Candida is a problem I often have to deal with, especially when my glucose levels are high. I always quickly seek medical attention and get an anti-fungal cream or appropriate, recommended treatment. Pap-smear is a recommended must do.

Diabetes care challenges

Diabetes care is expensive. We appreciate governments who subsidise diabetes care. Not been able to go for check-ups when needed or not having enough money to buy all the required medication and glucose monitoring equipment is a challenge in most African countries.

Outreach programmes are really needed to teach the population at large especially in rural areas. People usually end up having amputations or going blind, because either they didn’t know that they have diabetes or due to poor diabetes control, or lack of nearby health facilities.

Educate all the time

Though a teacher by profession, my family and I do charity work. We always try to be a blessing to others, especially those who spend time hospitalised. Together we initiate community ventures both at home, in Zimbabwe, and here in Botswana whenever we can. We appreciate the gift of life.

I’m not shy to teach others about diabetes. Whenever I get a new class at school, I tell my pupils about my condition and teach them how they can help me, e.g. when I’m acting funny. I always talk to students, workmates, and friends about diabetes and the need for constant check-ups especially if there is a history of diabetes in the family.

To other people living with diabetes, I always talk to them about the need to know our bodies and the symptoms of high or low glucose levels. At the Diabetic Clinic, I always make new friends as we discuss our conditions.

Proper management is essential

The hardest lesson I have learnt in the 42 years of having diabetes is that without proper management, one can lose their life to diabetes complications. I have lost relatives and friends to diabetes and it’s very sad and painful. Diabetes is life-threatening but manageable if the necessary resources are there.

Daniel Sher – Happy, healthy and making a difference

Daniel Sher tells us how he has managed his diabetes successfully and how his diagnosis influenced his career path.

Daniel Sher (32) is lives in Cape Town with his partner and two fur-babies.

At the age of 18 months, Daniel was hospitalised after lapsing into a coma from hyperglycaemia. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and was put on Actrapid insulin.

When asked if he struggled to accept his diagnosis, he responds, “Not that I can recall. Then again, I didn’t have much of a hippocampus at that time, so my memories for that period aren’t too well-formed. Having been diagnosed soon after birth, my parents played an integral role in keeping me healthy and supporting me to foster healthy attitudes towards my lifestyle.”

It seems that the support from his parents built a solid foundation and led Daniel to achieve good management of his diabetes. The 32-year-old attributes his well-managed diabetes to“reliance on support from my medical team, friends and family. I’ve also relied heavily on meditation, psychotherapy and exercise (martial arts and surfing).” Adding that he exercises religiously.

However this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t face obstacles. He explains one of the hardest parts of having diabetes is “when plans need to be re-formulated due to diabetes. For example, having to turn back mid-hike due to having insufficient low supplies.”

Though, he is thankful for all the medical advances, “Insulin has evolved wonderfully, as has blood glucose monitoring technology. He currently uses Humalog and Lantus insulin and a Freestyle Libre CGM.”

Career path

Daniel admits that diabetes diagnosis influenced his career path; he became a psychologist who counsels people with diabetes. “Having had this condition for 30 odd years, I’ve become keenly aware of how important it is to consider the psychological side of diabetes. I’ve also become aware of how difficult it is for people with diabetes to access the right sort of specialised psychological support.

Public healthcare for diabetes needs more focus

In Daniel opinion’s, he thinks that we are getting there in terms of diabetes awareness. However, like many, he feels the public sector where the majority of South Africans receive diabetes care needs to be amped up. “Advocacy efforts need to be focussed on making diabetes education, care, management and psychological input more accessible to those who rely on public healthcare.”


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

Olivia Smargiasso – Walking the road to success

Olivia Smargiasso is the perfect example of living her best life with diabetes. This young lady has achieved so much already and her future is bright.

Olivia Smargiasso (18) lives in Brakpan with her parents and two younger siblings.


I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of two and a half, in November 2005. My mom had noticed the classic symptoms of thirst and excessive urination. She tested my blood glucose at home, and it was 16,6. By the end of that day, I had seen an endocrinologist and started using insulin.

I think at about five years old, I understood that I had something extra I always had to think about. It was then that I realised I needed to test my glucose and bolus for food (I had gone on to an insulin pump six months after I was diagnosed). This was also the time I became aware that other people in the class did not tell the teacher they were feeling low. A low usually left me feeling sweaty, irritable and very emotional. These mood swings were definitely difficult to regulate.

Aim for a dart board rather than the bullseye

I think because I was diagnosed at such a young age, living with diabetes is all I’ve ever known. Whenever I feel that I don’t want to have to deal with my diabetes anymore, I remind myself that I don’t need to be perfect, only aim for perfection. Living with the challenge of diabetes is more about aiming for a dart board rather than the bullseye, and it’s more than okay to miss here and there.

I’m currently on a Medtronic 670 pump. Before this I used the Medtronic Veo and before that injections. I have used Novorapid short-acting insulin for the last 15 years. My treatment hasn’t changed much in that time, only the carb ratios and other settings on my pumps.

As a child, I saw an endocrinologist, and a diabetes nurse educator, who also has a son (now grown up) with diabetes. Thus, she could empathise with my family, especially my mom. In more recent years, however, my mom, Dr Angela Murphy, has become my doctor; she is a specialist physician

Olivia Smargiasso: Walking the road of success

Dr Mom

I always joke that I couldn’t get away with anything because my mom knew when I wasn’t telling the truth. It was definitely challenging at times, having a doctor as a mom, because I knew she expected me to manage my diabetes with accuracy and precision.

I have also been very fortunate, though. My mom will often tell me about the launch of a new diabetic drug, or an advancement in research. She also sees how well I manage the many challenges of diabetes compared to patients or colleagues’ patients. I feel encouraged that perhaps I do manage my diabetes reasonably well.

Achieving in abundance

I was always encouraged not to let diabetes hold me back. I have Protea colours for karate after competing in Zimbabwe, Botswana and at the Commonwealth Karate Games. I’m a keen runner and Running Captain at school. I used to be an avid waterpolo and netball player too.

When I went onto continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), I found that playing sport became much easier as I was always aware of any change in my glucose levels. Before sensors, however, I would aim for a glucose level of 7,5-9 before playing sport in the afternoon and below 6,5 when swimming in the morning. This way I avoided experiencing a high after morning training and a low during netball or waterpolo practices after school.

I also make sure I always have something sugary close by. Game or Powerade have worked best for me; small sips throughout the training or match to replace any energy I’ve used while exercising. I also eat something with slow-releasing energy, like a banana, before training sessions or matches.

I don’t find that my diabetes affects my academic performance too much. If I go low or high in class, my teachers are always happy to let me eat something or bolus to correct my glucose. I am currently 4th in my grade, I was recently awarded the Best All Round Matric trophy and I’m the top senior public speaker too.

Next year, I’m moving to Stellenbosch to study environmental sciences. I’m really looking forward to this.

Diabetes camps

I have attended three diabetes camps; one as a camper and two as a leader. I absolutely love these camps and encourage every child with diabetes I meet to attend at least one. These camps not only equip kids with the practical and medical skills they need to live a full life with diabetes, but also instil a sense of belonging, showing kids that they are not alone in this very difficult journey.

Children get the chance to meet others with similar and different experiences, exchange stories and come up with new ideas and different approaches to the most common obstacles. These camps also show children that they can have a normal life and enjoy normal activities, they do not have to stop eating sweets or give up their favourite sports because of diabetes. I hope post COVID, camps will be able to happen again.

Supportive teachers 

My teachers were always patient, caring, and compassionate when it came to handling my diabetes. My Grade 00 teacher was particularly loving in helping me add up the amount of carbs I was planning on eating at lunchtime. I was always allowed to have a quick snack or go fill up my water bottle. Some teachers went as far as giving me nuts or fruit instead of cupcakes and biscuits when it was a birthday.

My Grade 2 teacher also has a child with diabetes and was involved in the diabetes support group my mom helped establish when I was a child. At the start of every year until I reached Grade 9, my mom met with the new teachers and chatted about my diabetes management. This was never a burden for them and they were always supportive. There have been other girls in my school with diabetes over the years, currently there are four of us in different grades. I’m always happy to chat to them if I can help them in any way.

I have heard stories of children being treated badly at school, by teachers and peers, because of their diabetes. I think more awareness is needed so that phrases like “you can’t eat that” and stigmas of diabetes being a result of an unhealthy lifestyle, are abolished.

Understanding friends

Most of my friends have been with me since preschool and have grown up knowing I have diabetes. When I explain the condition to people I have just met, I often use an analogy: the good soldiers in my body (my immune system) got confused and attacked their own castle (my pancreas) and destroyed it. Now it doesn’t work so I have to get insulin from this pump.

I also explain that it’s a genetic disease and there is nothing I could have done to avoid getting it. Nobody did anything wrong, my parents did not give me too many sweets when I was little. The condition was always in my DNA, it was only a matter of time before it activated.

I also say that I can live a completely normal life and do everyday activities like any other person. All I have do is simply be careful that my insulin covers my carbs, the correct amount and given in time. I need to be aware of the different effects of food and activity on my life.

Love of fruit

I absolutely love fruit, watermelon, pears, and oranges in particular. Whenever I have a sweet craving, I try to go for a fruit rather than a sugary snack. While sticking to a healthy diet is important, treats like KitKats or ice lollies are my go-to when I need something slightly less nutritious.

Good advice

For anyone that has just been diagnosed with diabetes, I would say the most important thing to remember is that life with this condition is a balancing act. It’s impossible to be perfect all the time and constantly have a blood glucose reading of 5,6 but luckily CGM has taught us if most of our readings are in the range of 4 to 10, overall control will be good.

But it’s normal and perfectly okay to miss the target range sometimes. The important thing is that we focus on the positives more than the negatives because that way we will see how well we are doing. Something I live by is, “Today I will do what others won’t do that tomorrow I can do what others can’t”.

Lesley van Greunen – Bariatric surgery reversed my Type 2 diabetes

Lesley van Greunen tells us why she decided to have bariatric surgery six years ago and the great benefits that followed afterwards.

Lesley van Greunen (56) lives in Eastern Cape with her husband. She has a daughter and a deceased son.

Drastic change needed

For years, my weight went up and down and my health was deteriorating. At my heaviest I weighed 147kg. I had a number of health issues, such as Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure amongst others, and was taking a lot of medication, so I really wanted to reduce that, especially the insulin. For many years I was taking two oral tablets mornings and at night, 85 units of insulin.

I was given an estimate of two years to live unless I did something drastically. When hearing this, I made the decision to do something about my weight as I wanted to see my grandchildren one day.

Choosing bariatric surgery

After looking into my choices of how to lose weight, I decided to have bariatric surgery. I had to lose a minimum of 10kg before the surgery to prove that I was committed and serious about my weight loss journey. I think this was also to show that I could follow procedures and diet.

A diet was designed for me. I had to weigh in weekly, and after surgery I still needed to weigh in and adjust my diet. The weight loss is not instant.

The time frame of losing the 10kg varies from person to person. From start to finish, it took me four months.

Bariatric surgery is something you must really want and must really work hard for it. I believe you have to be ready psychologically as your mindset is imperative for this to be a success.

Roux-en-Y bypass 

After I had lost the 10kg, my surgery was planned for October 2015. I had the Roux-en-Y bypass. It’s done via keyhole surgery but is a big surgery. Thankfully my family were very excited for me and supported me 100% through the transformation.

Recovery and adjustment

Straight after surgery, my relationship with food changed. I battled to eat at first. I started by having teaspoon amounts at first. It took about three weeks to get into a routine and knowing what I can tolerate as my taste changed.

Meal size is so important after surgery and mindset. I still wanted to eat the same size meal, but it’s impossible. It took me a while to get used to it and this is why I believe you have to be ready psychologically. A month after surgery, I weighed 80 kg.

My diet changed drastically and my taste in foods. Some foods affected my taste and others the smell. I can only eat tiny amounts very often. If I eat or drink too much, I become very nauseous. It’s better to eat and drink separately not together.

I must say I miss sitting down and eating a big roast dinner or Christmas lunch. I still do that but in much, much smaller quantities. Sometimes I miss it.

Every day I have to think about what I can eat. I can never just eat what I want to, as gaining weight is very possible, even after the operation. This is a whole different way of living forever, if I don’t want to go back to what I looked like before. But so worth it.

Exercise afterwards took a few weeks to get into as I was still tender around the operation site. I found walking was the best for me.

Type 2 diabetes reversed

I had high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes among other health issues before the surgery. But in hospital all my diabetes medication was stopped and I haven’t used anything for six years. My blood glucose level never goes over 5. My blood pressure medication has also stopped and I have had no problems with it either.


My medical aid only paid for 80% of the procedure as it is elected, and classed as cosmetic. But, I’m feeling great and feel as if I have been given a new chance at life. I just wish I had done it years before.

Before bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery reversed my Type 2 diabetes

After bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery reversed my Type 2 diabetes

Doug Ellish – living life 4Shaw

Doug Ellish, founder of 4Shaw, tells us more about his diabetes journey and why he started the wellness and educational website.

I was 15-months-old when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My diagnosis was a result of increasingly difficult behaviour (caused by constant high blood glucose) and I went into a diabetic coma.

I remember my mom always giving me my human insulin (rDNA) injections, with the vial and the old orange top hypodermic needles. I don’t recall the name of the basal insulin I was using back then, but I do recall the delivery injector was closer to a double barrel shotgun, than an insulin pen. My dad quite enjoyed delivering my basal to me.

For the past 20 years, I have been using insulin lispro, and insulin glargine. However sometimes I get generic, if they don’t have the original in stock. I have never used an insulin pump. As my doctor said, “Don’t fix what isn’t broken.” I did start using the Freestyle Libre but am currently unable to afford the co-payment my medical aid requires so have gone back to old strips and calloused finger tips until I’m able to afford it again.

Bad management during youth

My management regime has up until recently been a secondary in my life. During my youth all the way up until my early teens my control was not very good. I lost both my folks to cancer before I turned 20 and I think that, after a brief spiral out, kind of set me on a path to change my health and even my mental state. It made me realise my mortality and that if I didn’t start taking care of things, it would not be long before things would take care of me!

I will say I do feel I have an advantage over those who get diagnosed later on in life. If a fish is born with a deformed fin (Finding Nemo), it will adjust its actions and movements to feel as if it’s just as normal as the other fish. I feel the same thing with my diabetes. Having never known any different, I never went through the struggle of changing my lifestyle drastically. For those who get diagnosed later, they have known what the “normal” side of life was before their diagnosis and having to adjust lifestyles, eating and managing injections and glucose checks  can come as a massive blow for some.

Friendly diabetes community

Even though I have had diabetes most of my life, I’m very new to the diabetes community. I always felt if I didn’t involve myself in it, I would just be oblivious to the horrors that await me. I regret that now. From what I have experienced thus far, it has been nothing less than amazing support and gratitude for each other. I am thankful to all who put themselves out there for awareness and am hoping 4Shaw can be a contributor to that.

Lessons learnt

I think the biggest lesson is not being too hard on yourself. You have to be able to live a little from time to time or you will end up dying young from stress as opposed to this disease. As much as we have to see the world differently in terms of having to plan in depth even for menial tasks, there needs to be a balance. Living in the moment, for that moment, is a big one for me. Its literally taken 30 years, but I feel I am able to let go more now.

Acceptance is another big one. Knowing there are things you can and can’t control and being conscious of each of those aspects will make life just that little bit sweeter.

Exercise is also a big one. Find some form of activity that makes you smile and challenge yourself with it. That has helped me immensely in my later years.

Family support

As I said I lost both my parents to cancer in my late teens, but up until that point both my mother and father were hyper-involved with all aspects of my life. My dad gave me the confidence from a young age to not be afraid of getting out there no matter what the circumstances were. Where my mom was more in the supportive and loving role, constantly checking in on me, making sure I was eating correctly and at the right times, and always keeping me positive about things.

My sisters have never had the best grasp of what my existence entails, but I would never assume to think that was their role. I also never pushed them to understand or help carry my burden. It was never theirs and they didn’t need it.

My girlfriend is possibly the best family role player of them all. She has gone out of her way to understand what having diabetes entails and has even attended visits to my endocrinologist with me. She’s the balance of why I am better at managing my levels and a person as a whole and I’m forever indebted to her for her contributions to my life.


4Shaw was originally a standard e-commerce website; I was competing with the major players and just didn’t have the backing to continue the fight. I had the brainwave during our first lockdown last year to start converting it into a wellness and educational platform for those like me who perhaps were newly diagnosed, or those who were just looking for information about diabetes. The thought process was basically that I have lived with and dealt with a lot throughout my life with diabetes and have always kind of supported myself, and my hope was to give some support to those like me who didn’t have it and so 4Shaw was reborn.

It’s about education, sharing the burden and knowing you are not alone in this. I also wanted to give people access to things like dieting tips, exercise regimes to suit their needs and sending the message that having a bad day of control doesn’t mean you’re an out-of-control diabetic. It’s about removing the stigma that seems to surround us and educating non-diabetics about what this autoimmune disease means for people who have it.

For more info, visit

Doug Ellish showing his Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System.

Seiso Motlhale – diagnosed with diabetes after COVID

After testing positive for COVID, Seiso Motlhale was also diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. He tells us more.

Seiso Motlhale (39) lives in Bloemfontein, Free State with his wife and two children. 

In August 2020 after testing positive for COVID and being treated with vitamin B, C, and zinc, Seiso suffered with headaches and dizziness so he went back to his doctor. After more tests, Seiso was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

“I was shocked because I’m active person and train almost three times a week. Luckily, I knew a bit about diabetes, but I felt I needed more support and information, so I contacted Diabetes SA,” Seiso says.

Seiso was prescribed atorvastatin (20mg), gliclazide (60mg), and metformin hydrochloride  (1000mg). He also changed his diet and cut down alcohol, but he adds it’s not easy. Luckily his wife and kids have been very supportive by changing 60% of their diet to accommodate him.

“I am slowly getting there. Plus, for the sake of my health I have to compromise. I only drink gin or dry wine; I don’t drink beer or sweet things anymore.”

The father of two still exercises three times a week, running 5km, and hopes to change the negative mindset people have about diabetes. “I never thought someone at my age will have diabetes, but it goes to show, anyone can get it and the public needs to know this and look out for the symptoms,” Seiso says.

Can COVID cause diabetes?

Information published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, a medical journal, looked at the proportion of newly diagnosed diabetes in people with COVID-19 infection.

“This is commonly observed, occurring in as many as 14,4% of those admitted to hospital with COVID. Again, a number of factors may be responsible. Undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes is common and may have been present before contracting COVID-19. The severe inflammatory response induced by the virus and the resultant need for corticosteroid treatment may precipitate diabetes in prone individuals. However, there is also evidence to suggest that the virus itself may directly destroy the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas.”

It was also reported in Medical News Today, that an international group of diabetes experts believes that some people may develop diabetes for the first time due to severe COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They have set up a registry to investigate the possible link and inform future treatment.



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

Toine and Rita van Wetten – Living with the glass-is-half-full-attitude

Rita van Wetten shares how her and her husband, Toine, have persisted the glass-is-half-full-attitude in both of their diabetes journeys.

Tonie (80) and Rita van Wetten (67) live in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal and have been married for 47 years. They have one daughter and an adopted grandson. Rita has Type 1 diabetes and Toine has Type 2 diabetes.

Rita’s diagnosis

Rita was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1970 and thinking back she recalls how things have changed, for the better of course. “My first syringe looked like an icing decorator and it was extremely stressful to inject myself. In those years, a person with diabetes couldn’t check his/her blood glucose like we do nowadays. You had to go for blood tests at the lab, or on visiting my physician, he would take my urine sample, put it in a test tube and light a burner, he would then put a tablet in the urine and hold the test tube over the burner. Then he would compare the result with a strip on the tablet’s bottle and most of the time my glucose level would be shockingly high. The urine glucose could be an hour or more out in comparison to a blood test.”

“When we could test our own blood glucose around the 1990s, you had to prick your finger with what looked like a scalpel blade. Scary, and needless to say to get a proper drop of blood for the test was extremely stressful. I think my readings were always high as just battling to prick with that lancet made me perspire, stress and curse every time. It was horrible! Insulin changed over the decades from pig-based insulin to human-culture based insulin.”

Rita admits in the first four years of her diagnosis, she couldn’t accept it. “I was in complete denial and cheated and lied to everybody and myself for those four years. This changed once I got married and the biggest turning point was when I was invited to a diabetes meeting at the old Hillbrow hospital, but unbeknown to me this was a lecture for medical students. The words were one thing, but the graphic and horrific slides showing an ulcerating leg, foot, and vagina, with three quarters ‘eaten away’ jerked any complacency out of me.”

“During the lecture, there was also a discussion about the pregnancy complications for a woman with diabetes, and her unborn child. Toine and I so wanted at least one child so that is when while driving home I decided, no more transgressing!”

Brittle diabetic

In the first years of Rita’s diagnosis, it was a struggle to stabilise her glucose levels, not only by herself but by doctors too. “I remember soon after I was diagnosed, I was admitted to hospital to try and stabilise my glucose, and also during my pregnancy I was in hospital for three months. My gynae eventually said, ‘We will never be able to get your glucose right, go home and try your utmost at home.’ I would be 12 mmol/L and within 30 minutes I could be in a hypoglycaemic coma, and it wouldn’t be because of over-injecting. This happened often and I was then deemed a brittle diabetic.”

Brittle diabetes is a term used to describe Type 1 diabetes that is particularly difficult to control. If you have brittle diabetes, you are likely to experience frequent, dramatic swings in blood glucose levels and are at risk of dangerous periods of hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia.

Rita adds, “I have never had a hyperglycaemic coma but about 500 hypo comas (where I was out for the count and needed help, either from family, friends or paramedics or doctors). That is apart from  thousands of lows in my 50-years with diabetes. In the early years of my life with diabetes, I had bad spells of high glucose and very often had ketoacidosis.”

Toine’s diagnosis

Toine was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes after an armed robbery in 2005. Rita explains, “However, he is also unfortunately genetically predisposed due to a family history going back generations.”  Toine currently takes Jardiance and Galvus Met as well as cholesterol medication and Rita uses Tresiba (long-acting insulin) and Humalog (short-acting insulin) and Glucophage.

Managing their diabetes together

Despite the turbulent road Rita has had with her glucose control, she is happy to say she has no secondary complications caused from diabetes. She attributes this to managing her diabetes as best as she can.

“I have no secondary health problems due to diabetes. This I feel is due to a number of factors: after the wake-up call of the diabetes meeting, Toine and I incorporated a healthy lifestyle with regard to eating habits and keeping fit. Smoking and drinking were out. I detest smoking and I have never taken to drink. Regarding our eating plan, we eat very little white carbohydrates (bread, rice, potatoes). However, that doesn’t mean that we occasionally don’t cheat, but when we do we relish and love it and enjoy it thoroughly and thereafter back to the straight and narrow next meal. I carbo count, our dietitian has helped me to work out to a fine art what to inject for what I am going to eat. This injection depends entirely on what my reading is before we eat.”

A game changer

“Since glucometers came into fashion, my control improved a lot. Before I was on Freestyle Libre, I used to test up to 20 times a day because I’m not able to distinguish between high or low glucose symptoms. However, the Freestyle Libre has made my life a lot easier the past three years, actually it has changed my life completely. And Toine’s life as well. He can check my readings any time, whether I am asleep or busy reading or whatever I am busy with.”

Advice for families

Rita’s advice for family with a newly diagnosed member is, “Cook and serve healthy and nourishing meals to everyone in the family. In other words, as a family, decide how this diabetes disruptor is going to be handled and tackled by the family. It’s not only a problem for the person with diabetes.”

Her reasoning for this is her own experience, “When I was just diagnosed, it was a shock to me and my family. It felt like a death sentence. The admonitions and finger wagging of the doctor, no sugar, no desserts etc, only chicken and salads from now on demolished my savoury and sweet tooth staples. While the rest of the family ate delicious meals, I had to/pretended that my piece of chicken and salad was nice. I felt alienated (A driver of my denialism?). Once the family was asleep, I would creep into the pantry and help myself to tasty leftovers. I became a food thief par excellence.”

Glass half full attitude

Rita also attributes positivity to her and Toine’s good management of diabetes. “We keep friends with a positive outlook on life as we are very positive. I believe that having the glass half full personality is important in life. We laugh a lot, at, with and about ourselves (thankfully nobody has to listen to our warped sense of humour). Furthermore, we have immense respect for one another and we touch and cuddle often and show and tell our immense love for each other.”

“We do a lot of things together but we also give each other room to do our own thing. I’m an extrovert and Toine is an introvert. It works well for us. I have always kept myself busy with hobbies over the years like pottery, sculpting, weaving, painting and dancing (which I still do now) and I belong to a writers club. Toine reads a lot and does woodwork; he makes frames for my art. We do crosswords and quizzes and play games and also card games. Last but not the least we are Christians and our faith is of utmost importance in our lives and it keeps us on our knees and grateful, joyful, thankful, happy and our hearts filled with love.”

When asked if they feel they are aging or upgrading, Rita responds, “Mentally, we feel very young. Physically it gets harder and harder to keep fit and before COVID we used to walk 5 plus kilometres daily on the boardwalk without a problem. With lockdown, it went out the window and down the tube. We are trying to get back but it is hard. The mind is willing and instructs; but the muscles say, who are you talking to?”


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