Cecilia Gyan has been newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. She shares how she has modified her lifestyle to better her health.
Cecilia Gyan (58) lives in King William’s Town, Eastern Cape with her husband of 31 years. They have three children.
Diagnosed after having COVID
Cecilia was diagnosed in July 2022 with Type 2 diabetes several months after having COVID. “I don’t know if it was brought on by COVID. But I do have a family history of diabetes; my mon had Type 1 and my dad had Type 2. Because of this I have maintained a healthy lifestyle as she encouraged me to take care of my health. Though, when I was pregnant with my first two children, my blood glucose levels were high but I was never put on medication. I was advised to be more active and watch my diet. After giving birth, my blood glucose regulated. I had my last child when I was 42 and surprisingly had no blood glucose problems during that pregnancy, but then I had lost over 12kg by then and that could have contributed to not experiencing any problems.”
The 58-year-old got COVID in December 2021. “Around April 2022, I realised that I was urinating more often than usual, especially at night, about six to eight times before dawn, and I also felt generally under the weather. I visited my GP who did a finger-prick test and it was high (11). He advised me to change my diet to try and lower it,” Cecilia explains.
After a second visit to her GP, a HbA1c test was done which was confirmed that she had Type 2 diabetes. “He prescribed 500mg of metformin. However, after the first week, my blood glucose readings weren’t decreasing so my GP doubled my dosage to the morning and evening.”
Family history of diabetes
Apart from both Cecilia’s parents having diabetes, her husband was diagnosed with Type 2 in 2005. “Because of my parents, this news didn’t feel like a train smash. I felt it was a condition that you can live with. My husband has been very supportive of my diagnosis and has taught me how to prick my finger and check my blood glucose readings. He puts the pin in the instrument for me the night before so that I can test in the mornings. We have always ate similar things so now cooking from a single pot is easier.”
“My daughter, who is a medical doctor, was also diagnosed with Type 2 in 2017. She was prescribed metformin. But thankfully due to her changing her lifestyle through diet and exercise, she no longer needs to take any medication.”
“Even though most of my family has diabetes, my diagnosis has been hard on me, it’s different when you are diagnosed! I struggled with acceptance and woke up crying a couple of times.”
Cecilia goes on to say, “Personally, my struggle has been not being able to eat what I want and portion sizes. I felt weak and hungry all the time after eating the recommended portion size. The cravings have stopped ever since I started medication. My daughter helped me out temporarily with her meal plans and I have now consulted with a dietitian. This has helped me tremendously in terms of portion size and what I love which I can include in my diet.”
“I also felt tired more often and it’s difficult to be physically active when you’re hungry and fatigued. For the first three weeks of taking the medication, I had side effects, mostly nausea. Thankfully that has subsided.”
Another challenging aspect of nutrition for Cecilia is “it gets boring eating greens all the time. Also, I have to plan around my eating. Preparing beforehand is essential for eating correctly. My biggest headache is when I have to travel for work purposes. I realised that breakfast tends to be difficult and depending on the accommodation provided, healthy food choices in terms of greens may not be available or the same every day. There is very little flexibility.”
Aiming for steady readings
“Since I’m newly diagnosed, I’m still trying to get steady reading continuously. After my daughter’s meal plan, I’ve seen readings being steady (5-6) which makes me feel good that I’m doing something right. And now with the dietitian’s help, I’m doing well.I test my blood glucose level every morning.”
Cecilia experienced her first episode of hypoglycaemia in August. “I didn’t know if I was having a hypo or if it was a hot flush. I felt weak and was sweaty. I ate a boiled egg and after eating it I felt better.”
Cecilia has changed her diet; she has cut out red meat and gets her protein from eating eggs and fish. She doesn’t consume dairy as she has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). She has also started walking 30 minutes a day or does other exercise. “I’m also making a deliberate effort to take regular breaks away from my desk and laptop. I stretch and walk around,” she says.
The mother of three has lost about 4kg and she says that people are commenting on it. “I use this opportunity to inform them about my diabetes and the fact that diet is what is making me lose weight, without much effort.”
Accepting diabetes as part of life
The 58-year-old is open about having diabetes with work colleagues.“I tend to be upfront about it so that if I seem to be a bit fussy, especially when eating out, the host or my colleagues will understand,” Cecilia explains. However, she adds that travelling for work is a concern as she worries about experiencing hypoglycaemia.
“I need to see my diagnosis in a positive light and move with it. There will definitely be challenges but with family support and knowledge from reputable sources, I will thrive and not let my diabetes define me.”
And this is what Cecilia is doing. “I have gone back to dressing up because of the weight loss and I’m looking after myself properly. I’m my priority now. As a mother, we tend to look after everybody else and now, I look after me first.”
Diabetes may have some control of her life but laughing is not one of them. “Diabetes doesn’t stop anyone from laughing! Laughter is great medicine too.”