Chelsea Schippers chats about being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in her twenties, diabetes burnout, having a supportive partner and volunteering at DSA.
Chelsea Schippers (27) lives in Stellenbosch, Western Cape.
In September 2020, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Since I’ve had diabetes for almost three years, my treatment hasn’t changed much. I started metformin six months after being diagnosed and have decreased my long-acting insulin (insulin glargine) from 30 units to 16 units since being diagnosed.
Currently I’m on metformin, a rapid-acting insulin (insulin aspart) and a long-acting insulin (insulin glargine). I inject 1 unit of insulin aspart for every 15g of carbs/sugar I eat, 16 units of insulin glargine and 1000mg of metformin every night.
Food, fitness and feelings
If had R1 for every time someone told me, “There are carbs in that, so you can’t eat that” I’d be rich. While my body doesn’t make insulin and I have to inject for all the carbs I do eat, that doesn’t mean I have to stay away from them completely. Carbs provide energy and incorporating them in daily meals is vital even as a person with diabetes. I don’t have to avoid bad foods, everything can be enjoyed in moderation. I don’t follow a specific diet and eat what I feel like eating that day but aim to eat 1800 calories a day and keep an eye on my daily carb intake.
Exercising is also important as a person with diabetes. Apart from maintaining a healthy fitness level, it helps to reduce my glucose level if it’s too high. Exercising also releases endorphins which helps with my mental health. I have a gym membership so I’ll either play squash with my boyfriend, Sebastian, or go to a class. We try to go at least once a week.
Expressing your feelings is essential. A year after being diagnosed I ended up in therapy as a result of diabetes burnout. Talking about it really helped me a lot. I encourage anyone who is struggling with diabetes management to speak to someone they trust about their struggles.
Volunteering at DSA
A friend of mine, who also has Type 1 diabetes, told me about Diabetes South Africa. As an adult whose life had completely changed in a matter of days and the difficulties that came with that, I can only imagine what that must be like to deal with as a child. So, I really wanted to get involved with the DSA camp for kids and find a way to help and give back to the children in the diabetes community.
On top of that, there is so much information on diabetes and the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. However, this knowledge is not well known in South Africa. DSA does good work in helping people living with diabetes but that is extremely difficult to do when people don’t know of DSA’s existence. I chose to volunteer so that I can help increase diabetes awareness and the importance of medical care for people living with diabetes.
My volunteering began in early 2022. So far, I have helped plan and have assisted at a DSA YT1 camp as a leader which took place last year September. I’m in the process of working with the team on the next camp which will take place in October 2023.
Sebastian and I met at church in 2021. He saw my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) on my arm one day and asked me about it before we started dating.
He is an amazing partner; he helps me carb count for meals, calculates how many units of insulin to inject and even injects for me sometimes. If my blood glucose is too low or too high, he will quickly get anything I need. He has even gone to the shop for me at 3am when my glucose went low and I had nothing to bring it up.
Sebastian supports me on days when my body is feeling weak and I take a mental health day. He was the photographer at the YT1 camp last year. He took the time to talk to psychologist, Daniel Sher, and his wife, Jess, to ask how he can be a good partner to someone with diabetes. His support has been overwhelming. It brings me so much joy to see the compassion he has for me and the people around him, I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.
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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]