Thato Jones has his eyes set on a rugby career after matric. He shares how he realised that his diabetes doesn’t have to define who he is.
Thato Jones (18) is currently in his matric year and stays at King Edward VII School Hostel during the week and on weekends in Krugersdorp, Gauteng with his parents, Zinto and Lavern.
At the age of 10, in April 2015, Thato was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He experienced excessive thirst, painful stomach cramps and numerous bathroom breaks. “I wasn’t feeling well and lacked energy. One afternoon after school I told my mom that my teacher asked whether I was sick. My mom asked if other teachers had asked that question too. She was shocked to hear that quite a few had. Since she didn’t notice any changes due to her seeing me every day, she decided to take me to the pharmacy where I was given Citro-Soda but was also advised to see a doctor. That same evening I landed up in hospital as I had diabetic ketoacidosis,” Thato explains.
Thato says he knew a little about Type 2 diabetes before he was diagnosed due to the Personal and Social Well-being class at school. Though, his knowledge of Type 1 is expansive today.
Treatment and management
Thato currently uses insulin before every meal, this is usually three times a day. He checks his glucose levels four times a day, before every meal and before bedtime.
He has been at boarding school since 2018 and says eating the bulk prepared food hasn’t been an issue with managing his diabetes.
The 18-year-old says he has been upfront about his diabetes with dorm mates, team mates, close friends and a few teachers. However, he chooses not to overshare. “It isn’t because I’m shy or embarrassed about it, it’s quite the opposite. I test my blood glucose whenever I need to and I inject wherever I want to. I just don’t want to feel like a burden.”
He adds that he has taught close friends and people that he trusts how to help him when he experiences low blood glucose levels. “A quick fix for a hypo is drinking Coke, or eating a Super C or something sweet. Managing my diabetes is almost like second nature. I know what to do and when to do it.”
Thato explains that when he was first diagnosed he thought that his diabetes defined him as a person. “But I soon realised that I don’t have to allow diabetes to control my life and I won’t allow it to control my life. I define myself; I’m a go-getter and believe in hard work, and often I’m hard on myself but this is because I want to achieve my goals.”
Thato has already achieved many of his short-term sport goals: “I played 1st team rugby at Monument Primary and was captain of the team. I represented Gauteng at different provincial weeks for rugby, cricket and athletics at primary school. Now in high school, I made it on the 1st rugby team for King Edward VII School this year in the position of wing while last year I was part of the 2nd rugby team. I also play basketball and participate in athletics. I live a normal life and go to gym four to five times a week.”
The young man has his eyes set on pursuing a rugby career after finishing matric.
Managing diabetes as a sportsman
“During rugby season my blood glucose levels are close to normal (no highs are experienced) due to the physical activity during practices and matches. Because my blood glucose levels are almost normal, I take less insulin dosages. Before physical activity, I have a pre-game or practice snack, such as a Futurelife bar, or have an Energade or Powerade, or even an apple.”
Thato finds the most challenging aspect of nutrition to be “not being able to consume the amount of carbs that I need to, for example, a protein shake after a gym session. I normally take two thirds of what is recommended.”
Message of encouragement
To honour World Diabetes Day, Thato will be educating school mates about diabetes on this day. “I try to educate them whenever I get the opportunity.” He advises any person to test their blood glucose levels when visiting a GP. “It’s a good thing to know your health status,” he adds. His message to other youth who have recently been diagnosed is “Don’t let diabetes ruin your life. Don’t let it control your life. Carry on. Follow your dreams.”
Images by Donovan Jackson.