Living positively with diabetes

Hannie Williams, a dynamic diabetic nurse educator, shares tips on how to live positively with diabetes.

How do you do? What a pleasure to have an opportunity to ‘meet’ on the pages of Diabetes Focus.

This article is all about you – the person living with diabetes, or the spouse/significant other of a diabetic person. We, as healthcare professionals, learn so much from you, our patients. So, thank you for sharing your experiences gained from living with diabetes with us.

Let’s look at the individual words used in the topic of this article: living; positively; diabetes. I want to tackle the last word first.


This requires lifelong management, including the use of various medications (tablets, insulin injections, etc.), diet, exercise, testing your blood glucose, annual checks of your eyes and feet. And, the list goes on.

Add some other chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure and raised cholesterol (more tablets!), the fear of complications of diabetes and, of course, the cost of medical treatment. Wow! It is overwhelming! I am exhausted from listing all of this and you must deal with this daily.

I often notice how stressed patients are when attending their visit as they so want to please the doctor with good results and reduction of weight. If they don’t achieve this, they feel guilty for not doing what was expected, for example, more frequent blood glucose testing, adjustment of insulin dosages, etc. When asked how they are, some will respond, “I will be able to answer you once I have seen doctor.”

Stop. Take a deep breath. We must acknowledge that you are dealing with health issues and the treatment thereof, but let’s look at the other words.


This does not mean to just exist. To exist is just doing what one must do while being alive i.e. paying tax, paying more for food, petrol and electricity.

Living is to be alive. It’s an active process asking us to be involved in life around us. You are a unique human being, with your own special talents. Acknowledge this and use it to make your world a better place.

Get involved – visit a care centre in your town and volunteer your help. You may be an excellent gardener and can help them creating their garden. You may like to read to those with bad eyesight, or just visiting the people in the centre.

Make sure to pass your life experiences, lessons learned and family traditions to the next generation. Write a letter(s) to your children and grandchildren and share your valuable unique life experiences. One of my most treasured items is a handwritten letter from my mother to me.

Sing Happy Birthday to family and friends. I can promise you that this will be a gift more special than anything you can buy. I always do this (to the annoyance of my husband and sons). But last year I was surprised when I was away from home on my birthday and I got a phone call from my oldest son, and guess what, he sang Happy Birthday to me. I felt such an accomplishment that my tradition is rubbing off on the next generation.

Do not let a day pass without doing or noticing something special in your surroundings.


“I can BE optimistic by showing a positive attitude.”

Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are as happy as they decide to be.” How true this is?

Is the glass half full or half empty to you? The choice is yours.

Nobody wants to be around someone who is constantly criticising everything and moaning about what is wrong. We avoid people like this. Let us not be the person that others want to avoid.

Changing is difficult. But just start by being the person that will try to make an effort to change a negative conversation to something positive. It’s not that we do not acknowledge that things do go terrible wrong; that bad things happen to good people and that times are tough. Rather try to make everyone in the conversation realise what a privilege it is to be together as family or as friends, sharing a cup of coffee or glass of wine.

Take time to notice the everyday miracles happening around us. How day becomes night. Change of seasons – green leaves quietly changing to beautiful autumn colours. The same tree that provides us with shade against summer heat, shed its leaves in autumn to let warm sunshine through in the cold of winter.

So, if life handed you a lemon tree, what will you do with it? How about making the most wonderful lemonade or pickles from the fruit of the lemon tree? Forget the thorns and smell the heavenly scent of the lemon blossoms.

Do what you can with what life hands you. You will be amazed how much this is once you start embracing your own unique self.

Your legacy in life should not be the ‘Oompie or Auntie’ who had diabetes. You have much more to offer this world.

Active in decision making

I want to encourage you to be actively involved in the decision making about your treatment. Ask as many questions as needed for you to understand why you should take that medication.Don’t just exist. Live your life to fullest with your available resources.Attitude is everything!


Hannie Williams (B Nursing (Stell) 1987) has been working as diabetic nurse educator since 2004, alongside the specialist physician, Dr G Podgorski and his wife, Alice, in Port Elizabeth. She is married to Kobus.

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