Marilyn Nicolaisen – If you still breathe, there is hope

After a series of major health complications, Marilyn Nicolaisen chooses to focus on the positive with her life motto of: if you still breathe, there is hope.


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Marilyn Nicolaisen (48) lives in Pretoria, Gauteng with her husband and two children, aged 14 and nine.

Diabetes diagnosis

Twenty-four years ago, in 2000, Marilyn was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes after having the symptom of drinking an extreme amount of water but still staying thirsty. After being admitted to hospital, the diagnosis was made.

She was immediately put on insulin and was given guidance on how to change her diet. Currently, she uses insulin glargine and insulin glulisine.

Multiple sclerosis diagnosis

In 2017, Marilyn was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic disease of the central nervous system which is thought to be an autoimmune disorder.

This came about after her pen constantly fell out of her hand as well as her coffee mug, like she had no control over her hands. Her right leg also became weak.

After consulting a neurologist, a lumbar puncture and MRI of the brain and spine were ordered. “A few lesions were seen on the MRI and I can’t remember the results of lumbar puncture but I was diagnosed with MS.

After her diagnosis, several medications were used as management (as there is no cure). Currently, she undergoes an IV infusion of ocrelizumab every sixth months. The cost per infusion is expensive but thankfully her medical aid covers it in full.

Marilyn says this diagnosis was much harder to accept than the diabetes diagnosis as there is no cure. “It was a huge shock for me and my family; I was extremely disappointed and very emotional,” she says.

Recent health scares

In April 2021, Marilyn’s whole life changed. “First I had a heart attack then two weeks later a stroke. My right side was mostly affected but with three months of rehab and a lot of exercise I have improved. While in rehab I had a MS relapse and then got COVID. My husband was out of country and no one was allowed to visit me. Thankfully, my mom took care of our children. It was the most difficult three months of my life. I tried to be positive for my husband and children but cried silently every night. We were obligated to get rails in the house, shower, etc. and a caretaker to help me. My new mode of transport, a wheelchair, was delivered to my house and a whole new life was awaiting the whole family,” Marliyn says.

She goes on to say that the heart attack and stroke were due to uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure. Since having the stroke and heart attack, she has tried to change her diet but says it isn’t easy; she eats mostly from the green list and low-carb foods.

Adapting to life in a wheelchair

Marliyn admits that accepting she needs a wheelchair has been beyond difficult. “I don’t think anyone will easily accept the fact that they are in a wheelchair. It’s three years now and every day is a challenge. However, my eight-year-old son makes it fun and drifts me,” she explains.

Grateful to be alive

Despite a life filled with health challenges, Marilyn is grateful to still be alive. “Every day is a challenge but I say thank you to the Lord for another day with my hubby and kids. When I think of them, I know the reason why I’m still here. I insist on making the lunchboxes myself in the morning; this makes me feel useful and needed. I sell online goods to keep me busy and motivated during the day as I was a busy bee before the wheelchair. Every evening I help prepare dinner with my caretaker and ensure I do my fair share. To help me mentally and emotionally, I consult a psychiatrist (via Zoom) and have to take medication,” Marilyn says.

Seeing the bright side

Marilyn’s children are the sole source of her motivation and positivity. “My 14-year-old daughter takes over the personal tasks from my caretaker in the evenings and over the weekends; she is my diamond. My husband and son help with other tasks, like getting me into bed or whatever I need help with. Without them I would surely not manage. My motto now in life is: if you still breathe, there is hope.

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 editor@diabetesfocus.co.za

MEET THE EDITOR


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]


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