My sister’s keeper

Simone Quibell shares the ins and outs and the ups and downs of having a sister with diabetes.

Simone Quibell (28) lives in Somerset West. Her younger sister, Genevieve (16) has Type 1 diabetes.

Part of the diagnosis

My sister is a Type 1 diabetic. We, as a family, have been living a diabetic lifestyle for the past eight years. Which also happens to be how old Genevieve was when she was diagnosed.

We were fortunate that Gen was diagnosed before she could go into a coma. Friends of our parents were in Cape Town which means that we were being tourists with them. It was here that my parents thought Gen had a bladder infection. She went to the bathroom far too many times to be normal.

The very next day Gen and I spent about an hour, possibly even longer, at the pharmacy between seeing the Sister and Gen trying to urinate in a cup. All I knew when we left there was that the Sister had insisted on calling our mom and that the reading on the blood glucose tester said HI.

I remember telling Gen in the car, based on the information I had, she might very well have diabetes. She burst out crying. Not that she had any idea what that was at eight years old, but it sounded petrifying. I managed to calm her down, quickly explaining that we didn’t know for sure. But if it were true, we would handle it together.

By 8pm that evening we were all sitting in a hospital room, Gen being the one to calm us down.

Chosen treatment regime

Genevieve is an amazing child who not only has diabetes, but wears glasses, was the tallest kid for many years, and has a form of dyslexia. None of this stops her from being one of the kindest and strongest people that I know.

She now tests and takes insulin around five times a day. This includes the long- and short-acting insulins. Although there are insulin pumps and other options available, we, as a family, decided that the regular testing and injections were the best suited option. An insulin pump would just be an added reason for people to stare.

The injections and testers, although a nuisance, can be kept in a bag – helping to make life as normal as possible, without any additional eyes watching and judging along the way. We all deal with our own fair share of unnecessary judgement.

I do encourage Gen to test her blood sugar when we are out in public, as this is life. Though, I do understand that sometimes she’d rather just appear normal. So, I do not force it.

Diabetes is a lifestyle

I think the most important thing that we have learnt is that diabetes is a lifestyle, so our family lifestyle adapted accordingly. We all spent time learning the technicalities of diabetes. What it is? How the body is supposed to work? How insulin interacts with cells? Everything – to be at least one step ahead of the blood sugar readings, and to try and exist between 4 and 8. This is like an impossible magic trick.

Then the weather changes, Gen gets a cold, hormones start to fluctuate and you’re 10 steps behind the blood glucose again. Diabetes isn’t easy, not for the family, not for the person who is diagnosed, or for close family members and friends.

There are days that we laugh and come out on top, and there are days where it feels like the world is on our shoulders and we get nothing right. It is okay to take a break from the brave, to take a moment and break down. It is also okay to eat a slice of cake, that you later regret as it is so sweet that you want to puke. Because none of us are perfect.

It is important that even in the low moments we are supportive. All of this within reason of course, we can’t be eating cake when blood sugar readings are high. Cake becomes a special occasion treat, and a healthy diet the norm which helps Gen maintain a decent blood glucose reading. At least until the weather changes or hormones fluctuate.

Steady blood glucose readings are an art. I salute every diabetic patient that manages to keep this as close to great.