Pamela Molefe shares her journey of living with Type 2 diabetes, being a nurse and how she joined Diabetes South Africa.
Pamela Molefe (77) lives in Port Elizabeth. She has two sons and one daughter. She worked at Livingstone Hospital for 20 years and was transferred to Provincial Hospital Port Elizabeth where she worked for 11 years in a Head Injury Unit.
In 2004, I was on night duty when I had to go to hospital at 23:00 to be examined as I wasn’t feeling well. As a routine before being examined, a specimen of urine was obtained and tested. Four parts of glucose was detected. A finger prick was done to test my blood glucose, and 14mm/l were the results. My diagnosis was Type 2 diabetes.
I found the news weird as I never had any symptoms. Then, I was asked about the family history regarding health, and I had no clue of any relative who had diabetes at that time. I was in real denial, telling the doctor all sorts of stories, like I have eaten sweets, and I have just taken a coffee with three spoons of sugar. The doctor looked at me, knowing that I was in denial, and said ‘Diabetes will kill you’. My prescribed treatment was Glucophage 500mg BD (twice daily). I was shocked and thought it’s the end of the world for me.
After two or three days, vividly it dawned on me that my two aunts died from diabetes at the ages of 80 plus. My mother died, at the age of 58, due to cancer of the pancreas. I assume diabetes would have affected her if she didn’t pass away from cancer.
After being diagnosed, my weight dropped drastically and my superior in the ward noticed. She called me and spoke strongly about the need to eat. Honestly, I had lost my appetite. Gradually, I picked up weight after two months. I’m on treatment that I comply with and thus I am a controlled diabetes patient.
My eldest son (50) has also been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Even though there is medication for Type 2 diabetes, there are simple interventions that you can implement to manage your health and not have to take medication.
- Sunlight for 20 minutes daily which gives you vitamin D.
- Rest regularly during the day.
- Exercise but be careful not to over-strain.
- Healthy diet (there’s no such thing as a diabetic diet).
- Self-confidence and independence (don’t expect other people to run after you).
- Real friends who will journey with you during this condition.
- Join a wellness group (sharing with each other about the condition).
Finding out about DSA Port Elizabeth
Because I wanted to be active, I got a job in a frail care centre and retirement village. This is where I got to know about DSA Port Elizabeth from my nursing manager, Barbara Coetzee. Her husband had diabetes and Barbara was attending the Diabetes SA wellness group on his behalf. So, she recruited me to attend and I was eager to gain knowledge.
We had our meeting once a month at St Georges Hospital from 19:00 to 20:00, with different speakers. I enjoyed the educational talks and looked forward to the next ones.
After two years, I was approached to join the Management Board of DSA Port Elizabeth. They wanted an IsiXhosa speaking member. I immediately said yes.
DSA nursing advisor
Since being on management, I was made nursing advisor. This means at every monthly meeting as I enter the hall there are early birds who are waiting for their blood pressure and blood glucose to be checked. Many questions are asked and if I am unable to answer, I refer the question to the relevant speaker.
Annually, we (Martin, Elizabeth and myself), visit Jeffreys Bay for a workshop at the Pellsrus Clinic. Even there, I have my table with pamphlets and I check patients blood pressure and blood glucose. It’s much appreciated by the residents concerned. Surely, they missed us in 2020 due to lockdown.
I also attended a workshop in Walmer Township where different health conditions were highlighted and I was assigned to represent our diabetes wellness group. I also visited New Brighton location where most of the attendees were pensioners.
Every year, we get invited by big companies to their wellness day for different health conditions. I enjoy these functions as I have the longest queue at my desk as it’s more of IsiXhosa speaking people attending. We supply them with informative pamphlets and educate them on diabetes. They are usually eager to have their blood pressure and blood glucose checked as most don’t get a chance to go to their local clinics to do check-up unless they are sick.
During lockdown, we, as board members, meet through our WhatsApp group when the need arises. I hope this year there will be a difference from these pandemic restrictions. I’m still eager to serve in the coming year as a board member.
Always learning and sharing the knowledge
At work, Barbara assigned me to take care of the diabetic residents in that institution. I became the favourite, as when I was off residents would ask for me as they trusted me, especially those who were on insulin injection.
I acquainted myself with our well-equipped DSA library which has informative books and I learnt that diabetes is not the end of the world and the best care is what I listed as the simple treatment. Just maintain it in all stages of life. If one follows that trend which is far cheaper than medication, you can survive as diabetes is a lifestyle condition. But remember to always take your diabetes medicine as prescribed by your doctor and to see him regularly for check-ups.