Luleka Mzuzu – experience is a great teacher

After a year of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Luleka Mzuzu managed to stop taking insulin and only takes oral tablets. She is now focused on educating and helping her community.


Luleka Mzuzu (39) lives in Kayamandi, Western Cape with her husband and three children.

Exhaustion leads to diagnosis

For two weeks Luleka felt exhausted and was forever thirsty. “I never thought to go to the doctor or check my glucose levels as I thought it was just work related and being tired from commuting to and from work. When the mother of three finally went to the doctor in September 2015, her blood glucose reading was 28 and she was immediately sent to ICU. She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. “I was immediately put on insulin (insulin glulisine and insulin glargine).”

Luleka was determined to educate herself and take control of her health. She changed her diet and started exercising. “This was a very long and hard journey with many obstacles,” she says.

However, her dedication paid off; in early 2017 Luleka’s treatment changed drastically. She only had to take metformin (oral tablet) once a day.

Ikhaya Diabetes Support Group

When Luleka was diagnosed, she wanted and needed support and diabetes education and she says it was hard to get it. “I had to google and use a private doctor to get info. But most people in our community can’t access Google or make use of private doctors and dietitians due to affordability. So, I thought of starting a group to educate, support and help other community members to manage their diabetes.”

At this time, Luleka contacted DSA and started a relationship with Margot McCumisky, National Manager of DSA. “I signed up to become a DSA member and would ask advice from Margot on how to run my support group. She assisted with literature and guided me on all the steps,” Luleka explains.

The group started informally in 2017, but in 2019 Luleka registered it as a NGO. Due to the restrictions in 2019 the group couldn’t meet. However, they still supported each other via WhatsApp.

“Together with Stellenbosch Municipality Community Development Department, we had Wellness Days, where we had different themes: How to keep moving (exercise routines)How to be financial savvy and What is diabetes and how to manage it.

Luleka believes that more diabetes education is needed in the public sector and dedicated public facilities for people living with diabetes, such as footcare and wound care clinics are needed.

DSA helps Ikhaya Diabetes Support Group

During COVID many of the members of Ikhaya Diabetes Support Group didn’t receive food parcels from the government. So, Luleka called on Margot from DSA to assist.

Luleka explains, “The food parcels were for the members in the support group. Most of the members are pensioners and don’t have other sources of income. We assisted them as some of them at that time used their money to get medication at the pharmacies as the community clinic was full and high-risk for them to go sit there and wait on their meds.”

Margot managed to get assistance from various churches in Stellenbosch and then dropped them off at Luleka. She then delivered them door to door.

Margot is currently assisting to get a blood glucose testing machine for the group and they continue to work as partners.

Balance is easy

The mother of three says achieving balance is easy. “Everything has its own time. I’m a family orientated person so it’s easy to balance work, family and diabetes, as it is now part of my lifestyle. I deal with it every day.”

MEET OUR 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 editor@diabetesfocus.co.za


Warren Epsey chooses determination over diagnosis

A diabetes diagnosis couldn’t even disrupt Warren Epsey’s sporting lifestyle. With honest acceptance, immense planning and the support of his wife, he is set to take on Ironman.


Warren Espey (37) lives in Lakeside, Cape Town with his wife and twin daughters (8).

Avid sportsman

Ever since I was a child, I always enjoyed being active and playing all sorts of sports. I started surfing at a young age and then through school I enjoyed rugby, cricket, golf and tennis. After school found my passion for cycling and running, with golf as a social sport. Four years ago, I found a new passion in triathlons.

All in all, I have done three marathons, eight half marathons, three half ironman distance triathlons, and many small triathlons. I also did the Knysna Extreme Triathlon 0.5 (2km swim/100km bike and 30km trail run), 100miler MTB race and many road races.

Diagnosed as an adult

I took part in the 2019 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon and was feeling really good. Then at 30km I hit the wall as runners call it. For the last 12km I  struggled but managed to finish. I then headed off to China for business and whilst away I was extremely thirsty, drinking up to eight litres of water a day. I thought I may have been dehydrated from the marathon and then travelling.

Once I returned I contacted my GP as I was still extremely thirsty. He did tests and confirmed it was diabetes. He explained that the wall I hit was a sugar low and not knowing this was a great learning lesson for me going forward.

Treatment

I was initially put onto tablets and treated as a Type 2. That, however, was short-lived as my blood tests came back and I was put into contact with a specialist physician. He diagnosed me as a Type 1 and admitted me into hospital for a few nights to get my glucose under control and to get my insulin dosage correct.

Ever since then I’ve been on insulin (short-acting and long-acting) and only my dosages have changed. This constantly depends on many factors, such as sports and training to eating patterns, etc. Currently, I use insulin glulisine (short-acting) and insulin glargine (long-acting).

Managing diabetes while doing sports

Honestly, managing diabetes and endurance sports is very difficult and I’m still learning. Whilst the training is nothing short of hectic, it becomes challenging to manage my blood glucose.

Different run sessions, for example, will all effect my blood glucose differently. The weather also has an impact on blood glucose together with diet and what has been eaten in the past 12 hours.

As said, I’m still learning how to manage this. I’ve recently been using the FreeStyle Libre to help understand what happens to my blood glucose levels whilst being active and also to help understand what happens after meals.

It’s a constant learning curve and I feel having diabetes and enjoying endurance sports, this will continue as there is no exact science as to how the body will cope with the session, the heat, the intensity, etc.

Becoming a DSA member

Once I was diagnosed, I wanted to learn more about diabetes so signed up to become a DSA member. Once I’m educated enough I want to help others as there is not much info and support in SA. I believe we are very uneducated, and we need to help one another.

I would like to attend one of the DSA Support meetings that they host so I can meet and learn from other people living with diabetes.

Family adjusting to diagnosis

My wife and I decided to keep our girls involved in everything like shopping, why I can’t eat certain things, carb counting, how I take insulin. They are very knowledgeable about diabetes for their age.

With that said, for eight-year-olds, they understand as much as they can without striking fear into them. As parents we have taught them as much as we can without making them fear the diagnosis.

Eyes set on Ironman

A goal of mine has always been to test myself and see who the real Warren Espey is. It may sound cliché, but I really find that sport and especially endurance sport isn’t so much about talent, but more to do with mental toughness and true reflection of an individual.

The commitment to the training over a year (three years thanks to COVID) will really uncover the cracks in an individual. The learning you get, and self-reflection will only bode well for what life can and will throw whether it’s work, family, friends, or the normal life pressure one deals with.

I believe Ironman will help in so many personal areas, not just the medal you get at the finish line.

Delayed, delayed and delayed

The plan was to do my first full Ironman in March 2020. However, with the pandemic this was delayed to November 2020 which then became March 2021 which became November 2021.

I had trained from February 2019 for this but, in August 2021, we found out our one daughter had to undergo some brain surgery in October with no secure timeline on hospital time to full recovery time. So, I stopped all my training and focused on my family.

Things have gone as best they could go all things considered. So, I’ve deferred my entry until March/April 2023. The date is still to be confirmed.

My new goal for this year now is to do The Comrades Marathon and three half Ironman distance races this year as this is more plausible with the timeframe of what has transpired recently.

Training 

A general week of training eight months before a competition is:

Monday – 50 min gym session; 3,8km swim

Tuesday – 1h40 indoor bike session; 12km run

Wednesday – 3km swim; 50 min gym session

Thursday – 2-hour indoor bike session; 12km run

Friday – Interval running: warm up 2km, 16x300m sprints with 100m jog in between, 2km cool down

Saturday – 4-hour ride onto 20 min run off the bike

Sunday – 21 km run

Achieving balance

Maintaining balance in work, family, diabetes management and everything else is the most important thing to achieve. I’m very lucky in that I have the most supportive family and friends around me. My wife is very special and not only supports me but encourages me.

Having the support, I do makes life a lot easier. She is so involved with my eating and diabetes and tries to help whenever she can.

Planning is vital, and sacrifices have to be made to achieve a goal. Early morning sessions. Work unfortunately is work and pays the bills. Evenings vary depending on the block of training I’m in, when its serious then it’s tough. I try train as much as I can at home on the indoor bike or treadmill, so my presence is still there, but it’s hard either way.

Diabetes is always there and managing that is a constant thing that needs to be accepted and made a part of your life. Acceptance of the disease is so important.