Doug Ellish – living life 4Shaw

Doug Ellish, founder of 4Shaw, tells us more about his diabetes journey and why he started the wellness and educational website.

I was 15-months-old when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My diagnosis was a result of increasingly difficult behaviour (caused by constant high blood glucose) and I went into a diabetic coma.

I remember my mom always giving me my human insulin (rDNA) injections, with the vial and the old orange top hypodermic needles. I don’t recall the name of the basal insulin I was using back then, but I do recall the delivery injector was closer to a double barrel shotgun, than an insulin pen. My dad quite enjoyed delivering my basal to me.

For the past 20 years, I have been using insulin lispro, and insulin glargine. However sometimes I get generic, if they don’t have the original in stock. I have never used an insulin pump. As my doctor said, “Don’t fix what isn’t broken.” I did start using the Freestyle Libre but am currently unable to afford the co-payment my medical aid requires so have gone back to old strips and calloused finger tips until I’m able to afford it again.

Bad management during youth

My management regime has up until recently been a secondary in my life. During my youth all the way up until my early teens my control was not very good. I lost both my folks to cancer before I turned 20 and I think that, after a brief spiral out, kind of set me on a path to change my health and even my mental state. It made me realise my mortality and that if I didn’t start taking care of things, it would not be long before things would take care of me!

I will say I do feel I have an advantage over those who get diagnosed later on in life. If a fish is born with a deformed fin (Finding Nemo), it will adjust its actions and movements to feel as if it’s just as normal as the other fish. I feel the same thing with my diabetes. Having never known any different, I never went through the struggle of changing my lifestyle drastically. For those who get diagnosed later, they have known what the “normal” side of life was before their diagnosis and having to adjust lifestyles, eating and managing injections and glucose checks  can come as a massive blow for some.

Friendly diabetes community

Even though I have had diabetes most of my life, I’m very new to the diabetes community. I always felt if I didn’t involve myself in it, I would just be oblivious to the horrors that await me. I regret that now. From what I have experienced thus far, it has been nothing less than amazing support and gratitude for each other. I am thankful to all who put themselves out there for awareness and am hoping 4Shaw can be a contributor to that.

Lessons learnt

I think the biggest lesson is not being too hard on yourself. You have to be able to live a little from time to time or you will end up dying young from stress as opposed to this disease. As much as we have to see the world differently in terms of having to plan in depth even for menial tasks, there needs to be a balance. Living in the moment, for that moment, is a big one for me. Its literally taken 30 years, but I feel I am able to let go more now.

Acceptance is another big one. Knowing there are things you can and can’t control and being conscious of each of those aspects will make life just that little bit sweeter.

Exercise is also a big one. Find some form of activity that makes you smile and challenge yourself with it. That has helped me immensely in my later years.

Family support

As I said I lost both my parents to cancer in my late teens, but up until that point both my mother and father were hyper-involved with all aspects of my life. My dad gave me the confidence from a young age to not be afraid of getting out there no matter what the circumstances were. Where my mom was more in the supportive and loving role, constantly checking in on me, making sure I was eating correctly and at the right times, and always keeping me positive about things.

My sisters have never had the best grasp of what my existence entails, but I would never assume to think that was their role. I also never pushed them to understand or help carry my burden. It was never theirs and they didn’t need it.

My girlfriend is possibly the best family role player of them all. She has gone out of her way to understand what having diabetes entails and has even attended visits to my endocrinologist with me. She’s the balance of why I am better at managing my levels and a person as a whole and I’m forever indebted to her for her contributions to my life.


4Shaw was originally a standard e-commerce website; I was competing with the major players and just didn’t have the backing to continue the fight. I had the brainwave during our first lockdown last year to start converting it into a wellness and educational platform for those like me who perhaps were newly diagnosed, or those who were just looking for information about diabetes. The thought process was basically that I have lived with and dealt with a lot throughout my life with diabetes and have always kind of supported myself, and my hope was to give some support to those like me who didn’t have it and so 4Shaw was reborn.

It’s about education, sharing the burden and knowing you are not alone in this. I also wanted to give people access to things like dieting tips, exercise regimes to suit their needs and sending the message that having a bad day of control doesn’t mean you’re an out-of-control diabetic. It’s about removing the stigma that seems to surround us and educating non-diabetics about what this autoimmune disease means for people who have it.

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Doug Ellish showing his Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System.

Ryan Pasqualle – overcoming depression

Ryan Pasqualle tells us how having diabetes led to depression and a suicide letter but thankfully with the support of his family he pushes on every day.

My story starts when I was 7 years old. Wherever we went, I needed to use the toilet less than five minutes after leaving the house. My parents we very concerned, because it would happen anywhere, no matter if I drank water or not. I was eating loads and was losing weight!

One Thursday evening, my dad went to our local pharmacy to find out what was wrong. The pharmacist gave him a urine container and told him to bring back a sample of my urine to have it tested. After my father got the urine and returned it to the pharmacist, he told him to take me to the doctor.

We went to the doctor on Friday and the following day the doctor phoned to say that I had diabetes and we had to go immediately to hospital.

Minutes after we got the news, my mom and sister rushed me to the hospital to get treated. The doctors gave me amazing treatment and got my blood glucose levels down to a decent level.

Life turned upside down

Finding out that I had to take insulin every day for the rest of my life was a massive shock. I had no way of knowing how to cope with it. It wasn’t only the fact that I have diabetes, it was the fact that I had no idea what diabetes was. I’d never heard of it before. Thankfully, the doctor was very helpful; he took a lot of his time to explain what diabetes was. After he explained it, I had somewhat of a grasp on my illness.

It took me round about two weeks to be discharged from hospital. I had no idea how I would go through my day-to-day life with my newly found illness, but my family and doctors supported me every step of the way.

It took me years to really get a hang of my diabetes, it was about three to four years to get my blood glucose levels semi under control.

Depression and suicidal thoughts

Having diabetes really took its toll on me; it led to me being depressed and writing a suicide letter. However, my dad found the letter and rushed to fetch me from school and took me to hospital to get help for my depression.

I wasn’t happy about being in a psychiatric ward, it made me feel like I was put in a jail, but I couldn’t be mad at my family because they were only looking out for me.

I stayed in that hospital for more than three months. It was tiring to have your every move watched, you weren’t allowed to do anything, not even have your phone on you. But after I was discharged, I was so happy, because I came home to loving family, and I was extremely happy to see my dog.

We are only trying to survive

Every day is a challenge for a person living with diabetes. We must live our lives watching what we do and eat. There are days where we can’t even eat an ice cream in warm weather, because the heat from the sun pushes our readings up.

It’s tough living like this. Our lives are in constant danger, and it’s our duty to control it, but it’s difficult to control it when all you want is to be like a normal child. All you want to do is eat what other kids eat, drink what they drink, and live how they live. People will call us sick, weird, different, but we’re normal, our lives just have extra tasks to do daily. We aren’t weird, we are only trying to survive.

Ryan with other camp leaders at 2019 Diabetes Children’s Camp in Kommetjie, Western Cape.
Ryan with other camp leaders at 2019 Diabetes Children’s Camp in Kommetjie, Western Cape.
Ryan and family celebrating his sister's graduation.
Ryan and family celebrating his sister's graduation.

Seiso Motlhale – diagnosed with diabetes after COVID

After testing positive for COVID, Seiso Motlhale was also diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. He tells us more.

Seiso Motlhale (39) lives in Bloemfontein, Free State with his wife and two children. 

In August 2020 after testing positive for COVID and being treated with vitamin B, C, and zinc, Seiso suffered with headaches and dizziness so he went back to his doctor. After more tests, Seiso was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

“I was shocked because I’m active person and train almost three times a week. Luckily, I knew a bit about diabetes, but I felt I needed more support and information, so I contacted Diabetes SA,” Seiso says.

Seiso was prescribed atorvastatin (20mg), gliclazide (60mg), and metformin hydrochloride  (1000mg). He also changed his diet and cut down alcohol, but he adds it’s not easy. Luckily his wife and kids have been very supportive by changing 60% of their diet to accommodate him.

“I am slowly getting there. Plus, for the sake of my health I have to compromise. I only drink gin or dry wine; I don’t drink beer or sweet things anymore.”

The father of two still exercises three times a week, running 5km, and hopes to change the negative mindset people have about diabetes. “I never thought someone at my age will have diabetes, but it goes to show, anyone can get it and the public needs to know this and look out for the symptoms,” Seiso says.

Can COVID cause diabetes?

Information published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, a medical journal, looked at the proportion of newly diagnosed diabetes in people with COVID-19 infection.

“This is commonly observed, occurring in as many as 14,4% of those admitted to hospital with COVID. Again, a number of factors may be responsible. Undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes is common and may have been present before contracting COVID-19. The severe inflammatory response induced by the virus and the resultant need for corticosteroid treatment may precipitate diabetes in prone individuals. However, there is also evidence to suggest that the virus itself may directly destroy the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas.”

It was also reported in Medical News Today, that an international group of diabetes experts believes that some people may develop diabetes for the first time due to severe COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They have set up a registry to investigate the possible link and inform future treatment.



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]