Once known as juvenile diabetes because it is more prevalent in children, type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. This means that treatment includes lifelong insulin use and monitoring of your blood sugar. You will also have to manage your diet and exercise to help keep blood sugar levels within the target range.
According to Medical News Today, the average age of diagnosis for type 1 diabetes is 13. This has indeed been true for Mahlatse Madubanya from Limpopo who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 13.
Speaking to Health For Mzansi, she reflects on her journey with this challenging condition that she has learned to live with and manage successfully.
Candice Khumalo: When were you diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and how was the experience of adjusting and finding out for you?
Mahlatse Madubanya: I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2005, at the age of 13. I did not know much about it, so I didn’t understand what was happening to my body when I lost a lot of weight and had blurry vision. Luckily, I would say, my aunt has it so she helped me through it. I experienced a lot of mockery from my peers and even nurses. It was just hard to adjust as a teenager from eating everything to now having to watch what I ate. The clinic where I was taking my medication had a support group that I took part in and it helped me accept my condition and learn a lot from the group.
How do you manage your diet and nutrition to control your blood sugar levels?
Managing my diet is one of the hardest things, but I always try to eat healthy by having a balanced diet, avoiding junk food, and doing some cardio workouts. Also, what helps me is drinking my okra water first thing in the morning to help control my blood sugar levels. I also take insulin (ryzodeg) in the morning and again later in the evening.
What are some challenges you face when it comes to managing your diabetes, and how do you overcome them?
To be honest, there are lots of challenges. I would experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and for instance, I would drink a glass of juice to stabilise it only to find out that it was too high in sugar. So managing blood sugar levels is a job and a half, but I would recommend drinking a lot of water and watching what you eat. I always comfort myself with a Bible verse in John 9:3 that says, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said the Lord, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” I’ve experienced a lot of challenges in this journey, but God always comes through for me.
Has having diabetes affected your life positively in any way?
It has given me the ability to help others. Tshegofatso and I have a diabetic support group where we talk about everything related to diabetes and sugar. Anyone who wants to be part of it should contact me at 0793750798 or Tshegofatso at 0658404420, or Tinyiko at 0636533667.
What encouraged you to start a support group to assist young people with diabetes, and how is it beneficial to them?
The lack of knowledge I noticed people had about sugar diabetes and the challenges I encountered motivated me to start the support group. In the group, we share all of the problems we come across and how we overcome them. We would meet up, do activities, give each other advice, help each other with the struggles of being a young person with diabetes, and give tips on how we handle certain challenges, especially for those who cannot afford professional advice like from dieticians, etc.
What advice would you give to someone who has recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?
I always laugh when I hear people say that type 1 diabetes is the level of diabetes where you cannot do anything but wait for your day like it’s the end of you. Take your medication, please, visit a dietitian, and follow your diet. It is indeed not easy, I know, but I have been living with it for 18 years. Surviving and living healthily is doable, so never feel sorry for yourself. God’s got your back.
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