Diabetes in the time of coronavirus… This is nothing any of us ever anticipated! We thought it might be helpful to ask a few people living with diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) how COVID-19 and lockdown have affected their diabetes management, their mental health and their lives. Here’s what they had to say about diabetes during coronavirus. Please share your story below!
Diabetes during coronavirus
“Coronavirus has simultaneously affected me a lot, and hardly at all. I haven’t left my house since a week before lockdown due to caution. I know that the virus is more susceptible to those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes. Overall, however, the coronavirus has most affected my attitude. I am choosing to be positive, grateful, cautious, yet optimistic. Fear is the most dangerous substance in the world – I refuse to allow myself to be fearful.
In the first few weeks of coronavirus hitting SA, I found myself exhausted as I had to constantly remind those around me that I am high risk, even though they did not necessarily see the risks of the virus. Many people did not take the virus seriously initially and it exhausted me trying to justify to them why the concerns were real and important, and why I wanted to distance myself socially.
I’m lucky enough to have a FreeStyle Libre sensor on my arm. It’s amazing as I can constantly monitor my glucose levels. I don’t know what I would do without it.”
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“Coronavirus has basically shifted most of my activities to inside my home – I am lucky enough to be able to work, study and access the internet at home which means I am able to continue a schedule of sorts while keeping occupied. I am aware that lockdown is not so easy for many people, so I am very grateful for these privileges
I’m also grateful for the FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitor, which means I am able to test my blood sugar as often as possible and monitor the trends without being reliant on strips. This is so valuable during this time where close monitoring of glucose levels are required. I wish that diabetes tech was cheaper to make it more accessible for a longer period of time – I have found great value in being able to keep my glucose levels “in target”.
The last few weeks have been hard in many different ways. It took a while for me to accept that it is okay to be unsure of how to be my ‘normal self’ during a pandemic, but I am finding comfort in being able to create an environment that works specifically for me. Acceptance of a new way of living has allowed me to appreciate the various things that might be very easy to take for granted.”
“As a diabetic, I took extra precaution as far as lockdown is concerned. I started lockdown at home 8 days before the national lockdown and have not left my property since.
I am an online coach and work from home. That means my routine has remained the same which has allowed me to manage my diabetes in the same way as before. I have daily routines that I stick to each day which have proved very helpful during these times:
Every morning I wake at 5am, regardless of the day of the week, to combat any potential spikes in my morning sugars. I have a daily journal to reflect on daily goals, sleep quality, mood, fasting glucose and mind dumps. This helps as most of these factors become slightly more real when they are written down or taken one step further than just a thought. If any aspects of stress or worry are needing to be addressed, I can do so on a daily basis which helps with my mental space and freedom.”
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“I have had to take particular care in managing my blood glucose during this time. Because I am at home 24/7 the desire to snack continuously has become (almost) normal in my day, and the continuous conversation with my fridge is somewhat deafening! Because of that, I am testing my blood sugar more frequently.
Since I am working from home, the lack of discipline in working the normal 8 hours has been challenging. My meals have also been disrupted somewhat. Under normal circumstances, I would only have breakfast on weekends, and fast 16 hours during the week. But now being at home has me wanting to have breakfast in the morning.
My friends and I connect every day to check on each other. For work, we hold a daily meeting for business and to check how we are all doing. I also have wonderful neighbours, and weekly video calls with family (who are all over the world). These connections would not take place as frequently before coronavirus presented itself to us. One of the lessons learnt during this time of isolation is that I am not an island – that I need friends and family to keep me sane.”
Kirsten de Klerk
“My diabetes management has improved since working from home. I am less stressed, able to carefully consider what I’m eating at each meal time and have time to prepare healthy meals at lunch. Because I skip 2 hours of traffic a day, I also have more time and energy on my hands, which has enabled me to get back into exercising. I have definitely been checking my sugar levels more to ensure that I am in range throughout the day.
I wish I had affordable access to a continuous glucose monitor system. COVID-19 could have a severe impact on my diabetes management and being able to check my blood sugar more regularly would help me stay in range.
I’m definitely a bit more anxious about coronavirus because I’m a Type 1 diabetic. When a diabetic is under extra stress and the body needs to prioritise fighting infection (like the flu), diabetes management often becomes extremely difficult with unstable sugar levels that are stubborn.”
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“At first I was very laid back about the coronavirus until I realized how serious it is. I feel more anxious about coronavirus because I’m diabetic due to the fact that I have a weak immune system and I sometimes worry if I am to come into contact with corona, will I actually make it out? But also I try not to think about it too much.
My diabetes management has changed as now I actually eat accordingly and I have more time on my hands to prepare my meals. My sugars have also improved and I feel super happy about that.
To be quite honest, I just wish I had access to more fitness facilities as now the only form of exercise I do is aerobics, yoga and just your basic home exercises. I also wish I had more access to different foods because I find myself repeating the same type of meals at times and it becomes a bit tedious.
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“I find that I’m definitely eating more and foods that I shouldn’t. And therefore using more insulin, which is never ideal. I also wish I could go to the gym, because I just don’t have the discipline to train at home.
I don’t feel more anxious about coronavirus than others, because I know that my diabetes is well managed. But I am taking precautions, like sending my hubby to the shops!”
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Estelle van der Hoven
“With the lockdown I have been much less active. I found that I have also been testing my sugar more than normal to make sure all is in order – which can be good for better control, but bad because I’m using a lot more test strips than usual which I need to pay cash for. I’m in a very blessed position – I have my medication, healthy food, I’m able to work from home, but I do realise there are many people not as privileged as me.
As much as possible I try not to feel anxious about diabetes during coronavirus, but when you’re standing in a queue full of sick people waiting to get your monthly insulin your mind does start to wander. I realise that should I get coronavirus, the implications for me can be much more dangerous than a person who does not have an autoimmune disease.”
I was working overseas and came back to South Africa to wait for my permanent work visa to come through. Coronavirus has affected the amount of time I should be spending in South Africa: it’s uncertain when I will be receiving my visa and when I would be able to travel again. On the positive side, I am in my home country with family.
I definitely feel more anxious because I have Type 1 diabetes. When the virus first came about and many people were panicking, it was easy to get caught up in it all. However, once I took a step back, I realised I would be taking the same precautions as everyone else and just needed to be extra careful.
I’ve found it helpful to stay away from the media and limit the amount of time I spend on my phone (Facebook and Instagram being the two social platforms that fake news circulates).
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“Coronavirus made me move cities at the last minute! I was in Durban to help my dad recover from knee surgery when lockdown was announced, so we quickly flew my husband and kids from Cape Town so we could all be together.
I’m lucky enough to have a FreeStyle Libre at the moment… I’ve been testing my blood sugar 40 times a day which has been amazing. Diabetes during coronavirus comes with its own special kind of stress, though. I have two young kids to look after, and my dad who’s recovering, so I don’t get special treatment for being diabetic. I’ve had to go out to shops and pharmacies more than I’d like. But I am so grateful to be healthy and to be able to work from home in a comfortable space. There are so many people for whom coronavirus is a real tragedy, and I feel thankful for what I have.”
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What you need to know: COVID-19 and diabetes
- What do we know about COVID-19 and diabetes?
- Diabetes and coronavirus
- 12 Coronavirus precautions and tips for people with diabetes
- COVID-19 resources for people with diabetes
- 10 diabetics share how coronavirus affects their diabetes
- COVID-19 diabetes advice from a doctor
What has your experience of diabetes during coronavirus been? Comment below to share… We’re all in this together.