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Diabetes: The Unspoken Disease

One of our community members, Rasvanth Chunylall, shares his experiences with diabetes:

“I was young, wild and free. I knew about diabetes. I might have had a relative at one point that suffered with the illness. The details are foggy. I remember referring to it as a “sugar disease”. Nothing about it was explained to me. Like the medication hidden in the fridge, the lifestyle was shut away from me. Everything was hushed up and being younger I knew none the better to question why this was so.

Come High School I was better informed. But still quite ignorant and foolish. We had a particularly strict Afrikaans teacher, Mr Roberts. It was never wise to get on his wrong side but children are none the wiser. He would keep a slab of chocolate handy on his desk for reasons we never understood. I remember (regretfully) the day his Cadbury Wholenut was stolen and gleefully eaten up after a particularly tedious Afrikaans test. Revenge was sweet for a while. That was until my mother (who worked with Mr Roberts) explained what was wrong with him for he was never vocal about his illness.

I did feel guilty. There had been times when he had stormed into my mother’s office and nicked a few sweets from a bowl she kept to reward my successes. With a childish ignorance I had cursed him for daring to eat my sweeties. Now, I wished he had taken more.

Onward onto varsity and Mr Roberts was forgotten. I yearned for freedom from my parents. I yearned for a more leisurely academic life. And more importantly, I yearned for love. Not much of a party animal or clubber I turned to online classifieds. It is online that one can discriminate freely. You can restrict yourself to a particularly height or age. Keen on blondes over brunettes? Feel free to specify. However, there was one particularly advert that caught my attention. A man had placed up a particularly pitiful advert that stirred up forgotten memories: “Can u love a diabetic wm??”

He seemed to have a lot going for him: he had a stable job, a car and his own residences. But he noted that this alienated him from women. It seems that the “sugar disease” has the potential to spill not onto ones working life but threaten ones personal life too.  And the worst part is we don’t want to talk about it. Just like Cancer and Hiv/Aids, it seems we are comfortable with ignorance. I questioned my friends and family. They could explain what Cancer was. They knew what HIV/Aids was. And yes, they knew someone who had diabetes. But very few knew exactly what Diabetes was about.

That man ended off his advert with “we all have flaws, mines diabetes”. He is wrong. Diabetes isn’t an imperfection to be hidden away, to be avoided or to discriminate against people for. It is not an imperfection but just another aspect of life one has to deal with step-by-step. I urge everyone to overcome their own prejudices about the disorder and those with the disorder to speak out about their suffering.”

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.