Megan Soanes, a board member of Diabetes SA Port Elizabeth, was no stranger to diabetes when her son was diagnosed. Her husband, Scott, has been living with it for 37 years. But when her son Gabriel was diagnosed, it led her to play a more active diabetes advocacy role.
Tell us the role diabetes plays in your life?
My husband and I have been together for 15 years. I knew my husband had Type 1 diabetes, however I did not know much about diabetes and what I had committed myself to.
In the first few years this was a huge eye opener as I learned what diabetes demanded of a person. I started gaining knowledge and went with him to his specialist appointments to learn more and be of help to him.
A double diabetes diagnosis
About 5 years ago, my son – who was 7 years old at the time – fell really ill and my husband and I instantly knew that he showed signs of diabetes. So we pulled out the glucometer and tested. His sugar was 30mmol/L and we rushed him to the doctor – they confirmed Type 1 diabetes just like his dad. At first I was worried as I did not know how to handle this with a child… he was so much smaller!
How do you manage life with two Type 1s in the house?
Every day is a learning step for us. As much as they both have Type 1 diabetes, they are two different individuals and so even their management of diabetes is different. And so what works for Scott will not automatically work for Gabriel. We manage their sugars with communication and help each other as much as we can.
My 5-year-old daughter has also picked up the signs if their blood sugars are high, like when they become hulks in green! We know to stay away from them and let them take their insulin as they have high sugar and their tempers are a bit raised. We are a family that support each other and we still learn every day.
What do you wish you’d known when your child was diagnosed?
To be honest, I wish I knew that there was a chance that my son would be diagnosed with diabetes – but I was hopeful as Scott has two older daughters and neither of them have diabetes. I was extremely lucky that his dad is also Type 1 and therefore he calmed us down when we heard the news.
How did you get involved in diabetes advocacy?
When Gabriel (my son) was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes I went through a hard time coming to terms with it as I already live with a diabetic. I did not understand why my son, why me, why my family? I craved more knowledge, so I googled ‘Diabetes support groups in Port Elizabeth’ and that’s when I joined Diabetes South Africa PE – Young Guns. At first I was just there as a mom, but I soon wanted to help more, and help other moms who were going through what I went through. DSA PE have been a family to my family. I have since been made the Treasury Board Member for Diabetes South Africa PE.
What practical advice do you have for others who want to help people with diabetes?
I have learned that as people without diabetes, we can walk away, but people living with diabetes live with this for the rest of their lives. So advocate for the rest of your life. Let others know about the “Silent Killer” and help people understand.
What would you say to someone with diabetes who is struggling?
BREATHE! No one is perfect! You will never have the same glucose reading that you did yesterday. You’ve got this. Do not let diabetes control your life: control diabetes and find a support group!
What makes your life sweet?
My kids! My husband and the many new people I have met over the years in the diabetes community. Someone who also plays a huge role in my life is Lyn Sewell from Diabetic Accessories. Lyn has been my mentor, my sister and my go to person. She has shown me that with a support group and people behind you, you are not alone in this world.
What to read next?
Caregiver support for people with diabetes: Being a supportive caregiver, family member or friend to a person with diabetes can be both a gratifying and a challenging role.
10 ways to offer diabetes support: Being a supportive partner can be both a gratifying and a challenging role – especially when living with a person with diabetes. Diabetes affects the whole family, not just the one taking medicine.
How to support a friend with diabetes: Some ideas for what to do when your friend has diabetes and you want to help.