When Lize reached out to say that both she and her daughter Liya-Lome have Type 1 diabetes, we had to know more… Here’s their mother-daughter story.
Could you tell us about your diagnosis?
It was a couple of weeks before my 14th birthday during the final exams of my grade 8 year. We were training hard for the upcoming athletics season and caught up in a busy schedule. My mom noticed that I lacked some energy and that I was losing weight, but thought it was due to the hard training and exam stress. After a couple of weeks she started noticing how much I drank water and although I was losing so much weight it seemed like I couldn’t stop eating and had little energy. (These are all the common symptoms of diabetes.)
My mom was concerned and decided to take me shopping and for lunch just so we could spend some time together and to figure out what was happening. To be quite honest, she suspected I was developing an eating disorder. During lunch she noticed how much I was drinking, and even after going to the bathroom I still wanted more refreshments. That’s when her career as a nurse kicked in and a few familiar bells went off.
I remember she broke out in tears at the doctor’s rooms and she called my father with the devastating news. I was admitted to hospital and at that time I really didn’t comprehend the full impact it would have on my life. I appreciate how my parents handled it, without too much fuss.
Could you tell us about your daughter’s diagnosis?
Our youngest daughter was born against all odds (4th round of IVF) and after we had faced lots of challenges. July 2019, she had just turned 4 in April that year, we were at my parent’s house having coffee and watching the Wimbledon final. The cousins were all playing and I noticed Liya-Lome drinking a lot and going to the bathroom even more.
Just before we left she went to the bathroom and again when we were in the car she asked to go to the bathroom. I asked her to use the potty so that I could test for a bladder infection – something was off and I tried to figure it out. When the dipstick colours came up I was confused: there was no infection but glucose and ketones. I thought maybe the stick was malfunctioning but was unsettled.
I asked her if we could do a fingerstick test and the result came up as “high”. I immediately called my husband and said he should take her and test with another machine after washing her hands. It also came up as “high”. We went to the hospital ER and they took bloods and within 2 hours administered her first insulin shot.
She was taking it in her stride, testing her own sugar with fingersticks since day one and soon caught on what high/low good/bad risky numbers are. She likes to be in control of managing her diabetes.
What is it like having two Type 1s in one house?
Truthfully…I don’t know any other way. Sometimes I realise our normal is abnormal to others
and I wonder what life would have been like without constant planning, checking and even nagging daily deliberate actions to manage life with diabetes.
I really think it is so much part of me and our family that I don’t even know how to answer.
Last year, after my eldest daughter went away for a weekend with her best friend and she said it was nice “because there was no carb counting,” I realised we all need a break sometime. So I make a point of creating special moments with everyone in the household, where we can interact in a “normal way”. I treat my daughter with a chocolate that was my mother’s favourite and tell her about the grandmother she hardly knew. My husband and daughter without diabetes go on dates where they do stuff like bottomless cheesecake tastings.
When I feel it gets too much he lets me go on a “diabetes holiday”, then I give total control of our diabetes over to him. That means he needs to take full responsibility of the admin and planning regarding my diabetes, changing sites, ordering meds, food preparation, planning for highs/lows if we’re going somewhere, reacting to alarms during the night – just to give me the freedom and space and a couple of nights of rest.
I find the thought of having a “cop out” very refreshing and liberating to just “be”. Two Type 1s in one house can get a little tiring!
Liya is very mature in the handling of her diabetes. When we feel that we need to better her blood glucose control we would say she can have a diabetic holiday, it gives us time to have better input and control and her freedom to just “be”. It is shocking to see how difficult it is for a child of 7 to switch off.
Do you think it was easier or harder for you to deal with your child’s diagnosis because you’re living with Type 1?
I think the trauma at first was overwhelming because the thing I wanted to change the most
about myself is what my child inherited from me. I know diabetes inside out, all the warning signs etc. but when it came to my own flesh and blood I tried to deny the facts. She was diagnosed on a Sunday night, I felt like a bad mom because I couldn’t face her. My husband stayed at the hospital and I left for home to be with our other daughter and pack everything for the hospital… I cried all the way home.
The emotional side of diabetes
What made it easier is the fact that I had time to focus on our emotional state and we as a family didn’t have to make huge lifestyle changes. The kids were used to eating healthy, lower carb meals, we knew all the “technical stuff” so we left the hospital connected to an insulin pump and sensor… a luxury lots of parents don’t have. Although Liya was still very small she thought it was normal “looking like mommy” with our robot parts.
What would you say to a parent of a Type 1 who is struggling, seeing as you have both perspectives?
I have a community that I link into, people that are in my shoes and I find it really helps putting things in to perspective. I use social media a lot for inspiration for both me and Liya-Lome.
We have a very funny story about this. There was a time when it was a huge issue to change her pump, so we would look up videos on YouTube of other diabetics and how they inserted their pumps. The one time we watched this video of a dad and his daughter but it was a really
lengthy video going into lots of details… in the end when he inserted her infusion she started
crying because it hurt. We both started laughing so much and knew that was a fail, but then I
convinced her to make our own video that we could post that would actually inspire other
What makes your life sweet?
Defying the odds. My family. Traveling. Cappuccinos. Faith in God. Laughing. Friends. Sugar-free nougat.
What to read next?
Accepting a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis – Mokopane’s story: We love sharing our community’s stories of life with diabetes – including how to accept a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Here is Mokopane Bohlale’s story.
Cycling with diabetes; tips, tricks and advice: Naeem Sonpra has been living with diabetes for over 30 years, but that doesn’t keep him from being an avid cyclist.
Kirsten De Klerk’s adventures with Type 1 diabetes: Kirsten is a Type 1 diabetic, founding member of Bete It and one of the top 20 South African voices for diabetes.