Heather Koga

If I could change anything about diabetes in my country, I would ensure that there is more awareness and education around the condition.

How long have you been living with diabetes?

I have been living with type 2 diabetes since 2013.

Did your diagnosis come as a surprise to you?

It did not really come as a surprise. I had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes the previous year, when I was pregnant with my son. At that time, I was told that I was at risk for type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it was not a surprise, but it happened much sooner than I expected.

I started requiring insulin about two years after my diagnosis. It was hard to accept. I resisted at first because I felt I had failed to manage my condition with oral medicines, diet and exercise. I told my doctors that I did not want to use insulin, believing that I could get the desired results without it.

What are the most important things that have supported your diabetes care?

The first has been the support that I get from other people with diabetes. The second is insulin, which helped stabilise my condition after a period of very high blood glucose levels. Third is the support I receive from health professionals – my physician, nurses, dieticians and other specialists. Getting information and knowledge has been very important. They say knowledge is power; once you have the necessary knowledge, you can find your way and know how to react in any situation. When it comes to managing my diabetes, it's all about the information I get from my diabetes association, other organisations, people living with diabetes, and what I find through my own research.

What has been your lowest point with diabetes?

My lowest point occurred during my first two years with type 2 diabetes. I experienced difficulties managing my blood glucose levels, resulting in several complications. I tried hard to manage them but it was very difficult. Things improved when I started using insulin. It comes with its own complications, but my situation is now much better than when I was only taking oral medicines.

Have you ever experienced issues accessing diabetes medicines, supplies and care?

I have not personally had any challenges accessing insulin since I have health insurance. For other people in Zimbabwe it is really a challenge. Insulin is generally very expensive and therefore very difficult to afford for people without health insurance. Some people have to go without their insulin or ration their dosages.

What do you think needs to change to improve the lives of people living with diabetes in your country?

If I could change anything about diabetes in Zimbabwe, I would ensure that there is more awareness and education around the condition. Many people know little about diabetes and there are many misconceptions. Diabetes is considered a condition that only affects older people. There is a general understanding that you get diabetes by eating too many sweets. Diabetes is also thought to be a product of witchcraft, and therefore does not require seeing a doctor. Lastly, many people think that you can’t get diabetes if you have a healthy weight.

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