Kirsten de Klerk

South Africa
Diabetes is hard work. Without the right tools and access to care, it can be very difficult to understand

How long have you been living with diabetes?

I've been living with diabetes for nearly 12 years.

How were you diagnosed?

I got the flu that turned into bronchitis. I went on antibiotics, which didn't help. I then started to lose a lot of weight and went back to the doctor, who expressed concerns with my mother that I might be suffering from anorexia. Eventually, after many blood tests and weeks of not understanding my body, my blood glucose level was tested and found to be very high. I was sent to an endocrinologist that evening.

Did your diagnosis come as a surprise to you?

Yes, I did not know what diabetes was before my diagnosis.

How did your diagnosis affect your family or loved ones?

My friends and family were very supportive. My family changed their eating times and diet to cater for me and my friends helped me out at school if I needed to eat during lessons.

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

100% community! For years I was trying to understand diabetes all on my own, through the power of social media. I now have friends that live with diabetes all over the world. Having access to a flash glucose monitor has also changed the game when it comes to understanding my condition.

What has living with diabetes taught you the most?

I think diabetes has given me the ability to be extremely self-aware. It has forced me to evaluate my mental and physical state continuously. This has allowed me to always be in tune with myself.

What has been your lowest point with diabetes?

In college, I was making a lot of new friends and I was not at home with my family often. It was during these years that I went through diabetes burnout and lacked the support system and diabetes community that I found later on.

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

Yes. Although I have access to all the supplies and medication I need, it comes with a huge cost implication. I have been babysitting from the age of 17 to cover these extra costs of diabetes care.

What would you like to see change in diabetes over the next 100 years?

I would like every person living with diabetes to be afforded access to the care and support that they choose. Whether that be better insulin, continuous glucose monitoring devices or mental health support. Every person living with diabetes should have an equal opportunity to live a healthy life with their condition.

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

Access to education and support as well as the right medication and monitoring devices. I feel that people living with diabetes in South Africa are diagnosed and then left to figure out on their own how to manage their condition on a daily basis. Diabetes is hard work. Without the right tools and access to care, it can be very difficult to understand.

What does the centenary of insulin mean to you?

The centenary of insulin means A LOT to me. I was asked why I celebrated 100 years of insulin and after much thought, the answer was quite simple. Without the discovery of insulin, I would have died at the age of 16. Insulin has so far gifted me 11 extra years of life, which I feel extremely grateful for.

The Insulin at 100 campaign is supported by