Thapi Semenya

South Africa
What people with diabetes have to say can have such an impact on change

How long have you been living with diabetes?

15 years.

How were you diagnosed?

I was 6 years old and I had most of the symptoms of diabetes - nausea, dizziness and dehydration. I was taken to a doctor who tested my blood glucose. It was very high. I was rushed to hospital, where I was treated for DKA and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Did your diagnosis come as a surprise to you?

It came as a surprise as no one in my family had diabetes.

How did your diagnosis affect your family or loved ones?

It impacted them in a good way as we now lead a healthy lifestyle and are helping other people with diabetes by providing them with supplies that they need.

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

Having a great diabetes care team that can provide the best care plans for me. Peer support from other people with diabetes. Having the support of family and loved ones.

What has living with diabetes taught you the most?

Resilience and open mindedness. It has also taught me to have empathy towards others, since diabetes is not a visible condition. Sometimes we don’t see these things in people but that doesn’t mean they don’t have them and therefore we need to have empathy towards them.

What has been your lowest point with diabetes?

Experiencing DKA. It feels as though you have failed yourself, and when they start mentioning the possible complications, it makes you feel even worse.

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

Access is something that people with diabetes in my country continue to have difficulty with. Not everyone has access to insulin and we sometimes face shortages at local clinics. This forces us to buy insulin.

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

Everyone having access to insulin and the medicines for effective diabetes management.

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

Organisations need to start going deep into the community and listen to people with diabetes. There is so much to learn from them, but they are ignored most of the time. What they have to say can have such an impact on change.

What does the centenary of insulin mean to you?

That we have come far and are constantly advancing. There is hope that we can overcome the challenges that diabetes brings. New innovations are bringing us closer to finding a solution to cure diabetes.

The Insulin at 100 campaign is supported by