Proudly Diabetic Patient Lives Life to the Fullest
I don’t call myself diabetic, I call myself “proudly Diabetic.” Grassy Park resident, Mr. Martin Van Gee, has been living with Diabetes Mellitus for 36 years.
“To be honest, my diagnosis did not come as a shock, I used to consume six to seven 500ml bottles of coke a day. I was always trying to quench my excessive thirst.”
At the time of the diagnosis Mr. Van Gee was told by the doctors that he was very sick. He was given a letter for admission to Victoria Hospital, and swiftly ended up in a ward with multiple drips. He was told by the doctor he had diabetes and there was no cure.
“After my diagnoses, I had to change many things and firmly believe that it is an illness that you as a patient can control. This includes cutting out smoking and drinking. I was very positive about it.” The process of trying to stop drinking was difficult however, his health was more important. Mr. Van Gee had been a heavy drug addict as a young man for fifteen years and had managed to overcome that hurdle through his faith in God and the prayers of his mother.
Mr. Van Gee loves to motivate others and encourage other chronic diabetic patients. He especially enjoys his visits to Lady Michaelis Community Day Centre. “I visit the centre every six months to see the doctor, and once a month to collect my medication. During these visits, we sit as patients while waiting, and we share our stories with one another. Through these experiences, we each can take away something new and meaningful. We are like a family…the staff treat us well and as patients we learn from them and one another.” He believes the best therapy is when there are several patients that can sit together, discuss their illness and hence, learn from one another.
Mr. Van Gee firmly believes that taking the prescribed medication every day is one of the most important habits that leads to living with the chronic condition successfully.
He shares that mood swings are a reality, unfortunately but having his wife accompany him during some of the doctor’s visits has helped educate them both on living with the illness and learning how to cope.
An additional habit to instill is changing your diet. “I used to love meat. I spoke to doctor, and expressed how much I love meat. He recommended I speak to the dietician which I did. I was advised how to cut down on the amount of meat I would usually eat.” Mr. Van Gee further explains that if he attends parties, he will still spoil himself with a treat, but in moderation as he has learnt that balance is key.
Morning breakfast is very important followed by a snack usually at 10am. Lunch time it is important to have a well-balanced healthy meal. “When you drink alcohol and smoke, it makes the condition worse, and therefore becomes more challenging to control your diabetes. I used to smoke fifty cigarettes a day but cut it out. I can’t tell any diabetic what to do, but I speak from my heart – I would love to meet any patient and share my experiences with them.”
As a little boy, Mr. Van Gee had a great fear of doctors, and especially an injection. He shares that when the district nurse visited the school he would often stay away. “When I became a diabetic, I had to adapt. They taught me in Victoria hospital how to inject myself. I caught the hang of it and now it’s so easy to do.”
Mr Van Gee shares that although he may be diabetic, he is still a happy person, living a normal life. “Live life to the fullest. Make the changes needed. Do it for yourself. Don’t do it for someone else. Sometimes we have problems in our lives, we feel that our problems can get the better of us, but it is still important to NOT miss medication and not skip your meals.”
Principal Communications Officer: Southern Western Sub-structures
Department of Health
Western Cape Government
Address: Southern and Western Sub Structure Office: Cnr White and Main Roads, Retreat
Tel: 021 202 0947
Mobile: 081 277 0516