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PITSO MOLEMANE | Sophie now firmly in control of her fight against diabetes

Some years back, actor Sophie Ndaba was seriously ill and confined to bed because of diabetes.
Some years back, actor Sophie Ndaba was seriously ill and confined to bed because of diabetes.
Image: Supplied

Years ago, actress Sophie Ndaba was dangerously ill and confined to bed because of diabetes.

She remembers how difficult life was when she was teased, attacked, laugh at, ridiculed and death remarks made about her while she was on her deathbed.

She has been battling type 2 diabetes for eight years.

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin – a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into the cells. And cells respond poorly to insulin and take in less sugar.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include feeling tired all the time, peeing more than usual, feeling thirsty frequently and drinking a lot of water, losing weight and blurred vision.

You are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you are overweight, have a close family member with diabetes and you are over 40.

Type 2 is common among women across the world. Ndaba has a family history of diabetes. She lost both parents from renal failure, a chronic kidney disease, which is a complication of diabetes.

Ndaba recalls how she felt dizzy and her eyes couldnt see clearly while she was walking in a mall.

She then visited the doctor. Ndaba was subjected to a blood test, which confirmed high sugar in her blood.

She was then certified a diabetic.

“I was also hit hard by weight loss and many people, including some whom I trusted, made a mockery of me. I was a joke to them. They laughed at me and further diagnosed me with other diseases and this was stressful. It was a very difficult period in my life, which I wont forget,” said Ndaba.

“Diabetes is like a naughty child who requires constant attention. No matter what security and care plan you introduce to this naughty child you get shocked when you see him having gone out of the house approaching the gate. I regard this disease as a project that requires good management.

“You must learn to know how your body reacts when the sugar level is low and when it is high. Sometimes you get stressed when you realise that the blood sugar readings are high no matter how good you have been with your diet and exercising to get the body active. Still when you take extra care, diabetes has a way of fighting back and shocking you when sugar spikes,” explained Ndaba who played much-loved Queen Moroka on Generations several years ago.

She said she had to take drastic measures to control this difficult disease.

“I took it upon myself to read a lot about it, so that I can understand the disease. After getting information, I then decided that I don't want to allow it to control me and rather I should be the one who controls it. I would like to encourage people living with any chronic illness, be it cancer, high blood pressure, HIV or heart disease, to accept their challenges and talk about them.

People with diabetes have to make sure they monitor their blood sugar level all the time. Stock photo.
People with diabetes have to make sure they monitor their blood sugar level all the time. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Andriy Popov

“There is no disease that is dirty. You just have to know its complications and manoeuvre around it. You must first be your own ambassador, guide and coach yourself with one aim of fighting it by taking medicine.”

Ndaba is very cautious about what she eats.

She prefers food with low carbs and is helping her three children eat healthy all the time since there is a history of diabetes in the family.

When we met, she was preparing dinner, a vegetable soup with beans and some proteins.

She is not enforcing her diabetes diet on her children but she is teaching them good nutrition, to balance what they eat in her absence.

“Despite learning about the disease from my late parents I struggled living with it in my early months of diagnosis. I have completely changed my lifestyle and adapted to a healthy diabetes diet. Having to eat more vegetables and fruits, cutting on food with sugar and getting myself physically active, has changed the game,” she said.

Ndaba has got her groove back.

She is now happy and confident after a difficult period.

Following a struggle with some unsuccessful plans to fight the disease, her game suddenly clicked and she has blossomed into a healthy and strong woman.

She said she was doing a lot of work using her star power to help other women know how to understand the disease and live longer with it.

“I want to join many other celebrities or influencers worldwide and become an ambassador of diabetes. I want to speak to many people living with diabetes and help them to control their diet, coach them on how to manage blood sugar levels and bring the levels to the required standard levels, between 5 and 7.

“Many people love me and I want to use that to share my experience of living with diabetes to help in saving lives.”

In many diabetes cases, people suffer to an extreme because they run out of cash fighting the disease and end up stressed.

“You have to make sure you remove yourself from situations that worry you a lot to cause stress. I have cut on toxic people and many other things which were giving me stress.

“The most important lesson I have learnt is that people love to see other people failing.

“People you thought are genuinely happy for you are gossiping behind your back, waiting to celebrate your downfall.

“I refused to allow that to happen to me because that all causes stress. Diabetes does not want stress. If stress doesn’t go away, it can keep your blood sugar levels high and put you at higher risk of other opportunistic diseases related to diabetes such as kidney or heart failure and high blood pressure.

“In general, with or without diabetes, stress can affect how you look after yourself and that is bad to your emotional and overall health,” she says.

Molemane is a senior journalist at KayaFM

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