Shaianne Chetty. Image Credit: Siddharth Siva

Shaianne Chetty, South African, 12 years old

“I have had Type 1 diabetes since I was 8. Initially, I was confused and very scared as I did not know what was to happen. I learnt that my pancreas didn’t make enough insulin. I became insulin dependent and need it about 6 times a day. The shots and finger pricks to check my blood sugar, was painful at first but, I got used to it. My day starts with checking my blood sugar to calculate the carbohydrates I will eat and the insulin dose needed to metabolize what I eat. My parents help with this. I do this for all my meals and snacks. I do have challenges with this condition. I have missed out on fun things with my friends, like sleepovers. It is hard to participate in sport because I need constant checks, roughly 6 to 8 times a day and snack periodically to avoid a drop in my levels. But it has not stopped me, I love to swim and dance. I also love drama and play the guitar. My amazing teachers, nurses and friends look out for me and make sure I am okay. My family is my greatest support. My younger sister Liyah always remembers and reminds me to check my sugar levels. I have good days and bad, but I take each day as it comes and have much to be thankful for. Although I live with diabetes, it doesn’t stop me from doing what I love.”

Charmaine Chetty, Shaianne's mother 

“When Shaianne was diagnosed, we were concerned about how she would cope with this adjustments she needed to make to manage this life-long condition. But, Shaianne has been amazing and brave and has coped better than we did. It is challenging and causes worry, but is manageable with good nutrition, healthy lifestyle and glucose management. Diabetes needs to be managed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There are no holidays and some days are tougher than others. Some common misconceptions related to Type 1 diabetes, that we have experienced are that she can grow out of it or that the consumption of sugar leads to diabetes in children. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that affects the pancreas, and prevents it from producing insulin which makes our daughter insulin dependent for the rest of her life. Insulin is administered with a shot and at a later stage with a pump, but is not a cure. We hope and pray that one day there will be a cure. Going forward, I believe that anything is possible. Type 1 Diabetes has become a part of her, it does not define who she is. She is just like any other 12 year old, but has a bit more to deal with. Diabetes has shown us that when challenged, the human spirit can become stronger. We are so proud of her."


Mena Tallah Helmy, Egyptian, 21 years

“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, two weeks after my 5th birthday while on a holiday in Egypt. I don’t remember more than the white washed walls of the hospitals but my parents were panicked as they didn’t understand the condition at the time. I was able to understand early on that I was different and quickly grew to be comfortable with it. I learnt to count carbs and calculate the insulin I needed at 7. I am grateful for the support I have in my friends and family for I grew up with little restriction in terms of food and activity. I do frequent the gym and exercise regularly but that’s to keep fit. I believe exercise should be for everyone and aids general well-being. The benefits are enormous”


Anas Ahmed Tanira, Palestinian, 21 years

“I was only 3 years old when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I had lost weight rapidly, was constantly thirsty, urinated frequently which was soon followed by a very high fever. My pancreas was not functioning and I was critical at the time. These are the typical symptoms of Type 1 diabetes but with the little knowledge my parents had about the condition they were quite alarmed. Dr. Khawala Balhoul and her support group SweetKidz, have been a great influence in my life. I learnt to count carbs and calculate insulin under their guidance. The environment was positive and encouraged me to do whatever I wanted. At 13, I was introduced to the Arab World Health by Dr. Balhoul as their youngest speaker. Diabetes to me is like having a wife, you just have to commit to taking care of her . I have had my share of pitfalls, but if you want to do something, you’ll find a way and if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. I am today a part of the track and field team and indulge in the foods I like every now and then.”


Sanjana Borkotoky, Indian, 59 years

“I was diagnosed in my late twenties with Type 1 diabetes. I however unlike other Type 1 diabetics was asymptomatic. I have never felt limited due to this condition. I am lucky that I was never too fond of sweets and remained active through the years. My attitude with a problem is to fight it or arrest it. I don’t dwell in self-pity. I very much wanted to be present for my two children and my husband has been a great support in all the years in my fight. At parties he would make sure to find me to give me 1/3rd of a spoon full of the desert to taste. I eat regularly and my car always has something in it. My meals mostly comprise a salad and certain foods that over the years I find I tolerate better than others. A half an hour walk is a must in my day. My message to the world would be to be fearless and not allow diabetes to win. It is completely manageable.”


Michael Matafonov, Australian, 18 years

“I was on a vacation in Egypt with my family when I started to show the usual symptoms of bed wetting, dehydration, loss of appetite and rapid weight loss that are associated with Type 1 diabetes. I was 9 at the time. We didn’t know enough to recognize it as diabetes. My parents were frightened at the initial stage and to help me cope and make this condition as comfortable as possible, had to absorb so much necessary information. My most distinct memory at that initial phase was a massive needle. Growing up I remember that it was uncomfortable at first to take my insulin shot in public and that I feared that I may not be able to pursue sport. But to the contrary I am very active, play sport and workout regularly. I use a smart phone app to measure the insulin I need based on the carbohydrates I have consumed. My mother has been the greatest support to me through this journey. She also started a support group Iamnumberone along with her friend Gilly to help others in this situation. She always looked out for me and every now and then she likes to cook up meals from the diabetic cook book she buys. I now use the insulin pump that is very useful and makes me feel like Iron Man. He too depends on a device fitted to his chest that keeps him going.”


Mohamed Kader, Newzelander, 21 years

“After I was first diagnosed at the age of 15 the one big change in my life has been the discipline I maintain to manage my blood sugar levels. Deep within I knew I needed to beat this and wanted to defy the stereotypes attached with the physical appearance of a diabetic. The initial struggle that comes with the condition only made me stronger. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is all that’s needed to manage diabetes. To me diabetes is not a disease but simply a condition of the body. I have always been very active. Growing up I was skinny, ate haphazardly and frequently skipped meals. Today however, I eat multiple, small healthy meals through the day and engage in exercise either at the gym, at a boxing club or playing football. I am stronger than before I was diagnosed and it is mostly because I understand food and the nutrition my body needs. I do have the odd weeks where I lose weight rapidly, but I just have to pick myself up and keep fit.”

Snapshot of the Walkathon: