Selina Harris has lived with type 2 diabetes for nearly three decades but hopes soon to no longer need medication to help manage the condition.
Selina, who lives at Bayly’s Beach and works in Dargaville, has been able to come off insulin and now aims to stop needing to take tablets, working on plan under the care and guidance of a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Specialist Diabetes Service with Te Whatu Ora Te Tai Tokerau.
This is a significant shift from the struggle she had been facing.
“Around two years ago was the scariest time of my diabetes journey. Despite doing my best to eat healthily and exercise, my blood sugar levels were out of control and I was having to take the highest dose of insulin allowed. I was told that a dramatic change was needed, or I could have a stroke. Being in my 40s I felt that this was something I shouldn’t be hearing,” she said.
The catalyst for change was having gastric sleeve surgery in August 2021 following a recommendation by her GP. The resulting weight loss has also helped Selina to reduce her blood sugar levels.
“I was forever in the red zone but am always now in the green zone. What a difference it made. The surgery has been life changing and I’m seeing and feeling the benefits, including so much more energy, she said.
“It’s like I have a second chance at life. I’ve been working with our local diabetes community nurse, who has helped me put plan together, which is working. I’m off insulin and now solely weaning off tablets. It’s a work in progress, but we’re slowly getting there.”
Selina says she is lucky to have the support of her husband and daughters.
“The whole family are on board and working together to support me and one another. It’s a whanau affair. For me, it’s all about being here with them for longer. Our health is our greatest asset.”
Selina’s advice for people struggling with weight, regardless of whether or not they have diabetes, is to moderate their meal portion sizes.
“My meal portion is a third of the size of what I used to have. The dieticians, as well as nurses and doctors, always advised to eat palm-size meals and it’s working. I’ve realised my body doesn’t need those big plates of food, it only needs enough to keep going.
“With diabetes you have a choice to do something about it. Through diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle, you can manage how much medication you need to take, if any.”
Selina’s other advice for people with diabetes is to stay educated about the condition and take on-board all the healthcare professional advice provided.
“I’ve always had great support from the health system throughout my diabetes journey. They offer great services over and above the nurses and doctors – dieticians, podiatrists, eyes screening. All these services are there to help us and they really do help.
“Diabetes Action Month has been a good opportunity to reflect on my healing journey. Working side by side with health professionals and everyone else supporting me is a privilege I do not take for granted. I appreciate everyone.”