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November is National Diabetes Month, a time in which communities are supposed to shed light and educate each other about diabetes. A few weeks ago, I was called by Uncle Lucky (as I affectionately call him) to come and see him. He lives just opposite my home in the dusty village of Pankop, in Mpumalanga.
Just for a bit of background – the last time I went to his house was earlier in the year, around March. This was after I discovered that his leg had been amputated. I was initially scared to go to see him as I have known him all my life, and had never imagined him without a leg. I didn’t know what I was going to say to him.
Fast-forward to him personally inviting me over. I went to his house, and he said to me: “I have been meaning to ask you for something, and I don’t know how you are going to help me.”
I saw his face change. He was at a point of weakness and strength all at once.
He then said: “As you can see, I don’t have a leg and I have been looking around to see if I could get a prosthetic one. They are quite expensive and I am unemployed and can’t afford one.”
He suffers from diabetes, and this led to the amputation of his lower leg. He wishes that the diabetes could have been detected earlier. He says that, as a typical rural man, he didn’t see the need to go to for a check-up. This is his biggest regret.
Immediately, I thought about the words uttered by Apostle Peter in the Book of Acts, chapter 3, verse 6: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have, I give you.”
Uncle Lucky invited me not only to tell me about his tragedy but also to ask me to reach out to those that can help through this space I am afforded.
As he told me his heartbreaking story, I realised that many of us, particularly black men in rural areas, hardly visit the clinic or a doctor for check-ups. Usually, we get checked up when illnesses and viruses have already done a lot of damage.
As we push awareness about diabetes, I believe that writing opinions shouldn’t just be about current affairs or different views on race or sport. It should also be about helping each other.
In the spirit of awareness and Christmas, I hope this piece reaches someone who can help Uncle Lucky with a prosthetic leg donation. My email is at the bottom.
I admire his bravery to ask for help. He may not have his leg back. However, I believe that he would appreciate having two legs and putting away the crutches. Apart from that, I believe that sharing his personal story will encourage men to go for random and regular check-ups to detect such illnesses earlier.
Diabetes is real, and I hope that, during this month, we make enough noise about it to ensure that people are diagnosed on time.
Kabelo Chabalala is the founder and chairperson of the Young Men Movement (YMM), an organisation that focuses on the reconstruction of the socialisation of boys to create a new cohort of men. Email firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter @KabeloJay; Facebook Kabelo Chabalala