Keenan Hendrickse, a patient story

Keenan has type 1 diabetes

Now 18, confident and healthy, it’s hard to imagine Keenan as an overweight and self-conscious 13-year-old, as he was when he found out he had diabetes.

“I was like a dinosaur,” he laughs as he describes his lack of interest in sports and exercise. “I was a heavily-built teenager of 85 kilos.”

When diabetes forced Keenan to take control of his life and his health, it wasn’t an easy transition. “The magnitude of it all didn’t hit me immediately. It was one or two weeks before I sat down and said to myself – I have diabetes! I was in a total state.”

Today, Keenan is Head of School at Bergvliet High. He is fit, performs well academically, and the badges on his blazer reveal he is a member of many clubs and school societies.

So what brought him to where he is today?

Keenan explains that he soon came to the conclusion that coping well with diabetes was all about making a choice:

“Some people live with diabetes, and some people make a mess of their situation.”

Keenan’s family made sure he stayed on the right track. His mother rewrote the family grocery list and got rid of everything Keenan could no longer eat. In Keenan’s time of crisis, they were calm for him.

Yet even with this support, Keenan admits to having periods of denial. “At a party I’d tell myself that I could eat cakes. I only have one life! I was going to enjoy it! Obviously that was a recipe for disaster.”

By taking an active approach to learning about diabetes, and with the support and understanding of his family, Keenan’s attitude towards healthy eating has now changed, like his exercise habits, his appearance and his mindset.

“You have to accept that diabetes is part of you. You can’t fight it but you can work with it.”