Neville Pillay, left, of Lotus FM, and Kini Shandu, of Gagasi FM, prepare for the Global Diabetes Walk on Sunday.

Durban - Their crazy on-air antics have won them hordes of fans and they are the cool guys in demand at the hottest events in town.

But Neville Pillay and Kini Shandu have a serious side to their lives that involves finger pricks, a healthy diet and a disciplined lifestyle.

Both have Type 2 diabetes.

Pillay, who presents the Morning Rush show on Lotus FM and, as Top Dan, is a favourite on the comedy circuit, says he was in denial about the condition for years.

“I had the symptoms, but ignored them. I suspected diabetes but I didn’t want to face up to the fact that I might have it.”

The alarming thing about diabetes – known as the silent killer – is that 50 percent of people who have it are unaware because they are symptom-free. Then there are those who have the symptoms, but ignore them. Pillay says he was in denial for years.

In a make-or-break moment in 2008, he made an appointment with his doctor, had a fasting blood glucose test and was given the news that he had diabetes.

“It woke me up,” he says. “My mother is a Type 1 diabetic who injects with insulin daily, so I knew a fair amount about it.”

It is also fairly common in the Indian community and an estimated 20 percent is diabetic, so Pillay knew he had to take it seriously.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas makes no insulin and this has to be supplemented with injections. In Type 2, the pancreas produces too little insulin or the body is not able to use the insulin it produces (also known as insulin resistance).

For Pillay, the diagnosis meant daily tablets, a drastic change of lifestyle and a shift of mindset.

Before his diagnosis, Pillay weighed 103kg and with weight being a major risk factor for diabetes, he had to shed kilos.

“I knew that if I went on a crash diet, I would regain the weight, so I decided to change my lifestyle,” he says. “I have given up meat. I have better glucose control if I eat three meals a day, instead of six small meals, as I was advised. I have the odd piece of cake or treat but it is just that, a treat.”

Pillay says he seldom drinks alcohol, goes to gym every day – and is trying to kick smoking.

He is keen to educate others about diabetes and uses it in his comedy material. It gets laughs and it gets the message across.

Diabetes, however, is not funny. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels can cause cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure and amputations – every 30 seconds, worldwide, a leg or foot is amputated. Every eight seconds worldwide, someone dies from diabetes-related causes.

It is a lifelong condition from which there is no day off. Every day blood glucose levels need to be monitored and in the case of Type 1 diabetics, insulin injected according to those readings.

Kini Shandu, a comedian and presenter on Gagasi FM’s Alex and the Morning Crew show, is another funny man who is serious about diabetes.

He ignored the symptoms for years – he was too busy having fun.

“Everywhere I went, I would eat shisa nyama and drink lots of beer,” he says. “I was fat and didn’t take care of myself. I had a big beer belly and my lifestyle was unhealthy.”

A finger-prick blood test showed his blood glucose level was 10 mmol/l (millimols per litre) – normal is between 4 and 6 – and he was given a diagnosis of diabetes.

“I was shocked – I thought only old people got diabetes, and I was just 27,” he says.

He was referred to a diabetes educator who taught him how to monitor his blood glucose levels and change his diet.

Now he eats healthy meals that include fruits and vegetables. He exercises regularly, doing mutai boxing twice a week. And he has lost 15kg.

“Diabetes is serious. People are dying from it every day and I would like to see the same energy and funding that goes into HIV/Aids go into diabetes awareness and support too.”

* Type 1 diabetes is caused because the pancreas produces no insulin. It often strikes in childhood and affects approximately one million South Africans.

* Type 2 diabetes results when the pancreas produces too little insulin or the body is not able to use the insulin the pancreas produces. Approximately, 3.4 million South Africans are diagnosed with Type 2, accounting for more than 80 percent of the diabetes cases in the country. Obesity and weight gain are associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors:

q Are you over 35 years?

* Are you overweight (especially if you carry most of your weight around your middle)?

* Do you have high cholesterol?

* Do you have high blood pressure or heart disease?

* Are you from a high-risk group (in South Africa, people of Indian/Asian descent are at particular risk)?

* Do you have a family history of diabetes?

* Have you given birth to a baby that weighed more than 4kg at birth, or had gestational diabetes during pregnancy?


* Unusual thirst.

* Passing urine more frequently.

* Unusual weight loss.

* Extreme fatigue or lack of energy.

* Blurred vision.

* Frequent or recurring fungal infections.

* Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, boils and itchy skin.

* Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet.

* Information from Diabetes South Africa.

For information on diabetes or support, contact Diabetes South Africa Durban branch at 0861 222 717, 084 717 7443 or [email protected]

The walk

Neville Pillay and Kini Shandu will be key personalities at the Global Diabetes Walk from Durban beachfront amphitheatre, opposite the Southern Sun Elangeni Hotel, on Sunday, October 28 from 8am.

You can register at uShaka Marine World outside Kauai restaurant on Saturday, from 8am to 1pm.

Entry is R40 with all proceeds going to diabetes education and support.

There will be free blood sugar testing at the Global Walk Wellness Expo at the amphitheatre.

Call Pat at 082 499 5222 or visit blogspot to find out more. - Daily News