05 April 2018

'Doctors told me I had six months to live if they didn't amputate my leg'

Florence Schikker tells Health24 how living in denial for 27 years cost her her left leg.

When doctors initially told 65-year-old Florence “Flori” Schikker she had diabetes, this grandmother of 10 went into denial for 27 years.

“I was diagnosed with diabetes 34 years ago and only when I lost my toe, I realised that my diabetes was serious," she says.

'I couldn't handle the pain'

Schikker, a type 2 diabetic, had puss oozing out from underneath her foot, not knowing she had stepped into a drawing pin.

“After the doctor examined my foot, it started festering.”

But soon it was not just her toe that caused problems. Six months after that first loss, she had to have her leg below the knee amputated.

“I couldn’t handle the pain. It was excruciating,” she says. 

She was given six months to live because of her poor lifestyle.

A major contributing factor

“Doctors told me, the only way to survive this fight was to amputate my leg,” Schikker says.  

She acknowledges that she had lived an unhealthy lifestyle for many years. Working in a bank, she did very little exercise and ate fast food and drank Coke on a regular basis.

“If the doctor tells you you’re a diabetic, don’t ignore it. Don’t get to where I am. The sooner you accept things, the better it is for your health.”

Only after her toe was amputated, did she realise the seriousness of diabetes and how her lifestyle was a major contributing factor to her situation.

At peace with the situation

However, Schikker finally accepted her fate as a diabetic after the doctor told her that her leg would have to be amputated.

“I saw it coming. The pain was terrible.

“I could no longer handle it. At this point I was prepared; whatever came had to be.

“Anyone can survive amputation, with the correct mental and family support. It’s important in the progress of the amputee,” she explains.

“I accepted it immediately and so did my family. A week later I got a call from the doctor to come in with my family. I was seated in the middle with various doctors looking at me, but I stopped them and said, ‘I’m fine.’ My children saw that I was at peace with the situation and supported me.”

Schikker is the co-author of two cookbooks and co-presents a cooking show on Via, an Afrikaans channel on DSTV.

Helping others

“I’ve achieved quite a lot in these seven years that I didn’t have my leg.

“I don’t think I would’ve achieved these things if it wasn't for my foot. I wouldn't say it's because of my foot, but if this hadn't happened to me. I wouldn’t have the outlook on life that I have now,” she continues cheerfully.    

She is now also leading a healthy life. “Having my leg amputated was the best thing I could have done for myself.”

Schikker often spends time with other amputees struggling to deal with their situation. “God gave me my situation to help others,” she maintains.

One of the ladies she counselled told her she helped her tremendously.

“She told me I gave her her life back,” Schikker says, breaking into tears. “Never let your condition determine your situation.”

Image credit: Supply


Ask the Expert

Diabetes expert

Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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