Diabetes can be intimidating – not only for the people who have it, but for their family and friends, and it makes you a superhero of one of your own kind.
I was 4 years old; A faint memory of crying my lungs out in my father’s arms because even the idea of being in a hospital was unacceptable. For me, hospitals were where kids are tortured, nevertheless what I used to believe. This, my sister can vouch for, the horrifying tantrums I’d throw. Little did I know what was coming next. I was too young to understand or have heard of diabetes, and I don’t think I was even listening to what the doctors were saying.
But my parents looked horrified, my sister suddenly very concerned, I would pretend to sleep sometimes while I was hospitalized and watch my mother cry. Just some time earlier, my dad told me there would be no needles in this checkup. Hours later, I would be living with many needles for the rest of my life. My childhood would never be the same again. Want to know my biggest worry at the time? I can’t ever have “Twix” again! My life will never be the same.
Twenty-two years later, I am writing this testimonial from my house in K-Town, with a piece of Twix and coffee, back from performing my very junior doctor duties at one of the largest private hospitals in the city. When I say life would change, it has. Did my Type 1 diabetes play a significant role? It definitely did but only for the better. I planned to pursue my higher education away from my hometown back in 2016 to come to Pakistan and become a doctor. First in the family, ready to break the patriarchal barriers and to train myself to become a surgeon. While I planned, packed, and excitedly yet tiredly gathered the documents, the courage, and all my love to get closer and closer to my dream, I saw a worrisome look on my parents. I knew it was something, but nothing too much to not be in my control, nothing too much to stop me from achieving my dream. The inner me said, “If I can do 14 years with diabetes, what’s a 5-year undergraduate program got that would be more challenging?”.
Excitedly, all pumped, I started medical school, and so finished it, in the blink of an eye. ALL DONE! Was it hard?
Did it stop me from achieving anything?
No! not at all.
But every now and then, I was told and reminded by my mum and my endocrinologist that to succeed with diabetes, you must follow the basic rules. I have never asked them what those rules are, but I assumed they are to stay disciplined and eat your apple on time.
My mum is right; follow the rules, and you will get it right. That’s not to say some days will be harder than others, or that they weren’t. Sometimes, if your blood glucose is too high, indulging in a lemon drizzle sponge may be less than wise. Sometimes, being too low, exercising, even with your pals in the park, may have to be put to one side, until your numbers have risen to a safer level. It’s a choice of how you live with type 1 diabetes. It’s not fatal, and it’s by no means the end of your life. It requires patience, discipline, perseverance, and a whole lot of support. Diabetes has taught me that life is harder than it should be. Life throws things at you that you don’t expect. The important thing is to embrace those things and move forward, with whatever it has thrown at you. And remember, don’t be afraid to ask. Ask for help when some days are just too much, ask your friends to fetch you juice when you are going low during a lecture, ask your friends, siblings or partner to remind you to take your insulin when you are dining out, ask your brother to get you your gluco-meter strips at 12 am if you run out, just bribe him with some dessert, and you’re good to go, ask your very basics or very intellectual queries from your fellow type 1 buddies. Asking for help and having a support system makes a huge difference between having good control and, well, not so good control over your type 1 diabetes. Remember, there is no bad control; you are doing your best!
Its 22 years and counting for me – makes me feel a little bit like Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda “For with every foe he faces Kai becomes stronger.”