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My Journey of Living The Sweet Life With Diabetes

by Natasha Christopher

By: Komal Preet Kaur

Being diabetic has its ups and downs, for 24-year-old, Komal shares with us her journey being a diabetic person to conquering her own path to success. This is her story.

I was a normal happy girl and like most 10-year-old children, I was very a very active, inquisitive and full of life person. My parents doted on me and my two other siblings, one of which is my twin. I led a healthy life as I played in the football team for the Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur. For school, I took part in gymnastics, played badminton and attended taekwondo classes for extracurricular activities. I remember always getting thirsty and running to the toilet to pee every so often. I’d lose my appetite and suddenly feel extremely drained out too. No one knew what was going on because I still remained “this very active girl”.
I was 10 years old when it happened. That night I was enjoying Kentucky Fried Chicken with my siblings, watching cartoons – living the simple carefree life of a child. Whoever thought that my whole life was about to change that same night. It all started when my vision became blurry then it went to sensing a pain in my stomach and my head.  Even I couldn’t comprehend what was going on. I approached my mum and dad for help. They instantly rushed me to the hospital. Obviously, I was terrified.

A sharp aching pain pierced my abdomen, and I woke up to bright lights and beeping sounds. I saw tubes running around me. It was the ECG and the IV lines connected to my body. I turned my head around and saw my dad sitting in a chair near the edge of my bed. The first thing I asked was “Am I dead?”  Little did I know that I’d be fighting death harder than the average person for the rest of my years to come. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. 

No one could have prepared me or my parents at that time on what a life sentence it was going to be for me. In the years to come, I struggled with this concept of type 1 diabetes, the stigma, the reaction of friends and relatives, the unconcealed pity. Some even kept their distance from me in the belief that it was contagious. Others tried to introduce all kinds of vile tasting  ‘home-remedies’ which made me grow even more bitter towards the disease. I was once caught in school giving myself an insulin shot during sports day- to which the teacher who caught me threatened to have me disqualified before my race. That was my breaking point. I remember for the first time I spoke up and asked her to get educated about diabetes instead of assuming that I was taking drugs.

You are NOT what you eat.
Contrary to popular belief, type 1 diabetes is NOT the result of poor eating habits. The exact cause is unknown. Usually, it is due to the body’s own immune system triggered by an infection to mistakenly attack and destroy the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Other possible causes include genetics. My mum told me that about 3 months before I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes I had a very bad flu and cold infection that did not seem to go away, while my siblings caught chicken pox.

High and Low Tide 

Type 1 Diabetes is a constant battle. Every day the battlefield changes- thus, so must the game plan. Stress and hormones are a few of the things that affect blood sugar levels. Our bodies’ function in such an amazing, unique and complex way, it is hard to get management down to an exact science.

For example, I may do everything today in one way, and repeat it exactly the next day, but my sugar levels may not be the same. The exact same diet, exercise and routine are not enough to guarantee my sugars will stay constant and manageable. Stress, even very minimum, can cause it to increase while changes in hormones due to periods, or any other chemical changes in my body can also fluctuate my levels to make me less or more sensitive to my insulin. 

As my previous post stated, I can’t do much when my sugars are below 10mmol or above 13mmol.Similarly, my brain turns to mush when this happens (blurred vision,dizziness, thirst, faster heart rate, stress, confusion, etc.). So during exams, I am allowed to bring in some necessary supplies like my blood test kit, insulin/insulin pump and some glucose to help me manage my levels while I sit for my papers. Besides this, I am also granted an extra 30minutes if I need it. Never in my life have I needed it so far until today. Today my sugars were all over the place. The reason for the extra time is it takes some time for my sugars to stabilize (increase/decrease) to the appropriate levels. I have a doctor’s letter for this. My final semester and the stress got to me. From levels ranging between 10mmol and 25mmol. It was a roller coaster today for 3 hours. Now I am finally at home and it is now at 8mmol. It is tough and boy did I have to work extra hard with my mushy brain today 😂 but what doesn’t kill you makes you fight harder 💪🔥 #type1diabetes #t1d #diabetesawareness #psychology #healthawareness #t1dbattles #diabetescontrol #diabetescare #bundaberg

A post shared by Blue Warrior | Komal 💙 © (@bluewarrior_malaysia) on

During my schooling days, I had trouble during exam time. As any other kid, I’d get stressed up before a test. Unlike every other kid, my body could not control my sugar levels. While everyone walked into the hall with their ID’s and stationary, I walked in with canned drinks, sweets, glucose tablets, insulin injection, a blood test kit and my doctor’s letter stating that I be let into the exam hall earlier to allow time for my sugar levels to stabilize enough for me to do my exams. However, more often than not, this did not go down well with some of my friends who thought that I enjoyed an unfair advantage and singled me out for ridicule and embarrassment. I always dreaded exam time as I had to explain to the invigilators and friends “my condition”. It was never easy for me as I had to be in the exam hall 30 minutes to an hour earlier (depending on what my school or university allowed).

As I speak to many of my diabetic friends and acquaintances, they and I included, find that the one thing we wished we had more of was understanding. 

Understanding from people around us that our hypos (low sugar levels) or hypers (high sugar levels) can cause us discomfort and limit us, that it can affect our behaviour and mood, that sometimes we need help but just don’t know how to ask for it because it is OUR disease to control. We have to remember to take our insulin shots each time after a meal. We must remember to take our blood tests. Before we can enjoy a slice of cake or any meal for that matter we have to mentally calculate the carbohydrates so that we know how much insulin to inject. We have to learn how to live with and ignore the curious stares of strangers when we inject ourselves.

Sometimes, we look at our ‘normal’ friends and envy them for their carefree life. For us, Type 1 Diabetics, a simple thing like going shopping or walking around in a mall can be a big task. We have to deal with low or high sugar levels which can cause any number of symptoms together or separately like “trembling hands”, rush of cold sweat, disorientation, headache, irritation, sensitivity to light, nausea, sudden urge of hunger, blurry vision and many more which I myself do not understand and which more often than not annoys friends and relatives who cannot understand or apprehend that these symptoms are real.

Accept challenges so you may feel the exhilaration of victory 💪~ George S. Patton Yesterday was a good day! I had 2.5 hours of activity and my sugar levels were within 4 and 9mmol. The moment I saw my levels behaving I started my car and sped off to the gym excited for the opportunity! Low and behold, 30 minutes in and my levels dropped. I almost decided “okay, at least I managed 30minutes.” Instead, I said No! and drank some orange juice whilst focusing on anaerobic work outs instead to help stabilize my levels and at the same time get in some exercise. Today I feel that wonderful burn and man do I LOVE IT! As I love to remind myself “the difference between stepping stones and stumbling blocks is how YOU use them!” So come on friends, we CAN and we WILL!! 😄😊💪😎🔥 #shehulk #t1d #type1diabetes #whatdiabetesreallylookslike #behindthescenes

A post shared by Blue Warrior | Komal 💙 © (@bluewarrior_malaysia) on

For us, it is not a simple sweet life. It is a life full of self-doubt, challenges and conformation but with the support and understanding of family and friends, it makes this daily battle a battle that feels like it can be won. I am lucky in this aspect as I have a supportive family who helps me get the medication I need without worry and supportive friends who make sure I don’t feel like a burden just because I may need help once in a while.

I write this article to share what a life of a type 1 diabetic may feel like. My experiences may not be as much as the next diabetic but there are many overlapping similarities to the difficulties we face as I have mentioned. I have lived with this disease for the past 15 years, and every day I still battle with some of the insecurities this disease presents me with. However, I have also learned to cope with it.

If there is one thing I could tell my fellow blue warriors (type 1 diabetics) out there is don’t give up! Don’t let the burden of the constant thought of injecting every meal and being prepared for hypos during any kind of event bring you down. Join a Facebook group, talk to your family and friends, educate them so they know how to help you if you ever need it. Diabetes isn’t the end of the road for us.

Finally, if need be, see a psychiatrist or a psychologist. These two terms may have a stigma on them, especially in Malaysia. But mental health awareness is increasing and needing to see someone for some guidance or help does not make you a ‘mental person’. Ask your endocrinologist for a referral. More often than not we forget how important keeping our mental health strong and sane effects us as equally as keeping a healthy body. Social support is important in this aspect, in any case of any disease not just type 1 diabetes. So don’t raise your white flag just yet. We can do this! 

To fully understand her diabetic journey, follow here her on Instagram : bluewarrior_malaysia .

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