Fighting diabetes to secure my wonderful life

minute read
November 11, 2022
A man watching the sunrise, his arms spread wide.
Note: Image for illustration only. It does not show the author of this story.

When I received my diagnosis, I was shocked beyond words. The doctor was talking to me, but I wasn’t listening.

It started out as frequent urination, losing weight and feeling thirsty all the time. I didn’t even put serious thought into it; simply booked in some routine tests, just in case. But the tests came back telling a very different story – I, Shehzad Tanveer, had type 1 diabetes.

Sure, I had a history of the disease; my father was a diabetic patient for a long time. But I never suspected it, and certainly not that early in my life. Why would I? I was in my late 20s, athletic, and had a healthy lifestyle. Even my diet was clean.

But there it was.

The doctor told me it was manageable; all I heard was ‘incurable’. No more sweet treats, just pins and needles and a bitter, bland existence for the rest of my life. I quietly listened to the doctor, took my reports and went home in a rickshaw. I just couldn’t understand it; why me? Of all people, why me? I’d just got married and had my sights set on a lovely family and happy future, not a disease I’d be stuck with for the rest of my life.

Breaking the news

When I got home, it didn’t take long for my wife and mother to notice something was wrong. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t smile or pretend to be normal.

So I told them; they were bound to know sooner or later anyway. My mother began to cry, saying the evil eye had caught her son, for he was a handsome young fellow, happily married to a beautiful wife and with a bright career ahead of him. Such an accomplished lad was bound to draw the malevolent glare of others.

A wave of hopelessness spread over me. I put down my prayer mat and prayed for a long time. I asked Allah to guide me and hold me together, for I was falling apart. I asked for a sign. Then I went to sleep.

Finding my way

The next day I went to the hospital and started my rounds – I was a doctor in training.

The thing about doctors is, they’re pretty unshakeable. To shake them, you need something truly big to hit.

I was shaken. My mind kept wandering. So I went walking aimlessly around the hospital, just looking at people and trying to centre myself. Until I turned a corner and saw it – A pamphlet from a diabetic institute sticking out of a magazine rack.

I picked it up and began to read.

It felt like Allah had made me stumble upon that magazine stand. The pamphlet I’d found seemed to answer every question I had in my mind and comforted me. It told me that just because I had diabetes, it didn’t mean my life was over. I just had to make some lifestyle changes. I needed to gain power over diabetes before diabetes took the upper hand. It was all a game, focusing on the strength of my mind and a life full of healthier choices.

So I made up my mind there and then – I promised myself I would win my fight with diabetes and live every day to its fullest.

I made a plan and began extensive research into type 1 diabetes. I went cold turkey on anything that wasn’t naturally sweet. I said no to processed carbs. I started to monitor my body and take insulin shots twice or thrice a day.

Getting the upper hand

Time passed by. I grew my family, having 2 daughters and 1 son. I got my professional qualification in ophthalmology. I moved to a new city and worked day and night to make my name as an eye surgeon. I built my own house and gave my kids every comfort they asked for. I was there for them and cheered them on at every step. And I made sure to keep myself healthy so I could be there to cherish each of those moments.

It wasn’t an easy journey. I discovered my body responded differently in different situations. Sometimes my blood sugar would go down to dangerous levels. I’d wake up at night in a cold sweat and go shivering to the kitchen to eat spoonfuls of sugar and bring my blood sugar level back to normal. Sometimes my daughter would listen to my quiet steps and come to the kitchen with me, for she knew I wasn’t feeling well.

Importantly, I taught my family how to deal with emergency situations so they’d know what to do if things went wrong. For example, once during Ramadan, I was taking a nap an hour before the fast was to be broken. Suddenly I woke up and could barely think. My mind seemed to be shutting down. I was drenched in sweat and had trouble speaking. Thankfully my daughter noticed and asked me what was wrong. Somehow, I mustered up my remaining energy and asked her to check my sugar levels. She did and her breathing stopped; the monitor didn’t even register a level. It just showed that my sugar level was so low I needed to go to the hospital ASAP. She ran to the kitchen and mixed a lot of sugar in a glass of water. She forced me to drink it and called one of my colleagues who lived nearby. I was okay in a few hours, but only because my family knew what to do. It was a close call.

Final thoughts

I’ve accepted my fate and I’m thankful for what I have. Throughout my life, I’ve stayed positive regarding my disease. I’ve made it my new normal and I’ve been able to thrive!

Now, my eldest daughter has a grandson who is the definition of love to me. My other daughter is engaged, and my son is in the second year of a bachelor of medicine and surgery.

I’ve come a long way and it’s only been possible because I won the battle with diabetes. Because I found my way and took the upper hand.

Graphic of a male profile picture.
Shehzad Tanveer

Shehzad Tanveer is a successful ophthalmologist and eye surgeon. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in his late 20s and has managed his disease successfully for the last 25 years.

Editor's note: The opinions and experiences reflected in stories from the diabetic community belong to the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of InDiabetes.

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