Living with diabetes and preparing for adventures

minute read
October 16, 2023
A bustling cityscape, with people traveling and going on adventures.
Note: Image for illustration only. Photo credit: Rohit Gangwar

My name is Usama Khan, and I’m a traveller. I travel for work, and I travel for fun.

But travelling contributed to my getting diabetes.

While travelling, I like to experience the food culture of different cities and I ate a lot of sugary foods and drinks – This caused my blood sugar level to spike.

Travelling also meant I didn’t get enough exercise, leading me to gain weight and develop insulin resistance.

I was also on medications (steroids and antipsychotics) that increased my risk of developing diabetes.

It reached a point where to maintain a healthy lifestyle I needed to talk to my doctor.

Here’s what happened:

My first visit to a hospital

While travelling on a research project, I started feeling nauseous. 30 minutes later, I was vomiting uncontrollably.

My team helped me to a nearby hospital, where they tested my blood and sugar levels – The results weren’t clear, so they referred me to a specialist and recommended additional tests.

I had multiple further blood samples and finally got confirmed as diabetic – I was feeling nauseous because my blood sugar level was too low.

Diagnosed, my doctor worked with me to create a treatment plan. It included medication as well as lifestyle changes (adjusting my diet and exercise).

My diagnosis

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. My doctor told me it’s an autoimmune disease and that my body’s immune system was attacking and destroying the insulin-producing cells in my pancreas. This meant I wasn’t producing enough insulin.

Sometimes my sugar level was too high, and sometimes too low.

My doctor told me I needed to take insulin injections or use an insulin pump to help me manage my blood sugar level.

Getting started controlling my diabetes

My doctor recommended a diet low in carbohydrates and sugar, and high in fibre. He also suggested I eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, as this would help regulate my blood sugar level.

He also recommended I register with a dietitian, as they could create a diet tailored to my individual needs – Coming from a good financial background, this was an option for me and I registered with a dietitian immediately.

Getting my health back on track, I was starting to feel better. However, my family put pressure on me to get married – At first I declined, but after some emotional pressure, I agreed and married my cousin.

My diabetes was generally controlled, but sometimes my blood sugar level was still too high or low.

Travel was still my passion, but whenever I was on my way to my next adventure I became ill.

Getting help for stress

Being diagnosed with diabetes and getting married were stressful.

However, I knew there were things I could do to help me manage my stress (like exercise, meditate, practise deep breathing, and talk to a therapist).

I decided I needed help and reached out to my wife. She became my counsellor – She supported me and made sure I was getting enough sleep and practising good self-care.

The effect of diabetes on my body

My symptoms of diabetes included frequent urination, increased thirst, hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, and unexplained weight loss and gain. I managed these with insulin therapy, following a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise.

Diabetes also affected some parts of my body, including my heart, eyes and nerves. Over time, high blood sugar levels damaged my small blood vessels and nerves, leading to complications – I experienced some vision loss, nerve damage, and kidney disease.

Knowing how important diabetes management is to prevent and manage these types of complications, I worked closely with my doctor to address them – I knew that with proper care and management, I could still live a long and healthy life.

Getting into a routine

At this point in my life, I’ve built myself a routine that helps me manage my diabetes.

I eat a healthy, balanced diet, and I keep my blood sugar level under control by monitoring it frequently and adjusting my insulin as needed.

I get regular exercise, monitor my blood sugar level during and after and adjust my insulin as needed. My doctor helped me determine the best type of workout for me (some types of exercise are more suitable than others), as well as the recommended intensity and frequency – People often choose the wrong exercise and do more harm than good.

I meet with my doctor regularly and talk to him openly about any concerns I have.

And I’m prepared for the possibility of complications.

Final thoughts

Living a healthy life with type 1 diabetes requires careful management and monitoring of your blood sugar level, and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

God blessed me with 2 kids, and they are my happiness – They motivate me to stay healthy.

Now, I’m able to lead a travelling team, and I’m always prepared for my next adventure. While on the road (and at home) I eat a healthy, balanced diet that’s rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. And I’m always prepared for emergencies, carrying a source of fast-acting sugar (like glucose tablets or juice) with me at all times.

I’m also taking care of my mental health. I manage my stress, practise deep breathing, meditate, get enough sleep, and seek support from friends, family or mental health professionals as needed.

Managing diabetes is difficult, but I know it’s okay to make mistakes and have setbacks along the way. And I’m managing it.

Graphic of a male profile picture.
Usama Khan

Usama is a type 1 diabetic and passionate traveller. He has 2 kids, and they’re his motivation to stay healthy and happy.

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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