Managing diabetes for 9 years
My best friend’s mother was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when she was 60. It changed her life, but she didn't let it knock her down.
How diabetes came into her life
My friend’s mother was a government teacher, had 5 children, is the eldest daughter in her family, and had 2 younger brothers. Her family has always been very close, and the bond between her and her youngest brother was particularly strong.
But one day, almost 9 years ago, her brother suddenly died. It was a sad day for the entire family, however, she took the news extremely hard. She already had hypertension but went into shock and had to be hospitalised for a week.
Her family thought she’d recover and be back to herself given some time. Unfortunately, the doctors had more sad news; while she was in the hospital they’d discovered she had type 2 diabetes – Her sugar level had been so high, if they’d not brought her into intensive care as quickly as they had she could have been paralyzed.
My friend’s mother was stunned. While still trying to come to terms with her brother’s death, she’d learned she had an incurable disease – One she’d have to live with for the rest of her life.
Finding her motivation to fight diabetes
At the time of her diagnosis, all her children were still very young. She was working in a government job, but her husband’s business was going through a rough patch.
These circumstances made it clear to her that she couldn’t lose hope or let diabetes take control of her life. She needed to be the powerhouse of her family, and with no one available to take care of her, she’d have to step up for herself. If she broke, it wouldn’t just affect her but her entire family, and she couldn’t let that happen.
Here’s how she tackled it:
Taking regular medication and getting routine check-ups
To keep healthy, my friend’s mother started taking oral hypoglycemic medicines (medications which increase the body’s insulin production and/or insulin sensitivity) every day to keep her sugar level under control.
She also arranged to get routine check-ups every month and a check-up of her kidney functions every 9 months – As she has to be on medicine her entire life, it’s vital her kidneys remain healthy. She knows that as soon as a problem is detected, she needs to address it right away.
Making lifestyle changes
Diabetes can’t be cured, but it can be managed. Taking your medications regularly is an important part of managing diabetes, but so is making changes to your lifestyle and daily routine – My friend’s mother knew she’d have to exercise, manage her stress, and take up a no-sugar, healthy diet.
She started by taking a brisk walk every day. Although she was busy with work and looking after her children, she knew her morning walk was crucial for her health and never missed it. Some days, when she was less busy, she even made time for a 2nd walk.
Changing her eating habits
The biggest challenges in her fight against diabetes were the preventative measures she could take with her diet. She had a sweet tooth and couldn’t resist mithai (sweet treats) and sweet tea.
As in most desi households in the subcontinent, breakfast in her home is considered incomplete without tea. She tried drinking tea without sugar but found the taste completely unacceptable. Unable to give up sweet tea completely, she at least managed to greatly reduce the number of cups she drank per week.
Getting family support
As her children grew older, they realised how much their mother had struggled and been through to take care of them, even to the extent of neglecting her own health. Now, they do all they can to pay her back, adjusting their own daily lives to fit their mother’s health requirements.
Sweets are barely consumed in their house, making it easier for her to avoid them. Every day they do their best to motivate her to get up for her walk and often go with her to keep her spirits up.
Surviving COVID as a diabetic with previous medical conditions
During the COVID pandemic, my friend’s mother also caught the virus. Because of previous health conditions and the weakness her diabetes had placed on her body, she barely managed to survive. She suffered from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) – Her blood oxygen level dropped and breathing became very difficult.
Being the woman of steel that she is, however, she pushed through that as well and successfully recovered.
Her life right now
Having had diabetes for 9 years, my friend’s mother has noticed her health has declined slightly. She now considers random body pains, poor eyesight and headaches a normal part of life.
However, she knows the drill and is still managing her disease as best she can. She never forgets to take her medicine, never misses a check-up, never skips her daily walks, and strictly avoids eating carbs and sweets.
And since her diagnosis, she’s also retired and seen her eldest daughter get married. She even goes on solo trips and vacations, confident she knows how to take care of herself.
Diabetes may have taken sweet foods away from my friend’s mother, but it’s not taken the sweetness out of her life.
She still enjoys every moment of her life and doesn’t allow her disease to become a roadblock, preventing her from being happy, healthy and fulfilled.
Looking for more stories like this?
MI's father is a type 2 diabetic. Overworked and stressed, he collapsed. Fearing for his health, he took steps to get his stress and worklife under control.
Sana is a caregiver for her 75-year-old mother-in-law, who struggles with diet and exercise. But together, they've made a diabetes management plan that works.
Ayesha’s grandma is a type 2 diabetic. But by focusing on her mental health and self-education, she’s kept it under control and become an inspiration.