Nitish Rai was
awarded for his voluntary contribution in 2017
HOW BEING DIAGNOSED WITH DIABETES CHANGED MY LIFE
I am Nitish Rai I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 20 years ago, when I was 4 years old. Type 1 diabetes is an invisible disease. To look at me you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong. But living with the condition is a 24/7 thing. It has completely changed my life and, in different ways, affects every aspect of what I do.
Eating and exercise can be tricky
Every time I eat, I need to think about how it is going to affect my sugar levels. As I have Type 1 diabetes, my pancreas cannot produce insulin and I need to inject myself with the hormone, usually five times daily, and attempt to replicate the work of the organ.
Carbohydrates increase my blood sugar level, so every snack and meal is a maths challenge, requiring me to calculate how much insulin I need to inject to counteract the spike in my blood sugars.
I love running and going to the gym,playing cricket, but this also affects my diabetes as too much exercise can make my blood sugar levels go dangerously low, while certain types can cause them to spike too high.I constantly need to check my sugars and adjust my insulin intake – no two days are the same! Exercise is good for me but it's certainly not a simple and straightforward endeavour.
I have to constantly tell people that I didn’t get diabetes from eating sugar
Diabetes has a bad reputation and it is often the subject of jokes.I have found that most people don’t understand the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. I have Type 1 diabetes, which accounts for about 10 per cent of cases. No one knows exactly what causes it, but it’s not to do with being overweight and it isn’t currently preventable.
People with Type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin or the insulin they produce doesn’t work properly (known as insulin resistance) - 90 per cent of people with the condition have this form. They have developed the condition because of their family history, age, weight or ethnic background which puts them at increased risk. It starts gradually, usually later in life, and it can be years before they realize they have it.
Living with diabetes day to day often causes a lot of feelings of guilt because when my blood sugar levels don’t do what they should do, it often leaves me feeling that it is my fault. What did I do or eat to make that happen? I wish people knew that even when you do everything right with diabetes, it can still go wrong and it doesn’t help when society often portrays the condition as something you brought on yourself and should feel guilty about.
I never stop thinking about my diabetes
Diabetes is a complex health condition. Unfortunately, once you are diagnosed you can’t just be sent home from hospital with a straightforward prescription for medication to take every day for the rest of your life. Insulin is not a cure for diabetes - it’s just a treatment and I need to work really hard to make it work. So many little things affect my blood sugar levels, from exercise to stress to the temperature outside! If I don’t keep my diabetes under control and blood sugar levels within the recommended range then there is a high risk of developing some dangerous complications, including stroke, kidney disease and even amputation.
I think about my diabetes all day long – even when I go to bed and try to switch off after a long day, I am worrying that my blood sugar levels could drop unexpectedly. It’s never ending with diabetes - you don’t get a day off and there are days when it’s the last thing I feel like dealing with, but I don't have a choice. It’s hard to be spontaneous when you are a Type 1, as you always need to think about how what you are doing will impact your diabetes.
But I still do the things I love
Although my diabetes is a large part of who I am, with the right understanding, education and medication, I can take control of my condition and still live the life that I choose. I was able to go onto a diabetes education course a few years ago, provided by the AIIMS, which really helped me to better understand how to manage my diabetes day to day.
I found it invaluable and would encourage anyone else with the condition to find out more by asking their doctor or nurse. Along with raising awareness about how useful the courses are the charity wants to make sure they are available to everyone with diabetes across the India. Currently they are not. That is something that has to change.
These days, I am able to control my diabetes so it doesn’t control me.I can do any what which I want and eat the foods that I like. I am able to run and I am planning to play a cricket tournament. Having diabetes can be complicated but with the right support and understanding it doesn’t need to stop you from doing the things you love!