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Alex Fernandes in Mumbai tells a first person account of what its like to be diagnosed as having Juvenile Diabetes & life thereafter:
Alex Fernandes Alex Fernandes
Actually, it’s pretty strange. 16 long years have gone by since that day and yet it seems as though it all happened just yesterday, the years frozen away in time. Life almost came to a standstill and it appeared as though there would be no tomorrow… In fact, the look on the doctor’s face is still etched in my memory so vividly and clearly.

It registered surprise and confusion and an element of uncertainty – all at the same time. That, as a schoolboy, I was far too young to comprehend what it was all about, is a different matter altogether. “I think this child is a diabetic…” the family doctor pronounced. Only these few words and the longstanding trust that was so firmly cemented in the family doctor waned in only a matter of few seconds. A second opinion was sought. I was rushed to another doctor’s clinic.(I later learnt that the other doctor had told my parents that I would die!).

Now call it my good luck or the doctor’s bad luck, I’m alive and kicking till today. I must admit, however, that it did take some time for the initial shock and despair to wear off. I was kept on two insulin injections a day and was told that I would have to give myself these injections for a lifetime. Sweets (something which I could die for even today) would have to be kept in check and I would not be allowed to binge the way I wished to. I would need to follow a list of simple ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. It took some time for all this to sink in. I found it a bit too much to take it all at the same time. Time, they say, heals all wounds.

Along with time, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDF), a support group for diabetic children and youth, with which I have been associated for the last 15 years, also did its bit to heal my wounds. I used to attend the monthly support group meetings very religiously and devotedly. They meant a lot to me. Little did I realize at that time that these monthly meetings were imparting to me valuable lessons, the value of which I would learn later as I sailed through the turbulent and choppy ocean of life. Time flew past and the schoolboy joined college, completed graduation and today I’m working for a foreign bank. Let me hasten to state that life has not been a cakewalk though. The hard times too have surfaced off and on. But then, that’s part and parcel of life, isn’t it? Juvenile diabetes is a chronic illness. Presently there is no cure for it but it can certainly be controlled. A juvenile diabetic can lead a normal life with a few changes in lifestyle. The three pillars on which good diabetes control rests are Medication (Insulin injection for a juvenile diabetic), Exercise and Diet.

Even as guesstimates say that the incidence of juvenile diabetes is on the rise in India, there is hardly any awareness of the illness. Personally, I often have had this queer experience that people who have seen me injecting myself have often mistaken me to be a drug addict. Even today I need at least three shots of insulin injection throughout the day. And this goes on for a lifetime or until some major breakthrough in medical science brings about an alternative for insulin injection. Be that as it may, for now, I’m living life to the full. Its ups and downs, notwithstanding, I’m enjoying it to the hilt.

It’s been 16 years that I’m living with diabetes. Even today I remember that day when my diabetes was diagnosed and time appeared to have stood still. How the years seemed frozen away in time and I had that feeling that there would be no tomorrow. Things are different now. With every passing day I actually look forward to tomorrow.

Mira Savara
You are at a get–together with your old college friends. And everyone is having a cake along with their coffee. You take a piece, it’s the first time this month that you are indulging. And before you know it, your best friend looks at you, takes your hand, and shouts so everyone hears, you shouldn’t be doing that. Don’t eat it. You know, she’s diabetic.
Or at a wedding.

Honestly, it is getting too much, the way that many of my friends and relatives behave when I go out. Yes, I am careful about my diet, I do not eat sweets too often. But when I do, its rare that someone or the other will not make it a point to say, hey you should not be doing this.

Its really exasperating. Firstly, its not that being diabetic means that you can’t ever eat a sweet in your life. And the response from those around you invariably is with this sort of tone, that you are irresponsible. That you are over indulgent. That you are bad. Almost wicked.

I’m sure that these friends and relatives are trying to be well meaning. But the effect of it is just to make me feel angry and resentful. I’m really sick and tired of these well meaning people. And have started replying, so what. Is there any way that I could deal with this so that people stop responding like this. Because each time it happens, I find myself feeling angry, and also feeling as if I have done something wrong. Could someone share if they have a way of dealing with this in a light humorous way so that the person understands how their comments affect someone who has to live with this for the rest of his or her life?

Feel better community/Fighting depression
So, we all feel low sometime or the other. But sometimes the feeling goes on and on and on. And it gets too much to handle. And you really want to get out of it. I have a tendency to get low quite often. And the feeling used to get too much. And then my closest friend helped me in a simple way which I would like to share with others. Because it really helped me a lot.

What my friend did, was that she kept a notebook and wrote down some of things which made me happy. She noticed that when we went shopping, I enjoyed going to stationary shops and checking out the new pens, paperweights, new files, new knick knacks to keep on the table. So she wrote it down – Go to a stationary shop.

She also noticed that there were certain songs that I always sang along with when it came on the radio. She made a list of all these songs and actually recorded them onto a tape which she then gave me, with a note, listen only when you are feeling low. It had all my favorite sing along songs and when I played them, I sang along and the mood immediately lifted. Since then, I have made three more tapes which I use.

She also wrote, feed the birds. There’s a place in the center of town, where a man keeps grain for the pigeons. She noticed that whenever I fed the birds, I would laugh, go down on my knees and talk to them. Its very difficult for me to continue feeling depressed when there are birds eating out of my hands.

My friend did a great service for me. Because whenever I am low, and it is becoming too much I have a few of my favorite things which make me feel better. This is something each of can do, so that when the time comes, you can just take out a little notebook, and do some of the things that make you feel good.

I’d also like to increase some of my favorite things. So would others share what they do? And maybe some of you would like to make some tapes? Or feed the birds?