It’s not surprising that I, like many others around me, thought of diabetes as a disease of “grown-ups”. Something you got as you grew old. Little did I know that there existed another type of diabetes that had nothing to do with your lifestyle, age or anything else… in fact to date the real cause of such type of diabetes is unknown! This is known as Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is basically an autoimmune disease which means there is a kind abnormality in the immune system due to which the body sets up an attack against the cells that produce insulin, which is essential to keep the blood glucose level in control.

It was when I started higher education that I became close friends with a girl who had Type 1 diabetes. Naturally you can imagine my shock and urge to find out more about it.

Some research over the internet backed my lack of knowledge. As per the World Health Organization, Type 2 diabetes is more common than type 1, accounting for 90% of all diabetes around the world. However, Type 1 diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate of 3% per year.

It turned out that my friend (who wishes to remain anonymous; so for our purposes let’s call her Sarah) was diagnosed with diabetes when she was mere 9 years old. Such a tender age! When one doesn’t even know that there is a disease called diabetes, that’s when she was diagnosed with this condition which called for a complete change in lifestyle and routine.

I was surprised to find out that Type 1 diabetes mostly occurred in childhood mainly in children aged between 7-12 years. Statistics indicate that approximately 208,000 Americans under the age of 20 are diagnosed with diabetes. And about 15% of Americans with diabetes are in fact, children.

Upon inquiring more, I learned that nobody in Sarah’s family had ever been diagnosed with diabetes, which put an end to my assumption and lack of knowledge about her having had inherited it. Over the months and years, we were together, I closely observed Sarah. She was very careful about the timings of her meal and of taking insulin shots before her meals. She always carried something sweet like fruit juices with her, even during examinations, just in case her sugar level dropped. But this didn’t seem to bother her. It seemed like she had developed a routine of it over the years.

It was Sarah who changed my perception about the disease. She was disciplined about her diet particularly the carbohydrates she consumed and naturally healthy overall. She defied my perception of diabetic patients not having a normal shot at life! Of being frustrated oldies craving for sugary desserts! Sarah was nothing of that sort! It’s not that she enjoyed being a diabetic patient but that she had a positive approach to it. She believed that the process of controlling sugar, helped her avoid many other diseases; in fact, her overall health remained well in an effort to control sugar.

Despite a positive and accepting attitude of so many diabetics like this friend of mine, I realized how unaccepting our society is towards it when the time came for her to get married and she started getting marriage proposals. Ever since she got diagnosed, her parents were warned by various relatives and family friends to keep her condition a secret so that her chances of getting married to a suitable person are not reduced. However, her parents not wanting their daughter to feel ashamed of something she was facing so boldly decided not to keep it hidden from people and focused more on educating her and making her independent.

There were times when her parents would be asked questions like ‘Can your daughter conceive normal children?’ or ‘Can she have a normal married relationship?’ which shows how ignorant our society is towards diabetes.You see there still exists that perception that perhaps diabetic patients don’t have a normal married life and the old wives tale of diabetic women not being able to conceive or even have normal babies.

It’s true that diabetic women who are trying to conceive have to be quite careful and maintain healthy blood glucose levels both before and during pregnancy. However, that in no way means that diabetics are infertile or unable to conceive babies. Sure it’s a challenging time for them and requires a lot of hard work but with adequate precautions, she can deliver a normal healthy baby just like any other woman.

Sarah’s parents were aware of the perception people have of diabetes because until their own daughter got diagnosed with it even they were unaware of this condition and its consequences. They always made sure that every suitor who came to see their daughter was informed beforehand about their daughter being diabetic.

Almost two years back Sarah got married to a person who wanted to marry her simply because of the person she is and did not think about how many children she can produce for him or what medical complications she can have after marriage.

Today she is a happily married woman with an independent career and is on her way to plan a child in the upcoming year. She is very much aware of the fact that no cure for diabetes has yet been found and there are certain occasions when she feels lethargic and tired due to hyperglycaemia (high sugar) and hypoglycaemia (low sugar) but that in no way dampens her spirit.

As for me, I am glad I know someone like her. She is a source of inspiration for all diabetic patients out there and a living example of what a disciplined lifestyle can achieve, no matter what the disease, no matter what the obstacle.