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Looking Back

I remember ....

the unquenchable thirst and the ravenous appetite and my becoming thinner and thinner despite eating well.

the time when I was vomiting and screaming with a severe abdominal pain and could see my mother crying. Later I learnt that I was in a coma and the doctor had been there with me the whole night and in the morning he had told my parents that I would survive AND that I had diabetes! I was seven years old then.

my mother's anxiety when I was being given insulin injections and her trying to prick herself to see how badly it hurt.

when my mother was being taught how to give me injections, how she broke the needle in my arm and never ever injected me again.

the numerous times when I went onto a coma and my father had to rush me to Nairobi, which was 204 kms. away from where we lived, as there was not a big hospital in our small town Nanyuki in Kenya.

the good times I had when I used to collect all my pocket money and trot off to the store just outside our school compound and buy sweets and chocolates and then sit in the school lawns after school hours and eat them all by myself. And when my father would take us for an evening drive and would pass the sweet store from where I bought the sweets how I would dread that he might stop by at "my" store and the shopkeeper just might mention that "your daughter came today and ..."

when I was longing to take part in games at school but our class teacher, who also happened to be our neighbour, refused to let me participate because he had seen me in pain, vomiting and unconscious and was not aware that exercise was in fact good for diabetics.

attending the birthday party of one of my best friend and her mother being very concerned about my health, serving me brown bread while the others were devouring pastries, cookies and other goodies!

how after one of my many hospitalizations, one of the doctor's joked after staying up with me the whole night that "your name would have been announced on the radio by now" since in Kenya the deceased were announced on the radio the next day!

how I exchanged my diabetic chocolates, which my father specially got for me, for the regular sweet ones with my brother and sisters!

listening to a hurting conversation where a family friend who had three sons and no daughter, jokingly told my father that he wanted to adopt one of his daughters and laughingly added "but I don't want the sick one"!

the pride and happiness I felt when I was given a pat on the back because I stood 3rd in rank in the fifth standard, despite numerous hospitalizations.

crying because my hands were paining badly due to high sugars and I could not do my English homework.

1966- when we moved to Bombay from Kenya and the havoc the change in weather, environment and the fast-paced city life played with my psyche and health. That was also the time when I took charge of myself as father was still in Kenya.

my surprise and amusement when some students came and asked me shyly whether I was taking drugs, because they had seen me taking injections in the Sick Room during lunch break in school.

the mornings when I would not get up and get late for school and get scolded by my mother, both of us oblivious of the fact that I could not get up soon because of low sugars.

long hospitalizations, coping with jaundice, typhoid, surgery etc. besides diabetes, and the confusion and depression I went through because I lacked the knowledge to cope with and control diabetes, and blamed myself for everything.

the kindness and support of family, friends and doctors when I felt low and beaten.

reading this in a diabetes clinic, "God give me the strength to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference", and reflecting how apt this was for diabetics.

the elation I felt when I passed the senior Cambridge with 70% despite long hospitalizations and absence from school.

the freedom of college life and the tempting food in the cafeteria and the tussle to hold myself or let go! And the added dilemma – to tell or not to tell that I am diabetic.

the time I dozed off during a lecture and the lecturer thinking I was not paying attention reprimanded me, when in fact I was in a hypo.

when in spite of pessimistic view of many , and my resolve to be independent, I joined the YMCA and passed the secretarial course with a first class.

1978- my first job at a High Commission where the working hours were from 8.30 am to 3.30 pm without any lunch break! After one of my hypos my boss asked me "Why you didn't tell us that your were diabetic at the time of the interview?" When I asked him "Would you have hired me if I had done so?' he said "No", so I told him "I thought it fair that without telling you I would get an opportunity to prove myself and if my work was not satisfactory you would have the option to throw me out as I would be on probation". He smiled and agreed that it had been fair enough.

my happiness when my hard work was appreciated and my job was confirmed on completion of the probation period, and after suffering hypos for two years, I was also sanctioned a special lunch break.

the discriminating attitude of future prospective employers because I was honest enough to disclose that I was diabetic, and in spite of doing better than others and being chosen on merit, their decision to reject me on flimsy grounds because I was diabetic.

my second job and after my first hypo there, the peon telling me that he had been certain that I was possessed because I kept staring at him with glazed eyes!

the various marriage proposals which acquaintances brought of their own accord and the change in their attitudes on learning about my health, taking for granted I would not have any opinion whatsoever on the matter.

1986 when I acquired my own blood glucose monitoring meter and the immense help it gave me in controlling my diabetes better and averting so may hospital stays and symptom less night hypos.

the shock on the face of a colleague in the French class when I suddenly started weeping and he wondered what he had done to offend me.

the time when I had gone to Shahnaz Hussain's beauty parlour and just passed out on the treatment table and how she frantically arranged for an ambulance to have me dropped home.

my happiness when I received a silver plaque from the Diabetes Foundation (India) in acknowledgement of my control over diabetes for more than 25 years, and the pride on the face of late Prof. MMS Ahuja, the DFI founder president, who was a father figure to me.

the appreciation letter I received from the Managing Director of our Head Office commending me for my hard work and sincerity.

my interaction with blind children and the feeling of gratitude that unlike them, I could see, admire and enjoy this beautiful world.

the diabetes camp I attended at Nainital and became friends with many young diabetics and participated in activities like rock climbing and trekking. And thinking to myself that patients and their families were lucky to have such activities which were not there when I was young and that they should take advantage of them..

the many blessings I received from patients in the clinic where worked as I could encourage, help and empathize with them and understand them better, being a patient myself.

my tenure as the editor of "Challenge" a quarterly magazine of Juvenile Diabetes Society and interaction with many committed doctors, patients and their families.

the holiday in Goa with other diabetic friends and the frantic time we had trying to control two friends who had become uncontrollable and violent during severe hypos.

the Diabetes Federation Congress conference I attended in Washington in June 1991 and learnt many new concepts and gained knowledge and made new friends.

positive response from many diabetes organizations and publication of most of my articles which I had sent to them.

my elation on being selected for a secretary's position at the American Embassy as they are equal opportunity employers and do not bar employment for people with diabetes.

I have been working for the past 25 years and lead an active and fulfilling life. By God's grace and my perseverance I don't have any complications so far. I chose to be single after I saw that people could not accept me as I am and I did not want it any other way. I am at peace with myself and feel I am not a bad of difficult person to live with and cope with life, a day at a time and hope for the best. I am strict about my diet, meal times, monitoring and exercise. I try to be positive and generally try to help anyone who I can. If God has chosen me to face this challenge I should not let Him down. There are times when I feel beaten but the support of my family, friends and doctors and faith in God keeps me going. I look around and find people who are worse off then I am and feel I am better off. With grit and determination, and without willowing in self pity I feel it is possible to lead a fruitful and useful life by meeting the challenge in the face.

Today after living with diabetes for more than 45 years I feel I have done all the things, which really mattered to me without compromising on issues I felt strongly about. I feel nothing is impossible if one sets one's mind to it, and it becomes a lot easier when one is armoured with the knowledge to tackle diabetes. I have encountered and felt kindness, affection encouragement, which have outweighed the rejections and hurts that I have experienced. Today I am a more compassionate, disciplined, patient and strong-willed person, thanks to my diabetes!


Usha Dhiman
Secretary, S/GSO
American Embassy
New Delhi
DhimanU AT

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Last Updated: Sunday October 23, 2005 11:18:06
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