When I was diagnosed with having excessive blood sugar nine years ago, I was heartbroken.
My family does have a genetic history of diabetes, yet I hadn’t expected to cross that threshold at the age of 43.
I was extremely scared, and went to a diabetician who prescribed medicine and exercise. I started brisk-walking, cut down on my rice intake, gave up sweets, and thought that I was doing fine.
Five and a half years passed by since then. I thought I was doing great.
One day, on a Friday morning at around 11, I went to see my father at his place.
Chatting as we always did, he, a diabetic for more than 35 years, asked me about my sugar level. I said I was fine.
He then volunteered to run a test on me. He said: “I have a spare testing kit that I want to give you; let me test your sugar level.”
He tested my sugar level and my sugar test came at 16. He sort of rebuked me for having such a high level of sugar at that time of the day. I felt let-down and promised to take better care of myself.
Then on, for 10 days, I studied all about diabetes. That was three and a half years ago.
I came to know a few amazing facts that no physician in Bangladesh had told me in those years when I thought I was controlling my blood sugar level quite well.
According to some Chinese, Japanese, and American doctors, diabetes is a dietary disease and it has to be dealt with in a dietary way. That was news for me.
One Chinese doctor said that the root cause of diabetes owes 20% to the human pancreas and 80% to the human liver.
If you could, he said, un-fatten you liver, your chances of acquiring diabetes lowers, or when you do acquire it, maintaining the disease becomes a whole lot easier.
With further research on the diet of a diabetic, I discovered a daylong diet that suited my body and that could provide me the energy for the entire day. I brought my carbohydrate intake almost to zero.
My aim was to live on vegetables. Of course, I did keep protein in my diet.
At the same time, I changed the style of my exercise. In addition to just walking, I added free-hand exercises to my daily routine. In a week’s time, my sugar level came to normal.
Initially, it was very difficult. A lifestyle without carbohydrates and lots of daily exercise would require extreme dedication and determination.
This lifestyle made me a social loner. Adjusting myself to the lifestyles of people around me, or for that matter, society, became a Herculean task for me. I tried to maintain my lifestyle, a diabetic’s lifestyle, which was completely alien to society.
At a wedding party, everyone around me would feast on the food while I would be an onlooker, because the party organisers hadn’t thought of keeping some food items that were suitable for a diabetic patient
I discovered that society didn’t have any idea about what diabetes was, and how it can affect the human body.
At the same time, society wasn’t even ready to accept the lifestyle of a diabetic. I started facing extreme difficulty during social gatherings and feasts.
At a wedding party, everyone around me would feast on the food while I would be an onlooker, because the party organisers hadn’t thought of keeping some food items that were suitable for a diabetic patient.
In fact, nobody in our social environment thinks of making arrangements for people with blood sugar issues. The people around me in those social and official gatherings started teasing me for not being able to be a part of the majority.
For a long time, being a misfit and receiving all that teasing, I felt depressed. I had to explain my lifestyle about a hundred times to the people around me.
However, with my own determination and amazing help from my wife, I could go on with my way of living.
I’m still continuing with the same style of living. I thank her for being sensitive towards my condition.
If you just keep the problems of diabetes aside, and think of living with a healthy diet and exercise, you can’t make a non-diabetic understand how important these things are for a human being.
And if you consider the number of diabetics in Bangladesh, I see them living in absolute darkness as far as the disease is concerned. A simple change in people’s lifestyle could make a big difference to their well-being. It’s a pity that no one realises it until he or she picks up the disease.
I was also like them when I didn’t have diabetes.
Ekram Kabir is a fiction writer.