Nupur Lalvani gleefully shares her story of how her Diabetes diagnosis was a small detour to an adventurous life
Name: Ms Nupur Lalvani
Age: 32 Years
Occupation: Certified Diabetes Educator and Certified Insulin Pump Trainer, Founder Director at Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation
My journey so far
I was a regular kid before (and after) my Diabetes diagnosis. I was 8 years old when I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I have been living with Diabetes for 24 years now. I had all the classic symptoms of Diabetes – excessive thirst, hunger, urination and unexplained weight loss while living a normal life, going to school, play, etc. My parents were at their wits’ end for months, trying to find a reason, taking me to doctors, etc. but to no avail. Eventually, my father noticed black ants on the WC when I would go to the washroom and he instinctively knew it is Diabetes.
We went to a local pathology lab to get my blood sugar levels tested and the report came back negative for Diabetes. My parents didn’t believe it (Thank God!) and asked for a re-test. The results came back that evening with a blood sugar level of 636 mg/dL. My parents immediately swung into action, consulted a doctor friend and got me hospitalised by night, all the while juggling between home, work commitments and taking care of my younger sister. Finally, we had our diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes and learned that there are different types of Diabetes and children can develop it too. Quite predictably, our lives changed after the diagnosis.
My parents were understandably shocked, upset and felt guilty that I got Type 1 Diabetes under their watch. Even though the doctors explained that it’s an auto-immune condition and it’s not my parents’ fault, it took them a long time to come to terms and get comfortable with the fact that their child’s condition is never going away. I’m of the opinion that it’s easier being a Type 1 Diabetes person than a parent of a Type 1 Diabetes child. Parents are the unsung heroes who make dosing decisions every single day to keep their child alive and thriving. I’ve never been afraid of needles as a kid, so the transition was easy for me. Apart from being a little bored during the 3-4 days of initial hospitalisation and reading storybooks that my mother got me, the diagnosis didn’t cause me much trouble. I started self-injecting 2 weeks after diagnosis under the watchful eyes of my parents.
I did not let my diagnosis get into my way of leading an active life. I continued eating well, playing, studying, going for picnics and camps and doing all the things regular kids in childhood. While growing up, my parents and younger sister were naturally my caregivers. Now as an empowered and independent adult living with Type 1 Diabetes, I do not need the everyday hand-holding that I needed as a child. My family and friends continue to be a great support system and backup in case I need it. They are my loudest cheerleaders too!
I love talking about Diabetes with friends, family and larger audiences too. I might be a little shy as a person but I have never shied away from talking about my diagnosis to anyone. My parents and sister have always been very supportive and vocal about educating people about Diabetes. Both my parents are Certified Diabetes Educators too, so we definitely take this seriously as a family! Luckily for me, even 24 years ago, my parents never hid my diagnosis from anyone – be it school, friends, extended family or neighbours. My family’s unwavering support, love and care is the reason I am empowered and have a strong voice in the larger diabetic community too.
My current lifestyle
I am not perfect of course but more often than not, I eat healthy, wholesome food and exercise at least 4 times a week. Having said that, I also want to mention that I have struggled with balancing food and exercise for a long time – it’s definitely not easy to wake up every single day for the rest of your life (while you balance childhood, teenage hormones, studying, work pressures and endless other stressors that come with life) and be absolutely perfect. I have come to realise that spending your life with Type 1 Diabetes is a journey (not a destination) and I value my peace and mental health along with taking care of my body.
I believe in eating according to my meter/CGM/FGM readings. In the last few years, I discovered Dr Bernstein and his low carb protocol. I put it to test on myself and have had incredible blood sugar control with HbA1c around 5 per cent and zero complications after 24 years of living with Type 1 Diabetes. I eat fresh, locally available produce – lots of vegetables, greens, nuts, eggs and meats. I believe in eating in a way that’s sustainable and that makes you (and your glucometer) happy. I have never followed any fad diets.
I have been an amateur runner for years and I am also trained in Mixed Martial Arts. These are the things I enjoy doing so it doesn’t feel like a chore anymore. I have participated as an amateur runner in several (full) marathons which are 42 km runs, half marathons (21 km) and countless shorter runs too. I have participated in 2 ultra-marathons too (anything over 42 km is classified as an ultra-marathon). I represented India as a Medtronic Global Hero at Minneapolis, the United States in 2016 and was the first and only Indian to run a marathon as part of a 25 member contingent selected from around the world. In December 2019, I was the Team Lead of a four-member team who made history by walking 100 km at the Oxfam Trailwalker as the first-ever team made up entirely of people with Type 1 Diabetes. We successfully completed the 100 km challenge within the time range of 48 hours while managing our hypos, hypers, food and rest too! It feels great to smash stereotypes that people with Diabetes can’t exercise much – we definitely can do whatever we put our mind and heart to!
My experience with an insulin pump and sensor
I have been using a continuous glucose monitoring system for 4 years now and it has opened my eyes to what’s going inside my body and how each food affects my blood sugar levels. I am a very inquisitive person in nature and knowing my blood sugar level live had only fuelled my curiosity to manage it better – so if I may say so about myself, I’ve been doing great!
I have been using an insulin pump for 4 years now and I must say it has added a great deal of convenience to my life. I exercise with it (yes, even martial arts!) and I ensure that I never misuse the tool of convenience to over-eat or not care just because I have a pump. We must use technology to our benefit. Insulin pumps are an insulin delivery device and good Diabetes management boils down to constant fine-tuning and effective self-management of the condition – 24 7, 365 days. Though I did use syringes for the first 20 years of my life with Type 1 Diabetes.
My tryst with Diabetes awareness
I am the Founder Director at The Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation. The Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation is a registered NGO and a volunteer-led patient body of people with Diabetes. We have chapters in Pune, Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad. We have an expanding online presence through our blogs and social media platforms where we cover everything from inspiring people with Diabetes to Diabetes technology and more. We have recently launched a free app called ‘Blue Circle Diabetes’ available on Android and is made for and by diabetics (all our app beta testers are diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes!). The app features include logging meals, insulin, exercise, blood glucose (reminders to check blood sugar level too!) and HbA1c. The app syncs with other popular apps to generate reports that can be emailed or printed out to show doctors. It also reflects events and meet-ups that are conducted across India. We conduct local monthly events (runs, meet-ups, rock climbing, dance, CrossFit, etc) across chapters. We also run Diabetes awareness programmes in government and public schools and corporate companies and conduct screening camps.
Diabetes has given me a different perspective, opened doors and helped me make friends across the world. It has made me listen to my body closely and push the envelope physically and mentally. I couldn’t have asked for more (well, a working pancreas would definitely be nice but I’m not complaining!)