Acceptance is the Key

Snehal Nandagawli discusses how accepting her diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes has helped her reset her life for good
Acceptance is the Key

Name: Ms Snehal Nandagawli

Age: 29 years

Occupation: IT analyst

About me

My name is Snehal Nandagawli and I am 29 years old. I work as an IT analyst with an IT firm. I am the Mumbai chapter lead at Blue Circle Diabetes which is a support group for people living with Diabetes in India. I am also a passionate blogger and I love to talk about makeup, skincare, fitness and my life as a person with Type 1 Diabetes. I am a strong advocate for Diabetes awareness and women empowerment. I love to read, travel and I am a trained Bharatnatyam, Salsa and Bachata dancer.

My diagnosis

I remember I was a happy and studious kid and loved to dance and paint. I could eat whatever I wanted without having to worry about the consequences. I was quite young when I was diagnosed, so I don't remember much of my life before Diabetes.

I was diagnosed in December 2001 at the age of 11. I have been living with Type 1 Diabetes for 19 years now. I had all the typical symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes - extreme weight loss, frequent urination, extreme thirst, ants in the washroom and I felt hungry all the time. Even though the symptoms were so outright, I did face some difficulty in getting diagnosed correctly. At that time, doctors were not much aware of Diabetes in kids.

was getting all sorts of blood tests done for jaundice, malaria, dengue, etc and they were all normal. None of the medicines seemed to work on me. It was a very confusing and frustrating time for my parents as they were unable to understand what was happening to me. By luck of chance, before I was admitted to the hospital, my doctor added a blood glucose test in the list and my fasting blood sugars were around 600 mg/dL. Even the pathology lab was reluctant to do a blood sugar test for a child; they were very adamant saying that kids don't have Diabetes.

Impact on my family

Honestly, it didn't impact me much as a kid. I just knew that I was sick and I was getting treated for it. Even when the doctor told me about Type 1 Diabetes, I listened to him carefully and thought it would become a part of my daily life henceforth. But I do remember my parents being devastated and having the typical thoughts of why my child? Why does she need to take injections? Seeing them cry did have an impact on my mental health. I felt that I did something wrong due to which my parents were crying. Also, unsolicited comments and remarks from my relatives and acquaintances pushed me to think that Type 1 Diabetes is very dangerous and that I cannot live a normal life now.

My current lifestyle 1 won't deny that Diabetes has a complete say in what 1 do daily. 1 pretty much have a fixed routine and a meal structure to avoid major fluctuations in my blood sugar levels. 1 have to do numerous calculations daily to avoid having low or high blood sugar levels. 1 have to think before 1 eat anything, do carb counting and adjust my insulin dose accordingly. 1 check my blood sugar levels every day. 1 also have to ensure that 1 exercise or workout at least 4-5 times a week. 1 am surrounded by my Diabetes devices and tools all the time. 1 am not missing out on anything.1 feel that since my diagnosis 1 have been up for any physical activity that involves me trying my best, which is how 1 started going for treks and fell in love with running. None of my activity was restricted in my childhood because of Diabetes but I had to be cautious and prepared in case things go haywire. Even simple things like sleeping or going out, e.g. playing with friends or school picnics did trouble my parents a lot during the initial phase. I had to ensure taking my insulin on time, wait for the action time and then eat my food before doing anything. Most importantly, I had to regularly check my blood sugars - this was what I hated the most about Diabetes. As I grew up, I learnt more about Diabetes and understood how it affects my body. 1 have come to terms with it and accepted it as a part of my life. It did take me a lot of time to reach this stage. I do everything that I love to do - running for 5-6 Km, trekking, dancing and exercising in the gym. I always ensure to check my blood sugars before any activity. My friends and inner circle I talk freely about my Diabetes diagnosis, be it with my friends, family and even strangers. l don't shy away from checking my blood sugar levels, taking insulin or flaunting my sensor in public.

l take this as an opportunity to educate people about Diabetes and create more awareness. 1 have been blessed to have friends who understood my condition and the difficulties that come along with it. They have supported me through tough times and helped me when in need.

They reminded me to take my insulin on time, eat on time and were aware of my low sugar symptoms just in case of need. 1 have always kept people around me informed about me having Type 1Diabetes and what can happen when 1 have hypoglycaemia and where they can find sugar and insulin in my bag. There is a need to help people overcome the shame, stigma, frustration and other negative feelings that are associated often with Diabetes. This is why we started the 'Buddy Project helpline', which is India's first app-based, community-led, free helpline by people with Diabetes for people with Diabetes (helpline available on the Blue Circle Diabetes mobile app). Trained diabuddies (who live with Type 1 and 2 Diabetes and their caregivers) who speak 9 different languages run this helpline. We are grateful to have received training and support from Dr Unnikrishnan AG, CEO at Chellaram Hospital - Diabetes Care and Multispecialty, Pune and also the Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy Indian Law School, Pune to handle helpline calls related to Diabetes and mental health. My diet I feel that, for me, the relationship with food was something that was impacted the most after my diagnosis. I am a foodie and saying no to the food that I want to eat was very difficult.

I had to learn to balance my meals as per my body requirements and stick to snacking on panipuri or Chinese food once a week. I have also learnt to substitute high glycaemic index foods with low glycaemic index foods while preparing them and look for low carbohydrate options.

I eat regular Indian foods. I try to balance the carbohydrates and proteins on my plate and include salads as well. I stick to eating either roti or rice. Here is my detailed meal plan: Breakfast: 1 glass of green juice (8-10 mint leaves + coriander half bunch + 1 cucumber + half lemon juice + salt), 2 eggs or moong dal and besan chilla, 12-15 roasted almonds. Lunch: 1 bowl of salad (carrot, beetroot, cucumber) or sprouts with curd, seeds and 2 tablespoons of almond butter, 1 bowl of dal, 1 roti or 1 small bowl rice and vegetables. The salad is very filling and fills half my tummy. I love to eat more vegetables with rice or roti. If salad is not available, I prefer having 2 bowls of dal Snacks: I do bolus for snacks as per the carbs. Moong dal or besan chilla, omelette, open sandwich, roasted almonds, poha or upma with vegetables Dinner: 1 bowl of salad (carrot, beetroot, cucumber) or sprouts with seeds and 2 tablespoons of almond butter, 1 bowl of dal, 1 roti or 1 small bowl rice and vegetables I love to cook on the weekends and that's when I usually have pasta and noodles. I prefer adding loads of vegetables such as onions, carrots, beans, bell peppers, corn, soya chunks and paneer or chicken so that the carb content is reduced. My exercise regime I have to keep changing my exercise routine every day because I get bored very easily if I do the same thing daily.

I switch between gym workouts, Zumba and salsa/bachata varying anywhere between 1 to 1.5hours. I ensure to check my blood sugar levels before and post-workout. When I was going to the gym, I also checked my blood sugar levels in-between the workout to understand if I am having low blood sugar levels.

Technology • my helping hand

Diabetes technology has been a lifesaver especially the flash glucose monitoring sensors in keeping a track of my blood sugar levels. This has helped me immensely in understanding how different foods and exercise affect my body.

It is also easier to catch high or low sugar levels on time and correct them accordingly. I use the Blue Circle Diabetes App to track my blood sugar levels. I can also add my meals, exercise and insulin details and add followers so that they can keep a track of my blood sugar levels as well and get an estimated HbA1c for the current week, for 1 month and 3 months. It also gives a graphic representation of the time when my blood sugar levels are in range, low or high.

It helps to have maximum time-in-range and check pre and post blood sugars for meals and workouts. My message I feel that the most important thing is to have the desire to live your life to the fullest with whatever resources you have, having a positive mindset and a healthy approach to accept and understand your body the way it is. Having a strong support system in the form of a Diabetes community like Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation helps me to get back on track if I lose motivation.

Seeing how everyone else is fighting and winning over their condition is inspiring. I won't deny that fear is also a strong motivator to follow a healthy lifestyle and have my blood sugar levels in range because I know that if anything goes wrong; it can quickly escalate to dangerous situations.

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