These inspiring Mumbaikars tackled diabetes to follow their passions

Updated: Nov 17, 2016, 15:54 IST | Shraddha Uchil |

On World Diabetes Day, two inspiring Mumbaikars tell Shraddha Uchil how they didn’t allow juvenile diabetes to get in the way of their passions

Pedal Forth: Harsh Pandya
When 28-year-old graphic desig-ner Harsh Pandya first took to cycling, his only intention was to lose weight. Little did he realise that one day, he would be completing an expedition from Manali right up to Khardung La, all while seated on his bicycle. While this feat is remarkable in itself, what makes it all the more difficult to fathom is the fact that Pandya did it despite being a Type 1 diabetic.

“I was diagnosed when I was nine years old. Over time, I learned to manage my sugar levels. But, I wasn’t extremely active once I got older, because of which I had started gaining weight. I took to cycling with a group that was active around where I live. It was a good way for me to meet new people and see new places, while getting some exercise at the same time,” says the Malad resident.

Before long, the distances started increasing, and cycling ceased to be just a form of workout, culminating in this journey of mammoth proportions. Training for it wasn’t easy, Pandya reveals.

“Any kind of activity leads to fluctuating blood sugar levels. Here, not only was I cycling an extremely long distance, but I was also doing it in a high-altitude environment. Moreover, sometimes, your blood sugar can drop low even several hours after intense activity. I needed to be extremely vigilant,” he says. This would mean monitoring levels the night before, after waking up, and even through the day.

Prior to the expedition, the young man underwent about three months of intense functional and weight training, as well as plenty of cycling on steep inclines, to increase his endurance. “I also had to be more careful about managing my levels, and make a few changes to my already controlled diet,” he adds. In order to do this, he consulted a dietitian at the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, of which he has been a part for several years.

Next, Pandya wants to cycle across the country. In the meantime, he has been jogging regularly, and hopes to participate in a triathlon in the near future. “It’s possible with the right kind of diet, exercise and proper management,” he concludes.

Walk the mile: Nupur Lalvani
Nupur Lalvani found out she had diabetes when she was only eight. “For a while, my parents were in shock. They just didn’t know how to deal with their child having the condition,” says the 29-year-old, who now works as housekeeping manager at a five-star hotel in Pune.

After a flurry of visits to doctors, Lalvani and her parents soon learned how to manage the condition and the challenges that come with it. Today, Lalvani is a marathoner who, just last month, was picked to run the Twin Cities Marathon, held in Minneapolis-Saint Paul in the USA, as part of its Global Heroes team. “These heroes are 26 long-distance runners who suffer from chronic conditions and have benefitted from using medical devices — in my case, an insulin pump. This year, the team comprised runners from 14 countries, me being the only one from India,” she says.

To put things into perspective, while running a full marathon can be tough for a healthy person unless s/he has trained for it, for someone with Type 1 diabetes, it is that much more difficult. “I was inspired to start running by my father, who is also a runner. But running marathons requires constant monitoring, because any vigorous activity can make your blood sugar levels go haywire,” adds Lalvani.

She mentions that even a change in temperature can affect diabetics. Sharing her experience at the Twin Cities Marathon, she says, “We’re so used to Mumbai’s tropical climate. Back in the USA, it’s quite chilly this time of year. Throughout the marathon, my blood sugar levels dropped around six to seven times.

Although this kind of hypoglycaemia is normal while running such a long distance, this was the first time I had to stop so often to get it back up,” she says. Mind you, none of it fazed her, and she went on to complete the 42-km event.

This speaks a lot about Lalvani’s determination to not let the condition act as a deterrent. In 2015, despite being warned against trying it by concerned friends and relatives, she embarked on a solo train journey along the longest route in Asia — around 4,233 km in five days from Dibrugarh, Assam, to Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu.

“At the end of the day, diabetes is a gamble,” says the young woman, who has chosen to go all in.

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Dr Deepak Dalal, diabetologist
Dr Deepak Dalal, diabetologist

Look out for these signs
1 Emotional changes like getting upset, increased irritability, and lethargy
2 Increased thirst, as well as increased volume and frequency of urine
3 Giddiness and visual changes
4 Wetting the bed at night 
5 Overeating, followed by not eating enough
6 Progressive weight loss and weakness in spite of overeating
7 Recurrent fever/infections
8 Nausea or vomiting

Coping with juvenile diabetes
“The patient, and even the parents, go through several stages once Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed. The first is grief, followed by anger, denial, bargain and anxiety, followed by depression. However, once they’ve been through all of these, they finally arrive at the stage of acceptance. I’ve found that parents usually take longer to cope with the diagnosis than the kids themselves.”

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