Finding yourself unable to do something may be nothing more than a mental block, but not if you are a Type 1 diabetic, things do get out of hand.
This is what most of us felt and understood. However Maitry Pancholi has proved it wrong. Being a type 1 diabetic since the age of 12, she has successfully scaled Mt. Gingilos in Crete (2080 ft.). Most healthy people would find it extremely tough to just hike for 15 Kms, let alone climb up a mountain.
Maitry – through her own example has broken the notion that diabetes is a bimari. We were fortunate to meet her personally and ask her a few questions that can help others get the motivation to enjoy their lives in a healthy and fruitful way.
Q1 Tell us something about yourself. What do you do? Please provide information about your family members, your hobbies, friends etc.
I am Maitry Pancholi from Ahmedabad, currently pursuing M.Com from Mildeep College of Commerce.
I grew up in a small family that consisting of my father, mother and younger brother. My father passed away before I turned 12. Currently, the three of us are living with my grandmother.
I love travelling and meeting people from other cultures. I am a Type 1 diabetic and travelling opens up my horizon, I like to meet other diabetic kids and learn from their experiences.
In my leisure time, I like watching movies and comedy TV series. Listening to music and going for long drives interests me as well.
I have lots of friends with whom I hang out with. They know about my condition and are very helpful and caring.
Q2 When did you learn that you have diabetes? How? What were your symptoms?
I was 12 years old when both my brother and I fell sick. We had high fever and had to be hospitalized. While my brother got better, my condition deteriorated. Medicines were not having any effect on me. That is when the doctor advised us to get my blood glucose tested. My sugar levels were over 400 mg/dL and I was told that I was having an episode of diabetic ketoacidosis which is a recognized symptom of Type 1 diabetes. That is when it was found that I had this disease.
Q3. How did your parents and friends react?
It was a very difficult time for us, for my family and for me. My father had just passed away and we were still coping with this grief and loss. The news that I had Type 1 diabetes shattered our family. My mother was shocked and it was hard for us to come to terms with the situation. We knew so little about the disease and it all seemed hopeless to us.
My mother is a very courageous person and she took charge of the situation, went immediately to Dr. Saboo and learnt everything about the disease and how to help me manage it. She was determined that this would not become a handicap for me in any way and that I would lead a normal happy life. With the Dr. Saboo’s support that is what I have done!
My mother pushed me to first accept and then meet the challenge head on. To dream and make my dreams come true; to overcome all my fears and live a full and normal life. I accepted my condition and started following the diabetes regimen recommended by Dr. Saboo religiously. Things became easy after that.
My friends did not understand the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and they thought my love for sweets led to diabetes. I had to explain the difference. Once they understood, they were very supportive and helped me in managing my disease.
Q4. How did you learn to accept and manage your condition?
My mother and Dr. Saboo played a major role in making me accept, manage and control my diabetes. They taught me acceptance, they showed me how to take medication and specially insulin on time, they supervised my diet and made me exercise regularly till it all became the normal routine which I followed religiously. And life was great!
The unconditional love, support and words of encouragement I received from my family members, friends and Dr. Saboo during the initial days gave me hope and courage to face the situation and take control.
Today, I would like to thank them for showing me the way and believing in me. I was able to take on the T1D Challenge to White Mountains in Crete because of them. My mother’s “go-getter-attitude” played a big part in pushing me to complete the trek successfully.
Q5. Being a woman, did you face any societal pressures? Were you ostracized in school/social gatherings?
While I did not face any such situation directly, my mother did have to fight stereotypes. All sorts of questions such as how will you get her married, will she have kids, what will happen to her kids and can she lead a normal life were thrown at her. But my mother faced all of this bravely and did not let such situations affect her state of mind.
Q6. What are the medications you take daily? Any special diet, exercise etc?
I take insulin four times a day as prescribed by Dr. Saboo.
I eat healthy food. Since I am a vegetarian, I include lots of vegetables and salads in my diet.
I do eat outside sometimes with friends and relatives. But whenever I do, I check my blood glucose levels after the meal and take necessary steps in case it is high.
I exercise 5 days a week. I go for a run every morning. I like dancing too. It relaxes me and I really enjoy it.
I also get my HbA1c checked regularly. It is very important to follow your doctor’s advice and get necessary tests done as prescribed. This helps in ensuring diabetes is under control.
Q7. What is your advice to children with diabetes?
I would like to emphatically tell them that diabetes can be treated, controlled and that life can be lived normally and happily as long as they take proper care of themselves and follow their treatment plan regularly.
I hope that my journey will inspire other young people suffering from Type 1 diabetes and show them that they too can dare to dream. With the right treatment plan, a good understanding of what to eat and what to avoid and a regular schedule of exercise they can move beyond diabetes and achieve any goal that they set for themselves in life.
Q8. What were the preparations you did for the Crete trek?
I had to exercise daily for an hour to ensure that I was fit to take on the challenge. I went for a jog every day to build my stamina. I cycled too to strengthen my muscles. I also took extra care of my diet, ensuring I ate healthy, nutritious food every day.
Q9. How was the overall experience? Any learnings? What are the difficulties you faced?
The trek to the White Mountains was a memorable once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. Meeting and interacting with fellow diabetics from all over the world and learning about their individual experiences in managing diabetes was very inspirational.
Together we trekked for over eight hours each day and had to manage our diabetes under tough conditions. After 4 days of hiking, we reached the summit of Mt. Gingilos, which is 2080 meters above sea level. It was a long and a tough hike and the sun made it extremely difficult for us to climb.
Being a vegetarian, I did not have many food options. During the trek, I had to survive on health bars and fruit. I was often tired and found it difficult to continue the trek. The terrain became tougher and at one point, we had to climb rocks without any support making it an extremely hard and risky hike. Some of us even had multiple cuts in our hands which were attended to by the doctors accompanying us.
I am very pleased that I completed the trek successfully. My team members were very supportive and encouraged me through out. There were moments when my legs refused to move and I was completely exhausted but their assurance and motivation kept me going.
I want to share a message of hope with all the young diabetics in India. There is an exciting life waiting for them despite diabetes and beyond it. All they needs to do is take insulin on time and eat healthy. If we lead a disciplined lifestyle, we also can fulfil our dreams and live and enjoy life.
Q10. What are your career aspirations when you grow up?
I want to be a Diabetes educator and spread awareness amongst families, children and in schools about Type 1 diabetes. People like us require support and not sympathy. Our condition may look like a problem, but in reality, it is yet another opportunity to demonstrate strength of body and mind. It is lack of knowledge and lack of support that creates fear and confusion in the minds of children about Type 1 diabetes. I want to change this and work towards ensuring a healthier future for them. I want to get into banking to support myself and my family members.