Unlike most teenagers who are pre-occupied with having to deal with spots and greasy skin, when Navpreet Grewal turned 16 she was diagnosed with diabetes, a health condition that has changed her life, and unlike spots, is something she’ll never grow out of. She opens up to Asiana.TV about what it was like to deal with such life-changing news.
‘At 16, I was in the middle of such a crucial moment of my life so far. My GCSE’s were fast approaching and all I could think about passing my exams so that I would be able to go on and do the A-levels that I had dreamt of doing.
So when one day, I was suddenly, out of the blue, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I didn’t know what to do. I just kept thinking ‘Why me?’ On top of that, I have a sweet tooth so being told I was no longer allowed to eat sweets was very upsetting.
My symptoms started back in January. I had a business exam and when I opened the paper my brain was completely blank. It was as if I hadn’t revised. I didn’t know any of the answers but I still did it. I went home and I kept thinking, ‘How could I forget everything?’ My parents came home from work and asked me how my exam went. I burst into tears. I kept repeating the same thoughts, ‘How could I have forgotten everything?’ My parents reassured me and said it is all probably down to stress.
Some of the symptoms of diabetes type 1 are similar to stress such as feeling tired, weakness of your eyes and generally just feeling unwell. I had all of these and others, like feeling thirsty all the time, passing a lot of urine, and weight loss. At that time, I used to feel tired so much that all I ever wanted to do was just lie on the sofa and go to sleep. I also used to drink so much water that I was constantly going to the toilet - I would go every 5mins.
My eyes were so weak that they would go blurry and I had to get my glasses prescription changed even though I had only got them a few months ago. Eventually I went to the doctors. I initially thought that I had a urine infection but the doctor made me go for a blood test, to make sure that everything was okay.
Then I got the phone call that changed my life. My doctor called to say I had diabetes…something people normally only get if they are overweight or are in their 40s. As I heard the words, my whole world felt like it was crumbling in front of my eyes. My parents were in India, my sister was at work and my brother was out; I had never felt so alone.
The next day my sister had to go to work, so I took my aunt to the doctors; I couldn’t handle going by myself. Upon arrival we were advised to go straight to hospital. I was sent to the children’s ward where the nurse confirmed that I had type 1 diabetes. I spent the night on the ward under observation and was taught how and where to inject insulin as from now on, I would need to inject it four times a day. My parents caught the first flight that they could from India, and they came home the day after I was released from hospital.
I have now had diabetes type 1 for three years now and my family have been there with me through the bad and good days. My diabetes has affected them just as much as it has me. My health has so far been relatively good and I am grateful that I haven’t fainted or had a turn for the worse, but I do wonder if that day will come.
My diabetes has not ever stopped me from eating what I want, or doing what I want. I am at university and hope to become a journalist. It will be possible, as long as I make a few simple lifestyle changes. One thing I’ve learnt is that having diabetes is not something you have to deal with alone. Most Asians are aware of it, but they don’t understand everything about it.
My teenage years were very different to most people’s but I don’t feel like I’ve missed out. I’m glad I found out when I did. It means I can now concentrate on my future – one where I am successful, fit and healthy.’