Jehaan was diagnosed 22 years ago with Type 1 diabetes. She shares her story, struggles and best advice with us.
Could you tell us your diagnosis story?
As a newborn I had many health complications. My mom says at one of the clinic check-ups she explained to the doctor that I was having convulsions. My mom and I were then referred to the Red Cross Hospital. The doctors decided to test my sugars, which were constantly dropping, and ran multiple tests. The tests confirmed that I had an enlarged liver and spleen.
The doctors were unsure what caused the convulsions or even how to treat them. I was then admitted to hospital. After 10 days they ran more tests which all came back normal, however the sugar levels were still a bit low.
When my mom asked what could cause this and what should we do next, the doctor told her do not ask questions, it is a miracle. We had monthly follow-up appointments, brain functions continued to display as normal. The doctors had noticed poor pancreas function. At age 4 I fell extremely ill and my mother was in and out of hospital with me. The doctors could not seem to find an issue after doing multiple tests. After a year of no answers and being in and out of hospital, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on the 5th of November 2001. It has been 22 years since life started with Type 1 diabetes.
I wish I’d known that I was as normal as the rest of the kids, when I was diagnosed.Jehaan Omar
What’s the hardest part about living with diabetes, for you?
Trying to balance work and a diabetic life simultaneously. I have had issues with work since I started my career in 2014. Being sick is not the same with diabetics as non-diabetics. Nobody understood this. Since 2014 when I started my career, I thought the journey becomes more manageable as people become more knowledgeable, however the chronically ill don’t get any special treatment or compensation.
I am constantly fighting a battle I did not ask for. Now that I’m pregnant with my second child, even more so. I have already applied for 5.5 unpaid days. This is not only a financial hiccup but also emotionally and mentally challenging because nobody understands or gets it.
Do you have any practical tips that make life with diabetes easier?
Do not over do it. There’s absolutely no special treatment for a person living with diabetes. People do not hide what they say, do or eat.Jehaan Omar
With this said, I have learned over the years that I can do it too. I can eat what I want and love but don’t over do it. We are just human and let’s be honest we all like eating and doing nice things.
As a diabetic you cannot be truly happy if you keep depriving yourself of nice things, but learn your limits – nobody knows your body better than you .
What would you say to someone who is struggling with their diabetes?
Express yourself and ask. Ask and ask again. I wish I had the guidance back when I was diagnosed which I have right now. I have other complications apart from diabetes. I have a vitamin B12 deficiency. I am asthmatic and I have stage 4 endometriosis and I am pregnant with my second unplanned baby, this after being told I could not get pregnant. If something is meant to be it will be.
Even if I had the option to reverse my diabetes I would not. This is me, it is part of my DNA and I was meant to be the diabetic that helps the struggling diabetics! (This being said, a break now and again would be nice to go on an eating spree).
You are only as weak as you think you are.Jehaan Omar
What makes your life sweet?
Knowing that I was chosen as one of God’s warriors, despite the challenges, despite the bitter coffees and sugar-free drinks. My life is pretty normal and when I tell my story, people think it’s really sweet that I don’t look as sick as I am on the inside.
What to read next?
What does a good day with diabetes look like?: We often talk about the challenges of diabetes with our South Africans with Diabetes community – and that’s okay! Diabetes has many challenges.
#DiabetesLooksLikeMe 2023: It’s time for #DiabetesLooksLikeMe 2023! Once a year, on the 1st March, South Africans unite to show what diabetes looks like. Join the #DiabetesLooksLikeMe movement.
Let’s talk about telling all the stories of diabetes: In this monthly column, Sweet Life co-founder Bridget McNulty discusses something that’s on her mind in the diabetes space.