Round One: In the Hospital
I was diagnosed eight years ago with diabetes on January 15. I was 11 and the idea of sticking needles in me, testing my blood sugar, monitoring what I ate and visiting my doctor every three months, was not my idea of fun.
I sat in the hospital room for three days, angry with the world, feeling sorry for myself, and wondering what I had done wrong. Perhaps this is the natural reaction of people diagnosed with a life altering disease, but Alhamdu lillah, (all Praise be to God), this attitude did not last long.
My friend arrived with a giant stuffed-animal and wished me well. I, in return, promised her that I would keep the stuffed toy forever and take care of it to remember her kindness.
Hours later, as I had moved my IV cart to a quiet place in the hospital to make Salat (prayer). I sat in supplication realizing that I, like the stuffed animal, had been given life, a body, health, a brain, and everything else as a gift from Allah. I realized that it was up to me to take care of Allah's gift, and that this disease was simply a test from Allah to see if my Iman, my faith, was stronger than my dislike of needles and blood.
At the moment, I accepted the fact that I had to take care of my health and my body, I had to take care of Allah's gift and not refuse it in self pity. In the Quran it says, "On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear" (2:286). Feeling almost honored that Allah knew I could handle this obstacle, I went to find the other sick children and see if I could help cheer them up.
As I entered the play area on the third floor I asked a group of kids if I could join them in their game of Clue. Without hesitation they all slid over to make room for me. As I sat down, the little boy whose place I had taken handed me a plug and said, "could you please plug me in, I'm not feeling so good". I looked at his bald head and the massive number of tubes in his arm as I humbly obliged and tearfully thanked Allah, for all the mercy He had shown me.
I knew that I had not beat diabetes, but I had not lost either. Rather, I had learned that my ability to live with this disease was dependent upon my faith in Allah.
Round Two: The Battle of Fitting In
I left the hospital feeling confident and in control. However, a couple of years later I realized that I was putting my health and my diabetes on a back shelf to junior high and high school life. While I still strove to please and remember Allah at all times, the connection I had between my health and my relationship with Allah had greatly weakened.
I found ways to remain healthy, and not let my diabetes take precedence, but at the same time I was not in "good health". I was doing the minimum requirements of taking four shots of insulin a day, but I was not testing my blood sugar. I would eat my required number of meals, but I would not eat the right foods or eat at the right times.
One night, as I sat talking with my friends, the topic of health and life came up. Our friend's dad had just passed away and we were remarking how fragile we really are. We took turns telling stories of people we knew who had to have their feet amputated, their kidneys replaced, had lost their eyesight and who had taken for granted the manageability of their health. The examples were all about people with diabetes who had failed to take responsibility and take care of their life, their life which was a gift, a beautiful gift, a gift I was taking for granted.
The next day I found myself in second period ceramics listening to a demonstration on glazing when I felt my body go numb. I woke up moments later on the ground, bleeding and surrounded by bits of broken pots. I had gone into what is known as a "diabetic coma". My blood sugar had gotten so low that I passed out.
As I was helped to the nurse's office, the only thing on my mind was how lucky I was. It did not take the loss of a limb or the loss of sight to remind me that I had a responsibility to myself and to Allah to cherish and care for my health in this world. When my mom came to get me, I looked at her and said, "I think it's a hint, I've got to do better than this, and I can do better".
Round two tossed me some bloody blows, but I still stood undefeated by my diabetes through the help of Allah and the remembrance of His all-knowing wisdom, I was given another chance. When one remembers Allah, He remembers them. I spent the night thanking Allah for not giving up on me when I had given up on myself.
Round Three: Internal Apathy
Now that I'm in college, I find that my parents no longer bother me about taking care of my diabetes. My doctor no longer scolds me for not keeping written records of my medication doses and my friends no longer treat me like I am ill. I guess that is what it means to be mature . . . it means you begin to take responsibility for your own decisions, choices and actions.
Early last semester, I began to forget that as a Muslim I had a responsibility to take care of my health. My apathy toward the finer points of diabetic care prompted a friend to ask me what right I had to do this to myself. I had no answer at the time, nor do I have one now.
The truth is, I have no excuse for not caring. Surah Rahman asks, "which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?" To say that I deny nothing would mean that my health held a top priority in my life. With technology, social acceptance of diabetes and the knowledge that many had it far worse, I realized I could not deny Allah, I could not deny Islam, because I was too stubborn and lazy to take care of my disease.
As I work toward better control, I remind myself of the Hadith: "the likeness of the one who remembers his Lord and the one who does not remember Him is like that of a living to a dead person" (Bukhari). If I forget my health, I die. If I forget Allah, I am already dead.
Round three is still in action, Allah has undoubtedly granted me assistance, mercy and blessings. And I must find a way to take care of my body and not deny myself further the gifts of Allah or else I know I will lose the battle.