Mrs Singh - Interview 05

Age at interview: 64
Age at diagnosis: 49
Brief Outline: Mrs Singh was diagnosed when she was 49. She takes metformin.
Background: Mrs Singh is a married housewife with three adult children aged 44, 42, and 36. Ethnic background/Nationality: Punjabi sikh.

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Mrs Singh was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 15 years ago. Several members of her family, including her husband, also have diabetes, so when she noticed some of her symptoms - thirst, tiredness, pain and burning in her feet and wanting to eat sweet things - she suspected that it might be diabetes. At the time of the interview, Mrs Singh was taking metformin. 

Mrs Singh is very conscious of diabetes being a problem in her family, and she asks her children to look after their diet. She and her husband manage their diet jointly; they have a late breakfast, skip lunch and then have tea and a snack in the afternoon. Mrs Singh believes she can tell when her blood glucose levels are too high or too low. She knows that if she's eaten some fried food or rich food, her blood glucose will be high. And when her blood glucose is low, she feels shivery and faint. In order to manage her diet, Mrs Singh finds it useful to check her blood glucose after eating various sorts of food so that she knows what she can and cannot eat. 

Mrs Singh feels people should be open about their diabetes, so they can avoid difficult social situations where they may feel pressed into eating unsuitable foods. She has always found it easier to tell people that she has diabetes and therefore cannot eat everything she is offered rather than giving people the impression that she is being fussy. She believes that one can learn a great deal by talking to others, and regularly attends a local diabetic support group with her husband.


Mrs Singh describes the changes she has made to her daily diet (audio in Hindi).

So what kind of food do you eat?

Now, see, in the morning along with tea, I always eat roti [Indian flat bread], because my sugar goes down in the morning, so you feel like eating something. So, I don't eat bread, I eat roti, and inside I put margarine, but I don't fry it. So I eat that with tea, sometimes with a bit of pickle, or if not pickle then I may take some cooked vegetables with it, and eat it all together. So now I'm not hungry, I ate in the morning. Now about 3 or 4pm, at 3'30pm, I'll have tea, then with the tea I may eat some toast. Or if I don't feel like having toast then I may have some chevda [gujrati snack, crunchy spicy a bit like corn flakes but savoury], only sometimes, not all the time, sometimes I feel like having something crunchy so then I have some. I can't have the one with lots of chilli because with my pills for my blood pressure.

I maybe eat a biscuit, or a couple of biscuits. But most of the time I'll eat some bread, not anything else, that works the best, it satisfies my hunger so, then I don't eat this and that, you understand what I mean? So that's it. And then in the evening I make fresh food, vegetables or dal and vegetables, whatever I want to eat. Sometimes I cook chicken, but I don't put that much oil, sometimes in the oil onions, if I fry them in oil, then I drain all the oil, and after draining the oil properly then I cook the vegetables. So that is it, you just have to be a bit careful, so apart from that bhaji etc., we only have it occasionally, sometimes after 2 months we'll have it once, also samosas and so on are all off the menu, crisps also, all that is off. Just one thing, chevda, is what I like so that I eat sometimes. So then this is how my life is these days [laughs].

Mrs Singh knew when she started feeling extremely thirsty that it could be diabetes (audio in...

So now if you could tell me in some more detail about when, at the beginning, what happened, when you felt that something wasn't right, what went came into your mind about what was happening to me?

In my mind, I didn't have that much to wonder about because I knew a bit that if one felt extra thirsty that could be due to diabetes. You feel thirsty, you feel like eating sweet things. So that's why I went to the doctor, because I suspected that I might have diabetes, because we did have it at home [in the family], we had these things, so they used to say that if you feel thirsty you can tell that you might have got diabetes. So I used to feel thirsty and I used to want to eat something sweet, like, and wanted to drink cold drinks only. So then, I went to the doctor because I had a suspicion that maybe I was a diabetic. So, then, I used to feel down quite a lot, that I couldn't walk properly anymore, I used to have so much pain. I used to say, 'What's going to happen? Maybe sometime I won't be able to walk because of all the pain'. So, then that's why I went to the doctor. So then that's why after that I used to go and get checked by the doctor every month. But now I check it at home by myself, so I get to find out about what I ate today that made it so high.

Mrs Singh has had diabetes for many years and finds that talking to others and going to meetings...

And, can you think of anything that might be helpful to somebody else, related to diabetes?

What can be helpful is to say, 'Look, don't ever hide it'. Many people say, 'I, don't tell anyone that I'm not well. Don't tell anyone that I have blood pressure, that I have sugar. What will people say, that she has an illness'. But you should tell. If you don't tell then how will anyone know what your problem is. Then they will say, 'Oh she's so fussy, she doesn't eat anything'. You know how that happens, so that's why you should tell them, 'Look, I can't eat it, I'm a diabetic, I'll eat some, but only a little bit'. Say it like that. You should talk to each other. Sometimes you can get somebody's advice, or somebody's dietary tips could suit you too, and it might be like, 'That person ate that, it suited them so maybe I'll try it too, and see if it suits me'. Sometimes, if you talk to other people you find out so much. If you don't ever talk to anyone, you won't find out anything.

Like, earlier, we didn't used to go to any centre, now we go to the diabetes centre, it's been 10 years now and I've learnt quite a lot, I've learnt a large amount. Otherwise, I didn't used to know anything, what it is and what it isn't. I didn't even know what diabetes was? How does it start? What is it inside that isn't working? Now all that, they showed us slides, told us lots of things, so much we found out. And then over there, we talk to each other. We tell each other that I ate this. They tell us what they ate. How do you cook it, how do they cook their vegetables, how do we do it. So if you talk like this you find out lots of stuff. If you don't talk about it, you won't find out anything. So, you should, like friendship, you should talk about it. From one another, you should listen also, and tell also.

So, that's the advice that I would give that you should, friendship, you should go out, and talk about it. And don't think that, I will only talk to other Indians. I'm only going to talk to my relatives, my brothers and sisters. Talk with everyone, sometimes, English people are also quite nice. Sometimes, when I'm going to the doctor, going to the hospital, many times I meet some ladies, they talk to me very nicely, they say, 'I'm also diabetic. I've also come for my eyes, for treatment. This happened to me, this happened to me''. And then they ask about me. So you find out so much. Their ideas are different, ours are different. So you can find out so much. So you should think, 'I, with anyone, I won't tell anyone'. So you should talk. You learn so much.

Mrs Singh had laser treatment for blood clots at the back of her eyes ten years ago. Her eyes...

So, in your eyes, or in your feet, you haven't had any diabetic symptoms?

When my diabetes started, then my eyes had become very red. So, our family doctor, he had noticed himself. That, in my eyes, he felt there was something, so he said to me, 'We need to test your eyes, so if you have time, then come, come to my clinic'. So I went, so they tested my eyes very carefully. And straightaway, he sent me to the hospital, that, 'As quickly as you can, get an appointment for yourself'. So I got an appointment, and then my eyes, they had to laser them. They said that, you know how you can have clots at the back? That's what had happened, so they did that twice, but then since then it hasn't come back, because I've got my diabetes under control. So that's why the clots didn't come back.

So how long ago was this?

It's been 10 years now. So not again, they haven't had to do the laser again. I go every six months for a check-up. And they say, 'It's fine', so, if you control it then your eyes stay fine. They had lasered my husband's eyes too, and now, it's quite a while and it hasn't happened again. Because, we don't eat sweets and all.

At the temple Mrs Singh eats small amounts of the prassad and tries to avoid eating food...

And what if you go to visit somebody? If you go to somebody's house for a meal - how do you do it then?

If somebody invites us for a meal then over there also, well, there are so many things to eat, so whatever suits, I eat. So they say, 'Please take some, take some dessert, take it, nothing happens if you take it one day!'. So then I take it, I don't say no, I just take a bit, that's it. Like don't fill the bowl up, just have a bit less. For instance, yesterday we had gone, and there, fruit salad' there was some sweet afterwards, there was fruit, tinned fruit. That has syrup in it, doesn't it, so it's very sweet, so I said to them, 'I only want very little'. So, they know that I am a diabetic, so I said, 'okay, give me some, but very little'. So just eat a bit, and there's some left. So that nobody feels bad and good for oneself too. So, sometimes, like, what do you say, when they make prasaad [sweet food that you get in temples, it's been blessed so supposed to eat a bit], and that has so much sugar in it. When I go to the gurudwara [place of worship for Sikhs], the prasaad they make there is so tasty, I feel like eating it all, I feel like eating all that I am given. But no, I have to tell them that I only want so much. I say so much [hand gesture to show small amount] and they give me so much! [hand gesture to show large amount], [laughs]. If you tell them so much, then they give'

'so much more!

So, I say to them I only want a little bit. Just take a bit, a little bit. So you have to adjust a bit.

But some people do force you quite a bit. I have a friend who says, 'Why don't you eat chillies? Just for once, have them properly and then your mouth will get fixed!'. That is so wrong'I know how much discomfort I have, they don't know. So I said, 'No, I can't have it' and she deliberately put the chillied vegetables on my plate and said, 'Just taste it'. And I said 'I won't even taste it, your vegetable dishes have lots of chillies in it, I can't eat them.' So she said, 'So what will you eat, how will you eat it?'. I said 'Do you have some yoghurt? Give me some yoghurt, I'll have it with that.' It's not a big problem for me. If I sometimes don't each a vegetable dish, that is fine, I'll just have it with yoghurt. That's what I do. If I go to the temple sometime, so there is always yoghurt there, and vegetable dishes all have chilli in them, so I have it with yoghurt. And if they don't have yoghurt then they might have some sweet dish, like with milk, they have sevaiyya (sweet vermicelli dessert), or kheer (rice pudding). So I take one spoonful of kheer and with one phulka (Indian flat bread), I have it with the kheer. That's it. So don't have any vegetable dish, have it when you get home.
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