It's rush hour in Mumbai, and Sunil Kamath is on duty.
Traffic is in full swing as Mumbaikars everywhere make their way to work. At the heart of this commotion, managing the madness that is Mumbai traffic, is Sunil Kamath, an unlikely 60-year-old who's full of energy. But traffic isn't the only challenge the volunteer traffic warden and retired pathologist is dealing with. He's also tackling an illness that can slow him down if he's not careful: diabetes.
Much like many Indians living with diabetes, Sunil was oblivious to his condition for many years. Although he spent close to 30 years diagnosing various conditions as a doctor, he had failed to recognise his own diagnosis until he was forced to face it head-on.
An Accidental Diagnosis
Sunil discovered that he had diabetes back in 2011 while on vacation with his doctor friends. At the time, he was a heavy smoker with a two-pack-a-day habit. That afternoon, as he lit up a cigarette, he had a bad coughing fit and blacked out.
This wasn't the first time Sunil had had such an experience. In fact, he had blacked out several times before, but he never thought to check if there was anything wrong. He didn't pay heed to any of the symptoms his body was alerting him to, so he didn't think he had a problem. This time, though, with his friends around to help and lend their professional opinions, his symptoms were identified correctly. He had type 2 diabetes.
In his 29 years as a pathologist, Sunil had told countless of people with diabetes not to worry. But his world came crashing around him when he found himself on the other side. How could he have been diagnosing others but failed to notice the symptoms in himself?
"My father, who was a doctor, always said people visit doctors only when they are in pain or discomfort. With diabetes, you feel neither. I believe that's the reason the condition is so neglected," Sunil said. "In hindsight, I knew I had diabetes long before I was diagnosed. Fortunately, I had friends who helped me address the problem sooner rather than later."
Living With Diabetes (the Right Way)
With continued support from his wife and friends, Sunil slowly learned to face his diabetes head-on. He altered his diet and became mindful of what he ate — a hard task for a foodie like him.
"My wife has been my ultimate pillar of strength. She makes sure my diet is diabetes-friendly and even shares her recipes with my diabetic friends," he said. "I have a long way to go and I have to admit it's difficult, but I have all the support I need."
Since his diagnosis, Sunil has focused on two things: extending his support to others in need and living out his dreams. As a volunteer traffic warden, he's found the perfect way to do both.
Sunil had dreamed of donning a uniform for as long as he can remember; he even underwent military training for the National Cadet Corps when he was younger. So when he retired, he began volunteering for the Mumbai Traffic Police Department as a means to give back to society. He even helped set up diabetes camps so his fellow policemen could get tested.
Today, Sunil is using his experience to help others realise the importance of independence and take control of their diabetes to live long, healthy lives. It definitely hasn't been easy for him, but every day that he steps out in his uniform and with his whistle, he proves that diabetes is not a dead-end. Rather, it's just another bump in the road to a happy life.
His final word of advice for anyone dealing with diabetes is to help yourself.
"Your doctor or family can only support you," he said. "You have to put in the work if you want to get healthy. It's all in your hands."
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