'You can lead a normal life': Inspirational teen diabetes patient writes book to help others

Fifteen-year-old publishes book detailing her journey with the illness, hoping to inspire others to take control of their lives despite the disease

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 11:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 March, 2014, 4:39am

At the age of 15, Ruhi Kumar has learned that she can control her diabetes instead of letting it control her, and she has written a book to share her story.

"I want to tell people that it's possible to lead a normal life with diabetes," she said. "It doesn't stop you from achieving your goals and dreams. I've done everything I wanted to do as a teenager."

Since being diagnosed with type I diabetes when she was nine, Kumar has come close to death more than once when her blood sugar went too low or too high, making her vomit and faint.

Once she skipped an insulin shot because she wanted to feel "normal" during a film-and-dinner night out with friends two years ago. She ended up in Queen Mary Hospital's intensive care unit the next morning.

"It was simply the result of reckless, teenage behaviour" that gave her a strong lesson, she wrote in her book. "My health should always come first and everything else needs to take the back seat in my life."

In her 30-page book The Bitter Sweet Life - A Teenager's Journey with Diabetes published in December, Kumar documented her successes and failures in managing the disease on both practical and emotional levels.

She wanted to use her experience to help young and newly-diagnosed patients, their friends and families. Measuring her blood glucose level and taking insulin shots four times a day were a struggle for her at times, she disclosed.

"A lot of the diabetes information out there is from the doctors' perspective. There isn't anything from a child's perspective, something that every child can relate to," she said.

"I wanted to keep it humorous and at the same time deal with the real issue."

Kumar's idea of writing a book first came up in 2012 when one of her friends made a health booklet for school. They talked about her writing a book about diabetes, but were not serious at first.

Then she started doing research and found that more awareness about the disease was needed. She interviewed her parents, her 11-year-old sister, doctors, nurses and members of the Juvenile Diabetes Association.

She started writing in May last year and finished the book in six months. She wrote the first chapter about her diagnosis in three days, but the most difficult part - a chapter about her sister's support for her - took two months. Her parents were very supportive of her project. "My mum gave me topics to write about. She would say, 'Remember that time...'"

In December, Kumar contacted publishers and printing companies. It was easier than she had imagined, as they turned out to be very supportive of her cause. Thirty copies of the book have been printed and 50 more will be out later this month.

She will hold a book-signing ceremony at the Discovery Bay Dymocks bookstore on March 22. An online version was published earlier this month.

Kumar's doctor, Dr Norman Chan, an endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism specialist, said that through her book, the teenager had shown others that self-monitoring of glucose levels and insulin injections could actually be very manageable.

Other than continuing to use her writing to encourage others, Kumar's dream is to study medicine and become a doctor to help young patients like herself.

"My goal is to instil diabetics with hope and inspiration, and to motivate them all to fight to live healthy, active lives," she wrote.