Dalia Badrawi's life totally changed when she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (t1d) 11 years ago – and for the better. Most will be skeptical, but you only look at everything Badrawi, 36, has accomplished to see that. At the very least, it hasn't held her back, not even a little bit.
"I always say that I think diabetes is my blessing in disguise," Badrawi told POPSUGAR Middle East. In the first year of her diagnosis, she was overwhelmed and depressed. The sugar highs and lows scared her. "But the more I learnt, the more I understood, and the more I realized diabetes could be my friend."
Badrawi's diabetes is genetic. It has nothing to do with what she eats or how she lives. Unfortunately, the Egyptian fitness fanatic feels most people in the Middle East have very little awareness of Type 1 diabetes. Badrawi is aiming to change that. In between raising three children aged 3, 8, and 10, working out and training others at Engine38, a CrossFit gym she owns and manages with three other partners, of course.
But for Badrawi, if she can stay in control of her life while having her diabetes, she can do anything. So she signed up for the Paris Marathon in 2013. "I had always dreamed and talked about running a marathon. After being diagnosed, I wanted so badly to prove to myself that anything is possible, that I can continue living a healthy, normal life."
For four months she trained relentlessly, and when she crossed that finish line, it changed her life. "In that moment I remember thinking, I really can do anything. Diabetes will not stand in the way of my dreams."
That was when her journey began. In 2015, she completed her first Olympic distance triathlon (swim 1.5km, cycle 40km, run 10km). Her sugar was really high and while she completed it, she struggled in the last two thirds. In 2016, she went back at it, and this time, she came in second for her age group.
And then in July 2017, it was the year of the mountain. A.K.A, Mount Elbrus in Russia, the highest peak in Europe (with an elevation of 5,642 meters). It is considered one of the world's deadliest peaks, with a very high ratio of climber deaths to climbers. In fact, as many as 30 climbers a year die trying to get to the top.
Badrawi not only had to deal with the challenges facing the group of climbers she went up with, but her diabetes as well. She was worried about her equipment freezing (even in summer, nighttime temperatures reach -8 degrees Celsius), and how her body would react to the altitude. Therefore, she went prepared.
"If my blood sugar dropped below the norm, I would have to eat fast acting sugar which was always in the pockets of my bag. If my blood sugar dropped to the point where I could lose consciousness, one of the climbers with me would have to give me a glucagon shot, which I kept in a FRIO bag to keep it from freezing. And if my blood sugar rises I would have to take insulin through the insulin pump, and if that malfunctions, I had insulin pens also in FRIO bags."
And still, there was a glitch. On her third hike, all the monitors she uses started giving her different readings, likely affected by the altitude, she says. Rather than panic, she went old school, reading her own body and using her instincts to figure out how much insulin she needed.
She also started CrossFit around the time she had begun training for the marathon. Likely by now you know Badrawi doesn't do anything in half measures. Here are the facts. This year, she ranked number 1 in her age group in Egypt and 15th in Africa and the Middle East in the CrossFit Open. That puts her in the 97th percentile. She has also qualified for Regionals – a huge achievement in the global CrossFit community.
"Fitness is where I found myself. What maybe started off as something to do just to stay fit and healthy turned into a passion," she continued. "The passion to not only set bigger goals and work hard towards them, but to also help other people change their lives around for the better, and to help them accomplish their own goals, whether it's by helping them run their first 5k or their first marathon."
Badrawi wants other diabetics to know that diabetes will not stop you from living out your dreams if you manage to control it. "I continuously want to prove to myself that I have the ability and the strength to accomplish my goals. It takes commitment and hard work but I can do it just like anyone else can."
Unlike people who shy away from challenges or hide from their fears, Badrawi just looks them dead in the eye before smashing them to pieces.