Dancing with diabetes?

Hi there!

My name is Mikaela and I was diagnosed with Type 1 in September 2008.  I do ballet and I was wondering how many people here dance and still do shots.  (not a pump) 

When I was diagnosed, I was practically anorexic and I had lost almost all my muscle and I was so full of frustration of not being able to do things in dance class that I saw everyone else doing!!  It's been a difficult thing for me to adjust to.......I'm dancing better now, but it's hard for me at ballet because all of my friends are skinny as rails and eat whatever they want, whenever they want!  And they don't know what diabetes is, or how it changes your lifestyle, or anything.  Does anybody else feel like they're a loner sometimes??

So far, I've had two extremely severe lows......and it's really freaked my parents out.  Now they are afraid to let me go to summer dance camp for a month or two and I'm worried that I'll have to stay home all summer!  Has anybody had this problem before?  Do y'all have a way that you've been able to "predict" approximately how high or low your sugars will be?  My dad said that unless I can find a way to be able to do that, he's not going to feel comfortable with me going anywhere away from home.  (I haven't been able to sleep over at anyone's house since my last low)

So I guess what I'm asking for is just some advice on how y'all have done things and which ways worked and which ways didn't, and any other helpful stuff you happen to think of.  Thanks  =)


P.S.  What do you say to people who say things like, "Oh, wait.  You can't have this piece of cake, because you're DIABETIC right???"  (I know that I want to shove the cake in their face, but as of yet, I have controlled myself :P)

Hey Mikaela,

I'm not a dancer but I've been there with the severe lows and parents being worried about long summer camps.  Actually, my worst low, which happened in the morning when I was sleeping so my dad couldn't wake me up, was when I was on a family vacation 2 summers ago, and since then I've been really careful with exercise/activity, sleeping, and preventing low blood sugars. 

I started going to diabetes sleep-away camp when I was 12, but after 2 summers of that I wanted to go to music camp for a month and because I was on the pump and am very independent with diabetes, my parents agreed to let me go.  However, before I left my endocrinologist lowered all my basal rates to match the increase in activity while I was there and my blood sugars went through the roof because the camp food had a lot of refined flour which makes me really high.  This summer I went to a different music camp for 5 weeks and the food was much better so my blood sugars were fine (like they would be if I were at home).  One issue that my parents were concerned about was that the camp I went to this past summer had no nurse (it was very small) so I had to be completely independent with my blood sugar, counting carbs, etc.  Depending on the program you are looking at, your parents may initially be more comfortable if there is a nurse who can help you if something bad were to happen.  As long as you are responsible with your shots, checking, etc. you should be fine at a summer camp and hopefully your parents will acknowledge this. 

I'm pretty aware of what my blood sugars are, so I can almost always tell if I'm low and I know if my pump has malfunctioned and I have ketones/am high.  If your dad is worried about your sugars during the night, you could try setting an alarm and checking at 2am or whenever if you've been really active and trying this before you go to camp to prove that you are responsible.  Also, I'm sure the counselors or other people at the camp would be willing to wake you up the first couple of nights to make sure that your insulin doses aren't too high or too low and your blood sugars are okay.  Generally, I think if you find a program that you're interested in and can convince your parents to trust you by proving to them that you can handle diabetes completely on your own, they should let you go.  Also, talk to your endocrinologist and see if he/she has any suggestions about how to make sure your blood sugars aren't crazy while you're away from home.  Once you find a routine away from what you're used to while at home, things get a lot easier, and you can always check in with your parents to keep them from becoming too worried :)

About the cake thing, if that person is one of my closer friends (I can only think of one person I know pretty well who does that) I just remind her that I can eat sugar calmly, but for the people who are just clueless and think that they are right no matter what you say, I would eat the cake in front of them and then tell them to watch me die, lol. 

Good luck with your parents and I hope you can convince them.  It's hard for them, but they will have to let go sometime.  A little responsibility at a time is often the best way to go :)


1. I dance with the pump, its a lot easier.

2. Yeah I hate the fact that some of my friends can just eat whatever they want and not gain any weight, and I have to watch what I eat allll the time.

3. As you get more experienced with your diabetes, you'll be able to know your body better to prevent severe highs/lows. i would realllllly recommend the pump for this. If you are starting to get low, you'll feel dizzy, irritable, hungry, sweaty, and this is weird but whenever Im low I can always like feel the fabric of my pants on my legs, which I don't pay attention to when Im not low. If you start to feel like this at all, check your blood sugar, sit down, and have some juice. Smarties work really well for me tooo. If you're high you'll start to feel really nausious and low-energy and dizzy. Check your blood and if its high walk around or run for a while, and give yourself extra insulin. When you have had diabetes for longer you'll become a lot more comfortable with how it feels to be high/low.

4. the pump has made my diabetes a lot more controlled.

5. yeah its really annoying. im usually just like "technically, yes i can have it but im not going to." :)

I would try to prove to your parents you're ready to do a dance camp this summer by:

1. Making a plan w/ your dr. about how to lower / adjust your insulin when you exercise

2. being great about testing, counting carbs, etc now to prove you're responsible

3. having a plan to check in with them during the camp each day to discuss your sugars, & how you're doing


When I was in middle school, I took dance. I always felt bigger than the other girls, probably b/c of my D. Luckily, I wasn't a great dancer and moved onto to soccer, lol. But, I hear you!

hi Mikaela,if you haven't done so already-you can type in Dancers with diabetes---There are a few more dancers there :)

I have been dancing for 3 years now while on shots. It can be annoying but i'm getting the pump. i suggest that you look into pumps too because i've been told by so many people that it's a lot easier if you're active.

And for people that say things like you can't eat sugar and stuff, that's just because they really don't know. So you should inform them. It can get really frustrating having to explain to every person that doesnt know, but i think it's our job as diabetics to inform people.

when i was diagnosed when i was 10 i was doing ballet. i was ALWAYS low and i also had a problem with the weight loss. as time went on i figured out how to prevent it. try to have a starchy snack like 1/2 hour before lessons and then you don't go so low.

What was going on when you had the lows?  Were they exercise related?

You're gotten a lot of good advice in these responses.  Talk with your endocrinologist.

Check into diabetic camps in your area  (or a little further).  Some of them have weekend sessions at random times not during the summer.  Going to a diabetic camp might be one way of helping your parents let go a little and you gaining some education and new friends!  Really, I'm not trying to be overly chipper about it.  Let me explain.  My dancer son dx last April 2009 as I told you in friend request.  Then on July 9 two things happened.  1)  My son had been on Juvenation, learned about diabetic camps, starting asking questions on juvenation about what diabetic camps were, and asked to go to one.  Then that night I was at his pediatrician's house for book club.  He doesn't treat my son's diabetes, but he is the one who diagnosed it.  He asked if unsolicited advice was okay, and I said sure.  Through the grapevine (we live in a really small town), he'd learned that my son wanted to go back to dance camp next summer (2010) and knew that I would be nervous about it since the diagnosis had taken place since the last time he'd been to dance camp.  He said he'd heard great things about diabetic camp and thought it would be really great if my son could get into one prior to going away summer 2010.  He thought it would help my son learn independence (like what teen that he needs to learn independence!) and that it would help me chill.  So that next day, I told my son to get online and find a diabetic camp that accepted his age group (a tricky,sticky part) and that had a registration date that had not passed.  The closest one is could find was over 7 hours away with a registration deadline in 2 days.  I spent the day making sure he could get in, since some, but not all of the paperwork, was already due.  I succeeded.  A month later, we drove him to Ohio and left him for a week.  (Drove there and back, then the next weekend there and back---30 hours)  He LOVED it so much he wants to go back for a week this summer (after dance camp) to be a junior counselor (we are kicking ourselves).  Sure there are closer camps, but he is wedded to this one.  But I LOVED it, too.  For a solid week, I had a total break from the worrying.  He was in better hands at diabetic camp than at home.  (Three older counselors in his cabin who all were T1 plus the doctor for his cabin was also T1).  I wasn't expecting how it would affect me.  But having that break did me well in letting go and handing it over to my son.  I am in much better shape about letting him go away for six weeks (ouch, that's still hard to type) to dance camp this summer.

But you want to talk about dance camp, not diabetic camp.  Does your endo have you do 3 a.m. checks if you exercise at night?  All of my son's dance classes are at night, so four nights a week, my husband gets up at 3 a.m. to do a blood sugar check.  We just began discussions today about how that will work this summer.  My son is horrible about getting himself up or being coherent at 3 a.m.  He always has been.  He doesn't think he'll hear an alarm or a phone.  We know there is always a Contact Improv Jam on Saturday nights at this camp (and Contact Improv is one of his favorite things) and we're willing to call him every Saturday night at 3, but we're still working on a plan. 

His dance camp does have air conditioned dorms that they make the younger kids (12-16s at 4 week school) stay in and some six weekers (16 and older) stay in.  So I know by filling out the forms properly I'll be able to get him into an a/c dorm.  (Camp in in NC in summer---A/C important).  

He is MDI.  By summer, I don't know whether he will still be MDI or on a pump.  Hopefully that will be discussed at next endo appt end of January.  Have to get all the plans in place.

Mostly importantly for you, when is application for the camp you want to go to? I know that my son's camp is already accepting applications and time is of the essence for getting a low number (which gets you into the classes you most want to take).  You gotta get your parents on board soon probably.  I'm trying to get my son on it.  I think he thinks I was going to do it for him because I did two years ago, but we straightened that out today.  As soon as he gets past two performances this weekend (with spacing rehearsals that start tomorrow afternoon), he's got to get on it (amongst final semester exams at school next week).

Have you been to a dance camp before?  I shared with you where my son goes.  A friend of ours went to Bates last summer.  If you have a question that you want to take offline, feel free.  I'll post my email in a separate message after this, but then delete it after you see it so that it doesn't stay in the archives.

You didn't say, but what were your lows like?  What symptoms did you demonstrate?  Did you pass out?

I guess that's all for now.  Good luck.  Let us know how it's going.

My email is rachelsaf@comcast.net.

Mikaela, I forgot to add that if you do get to go to diabetic camp, see if you can't set up some way (phone, email, text) to check in with your parents daily.  It should be part of the plan.  When my son went away two summers ago, he forgot we existed.  A friend of ours who is a year old than he, who is a super responsible wonderful teen, also forgot her parents existed.  Emails were answered tersely (short fragments from teens who were way too busy and having way too much fun to be bothered with parents).  Any communication was parent initiated.  Etc. Etc. It was horrible.  It's a situation that he knows we cannot tolerate now.  Yes, we will let him go.  We won't hold him back from anything that he reasonably wants to do.  But he has to keep us in the loop.

Which leads me to question our decision to let him join ski club this winter.  But that's another story and probably has more to do with his dad and I having grown up in the deep South and having no interest in skiing ourselves.  We're letting both our boys do this (15 and 13 years old) and I guess I'm just scared because their friends are experienced and my boys are novices.  I'm more worried about broken bones or worse than I am about the diabetes.  His friends are well educated and I guess I've still got to do some more follow-up with the faculty sponsor.  Yikes.


Unless you're one of the less common diabetics who don't have sensitivity to low BG, you'll get better at this.  The observations below are obviously specific to me and I'm not a dr., etc, but may help you.

Insulin becomes super effective when combined with exercise.  As others have noted, boost your carbs and reduce your insulin before you exercise - and you should have plenty of juice/starch accessible when you exercise so you can catch and fix the low quickly.  I try to have mini juice cans or juice boxes - dense sugar that i can chug quickly.  Fatty things or dense carbs don't fix the low as quickly.

 Also, you should test whenever you have a break when doing rigorous exercise.  you dance at the same time/days regularily then it will be easier and you can build it into your regular routine since it won't be spontaneous.  When exercising spontaneously, i always err on the side of being too high - but again if it is a regular schedule you will be able to fine tune it better.  Excercising can make my insulin twice as effective sometimes.

Another thing that really helps me is to be aware of the onset, peak, and tail of my insulin effectiveness.  This is much easier to predict with Humalog then with any other insulin i'd previously taken.  Humalog's effectiveness peaks so predictably for me, that if i feel low I look at the clock and I know it'll almost always be 2.5 hours since my shot.  If it is sooner, like 1.5 or 2 hours, than I know I'll need even more carbs because I'm low even before my insulin will peak.

So for me, I try to take a smaller shot if I'm going to be exercising within the first 2.5 hours, and I especially try to make it so that if possible, I'm not exercising at the peak of my insulin effectiveness. And I make sure I test before I get to the 2.5 hour mark since my shot.

There are Type 1 diabetics who play Professional Football, Tennis, Hockey, Runners, etc.. so you will be able to work this out.  You have to be careful to accept and think about whether you feel low constantly, instead of being in denial about it or trying to ignore it.

I'd image dance is probably the most extreme, but similar to Tennis or running, since you're always moving, in terms of triggering lows.