Dancing Past the Numbers: An Interview with Raquel Baron
Sarah Milligan sat down and talked to Raquel Baron, a UT dance student, about dancing and living with Type 1 Diabetes. Being a dancer is tough, but even tougher with Type One Diabetes. Thanks to Raquel for giving us an insight on how she doesn't let having Type One stop her from perusing her passion.
When did you first start dancing and what inspired you to continue into college?
I started dancing when I was about 3 years old. I was extremely shy at the time, but for some reason the one time I would break out of my shell was when I was put on a stage dancing. I attended Booker T. Washington’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and at that point my passion was growing into something I wanted to do professionally. It was important tome that I continued to pursue what I loved to do, which led me to audition for several college dance departments.
What is your favorite part about dancing?
I love that in dance there are a million ways to do one movement, which means that there is always more exploring to be done. You never reach a point in dance where you have “mastered” anything. It is always continual growing process.
Do you have any role models in dance? If so, who?
I actually do not have once dancer that I particularly look up to. I do have to say that dancing with the beautiful dancers of the class of 2019 everyday is incredibly inspiring and I am so thankful for the supportive environment that UT has created for us.
You were diagnosed at a young age with Type One Diabetes, what were some challenges you faced in the beginning?
When I was first diagnosed with Type 1, I was too young to wear an insulin pump. This meant that instead, I had to get about 4-5 injections and prick my finger to check my blood sugar level 10-12 every single day. Each meal that I ate had an exact amount of carbs and time that I had to stick to (for example- dinner at exactly 5:30pm each day and it had to be exactly 45 carbs). All of these restrictions meant that I had to visit the nurses office often at school, had to restrict what I ate, and playdates or sleepovers with friends were difficult and rarely could happen. I adjusted to it because I had no other choice, however being a “normal” kid was something that went away quickly. Today I wear an insulin pump that allows me to eat whatever I want as long as I give myself the appropriate amount of insulin. It can be very annoying to have something attached to my body at all times but it has made my life a lot more free in many ways. I also wear a continuous glucose monitor that checks my blood glucose every few minutes. The system will actually alert me when my blood sugar is too high or too low, which is especially helpful in keeping me on track while I am dancing or sleeping.
In what ways has having Type One Diabetes presented challenges in dance?
Type 1 and dancing is a very difficult mixture. On one hand exercise can increase insulin sensitivity and make my blood sugar more manageable at times. On the other hand, dancing (like other forms of exercise) can also make your blood sugar drop quickly. This means I often have to sit out of class when my blood sugar is low and eat something containing sugar, even when I am not healthy. The hardest thing about all of it is that sometimes a dance class will make my blood sugar drop one day, and other days the same class will make it rise. This gets tricky and often frustrating because I have to monitor my blood sugar extra closely and make insulin dosing or food decisions frequently in the middle of class due to how unpredictable it can be. Type 1 is not something I ever get a break from. It is constantly on my mind whether I like it or not. I have to push through dance classes many days even if I am not feeling my best due to me being awake all night to take care of a low blood sugar, or feeling sleepy from a high blood sugar due to stress. Another frustration I have with T1D and dance is that wearing an insulin pump can be a huge challenge. I have to find dance wear with pockets to hold my pump, but it is no fun jumping in ballet or rolling around on the floor in modern class with a huge device in my pocket....just imagine if your headphones were plugged into your phone on one end, and attached to your stomach on the other end, and you couldn’t take it off or you wouldn’t be getting the medicine you needed to survive. That’s a funny way to describe it but very similar to what Type 1’s deal with.
Is there anything about having Type One Diabetes that has inspired you to keep pushing forward in dance?
Even though having T1D simply sucks and does get in the way, Type 1’s are still capable of doing whatever we want to do. Having this disease has turned me into the person I am today and I can’t imagine my life without it. I have met so many wonderful people through this disease and I love to inspire young Type 1’s to continue doing what they love as well, even though it can be extra difficult sometimes. Additionally, type 1 has given me increased awareness of my body and this has helped me tremendously in dance.
Do you have any advice for young dancers/athletes with Type One?
Dance and working out is difficult for anyone, but it is especially difficult with Type 1 diabetes. It can be even more discouraging when no one else understands what you have to go through on a daily basis. Do not give up, because anything is truly doable even with this disease. It is all about trial and error when it comes to how much food and insulin you need pre/post exercise. One big thing that’s has helped me is seeking out other Type 1’s so that you have that support system of people who actually get it. I am so thankful for the online diabetes community I recently discovered as well as Type Texas, the group of Type 1’s on UT campus through the College Diabetes Network. Seek out help if you need it and also be honest with yourself about how you are treating your body/what your body needs.