Reggie VanDerson’s days are filled with pumping music and rhythmic agility through his work as a hip hop dance instructor at Dimensions dance studio Creve Coeur, Mo. And on Saturday nights, he is a professional interactive MC – that keeps him jumping and dancing.
Healthy eating and an active, high energy lifestyle made VanDerson think his incessant need for water had something to do with his 12 to 16 hour-long work days. And exhaustive nights of sleep interrupted by constant bathroom runs seemed to part of the choreography.
“I was constantly having fluids run through me and I realized I was getting up in the middle of the night; and I kept getting up in the middle of the night until finally it got to a point where I couldn’t stand it anymore,” VanDerson said.
His fiancée thought something else was at play and VanDerson did too, especially when he lost about 10 pounds in one week.
“At first I just thought it was from over-dancing or working out too much and it ended up being that was one of the signs – a loss of weight,” he explained. “And then my eyes… my vision became very blurry, even with my contacts and glasses in, I still felt like things were so blurry. That was probably one of the most profound symptoms that made me think something was not right, because I can’t see.”
VanDerson went to the doctor after he got up one morning with vision so hazy he couldn’t see straight. Blood test results prompted his doctor sent him to Mercy Hospital St. Louis.
“I was over what the [blood glucose] reader could provide, which normally means that I was over 400,” VanDerson said.
“When I got to the hospital, they tested me and I was 464 when I walked in.”
He was admitted to the hospital, looking healthy but needing intensive care.
“It kind of gave me an idea of how serious it is,” he said.
Diabetes is very serious.
VanDerson does not have the most prevalent form of diabetes in the U.S. – type 2, which develops over time by food choices, inactivity and obesity.
He has a form of type 1 – sometimes called type 1.5 or LADA, Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults.
Type 1 diabetes or T1D, usually manifests quickly during childhood or early adulthood when the pancreas shuts down and stops producing insulin. T1D patients are dependent upon insulin for the rest of their lives.
VanDerson is 44 and his pancreas may have begun a very slow descent years earlier before his diagnosis this spring.
According to the National Institute Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, persons with LADA or T1.5D show signs of both
type 1 and type 2 diabetes. LDA is usually diagnosed after age 30. Researchers estimate that as many as 10 percent of people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes actually have LADA.
Most people with LADA still produce their own insulin when first diagnosed. In those early stages, insulin injections may not be required, with blood sugar levels being managed through meal planning, exercise and pills for diabetes. That’s the case for VanDerson.
“I finally got my diet down to where I can take an oral medication,” he said.
Several years beyond the initial diagnosis and as LADA progresses, the beta cells of the pan creas may cease making insulin because the body’s immune system has gone on an attack-and-destroy mission. As, in type 1 diabetes, LADA patients will eventually become insulin dependent.
For VanDerson, the whole idea was hard to deal with, until he started receiving support from lots of friends who have diabetes or from family members with diabetes. They told him he didn’t have to stop being who he was just because he was now diabetic.
“They quickly stepped in and said, ‘I know this is going to be overwhelming to you and confusing to you at first,’ but they quickly stepped in and said if you need any help, call… always find out what your number is,” VanDerson said, referring to what his particular glucose range should be in order to be considered normal.
His advice for others – don’t ignore the symptoms.
“Once I got in the hospital and they started me on insulin … I sat for four days and they gave me fluids to hydrate to me and insulin … and the education and everything,” he said.
VanDerson said he had other symptoms like headaches and lack of concentration where he couldn’t finish a thought.
Stress – he figured.
And his achy knees, he thought was from all the dancing.
“On that third day [in the hospital], I felt like a new man,” he said. “My knee pain went away, all the aches and everything; I didn’t realize all this was due to high sugar.”
And despite diabetes, VanDerson remains an entertainer and a hip-hop dancing machine.
“You can still have the same life; you just have to be conscious of what you eat and conscious of what’s in what you eat,” VanDerson said. “My doctor said ‘Reggie can still be Reggie, just watch what you eat.’ Then I realized that life can still exist.”
And for those who are not super-active by profession or by choice –
Everyone needs regular physical activity as advised by their physician.