Returning To The Stage With T1D


As a professional ballet dancer, I was used to pushing through aches, pains and bloodied pointe shoes. Stress fracture? No big deal. Sprained ankle? Pass the tape. Nothing ever held me back from eight-hour rehearsal days and evening performances — not even a mysterious, though alarming, red line running up my foot from an infected corn during a run of Swan Lake.

But a few years ago my mind and body began to deteriorate. Over a two-year span, I was reduced to a fraction of the person I once was (and had been) for the last 28 years: I’m talking a 20-pound-plus weight loss, endless hunger, infection, increased urination, confusion, and mind-numbing exhaustion. Despite every warning sign imaginable, I remained in complete denial. My then-boyfriend, and now-husband, Max, encouraged me to visit various doctors. I needed answers. People were telling how lucky I was that I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight. Meanwhile, I fell asleep each nigh terrified I might not wake up the next morning. Though deep down, though, I sensed something was wrong, even though the doctors were all telling me I was fine.

But I wasn’t fine. Dancing became increasingly painful and difficult. It had become impossible to execute steps properly, and I continually felt as though I was close to death. My body was breaking down. I didn’t have the energy required to perform. My infected corn wouldn’t heal. And I had a labral tear in my hip that was causing me trouble and concern. I even remember lying on the floor of a bathroom stall during one performance, not knowing how I could possibly get through the next ballet, wondering if anyone would find me if I just stayed there curled up on the dirty tiles. My love of dance was gone. Stolen from me. I was forced to prematurely retire and move to the next phase of my life. So, in October 2011, after my “retirement,” I decided to focus on getting my college degree. Max was on a national tour performing with Billy Elliot, and I figured I could travel with him, while working toward my new goal.

Then, in January of 2012, the Billy Elliot tour came through my hometown of Washington D.C. Since Max and I no longer had a home base, I reasoned this was the best place to make one last doctor visit before we headed back out on the road. Thankfully, at the urging of my best friend, I asked the doctor—forced him actually—to check my a1c (whatever that meant!) and give me a full blood panel. A few days later, a nurse called with the results: I had a slow thyroid. Bingo! Finally, I had a diagnosis and hoped a little Synthroid prescription would be the end of my worries and the key to finally getting my life back!

However, when I walked back into the endocrinologist’s office, they asked if I was there for my diabetes. Suffice it to say, I was terribly confused. The nurse calmly sat me down and asked to test my blood sugar. It was 600. She then asked if I was going to pass out. I said, “No!” She asked if I was going to throw up. I replied, “Definitely not!” She asked if I felt okay? I said, “Yes! My car is in the garage. I’m leaving town on Monday, so I really must be going.”

Instead, I was escorted to the ER.

At this point, I was still in utter disbelief. It was Friday the 13th. This had to be a bad joke! I spent the next eight hours in the ER, waiting for my blood sugar to come down. Once it did, I was released. But somewhere along the way, something must have gotten lost in translation because they were under the impression I knew I had diabetes. Truth was I didn’t even know what diabetes was, much less that I had it. Later that night, a doctor from the endocrinology office I visited earlier that afternoon called. He asked me to pick up a glucose monitor and start testing myself, and told me if I had two consecutive readings over 250, I was to call the emergency line, because I would need to get started on insulin injections. This ended up happening the very next morning. So I now had a choice: I could either go back to the ER to learn how to inject myself, or I could have my uncle (who is a radiologist) teach me.

Long story short, I chose my uncle. And thanks to him and his diabetic dog, I learned everything I needed to know about insulin and injections, right there in the privacy of his kitchen. I spent three weeks in DC learning what a carb was and how to count them. I was also rapidly gaining weight, which was a little scary because I had lost so much prior to my diagnosis and didn’t realize I would gain it all back practically overnight

I rejoined Max on tour and tried to get my life back on track. It took about five months for everything to regulate. Once I started feeling like myself again, I realized I wasn’t finished performing. Instead of returning to traditional ballet, I decided to switch gears. With my health and passion renewed, I moved to NYC, started vocal lessons, and was determined to make my comeback in a musical.

Looking back, I can’t believe how long I spent feeling sick, not listening to my intuition, and ignoring the warning signs. I can even recall the exact moment my symptoms began to appear while visiting Max’s father in the French Alps. All of these clues went unnoticed, and I am confident it was my love of dance and strong work ethic that kept me out of a coma (I now know I drop at least 100 points after a show). Prior to my diagnosis, my life was completely out of control. But in discovering I had diabetes, and learning more about it, I was able to regain control. I chose to own my disease and not let it own me. And thanks to insulin, I was able to return to the stage and to the world I loved and had missed out on for two-and-a-half years.

WRITTEN BY Katelyn Prominski Baud, POSTED 01/08/16, UPDATED 02/15/18

Katelyn Prominski Baud, originally from Washington, DC, is a professional dancer and a Type 1 Diabetic. She was shockingly diagnosed January 2012 after two year battle of illness. Katelyn danced with Boston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Suzanne Farrell Ballet, and trained at Washington School of Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. She transitioned into musical theater and has since been on the national tours of Flashdance the Musical and Dirty Dancing, the Classic Story On Stage.