Telling your boss

Hey everyone,

I’m a ballet dancer at the Montgomery Ballet Company and I’m switching over to a new ballet company which fits me much better! I’m so excited to start but I’ve also just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a few weeks ago. Diabetes affects my dancing sometimes even when I try my best to hide it and since I’m going on the pump in a month or two it’ll be impossible to hide. I’ve never had to tell my current artistic director that I have diabetes or any health issue for that matter. He’s quite a scary boss to put it lightly.

Luckily my new artistic director is very nice or so I’ve heard so I’m sure she wouldn’t mind but I’m curious as to how to do it. I want to just do it in a way that doesn’t make her think I’m sick or unable to perform because I’m dancing just fine. I guess I don’t want to be labeled as “Cat the diabetic” but I also don’t want her to see me rush off to eat something because I’m low and think that I’m lazy or bored in rehearsal.

What have other people done when they’re moving into a new job? Do you email? Talk to your boss in person? Do you even have to tell your boss? Well, I suppose it’s a good idea to but what’s your guy’s opinion?


Thanks Judith,
I think it’s a good opportunity for education. You’re very right about misunderstandings causing difficulties and I certainly don’t want those. I’ll definitely chat up the athletes too!

I’ve had to do this; tell my boss, after I was diagnosed. She was completely “ignorant” about Diabetes, and it was an opportunity to brief her on what it was, along with symptoms of both hypo- and hyperglycemia. However, sitting here, trying to visualize WHERE to place your pump, with those tu-tu’s and tight-fitting clothes, might be a tough one. From all the ballets I have seen, your partner could grasp you about anywhere, and that could be really dangerous. I HAVE seen a really small pump, but I can’t remember the name of it. It self-injecting, run with an Iphone-like electronic wireless device, so it would be great for most people. Is it possible for you to NOT wear your pump during dress rehearsals and performances? Then you could jump right back on it afterwards, with a pirouette! Hope it all works out for you.
Chaplain ET

I would write her a letter and explain that you did not know about your diabetes until after you found out that you had the job. Explain that it should not affect your dancing and that you would need to check your glucose levels during each break or pause - this takes less than a minute when you get used to it. You could then say that if she wishes to discuss it further then you would be happy to talk to her. If she wants to talk, just explain the basics. That your pancreas is not releasing insulin and that you are on insulin to replace that. That you need to snack regularly and you might either run high which can make you a bit tired, though point out that exercise such as dancing is likely to help bring your glucose levels down and occassionally you might go low. If you have an infection you need to be more careful as you are likely to go higher.

It is important that you tell your boss. She needs to know in case you suddenly go hypo and either start dancing badly or collapse and she will need to know what to do.

If you test and it goes down to a certain number agreed by your endo - with sport and exercise it is always best to let your sugars run a bit higher than you would normally to compensate for the extra energy you need - have a snack or a bottle of real coke or fanta or other hi sugar drink. Liquids are always absorbed quicker than solids. And then have a solid snack, slower acting, such as some bread of sorts.

You should find that she is sympathetic - afterall, she picked you out to join the company on your ability to dance and you obviously can dance.

I do not know what you wear, but it might be possible to sew a pocket in your costume on the inside so that you can still wear your pump inside that and put the needle somewhere that does not show. I am sure something can be done. Though having said that I am not on a pump, though I wish I was!

One word of caution - be obsessively careful with your feet! Check them daily and wash them at least twice a day and use talc to keep them dry. Your feet are vulnerable to nerve damage and if you have a sore that you cannot feel they are likely to become infected and that can spell disaster.

I wish you well and look forward to hearing how you get on.

You know, Zippora Karz is a member here. She was diagnosed at the age of 21 when she was a member of the New York City Ballet in 1987. If you have not read her book “The Sugarless Plum,” you really should. Ms Karz is a spokeperson and champion for diabetes and I bet would be pleased if you contacted her.

Broaching this subject is always sensitive,but you should also be clear. While you may need some accomodations because of your diabetes, you can still devote yourself to dancing and be a great dancer. You are fortunate that there are others who have gone before you, so don’t let anything stop you.

Thanks for the help. I pretty much wrote down all the points you have here and sent the letter. I’m just waiting to hear back. I hope it’ll work out! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thank you so much for telling me about Zippora Karz. I almost cried as I heard about her story. It was so similar to mine. I just couldn’t believe it. It really helped me alot to hear about her experience and it made me feel not alone. Do you really think she would be pleased if I contacted her? I would love to!

The omnipod would probably work well…

As a matter of fact, I just started using the Omnipod on Thursday and I LOVE it! I keep it on my arm and it never gets in the way of my dancing. Plus I have really good control of my sugars too which helps the dancing as well :slight_smile: I’ll probably take it off for performances but other than that it’s fantastic!

Zippora Karz has through her own actions made her position clearly known. I am sure it would be her greatest wish to see other young dancers with diabetes be able to be successful, that is after all perhaps one of the reasons she has been such a vocal advocate. Whether she spends much time with you is unknown, but I’m sure she would respond to your inquiry and she would likely be pleased to chat with you.

I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I have never told anybody about my T1 - not my friends, not at school and not in the 35 years I’ve been working. Only my wife, my two kids and my endo know I’m diabetic. I prefer it this way. I am not embarrassed it’s just not necessary. I’ve covered wars in Bosnia and Iraq, hurricanes in Florida and New Orleans and countless other challenging assignment. Not once did anybody around me know about my “condition.” This approach has helped me manage my disease – 51 years, no complications; never had a seizure or a high or a low I could not handle myself. I’m not reckless but very careful and the fact that nobody else knows focuses my attention.
The beauty of this is, there is no wrong answer. Do whatever you feel is best.