One of the biggest highlights of the Grade 12 year is the matric dance. Finding the perfect dress and splurging out on nails, hair and make-up and celebrating the last year of high school. Shelly Schutte, a Type 1 diabetes patient, tells us how she made the most of hers.
Shelly Schutte (28) lives in Fish Hoek and has had Type 1 diabetes for 18 years.
My matric dance
Whether you have diabetes or not, your matric dance is the perfect opportunity to treat yo-self. I matriculated almost 10 years ago now and overall, my matric dance is a night I remember with a great deal of fondness.
It took place at the Kelvin Grove Ballroom, in Cape Town, which is a stunning location. During the run-up to the event, we went to ballroom dance classes in the school sports hall. We had great fun attempting the Boogie to the dulcet tones of Katy Perry.
After the dance, we headed out to the club Velvet, where the “official after-party” was being held. It was honestly such a palaver at first. The club was too full and we ended up waiting on the pavement for almost half an hour. Not the glamorous night of dancing and partying we had been imagining!
Luckily, but somewhat embarrassingly, a friend’s dad, who had been our transport eventually came to the rescue. He had some words with the bouncer and got us in.
Although the after-party has much hype in the run-up to the event, it paled in comparison to the brilliant fun that was the dance itself. We happily headed home a little after 3am.
Six am saw us at the local beach for the traditional matric breakfast, with many pale-skinned, dark-eyed students wandering into the restaurant at various times. Some of whom had apparently slept on the beach itself.
How to enjoy your matric dance
As a Type 1 diabetic, events like a matric dance can often come with an extra layer of stress. I often wish I could just have a diabetes timeout every now and then. A chance to a have an evening completely free from the responsibility that is being your own pancreas.
Alas, science has yet to gift us with a cure or a timeout card. However, it is completely possible for you, as a diabetic, to have a matric dance experience that is as wonderful and carefree as every other person in the grade. To this end, I offer a few pieces of advice:
Be safe: face your number
We have a wonderful saying at the DSA diabetes camps: face your number. No matter how high or low your glucose level is. Once you know, you can fix it. This is especially the case on nights like the matric dance when it’s tempting to ignore the fact that you have diabetes. Test regularly throughout the evening.
Whenever I go out and know I will be moving from place to place or drinking alcohol, I set alarms on my phone to check my blood glucose or scan my Freestyle Libre every hour. Time flies by when you’re having fun and especially if you are dancing a lot, but remember dancing can make your blood glucose drop very rapidly.
Nothing is more of a mood-killer than crying in the bathroom because you’re recovering from a low. Test yourself so you can prevent extreme highs and lows throughout the evening and the associated complications.
Appoint a dia-buddy
This is especially important if you are planning to drink alcohol. It is essential that you have a ‘dia-buddy’ – a close friend who knows exactly what to do if you experience a low or high. This person should also have your ICE details, in case you need medical help.
Maintain your normal eating patterns on the night
Keeping diabetes under control is all about routine and predictability. Although the temptation to let loose for a night is probably strong, you will enjoy yourself way more if your blood glucose is not yo-yoing. Keep to your normal eating patterns, count your carbs and be careful with your insulin doses.
Maintain healthy exercise and eating routines in the months before the dance
I have always struggled to keep my BMI in the normal range. Whereas my non-diabetic friends and family members seem to be able to be able to eat whatever they want. I simply was not gifted with a similar metabolism.
In the months before my dance, I was constantly fighting the urge to crash diet to lose those extra 3kg. If there’s anything I’ve learned since then, it’s that a steady routine of exercise and a predictable diet is the biggest gift you can give yourself as a T1 diabetic.
The incredible, stabilising after-effects of a workout at the gym can last for more than 24 hours, which can really transform my whole day into a calmer experience. Also, somehow, a salad always tastes better when I’m eating it after a workout. Exercise at least three times a week, adopt a carb-controlled diet and your body will look after itself in so many ways.
Most of all, you must enjoy yourself! Make beautiful memories and always remember that your diabetes does not define you…but you are braver, stronger and more brilliant because of it.
MEET OUR EXPERT
Shelly Schutte is the youth representative on the board of Diabetes South Africa. She loves spreading awareness and showing the world that she lives an amazing life with diabetes She is currently the Head of Department at a school for children with learning barriers.