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Teen Face: Diabetes 'an inconvenience' to a busy teen life

  • Montgomery High School junior Rachael Anderson sings in her choir class on Wednesday. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat)

Rachael Anderson played a vampire in Montgomery High School's production of “Dracula” last fall, with fangs in her mouth and fake red bloodstains on a tattered white dress.

It was a “creepy, crawly” role as a bride of the dreaded Transylvanian count, said Anderson, 16, a junior who's been involved in drama for three years and wants to pursue it in college.

But it was also a trifle bit like real life for Anderson, a diabetic who must prick her finger with a lancet to produce a drop of blood four or five times a day to check her blood sugar level.

Diagnosed with diabetes at age 10, she wears an insulin pump to deliver the sugar-lowering hormone that her body will not produce. Sometimes, she needs to inject insulin with a syringe.

Once or twice a week, her blood sugar level plummets, a condition called hypoglycemia. “I get shaky, confused. I feel sick to my stomach,” she said.

Relief comes from an immediate consumption of carbohydrates.

Those episodes are annoying, Anderson said, especially when they strike during a class, drama or choir practice. But Anderson dismisses diabetes as “an inconvenience,” not a barrier to a busy teen life.

In addition to drama and choir, she's taking chemistry, math and U.S. history, doing two to three hours of homework a night, maintaining a 3.6 academic average and striving to get her learner's permit to drive.

She's currently learning a four-minute monologue from a play called “Dying Light,” spoken to the audience by Jenny, a 19-year-old girl who's dying of brain cancer and falling in love with a guy.

Her Montgomery drama classmates are “my second family,” said Anderson, who started acting at Slater Middle School. Describing herself as “a little outgoing,” Anderson said performing on stage is a chance to be “really outgoing in front of a lot of people.”

In Montgomery's spring comedy production of Shakespeare's “Midsummer Night's Dream,” she is cast as a fairy and as Egeus, who is trying to get his daughter to marry the man of his choice.

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