Valerie June was exhausted, but initially thought it was her busy schedule, and maybe a bit of jet lag.
The 27-year-old singer-songwriter was juggling a burgeoning music career along with numerous part-time jobs to keep herself afloat while she pursued her dream.
Valerie would fall asleep standing up, and she struggled to do promotional interviews through her fog of fatigue.
After she passed out and was rushed to the hospital, a blood test confirmed she was diabetic. But Valerie didn’t have insurance (the monthly payments would have matched her rent), so for two years, she lived with her disease.
Initially, Valerie thought she had type 2 diabetes, as she developed her symptoms as a young adult. It turned out, however, that she is one of the rare people who are neither type 1 nor type 2 diabetes, but instead have latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). LADA is often referred to as diabetes 1.5, and although its symptoms start as type 2, eventually, it more closely resembles type 1 and requires insulin to keep blood sugar in check as the pancreas’ beta cells die.
LADA was discovered in the 1970s, when the proteins that attacked and killed the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas turned up in 10 percent of those diagnosed with type 2, creating the new subcategory.
Valerie was prescribed metformin as a measure to control her blood sugar enough to function, but she knew after her LADA diagnosis that she would eventually need insulin. It wasn’t until the passage of the Affordable Care Act, a move that meant she would be able to afford insurance, that she was able to take charge of her diabetes.
Since then, her 2013 album “Pushin’ Against a Stone” landed on Rolling Stone’s list of the top 50 albums of the year, and she is wrapping up her next album from her new home in New York City. It is expected to be released next year.
In the Big Apple, people tell her she must be “a New Yorker at heart,” although her second release is an eclectic mix she calls soulful rockabilly with a decidedly Memphis influence, including blues, soul, gospel and rock, but nothing that boxes her in.
“It’s got it all,” she said. “So many of my favorite musicians mix so many genres, and I like the freedom to cross genres so freely.”
It’s all possible, her career, the tours in both the U.S. and Europe, because she now has the energy to accomplish it all with her diabetes under control.
Initially, the singer-songwriter was encouraged to consider an insulin pump, which she resisted because she feared that the equipment would make playing the guitar and banjo too difficult.
But after a few years of injecting insulin and testing blood glucose levels daily, “leaving 20 holes in my body every day,” Valerie said, she changed her mind.
She chose an OmniPod and a continuous glucose monitor to alleviate the stress of pokes, prods and needles, and reveled in the freedom the two devices offer, especially given her busy schedule.
She makes sure to eat right and exercise, whether that means walking or dancing, even when she’s on the road.
“If you don’t stay active, fatigue can set in on you,” she said. “You can begin to feel really bad, and it can affect your mood.”
And because she did have mood swings before her LADA was managed, she’s grateful to everyone who helped her further her career, no matter what kind of day she was having.
“I am so thankful for all the people on my team, because they put up with me,” she said.
To hear some of Valerie June’s music and to learn more about her, visit her website at http://valeriejune.com/.