Patient Vignette: Vangie Labalan
By Monica Therese Cating-Cabral, MD
“It is possible to live a full and normal life even with health problems like these.”
Vangie Labalan is a veteran TV, film and stage actress known for playing the mother of Nora Aunor in the CNN Movie of the Decade, Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala.” Among many others, she was also in “Alyas Baby Tsina”, “Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde” and “Curacha,” having worked with Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Lino Brocka and Chito Roño. She first started out in radio in 1962 in Bacolod before moving on to television and movies and has been in show business for over 50 years.
She first became concerned about possibly having diabetes 14 years ago at the age of 61 when she noticed that she had to frequently use the toilet and she would have some discomfort at the same time. She had heard that these were some symptoms of diabetes and she consulted an endocrinologist who diagnosed her with diabetes.
She was also found to have a hypothyroidism, a condition where thyroid hormone is lacking and metabolism slows down, as she was also feeling tired and sluggish. After being placed on the proper medication, she felt better and was able to get these disorders under control.
Having diabetes and hypothyroidism have not impeded her daily activities or the practice of her profession, and she still films on a regular basis. She also conducts workshops and training sessions for budding young talents, and for veteran actors as well.
She still has her struggles and admits that on shooting days it can be difficult to eat properly as she has to make do with what available on the set. Once back home however she goes back on a balanced diet of small portions rich in green leafy vegetables and rarely indulges in sweets anymore. She says that after cutting out soda and other junk food she is now used to it and does not have cravings anymore.
Ms. Labalan also discovered her passion for ballroom dancing in 1992 and this also helps her keep her diabetes under control. She particularly adores the tango and supports many Filipino dancers who participate in overseas dance fests. It is possible to live a full and normal life even with health problems like these. Ms. Labalan says that conditioning your mind and being disciplined have helped her immensely.
She also emphasizes the importance of regular check-ups with her endocrinologist and to discuss all other supplements and vitamins during those visits. One supplement that she was taking before interfered with her medication and she fainted, making her realize that she should have asked for the advice of her doctor first before taking the supplement.
Being an avid dancer she also adheres to the advice of wearing well-fitting closed shoes and to always examine your feet for any injuries. And after many hours of shooting or a night of dancing, getting adequate rest and sleep are essential.
As she turns 75 this year, she is still going strong and looks forward to many more years of dancing and being in showbiz.