Being diagnosed with a rare condition called POTS six months after having mononucleosis nearly stopped Lianne Keller from dancing, but she soon discovered her passion was also her salvation.
POTS, or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardis Syndrome, causes drastic blood pressure changes that can lead to equally drastic spikes and drops in blood pressure, which can leave her chronically exhausted.
It’s a rare disease that left Keller, a freshman at Destrehan High School at the time, wondering about her future.
“I eventually had to drop out of school and I would only dance one class a week,” said the Destrehan resident. “Slowly over the years I started to do more dancing, and learned how to live with this condition. Now I dance around five-plus hours every week and am able to live normally again. There are still going to be things that are hard, but if I wasn’t in dance I would not be able to do half the things I would like to do now.”
Keller has been in the ballet with the River Region Drama Guild for 12 years, which happens to help her deal with POTS.
“It doesn’t cure or change it, but it helps her deal with it,” said her mother, Shelley Keller. “The better shape you’re in the easier it is for her to keep it under control.”
The disease has no cure.
With POTS, the body does not control blood pressure or the heart rate as it should when standing up, which can cause a person to be dizzy or lightheaded. The chronic fatigue and other symptoms can make it difficult to maintain daily living. The disease can follow a viral illness, as well as surgery, bed rest or severe trauma.
The 17-year-old said her favorite part of dancing is the performances.
“I love the work that everyone puts in, and the outcome and thrill of the performance,” she said. “Any time that I wanted to quit dancing I would always think of the performances and the roles that I could get. My favorite ballet is ‘The Nutcracker’ that we put on every year. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it.”
For this year’s Nutcracker, Lianne said she has the roles of Snow Princess, Imperial Empress and Walt’s Corp.
This past summer, she also participated in the Guild’s “South Pacific” musical, and tried out singing and acting which is different from her normal dancing.
“The experience was fun and I got to meet a lot of new people,” she said. “Being in the drama performance was different from what I’m used to for ballet, but it was still a fun challenge.”
The River Region Drama Guild is a nonprofit organization funded by the United Way of St. Charles that has been in St. Charles Parish for more than 25 years. All are welcome and it provides everyone the opportunity to increase existing talents and create an environment to learn new ones.
In addition to theatrical productions and Children’s Theatre Workshops, the Guild publishes a quarterly newsletter “Callboard” mailed to about 600 households announcing audition dates and cast listings, as well as other theater-related subjects.