S Epatha Merkerson interview
S. Epatha Merkerson Informs the Masses Concerning Type 2 Diabetes
Interviewed and written by Tocarra Eldridge
Over the last several years Emmy and Golden Globe Award winning actress S. Epatha Merkerson has shared her personal story regarding being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes with patients around the world. Merkerson teamed up with Merck on America’s Diabetes Challenge to work on a diabetes management plan that helps patients better manage the disease with the correct diet, exercise and medication which allows them to meet their A1C goal.
I had the opportunity to interview S. Epatha Merkerson. The talented actress shared valuable information to urge people with type 2 diabetes to know their A1C number and to talk to their doctor about setting and attaining their own blood sugar goals. The program also encourages friends and caregivers to challenge their loved ones to get to their A1C goal and to help support the 29 million Americans living with this condition.
Tocarra Eldridge: When did you realize that you had Type 2 Diabetes?
S. Epatha Merkerson: I was at a health fair convention in DC as the celebrity for the event. I went over to the section that was set up for Howard University where they were taking blood sugars. I sat down with the camera and had my blood drawn. When the cameras turned off the doctor asked me to come back. I was thinking the doctor maybe wanted me for an autograph or photograph. I informed him that I would be back as soon as I finished. When I went back to the table he said that my blood sugar reading was very high and that I should speak to my doctor. That’s what I did and was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.
Tocarra: Before you were diagnosed with diabetes, were there any symptoms that you experienced?
S. Epatha: At the time the symptoms weren’t registering. That’s why I think the America Diabetes program is so important. The things that I’ve learned since starting this program can really help people learn to manage their diabetes. As a Type 2 Diabetic it is important that you know what your A1C is. The A1C is a number that allows your doctor to see how well you’re managing your treatment plan. It comes from a very simple blood test. It gives you an average blood sugar reading for a 2 to 3 month period and allows your doctor to see how you’re doing over time rather than the daily blood sugar testing that we do.
I have a history of Type 2 Diabetes in my family, but we didn’t really talk about it. We never sat down and talked about it. I am a part of that number. We’re trying to pass around information that can help people control this condition.
Tocarra: Speaking of the America Diabetes program, you have teamed up with Merck regarding this challenge. Would you like to tell us about the collaboration?
S. Epatha: Absolutely! They approached me in April and asked would I be willing to be a part of the information campaign set out to encourage people with Type 2 Diabetes to know their A1C, to talk to their doctor, set a A1C goal and try to obtain that goal. One of the things that I am asking is that people come and join me on our website www.AmericasDiabetesChallenge.com and pledge that they will find out what their A1C is, speak to their doctor or even help their loved ones. It’s very important when you think of the statistics of the 29 million who have diabetes and nearly half of them are not at their A1C goal. That’s a staggering number. This program is important in getting the message out concerning Type 2 Diabetes being a manageable condition.
Tocarra: I’m aware that many individuals control their diabetes through their diet versus traditional medicine or insulin. Once diagnosed, did you make any diet, exercise or lifestyle changes?
S. Epatha: Absolutely, when I was diagnosed I was probably eating like a 12 year old. So I made a lot of changes. It took me a while to actually figure out how to do it. The thing about Type 2 Diabetes is that it can be adult onset. So, in my fifties I’m trying to figure out how to change some pretty strong habits. [laugh] But, I was able to do it with the help of my doctor. We came up with a treatment plan that worked for me.
As far as exercise, at least 3 or 4 times a week I go out for a really brisk walk to get a sweat going. My doctor has also prescribed medication. One of the things that I’d like to impart to the readers is that they should not get discouraged. It is a progressive condition. It will change as your body changes. Do not get discouraged; stick with it! The alternative of not taking care of it can be very frightening. I’ve lost my dad to complications of this disease. My grandmother lost her sight. Other family members have had extremities amputated. The complications are serious.
Tocarra: What are some things that people can do to decrease their chances of developing this disease?
S. Epatha: First and foremost they should always talk to their doctor or healthcare provider. If you go on our website www.AmericasDiabetesChallenge.com there are some questions that you can ask your doctor, because sometimes it can be daunting to go to a physician when you’re not quite sure what to ask. I think it’s a good resource place to find questions that they may want to ask their doctor. I would always say the first thing that someone would want to do is consult their doctor or healthcare provider.
Tocarra: When it comes to awareness, are there any other awareness groups, community organizations or programs that you are a part of?
S. Epatha: No. This is the only one that I am apart of. But what I do is I see my doctor. I have a specialty doctor, an endocrinologist. I think it’s not so much about joining groups, but about joining a group that will help people get to their A1C, knowing what their A1C is and helping people try to control their diabetes. What’s important is that we try to alleviate that number of 29 million.
Tocarra: Would you like to add anything in closing?
S. Epatha: I’ve said it a couple times, but I just want people to join me on the website at www.AmericasDiabetesChallenge.com and pledge that they will find out what their A1C is and talk to their family members about this as well.
Follow S. Epatha Merkerson @ https://twitter.com/s_epatha
Visit Americas Diabetes Challenge website at www.AmericasDiabetesChallenge.com