*Anthony Anderson, if you knew him, would be one of the funniest people you have ever met. Quick with a joke, a pun or a funny story. You don’t know him? There’s a high probability that you do not, but our Lee Bailey does.
EURweb.com had the chance to talk with Anderson about a subject that is not funny at all. In fact, it is as close to a living nightmare that many of us will ever get. Anderson, along with singer Angie Stone, is now part of F.A.C.E. (Fearless African Americans Connected and Empowered), an initiative from Eli Lilly and Company that is dedicated to getting the word out to young Blacks in particular about this horrid monster of a disease. Why is a comedic actor best qualified to tell this dreadful tale?
“Well, about seven years ago I was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes,” Anderson explained. “I was the first person in my family to be diagnosed with diabetes so it came as a shock. Then, last year, my mother was diagnosed with it. Also my stepfather, who was my daddy growing up, he passed away from complications caused by it a few years ago.”
Though some cannot smile in spite of their pain, Anthony Anderson was full of smiles before, during and after the interview, one can only imagine the type of strength it takes for one not be discouraged in light of such a triple play. But Anderson tells our Lee Bailey that he is on a mission and doesn’t have time to feel sorry for himself.
“I just wanted to bring awareness to it seeing how it has a affected me and my life and then watching programs and advertisements about it, I never saw anybody who spoke to me,” he continued. “You had Wilford Brimley, you had B.B. King and you had Patti LaBelle. I never saw anybody speak to me. Nobody’s speaking to the younger generation. Nobody’s speaking to the younger black male about this disease. If you watch programming about it you think it’s something that old people get. That’s what I grew up thinking. I just wanted to be a part of the initiative to bring the awareness to the African American community because there’s a fifty percent possibility that a child born today will be diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes in the black community. I’d like to try to change that.”
Type 2 diabetes, like many diseases, is sneaky. As we go about our daily lives we, especially black males, ignore our aches and pains, our chronic coughs and so forth and are sometimes stunned when we find out the true cause of our maladies.
“It’s crazy. I’ll tell you how I realized I had it,” he said. “I was feeling lethargic one day, actually not one day but over a period of time. I’m taking these mid-afternoon naps, something that I never did. I just thought that I was overworked. We were moving, I had a couple projects going on at the same time and I’m thinking I’m just wearing myself down. So, I’m drinking all this water and constantly going to the bathroom, but I’m not really taking notice of that until one night I drank a whole five gallon Arrowhead water thing. I drank a whole five gallon jug by myself, over a couple hours, in one night. I would drink some water then go to the bathroom. The next thing I knew the whole jug was empty. Then my wife told me I needed to go to the doctor for that because those were symptoms of a diabetic. So I went and my glucose levels were elevated and [the doctor] told me ‘you’re a type 2 diabetic.’”
OK, so you find out you have a disease that has the potential to cripple you and, if left uncheck, can ultimately destroy you. What do you do? Anderson tells us he tried to do that “black man” thing, take his burden, hoist it on his back and keep on trucking like it was no big deal.
“In the beginning I can’t say that it really affected me at all,” he explained. “I just thought this was just something I was going to have to deal with. I hadn’t had any major problems or complications dealing it. I had a few friends that were, consequently, diagnosed with it, or had already been diagnosed as type 2 diabetics who were younger than me or around the same age.”
Anderson says that his good friends’ combined dilemmas, though both being extreme situations to be certain, did open his eyes to the possibilities in his future if his diligence ever lapsed.
“I had a friend who lost his big toe on his right foot and I was like ‘I’m not gonna let that sh*t happen to me.’ I had another friend who had been dealt a bad hand genetically. He had a triple bypass heart surgery at the age of 36. And I’m like ‘OK, not gonna let that happen to me.’ And the same friend suffered temporary blindness for about 45 minutes one day before he was diagnosed as a diabetic.”
“These are things that I can avoid because I know what’s going on with my body. Personally, I haven’t had anything effect me like that, but it’s effecting people around me.”
How does one deal with being diagnosed with the very same disease that caused the death of a loved one? Anderson says he is using his stepfather’s death as an example of what not to be.
“I think my father had been living with it for quite sometime and just didn’t know,” he said. “You know, a good ol’ country boy from Arkansas. But finally he went to the doctor and found out that’s where a lot of things that kept ailing him came from. He was a diabetic and had been letting it go for quite sometime. He got on his medicine and subsequently I was diagnosed. Because he let the disease go on for so long, unnoticed and un-medicated, he had developed all these problems. Ulcers in his calves and swelling in his feet and things like that and he wasn’t getting the best medical attention.
Anthony tells EURweb.com that when he realized his beloved father had been diagnosed with diabetes, and was suffering severe complications, he immediately sprang into action.
“I was overseas filming a project and when I came home he seemed to be content with the doctor telling him he was going to have to get one of his legs cut off. I was like ‘hold on Pop! We ain’t got to do it like that.’ I took over his medical health and got him with the best doctors that I could get him with and things were going well. Then he was in the hospital for a couple of months. He had to be incubated a couple times, he had a pulmonary embolism twice, the ulcers in his legs were so severe that they were leaking out of the back of his calves. He had the compression stockings and he could barely walk. That’s why he was hospitalized. He needed 24 hour care. We did that for a while and he got better and he was out of the hospital and into an in-care facility. He was there for a few months then they released him to go home and he was bedridden for a while. I had somebody there taking care of him. But he just got to the point where he was tired of fighting. He had a heart attack early one night and it was all due to complications of diabetes and it going unnoticed and un-medicated for as long as it did in his life.”
Anderson says his father was in his 60s when he passed and feels like he is armed with knowledge that his Dad did not have.
“I was thinking, I can’t let this happen to me. I can’t let this happen to my children. I was thinking that I don’t want to put my children through this. That’s when I did a complete 180 with my life style change, not that I hadn’t been taking care of myself before, it’s just that I started taking better care of myself.
For years I’ve been joking about getting down to my Denzel weight, now I’m down to it. This is directly the result of being a type 2 diabetic, getting a nutritionist and giving up certain foods. It’s not that difficult at all when you consider the alternatives.
“Either I was going to continue down this path that I was on, eating these rich foods that were high in saturated fat and cholesterol, high in sodium and have my heart explode, like my buddy, and ultimately dying because of that. I’m not even 40 yet! I have a lot more living to do. I have a lot more things that I want to accomplish. I have a lot more living to do with my family and my children. I don’t want to rob them of that. I don’t want to rob myself of that. That’s what keeps me on the straight and narrow. I had to say ‘you can continue to eat pork chops and hog maws and all the other kind of stuff or switch it up and eat a nice little salad and a nice little grilled chicken breast or nice little baked fish.’ It’s still just as good, just as tasty and that much healthier for you.”
Anthony Anderson says he has a lot more living to do, and a whole lot more work on the big and little screen to pass the time as well. Not only has he been a main character on “Law and Order” as Detective Kevin Bernard, but he has recently been cast in “Scream 4″ as well. To learn more about F.A.C.E. log on to www.FACE-diabetes.com. We will have more from our interview with Anthony Anderson in a future EURweb.com article.