Get ready for celebrity-with-diabetes interview number… heck, I don’t know, I lost count. But here goes:
“Neo-Soul” singer Angie Stone has been touring the country with her music for nearly 30 years. For eight of them, Type 2 diabetes has accompanied her. “Now it’s time to give back,” she says. Yesterday, she helped Eli Lilly & Co. launch the new nationwide Fearless African-Americans Connected and Empowered (F.A.C.E.) Diabetes campaign, which will consist of events in churches and community centers across the country targeting African-Americans “to help individuals, families and neighborhoods overcome barriers and live successfully with diabetes.” Because there’s an “an urgent need for information on diabetes” out there, the kind that will allow these folks to identify their risks, take control and learn how to better manage this disease.
So what does this Grammy-nominated vocalist have to say about her own take on the ‘betes? Read on.
DM) You say you were in denial for quite a while after your own diagnosis. What triggered you to “face the music” with diabetes?
My diagnosis experience was that I wasn’t expecting this. My mom had been recently diagnosed, but I never thought of it happening to me. I was on my way to an amusement park with family, and experiencing frequent urination. I wasn’t educated. My mom looked at me and said, “I hope it’s not what I think it is.” By the time I got to the ticket booth all my electrolytes out, and my legs locked up. They had to get a wheelchair for me. And lo and behold, a new diabetic was born. It was devastating for me.
But I was in denial. I didn’t have the right amount of knowledge. I thought I could manage it on my own. I didn’t know I couldn’t eat as much fruit…I thought eating fruit was healthy. I went on a fruit and juice kick, thinking I could lose the weight. I avoided meat and bread — not knowing. Everybody encourages you to eat fruit, and you can eat plenty if you’re not diabetic. But fruit turns right into sugar in your system. When I went to the doctor, he said, “Your sugar level is 700.”
You feel like food is the only issue, but once you reach the diabetes war zone, you do need medication because it doesn’t just take one day or one week to manage the situation.
DM) What’s your regimen now?
I take my meds religiously. I eat properly. I walk a lot. And I like to bowl, at least twice a week. Everyone’s medications are different, so what works for me may not be for you. I take oral meds.
Basically the issue with me is to always be learning, it’s a lot of trial and error. Every now and then you really “fall off,” but mostly you do the best you can.
DM) What’s your biggest “everyday hurdle” with diabetes?
My schedule is pretty hectic. Travel and time zones throw me off of my routine.
Now I have alarms timed on my cell phone when I’m supposed to take my meds. Wherever I go, my phone chimes. The phone is regimented for 24 hrs, no matter where you go.
DM) How strict are you in your diet?
I’m very good in my diet. It’s changed tremendously. I don’t eat French fries. I try to keep low on things that turn to sugar in your bloodstream, like white rice. I don’t use butter and all that stuff any more. But if you eat in small portions, you can even eat the things you love.
I was born and raised in South Carolina. We are spiritually grounded people. But we have just become accustomed to eating wrong and just doing certain things habitually.
My mom actually cooked a lot of veggies — cabbage and collard greens with mustard and things. I find you can cook those same favorite Southern Recipes with less fatty ingredients and get the same results — like substituting Turkey for fattier meat. If we have fried chicken, nowadays I just treat myself to maybe one piece.
DM) Does your diabetes experience play into your music at all?
Lord knows I gotta be
True to myself to see
God’s been too good to me
To take things I believe
We all know that we got better days
Even when our world is gray
Trouble don’t last always
Thats why I’m leaning on my friends…
It’s definitely in there.
DM) Do you have a mantra for diabetes management?
I would just honestly say that knowledge is power. The more we know, the more we grow, the more our lives begin to show others how to live right.
DM) So what about your commitment to the FACE campaign?
Diabetes heavily affects African-Americans. But a lot of people don’t have the basic info. A lot don’t even know they have diabetes. They don’t recognize the signs, even if it’s hereditary. Everybody’s symptoms are different — which is why we want them to log onto the website to look up as much information as possible. Find out if you’re a candidate, get informed.
For events, the biggest area to deliver the most influential message is through the church system. We’re doing a lot there. When you tie a celebrity like me in, people come out to see me up close and personal. They see that I’m a human being just like you — and I’m using a healthy diet, exercise, and a mental state of positivity to manage this thing.
This is really about educating our people, letting them know they’re not alone. We all suffer the same, we’re all at risk. What I would like to see is everybody coming together, facing diabetes, and being open to change. I won’t be touring that much in 2008 and 2009, so I’ve taken this on as a priority. I feel you have to pick and choose your battles carefully. I’ve dedicated myself to this. I pray for a cure one day. Through awareness, we can extend life. I like to think of myself as an advocate for extending life.
Thank you, Angie, for another view of fighting the good fight against diabetes.