Ben Vereen Biography
Claim to Fame: Actor, performer, humanitarian
DOB: October 10, 1946
Diabetes Type: 2
Fascinated with dance at an early age, Ben Vereen, who has type 2 diabetes, made his Broadway debut at age 18 in The Prodigal Son. He made a name for himself on the stage in the 1970s with roles in Jesus Christ Superstar and Pippin (for which he won a Tony and a Drama Desk award.) More recently, he appeared in Wicked. His film credits include Funny Lady (1975) and All That Jazz (1979). He has also guest starred on numerous television shows, including The Muppet Show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Grey's Anatomy. However, Ben Vereen is best known for playing the role of "Chicken" George in the epic 1977 miniseries, Roots.
Apart from the stage and screen, Ben has done much work as a public speaker and humanitarian speaking on such topics as Black history, overcoming adversity, and the importance of continuing education. He also tours the country educating people about diabetes.
"Diabetes is not a death sentence. It's a life sentence," Ben said in a recent interview. "I'm not fighting my diabetes; I'm living with it. If you fight against something, the battle may not be won, but if you learn to live with it, you have a lifetime to enjoy it."
Around December 2007, Ben was experiencing the symptoms those with diabetes know all too well: lethargy, craving sugar, frequent bathroom visits, dry mouth and mood swings. Concerned, he went to the doctor.
"When I was diagnosed, it was like being hit with a wet fish. I said ‘not me.' The doctor said, ‘No, it's you. You have type 2 diabetes, and I'm going to put you on insulin right now.' That was Christmas Day. I looked at the doctor and said, ‘thank you'. That was the best Christmas present I ever had."
Ben also talked about a conversation he had with his longtime stagehand during a performance in Las Vegas a few months later.
"The stagehand said, ‘Your daughter tells me you have diabetes'. I said, ‘Yeah.' ‘I have diabetes too. I'll be watching you on stage. If you get lightheaded, if your blood sugar is dropping, I'll be there with juice.' "
It was after this that Ben decided it was time for him to speak out. He teamed up with Sanofi Aventis as he went on the road to share his story with as many people as possible.
As far as treatment is concerned, Ben's method is like many others. He watches what he eats, exercises, and takes insulin, something many people with type 2 mistakenly see as a sign of failure. But for Ben, "Someone says to you, ‘OK, this [insulin] is going to save your life, this isn't.' So, you go, ‘I want to live.' "
When asked if he had a message for the dLife community, he kept in simple:
"Talk to somebody and share your lifestyle with them. Do not be ashamed. Get your blood sugar checked at your yearly checkup. Catch it early. Had I not caught it in time, you'd be talking to a corpse."
If you can't see Ben then check out more of what he is doing online at http://www.standfordiabetes.org/doesntholdmeback.aspx
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