You've seen him light up Broadway with his effervescent performances in Jesus Chris Superstar, Pippin and Wicked. You've even spotted him on some of TV's most popular shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,’’ “Law and Order’’ and “Grey’s Anatomy.’’
The talented triple threat Ben Vereen has an artistic resume that has left many on a high and joyous fulfilled note. But recently, Vereen took to the stage to share a more serious and deeper message from a personal place in his heart.
On Christmas Day 2007, Vereen was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In an effort to educate, inform and empower, he partnered with sanofi-aventis, a world leader in diabetes care, to launch Take the Stage for Diabetes Awareness.
November is American Diabetes Month, a time to bring greater awareness to the seriousness of diabetes, and the importance of controlling the disease.
Vereen’s national awareness campaign is designed to educate people living with diabetes about their condition.
“When I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I was very scared and confused. After I accepted the initial diagnosis, I committed to doing everything I could to manage my diabetes, and now I want to urge others living with diabetes to do the same,” Vereen stated.
Diabetes is a chronic, widespread condition in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin – the hormone needed to transport glucose (sugar) from the blood into the cells of the body for energy.
According to the American Diabetes Association, there are 23.6 million people in the United States who have diabetes, with only 24 percent of diabetes undiagnosed.
This number is expected to rise to a staggering 350 million within the next 20 years.
The disease has particular importance for African Americans, who are twice as likely to contract the disease as their white counterparts, according to several studies.
It is believed that for some people with the disease, controlling blood sugar levels may require diet, exercise and/or taking oral medications. For others, adding insulin to their overall diabetes treatment plan may be necessary to help maintain control of their blood sugar levels.
Vereen said he believes that either form of treatment is necessary to maintaining and living with diabetes. That’s why he has kicked off a nationwide tour. The tour will see Vereen travel around the country with healthcare professionals to inform people living with diabetes and their families about the importance of diabetes awareness.
Vereen was scheduled to visit Miami as part of the tour, but did not come due to a last-minute schedule change. Nevertheless, he was honored with a salute from Mayor Manny Diaz on Oct. 27.
“My goal is to make people aware. I never wanted diabetes to define who I am or stop me from doing the things I love,’’ Vereen told the South Florida Times. “I kept an open mind about all potential treatment options.”
The Take the Stage for Diabetes Awareness initiative will allow Vereen to share his personal story about living with type 2 diabetes and speak about how essential it is to find the best diabetes treatment plan for each individual. In December 2007, he launched the website BensDiabetesStory.com which is a personal journey through his life with type 2 diabetes. The site also is a reference for treatment information and updated statistics.
Vereen said he recognizes that in order to treat and live with diabetes, it takes more than just a minor change within your schedule but more of a lifestyle change.
“It is important for people to know that I take action everyday to maintain my blood sugar control,’’ he said. “Checking my blood sugar levels often, continuing to make healthy food choices, exercising regularly, monitoring my activity levels, and taking my diabetes medication as prescribed has become part of my daily routine.’’
Photo: Ben Vereen