James Earl Jones talks about diabetes

20 years ago, James Earl Jones fell asleep on a gym bench. He had signed up for a diet and exercise program to lose some weight,and mid program he fell asleep on a bench.

“The doctor who happened to be there told me, ‘That’s not normal,'”
he recalls in an interview with AOL. “I took the test, and there it was. Type 2 diabetes. And it hit me like a thunderbolt.”

Type 2 diabetes comes with a certain unfortunate stigma. Years of stereotypical jokes about cake and cookies and sugar have led to a lot of victim blaming when it comes to Type 2 diabetes  (I’m looking at you, Roald Dahl). But when even that offensive line in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory can be edited, and we can show that attitudes are changing.

Yes, diet and exercise play a large part into the probability of having Type 2 diabetes, but so do ethnicity and family history. And that’s where Jones was hit with the full Force of a multitude of factors. Even though he was a former military man, the disease hunted him down.

“I thought I was invincible, as the army teaches you to think of yourself, so it was a shock. There’s a lot of denial,” he said. “I’m still grappling with ways to live with it.”

As with Type 1 diabetes, it takes a community to manage this disease. You need help and support from family members, and the voice of Darth Vader appreciates the help he gets from his son to manage his disease.

darth vader and son

“My son is a good watchdog, and he’s the first to catch me. My wife will count the cookies in the kitchen, but he will smell it in my breath,” explains Jones. “These are stupid things on my part, but it’s human to love sugar, and next to denial is trying to get away with it.”

Jones is now 85 and has promised diabetes won’t slow him down.

“I have been working pretty steadily for the past 60, 70 years, and I haven’t had a moment to commit myself to something like this. I’ll get back to work, but I’ll work more effectively once I come to terms with my ongoing problem with diabetes. I accepted I will always be a diabetic, but I can live a full life,” he said.

“I’m an actor, and actors can work until they fall over, as long as you don’t knock over the furniture and remember the lines.”

I’m so excited to share this story with my sons.

They are running their first Team Diabetes events in Australia with me this summer. It will be a family affair as Charlie will run 2k, Zacharie will run 4k, my wife will run a 10k, and I will run a half marathon.

We’ve raised more than $25 000 for the Canadian Diabetes Association along the way (with the boys pitching in by garage selling old toys and collecting empty bottles. While it’s not ‘good news’ that Darth Vader has diabetes, it is a figure my boys can relate to, a way to make the cause personal to them.

Thanks for your support and donations. Team Diabetes has some great events planned in 2016 and 2017, I hope you’ll consider joining.

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