Wednesday, February 6, 2008

How I control my Blood Glucose By Elizabeth Perkins Part 1

I'm a happier person than before! - Elizabeth Perkins

Actress Elizabeth Perkins spent more than a decade feeling constantly run down—and having doctor after doctor tell her there was absolutely nothing wrong. Then, in 2005, at the age of 44, she finally learned that she had type 1 diabetes. Diagnosed while filming the first season of her critically acclaimed Showtime series Weeds—an instant cult smash—she initially struggled to accept her illness, hiding her disease from coworkers and giving herself insulin injections on the sly, alone in her on-set trailer.

Today, Perkins has come a long way, both in getting a handle on her diabetes and in her much-admired turn as Celia Hodes — Weeds’ resident acid-tongued tart of a suburban housewife, whose best friend is the neighborhood drug dealer—which has earned her two best supporting actress Emmy nominations in the past two years.

This fall, on hiatus from the show and taking some much-needed “me time” to putter around the garden and helm carpool, the blunt, charismatic 47-year-old mother of four spoke about handling diabetes in Hollywood, why she can’t wait to get an insulin pump, and how her diagnosis ended up changing her life for the better.

When did you start feeling ill, and how were you finally diagnosed? Believe it or not, I hadn’t really felt well since I had my daughter who just turned 16. I had a lot of pain, I always felt run down, thirsty, but none of my blood work showed anything except slightly elevated glucose levels. It got to the point where I thought I had some sort of psychosomatic illness. I started seeing a therapist because I’d had a series of endocrinologists who all said “there’s nothing wrong with you.”

Finally I agreed to have a hysterectomy and it wasn’t until we did the preliminary workup and I had a blood glucose level of 690 that somebody said “Oh, you know what, you have diabetes.” Looking back on it, I don’t want to be bitter and say “Hey, you know, I exhibited some high glucose levels at different points, but nobody took it seriously.”

[But] the more I’ve learned about latent autoimmune diabetes and diabetes in middle age, if you present any kind of high glucose level, you should be monitored extensively, and that didn’t happen. And because I was so misinformed, it didn’t send an alarm to me. Tell me about being diagnosed during your first season on Weeds.

I felt completely overwhelmed that first year on the show, and I didn’t tell anybody I had diabetes. All of a sudden I was in my trailer at work, testing my glucose, and shooting myself up, and I was really scared and felt very alone and completely in over my head. And it wasn’t until about 6 months later that I thought, “Now why did I do that?” I guess I felt like it was going to hurt my career somehow, like suddenly I was going to become the sick person, uninsurable.

There was the fear of, “Oh well, that’s why she doesn’t look good, that’s why she’s tired, that’s why she has to take breaks,” and I didn’t want that stigma, and it took me a good year and a half to embrace this and say, proudly, “I’m diabetic, and I’m in control of my disease.”

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