A Chat With Robert Guillaume

Robert Guillaume is best known for his work in television, where he earned two Emmy Awards and four NAACP Image Awards for his role as Benson DuBois on “Soap” and “Benson.”

Guillaume starred as Isaac Jaffe on the series “Sports Night,” and he has been featured in several movies, including Disney’s “The Lion King,” “Lean on Me” and “Big Fish.”

As a singer, Guillaume has performed in showrooms and concert stages across the United States, and he received a Grammy as the voice of Rafiki on the audiotape of “The Lion King.”

His autobiography, “Guillaume: A Life,” detailing his more than 50 years in the entertainment business, was recently published, and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, just presented an exhibit about his life that highlighted his achievements.

How did you learn you had diabetes?

I had completely run out of energy. I found myself lying in bed for almost three days. My wife took me to the hospital, and there I found out that my blood glucose level was 717 mg/dl. My body was being totally compromised, and I wasn’t getting any energy.

Do you have any major diabetes-related problems?

I’ve been very lucky and haven’t had any major complications.

Do you take insulin?

I’m controlling my diabetes with pills.

How has diabetes changed your life?

This condition has helped to make me more conscious of the importance of monitoring my food intake. I’ve tried to watch the amount of carbohydrate I take in. I can have almost anything, but it seems that if I can monitor myself every morning and get the glucose level okay, I’m better off.

I think I had the problem because my blood glucose went totally unmonitored. So now I’m staying within acceptable limits. But I was amazed that I haven’t had to restrict my diet as much as I thought I would. I eat no table sugar from a bowl, though.

What advice would you have for others battling diabetes?

Most of us live in the 18th or 19th century when it comes to our health. We tend to think that we are cursed or terribly unlucky, and it has nothing to do with that. Half of the battle is changing our thought processes along with our lifestyle. Historically, we are accustomed to taking ourselves out of the equation where our health is concerned.

In the case of something like diabetes, it is not a hopeless situation; you can learn to monitor your blood glucose levels to see where you are. When visiting your physician request to have your A1C tested. Learn the signs. Learn to notice and understand how you feel, how you respond and where your energy level is at any given point. Talk to your physicians and keep them informed if you have concerns.

Last, it is extremely important that you get concerned about your health. Some of the best advice I can offer is that you work with your doctor to get the best results. It all boils down to personal health maintenance. Be proactive and get involved. Your health really does matter.

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