CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A decades long NBC star visiting the Queen City to raise awareness about a disease many people may not even know she has.
You probably know her as Chicago Med's Hospital Chief Sharon Goodwin or maybe Law and Order's Lieutenant Anita Van Buren. What you may not know is that S. Epatha Merkerson is part of the roughly 13% of African-American adults living with type 2 diabetes.
Merkerson says this about her roles, "They're very similar characters in that they're both women who take charge and take the hit for their people." However, this really isn't too far off from her real personality, "If those characters and I have anything in common it's using the knowledge that we have and passing it along to other people."
While dealing with her share of fictional medical cases on Chicago Med, Epatha is actually battling one of her own.
"I was at a health fair getting my finger pricked and when the cameras shut down the doctor asked if I could come back. I thought he wanted to take a picture or get an autograph. Sure enough he said my blood sugar was very high," said Epatha. That's when she found out she was one of nearly 30 million people in the U.S. living with type 2 diabetes.
With the help of the American Diabetes Association she is changing her lifestyle using these four steps:
1. Eating healthy
2. Exercising more
3. Building a support system
4. Sticking to a treatment plan
Epatha is proudly supporting the America's Diabetes Challenge which encourages diabetics to know their ABCs:
"A" is for A1C
"B" is for blood pressure
"C" is cholesterol
Roughly 14 years later, Epatha struggles managing the illness from time to time, but it's something Executive Producer Dick Wolf is happy to help with. You see, Epatha's Chicago Med character will have diabetes as well.
"It will allow us on the show to educate as well," Epatha said.
I guess we'll all have to wait and see how it plays out in season three of Chicago Med airing on November 21 right here on NBC Charlotte.