As hospital administrator Sharon Goodwin on NBC's Chicago Med, S. Epatha Merkerson deals with her share of fictional medical cases. But in real life, she struggles with a health issue of her own: type 2 diabetes.
"I was diagnosed about 13 years ago," Merkerson tells TVGuide.com. "I have a family history of Type 2 diabetes, but I didn't recognize the symptoms. ... I found out the hard way. I was a part of a health fair and had my blood sugar tested, and it read very high that day. And then in retrospect, I understood what the symptoms were that I had."
Though she's been a diabetes patient for more than a decade, Merkerson admits that she still needs help managing the illness from time to time - something her Chicago Med colleagues are happy to help with. Sometimes too happy.
"They all know that I have Type 2 diabetes. Everyone on set knows. Even the craft service people, they only put things in my camper that they know that I can eat. I asked for a soda the other day and she said 'No. I put some things in your room that I think are healthier choices," Merkerson says with a laugh. "So, I let everybody know, and now they're making me toe the line, which is really good."
With Chicago Med on summer hiatus, the actress has partnered with the American Diabetes Association to promote awareness of the chronic illness. She's currently devoting her time to acting as a spokeswoman for the website America's Diabetes Challenge, which encourages type 2 diabetes patients to use a blood test known as the A1C test to manage their blood sugar, as well as to share their personal stories.
"For me, the most important thing that I've learned is that it's a manageable disease, but you have to have the facts," she says. "That's why the website is so important. ... Finding out just what kinds of questions people have, finding out who's been successful and why, I think will be very helpful.