After being told by his doctor he was prediabetic, Brandon Lewis kept the news to himself, not even telling his wife, Seckeita. Instead, he took “a hiatus” from his doctor.
“He told me I needed to control my sugar intake, be on a diet and drop some weight,” said Brandon, a Dallas-based actor, comedian and probation officer. “It went in one ear and out the other. I just kept living the life.”
Two years later, in 2015, he finally did go back, but not by choice. He and Seckeita, a film and marketing director, were filming their first project, a movie called “Jerico.” And though Brandon had been ignoring classic symptoms of diabetes — unquenchable thirst, frequent urination — not until he began feeling really sick during the filming did he reluctantly return to the doctor.
“When he said, ‘You have type 2 diabetes,’ it just hit me,” Brandon said. “When he told me I’d have to be on medication for my heart and kidneys, it took everything in me to keep from tearing up.”
The diagnosis wasn’t out of the blue; Brandon had witnessed the link between type 2 diabetes and heart problems. His mother has diabetes-induced congestive heart failure and his grandmother died from the same condition. Their health stories aren’t that uncommon, as at least a third of people with heart failure have diabetes. Several of Brandon’s relatives also have had limbs amputated because of diabetes.
But Brandon, a Know Diabetes by Heart ambassador, is determined to not let this disease get the better of him. One reason? He has a comrade-in-arms in his battle. A courage partner. Someone who will commiserate with him when living with diabetes and managing high blood pressure becomes overwhelming — or kick optimism into him if he loses hope.
“I couldn’t do it alone,” Brandon said. “I needed someone to remind me to take my medicine, to hold me accountable when I was too scared to hold myself accountable.”
That person, of course, is Seckeita.
“Over the last year and a half, his diabetes and getting healthier have been something we talk about all the time,” said Seckeita, adding that she’s not merely guiding him on his journey; she’s with him every step of the way working toward her own health goals.
“It takes two people who are trying to do it together to push the other one,” she said. “You have to not give up on it. If you’re the one pushing, you have to keep pushing. Don’t give up and then let both of you end up in the same boat.”
She loves to cook, so she has been perfecting diabetes- and heart-friendly meals, like whole wheat spaghetti with from-scratch tomato sauce. “I think, ‘What’s a healthy way to make the dishes we love?’”
“It’s still hard,” she says. “He still struggles. It’s not a light switch you can turn on. Those cravings never go away. It’s something he’s going to have to make a conscious decision about every day, every single meal.”
When they were dating, they trained for and participated in a 5K together. They’d like to one day do that again. Meanwhile, Seckeita said they seek activities they can do together that’s active and a lot of fun. Even if it’s just an extra walk around the block or taking stairs more often, they know the small choices add up.
“It’s all about us being on one page, one court,” Brandon said.
That especially holds true for a project these filmmakers are working on.
“It’s about obesity and diabetes and is called ‘100,’” Brandon said. “We’ve been working on it for a few years. At the end, I’ll be walking out 100 pounds lighter.”
Adds Seckeita: “We decided that we’re going to be on this journey, and if we put it into a film, maybe we can help people who struggle with what we struggle with every day.”
Living with diabetes can be overwhelming, Brandon said. “You think you’ve taken three steps forward, but you’ve actually taken a couple backward. It feels like, ‘Oh man, I’m treading water here.’ But you have to be patient.”
“It’s important not to beat yourself up,” Seckeita said. “Sometimes you make wrong choices and that will set you back. Make the next meal an opportunity to get it right.”