It was 20 years ago, and James Earl Jones was in the thick of his successful career as an actor.
He signed up for an exercise event to lose weight and fell asleep on a bench in the gym. That raised a red flag for a nearby doctor, and the news he got afterward changed Jones' life.
"The doctor who happened to be there told me, 'That's not normal,' Jones said in an interview with AOL. "I took the test, and there it was. Type 2 diabetes. And it hit me like a thunderbolt."
Jones explained that even though his family medical history included diabetes, he was very active and never thought that he could have the disease. Plus, he acknowledges that he had a sense of invincibility from having been a member of the armed forces.
"I'd been fit, climbing up mountains and skiing uphill and all that. I thought I was invincible, as the army teaches you to think of yourself, so it was a shock," he said. "There's a lot of denial. I'm still grappling with ways to live with it."
Jones is now 85 and says that it's harder for middle-aged people to change their eating habits even after they've been diagnosed with diabetes.
It's wonderful that Jones came forward with his story; it's also especially timely, since the nation lost hip-hop legend Phife Dawg last week. His death at age 45 is said to have been due to complications from diabetes.
Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.