Anne Rice’s Biggest Motivator: A Surprise Diabetes Diagnosis

Best-selling author of Interview with the Vampire lost 100-plus pounds and gained a new lease on life, thanks to diabetes.

Bonnie Siegler
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Anne Rice came within 15 minutes of death, doctors told her. It was 13 years ago when she woke up unusually early and so disoriented that she began tearing off her clothes. Next thing she remembers, she was staring at ceiling tiles from her hospital bed. “I worried I’d been abducted by aliens. Then I looked at the ceiling and thought, Aliens wouldn’t have these ugly tiles!”

That’s when she learned she’d fallen into a diabetic coma, which might have taken her life had her husband, Stan, not called 911. “My blood sugar level was 800,” says Anne, who until that incident had no idea she had type 1 diabetes—although she’d had an inkling something was wrong.

For five years before her startling diagnosis she’d endured a cluster of mysterious symptoms. “I would have a constant upset stomach and diarrhea, but I just didn’t know what was the matter.” Normally prolific, she was also having trouble at the keyboard: “I was sitting at the computer, and trying to write, and the simplest descriptions were impossible for me—I simply couldn’t find the words.” And the most puzzling symptom of all? Without trying, 50 pounds seemed to melt off her frame. “I was always a heavy person and never just ‘lost’ weight as an adult.”

Thankfully, Anne survived the coma and came to terms with the diagnosis. But over the next five years, the pounds crept back on, until she topped the scale at 250. If she was ever going to truly gain control of her diabetes, she knew she would have to conquer the weight. So when Stan (her childhood sweetheart, he passed away in 2002 after a short battle with cancer) showed her a People article about Today Show personality Al Roker’s gastric bypass surgery, she was inspired to follow suit.

As a result, she’s shed more than 100 pounds, and today her diabetes is well managed (she injects insulin using microsyringes). “I’ve learned to eat small meals, lots of protein and very few carbs,” says Anne, who admits she owes her slim silhouette and new lease on life to diabetes.

“Right now, I’m enjoying very good health,” she says. “I’m grateful to have a second chance. When you get a chronic illness like diabetes you become conscious of your health, responding with better eating, more rest and exercise. The goal is to have energy and strength—you want your mind and body to be working together.”

Is bariatric surgery for you?
If you are overweight and can’t seem to get your blood sugar under control with diet, exercise and medication, bariatric (weight-loss) surgery—such as gastric bypass and adjustable gastric banding (lap-banding)—may be an option. In those with type 2 diabetes, weight loss due to bariatric surgery can eventually restore blood sugar levels to normal. According to the American Diabetes Association, those with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher are candidates. Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about the weight-loss strategies that make sense for you.

July 2013