More than two years after suffering a stroke (discussed publicly here for
the first time with WebMD), and almost 10 years after being diagnosed with
diabetes, Tonye Patano, 45, still struggles with controlling her weight. It's a
goal made none the easier considering the actor just crisscrossed the country,
co-starring in the revival of the play Legends alongside Dynasty
divas Joan Collins and Linda Evans.
"My body is not in its optimum place," Patano concedes. "My goal is to reset
my plan and challenge myself to stay healthy, whether I'm on the road or not."
Los Angeles is where the New York resident films Weeds, the
Showtime series in which her character, Heylia, supplies marijuana to
Mary-Louise Parker's suddenly widowed housewife-turned-dealer. (The third
season premieres in August.)
By Amy Engeler
At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off...
Part of the character's formidable presence is due to her size, putting
Patano in a difficult position. If she loses weight, her diabetes symptoms are
likely to improve drastically. But Patano worries that a lighter Heylia could
have a less powerful screen presence. "I can't separate my acting life and real
life," she says. "Real life is more important!" Luckily, producers support the
character, heavy or thin.
Patano's stroke happened just after filming wrapped on season one in 2005.
"I said to my friends, 'I feel like something is starting to happen.'" Just as
she uttered those words, she slumped to her right side.
Because she had witnessed strokes in other people, Patano asked doctors to
explore stroke as a possibility, even though her relatively young age and the
fact that she could communicate clearly made a stroke unlikely. Still, roughly
700,000 Americans have strokes each year, and it is the third most common cause
of death, claiming about 163,000 lives yearly in the United States. Clots cause
the majority of strokes, and the remainder are due to hemorrhages.
After a year on blood thinners, Patano is off prescription stroke
medication. She continues to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible,
avoid sugar, and hike and dance for exercise. "My new challenge is to be beyond
fabulous by 50," says Patano. "I've got five years to shine into my own."