“I’m diabetes free” – Hills Shire Council mayor shares her story

Mayor Byrne pictured with her husband Matt Fuentes and her daughters Alexis and Maddison.

Diabetes doesn’t have to be a death sentence – it is possible to stop the condition in its tracks.

Mayor of The Hills Shire Council Dr Michelle Byrne has shared her personal journey overcoming the disease during the recent Western Sydney Diabetes (WSD) Alliance meeting in Parramatta.

The Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) led WSD Alliance is a group of 120 partner organisations from community, government and business to ‘beat diabetes together’.   

A diabetes detection program at Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals of more than 86,600 people has shown that 17 per cent of adults tested have diabetes and 30 per cent have pre-diabetes.

First diagnosed with gestational diabetes when she was pregnant, Dr Byrne knew she was at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

“Eighteen months after I gave birth, my skin became so itchy I wanted to rip it off and I was so thirsty all the time I felt like I was in a desert,” Dr Byrne said.

“After a while I knew something was wrong so I went to the doctor,” Dr Byrne said.

“I was told I had type 2 diabetes.

“I had a feeling I’d get it, so the news didn’t come as a surprise to me, but it was still a big shock as it was now real. I knew had to do something about it.

“I had the power to change my own destiny and I needed to do it for my kids, so I embarked on a lifestyle makeover. I started eating a diet lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein and increased my walking. It wasn’t easy, but after twelve months, I lost 20 kilograms.

“I’m now diabetes free.”

Relieved by the life-changing news, Michelle was thrilled, but knew she wasn’t out of the woods.

“I need to maintain my new lifestyle because I’m still at risk of developing diabetes again if I put the weight back on,” said Ms Byrne.

In her role as Mayor, she is passionate about being part of the diabetes solution.

“I’m determined as mayor, and as a community member who’s lived with diabetes, to do something about the issue.

“Castle Hill is a known diabetes hot-spot in my area,” Ms Byrne said.

“Local government has an important role to play in educating people about diabetes and the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle and in providing good urban planning with open spaces, cycle-ways and sporting facilities that can enable people to get healthy.

“The Hills Shire Council is proud to be a member of the Western Sydney Diabetes Alliance and part of whole-of-community approach to tackling diabetes.

“There is much work to be done to turn the tide on this epidemic and we all have a role to play in doing the right thing for our health.” 

WSD director Prof Glen Maberly said early detection is key to curbing diabetes.

“People can often be living the type 2 diabetes for years without knowing it,” he said. 

“On average, people with pre-diabetes can reduce their chance of developing type 2 diabetes by 30 percent, with a sustained weight loss of two kilograms.

“It is possible to be diabetes free and lifestyle changes are a powerful weapon in the fight against diabetes,” he said.

WSLHD invests approximately $2 million annually on tackling obesity, and $1.5 million for the Western Sydney Diabetes initiative.

In 2017-18, the NSW Ministry of Health will allocate $31 million towards reducing the prevalence of obesity in NSW.

Speak to your GP about diabetes to check if you are at risk. Early intervention can be life-saving.