Palmers Diabetes

Reporter: David Richardson

When Rob Palmer won Dancing with the Stars, few knew of the life-long battle he had endured since childhood. Few realised the likable chippy from 'Better Homes and Gardens' had conquered a condition that only decades ago was a killer. Rob was always a sportsman -- a keen footballer, he was just 7 when he was overcome by Type 1 Diabetes while on an annual road trip with his family to Queensland. "We got to Tamworth and stayed with cousins and I got gruesomely ill. I'd be throwing up and I'd lost a lot of weight and everyone said what's happening to Robbie", he said.

His blood sugar levels were through the roof and we was diagnosed just in time. Rob had joined a select band of sufferers -- one in every 700 Australian children diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes; 140,000 people, 16-million world wide. But he never let it stop him doing anything. "It is like you say a speed hump. Its just something that you have to get over and its not that hard to manage it. I think its just all about regular maintenance. of you look after it, it wont bother you", Rob said.

He constantly checks his blood sugar levels, pricking his fingertips for tiny blood drops that save his life. "I get a little bit of blood, you don't need much. then put the blood on the little strip and five seconds later-- beep, beep-- blood sugar. 4-point-1. Beautiful, happy days", Rob said. "We're here to show people that you can live successfully and you can do whatever you want with the condition", said Rugby League great, Steve Renouf. Steve was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when 22. It didn't hamper his career as an international try scoring sensation, but it came back to haunt him years later -- with all of his kids. "Having all four children diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes was probably the toughest thing for me. It was one of the thing I didn't want to happen because I knew there was a little bit of a chance. When it happened, it happened slowly, one by one we had the four boys diagnosed", Steve said.

"The incidence has been increasing at the rate of about 3% a year, although it may have plateaued a bit recently. Forty years ago no one dreamed of a person with Diabetes measuring their own blood sugar -- now its routine", said Professor Don Chisholm from the Garvan Institute. For 42 years Professor Chisholm has been leading the search for a cure for Diabetes -- but its still years away, although a nasal spray is just around the corner. "Transplantation of insulin producing cells is progressing and I think that may be a cure. But I think the greater hope is for prevention of Type 1 Diabetes, a vaccine", he said.

"Dancing' winner and television personality, Rob Palmer is using his profile to help educate diabetes sufferers, to raise awareness, provide encouragement and help raise money for a cure.It the same time, he is hoping his own children don't inherit his disease. "No child deserves to stick themselves with a needle three times a day, just because their genetics decided that should happen. For my kids not to go through that would be the best gift ever", Rob said.

A trial program is underway into Type 1 Diabetes. For more information visit the website at: www.stopdiabetes.com.au