Ready to fight
Dame Billie to declare war on diabetes following brother’s death
After losing her youngest brother to diabetes just over a week ago, former Deputy Prime Minister Dame Billie Miller is now declaring war on the disease.
In an emotional interview with Barbados TODAY, the normally stoic Dame Billie briefly broke down in tears, admitting that it had been hard dealing with the death of brother Tim, 59, a triple amputee. He was, at the time, living in Ontario, Canada.
“I’m about to declare war, serious warfare on diabetes because of what I’ve seen it do in my own family,” Dame Billie said.
“My mother was a bad diabetic, I have four brothers, three of whom are serious diabetics and we’ve just lost the youngest of our brothers. When he died last Sunday he was a triple amputee,” the veteran politician explained.
“Barbados is the diabetic capital of the world, the amputee capital of the world. This is not something to be proud of. This speaks of a certain lack of self-discipline. There are people who will say ‘well, I’m addicted to this and I’m addicted to that’, but I’ve seen people addicted to all kinds of things and they have the self-will to stop ‘cold turkey’ and take another direction.”
Dame Billie is not new to personal struggles, having survived cancer for 22 years.
In addition to her own battle with that disease, she told Barbados TODAY that she and her sister had decided they were at high risk of diabetes at a young age and had changed their lifestyles to suit.
“I stopped eating sugar, buying sugar or putting sugar in anything that I had to eat when I was 23 years old. I am 70 years old now so that tells you how long. There are things I don’t bring into my house. I don’t bring into my kitchen anything that I should not eat. Now it doesn’t mean that I don’t sin sometimes when I’m eating out and nowadays I don’t eat out as much as I used to do,” she explained.
Noting that there appears to be a knowledge-use gap in Barbados, she called on residents to take better care of themselves.
“We have some of the best educated people in the world so it’s not that they don’t understand the dangers of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension. It is not that they don’t understand the danger of HIV/AIDS,” she noted.
“We have the knowledge, we know what we should eat, we know what we shouldn’t eat, we know what we should do in terms of exercise but we don’t do it. It is so devastating. We are seeing more and more children presenting with Type 1, a serious thing in this community.”
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said some 18,000 Barbadians were living with diabetes, and another 9,000 were unaware they had the disease.