'I feel like Forrest Gump!' A tale of transformation

“I FEEL like I’m a completely new person. I have so much energy and zest for life that sometimes I feel like I just want to run – I feel like Forrest Gump. What’s happening for me on the inside of my body is almost like a miracle.”

These are the words of Grant Appo, a Bundjalung Minjungbal man from Tweed Heads now living in Bundaberg, after learning he had reversed his type 2 diabetes.

“Exercise, good diet, connecting back into spirituality, the land, the sea - all these things coming together found my whole body being transformed into this new person that I am today” he said.

Today you can find him just before dawn on the beach at Bargara – a place where he has found a spiritual connection to the land and a renewed vigour and love of life.

The transformation started a few months ago. After losing two relatives to the chronic disease Type 2 Diabetes, Mr Appo decided he wanted to be there for his six children, and took real ownership of his GP Care Plan. It had been put in place by his doctor to support his challenges around chronic disease and complex conditions, but he admits he only half committed to the recommendations until recently.

As part of his commitment to improving his health and wellbeing, Mr Appo started going for morning walks before dawn at Bargara beach. Through this, he found a spiritual connection to country.

This connection was deepened through his involvement with the IWC Men’s Group, which sits within the IWC Health & Wellbeing Centre’s Communities Programs. Mr Appo now engages with the group every week.

As part of his journey to personal health and wellbeing, Mr Appo also sought nutrition advice from an Accredited Practising Dietitian and switched from fast foods to healthy smoothies, lean meat and plenty of salads. He says his energy levels are up and his morning walks have become longer as a result.

Mr Appo’s hard work paid off for him at his latest health check in August, which confirmed his blood sugars were sitting steady at around 4.2 – the normal range – and that his diabetes was in remission. For the first time in decades, he was free to stop taking medication and manage his own health in his own way.

Mr Appo said: “I’m extremely proud not just of myself, but of the people down at the IWC who continued to stick by me and encourage me all the way through this journey to where I am today.

“A bit of steel in your backbone goes a long way but the thing is that IWC has been a wonderful support base for me, constantly encouraging me and wanting to see me get better.”

IWC delivers a holistic whole-of-person model of care around physical, emotional, spiritual and cultural wellbeing. It offers health and wellbeing services for all people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

Mr Appo said: “Words are quite hard to put together to express how I feel overall with my personal, mental and spiritual health … I actually feel like I’m a completely new person.”

He is encouraging others struggling to embrace a healthy lifestyle to seek assistance from their GP, their community and family, and to focus on the positive.

“Because at the end of the day we can fight this Type 2 diabetes disease, to be there for our children and pass on a legacy of a happy, healthy life,” he said.

IWC Director Aunty Cheri Yingaa Yavu-Kama-Harathunian commended Mr Appo on his efforts to connect with health and wellbeing for the right reasons.

“Grant’s commitment to taking personal responsibility for his health management, development of his spirituality and showing his love for his family is wonderful to see. By doing this we can all choose a pathway to emotional wellbeing,” Aunty Cheri said.

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