Christine Thelker’s Shares Memoir of Living with Dementia: For This I am Grateful

About Christine Thelker-For This I am Grateful

For This I Am GratefulFor This I am Grateful Living with Dementia

By Christine Thelker

I started writing as a way to try to help myself and my doctors understand what was happening to me. Often during my fight to get a diagnosis, I would forget key pieces that I should have told my various doctors. Only by putting things on paper as they happened could I ensure they would get the necessary information. Also, during that time, family members, friends and others asked me to share with them what was happening, so they could try to understand what I was going through. Rather than repeat myself over and over, I started a blog. Soon caregivers and others with dementia started signing in. People began thanking me for the insights they were getting from my remarks. From there I developed a mission: If I had to have this illness, I would make something worthwhile from it. My writing became a way of helping others understand the struggles and gave those living with dementia someone to reach out to for hope. Some began asking me why I didn’t write a book. After much urging, and with editing help, I wrote For This I am Grateful.

For This I am Grateful is a deeply personal look at my life as a relatively young person diagnosed with early onset dementia. The diagnosis came as a shock. During my career in the nursing field, I chose to work in a locked dementia unit in a long-term care setting. That fact gives me a unique double understanding of the symptoms.

My book takes you through the very raw, real, sometimes tragic, often humorous, journey of seeking the answers to what was happening until before I finally received a correct diagnosis. Left to deal with the hopelessness of the prognosis, I fought for and have achieved a happy day-to-day existence within my new reality. I allow myself to be vulnerable and share the daily changes, challenges and pitfalls of an unpredictable condition. I also share my triumphs, laughter, and tears while learning how to rebuild my life after every setback. I continue to thrive despite living with a terminal illness. 

My journey will show you how being your own advocate, doing all you can to stave off the downward spiral, and staying positive can fight depression, provide longevity and increase the chance to enjoy many aspects of life. During this journey, advocating for others has been, in many ways, more fulfilling than my life before diagnosis.

Dementia may be a terminal illness, but it is possible to continue to live life with purpose, hope and joy. During our lifetime, we will probably have to change the course and direction of our lives several times. However, through education about the possibilities and the changing caregiver’s and institution’s perceptions on what it means to live with a dementia diagnosis, we can have a very fulfilling existence throughout our lifespan. 

Christine Thelker

About the Author:

I am from Vernon, British Columbia, Canada and describe myself as bright, fun and adventurous. At 61, I can say my sense of humour has grown since I was diagnosed at 56-years-old with both vascular dementia and cerebrovascular disease, after being widowed at 47.

I worked with Interior Health Authority for 13 years. My most beloved work was in dementia care and end-of-life care. It was here that I felt I did my best work.

I also designed and taught a program to nursing students at the local Colleges on end-of-life care and dementia care. I then designed a program for workers on “Unattended Sorrow,” addressing the cumulative effects of witnessing on-the-job deaths. I believe that the often unattended sorrow can have similar effects on people diagnosed with dementia and would like to do more work in that area.

I currently write a blog, “Chrissy’s Journey…Walking the Neuron Forest called Dementia.” In the beginning, a lack of resources and support sent me in search of help and I found Dementia Alliance International. It was both life-changing and life-saving for me. My motto since being diagnosed is, “I’m not done yet.”

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