By Laura Keil
Christine Thelker was in Valemount in September, part-way through a book tour she never would have believed possible when she was first diagnosed with dementia six years ago.
When the diagnosis came, her doctor advised her to go home and get her affairs in order. She immediately lost her job and found herself facing a bleak future alone, as her husband had already passed away.
“The diagnosis devastates you. Your whole life just goes from this to nothing in the blink of an eye. And all people are told is go home and get your affairs in order, this is how many years this type of dementia has. And there’s nothing we have for you, they tell you. So your whole world stops right then.”
But Thelker said through the darkness of those early days, something stirred in her. Something that spurred her to find a new purpose. After about a year of feeling numb she started researching her diagnosis.
“I started doing my own research and started to feel ‘that’s not good enough.’”
Thelker had always been an advocate for dementia patients, having worked in dementia care for many years. After her diagnosis, she returned to her advocacy work with renewed interest and she says she is fortunate the organizations and groups encouraged her to find her voice.
As part of her care plan with her doctor, she began to record her daily experiences. These formed the basis of her blog which eventually became a book.
Her Book “For this I am grateful” was released June 30th and is unique in more than one way: first, the bulk of the book was written “in the moment” – that is, she recorded her feelings, impressions and thoughts as they were happening, not later on. This gives the book a very immediate and personal style and an accurate window into one woman’s struggle.
As with most people, being vulnerable wasn’t something that came natural to Thelker. But she realized that in order to write this book she would have to be real and open about her experiences.
“You can’t give people hope unless you make yourself vulnerable first.”
She said one of the biggest surprises since publishing the book is the heartfelt gratitude from readers.
“When you have people contact you and say you literally saved their life by giving them hope when they read your book, and other people that say it helped them understand their loved one and they just wish they’d had the book sooner… when you hear those kinds of things, it solidifies that you wrote the book for the right reasons, that you allowed yourself to be that vulnerable, for the right reasons.”
“I always said, If I had to have this illness, it couldn’t be for no reason. And so I always wanted to somehow be able to help people.”
The book can be purchased locally at the Goat bookshop, Infinity Office & Health and online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters. Her blog can be found here: chrissysjourney.com