Apr 03, 2002
Timaru women Karen Smith and Leanne Turner know only too well what living with a chronic condition means.
But both feel they have turned a corner in managing their disabling conditions after participating in the Living a Healthy Life with a Chronic Condition course.
Karen was so impressed by how she felt after the experience that she is now co-leader, along with Diane Barron of the Arthritis Foundation, of the Timaru course.
Both women are in their early 30s and were diagnosed with conditions about nine years ago. Karen has multiple sclerosis and Leanne muscular dystrophy.
They both believed the course helped them come to terms with it.
The effects of having a chronic condition -- that is one that you have for life compared to an acute condition such as appendicitis which can be cured -- are not just physical.
There is also the psychological effects to deal with.
For Leanne there was envy that she was being held back while her friends could bound ahead with no restrictions.
But more painful is the fact that because of her condition she cannot have children.
"Its hard watching other people getting on with their lives with nothing holding them back.
"There are a lot of issues for someone with a chronic condition. I was embarrassed about the way I walked so I didn't like to go down town.
"At the course I found out there were other people like me and what I looked like walking did not matter so much.
"I also got a stick for awareness, which I wouldn't have got had I not seen Karen with one.
"I suppose I thought walking sticks were for old people, but now I don't have to explain to people if I am going slowly and holding them up because they can see."
Leanne said if she fell over she could not get back up, which had dented her confidence and made it stressful in social situations.
She cannot get out of a chair without help and has a chair and toilet seat that tilts her back on her feet.
The course had restored her self confidence, made life less stressful and she had found friends that had experienced the same things she had.
"You would say something and people would be feeling exactly the same way as you.
"There was a lot of discussion and a lot of tissues used.
"It's nice to have both sorts of friends. Those with a disability and those without and its nice that those of us on the course are staying in touch."
Karen said her condition did not effect her until about four years ago when her energy levels started to suffer and she had problems with her balance.
"After the course I felt better than I did four years ago.
"The course is run world wide and is growing in popularity everywhere.
"I want everyone to know that just because the Arthritis Foundation has the licence for it in New Zealand, that does not mean that it is restricted to people with arthritis.
"Anyone with a chronic disability can attend.
"Most people with a chronic condition find there are things that they share."
Karen said the course taught diet and exercise and everyone could and should exercise no matter the condition; it went into treatment details so that people could take control and make sure the treatment offered was the best one available; how to communicate with your GP; stress management, being stressed puts a lot more pressure on muscles; and how to take control of your condition and live life to the full.
"People don't want to be brushed aside and kept away from the mainstream society any more.
"They want to get the most out of life and overseas in America particularly, that is what they are looking for and the course if helping them."
Karen said the next course ran from April 11 and they would probably
be run at least twice a year initially or as often as demand suggested.
(C) 2002 Timaru Herald