Vernon resident and author Christine Thelker has released a memoir, For This I am Grateful, a deeply personal look at her life as a relatively young person diagnosed with early-onset dementia.
Taking readers on a journey of her diagnosis, For This I Am Grateful shares Thelker’s acceptance of this condition and her fight to achieve happiness and understanding in this new reality.
Thelker goes in-depth to share the daily struggles, and changes of her unpredictable condition, but also the triumphs, laughs, and tears while learning to rebuild her life and continuing to persevere despite her terminal illness.
Thelker was inspired to write about her process as a means to provide others with peace of mind and that they are not alone in their struggle,
“My journey will show others how being their own advocate, doing all they 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,” she says.
While dementia may be a terminal illness, the key message to Thelker’s writing is that it is possible to continue to live life with purpose, hope, and joy.
She writes: “I remember going home to an empty house to try to digest my doctor’s news, ‘You have vascular dementia.’ I thought to myself, I’m only 55 and I’m already a widow, the worst thing that could ever happen to me. But during my career working in Dementia Care, my co-workers and I had always felt that getting any type of dementia diagnosis would be the worst news a person could receive.
“Having witnessed the progression in so many people, I knew being a widow was nothing compared to what I was going to have to face. I soon discovered those past experiences would, in fact, help me forge through the coming losses.
“The diagnosis itself was not the worst of it, finding no help or resources was. I had to try to figure out ‘what’s next’ on my own.
“I got my affairs in order and came to terms with the fact that my career and the life I had known both were gone. I gave up my home, my car, my ability to drive, my hopes, and my dreams.
“Yet a stubborn streak remained in me. I decided, ‘I’m not done yet,’ and made it my new motto.
“Then I set out to find help, to find my new self. My search led me to Dementia Alliance International. At DAI, I found hope and purpose; this was life-changing and lifesaving.
“I stepped onto a path of a whole new understanding of dementia, advocating, speaking engagements, and learning that life can be beautiful, even with dementia.”
For This I Am Grateful, published by Austin Macauley, was released on Tuesday. It is available on Amazon and in bookstores.
Thelker, how 60, has been living with dementia since the age of 55.