Learning to live with chronic conditionsFor some people, being diagnosed with a chronic illness invokes only negative thoughts and feelings. Others — like Red Wing residents Gordon and Karen Trelstad — find a different way to view the situation.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
For some people, being diagnosed with a chronic illness invokes only negative thoughts and feelings. Others — like Red Wing residents Gordon and Karen Trelstad — find a different way to view the situation.
“Make the best out of all the things you do encounter, and then live with it. Life moves you forward,” 77-year-old Gordon said.
Although the Trelstads each have a different chronic condition, they don’t let the unfortunate situations put a damper on their attitudes or their lives.
For the past 10 years Gordon has been a type 2 diabetic, and his wife was officially diagnosed with atypical Parkinson’s disease four years ago.
“It started before then but I didn’t know what it was,” Karen, 75, said.
Having Parkinson’s affects Karen’s strength, sense of balance, handwriting and voice — causing her to talk so softly to the point that she sometimes uses a microphone. For Gordon, having diabetes means paying close attention to his blood sugar levels.
Still, despite facing challenges that those without the conditions don’t endure, they remain optimistic about their situations.
“For me, I was so glad I didn’t have cancer,” Karen said.
To learn the best ways to handle their conditions and the lifestyle changes that come with them, the Trelstads registered a few months ago for “Living Well with Chronic Conditions.”
The workshop, which is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Health, originated at Stanford University where creators tried to bring focus to self-management of diseases.
“The idea that we can support people to have confidence to manage their own health … that’s how they came up with this series of workshops,” said Trudi Paulson, the senior services coordinator for Fairview Red Wing Medical Center.
Fairview hopes to offer the workshop about three times this year, starting with one this month.
Two facilitators led the workshop the Trelstads attended. The workshop took a close look at everything that has to be handled when living with a long-term illness. Using helpful information from the book “Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions,” the classes reviewed emotions, fitness, pain and fatigue, nutrition, medications and communication with loved ones or healthcare providers.
“Every week, the facilitators and the participants work on an action plan so everybody kind of develops their own goal,” Paulson explained.
For the Trelstads, goals included increasing the amount of exercise they get and monitoring their nutrition more closely — something that is wise for those without chronic conditions to pay attention to as well.
“That’s one of the things I think comes out of this whole thing — using common sense,” Gordon said.
With each one of them battling different issues, the Trelstads — who have been married for more than 50 years — have twice the amount to learn, but they said that having one another makes life easier.
“Oh yeah, it makes a difference,” Gordon said.
Although they’re always around for each other and get plenty of support from their four children, the Trelstads agreed that the ability to hear and learn from others with chronic conditions during the workshop also benefitted them.
“There’s kind of a camaraderie that you build when you have a group of 15 that meets every week for six weeks,” Gordon said. “Attitudes are really contagious.”
And while other participants have influenced them, their positivity has no doubt been appreciated in return. Gordon said a couple of the most important factors to keep in mind when dealing with chronic conditions are patience and perseverance.
Flipping the switch on her small microphone and bringing it close to her mouth, Karen softly displayed the support and gratitude for her husband that the couple shares.
“Gordy has both of those.”
If you go...
Living Well with Chronic Conditions
When: 1-3 p.m. Wednesdays Jan. 18-Feb. 22
Where: Downtown Plaza, 434 W. Fourth St.
More info: Register in advance by calling 651-267-5425.