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360 Perspectives

Two Views on Support Groups

Gotcha Moments

By Carolan Quenneville

It was about a year or so after we got married and moved to Arizona, when my now late husband, Bruce, told me about self-help classes sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation. The classes encouraged a family member to attend the classes alongside the person with arthritis and he wanted us to go. My attitude was, “I’ve had arthritis for twenty years. What can they tell me about it?”

I’d had arthritis since age eleven. Bruce had only dealt with it since we’d been married. Like any other disability, arthritis can have an impact on everyone around the person with the condition. So, we went to the classes and I did learn a few things. I learned that I enjoyed sharing my years of experience, the “tricks of the trade”, the adaptations necessary in order to get things done. At the end of the six weeks, I signed up to take the training to facilitate the classes.

I enjoyed leading the class, watching people gain confidence and hope. I also enjoyed seeing some of the surprised looks as I introduced
myself at the beginning of the first session,“My name is …. I’m married …I work … I’m an artist…”

I love blowing away stereotypes. Catching people in their misconceptions. The most memorable moments are what I like to call a “Gotcha” moment. I was walking toward the building where the class was to take place. I had my tote bag of materials hanging on my crutches. A woman walks up from behind, going in the same direction.


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“Are you going to the arthritis class?” she asks.

“Yes, I am,” I reply.

Pause…

Then she follows with, “I see you need it more than I do.”

As she went on ahead, I chuckled to myself. “Heh-heh-heh, gotcha! Are you going to feel like a jerk, when I get up and say, ‘Hello, my name is Carolan, and I’m your class leader.’”

I don’t recall her reaction. It wasn’t necessary. I got a good laugh out of it. I still do.



Gina’s Tea Party

By Gina Schuh

As Beyoncé would say, “Who runs the world? Girls!” This is a call to arms for all of you ladies who use wheelchairs, and let’s be real, we’ve got some great arms. I’m asking YOU to host a get together for other women in wheelchairs.

When I was newly injured and still in the hospital, a woman who was a quadriplegic hosted a lunch which impacted me more than I can express. Here was this woman with my level of injury living in a nice home, with a family, and genuinely happy.

That lunch inspired me to host one of my own. I just wanted to talk about life with other chair users and work together to achieve common advocacy goals. I can’t lie, I’m a girl’s girl, so I thought I would offer something to the ladies in the area. Not to mention, our women’s support group is practically non-existent.

TOGETHER is how we change. Without one another it would be like trying to roll with only one wheel. Let’s get real, we need each other. Currently our voice is whispering for change, how about we change that together?

I had an incredible group of women show up, and not one of them left early! The actual event was a huge success, and everyone expressed that they can’t wait for the next one.

I would like to thank the amazing group that came to the first Tea Party; it is because of them I can’t wait to do this again! If you are interested in hosting your own Tea Party or attending future tea party events, visit our page on Facebook.

Contributor Section

Carolan Quenneville
Writer

Gina Schuh
Writer