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Peer Support Group Leader Profile: Christine Anderson

Feb. 22, 2018

Christine Anderson has proven to be one of regional Victoria’s real inspirations through her work as the leader of Kyabram Peer Support Group.

Christine Anderson has proven to be one of regional Victoria’s real inspirations through her work as the leader of Kyabram Peer Support Group.

Diagnosed just six years ago, Christine now leads a group of 16 locals in a range of activities designed to offer support, friendship, management, advice and fun.

“Our support group provides information and social interaction,” she explained. 

“But it’s more than that.  It’s a place where we can be slow, clumsy, or dippy without embarrassment. No matter how we are feeling, the empathy and understanding we receive from the group is always uplifting.”

Christine with our CEO Emma Collin

Out of the ashes
Christine was responsible for reforming the Kyabram group which had disbanded some years earlier.

“A lady from Kyabram Health Service was leading it but she transferred to another location.  Her replacement said she was going to keep leading it but it never materialised.

“I thought the Group was too important to just disappear so I decided to get it back together.  I worked as a primary teacher so it I was able to draw on those skills to reform and lead the Group”.

“But I don’t see myself as a leader, more a facilitator.  I’m the one who is computer savvy but our secretary, Kathy, does the real work.  She’s fabulous and has great ideas for the Group whether it be an exercise session, a singing session – pretty much anything!”

Keeping them coming
Attendance to Group meetings is always healthy due mainly to an initiative that keeps members interested and motivated.

“I visit every member the week before our meetings to drop off our local group newsletter and just see how they are travelling.  They seem to really value this approach and as a result we always get a healthy turnout.”

Christine even has some converts.

“There was one local fellow that everyone in the group knew well.  When he was diagnosed, they all said ‘oh you’ll never get him along’. 

“But I just persisted and kept dropping in the newsletter and now he’s one of the most enthusiastic members of all!”

Storming to Performing
“Then we had a couple who didn’t quite seem to fit in with the group when they first came along.  But again, they finally found their groove and now love coming along.”

But even Christine can sometimes find her motivation to attend the monthly meetings dwindling.

“Sometimes I’ll have a bad week and struggle to find the energy to get along, but once I get there everyone motivates everyone else, so it really gives you a lift”, she explains.

An active fundraiser
Christine is also active in fundraising.  She is proud of the #UniteCanvas fundraiser she held in her backyard last year where she raised $1,000 for Parkinson’s Victoria.  She also persuaded 16 of her family representing four generations to participate in A Walk in the Park, raising $4,660 in her first Walk.

“Their spirit was contagious” Christine says of her family’s enthusiasm and willingness to participate.

First contact with Parkinson’s
Like many, Christine found her initial diagnosis quite confronting.  “I’d just been treated for bunions, and assumed my shakiness was part of the recovery process. But during a routine recovery checkup, the doctor asked about the tremors in my foot which weren’t a usual part of the recovery process for bunions. Then the neurological tests came back positive and I cried all the way home from the rooms in Shepparton.  It was the most terrifying time of my entire life”.

“My Dad had Parkinson’s too but never did I consider that I would have it.  It just didn’t click”.

Emotional rescue required
While Christine feels comfortable managing the physical aspects of Parkinson’s, it’s the emotional and psychological aspects of the condition she most struggles with.

“This is something I haven’t really got on top of”, she said.   “Thankfully my health team are a big help when I’m struggling”.

“Whenever anyone in the Group is struggling I tell they’ve got to speak to the health team because they really look after us.  They are my resource for everything Parkinson’s”.

Christine’s advice to anyone considering attending a Peer Support Group?

“You really don’t realise just how supportive it is till you try it out.  Most of our members wouldn’t dream of not having our group in their lives.

  • If you’re interested in either joining or starting a Peer Support Group near you, call our Health Information Service on 1800 644 189.


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