Patient learns to advocate for herself


Karen Beler credits Sue Perry for helping her change her life. Before meeting Sue, a mental health coordinator at Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network, Karen describes herself as stressed, untrusting and a hermit. She also couldn’t say no to others.

“All my friends used to take advantage of me and when I couldn’t do anything for them anymore, they ditched me. So I don’t have a lot of friends,” says Karen. “I was afraid to communicate or trust or let anyone into my little bubble. I’ve now expanded my bubble where I will talk to strangers, make new friends and be stronger. I wouldn’t even go to a movie, especially if I was alone. I couldn’t go out alone. I go to movie theatres on my own now.”

Her health journey began when her family doctor, Dr. Alison Theman, at Grandview Heights Medical Clinic recommended that Karen see Chris Sidders, a primary care nurse in the clinic in 2010. Her cholesterol levels where up and the discussion with Chris led to a referral to Lalitha Taylor, a registered dietitian. Lalitha convinced Karen to eat fish and make chia pudding.

“She started me on the right foot for eating right and her suggestions were awesome,” she says.

In 2012, Karen was diagnosed with impaired glucose intolerance, which is a pre-diabetes state. She also started to consider bariatric surgery and Chris provided guidance on where to start this process.

“Dr. Theman initiated the referral to Weight Wise. When Karen was discharged from the program and assessed as not a candidate for surgery she was devastated. Dr. Theman contacted Weight Wise and strongly advocated for Karen to be readmitted back into the program and she was! Dr. Theman has been a very important part of Karen’s journey,” explains Chris.

Karen is now on the wait list for bariatric surgery.

Chris brought Sue into the picture for Karen when she heard about her work issues.

Karen had become so fatigued from overworking and not being able to turn down requests from her boss.

“I talked to her about that by saying you have to be assertive and advocate for yourself. I said Sue would be really good at helping you develop some strategies,” explains Chris.

“The best thing I ever did was see Sue,” she says. “The day I saw her I was so exhausted I could have just passed out. She handed me a pamphlet on passive aggressive and over assertive people,” she says.

After reading the pamphlet, Karen decided to talk to her boss and explained she was a walking zombie and needed changes.

“That was my first step – saying to work ‘enough’. I got help. I saw I wasn’t going to get fired for speaking up. The stress started lifting off,” adds Karen.

Chris connected Karen with Sandra Pelchat, a PCN exercise specialist, and this resulted in Karen heading to the swimming pool.

Karen has been going to swimming aerobics four times a week by herself and meeting new people through these classes.

One of the lessons she’s learned from this experience is the past is the past and you have to let it go. Don’t stress about the future because you can’t control what hasn’t happened yet. All you can think of is what is in front of you, which is the present.

“Sue gave me the support I needed to overcome my fears and insecurities. We discussed my situation and she gave me ideas and solutions on how to move forward. If I hadn’t met Sue, I don’t think I would be as well as I am right now,” says Karen. “It’s incredible to know where to get support. I’ve been talking to people about the PCN and how they have all these resources at your fingertips, if you just go for it.”

Chris adds that Karen has the advantage of professionals with different expertise to help her.

“We’re all very supportive. We’ll do anything we can to make her journey better and get her to meet her goals,” she says. “Chris has helped Karen for the past several years, and was able to get her to take the next steps to see Sue and Lalitha and to go to Weight Wise and to consider surgery. Her part has been essential in Karen’s progress,” says Dr. Theman.

Note: Since this story was posted, Karen has lost over 100 pounds.