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Coffee with: Dave Thomson at the Richmond Centre for Disability

Thomson leading the charge in getting people to speak out about their chronic condition
Dave Thomson
Dave Thomson, education coordinator at the RCD

When he’s not feeling pain, or thinking about pain or even helping someone else who’s in pain, you’ll probably find Dave Thomson on a bike or reading non-fiction, particularly books by author Malcolm Gladwell.

One of his favourites is Gladwell’s Tipping Point, whereby critical mass or boiling point moments are explained.

And while he doesn’t watch too much TV, Thomson is a big Second Wolrd War buff and enjoys the occasional documentary film.

That’s just a glimpse of some of the things Thomson, the education coordinator at the Richmond Centre for Disability, enjoys outside of work.

However, because so much of what Thomson does at work involves his personal life (as someone suffering from fibromyalgia) he said it’s difficult to separate the two.

“It’s important to keep things as normal as possible,” said Thomson, drinking a chai tea latte at a City Centre coffee shop, not far down the road from RCD.

Recently, Thomson has been tasked to temporarily host a Vancouver Co-op Radio show on chronic pain. And between downtime at home and work, he’s been enjoying organizing various gymnasium games for disabled people.

Thomson is fairly upfront about his personal life. He makes no bones about the fact he has had some serious arguments with his wife over his condition.

“You start arguing about the same thing, over and over,” he said, speaking of the early days of his diagnosis and the times when he didn’t know what was wrong with him.

On Saturday, Thomson is hosting a pain management forum at Richmond City Hall. There, experts will speak to various issues and conditions.

Specifically, “the forum will help with any friends and family members in your life who are trying to help you get through (your condition). These are your ‘go to’ people,” said Thomson.

“It might be that this is not something they’re capable of doing,” he noted.

Thomson said his wife had a hard time navigating through the early days of his condition and they concluded she wasn’t the “go to” person in terms of understanding his pain, but she became supportive in other ways. 

Thomson is adamant that loved ones need to be considered just as much as the person suffering from a condition.

“With this forum, we’re wanting to focus on relationships and communication,” said Thomson.

Dealing with pain or a chronic condition presents stressors in any relationship, namely guilt, questioning, financial hardships and finding a new way to live, said Thomson, citing data from the U.S. stating divorce rates for people with chronic pain and/or medical conditions is about 75 per cent.

“When I was first diagnosed, I became nuts with too much information. There’s that saying, ‘you have cancer, cancer doesn’t have you,’ and I think that applies to other conditions,” said Thomson.

The forum will include Karen Hanna, director of Self-Management BC and Heather Divine, director of the People in Pain Network.

Experts on living with conditions caused by hepatitis, strokes, gastrointestinal illnesses and spinal cord injuries will be on hand as well.

So, too, will Roy Sakata, an active member of the Steveston community who has become a lung cancer advocate, following the death of his wife. 

The event runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is free. The audience is encouraged to bring cellphones to text questions to panelists, should they wish to remain anonymous.

Thomson said he would be happy to see new faces, even if they’re only there to observe and listen. “Just getting people going to be a success,” said Thomson.


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