Meet Jim Peterson. Jim is 71 years old. He and his wife, Margaret, moved to Roseburg in 2009. They have two grown daughters and one grandson.
Before deciding to make Oregon home, Jim and Margaret spent ten summer seasons volunteering as park hosts in Arizona, Colorado and at a variety of Oregon state parks, including Fort Stevens, Crater Lake and Tillamook Forest.
Jim, a retired electrical engineer, worked for Motorola in Scottsdale, Ariz., for 26 years. He then spent six years as a substitute teacher, primarily teaching math and science. While his daughters were growing up, Jim and Margaret coached their sports teams. In his spare time, Jim volunteered between 700 and 800 hours a year as a sworn patrolman for the state highway patrol for 15 years, the last seven as a sergeant.
What pushed you to take steps to be healthier?
I was diagnosed with bladder cancer 10 years ago. A cancer diagnosis really changes your perspective. Thankfully, it was caught early and I was able to have the cancer surgically removed and then have reconstructive surgery. Several years later I developed toxic shock, a potentially fatal illness. My doctor told me I was lucky to survive, as only about 20 percent of people over the age of 60 do. Then about three years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer in both lungs and went through a successful series of stereotactic radiation therapies.
How do you stay active?
I have a pulmonary lung disease that has progressed to the point that I require oxygen 24/7. To keep fit, I walk on my treadmill every other day. I was walking or working out every day, but was advised by physical therapists that I was overdoing it to the extent that I was making myself vulnerable to respiratory infections. That prompted me to scale back to treadmill every other day. I do try to fit in extra walking whenever I can though, whether it’s going to the grocery store, walking in the mall or at the coast.
It’s important to keep moving. You have to resist both the recliner and the brownies!
What have you found helpful in dealing with your lung disease?
I have really benefited from attending pulmonary rehabilitation and Better Breathers, both programs that Mercy (Medical Center) supports. Pulmonary rehab was very helpful because it combined exercise, diet and education. When I heard about Better Breathers I thought I might attend a few meetings, but here I am still going strong three years later. It is a really good group and the programs have been very helpful. We learn about our pulmonary diseases, new treatments, medications, medical research, new therapies, even dietary information and advances in oxygen equipment. Being informed is very important in helping manage my disease.
What tips do you have for other people dealing with a chronic disease?
I really think two things are key: You have to stay active and you have to be engaged in something that interests you or you have a passion about. For me, I have been a lifelong volunteer. In my early teens, I volunteered for the Ground Observer Corps in Stockholm, Maine, where I grew up. It was during the Cold War period and volunteers were recruited to man remote posts and report, by phone to a call center, specific information about any aircraft they observed.
While our daughters were growing up Margaret and I managed and coached girl’s softball teams. In later years we were heavily involved in Pop Warner (football and cheerleading organization) as team managers and as league governing board members.
After Margaret and I retired, we, along with our basenjis, Ranger and Rosie, enjoyed our years as park hosts, too. Today, I volunteer for the Douglas County Parks Advisory Board, Oregon Judicial Department, Roseburg Historic Resource Commission and serve on the Oregon Parks and Recreation Grants Committee. All of this keeps me busy and engaged.
What kinds of healthy eating tips do you have?
We eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit. Margaret loves to go to Kruse Farms for local produce, and we also try to buy local produce at the grocery store. We are getting really good at freezing and preserving, too, so we can enjoy it long into winter. We have pretty much eliminated red meat. I still enjoy a steak now and then; we just don’t eat it at home. We love to experiment in the kitchen too and that makes it fun, even the disasters. We have learned to check out recipes we find online a little more thoroughly, though, before we make them!
How do you maintain life balance?
Having a chronic illness can be very overwhelming. You can get really concerned about your health and the ups and downs you feel. Feeling short of breath can make me start to feel anxious and then that anxiety builds. Anxiety is a big factor. When I feel anxiety coming on, I try to help myself relax. Even if I just stop and sit and rest for awhile, that can help. While staying active is really important, when you have a chronic illness, knowing when you need to rest is equally as important. Rest before anxiety becomes panic or fatigue becomes exhaustion.
What inspires/motivates you?
I have a lot to live for. My daughters have been blessings and I love my grandson. Margaret and I have been married for 51 years and we really enjoy spending time together. I love to do research on the Internet and learn new things; and I really enjoy volunteering. All of this keeps me going and motivated.
Do you have other advice?
Take care of yourself. Stay active and get involved. While there may be things you can’t do, do everything that you can. Connecting with other people, whether it is through friendships or just volunteer work, is important to your overall health. Find something you are passionate about and get engaged.
What’s your favorite health-related website/blog/app?
Classes/Support Group: Better Breathers
Websites: Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Hospital and Oregon Health & Science University
Kathleen Nickel is the director of communications for Mercy Medical Center. An avid walker, Nickel has completed a number of half marathons over the years (that’s 13.1 miles!) and can typically be seen on a Saturday morning with a group of friends doing a quick six miles along one of the many bike paths in Roseburg. She can be reached at KathleenNickel@chiwest.com.