An Emotional Journey – The Road of Recovering

I recently went to my first therapy appointment for my leg.   I had a tumour removed in April, 2012 but because I didn’t have benefits, wasn’t able to go for therapy to help with the mobility and swelling.   I bought benefits when I could afford them so that I could get the benefits.   It was a great first session and could already feel a difference after the first hour.

Part of the therapy that surprised me was my emotional response.   I cried for at least half the visit.   I was shocked and embarrassed by my reaction.   After all, why was I crying?  I have been wanting this therapy for a long time, was excited to go, and yet here I was, crying, emotional.  Why?

Finally, no longer able to hide my steady flow of tears, I asked my therapist, Lisa, if others cried during their appointment.   “Yes”, she replied.   According to Lisa, most people, on their first visit would show anger at first, and then eventually, tears.

“It’s a very emotional process that most people don’t understand”, Lisa informed me.    Suddenly, I just blurted out “I want my leg back!”    Wow!  I had been holding that in for a long time.

When she asked what I missed not doing, the answer was easy:  bike riding with my son.   We used to bike ride every day before my surgery but haven’t been able to go for the past two summers.   That’s been very difficult for me.

I have to say, I’ve never felt anger, even when they first found the tumour and believed it was cancer.   Anger was just never an emotion that I had.   “It is what it is” I would say.   Afterall, with 1in 4 people getting cancer, it’s almost inevitable that at some point, I would have to face this journey so I actually felt like one of the lucky ones.   I knew it wasn’t terminal and my life was never in danger.

Once the tumour was removed and they were able to clearly determine that it was benign, I felt grateful.   It should have been, for all intents and purposes, malignant.   I was very lucky.

Yet here I was, a year and a half later, crying uncontrollable over the loss of use in my leg as a result of the removal of the tumour.    I was amazed at the emotions I carried about this.   I wondered how many other situations we faced that created strong emotions within us that we didn’t even realize we were carrying.

I have to admit, since my first visit, I have felt better, not just physically, but emotionally as well.   It felt wonderful letting these emotions out.   As I anticipate the upcoming appointments and treatments, I know that there will be more moments where my emotions overcome me.   But I”m looking forward to releasing them.   This therapy is not only allowing me to heal physically, but mentally as well.   And both, are long overdue!

From The Shadows of Frustration, Came The True Meaning of Sportsmanship – An Example We Can All Learn From

dragon boat racing

 

Walking around the water park off Murdoch Road for the dragon boat races, I kept thinking how much we could all learn from the athletes who were there to participate in the weekend festival. There were no fights, no scowls, no yelling or threats. Instead, there were smiles, laughter and cheers. Everyone was there to support a great cause, honour those who have, are and will battle cancer, participate in a sport that they enjoy and represent their company or team.

There is no question that this weekend would have turned out much differently for my team had it not been for the true sportsmanship of other paddlers who, without hesitation, were quick to help another team in need.

A couple of months ago, a friend and former coworker, Dru, posted a message on Facebook asking for more people to join her dragon boat team. Without hesitation, I jumped at the chance.

I had been on a team a few years ago and fell in love with the sport. It is exhilarating to be in a dragon boat with other people, paddling in unison from Point A to Point B. The dragon boat festivals hosted by the Canadian Cancer Society are extremely fun and it’s an opportunity to spend a day outside in the much welcome sunshine while raising money for a great cause.

Once everything was organized, we met as a team for our two allotted practises. For a novice team of 18 people, we did not too bad during these practises. Everyone seemed to be looking forward to the upcoming races.

This weekend, we participated in the Dragon Boat Festival. Our first race was early Friday evening. Dru had sent emails to the team informing all of us of our race times and reminding us what time to be at the water park.

As the time for our first race Friday evening quickly approached, it was evident that not everyone on the team was going to show up. Only half the team arrived for the first race.

Lucky for us, another team, the Psycho Paddlers, worked for the same company. They had already completed their race and were more than happy to help us out. We were able to complete our first race of the festival that evening with a minor setback that was easy to resolve.

After the race was over, we confirmed our first race time for Saturday, then discussed the time for everyone to meet and where. Once everyone was informed, we left.

I arrived at the park at noon on Saturday, excited for our day of racing. I quickly found other team members and stood watching the races and chatting while waiting for the rest of the team to arrive.

As our race time quickly approached, it was clear that we were once again short team members. Because we were racing against the Psycho Paddlers, they could not help us out on this race as they had the evening before. As our team was called to the marshalling area (the area where you get your gear and line up in preparation to load into the boat), the concern began to mount as we wondered if we would even be able to race.

While getting our life jackets, someone from another team heard us talking and asked if we needed more paddlers. When we said “yes,” she quickly ran to her team to recruit people to help us out. Another team also heard and quickly pulled in a few people.

Thanks to the members of the Prostate Paddlers and the Robert Allard teams for coming to our aid, we were able to complete our second race. We came in a happy third place. Crossing that finish line was a thousand times more exhilarating because we almost missed it. We couldn’t thank the other paddlers enough for coming to our aid.

Our third and final race was early in the evening. During the time in between, some of us left with the promise of coming back. Other members kept trying to get a hold of those that did not show up while a few stayed to watch the races and keep an eye out for team members. By 4:30, I was back at the park, meeting up with my team. As our time for our final race was drawing near, it was apparent that, with only one third of our team at the park. we were again not going to have enough members to participate. Once again, we had to face to challenge of trying to fill our boat. Frustration was growing as we faced the difficult possibility that we may have to pull out.

But those of us that were there, wanted to race. So, as a group, we went over to the organizers to talk to them about our dilemma. Dave, from the Canadian Cancer Society, was very reassuring, saying that there were many people from other teams who loved to paddle and would be more than happy to help us out.

We went back to our area. While discussing whom we could ask, the announcer called the next race. He mentioned, during his announcement that a team had pulled out of the race. There would only be 3 boats racing instead of 4. We quickly went to speak to him, hoping that the team that pulled out would be interested in joining us.

Instead, the announcer made a plea on our behalf over the intercom seeking paddlers to join our team. When it was time for us to go to the marshalling area, the announcer again stated that we were in need of paddlers and asked anyone wanting to help out to meet our team in the marshalling area.

And help out they did! Immediately, members from the Dirty Oars, Prostate Paddlers, Muddy Waters and Canadian Cancer Society came to our rescue. We quickly donned our gear and, as a smorgasbord group of paddlers, loaded the boat. We learned to work as a team on the fly. Not only were we able to complete our third and final race, but we came in first place!

I will never forget how wonderful it felt to cross that finish line for the third time. Having paddlers from different teams help us not once, but for all three races was an incredible experience that I will not soon forget.

Without the help from the other teams and the organizers, our weekend would have been very different. Without them, we would not have been able to participate in any of our races. A thank you to those other teams doesn’t even begin to express the gratitude I feel for their assistance. They have, in their actions, shown what real sportsmanship is and should be. And, through their actions, made our time at the Dragon Boat Festival, an incredibly wonderful event.

 

Photo Credit:  Canadian Cancer Society Albums – River City Dragon Boat Festival 2013  (http://convio.cancer.ca/site/PhotoAlbumUser?view=UserPhotoDetail&PhotoID=90880&position=3&AlbumID=28027)

Fish Sticks And Oil Slicks

 

Oil spill fish

 

Like so many people, I have been keeping up-to-date on the news with regards to the missing Malaysia flight and all of the passengers.   I cannot even begin to fathom what those families are going through and my heart goes out to them every time another glimmer of hope dies with yet another dead end lead.

I remember the beginning of the search, when various masses were found in the  waters, only to turn out to be dead ends.   Garbage, oil slicks, miscellaneous ocean debris.   There were sadly,  many possible clues that turned out to be nothing.  And so, the heart wrenching search for answers continues.

The 2 oil slicks found a few days after the plane disappeared were of particular interest.   Firstly because they were referred to as “small”.  The largest of the 2 was actually 20 kilometers in length.   That, to me, is not “small”.   To even say that it is small has me somewhat concerned.   What then, would be considered a medium sized or large oil slick?

The other part of that find that concerned me was that it has never been established exactly where that oil came from or why it was in the ocean.  Or, at least, it has never been publicly discussed or mentioned that I’m aware of.

So where did those 2 oil slicks come from?  Why were there 2 significant size oil slicks randomly in the ocean?  Has anyone else questioned that?

As people, we tend to have an “out of sight, out of mind” thought process with most matters.   If something doesn’t directly impact us, or we don’t see it directly in front of us, we don’t think about it.   But the reality is that we need to be concerned with the things we don’t always see like these random oil slicks.   We need to know what is being dumped in our oceans because ultimately, what is dumped “randomly” into our oceans is being dumped into us.

That oil does not disappear into thin air.   It becomes part of the water and part of the ecosystems that live in the ocean.   Sea life are born and raised in polluted waters.  When we ingest that sea life, or other creatures who sole source of survival are the inhabitants in the water,  we are ingesting those pollutants as well.      What goes in, must come out.   What they get, we eventually get.

We need to protect our oceans as well as our land from the garbage that we produce.   While we can turn a blind eye, the reality is that ignoring a situation will not protect us from the harmful effects.   Quite opposite.

The bottom line is that what ever we don’t take care of on this planet cannot take care of us.   If we continually allow toxins into other ecosystems, those toxins will eventually make their way into us.   Karma.

 

oil-spill

 

Happy Single Parent’s Day To All Of Those Amazing, Wonderful, Hardworking Single Parents!! (March 21)

jugglingpriorities1

March 21 is the official day for recognizing single parents and all of the hard work they do.  While each single parent’s circumstances are as individual as they are – from family support, family size, education and employment status, marital status, court orders, visitation orders and socioeconomic status, there are some things that are universally the same for each and every single parent.   As single parents, we where every hat and do everything for our families.  From the simplest task,  to the most complex, the single parent does it all.

Single parents are two parents rolled into one.   They have all the work, responsibilities and challenges of both parenting roles, but they also have all the rewards.   We soley  make every decision and solve every problem.

We fix all the plugged toilets, pay every bill, change every light bulb, manage the daily schedules  and make every appointment.  We shovel, rake, vacuum, and wash.   We take the car in, paint the walls, call the plumber,  attend the meetings, work multiple jobs, volunteer, clean house, buy all the groceries, get all the school supplies, help with the homework, juggle all the tasks and cheer at every game.

Single parents kiss every boo boo better, take every temperature and clean up every mess.  We wipe all the tears, give all of the hugs and scare all of the boogie monsters way.

If you asked, most single parents would tell you  that raising their children is the easiest part of their job .   It’s everything else that they have to  do that is the most challenging because, as a single parent,  you have to do everything  yourself.  There is no one to bounce ideas off of, no one else to share the work and provide support.

As a single parent myself, I have problems that I can’t solve but somehow have to find a way.    I have financial challenges that every single income family faces and time restraints that 48 hour days couldn’t fix.

But I also have all the good night kisses and all the good morning hugs.   I have the privilege of taking my son to school every morning and seeing him every evening.    I have movie nights on weekends with my son that I cherish just as much as he does.   I have a house full of love and happiness that isn’t shared with any other adult.  I have that special bond with my son that single parents have with their children.

Being a single parent is, without any doubts, not easy, especially in today’s society.   The challenges of being a single parent may be tremendous and, at times, overwhelming, but so are the rewards.

So to all the single parents out there, I  praise you, support you, admire you  and wish you the very best Single Parents Day!!!   It is a day well earned and well deserved.     Celebrate your awesomeness!!!!

single parent                                                                                                               single parent dad

ADHD: Actual Neurological Condition Or Result Of A Diseased Environment?

adhd20logo20colour

 

 

ADHD has become a fairly common topic lately between myself and other professionals who work with children on a regular basis.   The reason?  Because so many kids are being diagnosed with ADHD.   In fact, as soon as a child shows any sort of negative behaviour they are instantly diagnosed with ADHD and medicated.

 However, as I see more and more kids – sometimes complete families of children – coming through with this diagnosis, I can’t help but ask, is ADHD an actual neurological condition or is it a result of a diseased environment?

 As a society, we have evolved to the point where we want the quick fix.   Putting effort and work into something, anything, seems to be a thing of the past.   And if we can’t fix it, we simply dispose of it and replace it without hesitation.   Are we unknowingly treating our children the same way?

 Currently, in North America, 1 in 9 children are being diagnosed regularly with ADHD.  Almost 4 million children in the US, along with the same numbers in Canada, are taking medication for it annually.  Sadly, these numbers are rising steadily.

 Many experts dispute the numbers of children being diagnosed stating that, for most children, it is an environmental issue, not a neurological one.  Some professionals would even say that ADHD does not exist.   Yet the trend towards instantly diagnosing children continues to rise.

 Ritalin, and any other stimulant drug used to treat ADHD, has become the instant fix.   It should be noted, that drugs like Ritalin come from the same family as cocaine and speed. And while most people would be horrified if a parent gave their child cocaine or speed, they are completely accepting of a child being prescribed drugs like Ritalin used to treat ADHD.   The short and long term effects that these drugs have on the body are frightening.   Scientists are still researching just how damaging these drugs can be to children.  So why then, are we so quick to medicate our children, putting their health in jeopardy, rather than look at the whole picture?

 As someone who works with children and has a son who is school age, I am often an outsider who can easily look in.   I see many children who are diagnosed as having ADHD who are living in environments that are extremely unhealthy.   Some children are abused while others are just ignored.   Their parents often ignore the child’s behaviours and, rather than teaching their child(ren) right from wrong, are quick to point fingers and blame everyone else when their child misbehaves.   There are no boundaries set, no quality time spent together as a family and no healthy stimulation or activity used to burn off the energy that children naturally have.

 Rather than spending time with their children, the parents plunk them in front of video games and/or the TV and feed them meals loaded with chemically processed foods and sugar.

 For some children, negative behaviour is a way of reacting to abuse that they have endured.   This is no secret to anyone who works with or is around children.   In fact, one third of adults who have ADHD were physically abused as children.

 It’s also common knowledge that the prescription medications used to treat ADHD are easily abused because the diagnosis, along with the prescription, is easily accessible for many addicts and dealers.   With so many prescriptions be doled out every year to children, sadly, I do not see this trend ending anytime soon.

 Now, that is not to say that all parents are bad parents or that there are not children out there who actually have a neurological disorder that needs to be treated by a professional.    But, the reality is that most children who are diagnosed as having ADHD, do not have a true, neurological disorder.   Instead, it is a reaction to their environment.  It is no secret that most children are falsely diagnosed.

 It takes a healthy, village to raise a healthy child.    We are all responsible for creating a healthy, stimulating environment.    As a society, we need to stop looking for the quick fixes and be more accountable to our children.   Parents need to be parents, doctors need to stop being so quick to diagnose children and pharmaceutical companies need to stop trying to get rich on these prescriptions.

To All The Olympic Athletes, I Salute You!

Olympic 2014

 

I admit, Canada has been a very loud country these past few days, and rightfully so.  Between the fantastic curling matches and the hockey, we have been glued to any media device that can show the Olympic games.  Our cheers have been so loud, I’m surprised they haven’t heard us in Sochi.   We have been loudly cheering since the first day when Mark McMorris won our first medal.  Yes, we Canadians are extremely proud of our athletes and we’re not afraid to show it.

But on the eve of the final day of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, only a mere few hours away from the final gold medal match in Men’s hockey (yes, I will be up watching and cheering for our boys),  I feel that it is only right to take this moment to acknowledge every athlete  from every nation who have participated in the Olympic games.

Every athlete in Sochi is there to represent their country.   They have spent hours, days, weeks, years to hone their skills for this moment.   They have, through their dedication, diligence, passion and discipline, accomplished more in their athletic ability, than most people on this planet will ever dream of doing:  they have honed their skills in their desired sport to qualify them as a competent contender for the most prestigious athletic competition, the Olympics Games.   That in itself is a truly remarkable feat that has taken years to achieve.

While we focus on the medals, just making it to the Olympics to represent your country is a success.   That means that each athlete has proven to be the best their country has to offer.   They have entered the Olympics proudly waving their country’s flag and wearing the colours that represent their nation.  They have gone into their competitions prepared to give it their all.   All the loss of sleep, sweat, sacrifice and work has come down to this moment.   That really is an achievement that each and every athlete should be proud of.  They have earned their spot in the Olympic Games and the adoration of their country.    So to each and every athlete from all around the world, who has participated in the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, I salute you!     You are top class.

For my Canadian athletes, I want to say how extremely proud we are of you.    You have worked so hard for so long to be where you are.   We have seen you grow and develop as truly remarkable athletes.

You have shown the true spirit of Olympic Sportsmanship on and off the competitive snow and ice.  You have shown class, grace, pride and true athletic spirit.    We, as a nation, can only stand proudly in awe  as you have given your all.    Congratulations to everyone of you.   We Canadians as a nation are so very proud and honoured to have such fine athletes represent this beautiful country that we call home.

Now go get ‘em boys!   We’ll be watching and rooting tomorrow!

Aspartame: Friend, Foe, Or Something In Between?

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Aspartame, a sugar substitute commonly found in  thousands of products around the world.   Just as common as Aspartame is in food and other products, so too are the articles and reports saying how bad Aspartame is for us.  Among some of the dangers, Aspartame is said to cause cancer, severe allergies, neurological and developmental disorders in infants and children, migraines, nerve damage and MS like symptoms.

Like many people, I have always just assumed that the articles about Aspartame were true.   After all, it was a man made chemical, why would it be safe?  But  last December 10th, while surfing the web for my next blog article, I spotted a caption that instantly caught my attention.   The BBC published an article with the headline:  “Aspartame is Safe”.

With all the negative articles out there, an article that says something positive about Aspartame is going to get attention.   Just the title alone is enough to stop a reader in their tracks.   My immediate thoughts were that this must be some sort of a hoax, a scam, propaganda.  How could Aspartame be considered safe?  But the headline easily piqued my curiosity and I couldn’t move on until I had at least read the article.

According to BBC’s article, the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA)  made public their review of Aspartame.   In their review, the EFSA  has stated that Aspartame is safe and does not damage our health.

The information in the article piqued my interest enough, that I had to take to the internet in search of other articles on Aspartame.      I wanted to see what other reports were out there and, more importantly, if there were other articles written that had positive information about Aspartame.

Through several articles, I learned that Aspartame was first discovered in 1965 by chemist James M Schlatter.   He was developing Aspartame as a potential treatment for ulcers.   James discovered the sweet taste of Aspartame when he licked his fingers to pick up a piece of paper.

Aspartame, also known as NutraSweet, Equal or E951.  It is 200 times sweeter than other artificial sweeteners and is the only one that can be completely broken down and ingested by the body.

Aspartame is composed primarily 2 amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine.  Amino acids are naturally found in many foods and are the building blocks of proteins.   Because of the amino acid, phenylalanine, used to create Aspartame, people with the genetic condition Phenylketonuria (PKU) should not consume Aspartame because they have to adhere to a strict low phenylalanine diet.

Since its discovery, Aspartame has been the most extensive and rigorously studied  food additive.  It has been  reviewed by numerous agencies around the world.   Aspartame has been approved in more than 90 countries and by more than 100 food and health regulatory organizations including, but not limited to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Joint Expert Committee of Food Additives (JECFA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization, Health Canada and the Europeans Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food to name a few.

Every study that has been conducted to date, have not been able to show that Aspartame is responsible for any of the disorders and diseases that are commonly associated with it.  According to most articles that I read, there is no scientific evidence to link Aspartame with any disease or neurological disorder.

This blog is by no means intended to promote Aspartame.   However, as a result of the BBC article, I was encouraged to look at the other side of the coin, do my own research and not just assume that what is put on the internet is automatically correct.    There is a lot of information about food and health put on the internet daily.   It is up to us, as consumers, to do our own research on what is good for us and what is not.   We should never assume that just because it is written, it is automatically true.

After reading the many articles- positive and negative – that I found  about Aspartame, I now question, is Aspartame a friend, foe, or something in between?

 

The information in this article can also be found in the following links:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25323216

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspartame

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/aspartame

http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/130108.htm

http://www.aspartame.net/