A Free Gift For Breast Cancer Survivors

survivor secrets

Here’s a great way to empower your life as a cancer survivor – and it’s absolutely free, no strings attached.  (It’s one of the “Perks”!)

My friend, fellow breast cancer survivor Gai Comans, has just released a new guide called “Survivor Secrets – Empower Your Life”.  And, yes, I’m one of the 21 inspirational survivors interviewed.  I was so impressed with all the interviews, I arranged for you to get a copy for free.

It features interviews with leading breast cancer survivors who reveal their insights  and “secrets” for what they wish they had known when they were diagnosed and going through treatment.   This Guide is the first in a new series.

Some of the chapters include:

How To Find Rainbows In The Breast Cancer Storm

Believing It’s Possible, Surviving Cancer 3 Times

Tools To Help You Heal Your Feelings Of Not Belonging

Giving Yourself Choice – Exploring Your Fertility Options Before Treatment

Looking For Beauty Everyday Can Help You Feeling Sexy After Cancer

Focus On Self-Care For An Holistic Outlook On Life

Coping With Anxiety – Finding Tools To Better Manage Stress

You can get your free copy of this guide by clicking here http://goo.gl/1LbH3I

I hope you enjoy this inspirational gift.  And I know it will give you the information you need to empower you through life as a cancer survivor!

The Perks Of Being A Teacher

summer

Flo and Kaitlyn kicking off summer on Shawn’s patio (Flo wearing new “summer wig”)

It is that time of year again…..the time when every working person in North America wishes that he or she was a TEACHER!  Well, I am not exactly a teacher, I am an Educational Psychologist turned School Counsellor.  However, I do get to enjoy all of the PERKS of being a teacher!  Top among these perks is the holiday schedule.  Seventy-six, count ‘em, 76 days until school starts up again in September.  Seventy-six days which I will fill with gardening, reading, fishing, and hanging out on the beach with my boy, Ben.

In addition to my usual summer endeavors, I have some very EXCITING stuff happening this summer!  In just two days I will meet for the first time in the flesh, my new friend and co-writer, Susan Gonzalez.  Even though we haven’t met in person,  I feel like I am welcoming a long-lost sister to my home.  I just love this gal!   It will be a working holiday for us, but I am sure there will be lots of fun and laughter thrown in to the mix.   (By the way, be sure to tune in to CBC Crosstalk Radio at 12:30 Newfoundland Time on Thursday, June 27th to listen to our interview.)

In July, it is off to Nova Scotia with Shawn and his family for some R and R.  Then, in August, I eagerly anticipate the climax of the summer:  The official launch of our book, 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It!   The launch is taking place in Nashville, Tennessee at a National Survivors Convention with thousands of people.   I can barely contain my excitement!  Susan and I will be giving away some fabulous prizes leading up to the launch, so tune in to our Facebook page for your chance to win.  Happy Summer, everyone!

Week 6: Meatless Monday Challenge

certificate-copy

WOW!  You did it!  Six weeks of practicing plant-based eating for (at least) one day a week.  Will you continue to make Meatless Monday a part of EVERY week?

For this week’s recipes, go to my fabulous co-writer’s blog:  The Savvy Sister!

 

 

Week 5: Meatless Monday Challenge

Go Green!

First of all, a sincere apology to all those men out there whose wives are making them go meatless one day per week.  One of my health conscious colleagues told me that she really enjoyed last week’s meatless menu, but her husband groaned, “What?  Meatless Monday AGAIN?  Wasn’t it only yesterday we had Meatless Monday?”  No, honey, it only happens once a week, just like regular Mondays….and be grateful that your wife cares about you enough to cook these healthy meals for you.  So I would like to retract that apology, and instead say to you guys: Suck it up, buttercup!

Well, spring has finally sprung, and in honor of my favorite season, I have chosen “Go Green” as the theme of this week’s Meatless Monday Challenge.

While I start every day with a fruit smoothie, I recently started adding some greens to give it an extra boost of nutrition. This Green Smoothie is a great starter smoothie for beginners. It’s full of iron, potassium and vitamins galore— and it tastes like a tropical treat!

5 REASONS TO LOVE GREEN SMOOTHIES (taken from http://www.simplegreensmoothies.com)

1. Natural energy booster

2. Natural weight loss drink

3. Simple way to boost your immune system

4. Full of disease-fighting antioxidants

5. Hands down— The best fast food

Breakfast:  Easy Green Smoothie

green smoothie

Ingredients

2 cups spinach, fresh

2 cups water

1 cup pineapple, frozen

1 cup mango

2 bananas

Makes 4 – 5 cups (about 2 servings)

TIP #1: Blend your greens and liquid first to avoid leafy chucks, then add the remaining fruits.

TIP #2: If you aren’t a big fan of bananas, feel free to substitute another fruit. I like to freeze the bananas first to reduce the flavor and also add some extra chill to my smoothie.

Lunch:  Cream of Broccoli Soup

brocolli soup

 

I first tried this delicious soup with my friends, Don and Phyllis and it was love at first bite!  Soon after I made a pot for me and my daughter, Kaitlyn and we devoured the entire pot in one day!   While it is a CREAM  soup, it contains absolutely no cream or dairy.  It gets its rich creaminess instead from the potatoes, which also makes it a very satisfying and filling meal.  While white potatoes are not high on the list of cancer-fighters, broccoli is one of the heavyweights, so you can eat your spuds guilt free.  (Impress your friends by serving this as a starter at your next dinner party!)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 3/4 pounds broccoli, thick stems peeled and diced (about 2 cups), tops cut into small florets (about 1 quart)

1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes (about 5), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 cups vegetable stock

3 cups water

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

In a large pot, sauté the onion in olive oil; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, broccoli, potatoes, broth, water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are cooked, about 15 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, pulse the soup to a coarse puree. Return the soup to the pot and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.

Dinner/Supper: Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Peppers:

Green peppers

As I mentioned in a previous post, quinoa is packed with protein, and is one of the only plant based foods which is considered a complete protein.  I buy mine at Costco, pre-washed, as trying to rinse these tiny seeds can be a pain!

 

Ingredients:

1 cup water + 1/2 cup quinoa rinsed

4 medium green peppers, cut in half & seeded

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/2 cup black olives sliced

1/2 cup corn kernals

3/4 tsp cumin

3/4 tsp  salt

1 cup prepared salsa

Daiya (cheese substitute) or cheese slices optional but highly recommended

oregano for garnishing

Here’s How:

Bring water to boil in a small sauce pan, add rinsed quinoa, cover and cook on low for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep your green peppers by cutting them in half. Mix together corn , olives and tomatoes place in a medium bowl.

Arrange green pepper halves on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side up.  Add cooked quinoa to the veggie bowl along with prepared salsa, mix well.  Fill each pepper half with as much quinoa mixture as you can.

Top with slices of pepper jack daiya, (which is a cheese substitute) OR slices of your favorite cheese if you are doing dairy – bake in a 350* pre heated  oven or toaster oven for 20-25 minutes.

Garnish with oregano.

(Credit for this recipe goes to http://sundaymorningbananapancakes.blogspot.ca)

So, there you have it my friends, three tasty green meals to kick off your week the healthy way! And remember, no animals were harmed in the making of these meals.

 

Vegan Delight!

gravy

You would think that by now, three days after my 21 day vegan challenge has ended, I would be “face and eyes” (Newfie expression) into a hamburger.   But strangely enough, I have no desire to eat meat.  In fact, I would have to say that the 21 day challenge was not a “challenge” at all….it was more of a delight!  Let me explain…..

First of all, I am not what you would consider a real food lover.  I enjoy food, sure, but eating does not usually top my list of things to do.  In fact, there are days when I actually forget to eat a meal.  It is not unusual during gardening season for me to go outside after breakfast and become so engrossed in my horticultural endeavors that I realize the sun is setting and I have actually forgotten to eat!  (I know, Sherry Inkpen, you hate me…)  However, since I started eating a plant based diet, I look forward to every meal, and I am actually excited about food for the first time in years!

The second delightful thing about plant based eating is trying new recipes and discovering that traditional Newfoundland meals can easily (and tastily) be adapted to a healthier, plant based version.  Case in point: fries and gravy, a Newfie favourite.  I consider myself to be somewhat of a gravy connoisseur.  Even blindfolded I can tell the difference between chicken gravy, pork gravy and beef gravy.  I have even been known to dabble in turr gravy , and you need a seasoned palate for that!  Obviously one of the key ingredients in traditional gravy is animal drippings (doesn’t that sound gross?).  However, I have discovered a new way to make gravy which rivals any gravy I have ever tasted: mushroom gravy (recipe to follow in my next post).  And now for the fries….sweet potato fries, oven roasted with olive oil and a dash of sea salt and pepper.  Yummy!

I would be amiss not to mention the third (or turd) delightful thing about plant-based eating: the B.M’s.  I’m a little shy about getting into the details of what constitutes a healthy BM, but if you are interested in knowing what your poo says about you, you must read what the Savvy Sister has to say on the topic!

Like my “vegan coach”, Susan, I am not quite comfortable with the term “vegan”.  Mainly because it makes one sound like an alien:

Martian:  Greetings.  I am a Martian who hails from the planet Mars.

Me: Na-nu Na-nu, I am a Vegan who hails from the planet Vegs.

I much prefer the term “plant-based eating”.  Being a plant-based eater does not mean that I can’t ever have eggs, cheese, or even a bit of meat on occasion.  It just means that my diet is MAINLY plant based.  I can do that!

So, to conclude my “challenge” I would like to thank Susan for all the helpful tips and words of encouragement.  While she is the epitome of healthy eating, she is never preachy and never  hardly ever forces her opinions on others.  What says you, Susan?

Savvy Sister

 

Thanks Florence! And congratulations on your accomplishment! Please print and proudly display the certificate below (or just read it):

certificate

Your lifestyle changes are just that: YOURS.  Unfortunately, people have preconceptions about what a vegan diet means and see it as something negative…”I will have to GIVE UP so and so…”

But as Flo has shown us, with eating plant-based, you are getting so much more variety, color, flavor and texture, that you will never get bored.  And you will exercise your mind by trying new things.  (New experiences create new connections in your brain)  For example, I just tried Yacon syrup for the first time yesterday.  Yacon syrup is a root (like sweet potato) that is used as a sweetener but it is not like sugar, does not raise your blood sugar, (so diabetics can eat it) it helps build bone, and can help with weight loss!

I think you’ll find Flo that as time goes on, you will continue to feel better, and have more energy and enjoy fixing meals, which will reinforce your decision to remain plant-based.

I invite everyone reading this to go out today and bring home one new item from the produce section and find a way to prepare it.  One suggestion is spaghetti squash. There are two recipes on my blog, The Savvy Sister,  you can use.

Baby steps now…soon you’ll be running a marathon!   And we’ll be here to help you!

 

LiveStrang

lance

In the early hours of Saturday, January 19th, an emergency Skype meeting was called by the executive of “Perks of Cancer” (consisting mostly of me and Susan with Shawn popping on the screen from time to time to give his 2 cents worth).   Key on the agenda was the Armstrong Fiasco.  We figure it is only a matter of time before the press starts hounding us for a statement, so we had to get to work on our press release.  Here it is: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, LANCE ARMSTRONG MAY BE A CROOK AT CYCLING, BUT HE IS A CHAMPION OF CANCER, SAYS PERKS OF CANCER EXECUTIVE.

But seriously, folks, you can’t turn on the T.V. or radio these days without hearing about the Armstrong debacle.  It seems that everyone has an opinion on Lance, with most of them being very negative!  Hey, I’m not saying that cheating is ever right, but it’s not black or white; no one person is completely good or completely bad.  There are shades of grey (50 of them, to be exact!).  In the words of my fellow blogger, Tami Boehmer, “He isn’t evil. He isn’t a hero. As much as we want to wrap someone up in a neat label, it’s an illusion. Mother Theresa suffered from depression and admitted she was miserable most of the time. JFK was a great leader, but he cheated on his wife. A majority of our early presidents, including the great George Washington, owned slaves. Does that erase the good they’ve done? Hardly.”   (To read more of Tami’s post, go here: http://www.tamiboehmer.com/)

And so, while we briefly considered striking the name of Lance Armstrong from the pages of “100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It”, in the end we decided that it will stay.  While we do not agree with how he cheated the sports world, we do admire how he cheated death, and we recognize all that the Livestrong Foundation has done for the cancer community.  The way we see it, you can cheat at sports, but ya can’t cheat at beating cancer.  He did that fair and square.  Gotta go, the phone is ringing, I think it is NIKE looking for an endorsement…LiveSTRANG! (Get it, Florence Strang…LiveStrang???? No?)

 

The Savvy Sister

What a wonderful age of technology we live in!  To think, that sitting here in little ole Lewin’s Cove, Newfoundland, I co-authored a book with a woman who lives in Georgia.   Our book is being published by a man who lives in California, whom neither of us has ever met.  The 500 page manuscript just magically flew through cyber space, and is now being scrutinized by an editor living in God-knows-where.

When people ask how I met my co-author, (the beautiful) Susan Gonzalez, I have to admit, that technically, we have never met.  We have only ever talked via emails, texts and skype.   I first came in contact with her when I stumbled upon her blog The Savvy Sister.  (http://sisterearthorganics.wordpress.com/)  With its many easy to follow health tips, written with amazing wit, I looked forward to each new post.  When it was suggested that I turn my blog into a book, I thought: Sure, a book about The Perks of Having Cancer would be interesting, but how much more valuable would it be to create a resource that addresses the needs of body, mind and spirit, following a cancer diagnosis.  So by combining our talents, we are making it our mission to show people that it is possible to live a HEALTHY and HAPPY life after cancer.  Our book will give people literally hundreds of tips to help maximize their chances of surviving cancer, avoiding a cancer reoccurrence (or avoid getting cancer in the first place).

So if you are serious about avoiding cancer, you MUST listen to this interview, by my highly esteemed co-author, Susan.  Here is the link:

(Note: The introduction is rather wordy, but just stick with it, you won’t be sorry!)

http://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WWS3FMhk 

susan pic

My Photo Journal, 2012

As 2012 draws to a close, I would like to share with you some pictures, which show the highs and lows of the past year for me.

new year 1

2012 got off to a great start with a FREE trip to Florida (compliments of my sister, Lynette and hubbie Jeff).  Soaking up the sun for a couple of weeks, while recouping from my chemo, was definitely one of the perks of having cancer!

happy birthday

On January 28th, I celebrated my 45th birthday, just four day after undergoing a mastectomy.

DSCN0810

In February it was off to St. John’s for me for five weeks of Radiation Treatments.  It was nice to spend time with Shawn, but I really missed my kiddies!

new year 2

I finished the last of my cancer treatments on March 30th, almost exactly one year from the time I was diagnosed.  I was home just in time to start my seeds with Ben!

New year 3

In April, Shawn and I traveled to Nova Scotia for my very first Breast Cancer Retreat.  It was a very “healing experience” for me.

new year 4

In May, I went to my second retreat, but this time was a little different:  I was guest speaker to an audience of more than 200 women! (Definitely a perk) I also met some great friends along the way.

New year 5

Shawn and I enjoyed lots of outdoor activities during the summer.  This photo was taken in June in Shoal Harbor.

emerge

In July, I experienced  a “little setback”, a lingering infection which put me in the hospital three times on I.V antibiotics.  (Definitely NOT a perk!)

new year 8

In August it was off to PEI with Shawn and the Williams family for some much needed R and R.

DSCN2172

In September I went back to work as a School Counselor, after a 17 month break away from my work.  It was so great to connect with the kids again.

new year 12

For Halloween, 2012, I dressed as a Blue Butterfly; a symbol which held a lot of meaning for me during my cancer journey.

Me, Donovan and Kaitlyn in Times Square

Me, Donovan and Kaitlyn in Times Square

November found me in New York.  I had promised my kids when I was diagnosed that when I was well enough we would take a trip to the Big Apple….but if you were following my blog, you will know that it turned out to be the “Big Rotten Apple” for me.

CPG_9962In early December, I said good-bye to my beloved Patches, my constant companion through cancer.

DSCN2862

But the year ended on a great note, surrounded by the ones I love.

Happy New Year!  May you be blessed with good health, good friends and a supportive family in 2013. (Those are the REAL perks!)

Free T-Shirts

I pulled out my t-shirt drawer recently and realized that it is practically bursting at the seams.  I am not normally a t-shirt gal, so it took me by surprise that I have accumulated so many of these garments over the past year. As I rifled through the drawer, I came to realize a perk: many of these t-shirts came to me FREE for participating in cancer events such as retreats, the Relay for Life and the Run for the Cure.  In some cases, I got two t-shirts for the same event: the standard white participant one and the coveted survivors t-shirt (okay, maybe “coveted” is a bit strong of a word).

Although there is some controversy in the cancer world about the use of the term “survivor” and what it means, there is no denying the special synergy that exists among the group who gets to wear the “coveted” t-shirt.  Having shared a similar experience, we feel an automatic kinship with other survivors.  (We also get to say: Cancer….been there, done that, got the t-shirt!)

I am pretty sure that as I walk or run the track wearing my survivors t-shirt, spectators are looking at me and thinking: “Wow!  Look at that cool yellow t-shirt.  All I got was a boring old white one.  I wonder what I have to do to get to wear the yellow one?”   Well, probably they are not thinking that.  But I am certain that at least some of the spectators are looking at me and thinking, “Wow!  Look at my mom/sister/daughter/friend/girlfriend.  She is a survivor!”

Champagne Birthdays!

This week, I had the privilege of attending not one, but two champagne birthdays.  In case you are wondering, your champagne birthday happens only once in your lifetime, and it is when your age corresponds to the date of your birth, like turning 10 on the 10th, or 30 on the 30th.

I was in PEI with Shawn and his family when his son Mark turned 15 on the 15th.

Although we were staying in a camper, I managed to bake a cake, with the help of Mark’s cousins, Jonah and Simone.  We decorated the cake with lots of candy, which first had to pass rigorous taste tests by my two helpers.

 

There is nothing like a good old fashioned Griswald family vacation to make you feel like part of the family.  (And nothing like sharing one pair of sunglasses and one toothbrush with Shawn to cement our relationship!)

I left the Williams family in PEI and headed back to The Rock to celebrate my daughter Kaitlyn’s champagne birthday as she turned 17 on the 17th.  We even toasted with real champagne!

I pray that I will be around to toast lots of other occasions with my beautiful daughter: her high school graduation, her University graduation, her marriage and the birth of her children (in that order).  And someday, I hope to drink a champagne toast on the champagne birthday of my future grandchildren!

 

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