Follow The Rainbow

Hey, it has been a while since I have posted about cancer prevention and healthy living, so here goes…….

When eating for disease prevention, the best health tip that you can follow is to “follow the rainbow”, meaning that you should include as many colorful foods in your diet as possible.  No, I am not telling you to eat bag of Skittles a day, I am referring to nature’s treats, fruits and vegetables!

Nothing looks more appealing than a plateful of richly colored food.  The beautiful colors found in fruits and vegetables are the result of chemicals called anti-oxidants.  While there are tiny amounts of anti-oxidants found in meats and dairy (due to the fact that animals eat plants), by far the vast majority of anti-oxidants are found in plant based foods.  There are many classes of anti-oxidants, such as beta-carotene, which gives squash its yellow color; lypocene, which gives tomatoes their red color; and crytoxanthins, which lend oranges their orange color.  It is not important that you know all these fancy words, but it is important for you to know that you need to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in order to get the health benefits from an array of anti-oxidants.

So why are anti-oxidants important to good health?  Good question!  Throughout our lifetime, our bodies produce a nasty substance called free radicals.  Free radicals are the result of normal metabolism and energy production in the body, and are formed when we exercise.  They are also produced by exposure to the sun’s rays, pollution from the environment, and poor diet, among other things.  These free radicals wreak havoc on the body, causing our tissues to become stiff and rigid.  Eventually, these free radicals will lead to degenerative diseases in the body, such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer.   The good news is, we can help to protect our bodies from the damage of free radicals by building a shield around them so that they are unable to damage the cells in our body.  This protective shield is formed by anti-oxidants.

Our bodies can manufacture some types of antioxidants, but not others, and our natural antioxidant production tends to decline with age.  Fortunately for us, plants are able to produce these anti-oxidant shields which protect their cells from the harmful effects of free radicals, and by eating plants, we get the same protection.  It is impossible to stop our bodies from accumulating free radicals, after all, they are a bi-product of living and breathing.  In addition, pollutants and carcinogens are all around us: in our air, food, water and sunlight. However, we don’t have to do it alone.  By eating more fruits and vegetables we are able to borrow their anti-oxidant super powers, and thereby reduce the aging and disease effects that free radicals cause in our bodies.

So, some of you are thinking, “I am not a big fan of fruits and veggies, so I will just take an anti-oxidant supplement instead.”  Sorry, think again.  When you eat whole foods, you get more than the anti-oxidents. You also get essential vitamins, minerals, and energy in the form of protein, fat and carbohydrates.   Although you can get some types of nutrients through supplements, it is better to get them through food. The nutrients and other components in whole foods are more balanced, more biologically active, and are usually better absorbed by the body, according to a 2009 article by David R. Jacobs, Jr. published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”  While taking a supplement can do no harm, it is wise not to depend on them as your main source of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.  See how many colors you can incorporate into your meals today!

Is Your Life Crappy, Or Happy?

The Crappy

 When you think about it, my life has been pretty crappy!  To begin with, I suffered through my childhood with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder.  I don’t remember when I had my first panic attack, but by the time I started school, they were a regular occurrence, making my school years a living nightmare.  My teen and early adult years were not so bad. I got the anxiety under control and I met and married my high school sweetheart.  However that ended in a painful divorce.  It took me years to recover from that.   During the latter part of my marriage, the anxiety returned and I suffered a full blown nervous breakdown.  My anxiety and panic attacks were so intense that I could not go to work; I could not do simple chores, like banking or even get my hair styled.  I couldn’t even take care of my own kids.  What kind of a Psychologist has a nervous breakdown, anyway?   That doesn’t say much for my skills as a counsellor, don’t you agree? 

Following my divorce, I had not one, not two, but three….count them, THREE failed relationships, each one lasting four years.  I must be a sucker for punishment!   Can you just imagine how much heartache and suffering I have endured, just from breakups alone?  Jeeze, I must have endured 10 break ups and make ups in just one of those relationships.  Do you have any idea how many tears I have cried over men?  Sure, I am now in a relationship with a wonderful guy, but knowing my luck, that will probably end in disaster as well. 

Then, when I was 41, I got dealt one of the hardest blows of my life.  My youngest son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism.  It is not easy being a single parent to a child with autism.  Every day, there are challenges.  Just a few days ago, for example, we went to a store for him to buy a DVD.   The one he wanted was not there, which resulted in a complete meltdown.  For what felt like an hour, he screamed cried, jumped up and down and was completely inconsolable.  I felt so embarrassed as everyone in the store pointed and stared at us.  By the time I dragged him to the car, I was in tears myself.  That is just one of the challenges.  Trust me, there are plenty more. 

Life certainly didn’t improve during my forties…….a single mom of three kids, the youngest with autism, with a string of failed relationships.  Just when I was at the point of thinking “What else could possibly go wrong with my life?”  BAM….I get diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 44.  It has been five years of suffering; surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and constant fear of it coming back.  Cancer has scarred my body and it has scarred my soul.  I will never again be the person I was before my diagnosis.  Yes, folks, life has been crappy for me, that is for sure.

The Happy

When you think about it, my life has been pretty happy!  Sure, I had a rough start in life, with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder.  However, I give credit to that experience for my decision to become a Psychologist.  I am now 26 years into my career and I can honestly say I have not had a single regret about my career choice.  Not many people can say that! I can thank my childhood anxiety disorder for helping to make me the woman I am today.  By the time I was a teen, the anxiety seemed to be under control and I really rocked the 80’s.  I had great friends and a wonderful boyfriend who later became my husband.  Sadly, that ended in divorce, but from it, I got two wonderful children, Kailtyn and Donovan.  While divorce is painful, I learned a lot about myself from that experience.

My anxiety returned when I was in my thirties, and eventually resulted in a nervous breakdown.  It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, but I can honestly say, it has made me a better Psychologist.  When I am counseling clients with anxiety, I am not just talking the talk.  I have walked the walk. I know what a panic attack feels like, and what it is to battle an anxiety disorder. I also know that the techniques that I teach my clients really work.   After being nearly 10 years panic attack free, without medication, I am living proof of the success of these techniques.  I have had great success with treating anxiety, and as I write this, my services are in such high demand that I have a wait list of clients. 

When I look back over my love life, no doubt about it, it was a rocky road.  But I can honestly say that something good came from each of my failed relationships.  I hold no grudges and I have no regrets.   As the old saying goes, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”  Each of these relationships taught me something about myself and what I am truly deserving of in a relationship.  And now, I have hit the jackpot!   Steve Robertson is the most kind, caring, loving, affectionate and attentive man that I have ever met.  (And I am NEVER letting him get away!)

I won’t lie to you, it is not easy raising a child with autism.  There are so many challenges.  For example, I am always on alert for him to have a meltdown in a public place, like he recently did when he could not find the DVD he wanted.  However, because of that incident, I came up with a genius way to prevent further mishaps like that.  When we left the store that day, Ben could not be consoled.  He wanted to go to another store to look for the DVD.  I didn’t know what to do.  If the DVD was there, it would be the end of the upset.  But if it wasn’t, it would probably result in an even more severe meltdown.  That’s when I got my idea.  I sent my daughter, Kailtyn in to the store to take pictures of the DVD displays, while we waited in the car.  Sure, Ben got upset when he looked at the pictures and realized the one he wanted was not there.  But we were in the car, so it wasn’t so bad.  He eventually calmed down and choose another DVD from the pictures.  Soon he was smiling, laughing, and even singing a little song that made me smile, “Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory…..” Since Ben has so many communication challenges, hearing him sing is literally music to my ears.  As the saying goes, “All is well that ends well.”  Sure, there are challenges to being Ben’s mom, but I can assure you, the joys of being his mom far outweigh the challenges!

At 44 years old, I was shocked to discover that I had breast cancer.   I thought that my life was ending.  In retrospect, I can see that my life was only just beginning.   Not only did I face the challenge of battling the disease, but I did so with finesse, if I do say so myself.  Finding “The Perks of Having Cancer” has changed my life.  Five years ago, I would never have imagined myself as an award winning blogger, a best-selling author, and a sought after motivational speaker (I especially would not have believed the public speaking part!!!).  But here I am at 49, feeling more confident and accomplished than I ever dreamed possible.  Cancer has scarred my body and it has scarred my soul.  But like a phoenix who rises from its ashes, a new Flo has arisen from cancer.  I will never again be the person I was before my diagnosis!  I now realize that I am capable of accomplishing anything that I set my mind to.  I also know my own worth for the first time.   Yes, folks, life has been happy for me, that is for sure.

 The Truth

The truth is, we all have the crappy and we all have the happy.  It is where you choose to focus your attention that determines whether you live a crappy life, or you live a happy life. I believe that I am a happy person because I choose to focus on the good things in my life, and the life lessons that I have learned from the trials and tribulations.   Attitude is a choice.  Will you choose to focus on the crappy or the happy?  It’s completely up to you.

Crappy post

My SOS Sisters

For years, research has proven that support groups improve the quality of life for its members.   A recent study however, shows that not only the QUALITY of life can be enhanced by being a member of a supportive community,  but so too can the QUANITITY.  In other words, having a strong social support network may help you to live longer! (Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2013 Jan;137(1):261-71)  In this study, researchers examined data from 2, 264 woman who had been diagnosed with early stage, invasive breast cancer, and the results are very exciting!  While they did not look at cancer support groups in isolation, the researchers found that “Larger social networks have been associated with lower breast cancer mortality.”  In other words, the more social supports and networks you have, through family, friends and social groups, the less likely you are to die from breast cancer.  They concluded:  “…women with both small networks and low levels of support had a significantly higher risk of mortality than women with large networks and high levels of support.”

That’s good news for me!  In addition to the support I receive at my annual breast cancer retreat, I am also a member of a breast cancer support group called Sharing Our Strength (SOS), which was founded by cancer survivor, Joan Aucoin in 2003.  Through both face to face meetings and our Facebook page, group members share with each other information, tips and most importantly, moral support through the cancer journey (which I call “the journey that never ends!”).

I polled the members of my SOS support group with an open-ended question:  “What is the most valuable aspect of being part of this group for you?”   I then analyzed the results, and found seven common themes, as follows (Hey!  I am a Psychologist, so I am allowed to conduct my own research!):

Belonging:   By far the most common response reflected a sense of belonging to the sisterhood of survivors, and not being alone in the journey.

I am a member of the most amazing group of Sistas there is!!! We support each other in so many way, from diagnosis to years of survival!! I personally felt so alone even though my mother and sister were there for me always. The day I walked into Joan’s house for the first time, with the lovely Sherry Bishop, I was so nervous and emotional I almost got sick, being a very shy person. We had our circle of friends (sharing session) and I realized that I’m not alone. What an amazing and reassuring feeling!! From that time on it was bring on whatever life throws at me because I’m no longer alone in this battle!!”  (Lenora)

“I will never forget the first time I walked into Joan’s house, the hugs, love, strength, peace I received was amazing. I thought to myself, well I’m not the only one going through this terrible journey with cancer.”  (Christine)

Understanding:  Another common theme involved being in the company of those who truly know and understand what you are going through, because they have been there.

These people have felt the stab of hearing the same diagnoses: you have Cancer. They have felt the fear, worry and concern of wondering where this diagnosis will lead me. They have anxiously waited for the next test to be done, felt fear as the test was being done and lost sleep waiting to receive the results. They have felt concern wondering if the treatment would be successful. They have felt joy that it was successful and devastation when it wasn’t. They know what it is like to go on living always wondering will I be ok and for how much longer. Cancer has brought us together to support each other like no other person can, right down to the deepest emotions and feelings.”  (Paulette)

“It’s good to talk to people who have gone through this and who really get it. As fantastic as my family and friends are, you really need to talk with people who have been there themselves.”  (Donna)

Acceptance:  Several people reported a feeling of being in a safe environment where you are accepted for who you are, and you can share openly, without fear of judgement.

“For me, mostly, I think – IT’S A SAFE PLACE. No judgement, only support and sharing. These good people lift me up every day.” (Linda)

“For me this journey has me questioning who I really am. As a very curvy woman all my life, I now find myself struggling with my new GI Jane identity since my double mastectomy. At SOS, I can be real, raw and authentic and not get judged for it.”  (Denika)

“Having a place to turn where they “get it” and there is no judgement, and the confidentiality given for any comment or fear.”  (Judy)

Emotional support: The research on support groups lists emotional support as one of the greatest benefits of being a member of a support group.  It involves being able to share your fears and get comfort, strength and encouragement from other people.  

“The strength and support that these women have given me over the past 6 years is second to none. No one fights this disease alone, and that is evident in this group. Just speaking through personal experience, I had a biopsy yesterday morning and at 7:30 am, two of these ladies were waiting with me, making sure I had all I needed. I left and went to chemo where I was surrounded by at least a dozen ladies from our SOS group. The support that surrounded me in that room made me feel kinda sad for the other patients receiving treatment. I just wanted to shout “These are my girls!!!!” I just wanted them to know what it felt like to be me in that very moment in time. The SOS Group is my extended family.”  (Dana)

“SOS is my sisterhood in the most pure form. The ladies truly are my extended family.”  (Heather)

“We feel each other’s’ joys and pain. We ride the peaks and valleys of this roller coaster ride. We help each other. We share with each other,,,,,hugs, smiles, laughter, information, knowledge, experience,,,,oh and wine (and food)! When we are together, or even just on our Facebook  chats, we are wrapped in a secure safety net of love and healing.”  (Erin)

 

L to R: Sharon Foster, Dana Blackwood Cox (receiving chemo), Joan Aucoin and Beverly Kelly

Hope: This hope comes from seeing other survivors who are thriving, as well as from the words of encouragement and stories of hope you get from other survivors.

I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer right from the start so I really thought the road had ended for me. I was young with three small kids and really didn’t know how I was going to face this journey, let alone get through it. Then along came Joan and all of her beautiful angels. They all showed me that not only can you get through this, you can also have fun doing so. They have filled my life with so much hope. My extended family sees this new hope in me and has in turn helped them get through this journey. I feel like I owe all of these ladies for giving me my life back.”  (Nancy)

“The feeling of isolation when I was first diagnosed was deep and dark…the Internet was deeper and darker! Being together with these beautiful women replaced that dark isolation with flutters of hope, strength and undeniable sense of belonging….a feeling of “I am where I am supposed to be”. This group is my strength and safety and it fills my heart with love and gratitude.”  (Sherry)

 Inspiration:  Inspiration comes from observing how other survivors are living their lives, which then inspires you to want to live your best life.

The inspiration from so many amazing women has been a life-saver and powerful motivator. Just knowing if they can do it, I can do it, too; and to be able to lean on one another when the need is there.”  (Linda)

“For myself finding out that there are many survivors of breast cancer out there….cause when you hear the words ” you have cancer “…….well, it’s not a death sentence anymore.”  (Madelyn)

“I am amazed at the courage these ladies have and how it encourages those who are a little scared.” (Beverly) 

“Sometimes it takes something ugly to really see and understand beauty. I’ve never known anything as ugly as cancer, but I’ll never experience anything more beautiful than the love in this group of women.”  (Kellie Ray) 

L to R: Kerry Churchill Cheering on her SOS Sister, Diane Coffin

 

Knowledge:  On a more practical side, members benefit from the sharing of information about things such as treatment options, post cancer care, and reconstruction.  This knowledge leads to a sense of empowerment.

I have obtained a knowledge and understanding of breast cancer that I would not have gotten from reading.”  (Madonna)

“They are full of knowledge and have filled my life with so much hope”   (Nancy)

“One extremely important thing to me, especially in the last couple of weeks, is the honest, hard advice from my fellow sisters. Sometimes doctors don’t always tell the complete truth whether by choice or by innocent omission.”  (Lisa)

“It has given me resources, information and tools to help me in my daily fight to be the best I can be with the life I have been given.”  (Gen)

There is no doubt that being a member of a support group has enhanced my life, and that of my survivor sisters.   With this new research proving that having a strong social network and social support improves your odds of surviving cancer, well, I plan to be an SOS member for a very long time!

 

Ellen Mary: A Woman of Confidence and Courage

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When I was a child growing up in Lawn, my aunt, Ellen Mary, was a frequent visitor to our home. As you can imagine, with five little girls running around, the house was often in an uproar! There was no shortage of bickering, fighting and sometimes out right physical brawls.   Mom would try to keep the peace with idle threats like, “You kids better quiet down or I will tell your father when he gets home from work!” Yeah Mom, like that was going to scare us. Dad is even gentler than mom, and I don’t remember him ever even raising his voice to us girls. So needless to say, mom’s words would go unheeded.   But then Ellen Mary would speak up, “Listen to your mudder or I will haul down your pants and smack your arse!” Suddenly, the house would go quiet. It is not that we really believed that she would hit us. Ellen Mary was a very kind hearted woman. However, she spoke those words with such conviction, that we obeyed her, not out of fear, but out of respect for her authority. That is the kind of woman she was.

Ellen Mary was a person who will be remembered in our home community of Lawn, for her volunteer efforts. While she was not a woman of great wealth, she gave freely of her time. In the mid-eighties, she made history by becoming the first female fire fighter in our province! At the time, as a teenaged girl, I thought it was silly. Why would a woman want to join the volunteer fire brigade? But as an educated woman, I now respect Ellen Mary as a “trail blazer”, leading the way for other women to enter this noble profession. Today, as an educator, I help to teach young people the importance of equal rights and acceptance. Nobody had to teach Ellen Mary that. She just knew that her contribution would be as good as that of any man. Her forward thinking was way ahead of her time!

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I recall another way in which Ellen Mary clearly demonstrated a way of thinking that was ahead of her time. When I was attending university in the eighties, she would sometimes stay at my apartment in St. John’s when she was in town for medical appointments. She had no problem making herself at home; putting on the kettle, taking out her tub of tobacco and rolling up her dearly loved home-made cigarettes at the table. One summer, I rented a place from a university professor, and he would often drop by for a visit, sometimes accompanied by another professor. I remember once feeling embarrassed, as Ellen Mary would go on and on with stories about our home town. I thought, “Why is she boring these educated men with stories about the bay?” It surprised me to learn that they were not bored at all, but rather entertained and fascinated by her stories (especially the Folklore profs!).   That became clear to me when after one of my classes, my prof called me aside to ask when my Aunt Ellen Mary would be visiting again, and be sure to invite him over so he could talk to her again.   Even years after I graduated, any time I saw my former prof, he would ask about Ellen Mary. She certainly knew how to leave an impression.

While we now recognize outport Newfoundland as having a rich culture, back then being “from the bay”, was not something you bragged about. But Ellen Mary did.   While she was not a highly educated person herself, she could easily hold her own in a conversation with any professor or doctor. Her confidence was unshakeable. As a shy young woman, who felt intimidated in the presence of people who were more educated than me, Ellen Mary taught me a very valuable lesson.   Sure, there will always be people out there who are smarter than me….richer than me….and better looking than me. But there is nobody out there who is BETTER than me.   Nobody had to teach Ellen Mary that. She just knew it.

One of the fondest memories I have of Ellen Mary is seeing her arrive on her 3-wheeler ATV, with a bandana tied under her chin, and a smoke dangling from her lips, to deliver the AVON.   “AVON calling,” my sisters and I would joke when we saw her trike pull up in the yard. Of course, driving an ATV on the roads is illegal, but that did not stop Ellen Mary. In fact, she once got pulled over by an RCMP officer who was about to ticket her for her blatant offence of the law. But somehow, she managed to talk herself out of the ticket.  I can almost hear her, “Now listen here, me child, I am a member of the fire department, and this is my only means of transportation. If I can’t ride my trike, then I have no way of responding to a call for help.”   From what I heard, not only did the officer rip up the ticket, but he also apologized to her.

As these stories clearly demonstrate, Ellen Mary was a woman of great confidence. She will also be remembered as a woman of great courage. Right from the day that she drew her first breath, fate would deal her a heavy blow. Her mother died from giving birth to her. Later in life, she lost a child of her own, a beautiful, infant girl, named Yolanda. She also had a son, Michael, with medical issues, who spent much of his childhood at the Janeway Children’s hospital, with his mother always by his side. These are just a few of the challenges that Ellen Mary faced in life, but she faced them all with courage.   Never one for self-pity or bitterness, when life dealt her a blow, she took it in stride and carried on.

It saddened me to hear of Ellen Mary’s sudden passing on May 20th, at the age of 63. However, remembering her life brings a smile to my face. Ellen Mary is a beautiful example of a life well lived. The true measure of a person is not the wealth that they accumulate over a lifetime, but the love that they give and receive. Ellen Mary was certainly well loved, by her husband, Mike, her daughter, Denise (Conrad) who gave her two adoring grandsons, Patrick and John, and her youngest son, Michael, who through his volunteer efforts, is following in his mother’s footsteps. She was also well loved by a large extended family, friends, and community members. As a final tribute to Ellen Mary, I would like to leave you with this poem:

 

What is Success?

 

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people

and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics

and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;

To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by

a healthy child, a garden patch

or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed

easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

 

By: Ralph Waldo Emerson

Angel 25

 

Steve

When Steve and I first met and he told me that he had served in Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot, he immediately gained my respect.  Getting to know this kind, compassionate and caring man over the past year has certainly cemented that respect. He told me that he had written a book about his experiences in war, but it was not published.  I encouraged him to share his stories online and have his book published.   I am happy to say he followed my advice, and now is the published author of Go for Shakedown. His book contains many powerful stories, such as seeing innocent children being used by the Taliban as body shields and witnessing the stoning of a teenaged girl. The short story which I would like to share with you today, is from his book, Go for Shakedown.

Steve’s Story:

….I looked over my left shoulder and saw Zorg approaching the men through the dust, revealing his regimental patch. It seemed to be sign that he was a brother, not a stranger. And that their fallen would be escorted with dignity under his watch. He grabbed one end of the body bag and lifted it onto the floor of the griffon helicopter. Snapshot had moved across and pulled the soldier through, placing a seatbelt from a floor ring over his body to secure him. The casualty’s impromptu pall bearers reached out to our passenger. I couldn’t see what they did, a pat of compassion? Blessing? I don’t know. It was surreal. Their heads were low. Faces flaccid with exhaustion, tears, fear, anger, horror, stained with dust and sunburn – stoic.

Another soldier, a senior Warrant Officer, grabbed them and with some hand gestures reminded them it was time to get into a defensive position. The war was still on, they were more vulnerable with a helicopter in their position. Shots were expected.

The NCO looked at me and spun his hand in the air signalling for me to get out, now!

“Let’s go guys.” I called. “Cabin area.”

“Right gun ready, left gun ready.” Snapshot and Zorg called.

“Lifting, with a right turn out.” I started to pull in collective creating another explosion of dust as I inched across the ground, falling over the edge of Three-hills towards the wadi. The aircraft shuddered at maximum weight to gain flying speed. We burst through the dust bubble and skimmed across the trees toward Steel-door. On the right was FOB MADRAS; the few soldiers on watch saluted as we passed.

“Prof, you have the lead and the radios.” I sighed somberly.

“Roger that.” He responded.

It was the quietest flight I had at war. We flew high to avoid enemy fire. We weren’t hunting Taliban anymore today. I heard Prof’s voice now and again on the radio breaking the sound of wind and engines. It was peaceful for the moment flying towards the east morning sun. A beautiful sky, but such an ugly, deadly earth.

“KAF tower, This Shakedown 25 Flight” Prof’s voice broke the meditative silence.

“25 Flight, this is KAF tower, Altimeter two-nine-eight-six, FARP or X-ray sir?” Tower called.

 

“Prof answered, voice was humble: “Shakedown 25 is now Angel 25 Flight. Request direct Role 3 hospital.”

Tower’s voice changed.   He knew Angel meant they had a fallen soldier aboard: “Angel 25, you are cleared south ramp arrival direct.” He continued. “Paciderm 11, please orbit and come in behind Angel 25, Gunsmoke 26, Hold present position for Angel 25. Longknife 11, please orbit north come in number three behind Angel 25.” KAF tower kept clearing the way.

My heart throbbed. Everyone was quiet and humbled. The event tears a person in half. It is such a massive honour to carry your brother out of the field of battle. But he’s dead. Why should I feel honour when his family is going to feel nothing but pain and suffering? A mother’s worst fears. A spouse’s heart shattered. A child’s dreams turn to nightmares of confusion. The other aircraft circled for the two minutes it would take to allow our unencumbered approach showing respect the fallen but beloved Sgt McNeil, ending his first trip towards the Highway of Heroes.

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If you enjoyed reading this story, you will LOVE the book:

GFS

Click HERE to buy it.

How I Witnessed A “Mini Miracle”: The Angel Healing

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I don’t tell many people this, especially the clients I work with, but in every counseling session that I give, both individual and group, I use “Angel Therapy.” I am actually a Certified Angel Therapist, having trained in 2010, with Charles Virtue, the son of world famous Angel Healer, Doreen Virtue.   How do I administer Angel Therapy without my client’s knowledge? I simply take five minutes before each session to light a candle and invite my angels, as well as the angels of my clients, to be present for their healing. On a rare occasion I will pull out one of my many decks of angel cards to offer guidance to the client, but only if I feel that he or she is open to this form of angel intervention. Otherwise, I fear that I would quickly lose credibility as a Registered Psychologist!

Over the years, I have witnessed some pretty amazing healings in my practice, for which I give credit to the angels. I would like to share with you the story of one such healing.

Mary (name changed to protect her privacy), is a woman in her sixties who lost her husband about a year ago. She had been seeing me for counseling for several months for issues relating to the grieving process. Mary describes herself as not a particularly religious person. While she has faith and believes in God, she had many questions as to what actually happens after death, and wondered whether her husband was still around her in some way. She reported that she could sometimes feel his warm and comforting presence, but she also discovered a particular sign that gave her comfort: dimes.   Many people who are grieving begin to find “dimes from heaven” as a sign that their loved one is still around and watching over them. Soon after her husband’s death, Mary began to find dimes in the most unexpected and peculiar places, and at every counseling session, she would happily share with me another story of finding these dimes from heaven.

One day, Mary called me, very upset, and asked if I was able to fit her in for a counseling session. Luckily, I was able to see her right away.   Before her arrival, I lit a candle and said a prayer to invoke the presence of the angels. When she came to my office that day, her grief and despair were almost tangible. Her voice shook a little as she told me the story of visiting her husband’s grave the previous day and realizing for the first time, the finality of the loss. While she had long ago acknowledged his death, on some level she was not fully accepting that he was never coming back. I explained to Mary that acceptance is the final stage of the grieving process, and while it is painful, these are healing feelings which she must embrace in order to move forward in life. Re-framing it in this way seemed to bring some comfort to Mary, but still I could sense that there was something else bothering her.

She then went on to tell me, “Realizing that he is never coming back is hard for me to accept. But even harder is the thought that he is no longer with me in any way. The dimes used to bring me comfort but my friend thinks it is all nonsense. Now I wonder if maybe she is right and finding these dimes is really nothing more than just coincidence.”

Our session was coming to an end and I felt at a loss. I did not have the answers for Mary, and I could see the pain of prolonged grief in her face. As she was leaving, I caught sight of a deck of angel cards lying on my desk, and I said, “Here Mary, I want you to pick a card.”

“A card?” she asked, clearly skeptical of my suggestion.

“They are angel cards,” I said, “But if it makes you feel more comfortable, just pretend that you are opening a fortune cookie to get a message.”

I shuffled the cards and fanned them out, face down to allow her to randomly choose a card.   When she read the card, her face softened and her eyes filled with tears. The message she picked was:

Sign from heaven: Your loved ones in spirit are waving hello and giving you reassurance that you’ll be all right.

The next time I saw Mary, she actually radiated peace; even her physical demeanor had become calmer and gentler. “Coincidently”, in our next session as I was offering her the cards, the same card fell out of the deck! Experienced card readers will tell you that if a card falls out of the deck, it is the one you are meant to pick. There are 44 cards in that deck, and this is the only card containing a message about a deceased loved one. While skeptics will likely dismiss this as mere coincidence, I believe that there is no such thing as coincidence and these messages truly are guidance from our angels.

In some small way, Mary experienced a healing from this message. That is not to say that she will never again feel sad or grieve the loss of her husband. However because of this reassurance from her angels, she will probably never again doubt that he remains with her in spirit. Just as grieving is a process, so too is healing. This message from the angels brings Mary another step closer to her healing.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

― Albert Einstein

People of Newfoundland-Labrador:  Do you have a “miraculous” story to share?

In light of the recent doom and gloom in the news, I think the people of this province need a reminder that there is still a God out there, even if He is sometimes hard to see.

So I have set myself a NEW CHALLENGE:  I will find 100 miracle stories from around Newfoundland-Labrador!

I am interested in stories from around the province that are about miracles, whether great or small. Here are some suggested topics:

-Power of prayer and divine intervention

-Messages from loved ones who have passed on

-Angel stories

-Everyday miracles

-Miraculous dreams, premonitions and visions

-Miraculous healing and recovery, of body, mind and spirit (including recovery from addictions)

-Near death experiences

Please send your story to: florencestrang@Hotmail.ca

These stories can be written, “as told to Florence”, so don’t worry about writing a perfect story,  just email me your name and phone number and I can interview you over the phone, if you wish.    Your story will NOT be posted on my blog  without your final approval, so there is no harm in sharing, since you can always change your mind.

If you choose, your story can be printed anonymously.

Thanks!

 

5 Minutes of Pleasure That Can Change Your Life

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Think of all the ways that your body experiences pleasure:

-feeling the intimate touch of a lover; the sensation of your tired body sinking into a hot bath; a relaxing massage or foot rub.

-hearing the sounds of birds singing in the spring; the ringing of children’s laughter; or your favorite song on the radio.

-seeing a beautiful work of art; a garden in full bloom; or the sun sparkling like a million diamonds on the water.

-smelling the first cut grass of the season; freshly baked cookies right out of the oven; or the milky sweetness of a baby’s breath.

-tasting ice cream on a hot day; that first sip of your morning coffee or tea; or savoring your favorite dessert.

Feeling. Hearing. Seeing. Smelling. Tasting. The way that your body experiences pleasure is through your senses. Tuning in to your five senses is not only a way to experience pleasure however, it is also a powerful tool for grounding you in the present moment.

I recently completed a course in Mindfulness Meditation, and one of the strategies that I learned for dealing with emotional distress is a technique called the 5 Senses Meditation. In my 25 years of practicing Psychology, this simple exercise is the most powerful tool that I have ever used with my clients.   In as little as five minutes, I have witnessed clients go from a state of distress, high agitation or profound sadness, to a state of well-being.

Before I tell you HOW this miraculous technique works, I will guide you through a simple exercise. Five minutes is all it will take, so get comfortable.

Stop whatever you are doing right now and take a look around you. (This exercise is best done outside, but it will work in any room.) What grabs your attention? Is it a certain color? A picture? A glimpse of nature? For about one minute, focus your full attention on what you see around you. If you find your mind wandering, that’s ok. Just let your thoughts go, and bring your attention back to your sense of seeing.

Next, take one minute to tune into the sounds around you. Close your eyes, if it is possible, to better able you to focus your attention on your hearing. What do you notice? The ticking of a clock? The sounds of traffic? Birdsong?   Just listen. Do not judge these sounds as good or bad. Just be aware of them. If you find your mind drifting, that’s ok. Just gently bring your attention back to the sounds around you.

Now take just one minute to tune in to your sense of touch. Pick up any object that is next to you and explore it with your hands. How does it feel? Smooth or rough? Cool or warm? Heavy or light? Prickly or soft? As you explore this object, also become aware of how your body feels right now. Quickly scan your body from head to toe, looking for places of tension and relaxation. Do not judge these feelings as good or bad. Just notice them. If you find any areas of tension, allow your muscles to relax. If your mind drifts away, gently bring it back to the activity.

Take one minute now to close your eyes, if possible, and focus your awareness on your sense of smell. If you are close to a scented object such as a candle, soap, or a food item, you may want to bring it to your nose to fully experience your sense of smell. Breathe it in deeply. What do you notice? How does this scent make you feel? Can you identify certain undertones, such as flowers, citrus or spice? Focus fully on your sense of smell, and if your mind wanders, gently bring it back to this exercise.

For the last part of this exercise, you will need a small food item: a raison, a candy, a cookie or a piece of fruit works well. Put the food in your mouth and for a few seconds, just roll it around, and experience how it tastes and feels on different parts of your tongue. Does the taste change depending on where it is located in your mouth? Now slowly bite into it. Sense how the flavor is released as it mixes with your saliva. What do you taste? Is it sweet? Sour? Salty? Bitter? Notice how the texture changes as you chew it. Make it last for as long as possible before swallowing it. If you find your mind wandering just gently let go of your thoughts and bring your full attention back to the taste of your treat.

That’s it! Exercise is complete. Were you able to turn off your thoughts and tune in to your senses?

I had a client last week, a 16 year old girl who came to me in a state of high agitation and distress. She told me that her father had been in a bad car accident a few months ago and he is still in the hospital. Her eyes filled with tears as she relived the day that she heard the news. She recounted how her mother had cheerily picked up the phone, but then her face went pale and she fell to her knees, clutching the phone as she heard the bad news. She cried as she told me how she, her mother and two brothers hugged into each other and prayed that her father would still be alive when they got to the hospital.   Then her thoughts shifted to the future. She will be graduating from high school next year and she wondered whether her father would be well enough to attend her prom. She then went on to wonder if he would even be around to dance with her at her wedding.   With each “what if…..” she became more and more agitated.

After letting her talk for about 40 minutes, I guided her through the above exercise. The transformation was instant!   Her sadness, worry and fear vanished before my very eyes, and in its place I saw a young girl at peace. She even laughed a little when she tuned into the sounds of her classmates in the adjoining room.

When the exercise ended, she said, “Wow! I feel ok for the first time in a very long time.”

“That’s because you just spent 20 minutes in the past, reliving your father’s accident, and in doing so, you experienced all of the pain and sadness of that event. Then you went to the future for 20 minutes as you worried about the “what ifs”  of Dad not being around.   But you spent the last 5 minutes in the present moment. The present moment is where you find peace.”

It is as simple as that!   Most of the misery and suffering that we experience is because we allow our minds to go into the past and relive the hurt and trauma of loss and suffering. OR we project into the future and worry about the many bad things that might happen. Not every moment is a good moment……..but most of them are. Many times however, we take these perfectly good moments and make ourselves miserable by getting caught up in our thoughts. We can easily stop this needless suffering by simply bringing our attention to the present moment by focusing on our senses. All it takes is 5 minutes a day for you to access the Power of NOW!