Archive by Author | Florence Strang

Donna

Left to right: Paula, Donna, Flo (me) and Susan, December, 2016

Donna was a woman who showed us how to put the FUN back into FUNeral!

I first met Donna when she joined my breast cancer support group, Sharing our Strength (SOS) in 2016. With her bubbly energy, infectious smile and love of fun, she brought a breath of fresh air to SOS. Our group is a large one, and there are many whom I cannot call by name, but Donna was not one of them. Everyone knew her. Everyone instantly loved her. It was her energy. Not a sweet, angelic energy, as you might imagine, but a no-nonsense, old-school nurse, always-do-the-right-thing, kind of energy. When something went wrong, her motto was “Fuck-fuckitty-fuck”. But most of the time, everything with Donna was “best kind.”

Donna instantly embraced our SOS group. Although she was surrounded by a very loving family and more good friends than one could count, she found something within our group that she could not get elsewhere. SOS is about unconditional love and acceptance, and a camaraderie that goes beyond understanding. Who else but those who have looked death in the eye, and have buried our beloved sisters, can really understand what it is like to be a breast cancer survivor?

Donna planned every detail of her funeral, and it was the most beautiful service I have ever attended. Our SOS group, dressed in black with pink scarves, stood in honor guard as we held an archway of pick roses the length of the church. It was very moving to behold the family, followed by about 50 nurses in uniform, walk though this arch of roses. There was no ordinary choir singing for Donna. She had none other than local celebrity Shelly Neville leading the choir. Although Shelly’s voice could have easily over powered the choir, I sensed that she “reigned it in” so as to not make it a “Shelly Neville concert.” An actual full band got up at the closing and sang an up-beat version of “I’ll Fly Away”, as people exited the church. Outside, my friend Dave, dressed in full Scottish attire, played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes as Donna was carried away.

That was the sad part. Then it was off to O’Reilly’s pub for beer, food and live music. Just as Donna had planned. We said some nasty toasts in her honor. Just as Donna had requested. We laughed and we cried as we remembered our dear friend. As SOS members, we are no strangers to funerals. However, Donna has raised the bar on funerals for our group. As we toasted her in that festive setting, we pledged, no more sandwiches in church basements following a morbid funeral. Like Donna, we intend to put the “fun” back into funeral! That is how she rolled, and that is how we want to be remembered.


On the day before her funeral, my deceased friend, Donna, sent me a message. Many will call it coincidence, but I know it was her. I was in need of a pink pashmina scarf to complete my SOS honour guard uniform. Driving home from work the day before the funeral, I said out loud, “Donna, I literally have 15 minutes to find a pink pashmina scarf. Not pale pink, I want hot pink. And it can’t be any kind of scarf, it has to be a pashmina.” Now, let’s consider that the odds of finding such a specific item anywhere in the city is pretty slim. It is not like I was looking for black leggings, which can be found anywhere. It is more like I was looking for a purple Blue Jays baseball hat, dated 1995. It is a very specific item and not one that is currently in vogue. It was no easy task to lay before my recently deceased friend!

I walked into the thrift store and was directed to their tiny collection of scarves. “Slim pickings”, I thought with disappointment, “Not a chance I will find it here.” Then, to my delight I reached into the basket, containing only about a dozen scarves and pulled out a hot pink pashmina! What are the odds? I went to the check out to pay for the item, reasonably priced at $2.50. I reached into my coin purse and took out two loonies ($1 coins) and two quarters to complete the transaction. I was surprised when one of the “loonies” was pushed back to me. “You must have mistaken that for a loonie,” said the sales clerk, “But it looks like some kind of a religious medal.” I picked it up and saw that it was actually a St. Theresa medal. St. Theresa is no stranger to me. I have been faithfully praying to her since I was a child. But I will swear on a stack of bibles that I had never seen that medal before and I have no idea how it found its way into my purse! Later, as I held the medal in my hand, I said aloud, “Donna, I don’t even think you were Catholic, so why did you use St. Theresa to send me a message?” I flipped over the medal and saw the words, “I will let fall from heaven a shower of roses.” A vison flashed before my eyes of her SOS sisters standing in honor guard with a shower of roses. I understand, Donna. It is your way of saying good-bye to your pink sisters. Best kind. Rest easy, my friend.

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Happy Cancerversary!?

THE GIST

Happy Cancerversary.

It’s not something I ever thought I’d be saying to my daughter at the age of 15.

It’s not something I’m even sure how to express.

But we have celebrated her cancerversary for the past three years and each year it means something different.

This week was Grace’s third cancerversary, and again we attempt to honour her journey through Leukemia.

Three years ago we moved into an altered state of existence and I feel like we are just beginning to  wake up!

Just starting to live more fully again.  Just starting to breathe more deeply.

To relax into the possibility that everything will be ok.

Cancerversary #1

Still struggling with the disease.  Still struggling with fear and the heartbreak of not knowing.

Chocolate cake to celebrate.

Grace and her brother Harry, had a taste and then beat it up – smashed it to pieces.

Wrestling with what was…

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Suffering in Silence

“I’m having these weird thoughts about having sex with my mother.”

“God is telling me to kill my boyfriend.”

“I keep getting visions of having oral sex with my three year old cousin.”

“I don’t want to die, but I can’t get rid of these thoughts that I am going to kill myself.”

These are actual statements that I have heard from clients in my Psychology practice over the past few months. If you are now picturing my client as some creepy pedophile or deranged serial killer, you would be wrong. My clients are typically young (aged 18 to 30), intelligent, educated, come from loving families and are in healthy relationships with a significant other. Yet every day they face an overwhelming battle with their own minds, trying to convince them that they are suicidal, child molesters, incestuous, or potential murderers. What these young people are suffering from is an anxiety provoking phenomena called intrusive thinking.

An intrusive thought is an unwelcome involuntary thought, image, or unpleasant idea that may become an obsession, is upsetting or distressing, and can feel difficult to manage or eliminate. (Wikipedia)

Generally, intrusive thoughts come in one or more of these forms:

-Sexualised intrusive thoughts
-Intrusive thoughts in relation to children
-Violent, harm causing intrusive thoughts
-Religious intrusive thoughts
-Intrusive thoughts regarding your sexual identity
-Intrusive thoughts regarding your family
-Intrusive thoughts relating to death

Intrusive thoughts tend to be about things that are valued by you. For example, if you are an animal lover, you may have intrusive thoughts about harming animals. If you are a religious person, you may have intrusive thoughts about God or a religious figure. In all cases, these thoughts are unwanted and cause great distress and anxiety for those who experience them.

Intrusive thoughts can be difficult to treat because of the air of secrecy that surround them. I am sure you have all heard of anxiety, depression, OCD, and other mental health issues, but very few people are familiar with the term intrusive thinking. Therefore, when these thoughts arise, people tend to think that they are “crazy”, or that they really are child molesters or even capable of killing someone they love. They feel ashamed and guilty for having these thoughts, and try to hide them, even from their counsellors.

I recently met with a lovely young university student whose voice shook as she told me, “I am having bad thoughts.” Before she could finish, I said, “Oh, they are probably about inappropriate sexual actions or killing yourself or someone else, right?” She both laughed and cried with relief as I explained to her that she is not alone, and that there are techniques that she can use to rid herself of these unwelcome thoughts. For the first time in many years, she felt “normal” and had hope that her quality of life would improve.

February is Psychology month, and in honor of this, I ask that you share this article to help raise understanding and awareness of intrusive thoughts. If this article reaches you and you are suffering from intrusive thinking, please remember that you are not alone and there is help. There is no need to suffer in silence.

www.florencestrang.com

The Perks Continue!

For anyone who has followed my blog for a while, or read my book, 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It  you may recall that one of the PERKS of having cancer, was getting free stuff.  For example, my t-shirt drawer is practically over-flowing with free t-shirts from various cancer events.  I am happy to report, that even though my challenge to find 100 perks has long been accomplished, the perks continue.

#thinkpinkbink

October (Pinktober) is breast cancer awareness month, and although the color pink makes some people nauseous, I still love it……especially when it comes attached to FREE STUFF!   I recently received this Pink Bink Mobile Media Table in the mail, just because!

A worthy cause and a fabulous piece of furniture! 

It is a fabulous little multi-purpose table that can be used as a desk, coffee table or even a night stand.  It is strong, light-weight and practical.  Proceeds from each Pink Bink sold will benefit the cancer research efforts of City of Hope®, a leading research and treatment center for cancer and other life-threatening diseases.  You can learn more about the Pink Bink HERE 

Some of you may be thinking, “I can’t believe Florence Strang is taking kickbacks from her blog!”  Getting free stuff in return for a bit of publicity can be an unethical practice.  But folks, I did my homework on this City of Hope  so please, hear me out.

Have you noticed how pretty much everything gets “pinked out” during the month of October?  I mean everything, form a pack of tic tacs, to tins of soup to toilet paper seems to be sporting the pink ribbon.

We consumers are led to believe that by buying these products we are doing something good for breast cancer research.  Not so.  Much of the time the ribbon is there just to raise awareness of breast cancer, as if you did not already know that it exists.  In other words, it is a scam.

However, I did my homework on the pink bink campaign and it turns out, the City of Hope, whom they support, is a very legitimate, not for profit cancer research center.  Best of all, they use their dollars to fund research for metastatic breast cancer.   Read more HERE

The thing that many people do not understand about breast cancer is that nobody dies from it……..unless it is metastatic, or stage four.  A woman could develop a very early stage cancer, have it treated, and months later be diagnosed with stage four.  I know of a woman, for example, who had stage zero cancer, meaning it barely registered on the ole cancer-meter, but it came back months later as stage 4.  Cancer cells are sneaky little things, you see.  You might get all cocky thinking, “Oh I have nothing to worry about.  I have been cancer free for ten years.  It can’t get me now.”  Only to have it come back in the lungs, bones or brain with the intent to kill.

 However, ironically, even though stage 4 breast cancer is the only one that kills, it receives the least amount of research funding.  

So before you support the next product or service that is blinged out in pink, find out for yourself where your dollars are going.  The life you are saving by supporting metastatic breast cancer research could be your own or that of someone you love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Befores and Afters….Furniture Make-Overs

First of all, I am not a creative person. However, they say that necessity is the mother of invention and in my case, poverty was the mother of creativity. Recently, I decided to furnish my empty house in Lewin’s Cove on a limited (some might say “non-existent”) budget. So I spent weeks on Kijiji and browsing thrift stores for good deals. Then, armed with a few cans of spray paint, some chalk paint and a quart of polycrylic, I performed some magic! Here are some of my befores and afters.

Project 1:  Rocking Chair.  When I saw this antique rocking chair on Kijiji for just $10, I knew I had to have it.   This chair had been in the lady’s family for over 100 years, which was evident by the many coats of paint.   One tin of blue spray paint ($7.99) and a couple of coats of polycrylic, and I had a piece that I will cherish forever!  (Note: Polycrylic is a water-based clear coat finish.  It costs about $20 a quart, but it is enough to finish many, many projects.  It is a great finish for chalk paint and a much easier option than wax.)

 

Before

After

Before finishing with polycrylic, I distressed it with a piece of sandpaper, to maintain the antique look.

Project 2:  End Table.  My daughter, Kaitlyn, was throwing out this little table, and I thought it would make a nice addition to my entrance way.  I spray painted the top and chalk painted the legs white.

Before

After

Note: I spray painted the handle black.

Project 3: Nightstand.  Some things, like my rocking chair, are truly antique.  Some things, like this night table, are simply old and out of style.  However, once again, my spray paint worked it’s magic and I have a modern, very heavy solid wood night table. I used a high gloss spray paint ($7.99) which did not require a finish.  The table cost $7 at Value Village.

Before

After (note: I spray painted the handles again.  One tin of black spray paint finished many projects!)

I used this table in my half bath, as a place to store towels.  The jug I got at a yard sale for $1.  The picture originally had a green and burgundy frame, which I spray painted this lovely aqua color, left over from my end table make over above!

Project 4:  Dining Room Set.  Who amongst us did not own an oak set like this in the 90’s?   Most of them have been sent off to university with our kids, or to our cabins.  However, it is solid wood.  They just don’t make them like this anymore.  I got this set on kijiji for $80.

Before.  Note: I had taken out the insert at this stage and used paint remover to take off the varnish.  For the chairs, I used chalk paint so no need to remove the original varnish finish since chalk paint will stick to anything.

After.  The chairs and base were painted with chalk paint, finished with polycrylic.  For the top, I used a rag to apply dark stain after it had been sanded down.  Then I added several coats of polycrylic.

After close up.

Project 5:  Solid oak coffee table.  What a find!  A big, heavy, coffee table for $25.  Two coats of chalk paint, a bit of distressing with sandpaper, and once again, finished with polycrylic.  I also used a hammer to put a few dents and scrapes in it before finishing, to add to the distressed, antique look.

Before

After.  Note: I used country grey chalk paint.

Project 6: Lamps.  I have had these lamps for about 15 years.  It did not really cost me anything to re-finish since I already had a tin of black spray paint.  The shades I painted with two coats of white, latex paint.

Before (beige and gold) and After (modern black and white) side by side.

Project 7:  Fireplace.  Of all my projects, this is definitely my masterpiece!   How to give new life to an old fireplace?  Paint!  I used white melamine, which took several coats, but in retrospect I would have used white chalk paint, which is much less work, and finished with polycrylic.  The bricks I painted with a heat resistant paint.  Notice how even the wall color looks nicer in the after picture.

Before

After

I don’t have a before photo of my living room, unfortunately, but just imagine brown fireplace, brown coffee table and beige walls.  With some paint and a bit of elbow grease, the room was completely transformed.

I have to warn you, once you start doing these projects, it becomes addictive.  I am currently trying to wean myself off kijiji since I have no room for more makeovers.

Where do I get all of my patience to finish these projects, you ask?  I meditate!  If you live in the St. John’s area, and would like to try out a free meditation class, I am offering one on October 22nd.  Register here:

https://www.florencestrang.com/upcoming-workshops

 

 

10 Powerful Tips to Overcome Negative Thoughts

I thought I would share some positive vibes this week by sharing a guest post from Lisa Griffin.   Learn more about Lisa’s work here:   https://customwriting.com/

Negative emotions are like a film that can fill you with anxiety and solitude throughout your life. In simple words, such adversity could make you the loser of your being. The Proverbs 4:23 from the Bible says, ‘Be careful what you think because your thoughts run your life.’ You have to cultivate your mind to think about what you wish to achieve and prevent any idea about what you don’t want.

Generally, I try to stay positive, inspirational and informative. On the contrary, I had millions of causes to turn my living into a real disaster by swamping my mind with weak beliefs.  In this article I will examine several methods and techniques for avoiding bad cognition and will try to find the best ways to think positive in order to keep your head above the water.


1. Feel your ‘Zen.’ It was proven by all scientists that meditation is the leading remedy to almost every mental issue. If you suffer from inimical feelings, self-examination has the best outcome. Close your eyes and try to focus on a visionary source of light; it’s much easier than you think.

2. Get in touch with cheerful people. When you notice that you are stuck in a gloomy circle, try to communicate more with bright and lively humans. They manage to show you things for the other side as they don’t face such adversity as you do.

3.  Laugh as much as you can.  Whenever you are overpowered by pessimistic emotions, leave all behind and start laughing hitting on all cylinders! Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but this is the secret of amusing therapy and how to overcome negativity in a second.

4. Leave your comfort zone by being active. Without any fear and numbers of reasons just make the first step regarding training, and it takes you on a joyful adventure. Even five minutes a day would make a great difference. A perfect solution is to commit a weekly program where you have the same activity the whole week and then change the scheme. Your brain likes a variety of choices, and such modification is capable of helping.

5. Conversation for two: nature and you. Being out in nature magnifies the spirits. Make a break and to take a gulp of fresh air by entering the wood or some wilderness location with tall trees and lush greenery at the foot. Go for a bike ride or grab a pack for a camping and unite with the landscape countryside.

6. Affirmative reading – positive thinking. I am up to take a leap on a hunch that every morning you ask yourself how to stop bad thoughts in your head. There are days when you wake up and already feel bad. In such days, there is no desire to leave the bed and do something. In order to prevent avoid such situations, take a pen, write on a post-in-note any affirmative quote and put it near your bed, on the fridge door, on the mirror or on your computer. Read it as soon as you are awake, and you will be surprised at how much it will inspire you.

7. Encourage yourself for little triumph. Celebrate those moments in with friends and family. Cultivate and admire your being by perceiving vigorous.

8. Evoke happy occasions.  Every time you endure a miserable reflection, bethink about your joyous hours, and in a minute, you will notice a smile on your face.

9. Next step to stop deprecation – let it go.  If it doesn’t suit you, leave it all behind. Do not let yourself to overpower with that awareness. Though, it is not a crime to flounder a little inside your feelings and releases them.

10. Post about it, write it on the social networks. Once you do this, you commit to receive a powerful feedback of support from the social media communities. I am so grateful for all words, which boost my confidence and overcome those unfavorable thoughts.

Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your positive thoughts and vibes with Perks of Cancer.  Namaste!  Flo

Bio:  Lisa is a famous blogger, educator, and just a smart girl, whose motto is: ‘Do not be afraid to get creative and experiment with your life and work.’ She works for https://customwriting.com/with millions of graduates all over the world by helping them to cope with a diversity of university documentation. She writes fantastic articles of encouraging the humanity, how to move forward and never give up in despair. Lisa’s post ‘7-Step Plan for How to Start a Mobile Food Truck Business’ is a real helper for all food lovers and food makers and how to turn a hobby into a prosperous business.

Would you Recognize the Signs of Ovarian Cancer?

Ladies, would you recognize the warning signs of ovarian cancer? Ovarian cancer can be a deadly disease. It is the fifth most common cancer in women, affecting 1 in 73.  However, because the symptoms and warning signs are usually subtle, it often goes undetected.

Unlike breast cancer, which is the “rock star” of women cancers, with a vibrant pink campaign encouraging women to do self screening and get mammograms, little is known about ovarian cancer. However, one woman in Newfoundland is doing something to change that. Bonnie Morgan is an ovarian cancer survivor, who, (along with her co-chair, Alana Walsh-Giovannini, a dedicated committee, and the support of Memorial University), has made it her mission to raise awareness and understanding of ovarian cancer, and in doing so, she hopes to help save lives. Here is Bonnie’s story:

                                                      Bonnie Morgan
 In late 2008, I moved home to Newfoundland for a fresh start. I was 52, happy to be home, healthy, just starting a new relationship and was high on life. Exercise and good food were always important to me. I never smoked, and only drank socially.

It all started just over a year after returning to Newfoundland. I seemed to be feeling a little more bloated than normal, and it didn’t go away as I expected. I thought the bloating was due to menopause, as after all, I was at that age. I decided to see my family doctor for a check up and was given the appropriate physical exam. She felt something during the exam that was suspected to be a cyst; however, just to be sure she sent me for a blood test and an ultrasound. When the results came back, I was in total shock. I had stage three ovarian cancer.

I was heartbroken and terrified all at the same time. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. My life was shattered-a cancer diagnosis was the furthest thing from my mind, as to my knowledge, there was nothing like this in my family history. I had gone from being, what I thought, was a healthy woman one day, to a frightened and confused person with what could be a terminal disease. Not unlike most women, I didn’t know the signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer, nor did I know much about cancer itself.

Two major surgeries and nine cycles of chemotherapy later, I thanked God every day that my wonderful family, sincere friends and the devoted gynecologists at the H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre were there to support me through this difficult time in my life, because there was not doubt, both physically and mentally, it is devastating.

Four years later, in early 2014, my cancer returned. Emotionally shocked by the recurrence, I underwent an additional six months of treatment in the fight for my life.

Ovarian cancer is extremely hard to detect and my experience has made me realize that I can help other women by sharing my story. I want to do what I can to educate others about the facts, risks, signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and raise funds to advance research into prevention and treatment here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Bonnie’s initiative to promote awareness of ovarian cancer in NL, has spawned a new, exciting initiative: The Ovarian Cancer Research and Education Fund (OCRE), at Memorial University’s Faculty of Medicine. I am happy to report that I (Florence) will be a presenter at the first OCRE project, taking place on Saturday, September 23rd, “Ovarian Cancer Exposed”, a day of interesting sessions and informative lectures. See the poster below for more details.

To REGISTER FOR THE EVENT: CLICK HERE

To donate to OCRE: http://www.mun.ca/alumni/give/ Or call: 1-877-700-4081. (NOTE: Please specify that donations be directed to the Ovarian Cancer Research and Education Fund)