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What Are Soul Steps?

“What exactly are Soul Steps?” asked the reporter, as I struggled to put it into an easy to understand context.

“I guess you could call them life lessons,” I replied, “like when life throws you a curveball but you come out of it with wisdom that can only be gained through life experience.”

I then went on to tell him the story of how my son’s diagnosis of autism gave me one of those hard earned life lessons, which is Soul Step 42 in my new book, Soul Steps: 52 Ways to Reconnect with Spirit.

Here is a sneak peek into the book:

Excerpt from Soul Step 42: Acceptance

When my youngest son was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, I suffered a loss. While Ben was still physically with me, the hopes and dreams I had for his future were suddenly taken from me. Although I did not realize it at the time, in retrospect I can see how I went through a text book case of the stages of grieving.

Finally, after months of intense sadness and feelings of loss, came acceptance. It came to me one night as I was praying my nightly prayer for my three children to be safe, healthy, and happy. It suddenly dawned on me that God was still answering my prayers. Ben was safe, he was healthy, and he was happy. Being given the label of autism did not make him cold or unloving. Ben was still the same sweet, kind, loving, smart, adorable little boy that he was before his diagnosis. I knew that there would be challenges ahead for both of us, but we would face these challenges together. I finally accepted his autism and only then was I at peace.

Natalie, Veronica, and I are three “ordinary” women who have lived through extraordinary life experiences which we share with you in our new book, Soul Steps: 52 Ways to Reconnect with Spirit. Collectively, we have lived through cancer, death of loved ones, depression, anxiety, divorce, betrayal, suffering and loss. But we came through it stronger and wiser than we ever imagined we could, and now we want to share our stories with YOU. In Soul Steps, you will read our personal life stories, but the real beauty of this book is that it is not really about us, it is about YOU! At the end of each chapter you, the reader, are guided to uncover the soul lessons of your life as you put each soul step into action.

Click here to learn more about the book that has been ranked one of the top 3 “Hot new releases” for spiritual books on Amazon.ca!

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My Guru

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For much of my adult life, I have searched for the secret to well-being. I have read hundreds of books, attended numerous workshops, and studied all of the great gurus of the day: Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle. But still, the secret seemed to allude me……until 3 years ago, when the secret to well-being was revealed to me, not by a great guru, but by a six year old boy with a powerful life lesson!

So begins the seven minute talk that I will be giving on Tuesday, June 17th as I compete with 11 others for the honor of being opening speaker for Deepak Chopra! Those of you who have been following my blog for a while may have figured out who this 6 year old guru that I speak of actually is. However, you will never guess how he opened my eyes to the real secret of well-being. And you may find it ironic when you hear how I learned more about well-being the year I battled cancer than I did from all my years of reading books and doing courses.

I have lost count of how many speeches and talks I have given over the past 3 years, but this one is by far the most emotional one of my speaking career. I just hope that I can maintain my composure to get through it! And if I do cry, well “shag it”, as we say in Newfoundland. I probably won’t be the only one there who tears up.

If you would like to actually hear me deliver this speech live (and I hope, vote for me!), you can purchase tickets to view the event ONLINE at the link below. I am the 11th of 12 speakers, so I will be on about 9:30 NL time (that’s 8:00 EST), and voting starts about 10:00. I would really appreciate your support!

Link to purchase tickets (note proceeds from ticket sales go to the “I am Genie” charity): http://www.eventbee.com/v/deepakaudition

Until next week, Survive and Thrive!

 

Retreat!

My eyes sprung open in a state of utter panic!  Where was I?  I scanned the room.  Nothing looked familiar.  Who is that person sleeping in the bed right next to me?  Why does my head hurt?  And why, in God’s name, am I wearing a pink feather boa?  Then it dawned on me.  I am at the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Annual Retreat.  I rolled over and slipped back into a deep and peaceful sleep.

I just attended my third annual retreat, and what a blast! Where to begin?  It just keeps getting better and better!  In 2012, I was invited to be guest speaker at this event.  I had no idea what it was all about, but I agreed to give it a shot, sharing my “perks” with 200 courageous survivors and warriors.  (By the way, I use the term “warrior” to refer to those who are in active battle with the disease.  As far as I am concerned, the battle never ends.  Even though I am cancer free at the moment, and I am referred to as a “survivor”, the threat of recurrence is always there.  Therefore I continue to battle cancer on a daily basis through my lifestyle choices.  But I digress…..)  So there I was, at my first retreat in 2012, not knowing a soul, and not sure that I really belonged there, when these two skallywags came up to me.

judy and suzeMe, Judy and Suze

Judy and Suze took me under their wings and we struck up a friendship that I am sure will last a lifetime.  Isn’t it funny how you can feel that instant connection with some people?  Even though we had just met, it felt as if we were old friends; like our souls were reuniting after a long absence. I truly believe that soul mates come in all forms, and these ladies are certainly two of mine.  I only get together with them once a year, and that is one of the reasons why I really look forward to the retreat.

Here is another reason I look forward to it:

2014 retreat etc 067Me and Dana

Dana is considered the Rock Star of the Retreat.  She is a fabulous musician and overall phenomenal woman.  Although she received chemo on Friday, she entertained us all weekend with her angelic voice.  I am sure there must have been 50 of us crammed into her room Saturday night, singing, laughing, and sometimes crying.  ‘Cause that’s what you do at these retreats (that and drink booze!)   If you would like to listen to Dana’s song, I have included the link.  Warning: better grab a box of tissues first!  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U07BVbZerhE)

Just in case anybody from the CBCF is reading this, I must add, we don’t just go for the partying ya know.  The retreat is also about education and empowerment.   I didn’t get to take in all of the sessions, because I was pimping my book, but those that I did attend were fabulous!  I am sensing a new movement emerging, as survivors are taking more control of their own health.  This was reflected in the sessions.  These two gave a fabulous session on Surviving and Thriving with Stage 4 cancer:

sherry and sharonSharon and Sherry

I could talk all day about this dynamic duo.  In a nutshell, both were diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and given their death sentence of 2 years left to live.  Both educated themselves on lifestyle choices for cancer prevention, and started making the changes.  Against the odds,  they put their cancer into remission.  It is far beyond two years (I cannot say for sure, but I am thinking at least 6 years) and both of these women have NO EVIDENCE OF CANCER in their bodies.  Conventional medicine is wonderful and I am very grateful for my treatments.  BUT, if you are really serious about kicking cancer’s butt, you gotta do the work.  Just sayin’ (I must add, cancer is a bitch, and adopting a healthy lifestyle does not guarantee that you will beat it.  But just look at these two miracle survivors!  What do you have to lose?)

In addition to the sessions, one of the things I really enjoyed this year was the healthy food.  For the first time EVA, I ordered the vegan option and did not get stir fried veggies in a sticky, sugary sauce!   In fact, my vegan meal was so delicious, that Suze was picking off my plate and practically ignoring her roast beef and Yorkshire pudding!  I know that everyone is not in to this way of eating, but it is great that we have that choice.  We even had a session where this fabulous chef showed us how to cook healthy and delicious food.

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Survivor Chef, Stephanie

I could have listened to Stephanie all day, she is so funny. (I hope she gets her own cooking show!)  She showed us that kale and quinoa are not so scary, and that they can actually taste GOOD!

So that is my report from this year’s retreat.  I am currently detoxing my body with lots of lemon water and yoga and getting pumped for my TEDx talk which takes place tomorrow night.  I will keep you posted.  Have a great day, mes amis!

 

Me? A Motivational Speaker?

FLorence TEDx

“Miss Strang, can we have a News Team meeting tomorrow?” asked one of my favorite, 10 year old, Jamieson Academy news reporters.

“Sorry, I won’t be in school tomorrow, I have to give an important speech to a big group of School Administrators”, I replied.

“What’s your talk about?” asked my inquisitive reporter.

“Well, it is about my book, and my experiences with cancer, and how that led me to a healthier and happier lifestyle.”

“Oh! So then you are a motivational speaker!” he said.

Me? A motivational speaker? I hadn’t thought about it that way before. When did that happen????!!!!!

When I started blogging “The Perks of Having Cancer”, back in October, 2011, it started off as a little project to keep my spirits up during my treatments for cancer. I had no idea at that time where this “little project” would take me, and how my life would change as a result of it. I soon discovered that not only was it cheering me on my cancer journey, but others were finding hope and inspiration from my words as well….many others in fact. By May, 2012, after having blogged about 75 of the perks, and unsure as to whether I would actually reach my goal, I was offered my first public speaking gig. It was at the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s annual retreat. Paula Tessier, the Provincial Co-ordinator, asked Me… (can you believe it? ME!)…to speak to a group of about 200 women about my blog.

My first response was, “Are you nuts, Paula? I can’t do that! I’m not a public speaker.” However with a little coaxing, Paula convinced me to make my public speaking debut. I was nervous as hell, but I kept remembering the words that my father taught me as a child, “Do what you fear and your fear will disappear!” So, if Dad was right, by confronting my fear of public speaking, I could overcome that very fear. That made sense, and besides, I had faced cancer head on, so I reasoned that nothing could be scarier than that. I took the plunge.

I could barely eat a bite as I sat at the evening banquet, waiting to be called to the podium to speak. What if I get up there and go blank? What if I faint? What if I puke on stage? All of these thoughts were going through my mind as I made my way to the podium. When I got there, I took a deep breath and dove right in, telling stories from my heart, laughing at times, crying at others.   As I looked into the sea of faces in the audience, I was surprised to see that they were laughing along with me, and crying along with me. I was hooked! In that moment, a motivational speaker was born.

I have since spoken to thousands of people about my experiences, through keynote addresses, presentations and workshops, along with t.v., radio and magazine interviews. In a relatively short time, this has become second nature to me. It never ceases to amaze me how life can take us in directions we never dreamed possible!

Back when my blog first started to take off, I recall my friend, Michelle, saying, “I’ll bet we’ll see you doing a Ted Talk someday.” I laughed heartily. I mean really, a Ted Talk is the holy grail of public speaking. When I think of Ted Talkers, I think of icons like Bill Gates, Tony Robbins, and Steve Jos, not little old Florence Strang from Lawn, Newfoundland! But then, lo and behold, I heard of a Tedx Talk happening in St. John’s in May (TEDx events are planned and coordinated independently, under a license granted by TED.) I put in my application, got an audition, and got picked! So on Wednesday, May 7th, I will be taking the stage at Tedx St. John’s. Am I scared? You bet! Will my fear stop me from doing it? Not a chance!

If They Grow It……They Will Eat It! (How To Grow Baby Greens With Your Kid)

Ben seeds

I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to gardening. I actually get a buzz when there is a sale on potted perennials, and I believe that there is no such thing as “too many “ seeds. I also love counseling, especially when it comes to working with kids. Imagine my delight when I discovered that there is a way to combine my two passions through an intervention called Horticultural Therapy. Several years ago I enrolled in an online program and now that I am a Certified Horticultural Therapist, I can legitimately engage in my favorite pastime while at work. How cool is that?

I have been gardening with my autistic son, Ben, since he was big enough to hold a seed. If you want to learn more about the many therapeutic benefits of gardening for kids with autism, click HERE to read an article I just had published in Rustik magazine. (BTW, that is Ben in my garden pictured in the magazine article!)  I could go on for hours, maybe even days about how gardening is great for promoting healthy bodies and healthy minds, but I will try to restrain myself. (You don’t want to get me started on that.) However, I will share just ONE of the benefits. From years of gardening with kids, I have learned this: If they grow it, they will eat it. So today, I would like to share with you a simple gardening activity that you can do with your child, niece, nephew or grandchild (or just some random kid you find on the street.)

Baby Greens

 

Here is all you will need:

-A growing tray (I buy mine at Canadian Tire, less than $2 each).

-Seed starter mix (also at Canadian Tire, less than $4 a bag)

-Lettuce seeds (Get them at a Dollar Store….I buy mine at Dollorama, 3 packs for 99 cents)

-A spray bottle (re-use an old window cleaner bottle, make sure it is WELL washed out!)

Fill the tray with seed starter mix, about 7/8’s full. Sprinkle 1 package of seeds evenly over the soil, use your fingers to even them out. Cover lightly with more seed starter mix (not too much!).   Spray with water until soil is moist. Set on a sunny windowsill and wait. Keep the soil moist, but not wet, and turn the tray daily, as the plants will grow towards the light. In a few weeks, the lettuce will be 4 to 6 inches high, and you can cut it and eat it! Let your little gardener try it in a smoothie, a wrap or a salad. Then start another pack of seeds!

In addition to promoting healthy, organic eating habits, you have given the child a sense of accomplishment, improved self-esteem, a form of stress relief…….I told you not to get me started!

 

 

Cancer: What Your Doctors DON’T Tell You!

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I never tire of hearing stories about people who survive cancer against the odds. You don’t read about these stories in medical journals. You’re more likely to find them in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book, or on a blog. In rare cases, you will find collections of these “miraculous” stories gathered together in a book ( such as, “From Incurable to Incredible”, by Tami Boehmer). But it’s not the stuff that science or modern medicine is made of. After all, if a doctor TELLS you that you have six months left to live, he is not going to shout it from the roof tops when you are alive 38 years later! Such is the case of Carl Helvie.

I first read about Dr. Helvie on Elyn Jacobs blog (read the whole story here). His credentials are pretty impressive: “Dr. Helvie holds an M.P.H. and Dr. P.H. from John Hopkins University and has 58 years’ experience as a nurse practitioner, educator and researcher. The author of seven books, he is host of the Holistic Health Show on BBS Radio. Thirty-eight years ago, he developed lung cancer and was given six months to live by a conventional physician. He is now among the longest living survivors of lung cancer.”

I don’t know a lot about lung cancer, being a breast cancer gal myself, but I do know that it is considered one of the deadliest types. When Dr. Helvie was diagnosed, his prognosis was grim. With just six months left to live, he decided to try to make himself as comfortable as possible. However, using a combination of alternative therapies, prayer, meditation, affirmations and visualizations (which by the way, are ALL talked about in our book, 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It)….he cured himself of cancer and has been cancer free for an amazing 38 years!

I devoured every word of Dr. Helvie’s interview, but this is the line which really caught my attention: “Cancer treatment is a multimillion dollar industry in which drug companies make lots of money, hospitals have wings donated, the American Cancer Society stays in existence, there is lots of research money available, doctors make money and on and on. So there is not much incentive to disturb the status quo and find a cure. Alternative doctors have offered successful treatments for over 80 years but when one practitioner gets too successful the anti quack law is pulled out and there are attempts to put them out of business. Many such cases are documented.”

So is there stuff our doctors are NOT telling us about how to survive cancer? Damn right there is! Here are some of the things that my doctors did not tell me about how to survive, and prevent a deadly recurrence:

-By following a regular exercise program, I can reduce my risk of having a cancer recurrence by as much as 40%.

-By eating a mainly whole food, plant based diet, I can reduce my risk of recurrence by a whopping 30%.

-Studies have shown a link between vitamin D deficiency and breast cancer. Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. I live in Newfoundland (enough said….) People who live in northern climates are at high risk of being deficient in this vitamin, which in turn puts them at risk of developing breast cancer. To reduce the risk, take a supplement (new studies show that you should take K2 along with D3……don’t ask me why.)

-Numerous studies have demonstrated the power of natural substances such as curcumin, mushroom extract, and dandelion root, just to name a few, which in lab studies have been shown to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells.

I could go on and on sharing my “quackery” with you but the bottom line is this: people believe what they want to believe, and for the most part, they don’t want to hear the bad news about their bad habits.   It takes guts to make lifestyle changes, and change is not for the faint of heart. Are you ready for a change?

Sign up here for our FREE newsletter, giving you cancer fighting tips; delicious recipes using foods with a powerful cancer-fighting punch; inspirational stories, and MUCH MORE! www.cancerplanforlife.com

 

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The Unhealthy Vegan

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Hi, my name is Marcie and I am a vegan.  I have been eating this way…with no meats, eggs or dairy….for more than a year, but I still can’t seem to lose these pesky 20 pounds, and I feel tired all the time.  What’s up with that?  Take this morning, for example, I had almond milk on my bowl of frosted flakes, NOT cow’s milk!   I was feeling a little peckish by mid-morning, so I ate some low calorie BBQ flavored rice cakes and a diet coke, hardly any calories there.  Needless to say, I was starving by lunchtime, so I treated myself to McDonald’s, but in keeping with my vegan diet, I just had a large fries, and a diet coke.  I try to have a really healthy meal for dinner, so I’m preparing a salad (iceberg lettuce, tomato and Russian dressing), mashed potatoes….with margarine, not butter!….and some veggie nuggets which I found in the health food section of the supermarket.  This evening, I will be watching a movie with my boyfriend, so we will have some chips and salsa, with more diet coke, of course.  I love being a vegan, and I cannot for the life of me understand why people would put garbage like meat and dairy in their bodies!

What’s wrong with this picture?   I think it is pretty obvious that, for optimal health, Marcie needs to be more concerned with ADDING things to her diet, not just eliminating meats and dairy.  That’s why Susan and I, in our book 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It, avoid using the term “vegan”.  It implies that if you don’t eat animal products, you are following a healthy diet.  As you can see from Marcie’s diet, this is not always the case.  We prefer the term “whole food plant based diet.”  That means choosing food as close to their natural source as possible: like fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.  So how many of Marcie’s foods would fit with OUR way of eating?   The almond milk is a good choice and just like cow’s milk, it contains 30% calcium!  The iceberg lettuce and tomato are okay, but as a caution, if you are choosing lettuce, the greener the better.  And while you are at it, don’t smother it in bottled dressings that are packed with fat, sugar and preservatives!  You can also count the potato as a whole, plant based food, but be careful with the added fat!   Aside from that, most of Marcie’s food choices came from a factory and/or have the nutritional value of a piece of cardboard.

Just for today, take note of how many of the things that you eat come from a factory, rather than right from the earth.   How can you add more of these health promoting and cancer fighting whole, plant-based foods to your daily routine?

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