Happy Cancerversary!?

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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.

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.


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 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.



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.


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.


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.



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:



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 donate to OCRE: Or call: 1-877-700-4081. (NOTE: Please specify that donations be directed to the Ovarian Cancer Research and Education Fund)

A Wine-Less Summer: Part 2

Part two of my booze-less chronicles found me in Gros Morne National park, with my lifelong friend, Lilly along with a new friend, Sarah. Heading out to a wine free girls weekend, I fully expected a somber mood to envelop us on our eight hour road trip to our cabin. But I could not have been more wrong! The fun started the minute we boarded the SUV, and by the time we arrived at Gros Morne, our throats were raw and sore from roars of laughter. Even though I had just met Sarah, after sharing our life stories while singing along to Blue Rodeo and Fleetwood Mac tunes, we soon felt like old friends.

Neither of my travel companions are big boozers, and Gros Morne is renowned for its beautiful scenery and hiking trails, as opposed to pubs and fancy restaurants, so I really did not miss the wine on this vacay. Besides, I soon found a suitable replacement to pubs: cafés! And I also found an enjoyable replacement for wine: coffee, aka, Christian Liquor. Each day, we would tour the scenic communities and visit the many craft shops and tourist attractions, which would culminate with a visit to a local coffee shop to ”liquor up” on coffee and a sweet. I have to say, the most delicious pecan pie I have ever tasted is served at the Old Shop Café in Norris Point. While I am no expert on pecan pies, Sarah is a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to sweets and even she said it is the best she had ever tasted. It was so good in fact, that she managed to stop eating it, mid slice, to save a bit for later.

“I hate to stop,” she said, “But I am beyond the point of optimal enjoyment. I am going to save the rest for later this evening, when I can really savor the experience.”

I admired her self discipline as I greedily devoured the last crumbs of my piece, washing it down with a gulp of café mocha and feeling fully rejuvenated by my sugar and caffeine buzz.

One of the highlights of the trip was our quest to see a large wild animal. The park is full of moose, bears, eagles, coyotes and foxes and on every drive, we were on the look out, phones poised to capture the image and broadcast it on Facebook. Finally, on our last day there while driving back to our cabin, we saw it, right in the middle of the dirt road.

“That’s a coyote, if I ever saw one!” I said in an excited voice. “Stop the car!!!”
Sarah pulled over and we grabbed our phones and switched them to camera mode.

“I can’t get a clear shot,” said Lilly. “Throw out some food to lure him over.”
“All we have is trail mix,” replied Sarah, as she threw a handful of pumpkin seeds and raisons out the car window.

To our delight, the coyote approached the car and started to nibble on our offerings. With his head down, it was difficult to get a good picture, and we really needed proof of this encounter. He soon tired of his hippy snack and was moving on.

“Quick”, I said, “Give him more food!”

“But all I have left is my half a slice of pecan pie, and I was saving that to have with my tea later,” said Sarah in a sheepish voice.

Although Sarah clearly did not want to part with her pecan pie, we convinced her to sacrifice it for this rare photo op. She opened the window half ways and held out the pie, but the coyote looked at her with such hungry eyes and razor-sharp teeth, that she chickened out and quickly closed the window. I mean really, her arm could have been bitten off, but I secretly suspected that the pie was more important to her than a limb at that moment. To our disappointment, the coyote started to retreat.

“Throw out the fucking pie, Sarah!” we encouraged her.

With her heart pounding, she opened the window and reluctantly threw out the pie, which the coyote quickly devoured, getting him close enough to the car to get great photos. Then, to our horror, we saw in the dim light of dusk, a woman approaching in the distance.

“Oh my God, we have to warn her. She will be eaten alive,” said Sarah, as she frantically honked the horn. The coyote was standing right in front of the car, and although we are all animal lovers, we were fully prepared to run over it if it came down to saving this woman’s life.

Strangely enough, the coyote started to wag its tail. We rolled the window down a crack to warn her that her life was in danger. Just then we heard her call, “Here Sasha! You naughty girl, you escaped your leash again. Come to mommy!”

Red faced, we drove away, our camera roll full of pictures of a friendly husky.
Who would have thunk that the most fun I would ever have on a girl’s trip, was had without even a sniff of wine!


A Wine-Less Summer


You may be wondering who highjacked my blog. Who is this Florence speaking of a summer without wine? But alas, it is really me. You see, because Tamoxifen (drug to prevent cancer recurrence) can affect liver functioning, I have to get my liver enzymes checked every 6 months. And on my last check, they were not quite right, so I was advised to take a break from booze. It is not easy, but as much as I love my wine, I love my life a lot more!

Being a voracious reader, the first thing I did was stock up on books written by women who have kicked the wine habit, such as This Naked Mind, by Annie Grace. She asserts that the reason we drink is because our unconscious minds are programmed to believe that wine will make us more sophisticated, make life more fun, and relieve our stress. We are programmed by advertising, social media and society in general to believe these things. Some other fallacies we are programmed to believe are: we drink for the taste; there are health benefits of drinking wine; and that drinking leads to better sex. She then systematically refutes each of these false beliefs, her premise being that if we attack the beliefs of the unconscious mind, we will lose our desire to drink.

Well, it is going to take me some time to convince myself that drinking is no fun, but she certainly has something with the whole brain programming thing, which I became acutely aware of as I headed out to Edmonton to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday with Steve. My mind was definitely programmed to associate vacation time with drinking time, but is it any wonder? From the time I picked up the Air Canada magazine, En Route from the seat pocket in front of me, my mind was bombarded with images of mature, sophisticated women wearing sexy, low cut dresses and savoring a glass of wine; younger, sportier types drinking beer in the great Canadian outdoors; and James-Bond-type men with fancy watches drinking hard liquor on the rocks. I have to give it to them, the alcohol industry sure does know how to make booze look attractive. When I ordered a tin of Pringles from the on-board café (I had to snigger at the term café), I was asked if I would like a glass of wine with that. It was 10:00 in the morning, and it might have been 5:00 somewhere, but certainly not anywhere in Canada! That said, I did notice with envy several of my fellow passengers crack a cold one. And that was just the beginning of my wine envy on that trip.

Picture it: it is a sweltering hot day, and you are walking down Whyte Avenue, the busiest and booziest street in Edmonton. The streets are closed off for a jazz festival, and on every corner you hear different strains of sexy, smouldering jazzy tunes. Colorful, half-clad people are all around you, dancing, drinking and laughing merrily. The air is perfumed with cigarette smoke, weed, and the aroma of street meat cooking. You are hot and thirsty so you pop into one of the many pubs offering an inviting, shady deck. You are passed a drink menu the size of Texas and a much, much smaller food menu, around the size of PEI, in comparison to the drink menu. There are at least fifty types of beer to choose from, and all around you people are quenching their thirst with a cold one. (Oh, and by the way, according to Annie Grace, that is another fallacy, since beer actually de-hydrates you). You ask for an Italian soda and the waitress looks at you as if you have three heads. So you settle for a Diet Coke, although all they have is fountain pop and you despise fountain pop. It takes forever to get your food, which you really wouldn’t mind if you were de-hydrating yourself with a cold beer. Your mind wrestles with the unconscious programmed belief that booze makes life more fun, because God-damn it, those beer-drinking fuckers look like they are having way more fun than you with your watered-down fountain pop!

That said, I truly enjoyed my trip to Edmonton, even without wine. Steve took me on many outdoor adventures, including bike riding the many scenic trails of the river valley, hiking, and exploring beautiful parks and gardens. We hung out in café’s as opposed to pubs and quenched our thirst with Italian sodas rather than beer and wine. While I sometimes miss my beloved wine, I have never felt healthier or more energetic. And so, it continues. I am journaling my experiences and who knows? Maybe this will be fodder for my next book. But meanwhile, keep your eyes open for Soul Steps: 52 Ways to Re-Connect with Spirit, due for release in the fall. Now go and enjoy this very large day!!!!

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