Posted in cancer

Changes

I’m sometimes amazed how things come together. I’ll mentally compose odd little snippets here and there, thinking “This is good. It’s just a part of something, but this is good and I must write it down.” A thought here. Another there. Then the final epiphany that makes is all cohesive. 

That’s how this happened….

Changes.

Cue David Bowie song….

Change can be scary. Actually, let me reword that; Change IS scary. In the end, we all want the same thing, right? To be loved, cherished, secure, respected…probably have a good amount of sex. These are our basic human needs. Of course we have other needs as well, but this takes us right to the nitty gritty.

So change…wow. It can be terrifying, at any age. The perspective about change also changes.  Change at age 20 or 30 might mean a delayed potential partner to have kids with, whereas a change in your 40’s can offer excitement, a breath of fresh air. 

And then, we have change in your 50’s.  Bloody terrifying!

Add to that, having cancer, and the decision to make changes can be paralyzing.

Is it better, though , to stay in a relationship out of fear of change? Everything stays status quo; you do the same things you always do, go about your separate lives, different interests,  in a somewhat loveless relationship while living under one roof, perhaps numb yourself into denial, turning a blind eye to everything that aggravates you about your partner?

You may not even realize you’re doing this, that’s the crazy part! You might even attempt occasional sex, though your body might then tell you in its subtle ways that something is wrong. Something is missing and you don’t even know when or, at times, why it happened. 

Sometimes you have to make those scary decisions; Is this how I want to live my life? In my case, it could be a handful of years, or a couple of decades. I’ve often found myself making decisions based on fear,  on the thought that my life has been shortened by cancer, when in fact, my chances continue to improve.  

So, is it possible that I’ll have a long lifespan? If I do, and I look back on my life, would I want to go back and kick my 50 year old ass for not having made changes?

This is where we now stand. Fifty, and starting over again, this time with what will always be called stage 4 kidney cancer.  Fifty, and making decisions not based on fear, but hope. Decisions carefully weighed, debated, delayed and eventually made. 

A big question I’ve had to grapple with is; do I even want to date? Who the hell, in their right mind, would even want to date someone with stage 4 kidney cancer, even if it is shrinking? What if it stops shrinking, starts to grow and spread again?

So this brings us back to our basic needs. I used to think that if I started over yet again, I wouldn’t date, for the reasons stated above.  But then, I think, what if I make it to 70. Would my 70 year old self look back and want to kick my own ass again for not allowing new love back into my life?

I wonder why I keep coming back to this point.  

Then I wonder, is it so terrible to stay single? Many people do it and are perfectly happy.  Could I be one of those happy, single people? I certainly have interests now that fill my day. 

But at the end of the day, when you crawl into a cold, empty bed, and shift all the way into the middle of the king size, just because you can…do you think “oh my gosh, this is amazing?” Or do you think “Wow, this sure is lonely? 

Or, perhaps a third thought, “This is great, but it’ll be even better when I have someone to snuggle with, once I’ve healed.” Maybe even a fourth thought, “I wouldn’t mind someone in my bed every once in a while.”

There’s no right or wrong answer. It all comes down to personal choices, preferences, needs and wants. Personal decisions made, not based on fear, but hope, desire, passion, purpose.  

How one even dates at age 50 with cancer is beyond me.  “Hey, there, good looking, you know I have a pretty good life insurance policy…” I’m guessing that’s not a good pick up line?

Yes, it is terrifying, starting over.  But, it can also be exciting and a chance for wonderful new opportunities, adventures, and hope. My rose quartz crystal and the tarot card I pulled both promise me that a great love is on the horizon.

And so, I wait. I heal. I keep an open mind. I hope, and I open my heart to the possibility.

Photo credit: Jack Moreh

Posted in pets, Uncategorized

Furtastic Friday

This little beauty is my baby girl, Sadie. She’s roughly 5 months old and purrs like a motorboat but sounds like an elephant!

Her favourite pass time is watching the birds and chipmunks- when she’s not rough-housing with her brother from another mother, Ripley. I sometimes can’t tell if they love or hate each other, but then catch them snuggling when they think no one is watching.

Sadie loves sniffing things, then has little sneezing fits. She also gets gassy sometimes, so it’s a good thing she’s cute. She’s extremely snuggly and will ram right into your face to get your attention before lying down next to, behind, or on you.

From my family and I, and of course, Sadie (and Ripley!), have a furtastic Friday!

If you have a special pet that you’d like featured on a future Furtastic Friday post, please contact me.

Posted in pets

Furtastic Friday

Photo credit: Nancy Boissonneault

This funny little guy is Max, but he also goes by the name Edgar. That face just cracks me up!

Although he has a home, he’s the “neighbourhood cat” and goes around peeping in windows to make sure everything’s ok. He enjoys lounging on top of the BBQ while on duty protecting his turf and takes his jobs very seriously, chasing away all the pesky birds.

From one of the neighbours, Nancy Boissonneault and Pierre Cardinal, myself, and Edgar/Max, have a furtastic Friday!

If you’d like your special pet featured on a future Furtastic Friday post, please contact me.

Posted in empowerment

Abundance

Photo credit: Jack Moreh

Abundance. Gratitude. Affirmations. Intention setting. Meditation. The power of positivity. Crystals.

What do these random words have in common? Perhaps the first word to ponder is abundance. As a yogi, is it okay to ask for abundance?

It depends on who you ask. As someone who practices karma yoga, donating my time to teaching and helping others heal, I don’t ask for money. However, I still have bills to pay. I do have an income, but as we all know, there’s always those extra things in life that crop up unexpectedly.

Yogi or not, in this society, we need money to survive and if teaching yoga is one’s only means of income, then I feel that asking for monetary abundance is perfectly fine. Just because one is a yogi, it does not mean one should live below the poverty line.

But I’m not necessarily even talking about money. It can be an abundance of health, energy, ideas, love, friends; the list goes on.

Photo credit: Jack Moreh

I’ve been reading a lot about having an abundance mindset. So what does this mean? To me, it’s akin to the power of positivity, but more specific. It’s being pro-active and having specific goals that you plan to obtain, and believing in it. Believing in yourself, for a start.

Using myself as an example, I would tell myself that I would be okay, I’m healthy and strong. That’s positive, right? But once I started learning about having an abundance mindset, I kicked it up a notch.

I now continue to tell myself that I’m healthy and strong, but I also state that I will be even stronger and it’s okay for me to ask the universe for an abundance in health. By being more healthy, I can help more people also get more healthy.

I also outline, in my mind, how I plan to be more healthy. I will continue with my yoga journey and eating healthy and taking my vitamins and probiotics and generally being cautious.

I tell myself that my cancer is not only stable, but that it’s getting better and will continue to do so. I talk to my cells (yes, I know this sounds crazy) and I thank them for working so hard, and I guide them to where they need to concentrate their efforts.

Research on mindset repeatedly shows that the way you think can change not only things like how you handle stress or how successful you might be, but it can even impact how your immune system functions.

Woah. Right? So you can see how, for someone with cancer, this can be mind-blowing.

The prognosis for stage 4 kidney cancer is bleak. It’s not something that is normally cured but immunotherapy may be changing national statistics to something far easier to swallow. Combine that with an abundance mindset and who knows what can be accomplished.

In my own case, it’s been shrinking. It wasn’t really expected- though I was told it could happen. I certainly wasn’t given guarantees. My best hope was that it wouldn’t grow or spread. But to shrink? Amazing! Is my mindset helping?

There’s no way of knowing for sure, but let’s examine some people in our lives. We all know individuals who just always seem to have a cloud over their head, always have “bad luck”, are always negative, pessimistic. It’s always someone else’s fault that something is going wrong in their life, right?

Photo credit: StuartMiles

These people are usually tense, don’t seem to be doing anything to change their situation and are usually stressed. We already know the effects stress can have on the body.

Taking myself as an example again, imagine if I was not the happy, positive, usually easy going (and incredibly funny) person that I am, and instead, I had the “victim” mindset.

Imagine if I dwelled, constantly (not just occasionally) on the “why me”, was negative, sat around and didn’t do anything physical and ate crap because, you know, why bother? And of course, I’d always be stressed out, expecting only the worst all the time.

Do you think that I would be as strong as I am today then? I don’t think so. I believe that to an extent, what we think and how we conduct our lives, can positively impact our future. And I still have shit to do in this life, people to help. So, yeah, it’s okay for me to ask for abundance, to have that kind of mindset.

So what does everything else have to do with abundance? Meditation, gratitude, intention setting, stating positive affirmations? They all go hand in hand. One reinforces the other.

If I wasn’t grateful, truly appreciative for what I had, then I would feel like I was lacking, and fall into a negative mindset. So, I am grateful for what I have, but I’d like a little bit more of it, so that I can continue to accomplish the goals in life that I have. It’s okay for me to want a little more- there is more than enough for everyone to go around.

And crystals? If you believe in the power of crystals, there’s certain ones that are known for manifesting abundance into your life.

Citrine, green or yellow jade, green adventure, green moss agate, pyrite, clear quartz, rose quartz, selenite, emeralds, rubies, malachite, amazonite, tiger’s eye, lodestone; the list goes on. Each of these crystals are known to aid in manifesting such things as wealth, health, success, courage, luck and love.

Photo credit: Jack Moreh

Carry them with you in a small pouch, place in a wallet, or in a corner of your house. Is this sounding crazy?

I know it does. But I’ve done it, anyway. Can’t hurt, right? The result?

First of all, let me point out that it wasn’t any one action on my part, but all of the above combined. The first time I tried my luck manifesting with the aid of crystals, my mindset wasn’t completely on board. I know that. Not much happened. Perhaps a couple of tiny things, nudges in the right direction, so to speak. Sparks.

The second time around was a different story.

Almost immediately, opportunities began to literally fall into my lap. I had been quite specific with my intention setting, but perhaps not specific enough, because it simply wouldn’t stop! I actually got to a point where I had to turn down certain opportunities because they didn’t line up with the goals that I had in mind.

Could it all just have been co-incidence? I’m not denying that it may have been, and perhaps some of it was. But considering the intentions I set, my mindset, the timing and very “specificness” of the outcomes, I have to admit I’ve become a believer in all this.

Does that make me crazy? If it does, I’m okay with that, because life is pretty damn good- even with stage 4 kidney cancer.

Namaste, my friends. Stay happy, healthy, abundant, and strong.

Photo credit: Jack Moreh

If you’d like more information on having an abundance mindset and manifesting your dreams, you can start below with some of my favourite links.

4 steps to manifesting your dreams:

https://youtu.be/WDTnTT3W1uw?list=PLdb0Ruajakr74tph29EyE_4Schs-YKe6S

Scarcity to abundance mindset:

https://youtu.be/93ROm0emB_Q

Meditation for abundance and prosperity:
https://youtu.be/2KJiZqwVxYA

Posted in pets

Furtastic Friday

Photo credit: Colin Moore

Meet Arabella, a 6 year old Chilean Rose Tarantula (Grammostola Rosea).

Arabella is very calm and loves eating crickets. She was wild in South America and travelled many miles to get here via a box of bananas. I guess we could say, she also likes to travel…

*Buddy (not real name) found her and brought her home to his wife, who was not very happy, to say the least. She was instantly re-homed and has changed owners a number of times before ending up at her current location, where she’s been loved for 3 years. She’s got a bunch of interesting “siblings” that we’ll be sure to meet in future posts.

From her parents, Micheline and Colin Moore, myself, and of course, Arabella, have a furtastic Friday!

If you have a special pet that you’d like to share for a future Furtastic Friday post, please contact me.

Posted in pets

Furtastic Friday

Meet Luna, a gorgeous Heinz 57 (mix). For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s a term that’s used for dogs of uncertain ancestry.

Luna was born on Halloween and is hyper, but scared of everything. She loves chasing balls and her sister from another mother (and species) Nia the cat.

She knows lots of tricks. Her trick today? Wishing everyone a furtastic Friday!

From her parents, Charleen Rourke and TJ Farrell, myself, and Luna, have a great day.

If you would like your special pet featured on a future Furtastic Friday post, please contact me.

Posted in health

Meltdown

Photo credit: StuartMiles

Every few months, it happens. Despite having the skills to guide myself through it and to navigate around it, I find myself sucked into the black abyss of torture that our minds tend to inflict on us.

Because I know how to avoid it, it makes it all the more frustrating. I know it’s nonsense, yet I helplessly allow myself to fall into its grasp.

Since I normally have a very positive attitude, when I have a meltdown, it tends to take my family by surprise. As I’ve written before, I usually have my shit together. I help others get their shit together!

Yes, I have cancer. Yes, it’s stage 4. Yes, the past couple of scans have shown a decrease in the size in my lungs and, recently, my bones. But yes, whenever it’s scan time again, my nerves get the better of me.

I almost conquered it this time. I tried various breath techniques, then a yin yoga practice for anxiety, for which I switched out some yin poses with restorative poses, then more breath work and a positive affirmation guided meditation.

And yet, I allowed the doubts to sneak in.

I had travelled an hour for my immunotherapy treatment that day, only to be told it was cancelled. No one had called me and I couldn’t pin anyone down with a definitive answer as to why. I had my oncologist appointment the next day, during which I knew I’d be getting my recent scan results.

Logically, I knew that the immunotherapy was likely cancelled due to my recent colitis attack and that the doctor wanted to make sure I had healed from that. But, my mind insisted on thinking that there was something bad in the scans that triggered the cancellation. I fought it, but in the end, it won, and I was convinced that the cancer had spread.

I know that one day, this will be my reality. That’s what really sucks. The day will come when I’m given that news. It could be at my next scan in 5 or 6 months, or in 5 or 6 years, or 15. But the day will come. Every time I am waiting for my scan results, I come face to face with my own mortality.

This is where yoga and meditation have come to my aid. I can usually push these type of thoughts to the far recesses of my mind. Neither the past nor the future exist, only the here and now. For 362 or 363 days a year, this helps me. The remaining days, I’m thankful for Lorazepam.

For anyone suffering from anxiety, here’s one of my favourite breath techniques, alternate nostril breathing (Anuloma Viloma in Sanskrit). This only takes a few minutes to do and helps to cleanse the mind and balance the right and left sides of our brain.

I was taught to inhale for a count of 4, hold for 8 and exhale for 8 and this is how I still do it. This article mentions holding for a count of 16, which might be a bit difficult for beginners.

https://www.doyouyoga.com/how-to-do-anuloma-viloma-or-alternate-nostril-breathing/

In the end, my scans were fine and, as I ultimately knew, the reason for the cancelation was simply my doctor erring on the side of caution, wanting to ensure that the colitis had cleared up.

My deep despair was for nothing, and life goes on.

Photo credit: Ed Gregory

If you have a story that you’d like to share, please contact me.

Posted in food

Chicken Fusilli

Photo credit: Alyson Muse

This recipe for chicken fusilli originally appeared in my cozy murder mystery Feta and the Fat Bastard (Whine & Cheese Cozy Mystery Series, Book 3). Click here to order directly from my publisher, Open Books.

You will need:

2 skinless chicken breasts or 4 deboned skinless chicken thighs

2 cups fusilli pasta

Creamy garlic alfredo type pasta sauce, plus add a ½ teaspoon garlic powder (or make your own- see below) plus 1 teaspoon mustard

1 regular size can of diced tomatoes

1 small can of mushrooms (whole or pieces, whatever you prefer)

1 teaspoon olive oil

Selection of cheeses, grated

Bacon, diced and cooked

Dice chicken. Heat olive oil in pan on medium high, then cook chicken until done. Set aside.

Combine pasta sauce (and garlic powder and mustard), tomatoes and mushrooms.  Simmer on medium high heat for about 20 minutes, giving flavours a chance to marry. Sauce will likely be tasty as is, however, you can also add herbs of your choice for extra flavor.

Cook pasta according to directions.  When ready, drain, serve with sauce and top with cooked chicken. Also good with grated cheese of choice (pop into microwave for about 45 seconds to melt cheese to perfection) and a handful of cooked bacon.

If you just want a creamy garlic sauce, omit adding canned tomatoes. Mushrooms are also optional.

Home-made creamy garlic sauce

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon mustard

½ teaspoon salt (or more according to your taste)

Few shakes of black pepper (about ¼ teaspoon)

Few shakes of paprika, if you have any (1/4 teaspoon)

Combine all of the above in a saucepan and cook on medium heat. Mix with a whisk every few minutes so that cornstarch is well blended and sauce doesn’t stick to bottom.  Once sauce begins to gently boil, reduce heat. Simmer until sauce thickens. If too thick, add more milk. If not thick enough, mix more cornstarch (1/2 teaspoon) in a glass with some cold water before adding to hot sauce.  Add can of tomatoes and mushrooms as noted above.

Posted in pets

Furtastic Friday

Ripley aka “Ripper”

Meet our new rescue tabby, Ripley.

He’s about 3 and 1/2 months old now and is living up to his name- or rather, many variations of his name. Ripley’s believe it or not, because of the things he can get into, Ripper (let’s just say, all my curtains are tied up high right now), and Ripples, because of the adorable way his stripes are rippled throughout his little body.

Right now, he’s all paws and has a ferocious appetite. He’s loved everything he’s been fed and miraculously knows when it’s time for his smelly wet food.

As many of you know, my two year old kittie, Bart, accidentally escaped and ran away about a month and a half ago. It broke my heart, and still does. After much debate, we moved ahead with another rescue and he’s certainly wormed his way into our hearts.

Sweet Ripley has two personalities: he can be an absolute, hyperactive terror one minute, then suddenly slump over my legs in a dead sleep, transforming into the cutest, gentlest little creature.

From myself, my family, and of course, Ripley, have a furtastic Friday!

If you’d like your pet to be featured on a future Furtastic Friday, please contact me. We need more pets!