A Voice

January 2010 – Posted on Rethink’s “Booby Wall” & my Blog

On January 21, 2010, I blogged.  The post, Breast Cancer Education.  The concept? A contribution to Rethink Breast Cancer’s Booby Wall.  The site is an interactive gallery of breasts.  The goal?  Educate Canadian women on breast health and ask them to commit to TOUCH. LOOK. CHECK.

Little did I know that a short six months later, I would get the diagnosis of a lifetime. On June 23, 2010, I went for a routine ultrasound. Hours later I emerged from Radiology Consultants in tears.  A routine ultrasound turned into further investigation by a Radiologist, a mammogram, and a hallway discussion of a young girl with what looked like Breast Cancer.

Touch. Look. Check.

I was truly a disaster.  Although I had a lot of wonderful people in my life at the time, I felt alone.  Completely and utterly alone.  My life had changed in a matter of hours.  What would I do about University? Work? Community work? My life?  It took a few good friends to make me realize none of that was important.  All I could be concerned about was my health.  I kept on telling myself:

“Without health you have nothing.

… nothing!  This has all happened for a reason and I needed to decide how I would handle it… with positivity and a look to the future, or frustration, anger, and resentment to my body.  Thankfully I chose the first option.  No I wasn’t always positive.  Yes I was scared and unsure – but honestly how could you not be?

In less than 24 hours, I was called by my GP and referred to the Breast Health Clinic at Foothills Hospital.  I was told that although I was a healthy, young woman, there was a chance this could be Breast Cancer – and we needed to treat the situation seriously.  I explained to him what was said at the Radiology clinic (i.e. about them already stating a diagnosis).  My GP (and the wonderful soul that he is) said there was no reason to walk off the ledge yet.  We would need confirmation from pathology, and at this point I had confirmed tumors in my right breast.  Whether they were benign or malignant will remain unknown. [Whether it was protocol for a Radiologist to make a verbal potential diagnosis, let alone without pathology completed will remain… UNKNOWN.] :S

Within a few days, I met with Dr. Rothwell at the Breast Health Clinic at Foothills.  We made minimal progress… I had a breast examination completed and was told I needed to have Core Biopsy’s taken of the lumps that were evident.  Once the results came back, we could then come up with next steps.

July 19, 2010 – Bruised & Scarred, but HEALING.

I was booked in for a Core Biopsy of my right breast in no time at all.  There were 4 or so suspicious lumps that they wanted to screen for malignancy’s.  I will assume that the majority of you have never had a Core Biopsy, let alone of your breast.  First the Radiologist will feel you up [ha ha, feel for lumps ;)], then use ultrasound to pinpoint them, inject local anesthetic (i.e. freezing) into the target area, and then they inject a different kind of needle into you to take a sample of tissue from the lump.  Dr. Diamond took quite a few samples, 6 or 8? But only had one point of entry (i.e. less scarring).  The samples of tissue/cells/etc are then sent to pathology for examination under a microscope.  What are they looking for? Cancerous cells.

The procedure went fairly well.  Yes the needles hurt and I absolutely detest the sound the hollow “core” needle makes (hard to describe).  It was uncomfortable, but at the same time – not the end of the world. I was in and out within an hour.  In retrospect, I think that the procedure was harder on my mind than my body.  I was laying there thinking, in 10 days, my life could change.  What I didn’t realize… was that it already had.

So now we wait… we wait… we wait… we wait.  It takes 10-14 business days to get results back from pathology.  I caught myself up in my sister’s wedding and stayed as distracted as I could in the days leading up to the phone call.  At the end of the day, I thought about the situation and the looming results every waking moment – but at least I had a smile on my face. :S Right? right! Finally I received enthusiastic calls from my both my surgeon and GP’s office. Tumors have come back benign. Rejoice!  The date was July 19, 2010.

August 24, 2010 – Day of Surgery, Outside Foothills Hospital.

A few follow-up appointments later, we conclude that the benign tumors need to be removed regardless of the non-cancerous result.  If they had stayed in, I would have had to go for frequent ultrasounds to monitor them – and if anything suspicious was found, I would be immediately referred back to stage 1 (the Core Biopsy).  Although removal of the tumors has no medical guarantees for the future, at the very least, I would have peace of mind.

I had been looking forward to August 10, 2010 – the day of my surgery consult at Foothills Hospital.  It was a quick appointment to discuss anesthetic and removal.  I wore my Rethink Breast Cancer – TOUCH. LOOK. CHECK. t-shirt and Dr. Rothwell thought it was mildly inappropriate. ;)  They were able to book me in for surgery a short two weeks later.

A lumpectomy was booked for August 24, 2010 at 12:30pm.  It’s important to note now that I have no family in Calgary… zero, zilch, nada.  But I have always had a fantastic group of friends, a high pain tolerance, and the ability to handle just about anything medically that comes my way.  I called upon my girlfriend, Dawn, to act as my momma and support system for the day.  She likely should get the “Best Friend Ever Award” as she has plenty on her plate right now with a baby on the way and a little one at home.

The sports bra… a temporary addition to my wardrobe.

There was no wait once we arrived at Foothills Hospital.  Every time I have been to the Breast Health clinic, it’s been wildly busy, but for some reason – that day the clinic was at peace.  Dr. Rothwell said that the procedure wouldn’t take long (it felt like forever, as my anxiety was through the roof) and I’d be out within the hour.  They kept me awake throughout the procedure… I would have done anything for general anesthetic, relaxing medication, laughing gas, or just something to take the edge off.  He gave me local anesthetic (i.e. freezing) to dumb the area and then he started with the scalpel.  I had the option to watch, but instead I laid there in shock, attempting to mumble at the nurse about school, work, and life.  The next thing you know, the lumps were removed and Dr. Rothwell asked me if I wanted to see them.  100% absolutely not.  He felt around inside me for additional problem areas and then concluded that he had removed enough.  We all shared some laughs and I tried not to freak out as he stitched me up.  Steri-strips were put over top of the sutures and then a nice big bandage over the right breast.  The masses would be sent for pathology to confirm they were indeed, not cancer.

The nurse walked me through all the “what if’s” including infection, bleeding, and healing.  I was told I could shower in a few days, but avoid baths for awhile.  As well, the longer the sports bra stayed on the better. I could take two Tylenol an hour after I left the hospital – the freezing would be coming out and I would likely be in intense pain.  I was told to take it easy and let my body recover from the trauma.  They booked a follow-up appointment in 3 weeks, where Dr. Rothwell would then examine the incision, remove the steri-strips and review the pathology report.

I walked out of the clinic in shock over what I had just been through.  Dawn told me my teeth were chattering and asked if I was ok…

Post-Surgery. Let the healing begin.

Some of you know that I have been around the block when it comes to surgery – and at age 15, I had a spinal fusion with instrumentation to correct my Scoliotic curve.  Regardless of the past, being awake during any type of surgery is awful.  This was definitely my first and last. I hate to say “never,” but never again do I want to experience a surgeon’s hands poking around inside of me or the immense pressure from tissue being cut out of you.  [Ok I’ll stop now… :)].

The first day home was terribly painful, so I did nothing, as instructed.  Well “Jill’s version of nothing”… ;) talked on the phone, read magazines, blogged, and caught up on social media.  I never ended up taking the two Tylenol as instructed, oh such a tough girl I claim to be – and unfortunately the pain got worse and worse.  Finally a girlfriend of mine instructed me to take some drugs and ice the chest, which absolutely felt like heaven.

I made it through the first night and considering I am a side sleeper – I actually caught a few hours of shut eye.

I had a follow-up appointment booked with my GP on August 26, 2010 – also the first day I was allowed to shower.  I was blessed to have met a locum Doctor at my clinic earlier this summer, a wonderful woman by the name of Dr. Andrea Harmer.  She lives in Dubai, but comes to Calgary for the summer to catch up with friends/family and obviously work in Calgary clinics.  She has been so supportive on this journey.  I would burst into a pile of tears, she would give me a hug, and then describe my strength.  Today was the last day I would be seeing Dr. Harmer, and I was actually rather emotional over it.  I wasn’t quite over the “bad” of this summer, and I felt like I was losing my cheerleader.  She checked out the incision, advised everything looked to be healing, and I wished her luck on her travels back to Dubai.

August 26, 2010 – Foothills Emergency.

Later that night, I ended up in Emergency at Foothills Hospital. Why? A newly developed throbbing pain and blood – new, fresh blood oozing out from beneath the steri-strips.  No need to fret, I called HealthLink to see if I should be concerned.  [Sidenote: The biggest battle with this whole medical situation has been that medical professionals aren’t used to dealing with a young woman in this situation.  They’ll say “oh you’re far too young to be dealing with this.”  Why yes, yes I am.] HealthLink was immediately concerned and told me to make my way to Emergency.  I called upon my girlfriend, Dionne, to spend some quality time with me – potentially, it could be quite the wait.

A very unhappy incision.

Incision was still bleeding, so I was instructed to hold my chest for a few hours as we waited to see the on-call Surgeon.  Once I showed my breast to medical professional after medical professional, it was confirmed that I did not have a Hematoma nor an infection.  They cleaned up the wound, put on new dressings, and advised I should come back if pain levels did not change within 24 hours.  They said HealthLink would have naturally been over-concerned due to my age and that I was only 48 hours post-surgery.  It’s important to note that I was also unanimously voted “Best Dressed in the ER” – quite the achievement. ;)  We were in and out of Emergency in just over three hours.  Record time if I do say so myself.

August 28, 2010

The next few days were better.  The on-call Surgeon had advised I could take Tylenol every 6 hours, so I did… I did and I did and I did.  Showers were terrible for the first week.  The incision doesn’t really like to be wet, and I quite like to be clean – it was a constant battle!

On August 28, 2010, I showed my wounds to someone for the first time – and a stranger nonetheless.  This whole experience has made me rather vulnerable, but I truly thought “what do I have to lose.”  Do I want to be friends with anyone who does not understand what I’ve been through and respect it?  Of course not.  He responded just as you hoped someone would; both respectful and thoughtful – and for that I thank him.

August 30, 2010

A few days later, my incision became angry (see August 30, 2010 picture).  I had been sleeping on my side and waking up extremely sore in the morning. Sigh… c’est la vie. The good news, my bruise is officially turning yellow!  The wound is healing!

Around the beginning of September I started to process how I had changed and  everything that I had learned and accomplished over the past few months.  I was sore, every day I could feel the pain radiating through my chest.  But at the end of the day, I knew I was making progress.

The incision was getting more and more itchy as the days went on.  If I started to think about it, I would go crazy.  If I was distracted, it was not a concern.

September 14, 2010 – Final Specialist Appointment

It’s now been just over two weeks since my final appointment with the surgeon.  I met with Dr. Rothwell, the Breast Surgeon, on September 14, 2010.  The plan was that he would remove the steri-strips, check the incision for healing, and communicate the pathology results.

I brought him cookies – oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies. Why? He actually special requested them on the day of surgery.  I honestly thought it was the least I could do. :)

Dr. Rothwell’s Cookies

Erin, the RN, came in the room to ask how the last three weeks had been. I went over all the drama of having to go to the Emergency Room etc, but concluded that I seemed to be healing well, and more importantly — in a way better head space.

It was then time to put on the blue hospital gown for hopefully the last time.  Dr. Rothwell came in to check things out.  I was a bit of a sticky mess as the steri-strips had been on for so many weeks, but I was given the a-ok to have them removed.

I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to this madness. Dr. Rothwell confirmed the pathology results showed benign tumors.  I was advised to keep up the TOUCH. LOOK. CHECK. and bring any suspicious lumps to the attention of my GP.

Routine ultrasounds and mammograms are likely to be a large part of my future.

Before Removal of Steri-Strips

After Removal of Steri-Strips (sticky!)

Another sidenote: I took a picture of “the damage” most days from August 24 to September 14.  This blog post is truly a small preview of how many pictures I have. By taking a picture (and reflecting on it afterwards), I could visually show myself that I was making progress.  I was healing.

****************************************************************************

It is now October 1st, which triggers the start of Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Breast Cancer Awareness month began in 1985 and continues to dominate the country as a national campaign.

Traditional Breast Cancer Ribbon

Did you know…

  • In 2010, an estimated 23,200 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,300 women will die of it.
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women and the second leading cause of cancer mortality.
  • One in nine women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
  • Every woman is at risk: Only 5%-10% of all breast cancers happen because of inherited genetic mutations.

Source: Canadian Cancer Statistics 2010 produced by Canadian Cancer Society, Statistics Canada, Provincial/Territorial Cancer Registries, Public Health Agency of Canada (www.cancer.ca)

To those that are participating in CIBC’s Run for the Cure this weekend, thank you.  I had intended to participate on Jennifer Derzpah’s team “Boobs vs. Balls,” but just couldn’t make it happen.

Why, why, why?

From the bottom of my heart, I am an Educator.  I have gone through the past few months keeping everything that has happened “a secret.”  To my close friends and family that are learning about everything that happened for the first time, I’m sorry.  In order to focus on my health, I truly needed space.  I no longer believe I should have to keep this “a secret” … I’ve been desperately wanting to have a voice.

As blessed as I am, I feel like I’ve been through a lot in my life.  But this situation was different, I felt hopeless, unsure, and uneducated.  I googled… beyond belief – but could never find what I was looking for… peace of mind, comfort, and someone who had made it through being misdiagnosed with a smile on their face.  Around early August, I decided that I needed to make my journey public.  My role on this planet is to educate and to have impact on others lives.

I have learned an immense amount the last three months – likely more than I can put into words.  At the end of the day, I’m not here to tell you that breast health battles are the be all and end all, I’m here to share the following:

  • Take care of yourself. [I mean it].  If you don’t feel well, your body is trying to tell you something.  Listen to your body.  Make a relationship with your medical practitioner a priority and keep up-to-date with your health.  Are you due for a physical?  Then book it – now.  Sleep 7-8 hours a night.  Be aware of what you’re putting in your body; ensure you’re giving your it the nutrients it needs.  Exercise – yoga, cardio, a daily walk – it all helps your heart.
  • Let people in. I embody the “I’m an independent woman & I can do this on my own.”  Well guess what?  You don’t have to.  Asking for help doesn’t have to show weakness or desperation; asking for help can show your strength.  You don’t have to go through this world alone.
  • Accept fear and anxiety. Not everything is in our control. It’s important to remember that anxiety is natural when you’re in an unknown situation. In order to minimize it, ask questions, do your research, stay educated.
  • Support your loved ones. [I really mean it].  During this whole process, I lost part of my support system.  At the time, it was devastating.  This is what I will ask of you… truly treat people as you would like to be treated.  Be more than nice, be kind.  Give, give give – give more than you take.  In times of turmoil, the strength of relationships are proven.  No matter the situation, the people that matter will still be there to hold your hand, offer your support, or give you a shoulder to cry on.
  • Consider yourself a survivor. Everyone goes through rough patches in life. Whether it be illness, divorce, loss of a family member, loss of a job, financial troubles, or any other tough situation…  you are not a victim and you deserve to come out on top.  You will make it through, you will learn, you will survive.  Be that survivor.
  • Appreciate advancements in medicine. The majority of diagnosis’ these days are not the end of the world.  Technology and science have come a long way.  I can’t say there is a pleasant solution to every medical problem, but your body is a tough machine.  Be grateful that we have good health care and competent medical professionals.  Educate yourself on treatment or course of action – and move forward.  A positive outlook coupled with the availability of medical treatments will surely set you up for success.

Regardless of the diagnosis, this experience has changed me.  My appreciation for my health, body, and relationships has changed immensely.  I have no intentions to walk away from everything that has happened.  Everything that has happened has added to my character and will stay with me forever.

If I think back to the Spring – and how ridiculously busy my life was, I shake my head.  Was I focusing on what was most important at the time? No. My health was most important and I was ignoring it. I have grown a lot this year, more than I could have ever imagined.  Most importantly, this journey has taught me the importance of mental health and a strong support system.

Thank you for listening to me, reading this blog, and/or supporting me over the past few months.  The fact that I can maybe make a difference to one of you out there, makes me smile through my soul.  Thank you for reading over 4229 words, yes FOUR THOUSAND PLUS. I have been working on this post since mid-August – it has been my secret life, but more importantly it has been therapeutic… it has helped me to process everything that has happened.  These words have come from my soul; I have put hours and hours into choosing the write words to get my message across.

I will conclude with saying that I am not healed.  What’s more important is that… I’m healing.

****************************************************************************

What’s next?

(1) Breast Cancer Awareness Events

I had intentions to announce the details for an event that I will be holding in October today.  Unfortunately I am slightly behind – and about 24 hours shy for confirmation of the venue.  Tentatively please hold the evening of Thursday, October 21, 2010, as I will be hosting “Pretty in Pink: A Breast Cancer Awareness Benefit.”

It will be a night of education, laughter, fun – and an opportunity to celebrate good health.

An organization that I completely stand behind is Rethink Breast Cancer.  They are “a charity helping young people who are concerned about and affected by breast cancer through innovative breast cancer education, research and support programs. Rethink is a national volunteer-driven registered charity with a bold, enterprising and entrepreneurial approach.”

Proceeds from my event will be donated to Rethink Breast Cancer.  Event details will be finalized in the next few days, please stay tuned.

In addition, Rethink is holding their 3rd Annual Rethink Romp on Thursday, November 4, 2010.

November 4, 2010 – Rethink Romp in Calgary, Alberta

Last year I was a volunteer at the event and this year I’m hoping to be an attendee.  Rethink Romp is a fabulous event and a ridiculously good time.  It’s an opportunity to gather with both men and women in an informal setting – enjoying company, good eats, great drinks, and having some fun too! This years theme of “Superheroes” is bound to spice things up too!

How can you help?

T-shirt from Rethink Romp 2009

  1. Attend – Donate your time and money by purchasing a ticket to attend this event. To learn more about the event or buy tickets, visit: http://www.rethinkromp.com/
  2. Volunteer – Donate your time by spending a few hours the night of the event checking in attendees, working the coat check, or handing out swag bags. To learn more about volunteering with Rethink, click here.
  3. Promote – Spread the word. Google the event and share on social networking channels or through word of mouth.

(2) Donations

Throughout this whole process, I was very blessed to have had thorough health care, efficient procedures, and quick wait times.  To think that I have gone through all of the above in less than three months is beyond my comprehension.  In my eyes, I utilized a lot of resources (whether it be services, programs, or medical care and attention) that could have been consumed by a patient with an advanced stage of Breast Cancer.  I feel like this is my opportunity to pay it forward.

I have set a goal to raise $2000 for Rethink Breast Cancer.

I will be contributing a percentage of ticket sales from “Pretty in Pink: A Breast Cancer Awareness Benefit” directly to the fundraising goal.  I am hoping the rest of the goal will come by donation.

To donate:

https://secure.reachout4rethink.org/ParticipantPage-102-17.aspx?L=2&CCID=17&PID=1125&GC=GTv2

Tax receipts are automatically generated for donations of $20 or more.  Manual tax receipts can be issued for amounts less than $20 when making an online donation.

The opportunity to donate will also be made available the night of my event.

3 months later. It’s now time for the next chapter…

*******************************************************************

Thank you:

My girls… Haley, Lily, Madi, and Melissa.

My friends… Aaron, Amy M., Bethany, Brandy, Casey, Dionne, Duane, Hasan, Jane, Jeff, Jen B., Jenn D., Joan, Joel, Kait, Karen, Kim, Kymme, Larissa, Laura, Leo, Lindsey, Mandy, Mike, Nicole, Pete, Sarah, Stephanie K., Stephanie P., Shawn, and Trina.

My Mom and my acting momma’s… D & D.

You all mean the world to me and will always hold a special place in my heart.  Thanks for being there, I couldn’t have made it through this without you.

The medical team… Dr. Bjorn Larsen, Dr. Andrea Harmer, Dr. David Woodley, Dr. Stephen Valentine, Dr. Robert Diamond, and Dr. Bruce Rothwell.

Thank you for your expertise, humor, and your commitment to my health.  An extra thank you for timely appointments and minimal scarring. :)

Lastly massive love to Southcentre Radiology Consultants and Foothills Hospital – Breast Health Clinic.

**********************************************************************************************************

Really? Do you need more?

Check out these resources:

The Providence St. Vincent Medical Centre in Orgeon, USA, created the following video to promote Breast Cancer awareness in late 2009.  To date it has had over 11 million views.

Yes, this is an uplifting video that demonstrates awareness, but it also shows strength, laughter, and a huge network of people that believe in each other.  Isn’t that what’s important?

no pants

Ok well it practically feels like no pants – but it’s actually… no approval on blog comments. :)

As many of you know, tomorrow a blog post is going “live” – actually, at exactly 6:00AM October 1, 2010.  I had previously eluded to this secret blog post here, on August 24th.

This Saturday, on October 2nd… I am writing the the National Professional Practice Assessment (NPPA) in hopes of achieving my Certified Human Resources designation.  I truly need to focus all my attention on this exam (especially since I only started studying this week haha).

I’ve decided to disable comment moderation on my blog and I’m stepping away from technology until after the exam.  I’ve stopped push notifications from Facebook and Twitter, and will try my absolute best not to check my email.

As much as I think I’m at peace with what I’m going to say tomorrow, I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’m not… and I can’t let myself get in the wrong head space moments before my big exam day.

Regardless of me saying I don’t need need or expect approval, comments, or pity; I will likely get it.  My goal is for you to listen and take something away from what I have to say.

Once I’ve processed what I’ve made public and the potential impact it could have on others, I’ll be back.

Check back for the post.

With all my love. ❤

gratitude

What is gratitude?

n. (grăt’ĭ-tūd’, -tyūd’) The state of being grateful; thankfulness.

I am a strong believer in the concept of… “Today I am grateful for…” In fact, recently I bought a chalk board and I try to keep all gratefulness at top of mind.

My chalk board hasn’t changed since August 14, 2010.  Why?  That night I spent hours chatting with a fantastic girlfriend of mine, Haley Lonsdale.  We caught up on relationships, family, travel, university, health, and life changes.  We also drank two bottles of wine and then went out on the town. ;)  Why haven’t I changed it?  In a few short weeks, she is moving to Victoria to finish up her hospitality degree, and I’m going to miss her.  Every time I see the words, I thank the world that I met this bright light [special shout out to WorldSkills Calgary 2009].

Sometimes I tweet about what I am grateful for, journal it, tell other people, blog ;), etc… it doesn’t really matter what outlet you use, as long as you appreciate.

Today I am Grateful for… [Aug 14, 2010

There a lot of people in this world don’t understand gratitude or why it’s important.  They truck along through their day, taking so much for granted.  They get to the end of the day, and complain/whine about why they’re not happy, not successful, not living the best life, etc etc.

We all need a wake up call.

We have been given life, family, friendships, relationships, health, community, and so much more.  It’ s important to be grateful in good times and in bad.  Yes, sometimes life may feel like punishment.  But whether it be relationship troubles, poor health, the loss of a job, or a life crisis – you can come out of it.  Who supported you during these rough times?  Circumstances won’t always make sense, but I guarantee you they will make you question your perception of reality.  For just a minute… think about everything you learned from the tough times. That’s right, an immense amount!

“Make it a habit to tell people thank you.

To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return.

Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you.

Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.” – Ralph Marston

Gratitude doesn’t have to be this “big thing.”  Be grateful for the small things. [Like wine, tea, smiles, and laughter ;)]. Be grateful for anything.  Be grateful for what you have.  Be grateful for all the people in your life. Be grateful for everything that you have accomplished and learned.

Recognize what people have done for you. Say thank you.  Be kind (not nice, but kind) to others.  Always.

How do you define yourself… as a person of gratitude? Pay it forward.

Want more? Check out Zen Habits’ post on Why Living a Life of Gratitude Can Make You Happy.

sea of anxiety

I’ve been trying to stay busy. Keep distracted. Immerse myself in life.

I’m now at a point where I can’t avoid this any longer.

I’m allowed to have weak moments right?

Not everyone’s perfect.  We’re all imperfectly perfect.

I’m trying to be strong.

They’ve said I’ll be fine.  They’ve said I’ll make it through.

Everyone is rooting for me.

It doesn’t matter what ‘they’ think, it matters what I think.  I need to believe that I will make it through.

I need to stop thinking about what ‘might’ happen.

I need to start thinking about everything that is in my control.  I need to stay positive.  I need to find strength.

Everyday I am learning.  I am truly blessed to have a support system full of love, laughs, and hugs.

It’s not just one day.  It’s not just any day.  Tomorrow will change me, that I can guarantee.

Soon enough, I will be at peace. Once again, I will see the light. With love. ❤

competition

In this world, there are always going to be people who are better than you, so stop comparing yourself to others, and just try to be the best you can be.

Life is not a competition.

Yes, you’re getting this public service announcement from Miss Competitive herself.

Lately I have heard a ton of girls say things like “I wish I was skinner,” “I wish clothes fit me as well as they fit you,” “I wish I did such and such as well as you do,” “I wish I had a boyfriend like yours,” “I wish I had such and such opportunity,” “I wish I could travel to blah blah blah,” etc [Just examples, they have all not been said to me directly] :).

I remember everyone having those days in high school – aka the land of evil people.  People were naturally self-conscious about their body image, lifestyle, friends, popularity ranking, and future.  I’d like to believe there comes a time in your life when everything starts coming together and you figure yourself out.

For me, this time came at 21.  I moved to Calgary when I was 19 and was given the opportunity to start over.  No one knew me here, I could create whatever Jill I wanted to be.  I told myself that I was going to be social.  I told myself I would be successful.  I told myself I was a catch.  It took me awhile to get the swing of things, but a few years passed and I became the Jill that exists today.  A social butterfly, an overachieving employee, a dedicated student and a good friend.

No I am not perfect.  Yes there is still lots I am working on.  Of course, I go through times where I look other peoples lives and say “Man, I wish I was there already” – the seemingly great marriage, career, home and lifestyle.  I don’t wish those people in that place harm by any means, I more so admire them for what they have achieved and hope that one day, I will be in that same place.

I can understand how people are competitive in regards to academics or sports – both of these institutions foster competition.  And… competition can be healthy.  But for women to be competitive in regards to body image, relationships, money, career, opportunities, “stuff”, and with each other?

It’s not healthy.

Physical appearance and body image. Sigh, body image.  My mom is one of the most petite 50 year olds I know… slender, not even 5 feet, and weighs less than I did in grade 12.  Her whole side of the family is tiny!  For those of you that know me, I am the largest girl in my immediate family (Momma and 2 sisters) – weighing in at 120lbs and measuring up to 5’3”.  Ridiculous eh?  So I get the reverse effects when it comes to body image. I get told I can’t have a “fat day,” because I am slender.  I get criticized when I mention anything to do with “feeling ugh.”  Well ladies… that’s not the way it works.  Everyone has days where they feel ick… maybe it was one too many glasses of wine, some unhealthy snacking, sluggish from avoiding the gym, whatever.  Every woman on this planet, regardless of size, has good days and bad days.  The number on the scale is truly not important [yes it can motivate you, but that’s it], it will not determine how great you feel or guarantee some wicked amount of perfection. I’m a strong believer in a healthy mind and body, so make it happen, do it for you.  Exercise because you want to (and it’s good for you).  Eat well because you understand the importance.  Overindulge when you want to.  Accept your body shape, sometimes you just can’t change it.  Appreciate that people come in different shapes and sizes, we’re all beautiful in our own way.

Relationships. Do you get jealous of others friendships or significant others?  Why?!!!  Do you wish you could have a relationship as awesome as your best friend’s?  Well guess what? You can.  Over the last year, I have learned what I deserve in a relationship.  Whether it be – trust, honesty, support, laughter, passion, or fun – people have their priorities and a list of dealbreakers. You will date the wrong person for you, but don’t let it destroy you.  Learn from past relationships and just remember, there are boat loads of people in this world. Boat loads! :)  The right one, the one you truly deserve, will make an appearance when the time is right. Don’t feel threatened by the relationships of people around you.  Let it motivate you.  Remember that you truly deserve the best, do anything but settle.

Money, career, opportunities, “stuff.” Yes people get handed things in life – but do you really want to be one of those?  I sure don’t… I want to work my buns off and make a name for myself.  I want to be rewarded for effort and continual hard work.  Is making 6 figures the post important thing to you right now?  Why?  Since you are reading this, I will assume you have internet and a computer.  Likely you have a job and can pay your bills.  Isn’t that enough?  Yes we could all use more money, but how much is enough?  If you want the amazing career or once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, go find it. Develop your skillset and be that hot commodity you see yourself being.

You know when you walk into a room and see that person – they radiate and shine like they are the only person in the room?  Size, shape, success – none of it matters.  They are happy and it’s evident.  Be that person.

Understand and believe in your strengths. Appreciate what you have.

Acknowledge how much progress you’ve already made in life.

Stop competing with others and start competing with yourself.

Forget about everyone else.  Be better for you.

Haley Lonsdale, thank you for being the inspiration behind this post.  You are so beyond your years and I am honoured to have such a bright light in my life.

eat, pray, love

In 2007, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ was released as a book.  Women all over the world were excited to read this memoir – a story of heartache, change, self-discovery, religion, and travel.  I truly found the book hard to get into – and it lagged in the middle… but I kept on pushing through, knowing that I wanted to have this book under my belt.  I admired the book because it showed me a woman’s battle with commitment and expectations.

I was excited to hear this book was being adapted for film – and would feature Julie Roberts as the main actress.  The movie was set to debut on Friday, August 13th, but a few girlfriends and I were lucky to receive advance screening passes (via @BreatheDreamGo on Twitter).

I don’t really feel like I’m giving any spoilers… but if you haven’t seen the movie and want to be completely surprised – perhaps you should stop reading… now.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie immensely.  Some people have been very critical of Julia Roberts role and have said that the movie isn’t realistic (i.e. regardless of Julia Roberts’ stumbles, she still has the sweet life – and most people don’t).  I felt like the movie was a ‘feel good’ – and could absolutely relate.  Maybe that’s because I am an ambitious career-focused woman who has been going through an immense amount of change, or maybe it’s because I am a world-traveller to my soul.  I have no idea… what I will say is, if you are open-minded, enjoy Julia Roberts, have read the book, want to learn about the world, OR are unsure about your future (whether it be career, relationships, health, etc)…. SEE THE MOVIE.

At the end of the day, the message of the movie hit my heart.  A few concepts that I took away from the movie:

  • In North America, we focus on entertaining, we don’t understand the concept of pleasure.  I have always been an “entertainer” or “host”.  I plan parties and organize events. I expect for people to RSVP promptly, to dress appropriate for the event, for the food to be awesome, the crowd to be social, and the next day… for everyone to say it was the time of their lives.  Does this idea of “entertaining” have anything to do with “enjoying”? No.  My mom raised me to be this way and to her it was part of being an independent woman.  The movie reinforced the fact how much these “things” don’t matter… relationships, laughter, and spending times with others is far more important than trivial things such as napkins, decorations and RSVP’s.  Would you rather spend your time with 40 people or 4?
  • We live in a world of expectations. Expectations to only have good days, to be successful, to have perfect relationships, zero family issues, etc etc.  No one is perfect we all know that, we keep telling ourselves we are imperfectly perfect.  Yet, we still expect everyone to have their A-game ;) on all the time!  ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ shows a woman’s battle with the expectations that have been put on her and her journey through Italy, India, and Bali teach her to enjoy.  Appreciate you.  Live in the moment.  Always improve… improve, improve, improve, but don’t get caught up in what people “want you to be”.
  • Everyday people settle living in misery because they are scared of change.  I am truly not surrounded by a lot of complainers in my life, but I know they’re out there… those people who say “ugh, I hate my job”… “my boyfriend drives me crazy”… “I wish I had more money”.  Well we typically wait for them to do something about it… right right? Set a goal, develop an action plan, and make positive change.  If they don’t do anything about it, we want them to get out of our lives…. [well at least I do! no negative Nancy’s please!]  I know, sometimes it just isn’t that easy.  It’s important to remember that change is good.  The movie highlights, that society and individuals need to be prepared for endless years of transformation.
  • So you screwed up… made a mistake… regret your actions.  Now you are waiting for forgiveness.  At the end of the day it is a big waste of time, so forgive yourself, and move on.  You cannot control when someone will forgive you, so why worry about it?  Forgiveness is part of the grieving process and eventually that person will get there, until they do, let them be.  Don’t rush the process, it will do more harm then help.  Don’t believe that them forgiving you will mean they have accepted your behaviour – it just means they have decided to move past it.  All relationships take work.  Treat your friends, family, coworkers, significant others, etc as you want to be treated.  Accept mistakes and learn from them.
  • If you lose balance, you lose power.  Often people freak out when they lose power.  The concept of “my life is falling apart”… ahhhh.  Sometimes to get through life it is important to lose power and be vulnerable.  It truly takes a secure person to be vulnerable and put themselves out there.  To lose balance for LOVE is part of living life.  Take a risk and don’t look back.  But always remember… you absolutely deserve someone who will love you, no less than you love yourself.

Lately, I have felt like I’ve been at a crossroads. What to do? What to do?  This movie gave me the clarity that I desperately needed.

In the beginning of the movie, Julia Roberts is asked “What’s your word?”  A word that describes what you are, not what you do.  I’ve been thinking about this concept over the past few days; I think that even if your word changes over time, it’s important to have one.  I have yet to determine what mine is, but will let you know when I do.

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

The most brilliant line in the whole movie…. “I think you have the capacity to, someday, love the whole world.” Let’s all strive for that k? ❤

‘Eat, Pray, Love’ premieres today.  Check it out.

PS – I may read this book > ‘Drink, Play, F@#k’, one man’s search for anything across Ireland, Las Vegas, and Thailand.  If you’ve read it and recommend it, let me know!

250 words or less

another scholarship submission. task: describe your career ambitions in 250 words or less.

As a teenager, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis and underwent spinal fusion surgery; steel rods were implanted from my neck to my tailbone.  I’ve spent years adjusting to the changes in my body, as a result I’ve learned a lot about health, wellness, and helping others through hard situations. I have always wanted to utilize my compassion for others in the corporate world.  During my first few years of university, I discovered that my passion is Human Resources (HR).  My ambition is to work as an international HR practitioner in the area of Health & Wellness, focusing on medical accommodations in the workplace. 

I have taken numerous steps to achieve this goal.  As a Bachelor of Management student at the University of Lethbridge, I have had the opportunity to develop my knowledge of workplace diversity and managing responsibly in a global environment.  As the Healthy Workplace Coordinator in a large organization, I have been able to adapt wellness programs to individual needs, coordinate fitness programming, and encourage employees to participate in health challenges.  I am also on the Board of Directors for Junior Chamber International (JCI) where I’ve won awards at the local and international level for outstanding contribution to the organization.  Through JCI travel opportunities, I have been able to build an international network of respected business colleagues.  Upon graduation, I plan to secure employment abroad in my chosen discipline where I will continue to be leader in Health & Wellness. 

after looking out last years winners, i’d say i have a great chance. i’ll know mid-june! stay tuned!

breast cancer education

i have always been an advocate of all cancer education and the need for everyone to be proactive when it comes to their health. over the past few years, i have focused my attention on breast cancer – why you ask? i kinda fell into it. i volunteered for the rethink breast cancer event in calgary and fell in love with the energy of each and every woman in the room.  amazing women – untouched by cancer, cancer patients, and cancer survivors – coming together to share laughter, and donate a whole lot of money to breast cancer prevention and education.  i also love the color pink – immensely. anyways, recently i stumbled upon @rethinktweet’s twitter account and learned about another educational tool they are using to promote the TOUCH. LOOK. CHECK. mentality to all canadian women.  the website Rethink’s Booby Wall is an interactive gallery of canadian breasts – everything from topless to body paint to everyday bras.  they are asking for all canadian women to commit to themselves that they will TOUCH. LOOK. CHECK. – and the contract lies in a picture of their breasts uploaded for the world to see. over 400,000 people have visited the site, with thousands upon thousands of breasts uploaded. i participated (and even posted this bra shot on twitter for all to see)… now will you? 

good karma

a few words of wisdom (also known as ‘instructions for life’) from the dalai lama.  smile. it’s tuesday. :)
  • Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  • When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  • Follow the three R’s:
    –  Respect for self,
    –  Respect for others and
    –  Responsibility for all your actions.
  • Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  • Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  • Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.
  • When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  • Spend some time alone every day.
  • Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  • Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  • Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and
    think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  • A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  • In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
  • Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.
  • Be gentle with the earth.
  • Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
  • Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  • Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
  • If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
  • If you want to be happy, practice compassion.



thanks spirtual now!