10 Days to Celebrate 10 Years

When I came back from London, I threw up a quick post highlighting how the trip was everything I could have asked for and more.

The last time I went to London it was 2005. I was 21 and headed on Contiki {If you’ve never heard of Contiki, please google it. If you’re under 25, it’s an absolute must do!}… high level: 5 weeks, 10 countries, 50 youth — rowdy. It’s fair to say that I don’t recall a lot about the London, other than I loved it. We did a lot of touristy stuff back then, so it was super great that I didn’t have to add that crap to the list this time. :)

This time, I flew out on the red eye Christmas Eve, arriving into Gatwick on Christmas Day. Fun fact about the UK… they shut down on Christmas Day. Yep, like no transit, no trains, no nothing. Melissa had arranged for a car service to pick me up, so before you knew it I was en route to West Hampstead.

I don’t travel well, like… don’t. travel. well. I love to travel, but the thought of being on a plane for more than a couple of hours stresses me right out. On this flight, I lucked out. {Merry Christmas to me!}. The plane was probably half full and I scored 3 seats — woop!

I arrived at Melissa’s with a — holy shit, I can’t believe I’m actually here. It’s somewhat a bizarre feeling to sleep most of a flight and wake up in a different country. Anyways, it was officially Christmas Day and to celebrate we caught up and ate swordfish. Probably the most non-traditional Christmas I’ve ever had. And you know what? It was perfect. :)

I made a commitment to myself that I wouldn’t make a lot of ‘plans’ during this trip. I needed to go with the flow. I needed to relax. I needed to recharge. We took each day as it came, went with the flow and adapted as necessary.

On my first full day in the UK, we toured around Central London — 17,000 steps later, we had covered Oxford Street, Mayfair, Embankment, Southbank and Bermondsey. London was quite a bit more chilly than I was expecting, so the cold kept up our pace and it was lovely to have a local as a tour guide. We popped into a cafe for tea, then a pub for mulled wine and just enjoyed each other.

Melissa and I go way back to 2003. I had met her through friends when I was in first year at the University of Calgary. We had ridiculous times together. She was an English major {and brainiac} and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. When we weren’t attending classes, we were making a disgrace of ourselves at the university bar, going to costume parties and having an absolute blast. 

When I had arrived, I had given Melissa a card that she wasn’t allowed to open until Boxing Day evening. Once we got back to her flat, I told her it was time!! She opened the card to learn that we were headed away for the weekend {high five to me keeping a secret from her!}… destination: unknown! She was all stressed out about what to pack and I kept on playing mind games with her to make her think we were leaving the country. :)

The next morning we were up bright and early, en route to the train station. With this whole “no plans vacation,” normal day-to-day crap that would normally stress you out {i.e. tube construction, train delays, etc} didn’t phase me at all. A few hours later, we were on the train and moving at snail pace. When we got to our stop, I told her — we’re here! The mystery destination was — Bath, UK aka a beautiful town full of history, roman baths and a divine boutique hotel.

We spent the weekend seeing the local sights — Royal Crescent, The Circus, Pulteney Bridge and explored via the cobble stone streets. I had tweeted Alastair Coote {born in Bath, lived in Vancouver, now in NYC} for his recos, so make sure to keep them top of mind if you have Bath on your bucket list! Our hotel was perfect, the Thermae Bath Spa was the perfect cure for our hangover and the restaurants we ate at were incredible. Other than spraining my ankle {more to come on that later}, the weekend was absolutely perfect. That is until we left Bath to head back to London — and got on the wrong train… headed in the wrong direction…

Once we were back and sorted in London, Melissa and I had a quick chat about the next few days. We had plans for NYE — headed to a dinner party at her colleague’s house, but other than that… NO PLANS. Hurrah. I got on the Google and figured out a few places I wanted to check out.

On Sunday, we explored Camden and then headed to Leciester Square, Covent Garden, Chinatown and Picadilly Circus. The last time I was in London I remember having just awful food, so this time I went on a mission for good eats. Melissa and I had come up with a list of the places we wanted to fill our bellies with yum. Sagar in Covent Garden was on the list.

One thing I absolutely loved about this trip was that we took our mornings easy. We woke up, had tea, made breakfast, showered when we felt like it and got out of the house when we were ready. On Monday, Melissa headed into work for the day and I went exploring. I met up with a friend from Calgary in the afternoon and then Melissa and I headed to Soho for dinner. Melissa introduced me to Regent Street and Lexington Street — big shopping streets and they both kinda gave me anxiety. So. Many. People.

On New Years Eve, it POURED with rain. The only day I wish I had my Hunter boots with me. We headed down to Borough Market for local eats and a coffee, then made our way to Soho for lunch at Mildred’s aka the top vegetarian restaurant in the city. Divine.

I love fireworks, like, LOVE FIREWORKS. Part of me wanted to head down to the chaos in Central London with the kazillion of people and experience the show. The other part of me knew that was exactly the opposite of how I needed to end the the year and get started off on a great note. Instead, Melissa and I headed to Latifa’s house for incredible food, red wine, Cards of Humanity and a ton of laughs. We closed down the party around 3 and headed back to Melissa’s to drink another bottle of wine and went to bed just before the sun came up. We must have been channeling our inner 20 year old’s. :)

The next few days flew by… Melissa and I talked about what worked and didn’t work in  2013 and what changes we wanted to make as we entered the new year. Our last day together was spent in Westminster, Victoria Street and Pimlico. We met up for breakfast with our friend, Dan, and then ran over to Westminster Abbey to get one last photo. I had forgot about Westminster Abbey. It’s breathtaking and I’m so glad we squeezed it in before I ran to the train.

My flight home was awful. To my left was a girl throwing up the whole flight, to my right was a guy with “man cold.” I sat there for 10 hours assuming I would either arrive home with the plague or die mid-flight.

I’m still alive to tell this story — so, moving on…

If you head to London, these are my musts:


  • London Bridge. It’s gorgeous — especially at sunset.
  • Covent Garden. There are tons of cute stores in the Market, the performers outside are entertaining and all the patios are heated!!
  • Soho. Located in London’s West End, Soho is the mecca of fantastic food and drinks. 
  • Borough Market. Filled to the brim with fresh food, culture and good vibes. Check their hours before you pop over!
  • Primrose Hill. Best view of the whole city.


  • Wahaca in Soho. Try the plantain tacos, black bean tostadas and sweet potato & feta taquitos. Off the hook.
  • Mildred’s in Soho. Organic, vegetarian and ah-maz-ing. Try it all.
  • The Orange in Pimlico. We hit it up for brunch. You can’t go wrong with an omelette and mint tea.
  • Green Rocket Cafe in Bath. Again, vegetarian. Cute cafe that does breakfast, lunch or dinner. Small town feel with an unreal menu.
  • Yak Yeti Yak in Bath. The most fantastic meal I’ve had in ages. We had the cauli pakora, yak yeti yak chicken, aloo channa, bhuteko bhat, a couple of Nepalese beer and ended our night with the chiyaa ice cream. To die for.

What did I learn while away?

  1. It’s a waste of energy to stress about things that are not in your control. Take a deep breath, re-evaluate and remove yourself from the stress.
  2. Going with the flow isn’t a bad thing. Forget this YOLO/FOMO crap, it is hugely empowering to do just do whatever you want.
  3. It’s crazy important to take time for YOU. Maybe it’s a trip away, maybe it’s time with your best friend, maybe it’s time on your own. Figure out what your soul needs — and do just that.

I recently discovered a new iPhone app called Replay. It helped me turn a whole pile of photos into this cute video! My heart is beaming. 10 days in London was an absolutely wonderful break from reality:

Melissa, thank you for 10 years of life, laughter and love. Blessed to call you my friend. xo

Kicking Off 2014

Last night I returned back to Vancouver after spending the last 10 days in London with my best friend, Melissa.

We’ve both had a tough year and the one thing we both knew was that the best possible way to move forward into 2014… was with each other. The trip was everything I could of asked for — and more. We celebrated our friendship {we meet 10 years ago at the University of Calgary!}, honoured our past and got giddy over the future.

Cheers to laughter, friendship and creating new memories.


January 2nd – Westminster Abbey


A short 3.5 months ago, I shared a story about how I was starting a new chapter. I announced I had resigned from my current company, joined a startup and would soon be relocating to a new city. I was truly excited for the upcoming changes and all that I would learn over the coming months.

It’s not that I’m not excited now… it’s just that shortly after I wrote that post, reality hit.

The last 3 months have been the hardest months of my life. I have been living in less than ideal housing situations — couple that with living out of a suitcase. Not fun. I have been surrounded by bad influences and people that I don’t want to become. I have been going through the ups and downs of startup life — no it’s not always perfect or easy. Finances have been tight. I have let the lines of personal and professional completely blur, often putting work ahead of friends and family. All those self-discovery exercises I should have been doing earlier in the year — I’ve being doing now. I’m frequently confused and unsure. For the first time in a long time, I have felt censored and self-conscious. I have doubted my abilities, my brand and my purpose on this planet.

Life has truly been a rollercoaster — up and down — entirely full of learning.

Let’s go back in time…

After I moved to Calgary in 2003, I told myself I would never move again. I moved here when I was 19 and life was so different. I turned my back on high school and the island. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be, so I came to Alberta to find my place in this world. For the first 6 months, I began each day without a single friend. I would come home from my part-time university classes and hang out with my aunt. I kept on telling myself that it would get easier. Back then I was homesick. I craved the comforts of my family, the island and routine. I found so much more reward in working full-time in the community that I grew up in, than attending university in a new big bad city. Eventually things clicked. In the fall of 2003, I met some incredible friends that I am so blessed to still have in my life today. Days flew by, years flew by… but the more entrenched I became in Calgary, the more I knew that I needed to leave. Calgary was not me. I did not fit.

A love for the prairies. Alberta beef. Cowboys. A car focused city. Frigid winter temperatures. Money hungry corporate folks. None of it was me.

Why did I stay?

Opportunity. The education and work experience I have received in Calgary allowed me to thrive.

What was I missing?

The ocean. Culture. The opportunity to walk everywhere. The ability to embrace my inner hippie.

I knew I needed to leave, but I had no idea where I would go. For a long time, I didn’t even consider cities in North America. London, Melbourne and Singapore were on my radar. After I started receiving international job offers, I was unsure if I truly wanted to leave (or was ready to leave)… Canada will always be home. Earlier this year when I was asked where I wanted to move to… I said Vancouver. Did I put much thought into it? Absolutely not. I felt that my only options were Vancouver or Toronto and thought I was more aligned with west coast living.

Vancouver’s not perfect — hell, I’m paying a fortune in rent and may battle depression my first rainy season. :)  I would never say that Vancouver is a better city than Calgary, but I’m hoping to say that Vancouver is a better city for me. On a day to day basis, I talk so much about fit and alignment (generally in reference to recruiting and employee engagement). I have been misaligned for years — and due to that, I know that I’m not living up to my potential. It would be to my detriment to stay in Calgary. It would be to my detriment to not allow myself to be the best person I can be.

I want to be feel passionate about the city I live in. I want to be able to stand behind it proudly.

Every day counts and I don’t want to look back on life and think “If only I…”

The time to move is now.

Last night I was smothered with messages of support from friends. Why? I admitted that I cannot say goodbye and decided to no show on my goodbye party. Although most of them were shocked — a few of them understood. Truth be told, I was likely scared.

This week it hit me… I am moving… and starting over. Sure I’ve said those words all summer, but now it is real. Last week I packed everything I owned. This week I cleaned up my involvements in Calgary (health appointments, mail, etc) and visited with a few families that have been integral to my life. Last night my anxiety over moving turned into tears. I cried and cried and cried. When I stopped crying, someone texted me and triggered something to make me cry. People called and I pressed ignore. I was a total emotional basketcase. Finally my best guy friend calls and brought me back to the non-crazy person planet (oh and he totally doesn’t deal well with crying).

So why the tears?

The people that have come into my life over the past 8 years – and especially the ones that are still here today – I consider family. Over the last 8 years, I have travelled all over the world. Not once have I been  homesick… friendsick though? Too many times to count. I have been blessed to have a solid group of friends in Calgary. People that I look up to and truly aspire to be like. People that have acted as family on holidays when I couldn’t go back to the island. People that have held my hand at doctor’s appointments and given me a hug at the worst of times. People that understand both give and take and the importance of being a good friend.

My fear is that the distance created by going away will mean goodbye. We’re all busy. We all have our own shit going on and it’s easy to forget. I worry that these incredible people will intentionally or unintentionally fall out of my life.

[Seriously… I don’t recommend heading down that path in your brain. It doesn’t end well.]

The thought of going to a going away party last night to say goodbye to people I love and respect so much absolutely rattled me. I was immediately overwhelmed and decided I couldn’t do it. No matter how much I told myself that it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later… I imagined it would be goodbye. I tried to tell myself that everything happens for a reason and if these people do fall out of my life… they were supposed to. I tried to peer pressure myself into going, to keep everything else happy. Ultimately I decided that I wasn’t ready.

[I know… we’re running out of time.]

I spent last night reflecting on my time in Calgary — the good, the bad, but most importantly what I learned.

My friends are full of life, laughter and love — and yes, sometimes frustration. :) At the end of the day, I am grateful for the moments we have had together and the memories we have shared. I am grateful that we continually push each other to be better versions of ourselves. I could go on and on about our times together, or I could list every single one’s names, but instead I want all of you to know how thankful I am.

Whether it be out of control laughter or 2am alcohol-soaked tears, all of our memories have shaped us into who we are today. I have had more fun that I could have ever imagined:

Girls Night Out at the Whiskey – 2004

Halloween House Party – 2004

Europe – 2005

My Birthday at Melrose – 2006

Scotiabank Best of The Best Party – 2006

Random Night at Melissa’s Condo – 2007

Mexico – 2007

My Housewarming Party – 2007

Jane’s Birthday at Amsterdam Rhino – 2007

Jessica’s Birthday in Banff – 2007

The City of Calgary United Way Fundraiser – 2007

Anti-Valentine’s Day / Girls Weekend in Canmore – 2008

Dominican – 2008

Melissa’s Birthday Party – 2008

Beach Day at Sikome Lake – 2008

Kid Day – 2008

Christmas – 2008

Luau at Darryl’s House – 2009

Sun + Salsa Festival – 2009

Vegas – 2009

WorldSkills – 2009

80’s Party in Banff – 2009

Vancouver – 2009

Halloween Party at Darryl’s House – 2009

Africa – 2009

Karaoke Night at Ducky’s – 2009

Hawaii – 2010

New York City – 2010

My Birthday at WEST (and the C-train Station) – 2010

Napa Valley – 2010

Felicity’s Stagette in Banff – 2010

Lily’s Birthday at WEST – 2010

Kid Night – 2010

Vancouver – 2010

Japan – 2010

Belize – 2011

Dove Commercial in Toronto – 2011

California – 2011

There is a lot of truth to the statement:

“You never know how great your friends are until you have to say goodbye and leave them.”

Moving to a new city will be my opportunity to press reset, an opportunity to truly find myself again.

My friends will not be forgotten, instead they will be favorited — like a sticky note. More often than not, they will be top of mind, no different then they were when we lived in the same city.

Calgary will not be forgotten, instead it will be archived — put on black and white film.

I have no idea if Vancouver is the right move. I have no idea if I will love it there.

I do know that I am prepared to take a risk.

I do know that I am prepared to give this my best shot.

I lead a blessed life and for the good and the bad – I am grateful.

Welcome Chapter 3. I’m ready for the next adventure.

With a heavy heart. xo

strangers on social media

To some degree, I’ve wrote on this topic before… social media platforms and their purpose. Seems to be all the rage as of late, so why not write on it again. :)

I’m definitely not an expert, but I feel that I have a good grasp of effective use of social media.

Social media is a powerful tool — and so many people have signed up for accounts, completely unaware of the risks involved.

Tonight I went through a stack of business cards that had been collected over the last month. I opened up my LinkedIn account and read through each card. I asked myself the following questions… Do I remember who this is? Where did I meet him/her? Are they “relevant” or did I just take the card to be polite? I tossed 19 and I added the rest. In most of the invites, I wrote a personalized note on why I was adding them.

When you add someone on LinkedIn… the platform asks if you know the contact. If you click the link, you get this:

The biggest problem with adding someone you don’t know is the second point — “Others may ask you about them and vice versa.” Dangerland.

Take the following example. Random idiot adds me on LinkedIn. He writes a sweet note about why we should be contacts. I accept. The following week, he’s at an event with people I know. Through the small world that is most cities, my contacts find out I am “friends” with the random idiot. Judgement commences. This random idiot now negatively reflects on me. And I don’t even know him… and will likely never know that this transpired.

Seem far fetched? It happens all the time.

In my opinion:

Facebook is for your personal friend circle.

Twitter is for engaging with and learning from the masses.

LinkedIn is for connecting with professionals.

By keeping Facebook to your friends (and locked down) — like actual friends — you can share your private life with minimal risk. If you have more than 100 friends, you should likely have built a limited profile within your account. This way when you feel guilted into accepting a ‘friend’, you limit the information that will be of access to them. :) If someone is posting about random things (cough Farmville cough) that have no relevance to you — delete them. If you have grown apart — delete them. If your extended family went crazy and phones your mom whenever you post about boys — delete them. If you are not actual friends with the person — delete them.

By being aware of who you follow on Twitter, you can control your feed… always ensuring information is relevant to you. Anyone can read through who you follow at any time — they 100% reflect your brand. If you decide to follow a load of 20-25 year old blonde girls with their boobs all up in their avatar or the male pornstar of the month or every single job hunting site to man — people will make judgement. The key is to be aware that people are watching. Who you follow shows your interests. Ensure they reflect you accurately. [The only time this does not apply is if you’re #TeamFollowBack. I won’t get started – entirely different argument if that’s the case].

The goal of LinkedIn is to connect with fellow professionals. It is about quality over quantity. Want to expand your network? Get out there in the community and put your feet to the pavement. Attend events, get involved in your industry, meet people. Think that you can expand your network by adding whatever stranger on LinkedIn? Technically yes, but the quality of your ‘network’ will take a nosedive.

My point is:

Adding strangers on LinkedIn does not add value.

Really. No value.

At minimum, it is an ego boost for people. “Weeee… I have a large network. Look at all the people I’m helping.” :/

Seem harsh? I see it way too often.

LinkedIn has huge perks if you use it effectively. Currently it is the most succinct way to stay in touch with people you’ve met through university, work and the community.

I challenge you to take the time to go through your networks and ask yourself why each contact is there.

Determine how each of the tools you utilize adds value to your life.

Happy Monday.

// End Rant

PS – Don’t even get me started on Google+… I have yet to join.

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:


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?

restart your heart

People come into your life for a reason.  In March 2010, a young woman named Carmen Mak came into my life. I had travelled to Ontario for a competition and met this beauty.  Over a short 48 hours we had laughter, smiles, and likely tears.  We haven’t had an opportunity to reunite since, but she’s one of those people that I know I will be in my life for years to come.

Today she shared this video on Facebook:

Every ounce of the 7 minutes touched my soul and brought a smile to my face.

After doing some investigating… :) the two people featured in the video are Mimi Ikonn and Alex Ikonn (or maybe he goes by Sasha – I’m confused a bit there…). They were married earlier this year in the Dominican Republic.  Carmen is friends with them and I believe in the wedding party.

Sasha and Mimi equals Sashimi. :)  Check out their wedding video:

Relationships require determination, strength, time, balance, fun, and love.  Once again, these two proved that it’s possible.

These videos were produced by Kevin Sarasom, videographer in Toronto, Ontario.  He obviously has mad talent.

Never forget to love.

Love with all your heart. ❤