Listen. Really, Listen.

There have been many times over the past few weeks where my body has given me a big eff you. Whether it be a spitting headache or angry calves or a right ankle that freaks out with every step forward… all symptoms have a root cause.

I believe that the nicer you are to your body, the nicer it will be to you. Fill your body with the nutrients it needs. Eat clean, eat local and eat smart. Sweat once a day. Get your heart rate up and give your lungs a work out. Challenge your mind. Spend time with those you love. Stretch — and sleep.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been in a mad case of go – go – go. Work. Train. Sleep. Repeat. On the countdown to race day. Currently I’m laying on my bathroom floor, wrapped in a towel, writing this blog post. Why? I was mid-shower when all of a sudden I thought I was going to faint. I got light headed, felt weak and nausea took over my belly. For a girl that pretends she’s amazon strong, fainting is a weird and a highly uncomfortable experience. All of a sudden I succumbed to the weak little girl who just wanted an “it’s all going to be ok,” coupled with a monster hug.

Once the feeling of “I’m going to die” passed, I took a picture of my legs and thought — Boom. Your body is speaking to you. Now, listen. My auto-immune system is a delicate little fairy at the best of times — and now I’m putting it through the ringer and not giving it any love. I’m running at max without the fuel. A trip to the doctor and some blood work confirmed that yep, the tank is low.

Last week my physio man and I were chatting about balance, priorities and mastery. If you let one thing fall, you’ll notice the consequences.

Today was proof. Now to make some changes.

One Step at a Time

It’s been a tough few days. Actually let’s exchange tough for terrible — and ‘It’s been a terrible few days’ with ‘I’ve been an emotional basketcase since Tuesday.’

Last Friday I had my final race prior to my 1st Half-Marathon. The plan was that I’d do the North Shore Longest Day Race at UBC — and I had two new race friends to do it with, Shea and Melissa! My last long run was last Wednesday. A morning run in Stanley Park, it was slow and steady, somewhat meh. I was registered for the 10K race on Friday, but for whatever reason on Wednesday I downgraded to the 5K. Something in my gut told me I should.

We arrived at the race disorganized {gah, traffic} and pretty much ran to the finish line as the gun went off. I started off the race with a 4:30/km pace {I really really really had to pee} and slowed down to about a 6:30 pace at the 2km mark. The whole race my body wasn’t moving the way it should have been. It was my most difficult 5K to date and I knew that something was wrong.

As I crossed the finish line, I felt my whole body shut down. I was limping and ridiculously stiff. I thought to myself… you’ve been tired and stressed out lately. It’s ok to have a bad race.

The next day I toppled over as I got out of bed in the morning. My left leg filled with pain and I thought — oh no you didn’t. Swore up and down, thinking how on earth will I be able to complete Seek the Peak! Yes I was planning to race the 16km beastly hill hike from Ambleside up Grouse Mountain — don’t ask me what I was thinking when I registered for it… Runners high? Likely because Rethink Breast Cancer is close to my freakin’ heart.

I reluctantly skipped the race and had a low key weekend — generally those words don’t enter my vocabulary. I RICE’d it up. Oh yeah baby, I’ve learned all about the RICE method since I’ve taken up this sport. I took back-to-back anti-inflammatories and stretched out these pretty bones all weekend {which totally reminded me  — and not in a good way — of back in the day Scoliosis issues} seeing absolutely zero improvement.

On Tuesday morning, I limped my way into my physio’s office, Dave at Restore Physiotherapy by the way. He was expecting a super-amped-for-the-Half-Marathon young lady and instead he found a worn down, stressed out, anxious…{and I’ll hesitantly say} runner. We reviewed the past week, he checked me out and continually looked at me with a bleak look. My left adductor longus was VERY unhappy. I had my most painful IMS treatment to date, the tight monster had taken over. My left leg failed all the tests he usually puts me through. Pathetic squat. Pathetic. We talked through the options for the Half-Marathon… run the 21.1k, run/walk, walk, skip out, etc. He gave recommendations and told me that I needed to make the final decision. At lunch, I limped my way to Performance Health Group with my massage therapist, Cynthia {who is absolutely divine and one of the best therapists I have ever been to}. Again, the bleak look. 90 mins of heaven — and hell later, we had talked through every option for the Half-Marathon, the good and bad with my body, electrolyte replacements, support systems and more.

First 5K. First Race. First Medal.

The consensus was that I shouldn’t run the Half-Marathon.

I spent the day onsite with a client, doing everything possible to stay distracted and the moment I walked in the door after work, I burst into tears. Like crazy levels of tears, not like a pansy little girl cry. Melted into a puddle.

So what’s the big deal?

Last December I decided that I would take up running. Not for any particular reason other than I knew it would be good for my head. I set a goal of a Half-Marathon in June. Why? Because I didn’t know that 10K’s existed… for real. :| I registered for some races to keep me on track with my goal and to ensure I wouldn’t fall behind on my distance.

January 17, 2012 was my first run EVER — and on a treadmill, what on earth was I thinking?! Oh and by the way, it was terrible. On January 22, I completed my first race, the Chilly Chase 5K in Vancouver. It POURED with rain — crazy sideways terrible rain. I finished 23/39 with a time of 32:54. I had been reading John Stanton’s book and it reinforced, focus on finishing, don’t focus on time. So I finished! I was passed by what looked like an 8 year old, really wasn’t ok with that. Over the next month, I ran pavement in Vancouver, trails on Salt Spring Island and the beach in Costa Rica. I learned that hill training helps you become a better runner and that beach running is beautiful and terrible all at the same time.

Harry’s Spring Run Off

March 25 was my 2nd race: Harry’s Spring Run Off 8K, a charity run for prostate cancer. Haley joined the Half-Marathon training bandwagon and it was our first run in Stanley Park. Beyond terrified. I never thought I was going to make it past 6k; thankfully I randomly ran into Tory and she coached me to the finish.  8km, 54:06, 329/428 gender, 70/87 age. I also felt TERRIBLE and thought I was going to vomit as I passed the finish line. This was an important race because I learned that I can’t stomach gatorade. Also learned that I love Blue Monkey Coconut Water.

April 3rd marked the FIRST DAY of my life that I’ve EVER seen some sort of muscle definition. Big day. On April 11th I ran my longest distance {in the rain to boot}; 10.66 km, 1:12:07. April 15th was my 3rd race, the Vancouver Sun Run 10K {with 50,000ish other people!}. Finished in #15,732rd place at 1:04:32, 6138/21497 gender, 1447/3594 age. PB!! Learned a lot about crowds that day. On April 23rd, I hit PB 8K, 50 mins and PB 10K, 1:02. On April 24th, I experienced the most stunning sunset run — a red sky that blew my mind.  April 29th marked the Times Colonist 10K in Victoria. On this run I learned the importance of peeing pre-race, dealt with a 4 min potty line up at the 4k mark. Unofficial results {took off the potty line up}, first SUB-60 10K, 59:57. 2706/5924 gender, 378/834 age. Hurrah!

Strong is the new skinny. :)

On May 6th, I volunteered at the BMO Vancouver Marathon. My job was to cheer on the participants in their final 200m towards the finish line. It was AMAZING to watch so many different types of people cross the finish line — there was no consistent… EVERYBODY RUNS. On May 7th, I registered for the Rock n’ Roll Half-Marathon in Seattle and the Lululemon Seawheeze Half-Marathon in Vancouver. If thousands of people can do this, I can do this. May 21st I achieved my longest distance to date, 15K, 1:35:10. It was my first “I’m a machine” type of run. I also learned that you shouldn’t run in Stanley Park at night {the only time that Richard has ever given me bad advice}. My 5th race was the Run for Water 10K on May 27th in Abbotsford. We had no idea where Abbotsford was when we registered, FYI. Took gatorade {by accident} instead of water from a volunteer — all shades of grey at the finish line. Ended up with 10k, 58:41! PB! 200/567 gender, 65/151 age.

Soaked to the bone, but stoked I hit my first 10K.

June 5th I hit a total distance of 200km and PB 5K 27:27. Holy freaking cow. 200 kilometres. June 9th was the Starbucks Run for Women 10K and my worst race to date. Disorganized, late and started the race 12 mins after the gun went off. Uh huh… 12 mins. Played catch up which stressed/psyched me out. Trail race which I’d never done. Finish line time was 1:06:25 at 10.8km distance. Passed 339 women to make it to 128th place. As I started late, unofficial results came back at 54ish minutes and FOURTH PLACE in my age group. Eeeep. And that brings us to last week… June 16th, my 7th race, the North Shore Longest Day Race 5K.

No Half-Marathon?

Before last Friday, I felt ready for the Half-Marathon. My distance was close enough to where it should be. I had been killing my races and I knew that the only thing I needed to ensure was that I wasn’t quick out of the gate. I learned the factors that contribute to a good race vs. a bad race. I learned how a negative split can help me. I learned when I run best — in the evening, in the rain. I learned that a 5K is just as important as a 15k. I learned the importance of stretching, strength training and conditioning. I memorized the elevation map, learned about pace bunnies and found an electrolyte replacement that didn’t stir the tummy {Grape Ultima FTW}.

I was nervous — but ready.

On Tuesday, I felt like my world fell apart. Dramatic I know.

I never expected much from running. I hated it for the first 2.5 months. Hated it. Since starting this journey, I have learned so much about myself and my body. Running has been my Eat. Pray. Love. Running is my outlet, a place to escape from the world and have time to myself. Running {and training probably} has made me very aware of what I put in my body. I’ve always been vegetarian-ish, but since starting running I’ve stumbled into the world of vegan, raw food and green smoothies. I sleep better. I feel better.

In 1997, I was diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis. Two years of bracing and an out of control spine later… I had a Spinal Fusion with Instrumentation at the BC Children’s Hospital. In my university years, I broke the bottom of my rods tobogganing. Up until January 2012, I felt weak. For my entire life, I have felt weak. Growing up, I was the definition of “skinny {ph}at.” I can eat whatever I want and maintain the same weight. I have a slim frame, which people default to strong — so far from true. I regularly wear a pair of pants from Grade 10.

For the first time in my life, I feel strong.

My Spine. Photo Credit: OfStorms Photography

I am a big believer in everything happens for a reason. For whatever reason, I stumbled down the path of running. For whatever reason, I actually stuck with it. When I reflect back on the last few months, I shake my head at what I have achieved. Not in a million years did I think I was capable of running 1km, let alone more than that. Since the beginning I’ve always had it in my head that the Half-Marathon is the end date. On June 23, 2012, I would move onto the next goal.

After a super reflective week and a hell of a lot of support, I now know that I am not done.

This is just the beginning.

My body has decided that it’s not ready for this week’s Half-Marathon and I have accepted that. {Just don’t mention the words race, half, marathon, run, running, lululemon or gatorade for the next 3 days or you may need to give me a hug.} I’m not prepared to be further injured, or god forbid, be out of commission for months on end. I haven’t run in one week and I feel terrible. Sore, stiff, exhausted, anxious and impatient. I can’t wait for my feet to be back on the pavement. I can’t wait till I heal up. I can’t wait to get back out there.

But I will wait till my body tells me it’s ready.

I no longer have to run. I truly want to run.

Surround yourself with who you want to become.

This week I was 100% an emotional disaster. I cried at the mention of the Half-Marathon {many of you likely regret wishing me good luck on the upcoming race ha ha}. I had 3 amazing men reach out to this week and I’m beyond grateful for the advice.

  • Derek – Thank you for talking me off my crazy girl ledge. Thank you for rampaging on me over text, making every attempt to make me realize that I need to be proud of what I have achieved. Thank you for using so many f-bombs, telling me it’s ok to be an emotional psycho case, explaining how running/training/athletics is very much an internal sport — and telling me that I can’t stop running.
  • Jeff – Thank you for being the first person to reach out and ask what was wrong. Thank you for explaining your past injuries to assist me in further understanding training and injury management. Thank you for the positivity, support and for making me realize that running will be a career.  Thank you for teaching me that running is more than a race {music to my ears} and introducing me to the running community.
  • Richard – Thank you for picking up the phone when I pleaded for a friend. Thank you for understanding how Scoliosis fits into my world and for reinforcing that I need to take care of me. Thank you for talking me through every option and hearing me out. Thank you for listening — you were patient, sincere and I feel so lucky to call you my friend.

Big love to Dave at Restore Physiotherapy and Dr. Nielsen & Cynthia at Performance Health Group.

Thank you to the girls {Jen, Reagan, Monique, Katie and Michelle} for your support this week — and always. Thank you to my running cheerleaders: Dawn, Cecilia, Miranda, Mike, Shannon and Jeremy. Thank you to my team at UrtheCast for being understanding and supportive.

And lastly thank you to my running partner in crime, Haley. Proud of you darling and I know that you’re going to kill it at the Half-Marathon this weekend — finish baby finish.

In 5 months I have:

  • Ran: 240km
  • Completed: 37 runs
  • Raced: 7 times
  • Burned: 12,347 calories
Achieved personal bests:
  • 1K: 4:34
  • 1 mile: 8:04
  • 5K: 27:27
  • 8K: 47:49
  • 10K: 58:41
  • 15K: 1:35:10

Kinda crazy.

My name is Jillian Walker and {for the first time ever} I am a runner.

PS – Sometimes you have to move backward, to move forward. Physio rehabilitation begins next week. The hope is that my 1st Half-Marathon will be the Lululemon Seawheeze in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. T-50 days.

unleash the power within

A few months ago a girlfriend approached me asking if I’d be interested in attending a Tony Robbins event, Unleash the Power Within. Not knowing anything about Mr. Robbins, I said “sure, why not.” I absolutely admire so many qualities of this young lady and if she thought to invite me, I better take her up on the offer and challenge myself to learn. I didn’t do the 10 weeks of pre-work, instead the first time I heard an ounce about Tony Robbins was live, from himself directly, on  Thursday, July 14, 2011, in Chicago, Illinois!

For those that know a lot about Tony’s work and know a bit about what I do, it may surprise you that I know nothing about the guy. For those that know a lot about Tony and know how structured I can be, you might wonder why I didn’t research the conference or his style of leadership. I can confidently say that I don’t know why I didn’t google the guy. It may have been a good idea… ha ha. :)

I arrived at the event late overwhelmed.

4 days. 50 hours of learning. 4000 people from over 10 countries.

A brief overview of the days that followed:

Day 1: Turn Fear into Power (10 hours)

  • Intro to psychology
  • Exploring the 6 human needs: certainty, variety, significance, connection, growth, contribution
  • Processing your greatest fear
  • Firewalking exercise

Day 2: Turn Dreams into Reality (14.5 hours)

  • Momentum and drive
  • Exploring your passion
  • Closing your financial gap
  • Importance of peer groups
  • Determining your x-factor

Day 3: Break Through to your New Life (15.5 hours)

  • Evaluating your wheel of life: physical body, emotions & meaning, relationships, time, work/career/mission, finances, celebrate & contribute
  • Key elements of progress
  • Strategies for success
  • Limiting beliefs vs. empowering beliefs
  • Path to mastery

Day 4: Powers of Pure Energy (10 hours)

  • Keys to healthy body/healthy mind
  • 5 sources of disease
  • 12 principles of a vital life
  • Ten day challenge

I can’t begin to sum up what I have learned over the last 4 days.

Partly because I am processing everything still and also because I learned a hell of a lot.

Key concepts from the event:

  • PEAK STATE. You need to find your happy place — and no this does not include mashed potatoes or a glass of wine. ;) For many of the attendees at this event, a bizarre superhero move put them in peak state. Finding state is about finding the place where your strength shines through. The point where you are at your strongest physically, mentally and emotionally is your peak state.
  • BE GRATEFUL. Tony never lost sight of giving more than you take. He continually tied back his content to giving back to the community and being grateful for what life gives you. Appreciate people, situations, moments – the good and the bad. In the words of Tony, “Stop being busy doing stupid shit. Remember what it means to give.”
  • WEALTH. Wealth is not about money! Instead it equals caring and creativity. Being someone who is not money-oriented to start with, I can appreciate a statement like this. ;) You will feel most rich when you give, show love and have the opportunity to be creative. Wealth is about challenging yourself to be your ultimate best self.
  • SHITTY DAYS. Make the worst day of your life, the best day of your life. Enough said.
  • PEER GROUPS. Your friends 100% affect your standards. Tony continually reinforced: “Who you spend your time with is who you become.” He challenges you to accept your family, but pick your friends. You goal should be to surround yourself with people that are equal or better than yourself. Everyone needs to evaluate your current friend circle, discover alignment and then choose to stay or leave. The best team will challenge you — NOT support you. Seems harsh, but ridiculously true.
  • X-FACTOR. How are you different from other people? What value do you add to the lives of others, your organization or the community? By adding intangible value and consistently maintaining it, you are able to master both yourself and your business.
  • RAISE YOUR STANDARDS. Levels of standards are poor, good, excellence and outstanding. The key thing to note though is that standards have changed over time and in today’s society poor = pain, good = poor, excellence = good, outstanding = excellence. A great example that Tony shared was when he was speaking to a man who’s wife recently left him. He said to Tony: “I was a good husband.” Tony says” “That was the problem.” Get it? If you goal is outstanding, yes, you have a lot of work to do, but you will stand out from the rest. For ultimate success, the key is to maintain an outstanding standard in multiple aspects of your life.
  • MASTERY. The key components of mastery are modelling behaviour, immersion and spaced repetition. If your standards are high and you want to try out a new hobby/activity/language/skill etc, you need to give it your all. Modelling is explained through finding someone who has already mastered the game (i.e. find the best of the best) and get them to teach you. Immersion is immersing yourself in the activity or learning (i.e. Do you learn Spanish best while you are in Mexico for 4 weeks or once a week for 10 weeks in your hometown?). Spaced repetition is continually touching back into that hobby/activity/language/skill/etc to keep your fresh, current and engaged. It seems easy eh? Well why does not one do it. :)
  • ENERGY. Health should be measured through energy, instead of skinny/fat, weight in numbers and attitude. Pure energy comes down to vital breathing, live foods, essential oils, alkalinity, aerobic energy, nutrition, structural alignment & strength and a directed mind & heart. If you have constant energy, you are healthy.

Key learnings:

  • MY PRIMAL DRIVERS: Significance and growth. I currently need recognition and acknowledgement of a job well done. as well, I thrive in an environment where I’m constantly learning and challenging myself to be a better person. Tony told us that we needed to determine our current drivers and then decide where I wanted them to be. Tony thinks that everyone should work towards love — it’s always the end goal. I get the reasoning and thought process, but as of right now,  but I choose growth and contribution as my goal. Growth will be even more important as I progress and I intend to raise my degree of contributing to others and giving back to society.
  • MY GREATEST FEAR: Failure. 100%. What’s the benefit of this fear? Well, I’m an overachiever and stride through life not letting myself fail. Good and not good if you know what I mean! A question that I need to constantly ask myself, “If you fail, what is the worst thing that might happen?” Death. No. Learning. Likely. Why did I do the walk across the 12 feet of 2000 degree hot coals during the firewalk on Day 1? Because I couldn’t fail… obviously. ;)
  • MY PASSION: We did an exercise where we needed to reflect on what we love/hate, where are passion lies and what we really want. My list was long for all of them, except passion. My passion came down to education and teaching, writing and giving back. Simple and for whatever reason, I didn’t have that clarity until this weekend.
  • MY WHEEL OF LIFE: There are 7 categories on your wheel of life. My strengths were physical body, emotions and meaning, work/career/mission and celebrate/contribute. My weaknesses were relationships, time and finances. This exercise was extremely reflective for me — not in the sense that it shared something new, more so that it reinforced where I needed to spend my time and how to set goals for the days, months and years to come. I maybe, just maybe, tend to set guys up for failure [run… away… now… ;)], lead a generally all over the place life and have completely disorganized finances. Tons of room for improvement.
  • MY MOST POWERFUL LOCATION: My left ear. Wink wink nudge nudge. If you were wanting to whisper sweet nothings to me, head in the direction of my left ear. ;) Other options were from in front, behind, and right ear.
  • MY HEALTH: I need to get my skinny phat ass back to the gym and keep health top of mind. I’m totally good at all the component of health when I want to be, but it has to be top of mind. The entire 4 days, Tony reinforced the importance of rituals. I somewhat interpret that as routine. With routine, rituals, whatever and a belief in why health is important to your entire being, you make it happen. You just do.

My frustrations with the event:

  • THE ENVIRONMENT. The environment was intense. The only way to define it is ‘rah rah fist pump rah rah.’ A large part of this event was building energy. Rather than processing information in your head, you yell it out to the audience. Rather than smile when you have made progress, you high five. Rather than do team building activities, you have dance parties. Rather than clap in agreement of a powerful statement, you hit your chest and “make your move.” When Tony needs to ensure the participants have understood a concept… he uses a technique called “say… Yes!” and “say… Aye!” The result is chanting in unison. If you were standing at the back of the room or had a birds eye view from above, you would undoubtedly be like “Who the eff are these weird people?” On Day 1, I thought holy shit and participated. By Day 3, I was done. I’ve had enough fist pumping to last a life time. Truly. Lifetime. When I want to center myself, being truly strong to my core and mind, I think of yoga. Calm. Deep Breathing. Reflection.  I found that continually shouting out my degree of awesome was completely illegitimate and distracted me from what we were trying to achieve. The environment worked for some people, it truly did. But for me? It felt cult-ish and crazy.
  • THE FANS. There were groupies. Yes, groupies. Tony has a following of supporters who continually come to the same event to learn more and support him in his mission. The problem is that 1) they were quit odd and 2) they were not making progress. Tony motivates them to make change and they come back to each event making minimal to no change!! Sure this is a generalization, but they took away from the newbie’s experience and were intense as hell. It is not motivating to see people attending this type of event who are not making progress. IMO, attending one of these events – regardless of your issue – should allow you to make progress in some area of your life. If you have come to the event and not learned, you haven’t given it your all.
  • THE SELLING. There was a focus on selling product. I understand that “Tony Robbins” is a corporation, not an educational institution or one-man-show, so absolutely there is a need to sell. Interested in selling to me though? Show me success, results, application and I will come to you on my own. Talking people into trials, deals, discounts, etc does not motivate me to buy. I have even more of an issue with it, because I believe that tons of people get ‘trapped’ into buying product/services all the time. At one point, someone from Tony’s team said just put the down payment on your credit card. FOR REAL? You teach Wealth Mastery and you want someone to put a $2000 down payment on their credit card… having no idea where they will find the next $8000-10,000? Perhaps it motivated some to bust their ass and find some cash, but for others? Total detrimental move.
  • THE LEARNING STYLE. There were numerous times during this event that I tied this experience back to the field of Human Resources and learning styles. Although this event had live speaking, recorded videos, activities, group work and workbooks, I truly believe it catered to one type of learner. One might say, it had to. 4000 people in one room and a lot of content to get through. I learn best in a small, intimate environment, with visual engagement and practical application. Likely why I thrived in college, instead of a university setting. I was most engaged in learning when Tony was speaking to hardcore content, live audience examples and follow-up exercise. Every time that dancing, high fives, fist pumps took place, I was ultimately distracted.

For the most part there were two types of people who attended this event:

  1. Someone with some sort of immediate issue that was taking over their life. For example, smoking, weight loss, job loss, financial issue, etc. They were there to find their passion, get themselves back.
  2. Someone who is Type A, achievement oriented and keen to make themselves a better, more well-rounded, passionate person. Regardless of growth past and present, they need more.

I could think of a hell of a lot of people who would benefit from an event like this… but I don’t believe that everyone is ready. The experience was intense and at times, ridiculous. You will get the most from an event like this when you have an open mind, prepared for growth and committed to having a bit of fun.

So was it worth it?

I spent $500 on the event and 100% received that value back in learning and reflection. I even slacked out on Day 2 and 4, focusing on work for a few hours, but I still got what I needed. Yes there was repeat from other things I have learned and read in life. Yes it was intense at times and seriously thought “WTF.” In reflection, I would say that I needed to attend something like this in mid-2009. At that time, I needed someone to light a fire under my ass. Instead I went to Tunisia, Africa to attend a completely unrelated conference and meet some amazing people who were “my Tony Robbins.” People who inspired me to make change. People who challenged my thought process. People who set my mind up for success. People who told me what books to read. People who taught me that if you bust your balls, opportunities will find you.

“Unleash the Power Within” confirmed that I am headed in the right direction. I am so grateful for everything that has happened in the last few years — the people that I have met, the lessons learned and random things that have tested my values. I am proud to say that I have learned more about myself and my mission in the last 2 years, than in my entire life.

I can confidently say that I am committed to growing and turning life up a notch more.

I need to reflect on all I have learned, get back to goal setting, define my rituals and create a master plan!

Will I attend another event?

I am debating attending Life Mastery and Wealth Mastery in Fiji in 2012 or at some point in the future. Why? Because it is a small setting (60 people – which would be better for my learning style) without the rah rah fist pump rah rah and I truly believe I could get a lot out of it. The concept of peer groups reinforces that in order to excel, you need to surround yourself with people who already have the expertise and are excelling themselves. This event provides one with the opportunity to be connected to expertise in particular fields, but from people that the average individual never would be connected to. If I have a standard of outstanding or exceptional in my life, then why wouldn’t I make every effort to surround myself with best of the best…!

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.” – Tony Robbins

Will I register because of what I heard about the event this weekend? No. I will register because I have researched the event, read reviews, received recommendations and know – know in my heart – that it’s the right decision for me!

Keen to understand a bit more about Tony’s thoughts on life? Check out his TED talk from 2006.

I admire Mr. Robbins. I didn’t watch him on the stage everyday thinking about how fabulously well-rounded he is. I thought… that will be me. No no, not the bizzilionaire with the foundation, million dollar coaching sessions and 19 million companies. The educator. The voice. The passionate, well-spoken person wanting to give back to the world.

Too many people live in that lukewarm shitty place in life.

Make changes. Switch things up. Strive high.

With love from Chicago. ❤

moving forward

Well it’s been an intense few days.  I have no idea why I intentionally add such stress and pressure to my life.  I knew my designation exam was October 2nd, yet I still chose to go “live” with all the health stuff on October 1st.  Regardless of removing myself from technology, I knew that my attention wouldn’t be on the exam.  Le sigh.  I guess the good news is that the exam is over and now I have a few months to wait for marks.

I have felt at peace with the health stuff over the past few weeks – from what I kept telling myself, truly at peace.  Then Thursday happened.  I was nervous, unsure, and scared to go public with any of it.  I kept on telling myself that so many people (and women) in this world go through so much worse than I had been through.  I started to realize that a large part of worried was that it wasn’t about what I’d been through, it was about that I’d hid it from everyone.  Many people in my life see me as a driven, career-focused, community-oriented, young woman.  They see me, I smile… I pretend everything is fine.  Life isn’t fine… but it’s getting better.  I am making progress every day and for that I’m thankful.

On Thursday night, I stayed up until almost 4am editing the blog post… I wanted it to be perfect.  I wanted to ensure that my message came across the way I had intended.  The last thing I wanted was for someone to say “I’m sorry”… I wanted people to reflect on what I’d written and make positive change in their lives.  Whether that means you are a woman who is going to TOUCH. LOOK. CHECK more often, or a friend who will truly offer support the next time someone is in need, or you are going to donate your money or time to a cause that is relevant to you.  My primary goal in writing my story was to make a difference.

A lot happened during the last few months – there is much more to the story than what I have written, but throughout my writing, I realized that health was the most important.  All the other “life” stuff was no longer important; all the garbage just reinforced to me that I needed to come out of this situation on top.

I published the blog post, sent off a quick email to close friends with the link, and forced myself to sleep.

Friday was overwhelming.  The last time I shed so many tears was during the unknown diagnosis weeks of June and July.  These tears were different though.  They were not filled with angst, fear, and stress.  By publishing my health battles, I made myself vulnerable.  My tears came because I didn’t realize how much love and support I truly have.  As confident as I can be, I have been scarred from the past.  I have been screwed over quite a bit in the past few years.  I have been backstabbed, hurt by friends, and not supported in so many facets of my life.  I just keep on telling myself that no one else matters… “Jill, you are what’s important.”  Keep focused, make progress, and eventually everything will come together.  For years I have been waiting for a support system and I’m finally thrilled to say that I think I have one.  It’s unfortunate that it took this situation to make me realize that.

I received a phone call late Friday afternoon.  Tony, Marketing Manager at Melrose, had called to confirm Ming as my venue for “Pretty in Pink: A Breast Cancer Awareness Benefit.”  I couldn’t have been more thrilled.  Little did Tony know, but this was just the distraction I needed to once again re-focus and look toward the future.  I have a short three weeks to plan a memorable event, a glamorous pink wonderland.

In less than a day, I had 307 views of my blog post – my highest view count to date.  I will admit (even though I was supposed to be studying), I did consume myself in the messages of support, inspiration, and love.  Just thinking about a few of them brings tears to my eyes.  It’s funny how in situations like this your true friends always come to light.  I have read every email, text message, blog post comment, and Twitter mention or message.  I have absorbed every ounce of good everyone had to say.  I have been surprised over how honest people are – and potentially, so in tune with who I am as a person.  A huge thank you to Shannon Hilton Photography for utilizing Rethink Breast Cancer as the charity of choice for her recent photography promotion.

What do I plan to take away from this experience?  I fully intend to live in and cherish the present.  I have realized how important it is to surround yourself with good people; people who truly have your back.  In order to achieve my hopes and dreams, I am re-prioritizing quite a few people in my life.  I naturally put a lot of effort into both relationships and life.  I need to be surrounded by people who truly do the same.  I am very goal driven – and function best when I have something to look forward to.  In the short term, I’m competing in KPMG’s “What Makes a Top Employer” video contest (ends October 18th), hosting “Pretty in Pink: A Breast Cancer Awareness Benefit” at Ming (October 21st), attending the JCI World Congress in Osaka, Japan (early November), and I will be speaking at the Young Women in Business’ (YWiB) annual conference, “Beyond Pink” in Vancouver (November 20th).  In the long term, I have no idea, but intend to start thinking about my 2011 goals as we move through the next few months.

All that’s left to say is – thank you.  Thank you for the support.  Thank you for the love.  And thank you for believing in me. ❤

August 2010 – Still healing. Photo taken by a fantastic friend named Madigan Reilly.

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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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?

look up

Recently I bought the book “Up: A Pragmatic Look at the Direction of Life” by David Niven.  I’ve been going through what some might call….‘life change’ and this book seemed to be right up my alley.

The book starts off with saying:

“Should you look up?  There’s a lot to be said for it.  Looking up to make eye contact and exchange smiles is essential to feeling a connection with others.  Looking up is how we see the blue sky and the beauty of life all around us.  Looking up, research shows, actually makes us more optimistic, feel better about ourselves, and generate positive thoughts.”

It then goes on to discuss why ‘looking up’ can be difficult to today’s society.  We have distractions, struggles, and are going through life changes no previous generation has experienced. “Up” provides 365 unique ways as to why, we as citizens should be grateful for what we have and the continual opportunities that are presented to us.

The book is full of treasures that hit of home, but the following are a few of my favourites:

#148 – Faith in Yourself

Remember all the drama with Y2K and the thought that technology was going to go through major drama?  Did that happen? Absolutely not. I believe that if those same thoughts were said in 2010 – the response would be different.  People are more optimistic than they were in past.  I am surrounded by people who truly believe the word is full of good.  They believe in themselves, take risks, and have every opportunity to succeed.  They don’t worry about what might happen – they proceed full-speed ahead.  Life truly has to be lived.

#42 – It’s Not Just a Job

We have been shifting from a “live to work” to a “work to live” mentality for years.  When you hear of a friend, colleague, or family member looking for new work – very rarely, you will hear someone say… “I just need a paycheque.”  No.  Jobs these days are about passion, learning, and having a role on this planet.  What am I bringing to the table?  How can I make a difference to a company?  Do my values align with the organizations mission and vision?  Yes, money is important to a certain degree.  It’s important to pay the bills and provide for your family.  Jobs are no longer about 40 hours a week.  Jobs are part of people, and employees care about their organizations. People have a refreshing perspective on commitment to their careers.

#154 – Change the World

Do you feel like you can change the world?  I do.  Is that likely?  No… but at least I have faith… right? ;) Similar to the discussion on organizations and values, people these days have a need and want to help others.  They are curious about language, culture, and travel.  They are willing to take risks to learn something new, whether it be an experience or a life-changing opportunity.  Believe that you (yes, you!) have the power to tackle this world.

#328 – Progressing Every Day

Every day is an opportunity to be better.  Every day is an opportunity to accomplish tasks and make progress. We are living in a world of resources.  Back in the day, many many years back, society didn’t have the resources to strive for big goals.  But guess what, we have them now.  Are you using them?  We have experts one every topics – financial literacy, education, legal, recruitment, marketing, etc.  Many people have mentors – whether they have career, non-profit, or life focused.  We are all capable of achieving great things.  Set goals; make progress; measure measure measure – and achieve.

#76 – Housework is for Everybody

There was a time when housework was meant to fall under the responsibility of the wife or woman of the house.  For a long time, men dominated the workforce – providing plenty of opportunity for women to be busy in the home. My sister and her husband have what they call “pink jobs” and “blue jobs”… ugh makes me shiver just thinking about it.  Pink jobs include laundry, cooking, cleaning – the usual; blue jobs include taking out the trash, yard work, etc.  This works for them, but my thoughts are – the majority of couples in their 20’s find a balance with household tasks.  Status in the family and home has changed, in North America at the very least, women are considered equal to men. In many families, both the husband and wife work full-time jobs.  Why would chores dominate with one person?  Just like we are striving for continual equality in the workplace, we have finally found equality in the home. The book states that “women whose husbands share in the housework are 15% more likely to rate their husbands as ‘very physically attractive.’” That’s right boys – get on that ironing! ;)

#212 – Never Facing Pain Alone

To fully understand the ‘old’ way of thinking, I look to my Grandpa.  Last year he battled Colon Cancer… but would anyone have known?  Absolutely not.  He hid his illness for ages, not knowing what he had or why he was sick.  Why?  Because that’s how he was raised.  Disease wasn’t talked about as many did not understand or have the background to understand.  Eventually my Grandpa became sick enough that my mom noticed he was unwell – physically he had lost a lot of weight etc. [He battled the heck out of that cancer and is doing well today!] In today’s world we have access to a wealth of information.  We have resources such as information online, medical experts, family assistance programs, and support groups.  We have family, friends, and coworkers. It is no surprise that we will continually experience pain in our lifetimes – that in itself is not going away.  What has changed, is how we handle it.  Don’t hide from your loved ones, embrace the support, and get through the tough times.  A great book relating to this topic is “Life in the Balance” by Dr. Marla Shapiro.

More information on the book can be found:

http://linux.davidniven.com/up.php

If you need to be brought back down to planet earth or need some sort of life reality check, read the book.  We owe it to ourselves to be grateful for both the good and bad that is presented to us.

We truly live in a bright world. Always have hope. ❤