National Cancer Survivorship Day 2012: Leave Your Mark

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Officially, June 4th was National Cancer Survivor’s Day 2012 but different organizations host their own celebrations on different days annually throughout the month of June.

Surviving & Thrivnig: celebrating survivor stories through artistic expression was Princess Margaret’s National Cancer Survivor’s Day, held on June 11th 2012. It was also the 1st annual memorial for the late Dr Robert Buckman, medical oncologist and an inspiration to cancer Survivors and their families at Princess Margaret and around the world. He passed away on October 9th, 2011.

In honour of Dr Buckman, we held a 2 hour memorial that was filled with humour and touching stories of Survivorship.

You can watch the service here: Surviving & Thriving: In memory of Dr Robert Buckman

I cried and laughed and cried and laughed. The panelists were amazing speakers and took you on an emotional ride for the 2 hours. After the panelists, there were a series of workshops offered to patients, their family members and visitors by registration only. The event was so perfectly organized and executed.

One of my favorite moments was the mural. All who attended were welcomed to make their mark on an open canvas. The inspiration was amazing:

The event left all those who attended, including the staff who knew (and didn’t know) Dr Buckman, very humbled and happy toleave their mark.

It was, truly, a remarkable event.

 

Restaurant Review: Avani, Asian Indian Bistro

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Last night, my boyfriend treated me to a special dinner. Since we started dating, we’ve heard our friends rave about Avani, an Asian-Indian Bistro in Mississauga. We ever too often drive by since one of our friends owns a shop in that area, but never actually got to have dinner there. [NOTE: all pictures in this blog post taken with my phone camera, i.e. the quality isn’t great!]

We finally got the opportunity to check it out, and I was extremely impressed.

When we first walked in, I was taken back by the atmosphere and decor – it was gorgeous. I felt like I was in India – the brass statue at the entrance, the waterfall, the decorative carpet hung on the wall…the music and the lighting. It was perfect.

We were immediately greeted and seated. I didn’t really look at the menu, my boyfriend ordered for us.

The food was absolutely DELICIOUS. It was so good, and totally worth all the hype we’d heard about it (and the money – it was a bit on the pricey side). The food was well presented, and you could tell it was fresh and made to order!

To start, we ate Chaat Papri which it is an Indian-style (sorta!) nacho dish. There are wheat crisps smothered with chopped potato, chick peas, yogurt, chilli chutney and mint chutney. It was so pretty, I didn’t really want to eat it.

Next we had 1/2 an order of Tandoori Chicken. It was sizzling when the waitress brought it to our table and it smelled fabulous. The chicken was perfectly seasoned,  and perfectly cooked.

Our main course was Methi Murgh, with a side of Garlic Naan. Methi Murgh is chicken in a fenugreek sauce.

This was so flavourful and authentic. I loved the presentation, too, with the candle and everything to keep the dish warm.

For dessert, my boyfriend and I shared an order of Kerr. It is an Indian Rice Pudding, and it was delicious. So delicious, we ate it before we remembered to take a picture of it. So just take my word.

The portions at this place were perfect. We shared everything we ordered and had some Garlic Naan and Methi Murgh left over for lunch today. The restaurant was pricey compared to other local family-owned and operated Indian restaurants in our area, but you’re paying for the authenticity, ambiance and presentation when you eat at Avani. This may become a special occasion (ehm, my birthday) place …

😉

Rollerblades, going back to school & a potential job opportunity

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Wow, where do I start? So many things have happened since I last blogged (that is a sign that I need to blog more often, haha)…

Let me start with something that I learned yesterday: rollerblading is harder than it looks.

I was almost disappointed, when I got into the rollerblades and, at that moment, instantly regretted investing in the gear. My boyfriend could see that written all over my face, and he asked “you regret buying these, don’t you?” And all I could respond with was “No, I’m determined.”

He got the hang of things quite quickly. He had rollerbladed a little when he was younger, but it never turned into a thing for him.

I was petrified though.

Bend my knees. Activate my core. Keep my feet at 45 degree angles.
Bend my knees. Activate my core. Keep my feet at 45 degree angles.
Bend my knees. Activate my core. Keep my feet at 45 degree angles.

I kept replaying in my head the instructions that I got from a Livestrong Youtube tutorial on rollerblading:

After a few wobbly strides, I managed to rollerblade a good 4 meter stretch before sitting back down on a bench. I did that a few times and I managed to gain some confidence. We roller bladed back and forth the same stretch of sidewalk, resting in between.

The last length we did, we rollerbladed a little further into the park – to where the kids play area was. It was a little loopy (okay, who am I kidding here, it was a roundabout…). My boyfriend was holding my hand for support and as I made the turn on the last bend of the roundabout, I lost my balance and I flung backwards. And my boyfriend went flying, too.

We groaned a little, and then we started laughing. A little girl was watching us roll around painfully on the ground. She was cute.

We got up, rolled to a bench, took off the rollerblades and stretched out our legs and feet. I had packed us a picnic dinner that we went back to the car to eat. It was a really nice night.

In retrospect, my biggest fear was falling. Thinking to my childhood, I had never really fallen’. I learned to ride a bike on a tricycle, I swam and did ballet – and never really fell and scraped myself badly as a result of these activities.

Yesterday I fell. And it wasn’t that bad. And I don’t really regret buying the rollerblades. Dare I admit that I’m actually excited to go rollerblading again?

Speaking of again, do you know what I’m thinking about doing again?

I’ve been thinking really hard lately about going back to school. I think part of the reason I’ve been turned off of my job is a) that my colleagues hate me, b) there is too much politics and territorialism in research, at least in the department of the organization that I work for and c) I feel that my creativity is being restricted because it is “out of my scope of work” as a researcher.  *sigh.

I’m very passionate about nutrition and, in fact, have a very strong background in health and disease. I can take one of two routes to become a Registered Dietician (Note: not nutritionist. InCanada, registered dietician is a protected profession and is evidence based) which will ultimately qualify me for an 18-month internship and writing the Dietetics registration exam.

Route 1: Complete a community nutrition masters.
Route 2: Complete an accredited nutrition program.

If I have to do route 1, then it will have to be a full-time commitment which would mean that I wouldn’t be able to work full-time. I could pursue route 2, however, on a part time basis as a 2nd degree student (yay, transfer credits!). It is the full-time/part-time dilemma that is pushing me towards route 2. I could also speak to my immediate manager and ask her if I could take a more active role in the Healthy Eating Wellness program that we offer to patients. I’m a little bit involved in it, but not a lot and I’m hoping I could become more involved and increase my competitive edge for the dietetics internship application process.

As it stands right now, I’ve initiated contact with a local University which offers an accredited nutrition program. I’m anxious to see how things pan out.

Annnd lastly, as if going back to school isn’t a big enough decision, I am on the border of an awesome job opportunity. I can’t say much online because I don’t know if at all it will be fruitful but I’m very hopeful. I’m excited and anxious and nervous and happy and sad all at the same time about this one. I really want this opportunity but I don’t know if it will happen, and that’s the part that makes me anxious and nervous and sad.

I want it. Patience.

Patience and persistence will be key.

I think that was quite a blog post. Thanks for making it this far, lol… but I really should get back to work…

Why I fell off the wagon?

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I’ve been trying to keep the negativity in my life at a minimum. I find I’m much happier that way, but there is no other way to describe my latest attempt to be physically active.

Fitness fail.

I’ve even willingly skipped two of the 5 so far fitness sessions that I paid for when I signed up for the Smartest Loser program at my workplace.

Total fail. I am handed a superb deal on 12 fitness sessions and I’ve passed up on 2 of the 12. What was I thinking? I wasn’t. I was seeing results, too…

It sucks. I get going for a few days, maybe a week or two and then I fall off the damn health and fitness wagon.

Lately I’ve been very unhappy with my job. I’m working two jobs (a full-time job in my field and a part-time job for the extra income) and I’ve been very stressed out. It is a really tough job market out there for us science graduates. My full-time job is a contract position until October 2012. I’ve been in this job since May  2011 and have had my contract renewed 4 times (yes, FOUR times!). I feel annoyed that I cannot let go of my part time job (since it is permanent part time, I’ve been working for Shoppers Drug Mart for 5 years and counting…) because I don’t have anything lined up for October. Plus, my manager at my part time job is quite perverted and my boyfriend isn’t too happy with me working there (neither am I).

I know that my part time job takes away time and focus from my health and fitness goals. I feel like I could do so much more if I had more time, but right now I’m spending that extra time at a part time job which I don’t particularly enjoy any more.

The pressure at my contract job, too, is building up. Expectations are at an all time high and I feel so much more stress to perform. Yet at the same time, I feel that I am not an integrated member of the overall team because some of my colleagues view me as a temporary contract employee who is fresh out of school and has little creative input. I’ve addressed this issue with my manager (albeit I mistakenly sent an email as oppose to addressing it face-to-face) with little resolve. It’s super frustrating.

And it makes me think that my contract won’t get renewed again in October. And then again I stress out because I’m having such a difficult time getting an interview for any of the positions that I apply for. And so I get lazy and hungry because of the stress and my emotions.

And so I eat.

And I don’t work out.

I fall off the wagon.

And here I am blogging about it.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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My sister and brother-in-law just left for the night.

We had such a nice evening appreciating my mom! She’s a gem, a bit crazy most times, but a gem none the less.

It is late, and I’m tired (totally wayyy past my bedtime, lol).

Keepin’ it short and sweet: Happy Mother’s Day to all those mamas out there!

G’night.

Anxious about almost-cancer diagnosis follow-up!

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Time has flown by so quickly, I didn’t realize that I haven’t blogged until I got back to my morning routine of reading blog posts on my commute today.

It is amazing how much we miss when we don’t slow down and take a moment to do things for ourselves and reflect.

I’ve been so busy these past few weeks with work and doing things around the house. We are renovating our basement and making it into a huge lounge and office. The contractors said it would only take 6 weeks to revamp the whole thing but, not to anyone’s surprise, they’ve been in there for almost 12 weeks already annnd they’re no where near being done.

Anyway, I’ve been really emotional and on edge the past few days. I couldn’t really figure out what is making me so emotional. I’ve gone from super happy to crying rivers in seconds. My partner is extremely patient. Good man J

I figured it out today.

I will be doing my 1-year follow-up after having a thyroid-cancer scare (and being diagnosed with having currently benign thyroid nodules, I may blog about my experience when I’m more comfortable with it) over the course of this month. My thyroid ultrasound is tomorrow and the appointment with my endocrinologist is in June and I’ve been stressing about it for over a week. And the stress has totally taken over my mood.

I’ll be really happy to get this ultrasound done and over with tomorrow so that I can just take it easy a little bit. We’re also having another fundraiser for the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers tomorrow, a bakery-style bake sale. I’ll post pictures.

Anyway, I’m still at work and really shouldn’t be blogging on company time. Back to the grind…I’ll try not to keep too much time between blog posts. 

I look “tighter”!

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I was so excited when my manager said to me this morning “you, you look like you’re tighter”!

I had to give her a hug!

She made my day. I had a rough commute into the city this morning (GOtransit was having signal issues, I had to drive down, got stuck in traffic, then had to search for parking, etc) and was dreading the day before it had even really begun.

I had been feeling a little more “light” than normal but I hadn’t really thought that you could see the changes. I’m curious to measure them out using a measuring tape. On the first day of the Smartest Loser program, the wellness coordinators measured all participants height, weight and waist circumference so I have some initial measurements to compare my progress with. I’m thinking of swinging by the wellness centre on Tuesday morning next week (it will be 2 weeks since the first measurement) to see my progress. I could do it myself but, like the researcher that I am, I want it to be from the same person and using the same measuring tape.

The Power90 workouts are still quite a challenge but I’m noticing minor improvements here and there, mostly with my form. Form was probably one of my biggest concerns with working out to an instructional DVD; that because the instructor isn’t there to correct your form you may hurt yourself. So far, if I pace myself and focus on form right now rather than pace, I think I’ll be fine.

Anyway, its quite late in the GTA right now (11:37pm). I just finished the P90 Sweat 1-2 workout and am going to grab a snack and hit the sheets.

Good night!

Power90 Sculpt 1-2 workout sequence

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Last night I did the Power90 Sculpt 1-2 workout routine, and went straight to bed!

I did the first exercise using 2-lb dumbbells and I felt like I was lifting nothing, so I swapped them for 5-lb dumbbells for the rest of the workout.

 I felt tired after the 30 minute workout and was worried that I would feel very sore this morning, but I feel fine. I have a little bit of tightness in my upper back but only when I move those muscles in a stretch or to pick something up off the ground. I need to learn more about strength training. Is it okay that I don’t feel pain? Did I do the workout properly? Isn’t pain good when you’re working out – no pain, no gain? {dork alert} Gonna have to put on my super-duper research goggles and find out!

 Anyway, my first impression of the Power90 Sculpt 1-2 workout routine:

  • The Beachbody website says “from power to shower in under an hour” and they’re serious about that. It is only 28 minutes, start to finish.
  • The workout moves aren’t impossible but for me form was a big issue. I had trouble knowing if I was bending my knees enough or too much and the mirror that I have in my room is oval and limited my visibility.
  • There weren’t that many modifications to these workouts, other than the option of choosing dumbbells over the resistance bands

The program boasts extreme weight loss and a total body transformation if you follow the program, and push. It has only been two days so I can’t really say if it is effective or not. I’ve read so many reviews and watched so many before and after videos on Youtube and was amazed enough with other people’s transformations that I ordered the DVDs for myself.

I’m tempted to supplement these workouts with an additional few cardio workouts at the gym throughout the week. I was contemplating hitting the gym in the morning before work for a 20 or 30 minute cardio workout. I woke up a bit late (as per usual) this morning so that was the deciding factor in me not doing cardio this morning. Perhaps mornings are not a good idea? Haha…

I just did the P90 Sweat 1-2 sequence… annnd it’s bedtime.

Good night!

Not really BBQ weather + Power90 day 1

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With a high of 7 degrees Celsius, it was pretty darn cold today and the wind didn’t really help.

But for a cause, the boys and I put the flame on and had a BBQ in support of the 2012 10-Year Strong Weekend to End Women’s Cancers. My partner and I will be walking this year. It will be the first year for both of us.

Here are some pictures from this afternoon.

When you participate in the walk, you have the option of choosing which program within the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre you’d like to support with your fundraising. My partner and I have chosen to support The Survivorship Program.

And Buddy stopped by too:

What a cutie! He belongs to an older couple that came to shop at the Shoppers Drug Mart we were BBQing at and as soon as they left the car, he hopped into the drivers seat. Who da man?

Despite the cold we managed to make $202!

I want to thank the staff at Shoppers Drug Mart (where I work part-time), my partner and his brother, my brother, and all those who stopped by for a hot dog and to chat! THANK YOU!

In other exciting life news… THEY’RE HERE!! I picked up my Beachbody Power90 DVDs on Thursday night. I was so excited to have them, I was watching their shipping status on Canada Post and couldn’t wait to get off work to go and pick them up. I was too exhausted (my knees especially, were in a lot of pain) to actually do the workout on Thursday night and on Friday night I work at my part time job so I didn’t have the time to sweat it out.

Yesterday when I got home from the BBQ, I had an hour or so before my sister and brother-in-law were arriving for dinner. I did the cardio workout (sweat 1-2) and followed it up with the ab workout (ab ripper 100). I will be honest and didn’t push very hard. My knees were still a little bit sore from the smartest loser fitness test I did on Wednesday. My heart rate definitely went up and I did break a bit of a sweat.

I’m excited to see where this takes me over the course of the next 90 days. I learned yesterday that I don’t have very much strength in my arms and I lack coordination and balance. I took before pictures too. They made me quite sad, but maybe we can talk about that in another post.

I’ll leave you with my first impression of the Power90 Sweat 1-2 workout sequence:

  • It was only 35 minutes, including warm up and cool down!
  • The moves weren’t impossible but if you push they can be challenging.
  • Tony offered modifications for every move (except the yoga moves, which were of particular challenge for me).
  • Tony reassured you every 5 or so minutes that you shouldn’t feel obligated to follow their speed and intensity. I noticed I felt less anxious when I couldn’t keep up with them and he’d reassure me that its okay.
  • I read some reviews online about how Tony got irritating as people progressed through their 90 days… I didn’t find him annoying but I can definitely see that his sense of humour can get old.

I’m going to do the Sculpt 1-2 workout series tomorrow and I’ll let you know what I think.

Have a good night!

-Nour

The Smartest Loser

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Earlier this month I signed up for a workout and nutrition program offered to staff at my workplace. It is a “boot camp” that meets twice a week for 12 weeks and incorporates both nutrition education and a fitness curriculum. It is called Smartest Loser, and you’ll have the glorious honour of reading me blog about it…haha😉 

On Tuesday we had our first meeting, a nutrition session. It was very introductory but included information on why diets fail and the importance of setting goals. (If you want to follow along, I can ask the instructor if I can blog in more detail about these sessions.) I’m really hoping these sessions give me the edge I need to make better eating habits. I have a strong health sciences background but lack the direction to even make use of the things I know about nutrition.

The nutrition session? That was easy.

Yesterday we had our second meeting, the fitness assessment.

That, well, was not so easy.

I felt great yesterday, a great sense of accomplishment, after the class. But today I’m really feeling it, especially in my legs and in my knees. I was chatting with a friend this morning on my way into work (she’s an aspiring yoga instructor) and she told me that debilitating pain is not good but soreness is. If I had to rate my pain it would probably be closer to debilitating pain rather than soreness. I’ll give my body the benefit of the doubt since I have been sedentary pretty much since my surgery in 2009 and hope that over time I’ll only experience the ‘healthy’ soreness from workouts.

The Smartest Loser fitness sessions are once a week and I want to supplement these workouts with something else during the week. I’ve been reading review after review after review on the Beachbody franchise of fitness DVDs and have purchased Power90 (the precursor to P90x). I’ve been tracking the DVDs on the Canada Post site and they’re ready for me to pick up this evening on my way home from work.

Will I be up for a workout tonight? I’m not sure, but I’ll let you know… 

-N