December 29, 2014

One Year Ago...

December 28th was my first "cancerversary". One year ago, I was given my lung cancer diagnosis. I am happy to say, despite beginning with hopelessness, despair and grief, this past year turned out pretty amazing after all. 

Once I got over the initial shock and devastation, I spent the year trying to find ways to live a better life--physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Cancer gave me a different outlook. I destressed, detoxified, decluttered, unburdened, simplified, connected.  I learned to let go of obligations. I became truer to myself. I slept... a lot and don't regret it. One of the more important things I learned was to accept the fact that I have limited time on this earth, as we all do. I think all cancer patients are forced to realize this earlier than we should. So be it. Accepting that I have limited time on this earth is not to say that I have less of a drive to live. Quite the opposite actually. I now have a better appreciation for the life I have been given and try to live everyday to the fullest. I've come to understand that living life to the fullest doesn't mean dropping normal daily routines to achieve everything I ever wanted to do or spending every second with those dearest to me. No, to me it means taking better care of myself, listening to the needs of my body and soul. Allowing my mind time to linger in the peacefulness of silence.  Waking up grateful for every new day. Being constantly amazed by the beauty of this Earth. Learning not to feed the fear in me but rather focus on my hopes and dreams. It also means learning to accept people for who they are. Understanding that compassion means believing that every person on this earth is trying to live their best life, to whatever capacity they can. It means realizing that my purpose in life doesn't need to be anything grand. It could be as simple as being happy with who I am, sharing what I have learned with others, or using my abilities to contribute to a better world.  Yes, the devastating diagnosis of cancer made me realize all the above. For that, I thank you cancer.

Thank you friends and family for helping me enjoy another holiday season, and I look forward to many more with you! Any monetary gifts to us will be donated to the Lung Cancer Translational Research Initiative, because helping to fund lung cancer research is more important than anything we can ever buy ourselves. Thank you so much for your generosity! Anyone looking to donate to a charity or worthy cause before the end of 2014, please consider the University of Calgary's lung cancer program (

With much love and gratitude, we wish you all a very healthy, happy and extraordinary 2015! 

December 10, 2014

Bermuda Shorts and Shores

I added one more country to the list of places I've been :).  I was dreading the cold winter weather even before it arrived, probably because of bad memories from last fall/winter when it was quite uncomfortable for me to breathe in cold air, and, frankly, the travel bug was biting me again;). This time, I felt no hesitation because of my health. Regardless of what the CT scan would reveal, I felt healthy enough again to travel abroad especially for some sun and relaxation! 

Bermuda seems but a distant memory now that we are entrenched in this cold "fall" weather. This small subtropical island is only 22 miles long and 1 mile wide in most places.  It has a population of about 65,000, not counting tourists. The currency is the Bermudian dollar, although I never saw it since they also readily accept the US dollar at par.  Bermuda weather is not too hot (about 30 degrees Celsius at the peak of summer) and not too cold (no colder than 10 degrees Celsius at the peak of winter). In November, Bermuda averages about +25C which is just right for us! November is also the end of cruise ship season for Bermuda so we didn't have to contend with the crowds anywhere we went... although, there's only so much one can see and do on a 22 mile long island. The residents all speak a fluent dialect of English.  I don't really know what Bermudian English is, but a lot of the locals seriously sounded like New Yorkers! Because Bermuda is a British colony, they drive on the left-hand side of the road.  Tourists are only allowed to rent scooters, not cars, apparently for the safety of the island residents. The main industry here is actually insurance and banking, not tourism. 
Note red Bermuda shorts with suit!
Men like to wear bright coloured knee length shorts, pulled up dress socks with dress shoes, a tie and blazer as their business attire. That's when the term "bermuda shorts" made sense to me! One other interesting fact about Bermuda, every house is mandated to have limestone white roofs designed to direct rainwater into an underground water tank, which is used to supply homes with their water needs--a very green idea! We initially wondered if our accommodation would run out of water but, as it turns out, we didn't need to worry... It rains a lot in Bermuda!
The white limestone rooftops

Hurricane Gonzalo ravaged Bermuda two weeks before we were to depart. They experienced extensive tree damage, floods, and a week-long power outage. But there wasn't much damage seen by the time we arrived. Anyway, no long story here. We opted for a small studio apartment in Southampton, a friendly community 40 minutes cab ride from the airport and 20 minute bus ride from the capital city of Hamilton.  An older Canadian couple on our flight warned us to expect things to be expensive. We agree! Our first  dinner (nothing to write about) cost us over $100 USD! Most restaurants didn't even offer anything gluten-free so it wasn't easy to stick to our diets when we dined out.  Instead of our gluten-free vegetarian diet, we had to be "flexitarians", someone who has to be flexible with their diet restrictions especially when traveling. Our best meals were had at the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Dining Room and the Southampton Fairmont Hotel (they were the only place that catered to gluten-free diets! The waiter even brought us rice snacks instead of bread to start!). Not surprisingly, Bermuda is known for its seafood (rockfish, spiny lobster, and wahoo fish [tastes like chicken], and fish chowder seasoned with black pepper rum). Our favourite food stop was the Juice n Beans Cafe in Hamilton. They make yummy vegan power smoothies and vegan breakfast burritos! We ended up cooking our own meals most of the time, which our wallets and my stomach really appreciated. But enough about eating! ... The touristy things to do in Bermuda include the Royal Naval Dockyard (shopping mall, rum cakes, glass art gallery, arts centre, and a large mini-golf centre which I was looking forward to but didn't get to do since it was closed when we arrived--darn off-season!), the Crystal Caves, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, and St. George's (picturesque old town). We walked (more like bushwhacked because of extensive tree damage that had not yet been cleared) the Railway Trail, and, of course, explored the many pink sand beaches! Public transportation (buses) was frequent and reliable so we opted not to rent a scooter, since it unfortunately rained almost every day. We saw the entire island from tip to tip via the bus and lots of walking! Frankly, most of our time was actually spent sleeping in, deciding what to eat, walking up and down hills to find beaches, and watching old movies :). It was a whole week of time well wasted! How I miss thee, Bermuda!

I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story. Hopefully, they get you out of the winter blues. Enjoy :). 

The many fallen trees on Railway Trail

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse

The local bus stop

The Victualling Yard at the Royal Naval Dockyard

The beautiful Crystal Caves

Why did this stray rooster want to cross the road? We did notice there were stray hens on the other side;)

Colourful buildings in historic St. George's

The famous Horseshoe Bay Beach 

Church Bay
Arch on the beach! A great place to practise my levitation :)

Warwick Bay Beach