1 Down 29 to Go

Today my Dad started his Radiation treatments at the Cross Cancer Institute. I was so thankful that I was able to spend the day with him.

First up was a group information “Radiation Class” as I called it. We gathered in a private room to learn all there is to know about the process of undergoing Radiation treatments (complete with a slide show).  She was very thorough and informative.

After “class” we grabbed a bite to eat in the cafeteria and wouldn’t you know it, we bumped into a Couple who are Dad’s neighbours and they joined us for lunch.  Dad and Mr. W. (I will call him) traded prostate cancer war stories, and I chatted with Mrs. W. who I recognized from my days growing up in Vermilion. As I talked she scanned my face for a bit, and then said “You must have lost a lot of weight, I can notice a huge difference in your face.” Mr. W. interjected with “I remember you back when you were a brat!” I burst out laughing, cause you can’t argue with the truth, yup I was a brat! ha ha 😉

We wandered down the halls, and into a coffee shop to waste some time before Dad’s first Radiation appointment.

Along our walk we appreciated the artwork displayed  in the hallways, drawn by cancer patients.

These art pieces in particular really caught my eye…

I instantly thought of my dear friend Hope Walls when I saw this one…

We talked and waited.  There’s a lot of waiting involved during the process of treatment.

I realized as we sat and waited, there are very few times that I’m able to visit with my Dad alone, face-to-face.  We are a large family, and we travel in groups. I loved spending that time with him…just the two of us. He told me he bought a mini-van to conserve on gas so he could travel the 4 hour round-trip to and from Vermilion for his daily treatments.  That is for now anyway, as he has cattle to feed.

His appointment was drawing near, so we took the escalator down a level.  As we travelled down on the escalator, this painting slowly panned down out of sight, first the field, then the fluffy clouds, and finally the vibrant blue sky.

We arrived at the third waiting room of the day.

There was another gentleman waiting.  My Dad loves to visit, so they struck up conversation before Dad even sat down.  Dad explained that this was his first of 30 sessions, to which the gentleman commented “Ahhhh, you’re a newbie”. Dad smiled and replied “Tomorrow I won’t be.”

We waited, chatted, and waited some more until finally Dad was taken into the room marked with a Radiation placard on the door.

As I sat in the waiting room, two more gentlemen joined me. They had gotten to know one another through the course of their treatment. “How are you? Are they backed up today?”

I felt out-of-place, like I didn’t have a right to sit among these brave men. I was just the family member of a cancer patient.  I looked down and fiddled with my chipped nails. When I looked up, I met the kind eyes of a stranger…a gentleman who through the course of our chat, described to me how they discovered his cancer, and his agonizing course of treatment to date: surgery, skin grafts, medication, and now Radiation.  I sympathized with him, he smiled and warmly said “What’s a person to do? You just have to deal with it and make the most of it.”

Twenty minutes later, my Dad walked out of the room.  He stopped at the waiting room, waved, and said “1 down, 29 to go”.

At the end of the day, my cell buzzed in my pocket as I received an e-mail informing me that my friend Carmen had just made a generous donation to our Team for the Leduc Relay for Life. With her donation I reached my $4,000 fundraising goal (thank you!!!!!)

I took this time to tell Dad about every person who donated towards my pledge page (it took awhile too, because I had to tell him who everyone’s parents are if they are from the Vermilion area).  He was blown away by your support and generosity.  He just shook his head in amazement and smiled bigger than he had all day.  Thank you for your continued prayers, love and support.

There’s still a few days before the Relay on June 3rd. To date, Team Hope has raised $11,020!!!  Today, more than any other day, I realized how important it is to continue to fundraise in order to make  cancer history.

Click HERE to Pledge your Support. Every donation no matter how big or small makes a difference.

My Dad spent his day encouraging others who share a common bond. People just like him who walk through the doors of the Cross Cancer Institute to wage war against cancer in their own private fight.

As my Dad left the waiting room he will sit in for the next 6 weeks, he waved at those still there, and along with his customary Ralph grin he said “See you tomorrow!”

From my heart to yours,

Chrissy (as my Dad calls me)

6 years ago today

Six years ago today, I reached my goal weight.  Back then I was part of an amazing healthy living support group called “Journey to the Heart” (JTTH), led by my dear friend Ginette. There was a reunion week-end planned the year I reached my goal, and during the celebrations, I received my key chain which signified all the work I put into reach my goal.  I carry that treasured key chain with me today.

The JTTH reunion week-end is a time I will never forget and I’ve made some incredible friendships thanks to the creation of that group.  The women I’ve met through JTTH touched my heart and taught me so much about life…to persevere, to keep going when I wanted to quit, and the power that comes along with a community of understanding and supportive friends.  Thank you!

Ginette handing me my goal weight keychain

I love when an anniversary rolls around for all dates that mark a change in life. These milestones remind one to look back to the beginning and reflect on the changes and growth that’s transpired through the years.

Today, I want to thank to all those amazing people in my life that were my inspirations, my reasons for moving forward, my teachers of life lessons. One of the most amazing lessons I’ve learned over the last few years is that when you finally figure out who you are and put it out there, you will draw in the most amazing like-minded individuals.  I can’t begin to explain how thankful I am for my friends and family.  You are most definitely food for my soul.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart. Collectively, you have changed my life.

I wasted many years…living in fear.  Fear of the unknown, of change, and of failure.  But you know what?  I’m thankful for those years because I would have never appreciated the goodness of life if I hadn’t once taken it for granted.

I remember a time about 8 years ago, my son Ty wanted me to go swimming with him.  I just couldn’t bring myself to put on a swim suit. I avoided facing the reality that I had packed on over 90 pounds in a period of just a few years.  I avoided friends whom I hadn’t seen in a while, social situations, and getting my photo taken (I have very few pictures with me and my kids when I was at my heaviest).  My fear, anxiety, and remorse not only held me back from living life, but it also held my kids back from being active.  I wish I loved myself at that time in my life, I lost out on building relationships with those I loved.

I used to believe that being proud of your accomplishments was being boastful and arrogant. But let me tell you my friends, I need to be proud of changing my lifestyle because it’s directly tied to my body image.  I’ve had a few friends joke to me over the years that I’m too wrapped up in the calorie/fat content in foods, and in my need to stay active.

The only way I’ve managed to stay at my goal weight is by staying focussed on what I’m eating, but more importantly, on the correlation between food and activity.  It’s necessary for me.  If I’m not diligent in that area, I WILL gain the weight back. I’m at a healthy weight today, and I plan to stay that way because it’s the place I physically feel the best.

Our bodies are designed to eat whole natural foods and to move!  As long as I’m physically able to be active, I believe I should be and I’ve learned that lesson from those who are not physically able to be active.  There’s so many ways to add physical activity to one’s daily life.  Walking instead of driving, biking with the kids, dancing like an idiot, anything that gets that heart rate up for a bit…it makes me feel alive inside.

I forget sometimes that people who just meet me have no idea of where I started, and because of my tendency to be socially awkward, it takes some time to “get” me. 😛  I’m working on the whole “I won’t be awkward in public situations”, although awkwardness is just a part of who I am I’ve decided!  I’ve become OK with being misjudged on many occasions.

I do hope I never portray that I think I have all the answers in this area, because I can assure you that I don’t! I can only attest to what works for me, but everyone is different. I believe life is a continual learning curve…all one can do is their best and their best changes as life changes.  I didn’t start running for 30 minutes, I started running for 30 seconds.  Seriously a few years ago, I was physically unable to sustain a running pace for more than 30 seconds.  BUT…the body adapts quickly, and within two weeks I was able to run 1 minute, then 5, then 10, then 20, and so on.

Photo on Right: Taken by my beautiful friend Amy Alexander.

This is how I view things today, feeling pride is actually a bi-product of gratitude.  I am so grateful for a life where I recognize all the blessings around our family.  I’m grateful for the amazing people I’ve met along the way. I’m grateful that I am able to pass on what I learned….if it touches another’s heart.  A circle of support is something to treasure, and it’s built up through sharing and connecting on a genuine level.

So today, I look back with a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart.

The photo below from 2002 was one of the rare instances that I went swimming with my kids.  Today, we spend much of our time on the beach and in the water when we go to the lake. 🙂

I finally feel like I’m home within my own life and there’s so much more life to live.

I want to show my kids that life is meant to be actively lived when I was once a side-line Mom, scared to try new things. You can only do the best you can in each stage of your life.

Music is one of those gifts that mark life events, and when you hear a song tied to a memory, you are taken right back there again. This piece from the film “The Piano”, was one I used to listen to over and over again (on cassette tape!) It reminds me of a difficult place in my life; however I’ve learned so much going through those difficult times so I’m just grateful.

To my supportive friends and family, I love you!  You amaze me with each passing day. As life flies by, you continue to prove that there are no limits to your strength, wisdom, and acceptance.

From my grateful heart to yours,

Christine, 6 years at goal weight 🙂

I Believe

I believe we can make a difference in this world.

I believe we are here for a great purpose.

I believe in the power in numbers. Together we can join up to fight to make a huge impact.

I believe it’s our obligation to be informed, even though many times in life I wish I could just stick my head in the sand and pretend life’s harsh realities aren’t in fact realities.

We miss you so much Aunty Lorraine

My Dad: Waiting Room of the Cross Cancer Institute

I have talked quite a lot about the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. So much so that I’m sure many are sick of hearing about it! 😉  One thing I’ve learned since my father’s diagnosis is that we are uncomfortable discussing cancer.

But the reality is this.  YOU WILL BE AFFECTED BY CANCER AT SOME POINT IN YOUR LIFE. Either because your loved one has been diagnosed, or because you have been diagnosed.  Yes, I believe we need to discuss it my friends because there is Hope.

I believe we need to do something, anything to join the fight to make cancer history…because the alternative is to do nothing.

I’m not sure if I’ve adequately explained why I Relay for Life.  Has the Canadian Cancer Society made any progress?   Yes, they’ve made HUGE progress with every year that passes.  The Relay for Life is the main fundraising event for the Canadian Cancer Society, and it’s what keeps the research going. To one day find a CURE.

Copyright: Canadian Cancer Society, Leduc Relay for Life 2010

Copyright: Canadian Cancer Society, Leduc Relay for Life 2010

The facts: cancer cure rates 

1940: 25% of individuals diagnosed with cancer survived it.
1960: 33% of individuals diagnosed with cancer survived it.
TODAY: 60% of individuals diagnosed with cancer WILL SURVIVE it.

I believe that’s progress to be proud of.

To view the entire video collection regarding the progress that has been made through the Canadian Cancer Society, please click HERE.  Information is power.

Every dollar donated makes a difference, every step taken at the Relay for Life makes a difference.  All those donations, no matter how small, add up to become a big donation. There is power in numbers.

Why fight back?  Because every 3 minutes, another Canadian is faced with fighting cancer.  I believe the funds raised through the Relay for Life is an investment in my friend’s and family’s future.  In my children’s future.  And in my future.

The alternative is to do nothing.  How can we accept that?

There are only 20 days until the Leduc Relay for Life and every dollar raised is a step closer to making cancer history. I’ve raised my fundraising goal to $3,000 and I’m 88% to my goal.  I believe I will reach it! From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much to all of those who have donated.

Please consider joining the fight to make cancer history.  Yes, my friends we are making a difference. We are making progress, we can’t stop now. 

Click to make a donation:
http://convio.cancer.ca/goto/christinehopaluk

As it turns out, my Dad will be starting his radiation treatments around the same time as the Leduc Relay for Life.  I believe…I know, he’s a fighter and a survivor. Fight, fight, fight.

I believe in Change and in the power of Community.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Happy Mother’s Day to my Mother-in-law

To my Mother-in-law who is like a second mother to me on Mother’s Day.

Let me tell you a bit about my Mother-in-law. She has a big heart…a huge heart actually. When I first joined the family, I quickly learned that she gives unto others without condition. She worked in the nursing home for years, and for a while she worked with my sister Janice who has MS. She’s most definitely a care-taker.

She has a killer sense of humour, and her laugh is infectious.  My hubby got his story-telling abilities from his Mom for sure.

I not only consider her a second Mom, but she is also my friend…I’m so thankful for that. She makes me laugh! She’s the woman who taught me how to bake buns, a fact my children are very grateful for.  🙂

The thing I’m most thankful for, is that she raised her amazing son to be my hubby. She is an incredible Grandma to our children. She spoils them with her baking and her love and affection.

Thank you for all you do for our family with such generosity and love. Happy Mother’s Day.

From our heart to yours,

Chrissy, Jamie, Tyler, Lucas, and Tessa

Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom

To my Mom who is always there for me when I need her most.

Let me tell you a bit about my Mom.  She’s the woman who taught me the importance of independence, hard-work, and commitment.  She has the heart of an entrepreneur, and passed that along to us girls…her 6 daughters. When I was growing up, I watched her build her business from selling books and wicker decor in our home, to opening up her own craft/gift store “Dicke’s Wicker and Cottage Crafts”, which three decades later she continues to run.

She is one of the strongest women I know. she blazes her own trails and stands up for what she believes in with unyielding tenacity.  There was an unspoken truth in our home that us girls could achieve our life goals if we worked hard for it and never gave up.

My Mom taught me to never give up. When things get hard, you persevere with even more diligence.  In fact, the harder things get, the greater the reward when you achieve your goals.

Growing up, I used to complain when she tasked us to work in her store; however today, I couldn’t be more thankful for that, because she taught me how to be an independent woman. I learned early on that it takes a lot of dedication to sustain a successful business.

Some of my most treasured early childhood memories of my Mom happened at the lake.  We still go to the same lake every year. It’s where we as a large family drop everything and spend a week together sitting on the beach, roasting marshmallows by the fire, and enjoying our nightly home-cooked meals that we each take a turn preparing.  When we get together, there are 30 of us, so it’s not a quiet week that’s for sure! This is when I see my Mom relax and enjoy family the most, and it’s a yearly tradition that I’m so grateful for.

Happy Mother’s Day to my amazingly strong Mother.  Thank you for all the life lessons you have passed on to me and all of us girls and for all you gave up so we could have a bright future.  I love you so much and I’m thankful today that God picked you as my Mom. xoxoxo

From my heart to yours,

Chrissy

Kindness Breeds Kindness

“Kindness Breeds Kindness”

It’s my new motto.  Well, it’s not new, but it’s reaffirmed to me with each precious passing year. Yes, kindness matters.  The other day, I was discouraged after watching 1 hour of the national news.  What’s happening to our society?

You see, I grew up on a farm, and there was the power of community in our farming area.  If someone needed help with harvest, their neighbour was sure to show up with a big smile and a helping hand.  We all pulled together to ensure each harvest was completed, in whatever capacity you could in order to help.

This is not our barn. Who's barn is this? Family do you know?

In my case (along with my sisters), I was the shoveler of grain, the guarder of gates when we moved cattle, and the deliverer of home-cooked meals to the field.  And when a neighbour showed up to lend their support, there was no exchanging of money, just the unspoken truth that you would do the same for your neighbour.

My Dad and my Brother-in-law 🙂

I moved to Leduc 5 years ago, and I feel the sense of community within Leduc as well.  However, I had some moments in a bigger city where I have said “Good Morning” to a passer-by, which was returned with a look of shock…like “what do you want?!”

Not everyone shares the same sentiment. Not everyone will say thank you when you hold open a door, or return your smile when you give up your seat on a crowded LRT.  One just has to be OK with that, and just keep passing on the kindness.

Because, I believe with every fibre of my being, that Kindness Breeds Kindness.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. –Leo Buscaglia

I was so touched by a poem written by Jonathan Reed entitled “Lost Generation”.

Don’t be discouraged my friends if your kindness is not returned.  It will be returned in the long run, although sometimes in the unlikeliest of places (which is amazing). Positive out, positive in.  You never know when an act of kindness will meet another’s heart when they need it most.  This is something I’ve been so thankful for since my father was diagnosed with cancer.  Every comment, e-mail, phone call, smile, and donation toward the Leduc Relay for Life
…has made a difference in my life, and in my family’s life.  Thank you so much.

From my heart to yours,

Christine