The Power of Other People’s Prayers

prayer1When good friend and colleague Ann Melnyk offered to help, she was surprised by my response.

“I’d appreciate your prayers and positive thoughts.”

And she wasn’t alone in that respect. Once they heard about my cancer diagnosis, friends and relatives offered to prepare meals, drive me to appointments, buy groceries and run errands. But I didn’t really need that kind of help. For starters, I could keep very little down and was nauseated by a long list of foods. If I even caught a whiff of tomatoes, garlic, onions or other strong food odors, I would have to run to the nearest bathroom. As for driving me to treatments, I found it easier to book a driver through the Canadian Cancer Society, especially on those cold, blustery days when the roads were treacherous.

But prayers were different.

Continue reading on the Faith and Hope Blog.

A Theme Song for Cancer


Searching for a bible reading was the farthest thing from my mind during that first month after receiving the diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer. Between appointments and all sorts of tests—biopsy, bone density, ultrasounds—I had very little time to do much else. Once the chemo treatments started, I was barely able to focus on my dwindling list of daily tasks. Continue reading at Jessica Jefferson’s blog.

Loving My Chatty Matty Coffee


When good friend Fil Derewianko gave me a gift certificate for Planet Bean, I decided to treat myself to Chatty Matty coffee, a delightful blend of lightly roasted and dark roasted beans. This popular blend is only one of the many certified fair trade and organic gourmet coffees available at Guelph’s popular roastery.

Like many Guelphites, I am impressed by Planet Bean’s vision and mission to create the best tasting coffee. Their innovative business model measures success, not only in financial terms, but also in their ability to improve the health of the planet and advance organic production. It is not surprising that they now have three different locations in the city.

While I don’t consider myself to be a heavy coffee drinker, I do enjoy my three cups every morning, well within Health Canada’s recommendation of no more than 400 mg of caffeine each day.

And I love hearing the health experts discuss the many wonderful benefits of this dark brew.

  • In their book, The Happiness Diet, Dr. Drew Ramsey and Tyler Graham state that coffee improves memory and reflexes, reducing the risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and depression.
  • According to Dr. Peter Martin, Psychiatry/Pharmacology Expert at Vanderbilt University of Medicine, coffee consumption reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and mortality rates from heart attacks.
  • Dr. Oz proclaimed coffee to be one of the most beneficial weapons in the war against cancer. Coffee is high in antioxidants and has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body.

Healthy Choices Wellness Show


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As I wandered through the lobby and large conference room at the Delta Guelph Hotel, I could feel the positive energy emanating from the holistic practitioners and vendors. I enjoyed chatting with all of them and made several connections which I intend to pursue.

Some of the highlights…

  • Friend and fellow writer Sue Ricketts enthusiastically demonstrated the Nordixx Pole Walker.  An hour’s workout can burn between 600 and 900 calories.
  • Energy therapist Lisa Wilvert offered a short Tibetan Singing Bowl Workshop and Meditation.
  • Dr. Renee Paradis described the organic anti-aging facial that she offers at her clinic.
  • Susan Nash, Owner and Director of Body Innovations  provided an informative seminar: What your high heels are doing to your core? She also described the different classes–Pilates, Yoga, Specialized–offered at Body Innovations.
  • I was so  impressed by the entrepreneurial couple who owns Pure Organic Foods that I bought their Organic White Royal Quinoa Grain.

The Joy of Yawning

According to the authors of the book, How God Changes Your Brain, yawning is one of the best-kept secrets in neuroscience.  Dr. Andrew Newberg and therapist, Mark Robert Waldman believe that yawning should be integrated into all exercise and stress reduction programs.

Brain-scan studies have shown that yawning activates the precuneus, a tiny structure in the folds of the parietal lobe. The precuneus plays a central role in consciousness, self-reflection, and memory retrieval. This is one of the hardest hit areas by Alzheimer’s and other age-related diseases. Yawning also helps regulate the temperature and metabolism of your brain.

Evidence has shown that yawning helps individuals on military assignment perform their tasks with greater accuracy and ease.  And Olympic athletes yawn before performing.

So, if you want to maintain a healthy brain, yawn…

  • When you wake up.
  • When you are confronting a difficult problem at work.
  • When you prepare to go to sleep.
  • Whenever you feel anger, anxiety, or stress.
  • Before giving an important talk.
  • Before you take a test.
  • While you meditate or pray.

You may have to fake six or seven yawns before a real one will emerge.

On the Sunny Side

It is easy to be negative at this time of year. The mornings are dark, the weather is unpredictable, and winter is just around the corner. The excuses are endless and, if we’re not careful, we’ll stop exercising and slip back into bad habits.

In their book, So Stressed, authors Stephanie McClellan and Beth Hamilton suggest countering the following negative thoughts with more positive messages:

I’m too exhausted even to think of moving.
I always have more energy after I exercise.

I’m just so slow.
When I started, I was out of breath very quickly. I may not be a speed demon, but I have really built up my endurance.

My whole body hurts from that last workout.
If I stretch well or take a hot bath, my muscles will be warmed up, and I’ll be feeling no pain once I start moving.

I had to skip three days because I had a virus. It’s impossible for me to stay with it. Something always gets in the way.
Each day is a new day, and I can pick up where I left off.

It’s miserable out, so I think I ‘ll just sleep in this morning.
It’s raining too hard for me to enjoy my walk. I think I’ll try that new yoga DVD.

This was the most stressful day at work in a long time. I think I’ll make myself a drink.
I haven’t been this stressed out in a long time. I bet a good workout will help me burn off this tension.

Prevent | Delay | Control

A “2009 GQ Rock Star of Science” doctor has written a provocative and inspiring book that presents a revolutionary approach to treating and preventing disease. In The End of Illness, oncologist Dr. David Agus brings his ideas out of the lab, showing us how to live healthy, vibrant lives and move gracefully into old age.

Agus starts by asking us to fill out a personal health inventory questionnaire, a four-page checklist originally designed to help patients prepare for annual check-ups. Agus is a big believer of personalized medicine, and he wants each of us to customize our health care to accommodate our physiology, genetics and value systems. He explains, “Nothing about health is one-size-fits-all, so until you know how to perform your own fitting, you won’t be able to live the long and happy life that is awaiting you.”

Genetic testing is another way we can empower ourselves to improve our health. We can currently look at genetic risk profiling for about forty conditions, ranging from multiple sclerosis to Alzheimer’s to glaucoma. Agus points out that this is not necessarily our destiny. If we use the right tools, we can shift our fate to live longer than what our DNA dictates.

Agus takes on the $25 million vitamin and supplement industry. He devotes an entire chapter entitled “Proceed with Caution” to discussing the pitfalls of Vitamin D. He argues that while Vitamin D may appear to be an anticancer miracle worker in the lab where you can control cell cultures, this effect does not replicate itself in live people. And more importantly, each of us has a genetic predisposition to maintaining a certain level of vitamin D and no number is perfect for everyone.

In a subsequent chapter, Agus gives data on the research and explains why he feels the “hype” over all vitamins and supplements is overrated. The doctor does not mince words when he makes the following claims: “Tumours devour Vitamin C like candy so you could be feeding your cancer rather than fighting it when you consume excess Vitamin C” and “To get the same amount of fish oil you would from a single serving of salmon, you would have to consume 20 to 30 fish oil capsules.” While he does not have any problems with people taking vitamins to correct deficiencies or address certain conditions such as pregnancy, Agus believes that taking vitamins generically for health makes no sense.

I was amused by the following advice: “Don’t trust anything that comes out of a blender, juicer or glass jar.” Agus wonders if the body really likes consuming ten carrots or a whole head of broccoli all at once. And he advises us to consider buying frozen fruits and vegetables instead of what looks like fresh produce at the supermarket.

To root out chronic inflammation, Agus offers many practical, easy-to-implement strategies. Wear comfortable shoes. Get an annual flu vaccine. Take a statin and baby aspirin if you are over the age of forty. The easiest but often the most challenging advice to follow is keeping a regular schedule. Agus reminds us that when we break the body’s natural rhythm, we are no longer performing optimally. Our bodies will respond positively when we stick to the same sleep-wake schedule seven days a week, eat our meals at the same time each day, and take downtime during our waking hours.

As a cancer survivor and the daughter of parents with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases, I appreciate the doctor’s advice to focus on the present year and not rely on a textbook to tell me something that might happen in ten years time. By the time we reach that ten-year mark, there will be “new therapies, new treatments and new roads to take.”

Dr. David Agus has written a truly motivational book that deserves a place on everyone’s bookshelf.