How should I wear it?

LogoI’ve written about some pretty serious stuff this week and I really appreciate the many supportive comments both here and on Facebook. Today, however, I’m looking forward to getting back to something more fun… Fashion Friday! In this post I want to share an item that I recently purchased at our local thrift store and solicit your advice on how you think I should wear it. I was hoping to shoot the photos outdoors, but it was pouring rain, so that didn’t happen.


Other than the $1.50 price tag, what else do I like about this shirt? Almost everything! The dark moss colour is one of my favourite neutrals and is also very popular this season. I love the length, the shirttail hem, and the three-quarter sleeves. The brushed cotton/polyester fabric with just a touch of spandex is comfortable and easy to care for. The epaulettes, the small chest pockets, and the split cuffs add a bit of interest.

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The shirt is also versatile. I can wear it with tons of things in my closet and use it as a topper or on it’s own. I love it over the Breton striped t-shirt shown above, but it would also work well over a plain white tee.

So, what’s not to like? It’s the 15 cm zipper to nowhere in the middle of the back that has me confused. Yup, that’s right. A two way zipper that doesn’t zip anything!



I’m trying to figure out whether to wear it zipped, partially zipped, or not zipped at all.

In these two photos, the zipper is fully closed.


With the zipper undone, it’s a more relaxed fit.


Now that you’ve seen the possibilities, it’s your turn. How do you suggest I wear it?

PS. The bracelet that you see on my right wrist is not a new accessory. It’s a plastic hospital band that I have to wear for the first week following a treatment to alert emergency workers to the fact that I’m highly radioactive. It provides them with phone numbers to call in order to access information about how to deal with me in an emergency situation. Thankfully, it’s never been needed!


Forgiveness and gratitude

I had my final PRRT treatment (also called radioisotope therapy) today. I’ve been injected with potent radioactive material at Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute fourteen times; MIBG twice and then Lutetium twelve times as part of a clinical trial. The clinic staff and other patients seemed to think that reaching this milestone was pretty exciting. In one sense, I guess it was, but it also feels a bit like stepping off a cliff! My neuroendocrine cancer (NETs) has been stable for almost six years, the entire time that I’ve been undergoing treatment. The tumours have not grown or spread. In fact, earlier on there was even some indication that they might be shrinking. I’m happy not to have to go through any more of these treatments and the week of radioactive seclusion that follows each one, but the stepping off a cliff sensation comes from the fact that I’ve now exhausted the best treatment option available. The human body can only withstand so much radioactivity. Even if the government agreed to fund more treatments, the doctors wouldn’t advise them for me. The plan from here on in is to simply monitor my cancer with blood work, CT scans, and clinic visits every six months. Considering the fact that NETs is incurable, that’s a bit unnerving. (I will continue to receive the monthly injections of Sandostatin that control symptoms and may have some effect on the tumours themselves.)

The Cross Cancer Institute is set up to administer PRRT treatments to three patients at a time. We sit together, each of us in a comfortable recliner, in a room set aside for this purpose. The process takes approximately four hours, so naturally we visit and share our cancer stories. I’ve never been with the same patient twice, so that’s quite a few stories over the past few years and each one is unique.

Today I shared the treatment room with a retired school teacher from Victoria, BC and a retired school administrator from a community much closer to my own. How unusual and how interesting that three retired educators ended up in that room together! Our conversation quickly came around to the fact that while we don’t choose many of the circumstances of our lives, including cancer, we do choose how we respond to them. Then the retired principal, an upbeat and cheerful man, made a comment that really resonated with me. He said that he believes that there are two keys to living a happy, successful life: forgiveness and gratitude.

That thought stuck with me throughout the remainder of the day. It’s definitely very true for me. I won’t go into detail, but I have had much to forgive, and in spite of that, I’m the first to admit that I also have much to be grateful for.

After pondering for awhile, I googled “forgiveness and gratitude” and was surprised to find many articles linking the two. Even more surprising to me was the fact that these weren’t Christian or religious writings. The fact that forgiveness and gratitude are positive psychological characteristics that are connected to well-being seemed to be a common theme. Both terms are complex and neither is easy to define.

Forgiveness is a conscious choice or decision to let go of anger, fear, self-pity, resentment, bitterness, hostility, and even hatred resulting from something someone has done to us or something that we’ve done ourselves and to replace those emotions with more positive ones such as peace, love, and joy. Forgiving a person doesn’t excuse what they did. It isn’t really about them at all; it’s about setting ourselves free. It releases us from the negative consequences of unforgiveness which may include anxiety, depression, and even physical symptoms of stress. It liberates us from a cycle of negativity and anger and allows us to open our hearts to gratitude, happiness, and love. I’ve heard it said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill the other person. 

Gratitude is a feeling of thankful appreciation for people, circumstances, and situations in life. Grateful individuals feel a sense of abundance, appreciate the simple pleasures of life, and recognize the contribution others make to their well-being.

Forgiveness is probably the more difficult of these two human virtues to put into action, but until we do, I think we’ll find it difficult to experience and express true gratitude. Professor Robert Emmons at the University of California, Davis, suggests that attitude change often follows behaviour change. By expressing gratitude that we may not necessarily feel through simple gestures like smiling and saying thank you, we may actually begin to feel it. The same is true of forgiveness. We may not feel like forgiving a person, but if we choose to act as if we have, we may eventually find that our resentment has faded away and we will, in fact, have forgiven them.

So, what does all this have to do with living with cancer? Obviously my cancers are no one’s fault. Not mine, not anyone else’s. However, if I was still living with unforgiveness, I doubt I’d have the emotional energy I need to deal with the ups and downs of this journey. And what about gratitude? Am I thankful for cancer? Absolutely not! That being said, however, I have so many things to be thankful for! In spite of having just been diagnosed with a third completely unrelated cancer, I feel healthy! I can eat almost anything I want, I can travel, hike, and even do a rope course with my grandchildren! I have an amazing circle of friends, family, and prayer warriors around the world loving me and supporting me and I have a faith that gives me “peace that passes understanding.” Philippians 4:7

Am I the courageous hero that people often tell me I am? No, I’m not, but as we concluded in our treatment room today, I can choose how I respond to my circumstances and I choose to be hopeful and positive. I choose to get on with life even if I feel a bit like I stepped off a cliff today.

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Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.  Psalm 136:1

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32



Cancer times 3!

One of the great things about our recent trip to Europe was the fact that for three and a half weeks I was just a Canadian tourist enjoying the sights. I had no medical appointments during that time and no one who saw me would have guessed that I’ve been fighting a little known, incurable cancer for almost six years.

Unfortunately, life isn’t always like that. Less than 24 hours after stepping back onto Canadian soil, I had a needle biopsy of my thyroid. I was visiting family in Vancouver when a call came from the doctor’s office. “He wants to see you,” I was told. I knew immediately that the news wasn’t going to be good. Dr W is a very busy man and he wouldn’t ask to see me without good reason, especially when he knows that I live two hours outside the city.

Since I’m having what will likely be my final PRRT treatment tomorrow morning followed by scans the next day to see if there has been any change to my neuroendocrine cancer (NETs) in the past six months and I’ll also be meeting with those doctors to discuss future treatment options, I convinced Dr W’s receptionist to have him call me. I wanted to know what else I was up against before that discussion took place.

The suspicious looking nodule in my thyroid is indeed another cancer, the third completely unrelated cancer in the past six years. Cancer number two which was located in my left parotid (salivary) gland was diagnosed seven months after the NETs cancer. It was removed surgically followed by six weeks of radiation.

At this point, I don’t even know what this new cancer is called, but Dr W hastened to assure me that it isn’t aggressive and that it is, in fact, quite common in people over the age of 65. Many live their entire lifetime without even knowing they have it. Apparently common practice is simply to monitor it, but since we already know that mine is growing, it may require more than that. I’ll be seeing Dr W next month to discuss options.

My first cancer diagnosis came as as a complete shock and the second one almost as much so. At that point, I didn’t know that second cancers have been reported to occur in 10 to 20% of patients with neuroendocrine cancer. I have no idea what the incidence of third cancers is, but I’m guessing that I’m not the first one to travel this road.

I do know that I’m not stressing out over it. I’m resting in the “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The Lord promised to take care of me at the beginning of this journey and I’m pretty sure He’s still on the job!

At the same time, this might be a good time to remind myself once again what cancer cannot do.

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Travel hands-free and safe

LogoEuropean cities are well known for pickpockets. They aren’t a new phenomenon. Charles Dickens wrote about them in Oliver Twist in the mid 1800s. Every year, thousands of tourists are victims of pickpockets. In the mind of a pickpocket, tourist equals money.

So, how did we protect ourselves on our recent trip to Europe? Richard has always carried his wallet in his front pocket which is one of the recommended strategies. This was a habit that his dad picked up while serving in Europe in WWII and taught his boys.

Before our trip, I decided to purchase a lightweight crossbody bag to allow for hands-free travel. That’s when I came across Pacsafe Anti-Theft Technology and purchased the Daysafe Anti-Theft Crossbody Bag. It isn’t glamorous, but it served its purpose very well.

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Though it comes in several other colours, I chose basic black because it looks good with everything.


The main body of the Daysafe bag has pockets and dividers for easy organization. A secure zip clip essentially locks this compartment making it virtually impossible for a pickpocket to open it surreptitiously. There are outer pockets on both sides of the bag. One is open; easy to reach into but less secure than the rest of the purse. I used it for maps and brochures that I wanted easy access to while we were out and about. The other has a zipper that can be secured by slipping the zipper pull under and through a tab. That one was perfect for our travel documents when I needed to be able to access them at airports and train stations. In addition, there’s an elasticized pocket on one end of the bag for a water bottle, an essential travel companion. Though I didn’t worry about securing the zippers all the time, I made sure that they were safely fastened whenever we were in crowded situations whether on buses and subways or in busy tourist spots.

In addition, Pacsafe bags have a number of other safety features. Some pickpockets don’t bother trying to get into your bag. Instead, they’ll just slash it open. Pacsafe bags are made of a slashproof fabric that contains stainless steel mesh. Straps are also slashproof. In addition, the strap on the Daysafe bag has a turn and lock security hook that allows you to secure the bag to an immovable object such as your chair while sitting in a restaurant or your seat on a train.

High tech thieves don’t actually have to pick your pockets or steal your handbags anymore. With the right technology they can access credit card information wirelessly through radio frequency identification, or RFID. The research that I did seems to indicate that the likelihood of this actually happening is extremely slim, but like many crimes, it’s virtually impossible to track and a range of RFID blocking products such as credit card sleeves and travel bags are available on the market. The Daysafe bag includes a RFID safe inner pocket large enough to hold passports and credit cards.

Amazingly, all this extra security doesn’t add up to a lot of weight. In fact, the Daysafe bag weighs only about 11 ounces (320 grams). It’s slim shape rests comfortably against the body and yet I found it big enough to hold everything I needed including my camera.

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Considering the fact that all I was originally shopping for was a lightweight crossbody bag that would allow for hands-free traveling, I got much more than I was looking for and I definitely look forward to using it again on future trips.

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Sometimes a girl need her hands free. If you want to know why, check out this post.

Mountain Ropes Adventure

Whenever we come to Vancouver, much of our time is spent with my father who celebrated his 96th birthday last week.


At the same time, we try to squeeze in as much time as we can with our son and his family. None of our grandchildren live close to us, but these two are the farthest away. In spite of that, we’ve managed to enjoy many wonderful adventures with them over the years and yesterday was definitely no exception! Here we are geared up and ready to challenge the Mountain Ropes Adventure on Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain, our Christmas present from Matt, Robin, and the boys.


Mountain Ropes Adventure is a series of four aerial ropes courses with varying degrees of difficulty. The Intro level is designed for anyone 8 and over who doesn’t meet the minimum height required to do the higher levels. Sam and Nate zipped around that course numerous times while we completed the Beginner and Intermediate levels. Afterward, since it wasn’t busy, the staff allowed us to join them for a round of the Intro level. It was more challenging than we expected! Those boys are agile little monkeys!

Can you spot me walking on air?

walking on air

This is part of the Intro course and I’m actually walking inside a giant net slung between two trees.

in the net

The complete adventure is made up of 56 elements distributed between four courses which include the Expert level that we decided not to do. We’re in pretty good shape, but we are grandparents, after all! The highest element is part of that course and is 10 metres above the ground. The longest is a 38 metre zipline in the Beginner level, one of several ziplines.


The Intermediate level started with a small climbing wall, something I’d never attempted before. The lady immediately before me, who was at least 20 years my junior, couldn’t do it. She gave it a valiant effort, but she was unable to scale it. While I felt bad for her, I was determined to make it to the top and carry on.

Climbing wall

It was an element a little further along that course that almost did me in. It involved grabbing a thick rope and swinging Tarzan style from one wooden platform to another. From the ground, it doesn’t look very far, but I froze and wasn’t sure I could do it. With encouragement from Richard coming behind me and a number of people on the ground below, I went from “I can’t do this!” to “I’m going to do this!” and I did!

Other elements included everything from walking across cables and ropes to navigating all sorts of swinging wooden bridge contraptions. For someone who was terrified of heights for most of my life, I was pretty pleased with my ability to do all but the toughest level. In fact, the height didn’t bother me at all. We were secured to safety lines at all times and knew that if we lost our balance and fell, we might need rescuing, but we wouldn’t crash through the branches to the ground below. Richard and I may not have been as quick and agile as some of the younger participants, but we did it and we had fun!

Richard ropes course

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Mountain Ropes Adventure photos: Robin Thorneycroft

Best pants for travel

LogoPrior to our Europe trip, I was looking for a pair of comfortable, lightweight black pants that would pack well, wash easily, and look good for any occasion. I almost despaired of finding what I was looking for, but then I discovered the Eddie Bauer Incline Collection made especially for hiking and travel.

Made of polyester/spandex with a comfortable 2-way stretch, the ladies Incline pant has a moisture shedding StormRepel DWR finish. Water literally beads up on them! In addition, the fabric provides UPF 50+ sun protection. These pull-on pants have a flattering athletic fit; close to the body without being too tight. They weigh almost nothing, took up very little space in my teeny tiny carry-on suitcase, and looked as good in a nice restaurant as they did on this windy beach near Zeebrugge, Belgium.

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They have cargo pockets and zippered slash pockets on both sides. All four pockets have overlapping flaps to discourage pickpockets and keep items secure and they add virtually no bulk.

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I washed the pants twice in hotel sinks and in both cases they dried overnight without a wrinkle. Without question, they quickly became my favourite travel pants ever and will continue to have a place in my suitcase wherever I go.

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In addition to black, the ladies Incline pants come in dark smoke and midnight (navy). I’m seriously considering ordering a second pair!

Packing review… how did I do?

LogoWe’re home and Fashion Friday is back!

This was our very first carry-on only trip and I’ve decided that it’s definitely the way we’ll travel in the future. It was so easy! There were no baggage fees and no waiting around at airport luggage carousels wondering if our suitcases had made it onto the right plane. I had no trouble lifting my teeny tiny suitcase and stowing it in overhead bins on airplanes or racks on trains. It wheeled along easily, even on somewhat rough surfaces, and I could easily carry it up several flights of stairs in the guest houses that didn’t have elevators. Yes, it was easy!

But what about the contents of that little carry-on suitcase? Did I pack the right things? Enough of everything? First, let’s review what I took with me:

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  • 1 pair jeans
  • 2 pairs lightweight long pants
  • 1 pair capris
  • 1 pair leggings
  • 2 camisoles
  • 6 tops – 1 long sleeved, 3 with 3/4 length sleeves, 2 short sleeved
  • 1 little black dress
  • 1 dressy black jacket
  • 1 ultra light down vest
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 lightweight hoodie
  • 1 windbreaker jacket
  • 1 hat
  • 3 pairs of shoes
  • 1 swimsuit
  • sleepwear (2 sleep shorts, 1 short lightweight dressing gown)
  • socks, underwear, bras

All in all, I feel like I did a pretty good job of choosing what to put in the little suitcase. A bit of tweaking will make next time even better.

Good footwear is absolutely essential on a trip like the one we just took. The rose gold sneakers weren’t actually in the suitcase. Most of the time, they were on my feet and they were an excellent choice for this trip! We’re estimating that we walked somewhere in the neighbourhood of 200 km over the past three and a half weeks, many of them on rough cobblestone streets, and we climbed innumerable stairs. The sneakers stood up well and were amazingly comfortable.

Everywhere we went in Europe, locals and tourists alike dressed quite casually. I only wore the leggings, dress, dressy jacket, and black flat shoes once for an evening of fado (traditional Portuguese music) in a little pub in Lisbon, but I wouldn’t have needed to. I didn’t feel overdressed, but anything else in my suitcase would have done just as well. Depending on the nature of a future trip, I might leave those things at home and replace them with an additional pair of pants since pants are more difficult to wash in a sink than smaller items are.

Six tops was plenty. I could have managed with four or five, but it was nice to have a bit more variety. Surprisingly, I didn’t find that I got bored with the clothes I had with me. Perhaps I was just too busy enjoying the trip! The vest, hoodie, and windbreaker were a great combination that gave me layering options that worked well in a variety of weather conditions. There was also a tiny folding umbrella tucked into the suitcase that came in handy on a few occasions.

The swimsuit didn’t get used, but I anticipated that. I always carry one just in case though. Two pairs of sleep shorts was enough as they rinse out easily and dry in no time. Two bras was also enough. We each packed six pairs of socks and underwear for 24 days, but it felt like I was washing them continually, so I’d take a few more of those next time.

Let me finish with a couple of packing tips that I’ve learned:

  • If you use facecloths, take at least one with you. I learned to do this when we lived in Asia, but apparently Europe is no different. We stayed in seven different guest houses and hotels on this trip and not one of them provided a facecloth. Take a little ziploc bag with you to pack the cloth in if it isn’t completely dry when you pack up so that it doesn’t dampen anything else in your bag.
  • Take a flat rubber universal sink stopper with you. I didn’t think of this, but it’s on my shopping list and I won’t leave home without one again. Most of our sinks had plugs, but a couple of them didn’t which made doing laundry in the sink virtually impossible.

If you have any packing questions, leave them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them. The next two Fridays I plan to highlight a couple of excellent items that I purchased specifically for this trip.