Coping with Cancer During the Holidays

Coping with cancer during the holidays can be difficult.

As we approach the holidays, what should be a joyous time of year surrounded by friends and family, can be a challenge for both people working through a cancer diagnosis and their loved ones.

There is no point in denying it, things are likely to be different.  But with some thoughtful planning and a commitment to enjoying on your terms, the holiday season can be a special one if there is open and honest dialogue between everyone.

Tips for Cancer Patients

It’s time to plan your holiday strategy.


Nothing shouts out ONLINE SHOPPING more than fatigue and low immunity.

Get your list together and have at it.  In the comfort of your own home tick off everyone on your list with a delivery right to your front door (or theirs!).  No crowds, lots of comfort and you minimize the chance of catching a cold or flu.


Delegate, delegate, delegate! Spread out the cooking detail.  Consider having a potluck dinner this year.  If that’s not an option, then there are loads of places that will cater to all of your gastronomical needs.


Take the time to rest if you need it.  Heck schedule naptimes so all of your guests can build the events of the day around them.

Provide Clarity

Let your people know what challenges you may be facing during the holidays.  Say YES when you need to and don’t be afraid to say NO. They want to support you.  They love you so let them do so.

Throw your Expectations out the Window

Forget comparing to past holidays or lamenting on what you might not be able to do.  Embrace what is and try to be open to experiencing the joy of what this holiday brings.

If Someone You Love has Cancer

If your loved one has cancer understand that this can be an emotional time.  You can’t change that but there are things that you can do to support them and they pretty much line up with what I have just mentioned

Offer to help

Fatigue and just not feeling well can be so prohibitive for those with cancer.  Offer your time.  It’s the best gift you can give.  Shop, clean, cook, write Santa letters.  Do whatever is needed.

Plan events around their schedule

Plan holiday events around their schedule. Be flexible and mindful about planning things around their routine, treatments and according to the overall vitality.   And be understanding if some traditions have to be shelved for this year.

The holidays can be challenging when cancer is in your midst.  But with a little planning and a lot of love they can continue to be a joyous time of year.





Dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Turning back our clocks in early November brings an end to our Daylight Savings Time.

For some, this ending and the onset of the colder winter months, when the days are shorter and darker, can initiate a recurrent depressive disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder commonly known by the acronym SAD.

The National Institute of Mental Health lists the main risk factors for SAD as age, sex, distance from the equator (regions farther to the north and south tend to have shorter days and less sunlight in winter) and a history of depression or other mood disorders.

Common symptoms that people diagnosed with SAD can experience include:

  • fatigue
  • oversleeping
  • chronically low moods
  • cravings for carbohydrates (which if satisfied can lead to weight gain)
  • difficulty concentrating

So what can you do if you suffers from SAD to help combat your symptoms?

Light Therapy

Many studies have shown that light therapy is helpful.  Light boxes, dedicated and specifically made to benefit those affected with SAD, are now available on the market.

Suggestions on purchasing the most effective Light Box for SAD

Supplement with Vitamin D

Sunlight is essential for production of vitamin D.  Supplementing with vitamin D during the winter months, when we are getting less sunlight, may help to manage symptoms of SAD.

It is important to check your vitamin D level.  This is done with a blood test.

There is some disagreement in the recommended optimal range of vitamin D levels but generally it is:

75-225 nanomoles per litre (nmol/l) or 30-90 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml).


Trying to stay physically active can boost energy and improve mood.  Try to get 30 minutes of activity a day.

A number of recent studies suggest that physical exercise may provide an effective and easily accessible treatment for patients suffering from SAD

Eat a well-balanced diet

Eating a well-balanced that includes lean protein, loads of veggies and complex carbohydrates will go a long way to curb the craving for simple carbohydrates.

A healthy diet will also support the production serotonin, the chemical and neurotransmitter that supports well-being and happiness.

Keep in touch with your friends

Seek out your tribe.  Improve your mood by surrounding yourself with positive people.

Socialize and stay involved.

Support Your Circadian Rhythm

Your circadian rhythm influences the physical, mental and behavioural changes that occur over the course of roughly 24 hours.  Disruption to your circadian rhythm can be a mitigating factor in SAD.

Factors that affect your circadian rhythm include:

  1. Light exposure
  2. Food (timing of eating)
  3. Exercise
  4. Sleep Patterns

Many of the tools mentioned about will support the health of your circadian rhythm.

To this add getting outside to the list.  Even though daylight is less during the late fall and winter months, any exposure to daylight is healthy.



Short exposure to light treatment improves depression scores in patients with seasonal affective disorder: A brief report

Vitamin D deficiency, depression linked in international study

Seasonal affective disorder and exercise treatment: a review

Disruption of Circadian Rhythms: A Crucial Factor in the Etiology of Depression


Forest Bathing

The Healing Power of Forest Bathing

A new study released in June 2019 determined that spending at least two hours a week in nature seems to be the crucial threshold for promoting health and wellbeing.

The research was led by the University of Exeter, published in Scientific Reports and funded by NIHR.

The study found that:

people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature a week are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological wellbeing than those who don’t visit nature at all during an average week

These findings play very well in to the established health benefits of a practice called Forest Bathing.

What is Forest Bathing?

Forest bathing is based on the Japanese practice of ‘Shinrin-yoku’.  This translates in to “taking in the forest atmosphere.”

It is most certainly an easy practice to follow and the benefits reaped are substantial.

Forest bathing simply involves taking contemplative walks through the woods. The intention is to connect with nature. You leave the hustle and bustle of your daily life behind taking your time to breathe deeply while paying great attention to the sights, sounds and smells around you.

This ‘taking in nature’ with our senses has been shown to lead to decreased stress, improved immunity and an overall sense of well-being.

forest bathingFurthering this, it has been shown that the natural chemicals secreted by evergreen trees, called phytoncides, have been associated with improvements in the activity of our immune system.  This is aromatherapy at its finest!

The very essence of integrative cancer care is the enhancement of the 3 basic notions of self; the body, the mind and the soul.

Forest bathing can offer a very effective method of supporting all 3 of these aspects of self and can be practiced all year round.

For those of us who are blessed with 4 very different seasons the beauty of nature is dynamic.

Forest bathing has become very popular. There are certified forest therapy guides popping up everywhere to help people connect with their practice.

Take advantage of the healing power that nature has to offer!







Food Waste Costs Us All

I was prompted to do research on the topic of Food Waste before my interview with Chef Shane Jordan, author of the book Food Waste Philosophy.  I learned that the social, economic and environmental impact associated with food waste is a subject that we all should and need to be aware of.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year, approximately 1.3 billion tons, gets lost or wasted.  The FAO estimated that annually, the direct and indirect costs of food waste adds up to $2.6 trillion worldwide.

Bringing it a little closer to home, in the average Canadian household, one in four produce items gets thrown in the garbage.  That translates to about $1,100 a year that we just toss away.

The impact of food waste hits three areas significantly.  It wastes water, wastes land and releases significant amounts of methane gas.

Water Waste

Water is essential for growing agriculture and feeding animals.

When we throw out food we waste the millions of litres of water that were used to produce our food.

Consider this; meat producers are the heaviest water users. Yes, animals drink water.  But added to this, water is needed for the feed animals eat.  It takes about 8 to 10 times more water to produce meat than grain.

The consumption of animal products contributes to more than one-quarter of the water footprint of humanity

Land waste

Land is used for in the production of food for growing crops and raising and feeding livestock.

As well, discarded food eventually makes its way to landfills.

Food waste is both an ethical waste of land and a physical waste of space.

The land used for production, specifically the crops and grassland used in the actual growing (or raising, in the case of livestock), and the land used for retaining food that has been thrown out.

The consumption of animal products contributes to more than one-quarter of the water footprint of humanity”

Methane Gas

As food begins to decompose and rot it releases methane gas.

Methane is a greenhouse gas which many scientists believe adversely affects the earth’s climate and temperature.  About 20 per cent of Canada’s methane emissions comes from landfills.

Added to this the resources needed to produce the food also have a carbon footprint. Globally, the effect of processing the food that is wasted is equal to about 3.3 billion tons of CO2.

3 Tips for Preventing Food Waste

Meal plan

Meal planning is a good step towards reducing food waste.  It centres your shopping on what is specifically needed and helps you to avoid grabbing the ‘just in case items’.  You tend to not over shop when you know what ingredients you need.

Use your leftovers

Using your leftovers is an obvious way to reduce food waste.  I tend to make soups at the end of the week and throw in unused and leftover vegetables.

Leftovers can be repurposed in to new meals and lunches.  They can also be frozen to use at a later date.

Store Food Correctly

  • Move old things to the front of your pantry and fridge shelves and store new things at the back i.e. first in first out in
  • Date and label your food
  • Place things correctly in your fridge.  Store condiments and other items that don’t spoil easily on the fridge door.  Put your perishables on the shelves of your refrigerator.  Place fruits and vegetables in the fridge bins





Let’s Practice Safe Sun!

Welcome to August!

August may mark the ‘last’ month of summer but it has also been designated as Sun Awareness Month.

So let’s talk ‘Safe Sun’ shall we!

⁠Why is it important to talk about safe sun practices you ask?  Well it has a lot to do with the fact that the incidences of skin cancer has increased significantly over the past 25 years in Canada.

Skin cancer is divided in to 2 groups, melanoma and non-melanoma.

Melanoma skin cancer starts in the melanocyte cells of the skin. The melanocytes make melanin and it is melanin that gives skin its colour. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer.

The second group is non-melanoma skin cancer comprising basal cell and squamous cell cancers.  These cancers are less serious types and make up about 95% of all skin cancers

Are You at Risk?

There are risk factors for skin cancer.  If you are at a higher risk, you can take the proper steps to protect yourself.

You may be at a higher risk for developing skin cancer if you have:

  • A personal or family history of melanoma
  • Many moles or moles that are unusually shaped or large
  • A susceptibility to burning easily in the sun
  • Light coloured skin, eyes, and hair
  • A history of excessive sun exposure
  • A disease or diseases that suppress your immune system

One of the main causes of skin cancer is over exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

The sun naturally gives out ultraviolet radiation. There are two main types of UV rays that can damage skin.

UVA Rays

  • UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB and play a major part in the aging of our skin.  Think wrinkle rays:)  UVA rays can damage skin cells called keratinocytes. Basal and squamous cells are types of keratinocytes.  UVA rays can contribute to and possibly initiate the development of skin cancers.

UVB Rays

  • UVB rays cause skin reddening and sunburn damaging the skin’s more superficial epidermal layers. These rays play a key role in the development of skin cancer.  UVB rays can burn and damage your skin all year-round.  Even in the snowy winter months the snow and ice can reflect UVB rays and damage your skin.

Interesting facts to note

Your skin does not have to be in a blistering, peeling state to be considered burnt.  If your skin has gone red or pink it has been sunburnt⁠.

When your skin gets burnt, the UV radiation causes damage to the DNA of your skin cells and it is this damage that is the underlying cause of skin cancer⁠.

⁠You can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer with proper sun care aimed at avoiding harmful UV rays.

Here are 3 important tips to protect yourself

  1. Seek shade when the sun is at its highest point in the sky.  This is when it is strongest
  2. Cover up with clothing – wear a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses
  3. Apply sunscreen regularly with at least a SPF15. Use it generously and re-apply regularly