A Life Sentence.

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. ~ Mae West

Years ago when I was a child, I overheard my mother talking about someone who had “The Big C” with a friend of hers. At the time, I had no idea what that was, but her words were whispered with a fear which made me realize it was something to be dreaded and avoided at all costs. Back then few people spoke openly about Cancer and a diagnosis of this disease was akin to being given a death sentence. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my automatic response was fear…fear of pain, fear of sickness, fear of not seeing my daughters graduate from college, fear of unfulfilled dreams, and fear of death.

No one knows when they are going die, and no one has control over that date. What we can control, however, is how we live. I have learnt to appreciate every moment, seeing each day of life as a gift. As this year comes to an end, I look back at all the gifts I have been given…and continue to receive.

Good health.
This may seem strange to be identified as a gift considering my diagnosis, but I have not felt sick one day since my diagnosis and surgeries, and I believe this is due to my change to a healthier lifestyle and subsequent weight loss, pre my diagnosis. I am still running regularly, going to the gym and participating in hikes whenever I get the chance…all while undergoing weekly chemotherapy treatments.

Love for nature.
The great outdoors provides a wealth of opportunities to experience the best of what nature has to offer. I am like a child in a candy store (or in Jamaica, a pickney in a sweetie shop) every time I get the opportunity to photograph sunrises, sunsets, flowers and majestic landscapes. For me there is no better way to start the day than an early morning run which ends with a spectacular sunrise.

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Love of music.
There has never been a moment when I am feeling down, that I have not been able to raise my spirits through listening to music. The combination of poignant lyrics, soothing melodies and harmonious instruments, seems to have potent healing powers for my soul.

Love of God.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:13
This is my mantra.

Supportive family and friends.
You never know until you experience trauma, loss or some kind of misfortune, who will step up and offer support, understanding and guidance. l am surprised not only by who has stepped into my corner, but also completely overwhelmed by how many are in there with me. My “little” corner houses an entire village of supporters and well-wishers.

Reggae Mrathon (15)

One of the questions I am asked most often is how can I be positive and cheerful given my situation. My answer is how can I not be? I am blessed every day I wake up, and I look forward to the day ahead with anticipation of new experiences, encounters and making the most of every hour alive.

Living with cancer is not a death sentence. It is a life sentence.


A Detour is not a Dead End

No journey or road is always smooth and straight without bends. There are dips, turns, hills and obstacles encountered along the way. This was never more evident to me than now. I have chronicled my story…my quest for a healthier and happier me in this blog where I relate what I have learnt through the experience of my battle with weight gain and subsequent health issues, hoping to help others who might be experiencing a similar struggle. This week my journey took a sharp left turn down a dark and narrow, pothole-filled road when I was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in my left breast.

In my despair I asked the questions anyone in this situation would ask: Why me? Why now? I am in the the best physical condition I have ever been, I eat healthily, rarely drink, exercise regularly and try to find the positive in every seemingly negative situation I encounter. So my natural inclination once I “recovered” from the shock (if there ever really is full recovery), was to identify all the positives arising from my diagnosis.

1. Support. Every single person I informed about my diagnosis, has been unquestioningly supportive. From the phone calls, to the offers to take me to appointments, to the prayers with me, I have never felt more loved than I do now.

2. Compassion. Persons who have been in this situation are uniquely qualified to offer advice and none I have encountered have hesitated to share their experiences with me. They have been where I am now, and their stories give me strength when my optimism is weakening.

3. Appreciation. I have learnt to appreciate members of the medical profession who face people like me, (and others with even more severe diagnoses) with a cheerful demeanor and offer encouraging and optimistic words.

4. Determination. Being a naturally competitive person, the importance of a challenge plays an important part of my life. While this may not be a 5K, 10K or even a half marathon, there is more at stake here than a best time or even the completion of a race. I am determined to do whatever I need to do to survive, and hopefully to keep inspiring others.

5. Belief in God. As a Christian, my faith plays an important part in shaping my life. I may not always seem to acknowledge the presence or importance of God in my life, however, in times of crisis there is no greater source of comfort.

As I continue on this journey of life, the most important thing I have learnt is that your outlook plays a major part in your outcome. A detour is not a dead end.

Achieving Success at the Gym.

“Success doesn’t come to you…you go to it.” ~ Marva Collins

This morning before my aerobics class, someone asked me why I go to the gym, and what keeps me going back. I have never considered myself to be a typical gym person. I always thought people who went to the gym were young, muscular, fit, and popular. Having signed up at Spartan Health Club as a part of my weight loss/get fit program, I met many kinds of people.  There were women and men struggling with their weight and body image; young ladies who could have entered any beauty contest (and some who did); a blind gentleman who made his way around the machines with assistance from other patrons and instructors; the fastest man in the world 🙂 ; men whose muscles glistened and bulged as they lifted weights … and me. We all had a common bond – the gym was a part of our life.

After I recovered from my first traumatic couple of weeks, I realised that each person is at the gym to achieve one or even several goals. Whether you simply want to get and stay fit, lose weight, socialize or just live, you should make the most of your gym session.

empty gym

Your success at the gym is dependent upon what you invest there.  Your best investments for optimum results are therefore:

  • Consistency – Getting up and going even when it is raining and your bed is warm and comfortable. Don’t forget that the gym has a roof.
  • Determination – Overcome setbacks. If you missed a week or two because of illness or work commitments, try not to use this as an excuse to stop going altogether.
  • Commitment – When you make going to the gym a standing appointment, you are far more likely to go on a regular basis than if you decide to go when you have a couple hours free every other week. Remember your reason for going to the gym in the first place and your ultimate goal.
  • Perseverance – The ability to get back in the (spinning cycle) saddle, even with sore thighs.

I struggle many mornings to get up and go to the gym, but not once have I gone, and regretted going there. That’s what keeps me going back.

Exercise is Medicine.


“Exercise should be regarded as a tribute to the heart.” ~ Gene Tunney

When I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I had no idea what that was. I believed Arthritis was something that old people were afflicted with, and I was not old. What I did know was that it was painful to get out of bed in the morning (the first half hour of my day was spent hobbling around as my stiff joints rebelled at any kind of movement); It was difficult for me to make a fist as my fingers were more like claws, and the fatigue which is a constant part of the disease, threatened to take over my life.

Exercise was therefore the last thing I had any intention of attempting to do. As a result, my weight began to balloon. It became a vicious cycle…the more weight I put on, the less I wanted to move and I therefore put on even more weight, which increased the pain in my joints.

I finally decided that I had to do something to improve my situation. Despite having misgivings about exercising with painful joints, I started walking in the mornings (as well as changing my diet), in an attempt to lose weight. As I began to walk more frequently and I started losing weight, I realized that I was feeling less pain in my joints, which made me increase the distances I was walking, resulting in me losing even more weight.  The cycle was now spinning in my favor.

Eventually I graduated from walking, to running, then joining a gym to add toning and aerobics, which ultimately led to my discovery that I actually enjoy exercising. Today, I still experience some pain and stiffness in my joints, but nowhere near what I used to suffer through before.

I believe exercise is the best medicine because:

·       The health benefits of regular exercise are undeniable. Many studies indicate that people who exercise regularly extend their life expectancy rate;

·       There is no expensive equipment necessary to start an exercise programme. Investing in a good pair of sneakers and a skipping rope when I travel, ensures that I can exercise wherever I go;

·       You can exercise on your own if you prefer, but I enjoy the social interaction of exercising with a group of people who love it as much as I do;
and most importantly,

·       Regular exercise can actually contribute to reducing, or eliminating medication you may be taking for a particular ailment.

I am living proof of this.


The Power of Encouragement.


“It costs nothing to pay someone a compliment, but it is priceless to the person receiving it.”

Last year, I went to an aerobics class at the gym and saw a young lady who had obviously been struggling with her weight. She would get tired after only a few moves, and stopped frequently to catch her breath before continuing with the class. Several weeks later I noticed that she looked smaller than when I had first seen her and told her that whatever she was doing was working because I could see that she had lost weight. She was really pleased that I had noticed, and told me that she had been working very hard to lose the weight.

This reminded me of the times I would be struggling to stick to the exercise program, feeling that it was all pointless, only to have one person come up to me and say that they noticed a difference. That was all it took to renew my commitment to stick to the plan. A simple compliment was the motivation I needed to persevere.


Many times the first thing people feel compelled to comment about when they haven’t seen you in a while, is your appearance, and it is usually the negative aspect of your appearance they find worthy of their comment. They do not realize, or maybe don’t even care about how detrimental this can be to someone going through the weight loss/get fit struggle. I now make it a habit to compliment persons who have made progress, once it is noticeable.

Remember that young lady at the gym? Last month after not seeing her for several months, I saw her one morning and was shocked to notice that she was almost half her previous size. She told me that she had started to come to the gym at 4:30am, she had hired a personal trainer, and was vigilant about sticking to her programme. Her appearance was completely changed, but what was even more striking was how confident she had become.

What I learned from my experience:

·       To never comment on the negative aspect of anyone’s appearance since I do not know their struggle or situation;

·       To only commend someone on their appearance if there really is a noticeable change. The comment is only effective if it is genuine;

·       That it costs nothing to pay a compliment or to give a word of encouragement, but it could be priceless to the person receiving it.

Overcoming Obstacles: Give up…or Get up?

“Obstacles are like steps, when you overcome them, you go higher.” ~ Terry Mark

Sticking to any diet and exercise plan is never easy.  There were many times I would feel that trying to be fit and healthy was too hard.

It was hard to stick to my diet when people would be having their cake and eating it too…right in front of me.

It was hard to get up before 5am to exercise when everyone else in my house was fast asleep.

It was hard to go to a restaurant and order chicken broth, salad with no fat (or low fat) dressing along with a glass of water, when the rest of the table was indulging in rice and peas and fried chicken, doused in gravy.

And it was hard to spend an hour on meal preparation for the next day when I could be on the couch watching “Scandal” or doing some online shopping for things I wouldn’t really be using anyway.

I remained motivated by doing several things:

  • Focused on my REASON: I kept my photos when I weighed the most nearby, so I would remember why I was doing this in the first place;

    fat face pic
    Mrs H Funeral group - edited

  • Set a series of small GOALS: (such as fitting into a dress one size smaller), then rewarding myself (buying a dress in the new smaller size) when achieving each goal;

    Sunset Beach Vacation 112

  • Focused on the REWARD: As I grew to love exercise, my reward could actually be an extra half hour at the gym (which helped me to reach my ultimate goal. 🙂 )

The most important thing to remember is that a setback doesn’t need to be permanent. Family and friends provided core support during some of my weakest moments. So, find and build your support system, which will make your journey an easier one.

Would you prefer to give up…or get up?

The Food Journal

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
Charles M. Schulz

If you are interested in losing weight, there is a simple equation which can guide you to success:

Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss
(Your caloric intake must be less than your caloric outtake or expenditure
if you want to lose weight.)

Different variables (such as exercise) can affect the outcome, but for now, I will focus only on calories. It might seem like a lot of work to be checking the calories of everything you eat, but if you do it for about a week or two, you will get a general idea of what foods are high in calories and can adjust your diet accordingly. There is no need to eliminate all the foods you love, however you might want to adjust the amount of those foods you eat, if you would like to see results.Junk-food-vs-Healthy-food.jpgOne of the most important tools which helped me realize which of the foods I ate were sabotaging my diet, was a Food Journal or Diary.  In my journal I would write everything I ate for the day, the times I ate, and an estimate of the calories consumed at each meal. I discovered that writing in the journal had several benefits:

  1. When you see what you actually consume written on the page, you realize the quantity may be more than you really need to eat;
  2. You may see that you eat more frequently than you need to eat;
  3. You may see that you do not eat frequently enough, and therefore eat more than you need to, the next time you eat;
  4. By knowing that if you eat something you have to write it down, this can actually serve as a deterrent to eating it, especially if it is not a healthy choice;
  5. When you review your journal, it can help you structure future meals so they are more balanced and probably lower in overall calories.

AHA Food Journal

The more I entered what I ate in my Food Journal, the more I became aware of the foods I should eat less (or more) of to achieve my goal. I no longer use the Journal but today I am much more aware of what I am eating and can plan better choices.

Goal Setting.

A goal properly set is halfway reached. ~ Zig Ziglar

When I decided over four years ago to make a change, it was not the first time I had attempted to do so.  I would lose weight and before one year had passed, I would regain what I had lost…plus added interest (extra pounds.) Most of us know that when we want to achieve something, the first step should be to determine what we would like to achieve; i.e. to set our goal. During my previous attempts, my goal would be to lose weight for a particular event or to fit into a particular dress. Once this was achieved, that was the end of it.  I had “won,” therefore there was no need to continue with whatever I had done to lose the weight. What was different this time was that my goal was not centered on an event or an outfit. My ultimate goal was to become healthier, more active and lose weight within a reasonable time frame. If your goal is to lose 50 pounds within a month, when it took you more than a year to gain those pounds, chances are you will end up frustrated and nowhere near your target.


My advice to you is to ensure that the goals you set are longer-term, if you want them to be more effective and result in a lasting change.

Here are some other tips to consider when setting your goal(s):

According to Health.com, to achieve the best results, your goal should be SMART:

  • Specific. Make your goal as specific as possible so you can work toward it and achieve it.
  • Measurable. A goal must be measureable so you can know when you have reached it.
  • Accountable. Be accountable for everything you eat and do.
  • Realistic. Set a realistic goal…
  • Timeframe. …to be accomplished within a realistic timeframe.

Keep in mind that you can also set a series of smaller goals. You can reward yourself for each successful achievement then move on to the next.

You are what (where, when, why and how) you eat.

One should eat to live, not live to eat. ~ Moliere.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learnt on my journey to a healthier life, is that what you eat (or don’t eat) is far more important when losing weight, than exercise. That does not mean you don’t need to exercise. Regular exercise has many other health benefits in addition to weight loss.


Your diet is affected by what, where, when, why and even how you eat.

What you eat.

What you choose to eat directly impacts your weight. This is not rocket science. If you eat large quantities of high fat, high calorie foods, you are going to gain weight. Most persons who want to lose weight know that the first step is usually to change their diet.   Whether this means reducing the quantity of your food intake, the type of food you consume, or more than likely, both options, a change is necessary for results to be achieved.


Where you eat.

If you are in the habit of eating while doing something else such as watching TV, you are at risk of overeating, unless you portion out your snacks ahead of time. When eating out, your choice of restaurant is also very important. Many restaurants now have “lite” menu choices, but your neighborhood pizza parlour may have less healthy options available.

grilled salmon-b

When you eat.

It is never wise to eat just before going to bed. This will result in your body working hard to digest the food you recently consumed, instead of burning fat stored in your body while you sleep.

Why you eat.

Not everyone eats just because they are hungry. If you are having a bad day at work or school, there is a good chance that you will turn to some form of comfort food to ease your misery. Chocolate has always been one of my vices in those kinds of situations. This is where you have the opportunity to find some other means of comfort to ease your pain. For me, exercise is now my comfort food. Many of my miserable days have been alleviated by a half hour run or a class at the gym.

spartan class

How you eat.

When you eat, it takes a while for your stomach to send a message to your brain, indicating that it is no longer in need of food. It is therefore not a good idea to eat quickly, no matter how hungry you might be. Taking your time to eat allows you to stop eating when you are full, giving your stomach time to catch up with your brain.

Here are some tips which worked for me, which may help you make adjustments to your diet:

1. Eat smaller meals more frequently. This will help to prevent hunger, which can cause you to overeat.

 crab meal

2. Drink a lot of water. Drinking water has many benefits including helping to control calories and energizing muscles.

Pouring Water Into Glass On Blue Background

3. Eat slowly.

4. Reduce intake of fried foods. Baked and grilled foods are better options.

roast corn-b

5. Eat carbohydrates like bread, potatoes, rice no later than 2pm to allow time to burn them off before bedtime.


6. Travel with food when going on the road. If you are out longer than you intended, this prevents you from heading to the nearest fast food outlet, if you get hungry.

lunch bag

7. Whenever possible, plan meals at least one day before, and prepare whatever you can at that time.

meal prep


If you are able to implement and stick to these guidelines, you will see and feel the results, but don’t be too hard on yourself. You do not have to deprive yourself completely of everything you love to eat. Just put in the extra work (like exercise) to compensate for any occasional lapses. Be sure to consult your doctor before making any major lifestyle change.