A New Year.

“The journey to your goal is more beautiful than the goal itself.” ~ Purvi Raniga

At the beginning of each year, I list the goals that I would like to achieve within that year. In 2019, these were primarily physical fitness-related, but due to reasons beyond my control, I was only able to achieve one of those goals: to complete an average of 20 kilometers per week, walking, running or hiking. Over 365 days, I completed a total of 1089 kilometers: a monthly average of 90k, or 21k per week, despite two bouts of illness for which I was inactive for a combined period of 6 weeks.

While this was a great achievement for me, there is another fitness goal I achieved which I consider to be one of spiritual fitness: Reading the Bible in one year. This was not an easy task for me, but I found that as it became a part of my early morning routine, this superseded my physical fitness goals.

As 2020 begins, and I reflect on the past year, what I realize, more than ever, is how precious life is and also how brief it can be. During the 5-month period when I underwent chemotherapy, I met and learnt about others who were in a similar situation to mine, battling breast cancer. To date, at least three of them have died. The deaths of these persons and others close to me have underlined the importance of relationships and people, versus money and acquired things.

Tomorrow I will be celebrating a birthday, and as the New Year begins, my goals will be more focused on people and experiences, in the hope that I can have a positive impact on the lives of others.

Happy New Year!

Beauty instead of Ashes

It has been a while since I updated this blog and as I reflect on my journey over the past 21 months, I thought about not how my life has changed, but how my outlook to life has changed since my breast cancer diagnosis.

What is important.

Love and Kindness. I have yet to hear someone tell me how gratifying it can be to be filled up with the burning feeling of hate building inside them. A kind word of love or encouragement to someone feeling down, is much more rewarding. It is interesting to notice that when you approach someone with a smile, you usually receive one in return.

Sharing Experiences. Anyone who knows me knows that I love hiking, running, nature, traveling and photography. But what I love more than any of those things is using my love of photography to share those experiences.

Accompong Hike 9 Mar 19 (89b)

Support. Over the course of my journey, I have been contacted by women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, who are going through the various stages of shock and fear this diagnosis generates. By sharing my experience, I hope that my support has eased some of the paralyzing fear and anxiety which once affected me.

What is not important.

Things. I recently read a story about a man who died and was buried with his X6 vehicle. I had always heard the phrase that you can’t take it with you when you die, but perhaps this was his (or his family’s) pointless attempt for him to do so. I don’t think I have ever been to a funeral where in remembering their loved one, family and friends spoke about how much money or how many things he or she had acquired.

Appearance. Physically, I have learned that I am not my hair. Having lost what I believed to be my crowning glory after months of chemotherapy, made me realize that who you are is way more important than how you look. Being true to yourself is how you should be you.

Perceived wrongs. I, like many persons, have held grudges against people who I believe have wronged me, as if “hugging up” this grievance makes me a better or more worthy person. Forgive and move on benefits both me and the perceived offender.

How I would like to be remembered.

I have been to several funerals over the past few months for persons who have made a significant impact on their families, communities and country. No matter how well I think I knew these persons, I always learn more than I imagined and wish that I knew these things before their death.

For those who will grieve when I am gone, I want to “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” ~ Isaiah 61:3

This is how I would like to be remembered:

 “She lived. She loved. She shared. She made a difference.”


Life Goes On.

Tomorrow the sun will rise on all your doubts. ~ Marty Rubin

Life goes on.

I think those may be three of the most beautiful words ever written. Last week was symbolic of one year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I still remember the initial fear and trepidation with which I received the news, and the multitude of emotions I experienced as I navigated unknown territory in search of the best way to deal with my diagnosis.

Two surgeries, five months of chemotherapy, numerous tests and injections, and many doctors’ appointments later, I can truly state that I am stronger both mentally and physically. My prognosis is good and there is much that I have gained through this experience. I am still overwhelmed by the support I have received and continue to receive from family, friends, and even acquaintances.

What has meant the most to me during this past year has been:

1. Support. If I were to list the persons who have provided support to me over the past year, it would have no end. To this day, people continue to check to see how I am doing and if there is anything they can do for me.

Allow me to help with you
2. Sharing my story. I have found that sharing my story has actually helped me to deal with it, with the hope that I can prevent even one person from any suffering associated with a late stage diagnosis. Early diagnosis can make the difference between life and death, and encouraging women to do their mammograms is the most common way to diagnose the disease before it has progressed. In this day and age women really should not being dying of breast cancer, if we do regular checks and listen to our bodies when we think something is wrong.

3. The members of the medical profession on my team. I had always heard stories about doctors and nurses who, while they have been professional, are somewhat lacking in compassion or empathy for the patient. This has not been my experience. I have been gifted with a medical team who not only have my back, but also have my heart. I have never felt like a number or case in my interactions with these professionals.
Red heart stethescope

4. Being active. I initially thought that my active lifestyle filled with hikes and 5Ks and gym classes would be severely curtailed through my months of chemo and other treatments. Surprisingly I found that although there were setbacks, they were few, and I was able to continue being active throughout my treatments. In fact, my doctors surmise that perhaps it is because of my active lifestyle that I have responded so well.


I have learnt many things over the past year:

  • Relationships are more important than things. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone, is to spend time with them.
  • You enjoy what you have even more if you can share it with someone. Love and friendship are priceless.
  • An early morning walk to see the sun rise is greater than the most expensive gift. There may be no sunrise tomorrow.
  • I am not defined by my appearance.
    hair pic

At this one year milestone, I realize that for me, Life doesn’t just go on. It has taken on a new shape and dimension which is richer, more precious and invaluable.

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.’ ~ Maya Angelou

People have the tendency to look to the beginning of the calendar year as a time make a change in their lifestyle whether it is to set goals for your education and career, health & fitness, self-enrichment or a combination of all three. The belief is that once mid-January has passed, making a commitment to any kind of change is less effective than at the beginning of a new year, which symbolizes a clean slate.  In the past, I too have fallen into this trap. I now know that my plan of action does not have to coincide with a specific date (January 1), or event (50th birthday), or place (rock-bottom).

It just has to commence.

Career & Education: If you are in a traditional work environment, you spend at least eight hours of your day at the office. That is one third of your workday, or one half of your time awake assuming you get eight hours of sleep per night (does anyone?). It would therefore be ideal if you actually enjoy what you do to earn a living.

When I was in high school, my parents stressed the importance of getting a traditional education to secure a job in a traditional career such as teaching, law or medicine although my interest was in the creative arts, particularly drawing and designing. My career path led me to the field of Advertising which afforded me a certain level of creativity to satisfy my interests and need to be artistically stimulated and productive. Years later when my daughter expressed a fascination with the culinary field at the age of six, I actively encouraged her, and she later developed a keen interest and extraordinary skill in Art. She has now graduated from culinary school, and has combined both her skills, resulting in her producing custom-designed cakes and pastries that are currently in demand…and in turn experiencing satisfaction in her career of choice.

The old adage “If you love what you are doing to earn a living, you will never work a day in your life,” has never been truer. My advice to students today, is to pursue their dreams and to ensure that they are really choosing the path they love, and not what someone else would love them to do. There are many more non-traditional career options today, than back when I was a student in school.  Take advantage of them.

Health & Fitness: The landscape of Jamaica has undergone a change in recent years. Health, Diet and Exercise seem to be the Buzzwords of the Day. More persons are taking charge of what they do with their bodies – both positively and negatively. This is supported by the Jamaican Government’s current Jamaica Moves Campaign which has sensitized many citizens to the importance of being active in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, reducing incidence of non-communicable illnesses.  We all want to live longer and this is seen as one way to achieve this goal.

Enrichment of Self: Activities of Enrichment of the individual have become more commonplace than ever before. Classes in drawing and painting, photography, Reiki, ceramics and jewelry –making, are far more available than a few years ago.  These activities can provide a balance and fulsomeness in our lives which at times overwhelm us with the day to day (and sometimes mundane) tasks we face and execute.

My affinity for nature and exercise synergize with my love for hiking, running and photography, yielding unforgettable images of nature on my various jaunts. These serve to recharge my energy cells when my internal battery is running low.

Before any of these lifestyle changes can be achieved, however, there has to be a starting point, and this can be the most difficult part of your Plan of Action for Change.

My recommendations to increase the odds of you achieving success are to:

  1. Actually Make a Plan: Your plan should be detailed enough to clearly state what you would like to achieve, but simple enough that it is not insurmountable.
  2. Set Your Goals: The first part of your plan should state the goals you wish to achieve. Completing each goal will result in increasing the odds of your plan’s successful execution.
  3. Set Timelines…but realize that inevitably these may need to have some fluidity as Life may intervene. Setbacks are not roadblocks, but can be used to re-evaluate the plan of action.
  4. Understand that Failure is not Fatal. You may not always succeed, however each time you surmount an obstacle, it will make you stronger (as long as you do not quit at that point).
  5. Re-evaluate: You should re-evaluate your plan from time to time to ensure that your original intention or objective has not changed and that you still have it as your priority. If your goal is no longer what you had initially identified, feel free to modify. Just as goals may change, so can you.

Your “New Year” begins when you put your plan of action into place.

Happy New Year!!!!

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.

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.