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I’m Fine

…Two words I’d be happy to never have to utter again.

This is a topic a lot of people have written about and I heard of after first getting diagnosed with cancer. I laughed at it, but now that I am in the thick of things, I truly understand it. So I’ve decided to throw my own two cents in. I don’t think it could hurt to remind people on the outside for the gazillionth time that I am actually quite fine.

Since first being diagnosed with lymphoma, I’d say 30% of the words that come out of my mouth have been used responding to the question “How are you?” Everyone wants to know. I know it comes from a place of concern and caring, but I would like to point out that answering this question is exhausting and frustrating for a sick person. And who wants to exhaust a sick person?

I am not sure what kind of response people expect from such a loaded question. For one thing, I am 25 years old and getting treated for cancer. That really sucks. Should I say I woke up feeling like I’d been put through a car crusher? Should I say I haven’t been to a bar in 6 months and I could really go for a drink? Should I say I’m scared I won’t be able to run again? Or that I thought a lot about death today?

Overall though, despite everything, I AM FINE. You’ve heard it before, and I will tell you again, human beings have an amazing ability to deal with things. I’ve heard people say they could never go through something like this, but yes, yes you could. Because when your only choice is to live through it or die, you suck it up and choose the former.

That is why I am honest to goodness just fine. Because I wake up every day, yes feeling like crap, but still happy to be alive. You don’t want to hear about my aches and pains or how many times I thought I was going to barf. I woke up and still had a life to live. It’s not “great” because I’m still not happy about this cancer thing, but overall it’s a solid fine. There are still a lot of enjoyable things in my days as well.

I have complained about this enough that my friends and family have nicely stopped asking me so much. I tell them that no news is good news, and that if I’m not outwardly complaining or talking about my health, then assume nothing has changed.

It’s not answering the same question over and over that irritates me. It’s that the question itself is a constant reminder that I’m sick and in this situation. It’s like one of my other most hated questions – “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain?” I hate that because it forces me to focus on my current pain and then try to attach a measure to something I always considered to be immeasurable.

Sometimes a simple “How are you feeling?” can be a harsh reminder that I am not feeling well, and force me to trivialize the severe situation I’ve found myself in.

So in other words, “I’m fine” is my way of brushing the whole thing off.

Instead I much rather talk about things like current events, movies, music, food, and cute things my dog did today. So how about we finish this off with some food?

Butternut Squash Sauce

The photos of this sauce are a little misleading, but I will get to that. What is Squash Sauce you ask? A creamy, garlicky pasta sauce made with pureed butternut squash. Created because my food restrictions were getting me down, I’m still craving homestyle foods, and I wanted a way to sneak more veggies in.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash

1 head of garlic

2 tbsp butter

1 onion

1 cup 10% cream (milk works too, but I haven’t tried it with non-dairy)

2 tbsp flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 425F

Slice the tip of the head of garlic off like you would slice the end of an onion off. Wrap in tinfoil with a little oil.

Wash, peel, and cube the butternut squash, spread on baking sheet with wrapped garlic and put in oven for about 20-25 minutes or until browned.

While squash and garlic are roasting, chop onion. Heat a medium sized pot to low-medium heat, melt butter, and slowly cook onion until soft (about 15 minutes).

Add flour, spices, and cream to pot and whisk non-stop (making sure to scrape the bottom with whisk) for about 10 minutes or until thick like a gravy.

Once everything is ready, put it in a blender (including ALL of the garlic, peeled of course) and puree. Makes about 2-3 cups of sauce.

Now I can tell you I cheated taking the pictures. I always make my food for dinner when there’s no sunlight, so I photograph the leftovers the next day. And here you can totally tell! It was much creamier and dreamier the night of serving, although did still hold up well the next day. The texture just changes a bit in the microwave, much like mac n’ cheese or alfredo.

I served mine with egg noodles, salmon, and a whack of veggies, but the butternut squash sauce got lost a little. I would recommend tossing it with fettuccine or fusilli, then serving it as a side to something like chicken or tofu with steamed veggies. That way the flavours really get to shine. I can’t wait to make this again with maybe homemade pasta!

Now I am into the “good” two weeks of my chemo cycle where I am free of any additional poisons for a while. My body is getting to recover and I sometimes get a small glimpse of what it’s like to be my old self again. So yup, in case you were wondering, I am totally FINE.

The Non-Training Training Program

Thank you sososo much for all the congratulatory comments on my last post! Y’all are too sweet :) Passing my personal trainer theory exam definitely feels like a small victory in this long journey I’m on. Also feels like an affirmation I’m on the right path!

Speaking of paths (segue alert!), I hit the trail this morning. I’ve essentially had the same gym routine since January, and I’m desperate to change it up! Even though it was supposed to be cold and rainy this morning, I couldn’t bring myself to slog out a run on the treadmill, so I took it outside anyways.

I would like to say it was freeing and glorious, but Susan-land is not la-la-land. It may not have been dark at 6:30 am, but it was cold. 4 degrees celsius, which Google tells me is 39.2 F. I have a high-quality shirt and jacket for cold weather, but just cheap cotton leggings for my legs. No good. As Caitlin would say, my thighs felt like frozen chicken thighs. When I took my leggings off, they were bright red from the cold!

Ended up running 4 tough miles. It felt like I was running through cement at times as my legs are still sore from my last weight workout. But I did it. It was fun-ish. And it gave me something different to say when my coworkers asked me what I did at the gym this morning ;)

No time for a fancy breakfast.

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That’s my excuse anyways, but we all know I just wanted waffles again ;) Nature’s Path Pomegranate with peanut butter and blueberry jam.

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Was going to put protein powder goo on top until I remembered I have an excess of egg whites in the fridge. The best protein comes from real food :)

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An egg white pillow with some laughing cow cheese sandwiched in the middle.

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Got my carbs, fat, protein and sugary goodness. The perfect breakfast :)

Lunch was l-l-leftovers!

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What was left of the “wonky Mexican hash” with melted cheese on top.

Then after work today, I went to the campus gym with two co-workers to show them around the weight area. Both are getting married this summer and want to look good in their wedding dresses! Both have been going to the gym for a while, but felt a little lost. It was so fun to see how excited they got over the new moves! One of the girls was so cute. She asked me what to do to get rid of belly pudge, I told her it was diet-related, and her face immediately dropped. Ahhhh… This is something I’m going to have to get used to I think…

Took the dog on his second walk of the day (I can’t say no to him!) then came in for a late supper.

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A tofu faux alfredo

  • Block extra-firm tofu
  • 1 small spaghetti squash
  • 1/4 bag frozen broccoli
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 pint mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

I cooked the squash in the microwave, then added it to the pan with everything else. For the sauce I mixed up 4 laughing cow cheese wedges with soy milk until it was at a consistency I liked, then added a dash of pepper, nutmeg and parmesan cheese.

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Ever notice I eat a lot of things out of bowls? I find bowls comforting for some reason. Plus, they’re better for portion control. I can pile a lot more on a plate than I can in one of these bowls.

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Fun fact: I didn’t eat any meat today! I bet that happens more often than I notice. I was a veggie for 8 years after all!

 

The Non-Training Training Program

I’ve spoken a lot about training programs and how I like to sort of fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to working out. But, one thing I have learned, is that it is sometimes beneficial to look at the larger picture when choosing workouts.

During the program design section of my personal training course, we learned about periodization and the three different training cycles:

  • Macrocycle: A period lasting several months to a year
  • Mesocycle: A period lasting several weeks/a few months
  • Microcycle: A period lasting around a week.

If you’re not training for a big race, you are probably wondering why the hell you have to care about periodization and training cycles.

Well that’s why I’m here, duh!

Even if you’re not training for something in particular, it is still beneficial to follow training cycles if you want to see an improvement in general fitness. It doesn’t have to be grand. Hell, most people would just like to be able to carry their groceries indoors with greater ease.

The cycle typically starts with low intensity workouts and increases into higher intensity workouts.Eventually, you reach a peak intensity, where you are at your best performance. After reaching this peak, you recover. This is a REST PERIOD of a few days. After this rest period, you slowly begin the cycle over again with the lower-intensity workouts. Each "peak" stage will be a little higher, meaning you are getting more fit, yay!

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This is my fancy graph. I made it all by myself :)

This is where a little something called "progressive overload" comes in. This is one of the key training principles, and just one of many which I’ll be sure to talk about over the next little bit.

Progressive overload is just that – you progressively add to your workouts, be it time, speed, intensity, load, etc, to see improvement. If you go to the gym and do the same 30 minute elliptical workout every freakin’ day, then it is going to be hard to improve upon that. You need to challenge yourself to get better. And with each challenge, the same amount of work will feel easier!

It’s fun to say we just show up at the gym and do what we want. But in reality, a little more forethought should go into it.

  • Don’t progress too quickly (the 10% mileage rule for running for example)
  • Always err on the side of caution and rest when you need it.
  • Decide what you want to improve on, and work on challenging it
  • When you feel you’ve reached a “peak,” rest. Recover. Then start all over again.

For me, I take a few days off every 3-4 months. Usually to coincide with life events or just when my body says "whoa." I also tend to train with the seasons. I’ve probably already peaked in terms of strength training for this year, but I’ll be working towards a running peak early in the fall.

It’s also worth noting that you can’t just keep getting better and better without taking that rest period. Fitness doesn’t grow exponentially. But rather grows in little bumps!

 

And with that, I’m off! To make protein cookies :) Tomorrow is Flashback Friday. Trying to stir up a good one, see ya then!

A Wonderful Waffle Wednesday

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In case you don’t have me on Twitter or Facebook, this is the e-mail I got shortly after hitting publish last night.

I am calm about it now but you better believe I freaked out!!

Oh screw it, I’m still freaking out!!!!

I legitimately believed that I wasn’t going to get the 80% required to pass my personal training exam. I was worried about paying the extra $100 to do it again. Embarrassed over how I would explain to people that I’m a fitness delinquent.

Needless to say I’ve been on cloud nine all day. I didn’t even realize how stressed I was about the thing!

I still have to do my practical exam next week. This will consist of taking one of my friends through a fitness test and hour-long training session while my PRO trainer watches and grades me. I’m practicing tomorrow with a couple girls after work. I still need to learn all the proper spotting techniques. But I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about this one. Although, I must say, being watched like a hawk for an hour is nerve wracking, especially for a girl who suffers from serious social anxiety.

Woke up this morning with a big grin on my face. A beautiful day outside and Waffle Wednesday!

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The usual protein waffle recipe (equal parts oatmeal, cottage cheese and egg whites). I’m obsessed with crispy waffles, and each time I leave them in the iron for juuuust a little bit longer. I almost burnt them today! But they were delightfully crispy.

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Topped with lemon flavoured yogurt, almond butter and All Bran Buds. I never buy flavoured yogurt, but it was on sale during a moment of weakness. Yoplait Source brand, tasty.

Snacks today were my new homemade chocolate banana peanut butter protein bars. Got that?

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  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 4 scoops (120g) chocolate protein powder
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp banana extract
  • 1 heaping tbsp chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup water

Mixed and mixed and mixed in a bowl until the protein powder was all dissolved, yet still super thick and sticky. Flattened into a 9×9 pan, hardened in the fridge, and cut into 8 bars.

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Loooove the extra cocoa powder in these, but I am still on the fence with banana extract. It tastes booze-y! (actually, so do bananas sometimes) I think some banana baby food would be much better ;)

Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, today is a rest day. But I went on an hour-long walk with a co-worker at lunch and it was awesome. It’s so nice to get a shot of fresh air midday, and I got back to the office feeling energized for the afternoon. I highly suggest a noon-hour power walk!

I took the pup for another mini-walk once I got home (rather, he took me). I spent the whole time dreaming up ideas of things I could make for supper with the random ingredients I had on hand. Here’s what I came up with:

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Okay, totally random, but totally delicious! I cooked up some butternut squash and chili powder in the microwave. Added it to a skillet with Yves Mexican veggie ground beef, onions, green pepper and salsa. Then topped with a fried-egg. Kind of along the lines of a wonky Mexican hash.

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Um, yeah. It was good. Real good. Random ingredients make the best meals.

Speaking of which! I lovedlovedloved hearing about all of your favourite food pairings! Here is just a snippet, but I highly recommend going back to read them you want ideas:

  • Apples + Sardines (John)
  • Ham + Cheese (Cassie)
  • BBQ chicken+ Feta cheese (Lori)
  • Popcorn + Tabasco (simplyshaka)
  • Peanut butter + Pickles (Madeline)
  • Salmon + Dill (Hallie)
  • Squash + Hummus (Alyson)
  • Nut butter + Honey (Diana)
  • Haagan Daz coffee ice cream + Magic Shell (Angela)
  • French fries + Chocolate milkshake (Angharad)
  • Muffins + Milk (mashed together!) (ellie)
  • Chili + Cornbread (janetha)
  • Chicken + Red grapes (Diane)
  • Cashew butter + Spoon (Erin)

That’s just a fraction of them!! A lot of classics, and then some wonderful ideas for new things to try. Peanut butter and pickles at the top of that list I think. Maybe a pickle peanut butter? ;)

If you’re looking for something else to read, The New York Times recently featured an interesting article on the role (if any) exercise plays in weight loss, and the role it plays in maintenance. Basically, there is research out there that shows exercise is not necessary to lose weight, but helps a lot in weight maintenance. I actually agree with this, as I didn’t exercise a lot during the period where I lost most of my weight. However, I do think regular exercise has been the key to my maintenance. I love to eat, and it allows me to do that. Plain and simple.

Last but not least,  I must share this Bob Greene quote from an interview he did with Fit Bottomed Girls.

“The best advice I can give is to know the life you want, know that you deserve it, and go after it with a passion.” 

Amen Mr. Greene. Amen.

 

Question of the Day: What is the best advice you can give? Mine actually comes from a Lululemon bag: “Do one thing a day that scares you.” You’ll be surprised by what you’re capable of.

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