Visitors For Life Welcome in Vancouver

When death comes knocking at your door, set your intention for the future and then let go, let be, and live in the present!

Views of Vancouver from the Writer’s Home

And organize visits with friends and relatives! (Please click on schedule updated September 3, 2017.)

At least that’s a part of Maggie’s Way of answering the call.

I’ve been so blessed with long-time and new friends and relatives in Vancouver dropping by, arranging visits (while staying fantastically flexible), and offering to assist me on all sorts of levels.

The Writer Vegging on Her Couch with Her Mother

I am being offered emotional support in highly mutual ways, home-prepared staple dishes and other delicacies, car rides and housekeeping / laundry tasks, among other ways of being supported.

I am also hiring some housekeeping / laundry assistance, getting groceries delivered, ordering my essentials online as needs and wishes evolve, and receiving house calls from my health practitioners, including my Family Doctor, Counsellors, and my Death Midwife (“Thanadoula”—I am hoping to write more on that later), as I slowly learn of various resources available for various stages of evolution of my bodily abilities.

Next in the queue for meeting with to join Maggie’s Way Team are Home Care Nurses and Palliative Care Team (in case the services they provide are needed).

Daytime views of Vancouver from the Writer’s Home

I feel so incredibly fortunate in my apparent misfortune to have access to all these resources, and to be surrounded by all these individuals who genuinely want to spend time with me and assist me in my daily and planning tasks for whatever the future may bring. Wow!

I now also look forward to the following out-of-town visitors and visits. I plan to keep this list updated as visits get scheduled and new ideas come up, both for visits in Vancouver and for my travels away from Vancouver. I am hoping that this will assist others in offering and planning their visits.

Schedule of Planned Out-of-Town Visits (photos from visits below):

  • Updated September 3, 2017
  • TBD — to be determined (visit under discussion, but not yet booked)
  • Tips for proposing visits (below)

May 7, 2017 — Visiting in Vancouver with Friends, Bob & Kelly, from Galiano Island

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

May 23 – 26, 2017 — Visiting in Vancouver with Mother, Krystyna, & “Aunt / Cousin”, Mira, from Ontario

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

May 28 – 31, 2017 — Visiting in Vancouver with Sister, Dorothy, from Ontario

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

June 6 – 8, 2017 — Visiting in Vancouver with Cousin, Kasia, from Alberta

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

June 12 – 13, 2017 — Visiting in Vancouver with Uncle, Romek, and Aunt, Marta, from Ontario

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

June 13 – 17, 2017  — Visiting in Vancouver with Cousin, Janka, from Ontario

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

June 15 – 18, 2017  — Visiting in Vancouver with Cousin, Stan, from Ontario

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

June 21, 2017 — Visiting in Vancouver with Friend, Janet, from Mozambique

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

June 27 – July 2, 2017  — Visiting in Vancouver with Friend, Janette, from Ontario

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

June 30 – July 3, 2017  — Visiting in Vancouver with Friend, Usha, from Ontario

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

July 7-14, 2017 — “Hospital Resort Retreat” in Vancouver

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

July 14-16, 2017 — Visiting in Vancouver with Friend, Trevor, from Alberta

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

July 17-19, 2017  — Visiting on Galiano Island, BC, with Bert, Bob & Kelly

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

July 23-24, 2017 — Visiting in Vancouver with Friend, Jess, from Okanagan, BC

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

July 26 – August 5, 2017 — Visiting in Vancouver with Friend, Birgit, from Hamburg, Germany

  • I am open to multiple visitors during this time

August 6-16, 2017 — Maggie’s Alone Time and Limited Visiting with Local Friends & Relatives in Vancouver

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

August 17-21, 2017 — Visiting in Vernon, BC, with Friends, Christine & Trevor, from Alberta

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

August 22-25, 2017 — Maggie’s Alone Time and Limited Visiting with Local Friends & Relatives in Vancouver

  • please try not to book additional visits during this time

August – September 2017  — Visiting in Vancouver with Friend, Trev, from London, UK (TBD — 2nd visit after our visit in April 2017)

  • I am open to multiple visitors during this time

Next Visit

August 29 – indefinitely, 2017  — PCU (Palliative Care Unit) at VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) for comfort and preparation for my last day in this life—barring any miracle

  • I am open to multiple visitors during this time

October 25, 2017  — Visiting in Vancouver with Depeche Mode at Concert

  • I am open to multiple visitors during this time

Tips for Proposing Visits (NEW)

To help me schedule additional visits, please let me know by email or voicemail more of your thoughts about your proposed visit:

  • Considering the schedule of planned visits above, please suggest specific date(s) for my visit with you that work best for you.
    • Please try to space out visits to give me 3-4 days “alone” time between visits.
  • How do you envision our visit?
    • What would you like to do while you visit with me? (Vancouver Attractions)
    • Where would you like to stay (e.g., with me on a limited basis, at a hotel / Airbnb)?
  • What specifically would you like to assist me with while you visit with me?
    • It’s ok if you’re not sure what I might want or need.
    • Please indicate your interests (e.g., take me out for a meal, help me clean, accompany me on a nature outing, chat with me, read to me, hang with me doing our own thing, go for manicure together, join me for energy healing or Pilates, etc.).

For me, visiting at my place for low impact activities—or out somewhere that involves only 500-750 m of walking or a short drive / taxi ride away, once or a few times, depending on how long you plan to be in Vancouver and depending how I am feeling in the moment—would be great! My appetite and energy levels fluctuate moment to moment, so I very much appreciate all flexibility within our plans.

I prefer that my guests also have backup plan activities with which they can entertain themselves when I want a break. This takes my own pressure off me to entertain you during our visit. Please refer (Vancouver Attractions) for what to do in Vancouver.

I am very grateful for offers to visit with me in Vancouver or out of town. I very much appreciate your patience and understanding that it may take me a few days to respond to emails, voicemails, Facebook messages, Comments on my website, etc.—particularly during times when I have visitors.

Travel Logistics for Vancouver:

Some suggestions to think about for visiting me in Vancouver.

Accommodations:

While I am able to accommodate some visitors for some of their visit time on my fold-out double-futon in my livingroom, sometimes I prefer that my visitors stay at a hotel or at an Airbnb. Accommodations in Vancouver are pricey (>$250/night) and often sold out, especially in the summer. You may wish to book (cancelable) accommodation ASAP, and keep an eye out for better options closer to confirming travel plans and arrival date.

Suggestions for staying within a short walking distance from my apartment (between Pacific, Bute, Comox / Helmcken, and Granville (map)):

  • Ramada Downtown: Please ask for “Medical Rate” and mention my name (Maggie Wojtarowicz) when price shopping. I found the least expensive rate at this hotel through Expedia (~$170/night).
  • Howard Johnson Downtown: I found the least expensive rate at this hotel through their website (~$200/night).
  • Airbnb: I have an account, and am happy to book visitors via my account—or please consider signing up for your own account. Shared accommodations are in greater supply and less expensive than whole apartment accommodations. Please note that new Airbnb postings sometimes become available last minute, so keep your eye out for better options even after you’ve booked a (cancelable) hotel, if price or location is an issue.

Transportation to / from Airport and Getting Around the City Options:

By TransLink Public Transit (45 min):

Depending on the day of the week, the time of day, and the direction of travel, TransLink public transit (Skytrain + bus / taxi) single tickets to and from the Airport range in price:

  1. From the Airport to my apartment (get off at Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, take #6 bus to Burrard @ Davie, then cross Davie and walk 4 short blocks < 5 minutes south towards the bridge away from the community garden (map) OR take a taxi from the Skytrain Station for ~$10):
    • $7.75 on weekends and mid-week after 6:30pm
    • $9.00 mid-week before 6:30pm
  2. From my apartment to the Airport (in reverse from above to the terminus station at the Airport):
    • $5.50 on weekends and mid-week after 6:30pm
    • $6.75 mid-week before 6:30pm

By Taxi (20-45 min, depending on traffic):

Taking a taxi between the Airport and my apartment costs approx. $40.

By Rental Car:

Please Note: Car parking is in short supply and expensive in downtown Vancouver, but some visitors parking spaces are provided at my apartment on a first-come, first-served basis. Limited street parking has time restrictions. Public parkades are within walking distance. For getting around the city, we can use transit, taxi it, walk it (<500-700 m, while holding hands or with me using a walking stick for balance assistance), and if I’m up to driving, we can also go by one of the 3 car shares that I’m a member of (Modo, car2go, Evo).

Vancouver’s (Other) Attractions:

If you would like to make a little vacation out of your visit with me, please see my list of places to visit in the Vancouver area. Currently, my ability to join in most of these activities is limited, so you may enjoy them on my behalf!

More Vancouver-bound tips to come as needed and thought of.

Thank you to all my visitors, travel companions, travel hosts, in body and in spirit. Please email me if you would like to chat about possible visit plans together.

Visit Photos:

The Writer Enjoying a Meal with Cousins Marek & Debbie, “Aunt / Cousin” Mira, and Mother, Krystyna

The Writer Enjoying a Meal with “Aunt / Cousin”, Mira, Mother, Krystyna, and Friend, Karl

The Writer Celebrating Life with Some of Her Support Team

Rediscovering the Poetess Inside

"Wine is Bottled Poetry"

“Wine is Bottled Poetry”

My book writing, of recent, is augmented by poetry that keeps pouring out of or through me, inspired by images, sensations, and various approaches to life that I am exploring. I experiment with translations, usually from English to Polish or French, occasionally writing the original poem in Polish or French with subsequent translations into the other languages. I seek assistance from my relatives and friends—benefiting from the social interactions this allows—to make the translations sound more native. I am also inspired by other poetesses and poets, some still living and some long passed, to reply with a poem to theirs. I have, thus far, amassed 50 poems in my collection, half of which I have written this year, while the first one that began my collection dates back to pre-1992 (about 25 years).

In part to test the waters and partly in response to encouragement to honour my gift of writing, I begin sharing some of my work by submitting it to writing competitions. Earlier this year, I submit a creative nonfiction piece to a CBC Canada Writes contest—a story about communicating my approach to my breast cancer recurrence through a poem that was inspired by a Shakespearean soliloquy writing contest from the year before—and subsequently, I submit that poem as part of a 4-poem collection to another CBC Canada Writes contest. While awaiting those results (which can take up to 6 months), I enter 6 more poems to literary magazine writing contest by the Room Magazine and 1 poem to the Walrus Magazine writing contest, where voting for Reader’s Choice Award will begin on September 1 for shortlisted entries (fingers crossed).

While all written works submitted to contests must be original and not previously published anywhere (including on personal blogs), the Writer’s Relief resource advises that sharing one’s work with a few close friends and family members in a password-protected section of one’s website—for the purposes of testing the waters and receiving some feedback prior to wider publication—is permissible as “not previously published”. Hence, I create such password-protected sections on my website—one for a poetry selection and one for a nonfiction selection—to provide a flavour of my work, and I invite those interested in perusing it to share with me how my writing is resonating with them.

The Writer Composing Her Works at Bowen Island Yoga Retreat

The Writer Composing Her Works at Bowen Island Yoga Retreat

To assist me with slowing down and practicing more *being* and less *doing*, I take myself to Bowen Island on a yoga retreat organised by an amazing yoga instructor and founder of Ocean Breath Yoga. Serendipity that brought us back in touch for last year’s yoga retreat connects me this year with another poetess and encourages us to exchange our poetic expressions. She shares with me her freshly printed photo and poetry coffee table book prototype, and I spur her on to enter her poetry in the CBC Canada Writes contest. Various exchanges and self-reflections over the weekend also inspire me to read some of my poetry after dinner to a generously captive audience of fellow yogis. Though appreciation of poetry naturally varies among individuals, my initiative turns into an invitation for others to also share their writing projects, and the entertainment that our collective readings provide is more universally appreciated.

The Writer Crossing the Oceans to Write and Yoga

The Writer Crossing the Oceans to Write and Yoga

I continue to indoctrinate myself in the world of writers and poets by attending various events frequented by these types, their readers, and their publishers. Together with another writer friend, we encourage each other’s efforts to connect with others of our kind by attending monthly prose and poetry readings offered by Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) The Writing Studio (TWS) program at a local artsy restaurant, the Cottage Bistro. Another new monthly event I try out is the Kitsilano Poetry Group, which is a combination of poetry instruction, readings and critiquing, and I participate by sharing and receiving feedback to my short poem entitled, “Pillow Talk”, that I dedicate to a poetry-connoisseur friend who is barely holding onto life in the hospital when I visit earlier that day.

Earlier in the Spring, I have the pleasure of attending a writer friend’s book launch, where she reads an excerpt from her chapter in an anthology entitled ”This Place A Stranger”—a book about women of all ages travelling the world on their own. This indoctrination introduces me to several resources in the publishing world, including a call for story and poetry submissions for an upcoming anthology entitled “Boobs: Explorations of Women’s Relationships to Their Bodies”, and a connection with a publisher who expresses an interest in possibly assisting me to shape my book’s manuscript—an opportunity which I am following up on with some more of my writing samples.

The Writer Enjoying Warm Summer Patio with Friends

The Writer Enjoying Warm Summer Patio with Friends

The Writer Connecting with Literary Friends

The Writer Connecting with Literary Friends

Taking advantage of some highly unusual warm summer weather in Vancouver, I join some friends for a patio seafood feast at Bridges Restaurant on Granville Island, sharing and receiving feedback to some poetry I am submitting to a writing contest. I connect with another poetess—one who has published her poems in the “Breaking the Surface” anthology—and a couple of other prolific reader friends at the ACME Café in Gastown for a tasty—iron and protein rich—Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich brunch.

My travels thus far this year take me nearer to home to a tranquil sanctuary on Pender Island—thanks to the generous invitations from a good friend—as well as inward, inside myself, to practice more *being* and less *doing*, both paths inspiring several poems out of me in the process.

In March, a lovely lake-side walk through a forest at Roe Lake on Pender Island inspires the poem “Blanketed in Love”.

A Sun-Kissed Pender Island Cemetery Stroll

A Sun-Kissed Pender Island Cemetery Stroll

In April, a series of serene promenades through nature and among human creations—including tranquil a sun-kissed stroll through the Pender Island cemetery, a still chilly walk on a calm rocky beach, and familiar-looking tall, erect, winged statue nearby—evoke the poem “Standing Tall with My Soulmate”.

The Writer Absorbing Serene Calmness of Pender Island's Coastline

The Writer Absorbing Serene Calmness of Pender Island’s Coastline

Winged Statue Inspiration for “Standing Tall with My Soulmate” Poem

Winged Statue Inspiration for “Standing Tall with My Soulmate” Poem

Delicious Outdoor Meal at Pender Island's Sanctuary

Delicious Outdoor Meal at Pender Island’s Sanctuary

The month of May brings more sunshine to this part of the world, allowing for deliciously fresh outdoor meals and gorgeous sunsets while travelling to and from Pender Island on the requisite Pacific Gulf cruise, which together with thoughts of good friends and an image from Granville Island’s Dragon Space entreat me to compose the poem “Revived”.

Sunset on Pacific Gulf Cruise

Sunset on Pacific Gulf Cruise

Dragon Space Fairies Inspire “Revived” Poem

Dragon Space Fairies Inspire “Revived” Poem

The Writer in Her Natural Environment

The Writer in Her Natural Environment

And over the Canada Day (July 1st) long weekend, during another sojourn on Pender Island, relaxing beaches, exotic hors d’oeuvres, romantic moonlit sunsets, and nature abound, give rise to the poem “Entangled”.

Exotic Hors d'Oeuvres Whet the Culinary and Poetic Palate

Exotic Hors d’Oeuvres Whet the Culinary and Poetic Palate

Moonlit Sunset Ignites Poetic Imagination

Moonlit Sunset Ignites Poetic Imagination

Intertwined Rosebush Reflects Inspiration for “Entangled” Poem

Intertwined Rosebush Reflects Inspiration for “Entangled” Poem

These days, I am guided by some pretty simple yet profound approaches to life that keep me feeling content:

I live because I can.
I write because I must.
I share to honour my gift.

Portrait of a Writer

Newest Rose Thorns Turn One and Six

Having celebrated well over a month of birthday events from February into April, I make a concerted effort for month of April to prioritise sleep (or at the very least, restful relaxation), with some success of reducing my goals and the intensity with which I tend to live my life. But as life-long habits that make one feel alive are challenging to change, my Thorny Roses anniversaries celebrations continue—this year many of them are marked with a newly composed poem or with some form of sharing my poetry with others.

Reminiscing and Celebrating Past Loves

Reminiscing and Celebrating Past Loves

This April marks my second year of enjoying single life again, and I celebrate it reminiscing about past loves, reading a top-secret message from an old love, and writing a poem inspired by a new one, entitled “Our Quieting”.

In May, I celebrate 13 years of enjoying my high-perched abode in the West End of Vancouver, with its spectacular views and location. It is a home with by far the deepest roots that I have ever set.

Sunset Views from High-Perched Vancouver Abode

Sunset Views from High-Perched Vancouver Abode

In June, on the heels of having my contributions to the creation of BCIT’s Sustainable Energy Management Advanced Certificate (SEMAC) program recognised at the 5-year reunion of its first graduates, I celebrate the 1-year anniversary of completing my last contract in a series that spanned my 3-year tenure at Natural Resources Canada.

Garden Fairy Inspiration for "Releasing" Poem

Garden Fairy Inspiration for “Releasing” Poem

June also marks the 1st year since my last breast cancer surgery. This was the 5th surgery related to my breast cancer, and I celebrate it with a life-affirming visit to a gardening store, where a garden fairy statue inspires a breast cancer-related poem out of me, entitled “Releasing”.

A month later, in July, I celebrate the 6th anniversary of my 1st breast cancer surgery—the one to which the 5-year cancer survival statistics would apply had I not been diagnosed with my recurrence few months shy of 5 years. For this occasion, I share my myelin sheath-healing bone broth Tomato, Basil, Kidney Bean and Chicken Livers Soup with a lovely dinner companion, and we spend the evening contemplating the 6-poem submissions that I make to the literary magazine poetry contest by Room Magazine. Also for this occasion, I treat myself to a unique and enjoyable healing touch experience of professional cuddling from The Cuddlery, which also inspires a poem—this one entitled “Strangers Embracing”.

Looking forward a little, in August, I look forward to celebrating 31 years of living in Canada and 18 years of living in Vancouver—both quite remarkable places to live out parts of one’s life.

The Writer Tour Guiding en francais on Bowen Island

The Writer Tour Guiding en francais on Bowen Island

Meanwhile, my recent tentative plans (or perhaps more accurately, dreams) of living in France for a year are presently and indefinitely on the back burner while I enjoy the life I have weaved for myself right where I currently am: in Vancouver, Canada.

My efforts for learning the French language, however, continue, although admittedly in less earnest—another goal I decided to deprioritise—in the form of occasional practice through the online Conversation Exchange portal, translation of some of my poetry into French, and playing tour guide to some Parisian couchsurfers by showing them around Yaletown in Vancouver and on a hike to Bowen Island.

"Meals on Wheels / on Bikes" Bone Broth Soup Creation

“Meals on Wheels / on Bikes” Bone Broth Soup Creation

I continue various healing modalities at the holistic wellness organisation, Friends For Life, including naturopathic, physiotherapy, counselling, massage, member brunches and other support opportunities. I turn my love of cooking, my recent re-discovery of bone broth soups, and my exercise-motivating need for cycling destinations into a healing touch for others when I play Meals on Wheels (or rather, Meals on Bikes to deliver my large (1L) peanut butter containers filled with healthful bone broth soups to some new friends who have received worse health news than me. When the opportunity arises to go for an afternoon sea kayaking paddle on Bowen Island, I gladly join a small group of my new friends, give my left electric arm a fun stretch workout, and contribute my skills of steering a double on a lovely and healing adventure.

The Writer on the Way to Bowen Island Sea Kayaking

The Writer on the Way to Bowen Island Sea Kayaking

In the 10th month of my painful neuropathy symptoms, which I affectionately refer to as my left electric arm, my neurological test results are confirmed by my MRI results that, so far, there is no permanent nerve or muscle damage along the arm, nothing is pressing on the nerves in my shoulder, and oncologically, no new cancer (or “tumour infiltration”) is evident in my shoulder and spine area—i.e., the site of radiation treatment from last year. The MRI does, though, show possible scar tissue in the top corner of my lung likely related to the radiation, “…however a metastatic deposit from…breast malignancy cannot be excluded”.

So, it is good news for the left arm, and neither my oncologist nor I are too concerned that the lung result is cancerous, but the possibility is there and naturally, it is a little stressful—but I know that stress will certainly not help the situation, and my option for monitoring the spot on the lung is to receive more radiation in the form of CT scans—so I am working on letting it go.

The Writer, Ever Pensive and Hopeful

The Writer, Ever Pensive and Hopeful

However, I am no closer to a resolution of this neuropathy problem, and my previous tricks from five years ago of increasing aerobic exercises for resolving my neuropathy following my chemotherapy treatments are not working this time.

Other than “give it time” (at nearly a year of the electric arm pain) and educated conjecture about possible damage to the myelin sheath around my nerves, my oncologist does not have anything else to advise, so on my way home from my oncologist, I stop by InspireHealth to get advice from the nutritionist for supporting neuropathy recovery with nutrition and supplements. I receive some good suggestions about sources of the building blocks for that (primarily proteins and fats), with specific ideas for enhancing my bone broth soups and for increasing my lecithin intake along with my doses of vitamin C and B Complex to help with collagen production (i.e., the tissue recovery substance).

I also plan to continue with semi-regular floating and neurospa (syncing sound and massage vibrations) sessions, energy healings and gentle massages, as those have been helpful at least in the moment and possibly extending into some decreases in electric pain sensations throughout the day since I have been doing these in the last several weeks.

As I try to get back to capturing my story in a book, my efforts are challenged this week by the uncertainty of being inadvertently exposed to the chickenpox virus during my MRI appointment. Since I cannot be sure whether I have had chickenpox as a child, which would make me immune to it, and thus not a carrier of the contagious virus, my main concern is for the friends in my support circle whose immune systems are more compromised than my own. I have one more week during which the virus may activate itself—just around the same time I am told I can expect to receive my chickenpox anti-bodies blood test results.

Blue Heron in Self-Imposed Exile on Man-Made Island, Pondering

Blue Heron in Self-Imposed Exile on Man-Made Island, Pondering

So, I go about my days, continuing my health recovery, feeling a little like a ticking time-bomb, learning what I can, and taking as many precautions as possible without completely quarantining myself, feeling grateful for my immune system once again, and reminding myself where true healing comes from—writing about it in verse and prose.

“The body heals with play, the mind heals with laughter and the spirit heals with joy.” Proverb

Special Dish for the Week: Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom

Possibly two years since I last make this deliciously refreshing summer treat during my Book Writing Tour 2013, I prepare it again for this week’s Special Dish for the Week to enjoy with my host and fellow guests on Pender Island:

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom

During my recent visit on Pender Island, I decide to surprise my friends with this refreshingly sweet and spicy mid-afternoon cocktail. It is indeed a thrill for everyone on a hot sunny day on the patio.

Rather than serving it in a bowl as a soup, I use large wine glasses to layer cubed watermelon and diced avocado onto the bottom, filling the glass with the spiced watermelon and tomato purée, and top it off with some freshly chopped cilantro. We enjoy these cocktails with a teaspoon in hand, while sharing ideas and secret ingredients for making this nutritious snack such a hit. The blooms from a nearby bushy tree adorn the table for an added touch.

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom Ingredients

Watermelon Gazpacho with Lemongrass and Cardamom Ingredients

The ingredients of this gazpacho include:

  • 1 small watermelon, puréed using my handheld smoothie blender
  • 2 medium tomatoes, likewise puréed into the watermelon

Mixed into the purée are:

  • 1 clove garlic, chopped using my small electric chopper
  • 1 in. ginger, chopped with the garlic
  • 1 large shallot, chopped with the garlic and ginger
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
  • red Thai chili pepper, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemongrass extract, prepared in advance
  • cardamom seeds from several pods
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seed powder
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish
  • 1/4 small watermelon, cubed for garnish
  • 1 avocado (1/4 per glass), diced for garnish

Served chilled, after allowing the flavours to infuse, it is most refreshing on a warm summer day. I have still to figure out what liquor would make this soup into a spiked summer cocktail best…

Meal ideas & recipes from Maria Elia’s “The Modern Vegetarian” book from a good friend.

Rosy Celebrations of Birthday Occasion

Live because you can!

Celebrate every opportunity!

Make extraordinary out of the mundane!

That is how I like to live my life. Though I am not presently actively working on capturing my story in a book, I continue to write—submitting some pieces to prize-enticing writing competitions. I continue to generate content for current and future writing—healing myself from my breast cancer, dystonia, and other deficiencies in self-love.

I continue to “live life alive” by celebrating another birthday month.

For my forty-second year, with the participation of loved ones, nearby and from afar, I assemble another diverse compilation of life-affirming celebrations, that span mid-February to April.

The Writer and Waterloo Friend Launch Birthday Month

The Writer and Waterloo Friend Launch Birthday Month

A good long-time friend from Waterloo school and Ottawa work-term days launches the birthday month festivities with a visit from Virginia, showering me with feng shui insights, enthusiasm for the outdoorsy Vancouver lifestyle of inspiring walks and gentle bike rides, and loads of fresh, nutritious and delicious Daikichi sushi and homemade Thai Eggplant Curry.

The Writer and Waterloo Friend Celebrate Launch of Birthday Month with Sushi

The Writer and Waterloo Friend Celebrate Launch of Birthday Month with Sushi

Birthday Month Flower

Birthday Month Flower

Friends and family from around the world grace me with their presence-in-spirit through a multitude of well-wishing cards, phone calls, and Facebook messages, while neighbours and in-town acquaintances envelop me in hugs, kisses, chocolate and flowers.

Birthday Post TLC

Birthday Post TLC

The Writer's Red Streaked Undercut - Front View

The Writer’s Red Streaked Undercut – Front View

Always one wont to help others achieve their goals and dreams, I benefit from the skill and artistic delights of a friend studying hairstyling—and we unleash her on my already short do, creating a funky avant-garde undercut with a streak of colour red. I love it, she’s proud, we have fun and get a good grade!

The Writer's Red Streaked Undercut - Back View

The Writer’s Red Streaked Undercut – Back View

Sunny Beach Walk on Tranquil Pender Island

Sunny Beach Walk on Tranquil Pender Island

For my birthday week, I retreat to a friend’s tranquil sanctuary on Pender Island that offers lakeside meanderings, sunny and moonlit beach walks, relaxing heat of cedar sauna and hot tub, and invigorating exchanges of poetry readings and compilations. Naturally, delicious food abound, we enjoy my Special Dish for the Week: Creamy Carrot Soup, whip up Mediterranean feasts, and splurge on my birthday eve dinner out.

Sunset/Moonlit Beach Walk on Tranquil Pender Island

Sunset/Moonlit Beach Walk on Tranquil Pender Island

Pender Island's Roe Lake Inspired Poetic Compilation

Pender Island’s Roe Lake Inspired Poetic Compilation

The Writer on Sunset Pacific Gulf Cruise

The Writer on Sunset Pacific Gulf Cruise

While on Pender Island, I am inspired during a leisurely walk around Roe Lake to compose a poem, entitled “Blanketed In Love”.

For my actual birthday, I take a Pacific Gulf cruise with my charming Pender Island companion back to Vancouver, where we indulge in some South East Asian delights at U & I Thai—which I love, not only for its adorable name.

Thai Birthday Dinner

Thai Birthday Dinner

Engineering Themed Birthday Dinner

Engineering Themed Birthday Dinner

The birthday month dining extravaganza continues with a fabulous and rich dinner at the now upscale Homer Street Café—a treat by my decade-long engineering friends and DAWEGing colleagues. I get my fill of peanut butter cookies as dessert to my scallop main dish, although they still don’t quench my craving for peanut butter.

Peanut Butter Cookie Birthday Treat

Peanut Butter Cookie Birthday Treat

More of my engineering world gets in on the birthday festivities when my engineering association invites me to a luncheon to award me with a Fellowship in Engineers Canada, the national engineering body, for my long-time “noteworthy” contributions to the engineering profession in Canada.

The Writer Awarded Fellowship in Engineers Canada During Birthday Month

The Writer Awarded Fellowship in Engineers Canada During Birthday Month

Oyster Surprise Birthday Dinner with Good Friends and Mentors of Various Sorts

Oyster Surprise Birthday Dinner with Good Friends and Mentors of Various Sorts

I share another Special Dish for the Week: Mushroom Risotto & Citrus Winter Greens Dinner with my good friends and mentors, chez Maggie, where I am lavished with their TLC of good wine, home baked cookies, apple crumble, birthday cake, and birthday wishes that include “May the dreams you hold dearest be those which come true”. I feel most definitely blessed as I blow out my birthday candle.

Naturally, my birthday month celebrations include more sushi cheer of sashimi, my favourite roll: salmon avocado, along with spicy tuna and gomae (spinach) salad, to which I am treated by my sushi buddy neighbour.

Birthday Dinner with Sushi Buddy Neighbour

Birthday Dinner with Sushi Buddy Neighbour

The Writer Boarding the Birthday Dinner Train

The Writer Boarding the Birthday Dinner Train

Another friend, knowing my love of train travel, organises for us a dinner train trip to the historic Billy Miner Pub in Maple Ridge by the West Coast Express, Vancouver’s regional commuter train. For our 45-minute journey, I make sure I pack a snack of the Special Dish for the Week: Savoury Fig Cake.

The Writer and Accomplice on Birthday Dinner Train Trip

The Writer and Accomplice on Birthday Dinner Train Trip

Pub Pitstop During Birthday Dinner Train Trip

Pub Pitstop During Birthday Dinner Train Trip

Still increasing my physical, mental and spiritual endurance with nearly daily bike rides, daily morning 1-minute pilates plank routines, weekly yoga and pilates classes at the local YMCA, energy healings at Friends For Life—the latest holistic wellness organisation I recently joined, where a special “nearer death” certificate constitutes the membership fee—I also ensure I incorporate an evening of dancing into my birthday month and attend the tantalising La Fête Corsete. Dancing to music that moves one’s body and soul proves to be a cure for many an undesirable condition, including dystonia, in me and in others, releasing us from the grips of painful spasmings and from the curious, cruelly judging eyes of uniformed onlookers, for a moment or two.

During my birthday month I even make my TV debut (at minute 9:10) of this Friends For Life fundraiser promotional segment on Breakfast Television by CityTV, not surprisingly involving food: Dining Out For Life.

Birthday Month TV Debut for Fundraiser

Birthday Month TV Debut for Fundraiser

Five weeks into the celebrations, a packet attentive to my celebratory needs arrives from Germany, containing cautionary words of wisdom: “Save Water – Drink Wine” along with vintage paper straws for those classy ones donning lipstick while dipping their nectar of the gods.

Birthday Month Celebratory Packet from Germany

Birthday Month Celebratory Packet from Germany

The Writer's Cook Street Village Workspace

The Writer’s Cook Street Village Workspace

A weekend getaway to Victoria, for collaborative sessions with my book editor and an energy healer whom I serendipitously met last fall, rounds out my birthday month celebrations. Naturally, eating while writing at a local café in Cook Street Village and celebratory dinner treat with my editor at Il Terrazzo are involved—as is the customary photo op shot with the BC Parliament buildings in the background, all lit up by night.

The Writer Celebrating Birthday Month with Her Editor at Il Terrazzo

The Writer Celebrating Birthday Month with Her Editor at Il Terrazzo

The Writer in Victoria by Night

The Writer in Victoria by Night

The Writer in Plush Blanket with Plush Pillow, Donning Plush Slippers

The Writer in Plush Blanket with Plush Pillow, Donning Plush Slippers

With month-long celebrations like these—and with generally finding it a challenge to do less—my birthday gift to myself shall be to prioritise sleep (or at the very least, restful relaxation) as my #3 priority for the month of April (contentment and looowww streeesss remaining in the lead). The tender loving plush (black) blanket and pillow, which are delivered last fall by my Wish Fairy Cousin, will contribute enticement towards this self-gift of month-long rest and sleep.

The Writer Loving and Loved by Her Plush Pillow

The Writer Loving and Loved by Her Plush Pillow

Homemade Apple Sauce and Dark Chocolate Treats

Homemade Apple Sauce and Dark Chocolate Treats

Remaining also from last fall’s showering of treats, just in time for Easter’s chocolate savouring traditions, is one bar of dark chocolate from good friends who joined me for a Special Dish for the Week: Peanut Sauce Stir Fry Dinner. Their delicious homegrown / homemade apple sauce is now but a distant memory—as is my Wish Fairy Cousin’s dark chocolate almond spread.

Feeling grateful for all the love that I receive, from others and increasingly more from myself. Though part of my health healing journey, it seems to me that we can all learn to give ourselves more love—and to receive it, too!

Dark Chocolate Almond Spread Treat

Dark Chocolate Almond Spread Treat

 

Rose Thorns in Waiting and Celebrating

Thursday Night Sushi on the Beach Ritual

Thursday Night Sushi on the Beach Ritual

June’s “Maggie’s Week in Pursuit of Boredom” is a success, particularly when I think of it as a “week of pursuing what brings me peace”. Not surprisingly, I never do achieve boredom, but I do stick to the #1 item on my daily “just being list” and give myself a lot of permission to do what I feel like doing that day. Other than the few appointments related to my tooth crowning and breast cancer management, for me “just being” during this week primarily revolves around reading (a most fascinating and empowering book, called “The Biology of Belief”, and to offset the technical parlance but nonetheless still be enlightened, “The Princess and the Goblin”), writing emails (almost as frequently as reading), and meditating (a whole of five times in one week) on par with visiting with friends and family (in person and virtually), followed by general writing and buying food. Out of interest, I keep track of the number and variety of activities that I spend my time on—a most insightful exercise—and find myself engaging in about 20 different types of activities, a total of 75 times. The one more rare for me activity that I manage to enjoy—and on the first day of the week, no less—is to see the “Maleficent” movie at the theatre. I also begin a new Thursday night relaxation ritual of Inspire Health online-lead meditation followed by take-out sushi (in my own container and with my own chopsticks) enjoyed at the beach. At the end of the week, I find it refreshing to be ok with not getting everything—even from the enjoyable list—done, and to be ok with what is. I realise that a lifetime of developing and practicing stressful habits will not be undone in one week!

The Writer Donning Protective Yet Stylish Radiation Treatment Garments: RT Scarf, RT Dress, RT Desigual Dress

The Writer Donning Protective Yet Stylish Radiation Treatment Garments: RT Scarf, RT Dress, RT Desigual Dress

Generally, since the surgery, with my reduced expectations for my energy levels and with the assistance of the few post-operative osteopathic sessions, I am feeling well. My nausea is mostly gone, helped by my healthy appetite and light Pilates and cycling exercises. The waiting around for the elusive scheduling of the radiation treatments makes me a bit antsy, although in time I learn to appreciate the time I have without these daily trips over the bridge and up the hill to the BC Cancer Agency. For the time-being, they are weekly, to various measuring, fitting, planning and tweaking appointments. I am grateful that I am afforded such care, with 3-D CAD (computer aided design) models of my body and the radiation beams, and that I am given—and naturally, take—the opportunities to give my input to these designs. I very much feel like an engineering project! I take the extra time to conduct various preparations for nutrition (including fermented foods), skin care products (containing just few pronounceable ingredients), and protective yet stylish garments. I also develop a new sleep-more-and-earlier strategy, which involves a spreadsheet log (until my new habits set in), and I find a new and familiar from my childhood spot for daytime napping: under a tree, in my own apartment no less!

The Writer Napping Under Her Ficus Tree, and Her View from Below

The Writer Napping Under Her Ficus Tree, and Her View from Below

Shortly after my surgical time of need, a number of my caring assistants and moral supporters experience their own accidental physical calamities. I desperately want to be there for them, to return the help that they offered me, and which, by wanting to maintain my independence, I struggled to accept in the first place. Some don’t need me because they have others in their lives to meet their needs, and others would not let me, thinking me too fragile so shortly after my surgery. My frustration at not being able to help gives me an opportunity to realise that it is easier for me to receive assistance from others when I know that, even if I cannot pay it back, I can always pay it forward to someone else who needs or wants my assistance.

The Writer with Visiting Friend at VanDusen Garden

The Writer with Visiting Friend at VanDusen Garden

And this realisation further helps me to be grateful, if not always entirely gracious, in receiving continued well-wishes and gifts (including some knick-knacks, which I have no affinity for and am, thus, least gracious about). I happily connect with friends and family over email, phone, Skype, and in-person during visits with out of town friends, spending some afternoons at the VanDusen Garden and on the sunny outdoor patio at the Vancouver Art Gallery Café.

The Writer with Friends at the Vancouver Art Gallery Cafe Patio

The Writer with Friends at the Vancouver Art Gallery Cafe Patio

I also spend a lovely weekend perched up at a cabin on Pender Island with my relatives, being treated to some delicious meals and spectacular views of nature.

The Writer Perched Up on Pender Island

The Writer Perched Up on Pender Island

Basil Plant, Glass Art, and Personally Made Recipe Book Gifts

Basil Plant, Glass Art, and Personally Made Recipe Book Gifts

In the mail, I receive more loving cards; a delicious-sounding personally made recipe book (to be tried, with the results documented in the Special Dish for the Week thread); a dozen home-baked dark chocolate, walnut, banana bread muffins; another Desigual dress, most fitting as a summer radiation dress (as it covers the sun-sensitive areas); a nearly complete collection of Julia Cameron books to augment my “Artist’s Way” book; a cheque with financial support offering; and a birthday card extending the celebrations to six months of birthday! I am also personally hand-delivered some tasty and nutritious treats, including saskatoon berry pies (saskatoon berries being even higher in antioxidants than blueberries); a jar of homemade raspberry jam; and a live basil plant, carefully planted in a bamboo pot.

A friend paints me a picture to complement an affirmation:

“Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.” (Walt Whitman)

Another friend risks my still sensitive reaction by dedicating her affirmation “To Maggie, My always in motion friend”:

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” (Albert Einstein)

Gifts of Painted and Quoted Affirmations, Books, Home-Baking and Homemade Jam, Cards, and Stylish Dress

Gifts of Painted and Quoted Affirmations, Books, Home-Baking and Homemade Jam, Cards, and Stylish Dress

I am very moved that a friend is inspired by the “bird trusting in her own wings” affirmation that I shared, and makes it into a ceramic tile for hanging on the wall. Knowing that I am not one for knick-knacks, she shows it to me during a visit, declaring that it is destined to another loved one. With tear on the verge of spilling from my eye, I ask her if I may have it instead, so that I may hang it on my wall and be reminded daily of its message to “believe in myself”, and to be reminded of the inspiration that I brought to my friend—a friend whom I encouraged in her decision to take up pottery once again, which she enjoys creating so much.

Ceramic Version of Trust Your Own Wings – Believe in Yourself, and Its Display Location in the Writer's Kitchen

Ceramic Version of Trust Your Own Wings – Believe in Yourself, and Its Display Location in the Writer’s Kitchen

The Writer and Her Breast Cancer Mentor Celebrating 5 Year Post-Surgery Anniversary

The Writer and Her Breast Cancer Mentor Celebrating 5 Year Post-Surgery Anniversary

Last week, July 14th marked my 5 year anniversary of my (first) breast cancer surgery. In the cancer world, this means something. According to the breast cancer medical establishment, and held onto by some with the breast cancer diagnosis, 5 years of “survival” typically indicates that the risks of dying from this condition are lower from that point onward; that you are no longer of much statistical interest to be followed, and you can say goodbye to your Cancer Agency doctors and regular check-up visits for good. Other statistics are slightly less optimistic, indicating that individuals diagnosed with breast cancers labelled as hormone receptor positive can have recurrences sometime after the 5 year mark. For me, with a second diagnosis in the six months before the 5 year mark, the occasion is a bit anti-climactic, though nonetheless thoroughly enjoyable and worth celebrating—because I am still alive, and life these days is better for me. To celebrate, my breast cancer mentor and long-time friend invites me to join her “cancer survivors” team’s “Boat to Nowhere” Saturday morning dragonboat paddle, and on the actual anniversary date, she joins me for an organically, locally and seasonally sourced dinner at the Exile Bistro in my West End neighbourhood.

This weekend, I consider my answer to the question that I am asked at a social event not particularly conducive for the potentially heavy news of my breast cancer: do I have any plans for the summer? I reflect on whether to focus in my reply on “treatments and recovery from illness”, or on “taking it easy and celebrating life”. I think the next time I am asked this question, I shall focus on the latter, and in the meantime, I have decided to make each day of the next 6 weeks a celebration of something that makes that day special.

Today, I celebrate the Eve of Radiotherapy Start Day, with tomorrow (Monday) marking the beginning of the six-week-long daily slow bike rides to my radiation sessions. Later in the week, I plan to celebrate a Call with a Waterloo Friend Day, and a Visit with an Injured Friend Day, followed by a Farmers Market Day and a Pilates Class Day. In August, I celebrate my 30 years in Canada on the 10th and my 17 years in Vancouver on the 26th. I welcome ideas and participants for “Maggie’s 40 Days of Celebrating Life”.

The Healing of Rose Cuttings

The Writer in Her Natural Environment at Beacon Hill Park

The Writer in Her Natural Environment at Beacon Hill Park

Since my surgery 2 weeks ago, I am feeling much better—now that some of the sticky layers of the wound dressing have come off, and now that my nausea has passed. I am up and around since day 1, getting some light exercise through walking and looking after myself—as well as through returning all kinds of caring hugs that I have been receiving (in person and virtually)! During this time, I treat my back to a massage to make up for no Pilates exercises for a couple of weeks, and I do some osteopathic treatments to help increase the range of motion in my left shoulder and to reduce the pain in my upper left chest area that occurs every time I move my left arm and when I lay down to sleep. Skin, fascia and muscle have been cut, after all. Generally, though, I feel even more tired these days, if that is even possible. I am most happy to get back on my bike for some slow and gentle riding, as the 5 days of walking everywhere was wearing me out!

In preparation for dealing with my broken tooth, I also pile onto my plate a bunch of research and decisions. Having been rewarded with a crown, I knew that its installation would inevitably disturb, and release into my body, some mercury vapours and dust from my old amalgam filling in that tooth. And having lived most-probably with the neurological consequences of systemic heavy metal exposure throughout my life, I decide to take heavy metal chelating precautions to prevent further exacerbation. One could very well do a PhD thesis on the subject, of which I only scratch the surface once more, but my cursory research and discussions with naturopathic doctors lead me to conclude that food-based chelating will likely be my best option at this time. Stocking up on garlic, cilantro and chlorella (green algae), I load onto my iTouch some more of my favourite tunes, pop a muscle relaxant to help me keep my jaw open, and head over on my bike for the 2-hour round 1 of the tooth crowning. It even proves to be a relatively relaxing experience!

I have been feeling quite fortunate and supported by my family, friends and colleagues nearby and from a distance since I decided to share my most recent health challenges more widely.

Visiting Family Join the Writer for Eggplant, Tomato and Cashew Curry

Visiting Family Join the Writer for Eggplant, Tomato and Cashew Curry

The Writer with Her Visiting Aunt in Victoria

The Writer with Her Visiting Aunt in Victoria

The Writer with Her Visiting Family in Lynn Canyon Park

The Writer with Her Visiting Family in Lynn Canyon Park

I have the good fortune of sharing my Special Dish for the Week of Eggplant, Tomato and Cashew Curry with my relatives from Poland, who visited Vancouver for a week just days after my surgery. Given all that is going on with me cancer, surgery, tooth and energy-wise, I am still able to play mostly virtual tour guide for their adventures, joining them towards the end of their visit for some light site-seeing on a day-trip to Victoria. I am also glad for the chance to accompany them on a nature walk in Lynn Canyon Park. The walk over the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge makes me feel that I am definitely still holding on to life’s rope of steel.

The Writer Holding On to Life's Rope of Steel

The Writer Holding On to Life’s Rope of Steel

Quinoa Salad and Chocolate Bunny Gifts

Quinoa Salad and Chocolate Bunny Gifts

My other supports over the past few weeks have come in a multitude of forms, shapes and sizes. Along with good thoughts, prayers and well-wishes, I receive a number of lovely and life-supporting affirmations—posted on my website and shared with me by phone, email and snail-mail. I also receive a number of financial and culinary treats—including several lovingly prepared servings of tasty veggie lasagne, healthful quinoa salad, juicy local strawberries, and a chocolate bunny.

Roses, Strawberries and Chocolate Gifts

Roses, Strawberries and Chocolate Gifts

I am showered with friendly accompaniments to my pre-surgical La Brasserie dinner ritual, and to my post-surgical walks through Vancouver’s West End to the bank to make my deposits and via my secret garden to the downtown farmers market to help me carry my groceries home. A good friend wakes super early to accompany me by bike to my 8:30 am surgery, and later picks me up from surgery by car. Another brings me a bouquet of red roses and more organic fair trade chocolate. My supportive Developmental Editor conscientiously picks up for me a used copy of the “Finding Your Own North Star” book for my upcoming journey. One could get used to all the loving and caring attention!

A Guide Book Gift

A Guide Book Gift

I think what helps keep me going the most at this moment—energy-wise and low-stress-wise, too—is the knowledge that I have initiated a break for myself: while I undergo these harsher treatments of surgery and soon-to-start radiation; to make time for the multitude of immune system supporting and strengthening strategies; and in order to make space in my life for some revelation of how to better channel my life force so that it doesn’t continue expressing through my overzealous cancerous cells.

In the short-term, too, what gives me some reprieve is an upcoming event—inspired by an insightful conversation with my Developmental Editor a few weeks ago about child-birthing—that I created for myself, which I call “Maggie’s Week in Pursuit of Boredom”. The basic idea is to limit the amount and variety of activities one does for a specified period of time in order to have the time and the space to better connect with one’s baby—or with oneself. I would like to use this time to continue discovering “what brings me peace”.

This week is just a trial run, though, because how can one really attempt to get bored when something is already booked-in for 5 out of the 7 days! Some of these are my last chance to take advantage of extended health coverage—to fix my broken tooth and to stretch my surgically disrupted fascia and muscle—before it expires when my employment ends at the end of the month.

Putting on the brakes on one’s activity level is rather hard and labourious work! I have been strategising—as much as I actually had time to strategise and prepare for this “Week in Pursuit of Boredom”—for how to actually pull it off, knowing myself well enough to know that if I don’t give myself some boundaries, rules and ideas for things to do, the event will be a failure. I will either revert quickly to my ever-present and ever-growing to-do list, or it will be an unsatisfying experience. I want to set this up as a win-win goal, where I cannot fail, because if I get bored at some point during the week, then I will have achieved my goal—and if I don’t reach the point of boredom, then I will have given myself evidence that I am still living a fulfilling life even at just a fraction of the activity level that I typically operate at.

So far the rules include:

  • 1 week: June 25 – July 1, 2014
  • Other than the 5 things already scheduled, no more scheduling.
    • If people want to call me, email me, or drop by on a whim—and if I’m around, and feel like answering, that will be great—but no more scheduled stuff into that week!
  • Maximum of 2 daily goals (other than getting up, washing, eating, and boosting my immune system).
  • Of course I have a list, which I am considering calling: the “un-do list”, or the “like-to-do list”, or the “just being list”—and perhaps the next time I try this, I will have advanced to the “no list” week.
    • Item #1 on my daily “just being list” is: to give myself permission to do what I feel like doing that day regardless of the even minimal goals I set for myself.
    • And my “un-do list” naturally includes my rather lengthy and well-overdue bedside table “book list”.
The Writer's Bedside Table Book List

The Writer’s Bedside Table Book List

This “Maggie’s Week in Pursuit of Boredom” is also potentially a cancer treatment strategy. As one friend suggested, this could be the “bore your cancer cells to death” technique. After all, since cancer cells are more likely to be the fast dividing cells, with type A personalities, maybe boredom is the key?