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Welcome to the DebiLyn Smith blog site. If you like what you read here, check out her website at

Friday, October 21, 2016

Learning From 2016

Welcome to 2017 and another year of being cancer free with determination to remain so.

Looking back, I'd say 2016 was a year of learning. With the chemotherapy I had in 2011 came an issue with my left ventricle. Seems it's "ejection fraction" is going down, from normal pre-chemo to 48% in 2014 to 40% in 2016. I've learned not to grab the pack loaded with yams and frozen meat and instead take the one with the toilet paper and bread  as I attempt to scurry uphill to our cabin on the mountain. Is that a train coming behind me? Why am I so winded? Maybe I should lessen the scurry to a gang-plank walk. More learning...

I am still in monthly massage therapy to deal with whiplash issues and about twice a year Robin or Caitlin (Willow Massage Therapy in Smithers BC) help stretch out the scar tissue that re-binds every so often in my second armpit (from lymph node removal/mining in 2011). It's never a fun hour with these ladies as they dig deep and work hard to loosen up the hard lumps that refuse to go away quietly. Is that a screaming meme behind me? Why am I so sore? Anything to do with carrying packs up a mountain in the first place? Hmm...more learning.

Because I am still numb on the right side of the repaired breast area as well as beneath my right arm, I have learned that constant stretching helps everything work better. The hope is I can regain more mobility faster. When on skis I don't use my right hand to push with my poles on the flats, saving it for when I really need it (in the lounge later) for skiing downhill, shoveling snow off our deck or refilling the melted-snow pots for the wood stove. No lessening these jobs- you have to keep active so I've learned to accommodate, compensate and prioritize. It's working.

In 2016 I took a WHYMS course to learn about hazardous materials. I then ran around my house and properly labelled mysterious substances I had in unmarked bottles. Inspired, I next took on the Level 1 Food Course so I wouldn't kill anyone with my canning or cross-contamination habits anymore. New plastic color co-ordinated cutting boards. Learning and shopping- love it!

 Then it was hours job shadowing at the Hudson Bay Mountain ski school for my Level 1 ski instructor certificate which I obtained by going to Shames Mountain in December of 2016! That's right folks, not only an author but now I'm making $12 something an hour introducing people to what I consider to be the most fun sport of all time. Sliding on the snow with boards on your feet. What a joy to watch the lights go on for people struggling. To watch them when they catch on. To help them up when they fall  on top of me. Lesson learned? Wear rental skis when teaching beginners.

Now if I could get people to learn from what I've been through with cancer.

Authoring Running From Cancer was a labour of love to help people learn ways to lessen their cancer lottery tickets. Are you doing what you can? Are you on daily vitamin D supplements, taking any anti-oxidents like green tea capsules or fish oils, ground flax seeds and beefing -up the broccoli consumption?

Life is about learning, everyone. Never stop. And may you learn enough soon enough to make it through a long happy life! Happy 2017 to everyone.

Five Year Mark

In the world of breast cancer it is said if you don’t have a recurrence with-in five years , chances are the cancer has been “beaten” and there’s renewed hope to live as long as one can after surviving treatment. So I’m ecstatic to shout out to the world that I made that mark in May 2016, not believing that it’s been that long already! Life has returned to relative normalcy with the wondrous addition of my dream-come-true of not one but two healthy and beautiful grandchildren. Life is so worth fighting for.

For those of you who don’t know me but have read my book Running From Cancer: a tilted memoir, here’s the epilogue:

Once the surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation were completed, it was recommended to go on a hormone blocking therapy for five years. This is usual practice. My oncologist put me on the standard called Tamoxifin , a drug used for non-menopausal women . After one year on Tamoxifen, it was proven that the chemo had brought on early menopause and so I was now qualified to switch to a drug called Letrozole*. (Tamoxifin can be carcinogenic and I was afraid of being one of the few who experienced endometrial cancer from taking it)

Both drugs gave me the side effects of hot flashes and aching joints. I felt like I was over 100 when getting out of bed most days and driving with the window down at -30C was something my husband endured every road trip, but we continued with the drug treatment feeling a little more hopeful that the cancer would not return.

There are others drugs out there to try but I decided to stick it out with Letrozole. The severity of both symptoms either waned over time or I became more oblivious to them. I’m not sure which is
the right answer, but take heart that they do seem to lessen over time.

The breast reconstruction done the year after chemo and radiation was very successful. Dr. Kurz of Prince George placed an expander inside the deflated right breast which was injected to capacity with saline by my GP at regular intervals over the next few months. I compared it to having braces on your teeth. Once filled, the skin would gradually stretch to accommodate the new size. Then it would be filled again. Once the deflated breast was inflated back to normal, Kurz was able to choose a correlating silicone implant to surgically replace the expander with. While operating, Kurz thankfully put a tuck into the left breast raising it up to match the repaired right breast. The result was a firmer, higher riding pair of breasts which if one didn’t see the scars around the nipple and a bit of loose ridges along the outer bottom right, you would think I was thirty (not fifty plus) and hadn’t had two children or a wrangle with breast cancer. I highly recommend this surgery as something to check into even though not everyone is satisfied with their results.I have friends who raved about their procedure but have a friend who was not happy at all. Her expectations were not met and I realized not everyone has the same situation to be dealt with. Still, with the BC Medical covering costs, it couldn’t harm having that first consult.

So, with perky boobs healed and my self image repaired, I turned to what I could do to improve my lifestyle to help insure I made that five year goal. I tweaked my diet to include as many vegetables as I could into every day. I snack twice a day making healthier choices of whole grains, proteins and oils like coconut, avocado or extra virgin olive oil when possible. I only have a few drinks a week in stead of 20 to 35 and I take an antioxidant supplement as well as 2000 mg of vitamin D daily. I try to get exercise , even if its a walk around the block, six days a week and I make sure to drink plenty of fluids to help my body properly work.

And the day came that I went to refill my Letrozole prescription and realized, “I don’t have to take that anymore!” So I don’t. I’m happy to say that all tests are clear and I’ve officially “survived cancer.” Now I will wear the special yellow t-shirt saved for the Canadian Cancer Society’s survivor participants with pride because I made it out the other side and feel stronger for it. At the gym this week, I tweaked the treadmill up to a number I hadn’t ran at since 2011, when cancer first came knocking. My fist shot into the air as my legs flew like the wind and I thought to myself, “I’m back. Smarter, wiser and more determined to keep myself healthy!” Then I turned the number back down slightly. It’s time to start going at an easier pace because this body is all I have and I need it to last another 18 years. The new me is going to keep that in mind at all times. Less stress, less having to reach to the top of everything, less trying so hard all the time. It’s time to slow down and enjoy what’s left of my life (which doesn’t mean I’ve quit trying to fit 400 things into one day. I now think about the 400 and get 300 done). And it’s all good, you know?

What ever was my hurry in the first place? Here’s to “Staying Alive Until ‘75!” Now to remember to look both ways before crossing the street!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Saying Yes Again to Soy

Soy and Breast Cancer       

Something I’ve been avoiding for the past five years of my breast cancer remission are soy products. Specifically soy sauce, tempeh, soy milk, edamame beans and tofu ; basically anything with high levels of what I was told would be an estrogen elevator. Okay, I’ll admit I was never a big fan of any of it unless it seasoned my Chinese food, but still...there was an edamame bean craze I had to curb and I did worry about the dark brown liquid I used in salad dressings and stir frys quite often.

Having had a hormone driven cancer, (both progesterone and estrogen meaning my tumor had been fed specifically by these culprits), I had been advised to curb these products.  Now new evidence is saying using these products may actually suppress the chance of developing cancer. 

I recently discovered an article at donated by Diana Dyer MS, registered dietician and a three time cancer survivor that discusses this “Soy Fear” and all that it means.

Seems that soy products do contain “phytoestrogens” , which led many to believe soy contains estrogen.But the term phytoestrogen simply means the chemical structures in soy products resemble natural female estrogen, thus the “phyto.”

There is no estrogen in natural soy foods. And ...

Tests of thousands of women over many years showed those who ate soy regularly had a lower chance of contracting breast cancer. Or experiencing a recurrence. The study did admit it was possible that women who ate things like Tofu or soy milk might already be prone to healthier than normal lifestyle practices.

I can see where they’re going with that. We used to call the vegan and tofu enthusiasts“Granolas.” Nothing wrong with it, it just seemed to be a certain hippy-thing which went hand-in-hand with floor length skirts, smoking pot and free love. Granolas were often fond of a diet rich in tofu, nuts and seeds, fruits and home grown vegetables while the rest of us ate everything we could get our hands on: the unhealthier the better. 

But the study further admits that while it might not be able to prove soy protects against breast cancer, it can say that it didn’t contribute to a higher rate of breast cancer. And amen to that! The article also cautions that soy “supplements,” and isoflavone enriched products were not part of the study. Maybe best to avoid them until further testing.

So my never-ending quest for a dietary regime that will help me to reach my goal of “staying alive til ‘75” has brought me back to considering the meat alternative Tofu. No more excuses. The next question is how to get this past my hunter husband. My next research will be on How to DisguiseTofu as a moose steak or deer burger. 

Monday, January 11, 2016


At the tick of the New Year 2016 I was standing in an elegantly decorated hall in Balzac Alberta with close to a hundred of our friends , family and people close to my son to celebrate his marriage. To count blessings, the room also held our other children, their spouses and our first two grandchildren born within the past 4 months. My father, having recovered fully from a hip replacement in April, was dancing with my ex husbands older sister and all around me people were smiling and cheering the new year and I remember thinking how fast everything was going. The carousel was hitting mach one.The night was ending and I didn't have enough time to say what I wanted to my family, to get to know the new faces, to cherish each breath of the newborns.

Funny that 2015's blog started with talk about procrastination and sluggishness. It felt that way at the time. There was no energy. No insight or willingness to dream about what might be coming. Things stayed that pace until August when the first grandchild arrived a week early followed two months later by another grandchild born three weeks early. This wedding was the cherry on the top but it still threw everything into high gear and after the months of prepping and sorting and planning then doing and being and repacking and leaving, we were careening the same way we'd come only this time westward down the highway at breakneck speed on our way home to the place where things do get sluggish and where we can procrastinate again, if we want.
Already imagining soaking in our hot tub with cold drinks and memories to rehash, we were violently slammed into a reality check with the twist of a steering wheel, the holler of "we're going to hit that truck..." the airborne stop sign , the hood of our vehicle slamming up against the windshield while feeling the suburban fly downwards, our heads whipping forward then back, and the landing in a field. A man standing outside his home on the ground before us stood mouth agape, a saw in his hand. His look reflected the shock I was feeling. Did that just happen?

I clawed off my seat belt, throwing my arms around my husband's neck, thanking him for saving our lives before hustling out of our vehicle terrified of what I might see back on the highway. A white PNG gas truck, the one we came so close to smashing into the passenger side of, sat facing the middle of the highway with the tailgate on the ground, the back side smashed in and the box contents  of screwdrivers, gas meters and battery packs strewn for yards. A long highway truck with a full load of lumber that had first hit and pushed the  left-turning eastbound PNG truck in front of us lie in the east bound ditch, load askew and front grill of the truck smashed in.

It turned out that once we opted to bail into a field instead of  t-boning the PNG truck, the west bound flat deck highway hauler cruising at 90 kmh behind us had a clean path to smash the PNG truck on it's hind end spinning it around before the tailgate fell off. We came so close to being the roadkill filler between the two vehicle sandwich!

Within three minutes all four drivers were standing cell phones to ear in a semi-circle, all shaking their heads in disbelief that no one had been hurt beyond whiplash or bruising.

And here I sit six days later still in awe of the fact that all of that forward momentum could end so abruptly. Months of fast forward was slowed to a panel by panel sequence at the first pump of adrenaline.

You're driving down a highway thinking about the week that lies ahead. You're flying through the air. You're still.

I'm breathing.
Tick tick.
 He's breathing.
Tick tick.
What's next?
Tick tick.
Seat belt.

Two seconds that slowed to seem like five minutes. I could tell you every detail within that tiny stretch of space and time.

 And for what purpose does our body do that to us; to slow down time like that? Or is it possible that's the way things really are? Maybe life really does move in slow motion? Maybe all time can be freeze-framed second by second if we choose to stop and look at it that way. Does there have to be a major catastrophe for us to slow things down and really see every second?

I'm thinking the problem is we don't want to slow things down to that speed. Or more precisely, we don't HAVE time to. Not until time makes us take it. And thankfully my husband and I didn't run out of time. We were merely given a chance to appreciate the fact that we had any time at all.

This greater appreciation of my time and what's left of it, is just the catalyst I need to get back on track to make the most of it. Procrastination and sluggishness were a part of 2015.

I have a feeling with a start like this, they won't be a problem in 2016.

Happy New Year everyone. Please "drive to survive."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sshhh...It's A Secret

I recently had to keep a secret at the request of one of our children. Being good news, I was overwhelmed at how hard it became not to blurt it out at every encounter with a friend or loved one. Oh heck, to anyone and EVERY one!

Any discussion about it with my husband was short-lived. He hates nattering  so I couldn't dissect and relish over every bit of the news. Within hours, I found myself bursting at the seams. Like being filled with helium and unable to burp, the sensation swelled and grew until I feared for the worst .
That was Day One With a Secret.

I tried imagining telling- to visualize it in my head without actually executing the task. That picture in my head ballooned comic style into my sister saying, "what...and you didn't tell me?" which ended in a short e-mail to her where a little leak kind of snuck out of my fingers in an expletive kind of moment. Blah...blah...Baby... OOPS!! Had I said that out loud? But really, it was my SISTER who has a government job where keeping secrets is mandatory.This secret was safe with her and the relief of having shared such extreme joy diffused the explosion I was sure would come.

Still, within minutes of sharing, the guilt crept up and began to choke me. There was No excuse for betraying that confidence.My head hung: my husband always said I couldn't keep a secret. How embarrassing. Maybe he wouldn't find out about that e-mail? (Funny because wouldn't that be another secret I would have to try to keep?)  Aghast and sorely disappointed in myself, I tightened my resolve NOT to tell anyone else. I could do this even against the odds our kids were probably betting.
That was Day Two With a Secret.

Determined to re-kindle my promise not to tell, I decided it easier to avoid people than it was to try keeping my mouth shut. But,  now being on the ski hill for the next four days made that impossible as you find friends at every turn, every chair lift or t-bar.So I would say things like, "One of these days, probably very soon, I might find out I'm going to be a (cough) Grandma.
Then I got too brave and said to my girlfriend who knew the daughter and the situation "that I can show you something but I can't tell you anything" before presenting the e-mailed photo evidence which bore the name of the recipient in the high left hand corner.
Day Three ended with a firm mental whipping. I am such a lousy secret keeper. I should be put in the middle of the town square and stoned (with rotten fruit, not real rocks)!

Day Four ended with news that I was free to share the joy, although not on FaceBook. (Does a blog count, I wonder? Am I in trouble again?) Ahhh, such relief. Almost like reaching the end of the trip and finally using the washroom. Ahhh.

I share this tale of woe with you because whether you have good news or bad news to share, sometimes it can help to tell just a little bit. Especially if that secret is keeping you awake, stressing you out or having you do extreme things to avoid telling (like avoiding your friends). If the secret is something you absolutely don't want others to know, the only thing you can do is share with complete strangers or NOT tell it in the first place to anyone. Because as sure as there are secrets in the world, there are people who cannot keep them. Like the characters in the Soap Operas. And okay, like me.

Now, if you want my advice on something and need to tell me a private thing, THAT I can and will keep a secret. What's the difference? The difference is knowing what could happen if the story were to get out.

My news was good and wouldn't hurt anyone to know so it was very hard to keep. You want to make everyone else's day as happy as yours. With bad news, you don't want to ruin anyone's day so you want to keep that to yourself . Maybe it's a cancer diagnosis or nasty test result, a death or a horrible situation: the first reaction is often to keep it to ourselves. In the old days, everything was private. Suffering was encouraged to be done quietly behind closed doors. These days, we share and talk about everything. No holds barred. We talk about incest and abuse, we talk about our cancers and our prostates and now there is help and information available. You only have to come out of the closet to get it.
Besides, the relief of sharing news can be enormous and possibly even beneficial. "A grandma? Have you heard about the latest self-help book on becoming the best grandma in the world?" Get the idea?

So, sometimes keeping a secret completely isn't the best thing. Turns out "Grandpa" didn't have much luck keeping it in either. And yes, you're right, that doesn't excuse a thing.But, did you know...I'm going to be a Grandma? Sshhh...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Scenting Sensibly

My post cancer regime of cutting down on as many toxins as possible has made one remarkable change in
my life. I have regained my sense of smell, something I never realized was missing until I found it again.

After CT scans, radiation therapy and the ensuing mammograms, I consider myself lucky not to be a Wicked Witch of the West  shade of shimmering green. I can't do much about the radiation I have been given but I can resolve to be smarter about what I put in, on and around my body.

After reading the David Suzuki's Top Ten  Dirty Dozen list of substances to avoid, ( I began to take a reality check through-out my bathroom and kitchen cupboards.I couldn't believe how many toxic products I was using!

So many that I couldn't afford to simply trash them all and start over, but since ending treatments four years ago, I began to transform my collection of beauty and cleaning aids with healthier choices. The easiest and probably most important was throwing out my chemical immersed dryer sheets for hard plastic re-usable dryer balls. I use one plastic ball and one Norwex  wool dryer ball to completely eliminate static cling a more health-friendly way. Between them and the unscented natural cold water laundry soap I insist upon using, there is nothing but clean clothes travelling with me and my skin every day. That same skin is washed with a coconut all natural salt scrub and my deodorant and hair gel are also all natural and unscented. which means head-to-toe I only retain a slight coconut aroma. Not the usual cacophony of  five-to-seven over-scented products between hair, make-up and skin products. Start thinking about it. How many aromatic products are you sporting every day? Would you have ever guessed that this onslaught of scents is slowing down that sniffer of yours? (Then again, maybe it's for the best if you're really piling them on?)

 It took a bit of talking myself into omitting that daily shot of "Angelic"(pseudonym) between my breasts and just slightly south of my navel every morning and the slathering of Angelic cream onto my arms and legs, the dusting of Angelic body powder across the bee-hind but before long, I realized those extra few minutes every day could all add up to a second cup of perk-me-up ( called Bengal Spice tea by Celestial and it's the best Chai tea you've ever sipped without the sweetener or caffeine). On top of giving my skin a chance to breathe, I was reducing my scent over-load; something I'd been reading was a no-no when entering hospitals and clinics, places I am still prone to frequent.

Sometimes I find my "new" self being overwhelmed by the smells around me. In a restaurant, my nose goes crazy with my brain in hot pursuit as I try to discern a fragrance. I can tell a smoker from a non-smoker at a dozen paces which might be a handy tool IF I was a life insurance agent. I can often tell if you own a pet (other than a fish) and sometimes what you cooked for dinner last night (especially if it was a fish).

 This new realization of all the smells drifting in the air helped me relate to people with scent allergies. Some scents are enough to reduce me to coughing and gagging fits, red, watery eyes and sneezing. All because someone ELSE wanted to smell like something else.Or maybe didn't know that something smells so strong to someone else.

I wonder how animals manage these smells with senses much more amplified than ours? A dog has 220 olfactory receptors to a human's five.

Of course the market is loaded with naturally scented products but again, few are delicately scented, instead giving you a full blast of their lavender, orange or ginger alternatives.So there's coconut in your hair, lavender on your skin, orange counter top spray, lemon scented window cleaner and linen-scented air freshener. Even the all-natural aromas can be bothersome when mixed together, like a cereal bowl of cherries, flowers, lemon juice and cotton. Mmmm. Not.

 Remember the good old days when there was pure soap and the only other smelly thing in the house was cinnamon buns? Cleaning was done with vinegar, baking soda and water. Okay and maybe a little lye. Not the healthiest option there either.

Sometimes the best smelling things are simply the fresh air in your hair, the rain water on your clothes hung from a line or the sunshine on your skin. Could it be so easy to smell so good?


Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015 "On Hold"

A New year and a new concern. Apathy has crept into my life. After a hectic end to 2014 with two deaths and a birth in my husband's family, plus having to move his sweet father into a senior's home that could deal with his increasing dementia, I found myself still in a whirlwind of clutter and loose ends, but then SMACK! I  ran into a wall marked "on hold" and that's when the apathy tip-toed in together with a lack of resolve to do much about it?

 Fund raising for a bladder scanner for the Houston Health Center is on hold due to a possible grant, although I had approached local businesses and am up to $1000 toward the $20,000 needed. Slow wheels moving there. Then the idea for raising money for a CT scanner for the Smithers hospital went by the wayside when I was told it wouldn't happen is now being re-considered, but again, I'm on hold to see if that WILL be a go again. Will Houston be hosting a Daffodil Dash for the CCS in the Spring? Waiting to get people to a meeting to decide but I'm playing phone tag with the connections.
The writing is on hold to hear from a publisher regarding the book series. The story about Yerts on our ski hill is a maybe for NEXT year and I am waiting for a surgery date for my Dad's hip which means my going home to NB again for a bit this winter. Soon? Later?
My life is one big wait for what's around the corner. More cancer, more health issues, more family health concerns, a lottery win perhaps? WILL my stocks ever go back up?

Maybe I AM dealing with things, it's just the sideline buzzing that is upsetting me, all those irons simmering with nothing I can do to move them forward. Gee, what if they all come through at once?

The discovery that exercising, playing Anagrams on the iPhone or watching movies moves time just as well as sitting waiting for answers has helped. But it's not very constructive for a person figuring there might be less than 20 years left to make the most out of my life.

The health? We're waiting for the Dr's appointment to talk about a possible para-thyroid issue. Getting little head-ache flashes upon exerting myself , an imbalance has cropped up, my calcium levels are too high and my moods are swinging large again. I almost blew a gasket at Aquafit when the class was not working for me no matter what I tried. It made no sense, both the lesson's confinement and my absence of patience. I became a four year-old again. I even shouted "F*&#  you, Mrs. Kilpatrick (my kindergarden teacher) to the shower spray. Where did that come from?

Something is up and I have to wait to get the ball rolling on what that might be.
Until then, apathy has popped up. I'm starting to not care so much if ANYthing happens. I could almost enjoy this slow pace of waiting. What a change in my life. It used to be go, go, GO!!!!!!!!!! Well, in Aquafit I guess it still is, but other than that...

So, until something changes I'll be letting life pass by skiing or making as many words out of the letters A D S O F H G  as I can. It's probably not the WORST thing I could be doing with my time.Let's just hope there will be an end to it before the year gets too much older.