The Mask Trend

I fly a lot. I mean, A LOOOOOOT.

Every week, I’m on a plane to travel for work. Every. Single. Week.

Planes are really just expensive busses with wings. Passengers are herded everywhere like cattle. I’m constantly surrounded by stressed out people in a rush, many of whom don’t know the ‘rules’ of traveling or how to make traveling easier on themselves.

Traveling for work is not nearly as glamorous as many people make it out to be. Remember that pic of Louis Linton getting off of a government plane all decked out in high fashion?

Credit to TMZ

Yup. DEFINITELY not traveling for work in real life.

Instead, imagine masses of stressed-out people forced to endure small spaces at exorbitant prices.

So much for glamour.

And now enter flu season, stage left.

JOY.

I know this flu season is especially tough. I feel like every week, there are more reports of healthy people dying of the virus. People are on high alert, and rightfully so.

But have we taken it too far?? How DO you prevent yourself from catching the flu on a plane?

Well…lots of people are creating their own prevention methods. Just last week, I flew from Burlington, VT to Florida. There were three people on the flight with surgical masks. The flight was a small one – maybe 50 people on board – so this was an UNUSUALLY high number of masked faces.

My seat neighbor was one of these masked travelers. She also wiped down the surface of the tray table and arm rests as soon as she sat down, clearly trying to sanitize her area to prevent infection. (Side note – she did not seem to be sick or going through any kind of cancer treatment. She may very well have been, so I’m not knocking her for this!)

Her area was very well sanitized – she couldn’t POSSIBLY get the flu with all this sanitization, could she?

Absolutely.

Masks aren’t proven to filter the air like many people think. According to the FDA, “While a facemask may be effective in blocking splashes and large-particle droplets, a facemask, by design, does not filter or block very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs, sneezes or certain medical procedures.”

https://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/GeneralHospitalDevicesandSupplies/PersonalProtectiveEquipment/ucm055977.htm

This is largely due to the fact that no mask (accept for a gas mask) creates an air-tight seal. Masks droop and have gaps around the sides of the face and nose. They are very good at preventing direct splashes to the face, but not very great at filtering the air that you breathe.

Filter much? I don’t think so!

Putting on a mask ultimately helps protect the OTHER people you’re around rather than yourself. If you cough or sneeze, the mask prevents those disease-carrying droplets from spraying everywhere like an invisible fire hose of sickness.

Also, strangely enough, she never used hand sanitizer. Washing your hands is the #1 way to prevent the spread of disease. She covered her face with a mask, sanitized everything around her, but never ‘washed’ her hands.

So, ultimately, as she’s wiping everything down, she’s also spreading whatever is on her hands BACK onto the very things she just cleaned.

See the irony there?

If you want to travel but also don’t want to get sick, please wash your hands. I highly doubt that the airport and the airplanes get a deep clean every day, so everything you touch has been touched by thousands of other people. My hand sanitizer travels with me everywhere.

And my number one FAVORITE way to prevent getting sick? It has nothing to do with what’s around you. Instead, focus on what you already have going on INSIDE you.

Did you guess it yet? Give up?

It’s to boost your own immune system! What better way to prevent getting sick than let your body do the disease fighting for you?! This is the entire reason a vaccine was created for the flu. (PS – GET YOUR FLU SHOT!)

Giving your body a fighting chance is always the best policy. I try and boost my intake of probiotics, kombucha, and vitamins this time of year for this very reason. Emergen-C travel packs also have a spot in my travel bags.

Also, you can easily get more immune-boosting power from certain foods. Foods in the citrus and cabbage family, leafy greens, and garlic are all good things to include when you’re trying to boost your immune system. You can find a list of immune system boosting foods here.

So the next time you go to reach for your handy airplane mask, please realize it won’t help you as much as you think it will. IF you have a weakened immune system, then by all means, rock that mask! But for you healthy folks out there…leave the mask at home and grab some hand sanitizer and a probiotic instead.

 

 

 

Two Easy Tips to Eating Healthy

Life is hectic. Like many of you, I’m always on the go. I travel for work and some days in the operating room, I don’t get a break for 12 hours. After 12 hours I could literally eat anything…I mean anything…and trying to eat healthy is a battle.

But one thing I found during my cancer battle is that we truly are what we eat. Food is fuel. If you fill your gas tank with shit, your car is going to run like shit. Our bodies work the same way.

You may not notice this immediately. If you eat a Big Mac, your body isn’t going to instantly fail or melt or anything. But over time, you’ll notice that you’re not your best self.

Maybe you start to feel tired or sluggish every day. Or your immune system weakens and you get sick more often. Maybe your memory gets foggy and you aren’t putting your best foot forward at work or failing to meet deadlines.

I my case, my immune system failed to fight off cancer and it had begun to spread. While I was going through treatment, I was determined to improve the odds and help my immune system fight. One of the best ways to do this is through a healthy diet.

I started juicing. Vegetables were my main source of food. I went all organic and grass fed, and I cut out wheat and sugar.

I’m not going to lie – it was REALLY difficult. There were nights when I would make 2 dinners – one for my husband and one for me. I was constantly in the kitchen trying new things and a lot of the things I made tasted AWFUL.

But I kept at it and kept trying new recipes until I found meals that I liked.

And you know what? I felt great. After I was through with treatment, I had a ton of energy.

Now, a year and a half later and back to work, I struggle to keep my diet as healthy as it once was. Juicing and staying wheat-free are practically impossible on the road. Being militant about food is not how I want to live the rest of my life.

So I allow myself much more wiggle room to eat what I want – within reason. I always try to abide by these two simple rules to make sure I don’t totally fall off the wagon.

1 – Always have a fruit or a vegetable at EVERY meal

My golden rule. ALWAYS have a fruit or a veg with a meal.

Here are a few examples:

Breakfast is the hardest meal for me to make this change, but with a little thought and creativity, it’s now the norm. For example, I’ll add in spinach or mushrooms to my scrambled eggs. I add fruit (blueberries or strawberries) to my cottage cheese. I’ll often add spinach or salsa to my avocado toast (because I’m a little obsessed with avocado toast).

For lunch, I substitute carrots instead of chips. Or I have a side of coleslaw instead of pasta salad. (Cabbage is a GREAT cancer fighter BTW!) I LOVE having salad for lunch because it’s fast, easy, and it doesn’t give me the 3 o’clock sleepy feel.

For dinner, adding in veggies is easy. I always try to have 2 different veggies instead of a veg and a starch. We occasionally do rice or corn but I try to avoid potatoes. Its such a simple swap, and I never to go bed feeling heavy.

Avocado toast – one of my favs!

This rule not only helps me eat healthier, but it makes me think about what I’m going to put in my body. It helps me stay mindful that my everyday decisions make a difference.

It also helps me to separate food from emotion – something that my Italian family instilled in me and I’m still trying to break that cycle. Since I was young, food was a sign of love and emotion. This food journey has taught me that the meaning of food is what you make it to be, but the outcome is still the same.

What the heck does that mean?? I mean our mealtime decisions are largely based on our emotions. If we’re sad we have emotional food choices that are different than if we were happy.

For example, eating a bag of Doritos is emotional eating. But what if I switched that bag to a bowl of fruit? If I do this enough times, my emotional connection to that bag of Doritos changes and I start to reach for the bowl of fruit instead. I still get that warm-and-fuzzy feeling of calming my mental state but without the nutritional turmoil.

This has slowly helped me to re-frame mealtime emotions and the meaning of food. Food is now fuel rather than my emotional state at the time.

Do I slip up and break the fruit/veg rule some days? Absolutely.

But I always try and get back on the wagon at the next opportunity.  Which brings me to rule #2.

2 – the 80/20 rule

We’re all human. We all mess up. When I’m traveling, I’m oftentimes surrounded by not-so-healthy choices.

Or maybe I really am just CRAVING that burger and fries. (I AM human, you know 🙂 )

So have the burger and fries!! Gosh, I’m by no means a super zealot when it comes to downright hardcore cravings.

I allow myself the leeway to break rule #1 with rule #2. I eat healthy 80% of the time and allow myself to cheat 20% of the time.

So why do I even make this a rule? Because it’s so easy to fall off the wagon and stay there. As I mentioned earlier, food is a very emotional thing for us humans. If we fall victim to our cravings, we’ll often pass the buck to the next meal. And then the next meal. And before you know it, we have a steady diet of junk and we feel helpless.

It happens all the time. For example, let’s say someone starts a new diet for a week or so. Everything is going great until they forget to grab their pre-made breakfast to eat on their drive to work. When they get to the office, they grab a Snickers bar because they’re in a rush and hungry. Then at lunchtime they think, well heck, my whole day is shot now because of that candy bar – I might as well have pizza for lunch.

And so the spiral begins.

Don’t KILL yourself if you slip up (hahaha I couldn’t resist!)

But this is all emotion. When a kid falls off their bike, do they immediately say “I’m a failure and I’m never going to ride my bike again”? If you do a crappy job parallel parking your car, do you say to yourself “I’m never going to drive again”? If you burn dinner, do you think to yourself “I’m never going to cook again?”

NO, NO and NO. But food is such an emotional thing to us that we immediately label the day as a failure if we don’t adhere to the rules.

So I worked this fail-safe into the system. Cheating is actually ADHERING to my rules. I never feel bad about having that meal where I eat junk, because I’m actually following rule #2. No guilt and no emotional whipping involved.

And I know that the next meal I will be back to rule #1.

 

I find that these two tips help me to eat healthy. What do YOU do to stay on track? Let me know in the comments below!

Birthday Blessings

Today is my birthday. Another year of health and happiness. Another year to enjoy life, to travel, and to be with my family and friends.

I am truly blessed to make it this far. When I was diagnosed, I had less than a 24% chance of living 5 years. It has now been 3 years – I’m not out of the woods yet – but I feel great and my scans are CLEAR!

YES, you read that right!! I met my oncologist today and my 6 month scan is ‘squeaky clean’ as he likes to say. I’ve now had clean scans for a year and a half. Woohoo!! It was the BEST birthday present a girl could ask for!!

I told my doc today that I can’t wait to get fired from his practice – that would be the best day of my life. Even if I get to walk away from my oncologist and live without fear of a recurrence, I still have the scars to remind me of what I went through. I still have the memories and I’m a different person because of what I went though.

Happy Day of Birth to Me!

Cancer may have changed me, but it will never break me. Like a tree in a storm, I will bend and sway with the wind. Some of my branches may break, but I will grow new branches. My bark will grow around the scars and become stronger. I will endure the rain and soak up the sun.

No matter what, I will always be.

The funny thing about life is that we always want what we can’t have. After having cancer, I understand the true meaning of a birthday. Another year to LIVE. Another year to LOVE. Another year to make a difference in the world! THIS is what life is all about. Don’t ever get blind sighted by what society thinks – focus on how you feel. And don’t take the little things for granted.

Most women I know DREAD hitting a birthday. They want to reclaim their youth and don’t want to divulge their age. Yet, I can’t wait to hit the big milestone of 50. It would be against the odds and the biggest blessing I could ever ask from the world. I would be BEYOND excited! Like, going to the bar and buying a round of tequila shots for EVERYONE excited!

So raise your tequila glasses, everyone. Here’s to health, happiness, and another year of life ahead!

Finances vs Health

Cancer is a beast. It comes at you from all angles. It’s like the Muhammad Ali of illnesses. There’s lots of dancing (aka doctor’s visits, blood tests, scans, infusions) and then WHAM. You get the insurance bills.

And ‘lights out’ to your finances.

Muhammad Ali drops Sonny Liston with a short hard right to the jaw on 25 May, 1965, their second bout. Photograph: John Rooney/Associated Press

Cancer hits you where and when you least expect it. I was 31 when I was diagnosed with cancer, and I had literally JUST moved to Florida for a new job. We used up most of our immediate savings on the move and I didn’t have the best insurance. Then after researching oncologists, we decided we needed to move back home…BACK cross country…to New England for treatment.

That decision was really tough. When I decided to quit my new job, ultimately ending a career that I had worked so hard for, I bawled. So much time, energy, and money had just gone down the toilet. I felt so guilty for upending our life TWICE in one year.

You can’t plan for something you can’t see coming. And our finances got stung big time.

I HATED that feeling. That feeling of squeaking by on one paycheck. Every bill was another stab wound to my heart and my wallet. I vowed that when I went back to work, we’d do things differently. I wasn’t going to leave my husband with a huge medical bill and no savings a second time around.

So while I was on the couch during my many months of treatment, I read everything I could on finances. I read Dave Ramsey. I read Tony Robbins. I read Ramit Sethi. I read Suze Orman. I read up on real estate, 401(k)s, IRAs, index funds, bonds, I read it all.

I became a sponge for finances.

At the same time, I changed my thinking about what’s important. I no longer needed ‘things’ as much as I once did. I stopped caring about shoes and purses and STUFF. Now I care about health, food, and retirement.

Yes…I’m 33 and I care about retirement. My husband is quite a bit older than I am. The one thing I want more than anything is to be able to join him in living life without work in the way.

We never know when we will leave this world. I could get hit by a truck tomorrow. But I love my husband too much to leave him in financial ruin.

So what did we do? We took a little advice from every source. We cut back on spending. Saved a couple months of a safety net. Paid off the cars and we’re working on paying off the house and my grad school loans.

We’re also maxing out my husband’s 401(k). Our latest adventure in finances includes buying a multifamily rental property and (eeeek) we’re looking at buying another!

Our humble rental property

Why why WHY did we decide to invest in real estate? Based on my calculations, we will get over 15% return on investment in cash. Every year. Forever. PLUS the tenants are paying off the mortgage, so we get to add that value to our wallets.

The best thing of all, though, is that we get to provide housing for some seriously hardworking locals. Our local area has a shortage of apartment rentals and many of the ones available are run by the kind of people who give landlords a bad name.

TRUST me – real estate is not for everyone. My husband and I agree, though, that it’s something that benefits both of us. We can see it, touch it, smell it (not that I suggest doing that 😉 ) and if something happens to either one of us, the other can handle the challenge.

Cancer taught me many things and I’m still using it as a learning opportunity. My health was the most expensive thing I’ve ever unwillingly purchased – and you can’t put a price tag on it. I hope to be prepared financially if melanoma ever rears its ugly head again. I gotta make the ‘return on investment’ worth every penny!

How has your health changed your mind on finances? Tell me in the comments!

To a Happy and Healthy New Year

Life is all about perspective. You see things in a different light based on your perspective. For example, as I sit here in sunny Florida over the holidays, I have the window open to let in the wonderful sunshine and GLORIOUS weather. I spent the day in jeans and a t-shirt on the beach with my family for a wonderful lunch.

Toes in the sand, face to the sun, soaking in the weather that isn’t in the single digits (sorry about that rub, New England fam! I couldn’t help it!)

But next to us at lunch, I heard some local Floridians complaining about how *expletive* cold it was. They were bundled up in sweatshirts and hoodies.

I almost laughed out loud. I couldn’t believe that ANYONE would complain about weather in the 60s and not a cloud in the sky.

But it’s all about perspective. If you’ve lived in Tampa your whole life, then 60s WOULD be chilly. But compared to New Hampshire, this weather is a dream.

Listening to my lunch neighbors made me realize how much my own perspective has changed in my life. I have a different perspective than many people; cancer will do that to you. But it’s this extreme health experience that has made me so grateful for everything that I have in my life. My health, my family, my career – I have so much that I’m grateful for every day.

I don’t want this to change next year, or the year after, or the year after that. I feel happier when I open my heart. I feel more connected when I show my gratitude.

So 2018 is going to be the year of gratitude. I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions – but I’ve also never (ever) set one that truly MEANT something to me. So this year is going to be different. This year, I’m going to set my heart into ‘grateful’ mode and see where that leads me.

I wish you all a happy and healthy year ahead.

Happy New Year!