My Top 2 Realistic Holistic Travel Tips

I travel a lot. I mean A LOTTTTTTTTTTTTTT.

I’m on the road every week for work. Yes, EVERY WEEK!! I spend more time away from home than actually enjoying the presence of my husband and fuzzies.

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Hitting the road last fall with a nice view

When I took this traveling position, I knew that I’d have to really make an effort to keep a healthy lifestyle and keep the stress down. It’s hard enough making the right choices when you’re at home surrounded by healthy food and a healthy routine. But add in the hustle and bustle stresses of airport life, “grab and go” travel-type foods and living in hotel rooms and being healthy is hard. Like, getting out of bed at 4 AM on a weekend hard.

So I always try to make living a healthy life foolproof when traveling. I don’t always succeed, but I always continue to try. I’ve discovered these 2 things that are ABSOLUTELY VITAL to helping me stay on track while hitting the road.

1 – Traveling well is all about preparing.

There are plenty of things that you can do to prepare for your travels – especially in the food realm. If I’m traveling around mealtime, this is the most important thing I can do to keep myself on track. Nothing is worse than hitting the road when I’m starving and I’m driving past every possible bad option. The temptation is simply too much for me to take. The “Hangery Lauren” sets in and next thing you know I’m gobbling down the first thing I can shove into my face. So if you’re traveling around mealtime, take the time to think it through BEFORE you travel.

If I’m hitting the road early in the morning, I set out travel mugs and program my coffee pot to brew before I leave.  I also prepare something I can eat in the car so I’m not tempted to stop at the fast food breakfast place. A breakfast muffin frittata or chunky granola or fruit travel very well.

If I have a few extra minutes, I make one of my favorite breakfasts: an egg over baby kale with cream cheese and/or avocado on toast. It takes me literally 5 minutes to make and it’s not rocket science. I’ve fallen in love Ezekiel bread – TONS of fiber and sprouted grains to keep me feeling full. Avocado as a healthy fat or cream cheese for a more decadent flavor with baby kale for a great morning veggie. And a hard fried egg as my protein. Viola! Complete meal and I’ve been known to eat this as I’m packing my bag/doing my hair/driving in the morning!

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Yummmmmm

If you’re traveling daytime, pack a small bag of nuts and dried fruit. Believe it or not, you can bring FOOD through airport security, but not liquids. So pack a sandwich. Or a fruit salad. Maybe you’re in the mood for a burger. One time, I saw a girl chowing down on slices of ham that were tucked away in Tupperware on a plane. Pack it in! Just skip bringing on spaghetti slathered in Mom’s famous pasta sauce and you’ll be good to go!

2 – Take the time to destress.

We all get caught up in the stress of traveling. Traffic, airport security, and time crunches make it easy to go from 0 to 100 when that a$$hole cuts you off and you’re running late. If you’ve prepared (as in tip #1) then hopefully you’ll incorporate time into your preparedness.

I wake up an extra 10 minutes early so I can fit in a few yoga sun salutations and still have extra time to get where I’m going. Many of the stresses of travel can be lessened with giving myself extra time and BREATHING. Instead of rushing through security at the airport, I get there a half hour early. Big meeting in the morning? I prepare and pack my presentation the day before. The fewer pieces I have to put together when I travel, the less I have to be stressed about.

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Rush rush rush rush rush rush

You might say “spending an extra 30 mins at the airport is a complete waste of my time”. Really? You have NOTHING else to do, no one else to call while you’re waiting? Bring your planner, then, and get stuff done!! Plan your kid’s birthday party coming up next month. Look into vacation spots for your anniversary next year. Dream about the life you’re building for yourself and your family.

To me, keeping my stress down allows me to live a healthier life that I can look forward to sharing with my family. Even though I’m constantly on the road, I’m living a life that I love. Every minute of it, even the hours that I log while in transit. I look forward to vacations like everyone else – but I don’t HAVE to run away from reality to destress. My vacations are time to share experiences and explore rather than pretend I don’t have to go back to work on Monday.

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Take the time to BREATHE when you travel and enjoy the moment

No matter how you travel, you CAN do so in a healthy, stress-free way if you follow these 2 tips!

 

Does YOUR yoga class accept coupons?

courtesy of http://www.kpfit.club/hatha-yoga/

I took a yoga class back in college to fulfill my PE requirements and I REALLY REALLY hated it. The instructor was a super patchouli-smelling granola-crunching tree-hugging lady who looked like she wandered off the streets of San Francisco circa 1967. She insisted that it was cruel to eat meat, and touted vegetarian rice and beans as a “complete protein”. We did some sun salutations, learned basic poses, and then we would lay in corpse pose for 20 minutes.

I never broke a sweat and fell asleep every class. It was sooooooo boring. I dreaded going.

I passed the class and threw in the towel on yoga. I told myself yoga was totally for wimps.

That was over 10 years ago (I’m leaving it at that because a lady never tells her age). I opened up to yoga again when I was going through treatment for melanoma. I didn’t have the energy to work out, and I felt myself wasting away.

I wanted to do something physical…but not TOO physical. And I also wanted to be able to create a more holistic lifestyle that help me focus on getting rid of daily mental stress.

So I gave yoga another shot. I got a book on poses and downloaded some apps. I actually started to enjoy yoga. I could put my body to (gentle) use and stretching helped my lymphedema. I started to see results and began to enjoy it more and more.

But I kinda got stuck. I wanted something more interactive and more physical now that I’m back to my old self. Yet, classes were out of the question. I refuse to shell out $15 a class for something that I wanted to incorporate into my weekly schedule. Even the cheapest monthly yoga classes I could find – $10 a class – that could be $50 a week! Did that math and said NOPE. No way.

So I scoured the internet. YouTube videos here, online classes there. None of them were great so I kept scouring.

And I hit the jackpot! Seriously – this is the BEST online yoga! It’s a group called “The Yoga Collective” and they film classes from their studio in California. It has everything you could ask for from an in-person yoga class but right there online! You can select your instructor, your level of difficulty, what area you want to work on, the length of time…ANYTHING!

It’s like having a studio instructor in your living room! And one that I can take with me while I’m traveling for work, which is HUGE for me.

I feel very sales-y touting this company, and I apologize if it comes off that way. But I can assure you – I have absolutely NO connection to them besides just being an insanely happy customer. If you want to try it out, they offer a 15 day trial for free. Absolutely free to try! How can you say no, you secret Yogis out there??

And I have to fill you in on a little secret. I found a Groupon for the group and got a year for about $12…YES $12!!! That’s the price of ONE class!! This comes out to a couple CENTS per class!! To add the cherry on top,  you can order your Groupon through Ebates and earn money back!! My inner coupon lady is singing “the hills are alive” and dancing an Irish jig right now!

I don’t think that my version of yoga is ANYTHING like the yoga I did in college. I consistency break a sweat while on the mat and don’t feel bad about the grass-fed burger I eat afterwards. I’m happy I re-found yoga to mold it into what works for me (and at a price that doesn’t break the bank!) I hope you ALL find what works best for you to live a long happy, healthy life.

Namaste.

 

3 Things My Cats Taught Me About Life

Frankie being embarrassed because he got caught snuggling with his teddy!

Have you ever been jealous of your pets? Just lying around all day, playing with toys and getting tons of food and affection. No job, kids to chase after, not a worry in the world. Pets have the purrrrfect life. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself there!)

Why can’t we live the good life like our pets?!

Ahhh, but you can! I’ve learned many a thing from my furry felines over the years. Here are just a few of the many things I’ve tried to implement in my OWN life that I’ve learned from my cats.

1 – ALWAYS make time for play time

What do a string, a box, and a wadded up piece of paper all have in common? They’re all instant toys if you are a cat. (Did that string just MOVE? Let’s attack and find out!)

Cats are always curious, and because of this constant curiosity, they can turn any ordinary object into something much more interesting. Just like kids, they are constantly learning and playing with their surroundings. They aren’t concerned about what their boss might think or what the neighbors will say. There is no judgment about which toy is the classiest or how much money it cost. They would never say to each other “Don’t use the GOOD mouse again, Fuzzy! You’ll ruin its tail!” Nope, that good mouse is going DOWN…tail and all!

And this time is never “thought” of as play time. Play time doesn’t have to be designated to pets between the hours of 5 and 6 PM. It’s anytime, anywhere.

Unfortunately, for Frankie, that means sometimes 4 in the morning seems like a good time to play.

But crazy early mornings aside – when was the last time you really had play time? Just time to goof off and have fun?

My husband and I always try and make time for fun. We play catch, bike, play in the garden, spray each other with the hose (mostly me getting him on surprise attacks) – we try and make life fun. Play time is anytime.

Tamarin making friends with a Turtle neighbor!

2 – Don’t hate on a good nap

I LOVE a good nap. I see the cats hanging out on the couch napping by 10 AM and I’m jealous. I’m up by 6 am for work, so by afternoon I’m ready. I mean, why did they take away nap time in the first place?? Adulting is hard. Being is cat is NOT hard – so why do THEY get to nap?

OK, in all seriousness, getting enough sleep is SUPER important. Your morning sets the tone for your whole day, so who wants to wake up and feel like crap? Crappy morning tends to mean crappy day. And no one wants that.

A NEW snuggle bear for the fuzzy man

I’ve never had much of a problem sleeping…but my husband does. He tosses and turns and tosses some more and wakes up and rolls over and by the morning, I could kill him. I’m cranky and moody and it’s almost as though I really DID wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

By afternoon, I’m a crazy person barking at my husband about how he needs to go on a cheese diet because he ate the last of my favorite raw cheddar. Not that that’s not a serious offense…I take my cheese very seriously. But if “cheese thief” is his worst offense, I think I’ll keep him and fix the thing that’s making me cranky.

The best solution? You guessed it! Nap time.

3 – Purr more

You can always tell when a cat is happy. They rub against your legs, give you “head butts” with their cheeks, and start their purr motors. Our older cat loves to do all three in the middle of the night (maybe THIS is why they nap so much! Late night purr parties!)

My husband only has to walk towards Frankie and immediately he starts purring and rolls over to get belly rubs. It doesn’t take much to get that motor started. And he loves every second of attention. (I’m talking about Frankie the cat here. Well, I guess that last comment can apply to both of them).

Just a few chin scratches and any cat is in fuzzy purr heaven. Why do we humans have to make love and affection so complicated?

It’s a very simple concept, but one we tend to overlook. If you love someone or something, you show them affection and give them verbal confirmation of your love. It really isn’t hard – but somehow we seem to forget that little things matter in our busy lives. Take the time to show your loved ones you care. A few extra cuddles never hurt anyone. TRUST me. The dishes can wait.

So what do I aim to do in my life? What have my cats taught me?

Nap. Purr. Play. Repeat.

My partners in crime

Measuring my Growth

Hello everyone! I’m so so SOOO terribly sorry that I’ve been absent from my blog for such a long stretch of time. I just recently started back to work in a new career (woohoo!) but that transition was tough. So I really had to take some time for myself to focus on my career and my future. Delving into a new job is always tiresome, as I’m sure everyone can relate to, and I really needed to focus my efforts in that direction. So I apologize to you all for being MIA!

But starting down this new path was such a relief. Having been so focused on treatment and healing and cancer this and cancer that…I relished the fact that I could take this other path and stray from the one that had been under my feet for so long. It’s nice to pretend to be normal, you know? I get up, go to work, have lots of things to keep me busy during the day and try to avoid thinking about the past.

Like all of this was a bad dream and that I never had cancer. “Mela-what? Not here!! No siree, absolutely no mela-whats-its in THIS neck of the woods!”

But the truth is that cancer has changed my life. No matter how hard I try to pretend like I’m the same ol’ me, I’m a completely different person. I’ve become much more introspective. I care more about people, and I care more than ever before about my patients, family, and friends. I know that every second I’m on this earth is a second to be cherished.

So mentally, I’m very different. But what about physically? Yes, I still have the scars, although I swear they’ve faded dramatically since I’ve been putting a special essential oil mix on them every day. And my leg still has lymphedema so I’m wearing a compression stocking daily. I’m flying a lot for work, and on travel days I wear 2 stockings…not super pleasant, but it sure is better than letting my leg swell up.

And I also have been VERY excited to notice something else that’s been changing.

 

Slowly, every so slooooooowly, my hair has been growing back in!

Look at all that new growth!

 

 

Can I get a HECK YEAH!!

I noticed all these little fuzzies (yes, I call them my fuzzies) when I was blow drying my hair a few weeks ago. I couldn’t get them to sit down – it looked like I had put my finger in an electrical socket. (I think the static electricity of the winter months made it worse, but even today they’re straight up!) And look at all those little baby fuzzies!! It looks like I have a whole new head of hair growing in!

All my new fuzzy buddies

Aren’t they the cutest??

So for all of you out there going through treatment – it gets better. What you’re going through is incredibly hard. I know some days I didn’t make it off the couch. When I had the energy to take a shower, my hair came out like I was molting. I lost so much weight that my husband got super worried and actually talked to the nurse about it.

But after treatment, it gets better. Just hang in there. Your body is an amazing thing. And you WILL heal. You may not ever be the same, but you will heal.

And that which does not kill us can only make us stronger.

New status!

Last week, I met with my oncologist and got the results of my latest PET/CT scan. It’s always so nerve wracking to meet with the doc – it involves so many important decisions and information that just prepping for the appointment can make me nervous. Walking in the door of the hospital is like walking into the unknown…I can always feel my heart racing as I try to stay calm. Deep breathing exercises usually help, and closing my eyes and using mindfulness meditation also helps to bring down my heart rate.

I didn’t expect to hear any change in treatment plan in this visit. I was hoping, at best, for no change in my scans.

But I was pleasantly surprised!! NED. No evidence of disease. The best three letters I’ve ever heard!!

My cancer is completely gone. No uptake on the PET scan. Nothing visible in the CT scan.

NOTHING! It’s like it all melted away!

I’m over the moon. All the craziness that I’ve been through, all the poking and prodding, all the infusions, for now, are done.

Would I go through it again? Honestly…yes I would.

Cancer really does something to you. I feel like being so young and looking at death is like a mind altering drug. I’ve become more patient. More sensitive. Less judgmental and more caring. I celebrate the little things and stress less about the big things. I’ve become closer to my family and friends…close in a way that I could never have predicted.

I’ve changed my whole outlook on life.

So to me, all the hardships for the past 20 months were all worth it. Giving up my career as an anesthetist in Florida, moving cross country for the BEST care at Mass General, building a greenhouse and a garden for my sanity, going back to work as a surgical neurophysiologist, all of this was a journey. It wasn’t a pleasant journey at times. But it was a journey that has changed not only my body, but also my mind and my soul.

I hate to say it. But I’m a better person thanks to cancer.

 

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