Ann Douglas shares her weight-loss story. Image by: David Wile
Ann Douglas shares how a walking routine and being kinder to herself helped her lose 120 pounds.I had almost given up on ever losing the extra weight I'd been carrying around my entire life. It was January 2013. I was staring down a milestone birthday (50) and the number on my scale (286 pounds). Heading into midlife with more than 100 extra pounds increased my odds of a premature death or disability. I wanted so much more for myself and my family.
|This story was originally titled "Many Steps Forward" in the October 2014 issue.|
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This stylish notebook might just be hottest organizing accessory of the year.
Everyone is supposed to have 24 hours in a day but for some us, it feels like there must be a rip in the space-time continuum. How else can you explain being constantly busy but having nothing to show for it? If this sounds familiar, learn how you can make the most of your time with our five fave productivity tips.
1. Write it down
Billed as "the analog solution for a digital age," the Bullet Journal is a diary, to-do list and catch-all for all your random thoughts. Developed by Brooklyn-based designer Ryder Carroll, this trendy organizing method involves writing down quick, memory jogging statements rather than complex entries. Use it to organize your tasks by day and month pages, keep tabs of books you want to read and things you want to buy or create new lists whenever inspiration strikes. An indexing system allows you to quickly find what you're looking for.
2. Plan your time
Sort of like HIIT for your to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique involves working on your tasks for a short, timed cycle of 25 minutes. With no distractions allowed, it’s great way for those with short attention spans to focus. Take a 5-minute break before starting your next 25 minutes of work and, after four of these cycles, you're rewarded with a longer, half-hour break. Sound a bit too structured? Maybe that's why it works—it was voted the most popular productivity technique by the readers of lifehacker.com.
3. Try a tech-savvy solution
The If This Then That app might be the closest you'll ever come to a personal assistant. Got any apps on your phone? Automate their functions by using If This Then That statements, or as IFTTT calls them, “recipes.” For example: get an early morning text when the forecast calls for rain, use it to get coffee going without getting out of bed (using a programmable outlet) or tell the family you're on your way home (with an email triggered by your location app once you've left work).
4. Go KonMari on your clutter
While organizing trendsetter Marie Kondo’s method of minimal living has been criticized for being a bit too twee, an organized, uncluttered home can be key to increased efficiency. "In most cases, things that function well are inherently neat and clean," says Clare Kumar, a professional organizer based in Toronto. It's not hard to see why. Simply owning less makes it easier for you to find what you need and streamlines your decision making (no need to choose between your 6 pairs of jeans, for example), saving you time that can be better spent elsewhere.
5. Let it go
There'll be days you can't get to everything. Your work presentation sits unfinished, the house is a mess and dinner was takeout (again!). Instead of stressing out, try to cut yourself some slack. "Our bodies burn out when stuck in fast-forward," says Carl Honoré, an expert on the topic of slow living. Sometimes the best way to be productive is to take some time out to recharge. So curl up with a good book, take a long bath, or enjoy a glass of wine...guilt free! After all, there's always tomorrow.
Whether you're into historical fiction, page-turning thrillers or revealing memoirs, we've got something for everyone to add to their winter reading list.
Halloween might be the holiday of choice for atmospheric storytelling, but this posthumous collection of short stories by the Queen of Crime, P. D. James, puts a Christmas spin on the whodunit to delightfully macabre effect. The four tales feature a mysterious inheritance, a family reunion gone awry, an illicit affair and a questionable suicide. And while the clues are there, it's not until the final paragraph that the miscreants are revealed. You'll have visions dancing through your head…but they likely won't be sugarplums. — Alexandra Donaldson
The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories (Knopf Canada) by P. D. James, $28.
Bridget Jones is back, and this time, she's got a bun in the oven. In Helen Fielding's fourth novel about the British singleton, timed to coincide with a movie covering the same events, our charmingly awkward protagonist is the linchpin in yet another love triangle. Some time after breaking up with Mr. Darcy, they meet again and sparks fly. The trouble is, shortly thereafter, they fly with someone else, too. Then, Bridget realizes she's pregnant, and she doesn't know which man is the father. — Stacy Lee Kong
Bridget Jones's Baby: The Diaries (Knopf Canada) by Helen Fielding, $30.
In Robert Harris's latest thriller, the Pope's sudden death has triggered the secretive process of electing a new pontiff. Harris lifts the veil on the clandestine negotiations, caustic infighting and taut intrigue as the Holy See transforms the black smoke of dissent to the white smoke of consensus over a heart-pumping 72-hour period. A must for any lover of political fiction, Conclave offers a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of the Catholic Church's most critical election. — Jes Watson
Conclave (Random House Canada) by Robert Harris, $25.
It's 1996 and Jack Reacher is still a major in the U.S. army's Military Police Corps. After receiving a medal for a mission, he's ordered to report to night school—a front for an assignment involving the FBI and the CIA. The task: Find an American in Hamburg, Germany, who's trying to sell an unknown entity (a bomb? A bioweapon? Insider info?) to a jihadist organization, then discover what the entity is. Reacher is as confident and skilled as ever, and “the American” is the perfect bad guy: unpredictable, slightly unhinged and obsessed with his ultimate goal. — Andrea Karr
Night School: A Jack Reacher Novel (Delacorte Press) by Lee Child, $37.
Suspenseful weekend read
If you're looking for a clever thriller, The Twenty-Three is your ideal read. The final installment in Linwood Barclay's Promise Falls trilogy wraps up the story of a seemingly cursed town that has seen three years of horrific murders and gruesome stunts tied to the number 23. In this gripping conclusion, citizens all over the town of Promise Falls wake up one morning plagued with dizziness, racing hearts, low blood pressure and vomiting—and the mystery condition is sometimes fatal. What ensues is a dramatic search for the cause of the sudden sickness, all while past grievances, petty rivalries and the discovery of multiple new murder victims threaten to destroy many families already barely hanging on. Barclay is a master of the genre and will keep you up late into the night, torn between savouring every detail and racing to the end. Be sure to read the first two books in the trilogy before diving into this latest juicy read; you'll have a much richer sense of the characters and an even more suspense-filled journey if you follow the series from tip to tail. — AK
What to know about melanoma
54-year-old Susan Cox is a three-time survivor of advanced melanoma. She spoke to us about her approach to sun safety before getting diagnosed, not losing hope and what she’s learned.
One morning in 2007, Susan Cox woke up to a blueberry-sized mole on her back that was, suddenly, bleeding. She hadn’t paid much attention to the mole before, but now it was making itself known—and she immediately knew that something was wrong.
“It sounds ridiculous to think that my life could be in jeopardy from a mole,” she says. But it was. After a three-month wait to see a dermatologist, Cox was diagnosed with stage three skin cancer and a 10-inch strip of skin was removed from her back.
The 54-year-old, whose cancer has recurred three times, is among the one in 73 Canadian women who will be diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetime. The deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma accounts for 3% of all new cancer cases in Canada. It’s very treatable if caught early, but over the past 25 years, the incidence rate has increased significantly. The numbers are staggering—which is why, at five years cancer-free, Cox is still fighting the disease head on. But this time, she’s focusing on public awareness. “My mole was itchy for a couple of years before [I was diagnosed]. I should have recognized there was something different about it then, but I didn’t,” she says.
That’s why she has contributed to an e-book of photo essays by melanoma survivors published by the Save Your Skin Foundation and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. (See a selection of her photos throughout this story.) Many people think it’s “just skin cancer,” but Cox’s mission is to convey just how serious a diagnosis melanoma is, how much it changes your life—and how easy it is to prevent.
What was getting diagnosed like?
I had a mole on my back that popped. I thought it was just a pimple, so I called a dermatologist and ended up waiting three months to get an appointment. I didn’t realize it was serious—and then I was diagnosed stage three melanoma right out of the gate. So, that means, you are already pretty much in trouble before you’ve even known what has hit you.
“While time goes on, the physical and emotional impact of melanoma can fade, but it never really disappears. It’s something I’ll never be free of, but I can live with the scar and I can try to move on.”
When it did hit you, how did it feel?
At first, I went to the internet, which was the wrong thing to do. It freaked me out. I cried into a towel in my bathroom with the door locked. I was frozen, I actually didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. When you’re told you have this disease and it’s going to keep coming back and keep coming back… I wanted to run away, frankly. It sounds silly, but I just wanted to go somewhere… but how do you run from your own body?
Were you cautious about sun safety before you were diagnosed?
No. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I used tanning beds, religiously. I encouraged others to use them. I took my daughter. I read the literature and it sounded safe enough, but I didn’t understand what I was doing. I didn’t understand they were carcinogenic, as a whole. And I didn’t use any sun safety product.
How did having melanoma change you?
I was so scared. I wasn’t really living. I was only living between my doctor’s appointments, truthfully. If you are told your appointment is in two months, you put everything on hold for two months. You don’t make holiday plans, you don’t buy a ticket on an airplane, you don’t book a hotel—it’s almost like you’re expecting to be told you’re dying. But after a couple of surgeries, I decided I wasn’t going to be afraid to try things anymore. Once I had survived cancer twice, I felt as though I better start getting my bucket list double-checked and so I did.
What kinds of things did you check off your bucket list?
I’m a designer and I always wanted someone to hire me to design a beach house, or decorate a beach house, and nobody ever did—so I bought one. I did it myself. I wanted to know I could do it myself, and I was very pleased with how it turned out. I had a magazine come shoot it, I took some design risks that I wouldn’t have taken before. I wasn’t afraid anymore.
“When I was diagnosed with advanced melanoma, I was in tears. It absolutely demolished me.
The stormy times and fear kept me from living my life vibrantly. I decided I needed to build my beach house and it’s now a reality. It’s a place I can go to relax and regroup, and express my passion for design. I may have never taken this risk before I fell sick.”
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and the incidence rate has increased significantly over the past 25 years. So why don’t we talk about it?
It’s the mentality that it won’t happen to me. People don’t want to hear about melanoma because they want to be outside in the sun. Since the ‘60s and ‘70s, we’ve had a culture of tanning the skin. We see tanned skin as attractive, sporty, athletic. I was absolutely drunk with the idea of having brown skin and looking Mediterranean. But guess what? I’m not. I’m fair-skinned, I had white hair as a kid, I should never have been in the sun, ever. But it’s a cultural thing. I get it. I feel like I look better with a tan. I wear less makeup when I’m tanned. But it’s okay to look pale and be in the skin you’re in. I wear pale skin as a badge of honour. Tanned skin is damaged skin. You might see a tan, but a dermatologist sees damaged skin at a cellular level. When you come out of the shower in January and you can still see your tan lines, that’s damage. I still have tan lines and I haven’t been in the sun in 10 years. I’m rarely in the sun in a bathing suit, but I still have my tan lines. That tells you how badly I damaged my skin.
What was treatment been like for you?
I took a targeted therapy because I had a mutation (which means the cancer mutates), and they’ve been able to look at that mutation and bind a protein to that mutation, therefore choking it out so it doesn’t multiply and doesn’t continue to grow. It’s available through an oncologist and it’s a pill. I took it twice a day. So for me, it was taking a pill twice a day and my tumours shrank immediately and completely away.
How did you keep yourself from losing hope?
It would be very easy to lose hope, [but] it would be almost impossible not to lose hope. I refuse to give up. I absolutely refuse. I refuse to lose. I don’t like to lose and if I’m going to lose this battle sooner than I should, I’m going to go out on my terms. I’m not going to go out on my knees.
After being educated about sun and skin care, what have you learned about the importance to take sun safety precautions all year round?
There was a famous skier in Whistler, Dave Murray, who died of melanoma. You actually get more sun exposure in the winter than you do in the summer because snow and ice reflect the sun.
What advice do you have with individuals with concerns about the disease?
Get educated. But not on the internet! Do not look at pictures of melanoma in the images of your Google search. I don’t know anybody’s melanoma that looks like those pictures I have seen on Google. Don’t be afraid to have something looked at. If in doubt, cut it out.
Why did you get involved with the Save Your Skin “Melanoma Through My Lens” campaign?
One word: Hope. I want patients to not be afraid to help themselves and I know it’s hard because you want to run away, but there’s no running away from it. It goes with you, where you go. You have to stay and fight. It’s not a death sentence anymore. There’s hope.
“Being honest with my family about what I was dealing with made a difference in my journey. Everyone helped me get through this. My son is a very caring boy. My daughter always shows me she cares. My husband is always by my side. What could be more hopeful than more time with my loved ones?”
Image courtesy: Susan Cox
What are three words you use to describe yourself with this disease?
Loud. Numb. Scared.
What are three words do you use to describe yourself without this disease?
Loud. Educated. Empowered.
Check out the Save Your Skin Foundation to find the Melanoma Through My Lens e-book.