Friday, April 14, 2017

A FRESH START - THE TRAVELS OF LADY LEVINE



I have been on somewhat of a hiatus from my writing over the last year. I suppose life has just happened to whisk me away into various directions, and I woke up one day (today, actually) realizing I have truly missed my long, lost love—writing. I also came to the conclusion as to WHY I love writing—I want to share my excitement of travelling! Just ask some of my friends on Facebook (yes, I went back)—every time someone travels and posts pictures and stories, I have to chime in with some suggestions or ideas or just plain “I love that place!”.


So, I have decided given the amount of travelling I do, that I would like to focus my “There Was an Incident” Blog specifically on sharing my travelling adventures. Don’t worry, there are plenty of incidents when I travel, so the idea of the title still holds true. Words cannot express (but I will find a way!) how much I enjoy going to new places, meeting interesting people, learning about the art, architecture, history and culture of wherever it is that I am, and then being able to impart that to others.


I am a Financial Planner by day (and a fabulous one at that), so it’s in my nature to plan. I don’t plan everything mind you, but when it comes to travelling here is my theory: If I am going to spend “X” amount of dollars going somewhere, and I have particular interests in the places I am going to, AND I hate standing in a line up, then why not invest some time into planning so I make the most of my time and see what I want to see. So far, that theory has tested well and I have had some of the most spectacular trips as a result. Just as a point of interest, I am now finding that my clients are asking me for travel advice along with how to plan their retirement—I’ll take that as a compliment and happy to do it!


My intention through this blog is to share my experiences with you, so if you happened to be thinking about going to the same spots, then maybe there is a tip or two that I have imparted that will be helpful to you. If you can’t get away to where you want to go, then maybe there is a sliver of inspiration or a thread of enjoyment reading about places you have dreamed of going some day in the future.


As a final note, you may wonder who Lady Levine is—well, that’s me! A few years back I made a land purchase outside of Canada, and received a lovely title certificate, giving me the option to use the title ‘Lady”. When I am in England, it works well, but most of the world thinks Lady is just my first name—I used to try and explain but only received confused looks in return. However, it makes for a lovely title to my travels…and so a new, wonderful direction is born through what I will call “The Travels of Lady Levine”.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Taking Back Reality...Good-Bye Facebook



I entered a brave new world today. I left Facebook—a place that I frequented as regularly as a neighbourhood pub. I enjoyed my virtual pub for quite a long time. For me, it started out by connecting with old school friends, catching up on people’s lives, seeing and hearing all that had transpired over the years. It helped me connect with family members that live on the other side of the globe and gave me a glimpse into their world so far away from mine. It opened my eyes and my mind to some of the goings on in the world, both good and bad.


Being part of Facebook made me feel connected. I laughed at silly cat videos, cried at sad stories with happy or not so happy endings, and shared in all that my friends had to say. It also gave me the opportunity to share—the adventures I went on, my thoughts and ideas, my hopes and dreams.


I loved my virtual pub—who wouldn’t?  Then I started to notice how things slowly changed for me. I was spending more and more time on Facebook—time I did not have to spend.  It wasn’t about staying connected anymore, rather, it became a place where I could get the attention I craved, whether intentional or not. I became engrossed in subjects that I thought I knew something about, yet realized I actually knew nothing. Instead of it becoming a learning experience, it became about me being right or having the last say.


And before I knew it, I was losing my connection to the physical realm. I was abandoning my creative energies over and over again. Time just drifted away every day, all for the sake of my virtual world, where I felt I was losing my real self.


So I decided to take back my time and energy. When I made my decision to “Denexit” known (I thought that was a cute term, being in the financial services industry and all, and, my exit was certainly unexpected), the outpouring of support from everyone I knew on Facebook was overwhelming. I had no idea that I made such an impact on my friends with all those thoughts, hopes and dreams I had shared. I was truly touched.


I am part of a generation that grew up without technology and social media, and I feel most fortunate that I have the use of it and can appreciate its place in our world. However, I also feel even more fortunate to have the memory of days where creativity, imagination, interpersonal skills and human interaction mattered most, and I’m pleased to report that those memories are alive and well today. That’s my reality, and I couldn’t be happier.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My "Gut" Feeling...Celebrating the Absence of Crohn's



I'm writing this blog post on a very important day—the 12th anniversary of the surgery that saved my life from Crohn's disease. It's tough to know where to start, so in the interest of time, I'll give you the Reader’s Digest version.


I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease 2 years prior to my surgery, and 2 years prior to my diagnosis, I had contracted the H-Pylori bacteria while living in Ontario for a few years—I was 29. That bacteria is nasty—it burrows a hole in your stomach (ulcer) and it takes three sets of the heavy-duty antibiotics to kill it. Antibiotics killed it alright, and everything else in my gut. However, at the time, I was naive to how this all worked, and simply did as I was told by the doctors. The reason I mention this bacteria is that I believe this was the root of the cause of the Crohn’s (and my GI specialist concurred). My gut was wide open to any and all pathogens, and probiotics were not even mentioned as an after-treatment to replace all the lovely good bacteria that was obliterated alongside the bad.


Fast forward 2 years, and I’m now back in Vancouver and decide it’s time for a divorce. It was my doing to end the marriage—our daughter’s diagnosis of autism whilst in Ontario took a weak marriage and broke it. It was a very difficult time, our lives were in turmoil, and weren’t a happy pair. The stress was at an all time high, and back then, I had no idea how to manage it, nor did I seek out help—I just dealt with it. In the midst of all this, I started having stomach issues—first I just chalked it up to a bad meal or two. Then it turned into wanting to be sick within a few hours of eating, and then finally into actually being sick. It turned from a rarity, to once in awhile, to more often, and finally into a regular occurrence, with the diagnosis in amongst there somewhere.


Crohn’s is a inflammatory bowel disease that can arrive anywhere along the digestive system, starting at the mouth and ending, well, you know where. For me, the disease had taken hold in my small intestine, as determined by a test called a small-bowel follow through. It’s lovely—you drink a delicious cup of barium (not sure that stuff was meant for human consumption) to highlight the digestive tract for the x-ray machine. Parts of my small intestine where extremely inflamed, to the point where when I was at my worst (just before surgery), the damaged parts were the width of a piece of string (they are usually an inch in diameter).


The pain just kept getting worse and worse, to the point where I had planned special places on my commute home (West Vancouver to Steveston) where I could safely stop and keel over in pain in my car without alerting the public. My GI guy said they use a pain scale in the medical field, with childbirth being about a 5, and terminal cancer being 10. Based on my condition, I was at an 8. It was so horrific near the end, that I just wanted it all to go away. It was only for a fleeting moment that I felt that way—until I was able to get a grip and remember I had a beautiful daughter who needed me.


My GI guy had me on a few different anti-inflammatory medications, but the only one that worked was prednisone. I was in love with it—why? Because it took the pain away. I went on it three times within a year and a half—I was able to eat again, and without being sick. After round three, my GI guy finally said no more, and warned me that any more, and I would be getting hip-replacement surgery in 5 years time. The drug let me eat, but it was eating my bone marrow.


During this time, aside from severe hair loss and issues with my teeth from all the stomach acid, I had obviously lost a considerable amount of weight. I was a healthy size 10 and just kept moving down the scale. Initially, it was interesting because it was neat to be shrinking and buying smaller sizes, and my stupid boyfriend at the time thought it was great because I was really slim and looked fantastic (what idiot is happy his girlfriend has a chronic illness?). The defining moment came when I was in the American Eagle dressing room and tried on a size 4 pair of jeans and they were too big. The sales girl was all “Oh my god, that’s so awesome, I’ll go get you a size 2!”. And then I lost it—I had a full-on breakdown in the dressing room while waiting for my size 2 jeans. When you can’t control what your body is doing anymore, it is a sick and horrible feeling. I was beside myself and knew that something big was coming. It was called surgery.


Hearing the words, “Your body is shutting down, you will be dead in two weeks if we don’t get you into surgery” is terribly sobering. Death is something that was supposed to happen when I was old, not at 33 years of age. I was at the point now where I hadn’t eaten anything solid in over 3 months, and was even throwing up water.


I will yada yada over the surgery and all the details of time spent in the hospital—but when I woke up from my surgery, four and a half feet of my small intestine was removed in 3 different places. I no longer had a terminal ilium (where the small and large intestine meet) so I have to have B12 shot into my arm muscle every three weeks for the rest of my life (B12 is absorbed by the terminal ilium). But that is a small price to pay for being alive. When they brought me my first solid food while I was in the hospital, I just starred at the sandwich for 2 hours, afraid to eat it because it might be painful. The radiologist’s report cited that upon inspection of what was removed from me, he couldn’t believe I had survived. The surgeon did an amazing job—internally and externally (you can’t even see the 6 inch incision anymore). He tried to tell me I would be on medication for the rest of my life, and would be back in for more surgery in a 3 to 5 years, and I said no to both.


I haven’t taken a stitch of modern medicine since that day. I use peppermint oil on my forehead if I get a headache. I drink chamomile tea if I feel a bit of heartburn. I take probiotics religiously every day. I meditate every morning and every night and I am grateful every day that I am here. My diet and exercise program is improving all the time, and I have learned various stress-relieving techniques that I practice daily. I live in the moment as much as I can, and truly enjoy my life. I literally have nothing to complain about and I savour what this beautiful world, even in amongst the not-so-great situations, has to offer.


There is much, much more to my story by way of what I do to keep myself (and my gut) healthy, which will be saved for a further post. The important thing to me is, I have internalized the concept that I no longer have the disease, and I no longer identify with it. I have altered my destiny by denying that there is no cure. And I wish that empowered thinking for everyone.