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How Embracing My Challenges Helped Me Through the Chaos

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I approach the first switchback and clench my handlebars, fixating on the loose rocks before me. There’s no way I can make that. I wobble precariously and, not trusting my body or my bike, skid to a stop before reaching the turn. Still straddling my bike, I waddle unceremoniously around the corner, then I take a breath. Ok this is scarier than I thought. 

It’s my first time mountain biking, and I’m terrified. I am also five months out of cancer treatment, and on an outdoor adventure trip for young adult cancer ‘survivors,’ a word I still can’t get used to. The group is an eclectic bunch, united by nothing more than the mutinous nature of our cells, a sophisticated medical vocabulary, and a boyish hairdo we don’t quite know what to do with. 

Our bodies have been ravaged both by illness and by treatment. There’s Lisa, who only has one lung. Ashley, who suffers from treatment-induced neuropathy and can’t feel her hands or feet. Katie, who frequently trails off mid-sentence thanks to the chemo brain fog. Donna, who wears compression socks to keep the lymphedema at bay. And me, unsure if my ovaries will ever recover. 

***

After my world was blasted open by a lymphoma diagnosis at 25, I moved back with my parents and completed my first two treatments at home. My treatment consisted of five-day stints in a large city hospital: 96 hours hooked up to an IV that dripped bright pink poison into my veins. 

Once the initial excitement of room service and rediscovering string cheese subsided, I languished in a state of idleness. Nurses changed my linens, brought my food, cleared my dishes, and soothed my IV when it beeped angrily. I oscillated between restlessness and lethargy, alternately doing pushups in a steroid craze and lying plastered to my bed like wet cement. The things that kept me sane were my daily to-do list:

  1. Go on three walks (pushing my IV around the .5 mile hospital hallway loop)
  2. Do my physical therapy exercises (drawing bemused gazes from the staff)
  3. Journal 

I did them religiously. 

My plan was to complete the first two treatments at home and then to move back to the small town I had lived in before my diagnosis – where my job and boyfriend were – to finish the remaining four. When I told my nurses I planned to work while undergoing treatment, they looked at me pityingly. “Oh.. um usually people take a leave of absence.. or at least work part time. Your body will be going through a lot” one said carefully. 

But I couldn’t stay at home. My mom had been diagnosed with both ALS and dementia within the same year and my home environment was just too painful, too sad. Despite her physical challenges, my mom insisted on doing my dishes and my laundry, and my dad cooked my meals. This was very kind, but it also left me feeling purposeless, powerless, infantilized. I felt overwhelmed by anxiety and grief. 

But the crippling fatigue, nausea and bodily distress following treatment made me wonder if my plan was wildly naive. Had I overestimated myself? 

Surprisingly, it was my doctor who told me to go. “Look, the easy thing would be to tell you to stay here,” he started, after I broke down in his office. “Maybe a different doctor would tell you to do that. But I’m going to tell you to go. I think you can do it. Yes, some days you’ll feel puny, but it will pass. Go and try because if you don’t, you won’t give yourself the opportunity to rise to the occasion, and you may regret denying yourself that.”

I took his advice. 

Interestingly, my small-town clinic performed my treatment as an outpatient, rather than an inpatient, procedure. Instead of imprisoning me in the hospital, they put my chemo potion in a fanny pack that I wore slung over my shoulder like a distinctly less glamorous Ms. America sash. I brought my potion pack to the clinic for a daily “refill” and got a couple of weekly infusions, but otherwise, I lived my life. I cooked my own food, went on walks outside, and dressed up as Pitbull for Halloween (to take advantage of my bald head), an eyeliner mustache the only hair-like thing on my body. 

I found that out of the hospital and my parent’s home, the treatment was more bearable. Though I still had ragged days, it was in the comfort of a space I could control. I decorated my walls with art, saw friends who nourished me, and worked from home. Some days, I couldn’t do much more than recline in my leather armchair and listen to Harry Potter, popping Zofrans so I wouldn’t throw up. But mostly, I surprised myself with what I could do. I presented at Town Council meetings and started a blog. I went on glacially slow runs. I skated at the Roller Kingdom, where a tiny child rubbed my head and told me I looked like her bald dad.   

We are often told that in times of difficulty, of illness, of healing, we ought to rest. To be gentle with ourselves. This is important advice, and some days it is vitally important that we take it. But sometimes we also benefit from a push. A reminder that we can do hard things, and that choosing to do hard things can make the difficult circumstances that we didn’t choose a little more bearable. That taking on responsibility and defining a purpose, no matter how small, can empower us to be the agents of our own healing. 

Some days, this meant simply walking down the driveway and back. Other days it meant watering my plants, writing for my blog, and working to contribute to a cause larger than myself. 

Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End  criticizes the model of American elder care that infantilizes the elderly in the name of safety, instead of focusing on enhancing the quality of remaining life by asking, how can we help make this life meaningful and fulfilling despite illness? The answer to these questions, he finds, are usually to do with autonomy, purpose, and empathy. Gawande describes the benefits people experience by maintaining independence in assisted living communities or helping to care for plants and animals in nursing homes. 

Though I was not an elderly person nearing the end of my life, this idea resonated. Choosing where and how I experienced my illness – a privilege, to be sure – offered the semblance of control in a world at the whims of chaos. It gave me just enough agency to anchor myself in a sea that otherwise felt unnavigable. 

The prescription for healing – or simply, bearing –  is different for everyone. Broadly, though, we underestimate the weight of our decisions to empower us and create a more complete picture of health. The power to choose purpose and accountability, to gain strength out of necessity. 

Sometimes, we need someone to help show us that we have this choice. 

***

Toward the bottom of the mountain bike trail, I realize that I’m grinning. I approach a switchback and think about the advice I’ve learned that day: to look where I want to go, not where I don’t. I fight my instinct to look at the rocky bluff that drops off sharply from the trail and, instead, turn my head to look around the corner where I want to end up. My bike follows my gaze, swinging me around and pulling me easily through the turn. 

After the ride, our motley crew is dusty, sun-streaked and exhausted. Ashley has a badly bruised elbow, the result of her second plunge over the handlebars. Donna is so sunburned that a tomato could camouflage effectively between her knees. But everyone is also beaming. Proud of our imperfect bodies that, despite the battery of illness, did something hard today. Energized, by rising to the challenge that we chose. 

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Is Crypto Safe? What You Need to Know

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Is Crypto Safe? What You Need to Know

What You Need to Know About Crypto Security

The cryptocurrency market is booming with more new coins and startups than ever, but they’re not all created equal. Cryptocurrency is a trailblazing technology that could overhaul the financial systems of the future. However, it’s wise to do your homework before actively trading or investing in cryptocurrencies with price volatility and privacy concerns.

What Is A Cryptocurrency?

Digital money that makes use of cryptography to safeguard transactions and regulate the generation of new units is called Cryptocurrency. It’s called a cryptocurrency because it relies on cryptography’s encrypted form of data. Cryptography also provides anonymity for users by obscuring their identity and, indeed, all aspects of their transactions.

Cryptocurrencies can be mined, traded or used to purchase goods and services. A person would have to rely on already established relationships with merchants or banks to make purchases in the past. 

How Safe Is Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is more than an idea to create a digital form of currency at its core. Cybercriminals have learned that they can target these digital currencies because they are not regulated and not backed by any government. In theory, it’s tough to track down the source or the location of cryptocurrency transactions.

Cryptocurrencies are a prime target opening for cybercriminals since it’s difficult to trace transactions and identify the individuals involved.

How to Safeguard Your Cryptocurrencies

Cybersecurity in Cryptocurrency is a common issue and one that you should be aware of if considering an investment. Though the concerns are real, these problems can be mitigated mainly through a few simple security steps before trading or investing in Cryptocurrency.

Here are some basics steps to help secure your account from Cryptocurrency transactions:

Password Protection

Enable two-step authentication and password protect your computer when searching for cryptocurrency exchanges. This will prevent anyone from accessing your machines if they are stolen or hacked.

Use a Virtual Private Network

A virtual private network (VPN) is a computer network where you can hide your proper IP address. If a hacker were to try and break into your account, they would see an IP address from the VPN, so it would be impossible to gain access.

Backup Your Wallet

Backup information that includes public address and private keys. This will help you retrieve any lost currency or prevent others from transferring Cryptocurrency from your wallet.

Use Multiple Wallets

Using more than one Cryptocurrency wallet helps protect your investment from theft even if your account is compromised. If you have a cryptocurrency wallet on multiple devices and platforms, it’s easy to keep a backup of your information in case of an account breach.

What Are the Risks Associated with Cryptocurrency?

With all the blockchain talk about decentralization and anonymity, getting swept up in the hype is easy. Cryptocurrency has become a rapidly growing portion of the investing market, and many retail investors are looking to trade or invest in cryptocurrencies.

While the technology behind cryptocurrencies is impressive, risks are rushing, making trading and investing in Cryptocurrency risky for inexperienced traders. 

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams come in many forms, including emails and text messages. These scams can occur on an individual or a more general level, as most commonly happens. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) publishes information on detecting phishing scams. Still, it’s hard to tell the difference between a legitimate cryptocurrency exchange and an imposter because most large cryptocurrency exchanges do not have contact information listed for regulatory reasons.

Volatility

Cryptocurrency is a very volatile market that can swing wildly in either direction in almost no time at all. All cryptocurrencies are responsive to news, which can cause price changes within minutes or hours. There are also several different types of currencies, so you may have a hard time getting used to the volatility of each type. If you see only one digital currency (e.g., Bitcoin), it’s easy to assume stability when it’s still highly volatile.

Online Payments

While using crypto for online payments is a convenient method to pay for products and services, there are significant hazards involved with such transactions. When you pay for anything using bitcoin, you have no way of knowing the seller’s identity or having your payment details validated by a third party. You’re on your own if there’s an issue with the transaction.

With online purchases, you don’t have access to a complaint process, and there is no recourse if something goes wrong. This all results in anonymous transactions that pose risks online. As long as Cryptocurrency continues its rapid growth, this will be an iCryptocurrencyilers and sellers will need to solve.

Conclusion

Cryptocurrency is a highly sought-after currency for investors due to its untraceable nature and ability to exchange value without interference from a third party, such as a bank. However, this feature also makes it an appealing target for cybercriminals.

If you’re considering investing or trading in Cryptocurrency, educate yourself on the processes used to make transactions and invest your money safely and securely with reliable services that vet every transaction before letting it go through. Before diving in headfirst, make sure you research the different types of Cryptocurrency available and what risks are associated with each one. For more information on Cryptocurrency and its different types, visit our blog now!

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Where did the Zero Go?

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For as long as I can remember, I always looked around me, mainly at other boys, to get a sense of where I stood, of who I was.

It’s as if I had drawn a horizontal line with pluses on one side and minuses on the other and my position was the zero. There was that really cool kid, he was a plus, there was the dorky boy, he was a minus… At times being in the presence of pluses was inspiring but it was mostly threatening, because at that moment, it didn’t matter how many minuses existed or whether my “zero’ was pretty high up there, all I could see was a plus, and that made me the minus.

This applied to everything; from being good at sports to drawing or reading or the way I looked or how smart I was or how popular or cool I felt at any given moment. It wasn’t really about how I was feeling though, I could feel like a million bucks but if a plus walked in along any of the possible categories that I valued, my insecurities would immediately trigger.

I became really good at growing and repositioning my zero, or my reference point, and became a master at gauging others, categorizing and comparing. I didn’t just compare myself with the world, I was also comparing myself to different versions of myself…where was I at any given moment, compared to where I had been before, or where I could be, or even worse… where I should be.

As some of the things I valued started to loose importance, new ones came online. Having the coolest Star-wars set got traded for being liked by the most girls, having academic success got traded for being regarded as witty and successful, being the coolest got replaced by getting to be the kindest…and so it went.

Spiritual Ego

Then entered spirituality, the fix for all my struggles, or so I thought. It didn’t actually stop the comparison, because I turned it into the new playing field; The new standard where I got to measure and prove how special I was. There was a new flag to catch, and that was enlightenment.

I got really good at sustaining a very high level of consciousness, at being present, not judging people, being happy and all the things that came with paying close attention to my thoughts and emotions. I became particularly good at showing people how spiritual I was.

What a perfect solution… no more pluses to encounter because spirituality now trumped all. Someone could be successful and good looking and everything else that would make me feel less, but odds were they weren’t more spiritual than me; my spiritual zero was really up there. It felt like I had figured things out.

My sense of self was so invested in this new spiritual identity that I defended it with all I had. Seeing my attachment to it, was truly humbling.

Game Over

I realized taking the next step required the willingness to let go of my spiritual crutch. I had to come to terms with my addiction. My fix was the next high, amazing insight or awakening experience. In essence, not much different from looking for the next toy or business deal and believing it was going to make me happy. Accepting this, meant recognizing the fate of the game I was playing: no matter how meaningful it seemed at the time, no success had ever been enough, no amount of recognition or validation had ever ended my need for it, no spiritual high had ever quenched that thirst; I was an addict and it was never going to be enough.

As if just having been defeated for the millionth time at a video game and throwing the game controller on the floor, I felt the air sucked out of me and the engines behind that drive snuffing out. It wasn’t the bells and whistles of winning; it was the blinking “game-over“ sign on the screen.

A New Energy

Life started to take on a different flavor from that point on. The old energy of attaining comes and visits but it’s seen as an old friend that used to be so familiar and I’ve grown apart from. The zero seems to bubble up but it’s now seen as just a thought looking for friction and contrast to find its bearings.

Old dynamics still sometimes play themselves out, emotions still surface and I sometimes find myself reacting in the ways I used to. Now however, they seem to happen within a larger context and they are recognized as just temporary experiences not as things that define an “me” or a zero.

When these thoughts or emotions are happening in the absence of a reference point, there’s no separation between the experience and the experiencer. All that’s left, is a deep intimacy with life that moves through the world with an open heart and mind.

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Food Is Medicine And What We Eat Is Important

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Your mental state is a critical component of your physical health. And when you’re under a lot of stress, you might not be eating the healthy food that provides nutrients for fighting anxiety and depression. So when we examine what we’ve been eating, most of us discover that the decisions we’ve been making in the name of simplicity, convenience, or saving time have been damaging to our total health – body, mind, and spirit.

A person’s diet is a direct reflection of their health. When a person does not eat the right foods, their body breaks down. This can lead to an overall decrease in quality of life and many other diseases linked to improper nutrition. In North America, our current diet mainly consists of an excess of grain, sugar, fried and fatty foods. As a result, disorders including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and certain malignancies are becoming increasingly widespread.

The science of food has always been discussed; however, with recent technological innovations in food processing and agriculture, people have enjoyed more convenient foods that are less expensive than ever before. Unfortunately, with every convenience comes a trade-off. Smart foods are often packed with sugar, salt, and calories, leading to poor health in some individuals. 

To understand what a person is putting into their body, it’s essential to realize that the small molecules in food are responsible for allowing our bodies to function. These small molecules are called nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and enzymes. A nutrient is not a value unless absorbed by the body through a specific pathway. For example, if you absorb calcium without vitamin D, your body will not use that calcium. 

Eating a balanced diet keeps you healthy, but it helps reduce your stress. For example, eat foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants because they help augment your immune response and prevent toxins from damaging your cells. Vitamins A, C, and E serve as antioxidants that fight off free radicals in the body. Free radicals are toxic products of metabolism that cause damage to your cells. Experts claim that they are responsible for the aging process. Good sources of these vitamins are deeply-colored vegetables- green leafy, yellow, and orange vegetables, such as squash, broccoli, kale, spinach, and carrots.

Iron is one of the most abundant minerals in the body, and it mainly functions to deliver oxygen to your cells. Hence, an iron deficiency, medically termed Iron-deficiency anemia, is associated with weakness, easy fatigability, and pale skin. Tea, coffee, red wine, grapes, and berries are rich in antioxidants that function the same as your vitamins A, C, and E. 
You need a diet that’s healthy and balanced – and one that can fit comfortably into your busy lifestyle.

Here are some of the recommended dietary guidelines.

Eat a diet high in fresh vegetables, vitamins, and minerals. 

Exercise every other day to release endorphins, feel good, get the blood flowing, and reduce stress levels. 

Eat salt only when you need it, but not too much as your body does not need it. Many people with anxiety are hypothyroid or have low magnesium. When your body needs more sodium, it can indicate that you are not producing enough cortisol or are dehydrated. If you experience chronic anxiety, I recommend working with a physician to run tests on cortisol levels and then take salt supplements as needed. Use spices like turmeric, ginger, curry, and aromatic herbs like parsley, rosemary, sage, and basil.
Eat low-fat meals because they will cause a minor spike in blood sugar levels: think lean meats, eggs, vegetables, and nuts; avoid dairy if it makes you feel anxious. 

Drink lots of water — keep hydrated all day — ideally at least half a gallon if possible — your brain needs water to function optimally! 

Avoid foods that you know will make you feel bad, such as dairy, even with low-fat content. You can cut out dairy and not worry about it! 

Avoid sugar, caffeine, processed foods, alcohol, and any other substance that makes you feel bad or increases anxiety levels. Also, avoid coffee — drinking more than one cup a day can cause anxiety in some people. Coffee is also dehydrating and inhibits the absorption of minerals from food/water/supplements — try caffeinated water as a substitute for coffee if you like the caffeine kick. 

Find a natural health professional that you can talk to or work with to quickly get the results you want. 

Healthy foods and nutrition can help you stay fit, but they can also assist you in treating disease. When you nurture your body physically with these nutrient-dense foods, your mental capacities improve, as does your spiritual welfare. Moreover, because your spiritual health is at its best, it will radiate to the exterior world, causing others to notice you’re happier and more relaxed, and your stress levels have decreased dramatically.

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