Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bonnes Fêtes du Canada, des Etats-Unis, et de Pride

Je vais à Montréal pour cette fin de semaine longue. Je prendrai une pause de Blue Butterfly pendant mes petits vacances. Je vous souhaite une bonne fête du Canada pour les canadiens et canadiennes. For Americans, I wish you a Happy 4th of July on Monday. For LGBTQ (and others including TS, I, SA) in Toronto (and beyond), Happy Pride this weekend.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My friend Denise had Marla and me over for dinner. She was thoughtful to have a vegan option especially for me. Her special Morrocan-style chick peas and potatoes with naan and salad. Can you smell the spices through the screen? Looks good and tastes even better.

The Sunday School Picnic had lots of vegan options. This was when I debuted my vegan cupcakes. They were a hit!

Money Talks I

Adventures of Stevie V - Dirty Cash (Money Talks) - Official Video

Remember this little ditty from the 1990? For some reason it made me think of Beverley Hills 90210. I also think of the desperation of drug addicts who prostitute themselves for a fix. (Yes, seedy.)

On another note, I recently read a study that suggests that cancer is a risk factor for bankruptcy. Of all cancers, thyroid cancer has the second highest rate of financial bankruptcy than other cancers at 4.8% (behind lung cancer at 7.7%, in front of leukemia/lymphoma at 3.6%). I pondered the reason a little bit today with two survivors. Now I think I know why.

1) Thyroid cancer is now the number 1 cancer among young women. We, young women, earn less than older adults especially since we are relatively new in our careers. So we are often working at a lower salary grade. Second, many young women are in the time of their life starting young families so they are not working the same number of hours because they often have reduced income due to maternity leave and childcare. Third, due to gender bias and inequality, women are still earning less than their male counterparts. Lastly, we are young. We don't think we are at risk for cancer because we are young so we live our lives, we work hard to get ahead and party harder, we do not save for emergencies (unless you have a little stashed away), and sadly are already in debt (thanks to student loans and credit cards). (I know that some of these may not apply to you but you are the exception. :-)

2) Thyroid Cancer is still called the "good cancer". Thyroid cancer is generally still one of the most treatable and curable forms of cancer, that is if you have the more common forms of papillary, follicular, and/or differentiated. So most endocrinologists, in my experience, indicate that one is ready to go back to work 3 weeks after surgery and 4 days-2 weeks after radiation. This is does not nearly reflect my own experience or that of other thyroid patients. Physically, the mobility of the neck returns after three weeks and the radioactivity does wear off but if you are adjusting to thyroid medications or especially if you have to "go hypo", without Thyrogen like I did, to prepare for your radiation, it can take several months to a year to feel completely normal. In addition, some people require a second surgery which then results in more necessary recovery time. Since the thyroid gland controls metabolism and protein production, the absence of a fully functioning thyroid gland can make one feel totally off balance, lethargic, and not well for work. A total lack of functioning thyroid hormone mimics depression symptoms. Regardless of these factors, thyroid cancer patients look so normal. Aside from the scars on our necks, we are fairly healthy looking (albeit extremely tired.)

I am often told that I look good for what I have been through and it looks like nothing happened. Thanks for the compliments. But I think this is one of the reasons why thyroid cancer gets the shaft, why more thyroid cancer patients are bankrupt, and why it's still so understated.

There are no major fundraisers or campaigns for thyroid cancer like there are for other cancers, e.g. THE RUN FOR THE CURE (breast cancer), UNDERWEAR AFFAIR (cancers below the waist), and TEAM IN TRAINING (lymphoma and leukemia.) Also, Canada's thyroid cancer organization, Thyroid Cancer Canada is fairly new, becoming a non-profit in 2002 and charitable organization in 2003. It is run by volunteers and a board of director and funded by donations. (Despite this, TCC does amazing work but imagine what could be done with paid staff.) Perhaps, it is because thyroid cancer patients look so normal that the "healthy looking sick people" do not get funding. Don't get me wrong. I am not negating the financial toll of cancer on the whole also know that folks who have other types of cancer. But there does seem to be a gap when it comes to thyroid cancer. This is also why I strongly believe that there needs to be more advocacy for thyroid cancer especially regarding the causes.)

3) Financial support is difficult to access with thyroid cancer. Thyroid conditions are quite prevalent today. Hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Grave's disease, Hashimoto thyroiditis, and various types of thyroid cancers are the most common thyroid conditions. When the endocrinologists said to me that it takes only 2 weeks to return to work, it negates all of the symptoms that I am experiencing, especially those that prevent me from working. When the endocrinologists and surgeons say it is only two weeks, it is even more difficult to access other types of funding. Thankfully, I received government sick benefits for fifteen weeks which equalled about 40% of my salary and did not pay for March Break but before I could access that I had to use up all of my sick days. If I was to return to work after this and needed a day off to go to an appointment or I was not well, I would have to take days off without pay. Another thyroid cancer survivor told me that our condition does not qualify for the Government Disability like other cancers do. Thankfully, after over 3 months of prayers, forms, phone calls, blood tests, doctors' visits, and waiting for an unspecified amount of time, I did qualify for a disability claim through my employers' insurance plan. At moments, it felt like it would not get through. I was so happy. But then I found out what the amount of my coverage would be: less than 25% of my salary which is about $ 950/month. That's right. I will be living on 1/4 of my salary for the summer. $ 600 of this is rent, so essentially for $ 350 I will need to eat, transport, and entertain myself. I feel a bit disappointed which I fully acknowledge on the other hand, it is better than nothing. I have hopefully ended the main portions of my treatment so I will return to full-time salary in September. However this is still a shock. If my thyroid treatment were more complex or required more time off, the impact would be a lot more.

4) Thyroid cancer numbers are increasing. The incidents of thyroid cancer are on the rise. I know of two other teachers in my school board who are younger than 35 that are also experiencing thyroid cancer. I met one woman who knows 3 women going through thyroid cancer now. Another woman I spoke says her friend knows 5. I'm not ready to say "epidemic" but the prevelance is high. Imagine the financial strain if we all were asking for money.

Since some of you might be facing the financial pains that come with cancer, I have listed two resources from the Thyroid Cancer Canada website.

For those living in Ontario, Canada, there is a financial assistance booklet from the Princess Margaret Hospital/University Health Network.

Also read Kairol Rosenthal's blog. She is a thyroid cancer survivor and author of Everything Changes: The Guide to Young Adult Cancer in Your 20s and 30s. She has a really cool post about cancer and medical debt. Although she is an American and her references are a bit different, the stats are similar and we still feel the same pain.

How have I been coping financially so far?
First off, let me first say that I am blessed. I have mentioned it in my post Nature Walking 1, I have been provided for and I am trusting that I will always have enough. My faith in God has been really helpful in this regard. So prayer, and prayers from friends, family, church folk, and strangers, has been helpful in this regard. So even when I thought I would be left in a lurch with less than 25% of my salary (and a wedding coming up next year), I am trusting that I will be okay. Jean at Wellspring said the time of to recover is a gift and instead of gold and diamonds, I'd have time this summer. Instead of going out for dinners, I'll go out for tea. In one way, having less money forces me to do less. (I'm a bit of a workaholic and busy bee.) I will have to slow down. Second, I will never underestimate having an emergency fund. No matter how small the amount you could put aside into savings each week, do it! Thankfully, I had a small emergency amount which I have used. Even on my 40% of my salary, I have been stashing a few dollars aside each week. This comes in handy. Third, my tax return could not have come at a better time. Plus, having credit cards helped (especially those with a balance). I also cook a lot of food so my fiance and I eat at home a lot more which saves money. My fiance and I do not have cable so that is one bill that we don't have to pay. I often take public transit to avoid expensive parking fees. I cut corners here and there. My mother is paying my car insurance. Bless her. My fiance is also a musician and works retail so although our combined incomes are not large at the moment, we have been able to make do with what we have.

Coming up in the next post... Why do I have thyroid cancer?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


FOODS THAT FIGHT CANCER: Preventing Cancer Through Diet by Richard Beliveau, Ph.D., and Denis Gingras, Ph.D.
There is an amazing secret. An answer to a long-sought mystery and it lurks in your refrigerator, your cupboards, and your local supermarket. The response to the age-old mystery in which billions of research, trillions of dollars in medical procedures, treatments, and millions who get diagnosed annually... what causes cancer? According to Beliveau, Gingras, and his research team, preventable factors and 30% of the time it is poor dietary habits. When I learned about this news, I wondered why there were no protests, riots in the street, or wars between fast food restaurants, agricultural and meat industries, and the general public. The information suggests that sometimes we are responsible for our cancer diagnoses. Louise Hay and Carolyn Myss, Ph.D. suggest that cancer is caused by psychosocial and emotional issues. And now this? On the pie chart on Page 19, there is a pie chart that displays RISK FACTORS FOR CANCER. Hereditary factors (15%), workplace-related exposure (5%), infection (5%), and other environmental only account for a combined 30%. Other factors such as smoking (30%), , alcohol (3%), obesity and lack of exercise (5%), UV-ray exposure (2%), drugs (2%), pollution (2%), other (1%), plus the poor dietary habits account for the other 70% are considered preventable factors. I have to ask some questions since I realize that drugs, UV-ray exposure, and pollution may be considered both within control or beyond the immediate control of the individual. For example, if a child had melanoma and was administered radiation therapy to treat and later grew up and developed thyroid cancer as a latent side-effect of the treatment that was administered years prior, this is not within his immediate control. If one chooses to ignore the warnings about UV-ray exposure from the sun by not applying sunscreen for example, she increases the risk for skin cancer. The lines can be blurred sometimes.

The answer to the question about what causes cancer is so complex and I am quite fascinated to know all of the theories. In practice, I have mentioned in my book reviews that there is a lot to learn with theories such as Beliveau/Gingras so I will share with you the things that I did. These researchers found that the most effective way to prevent the start of a cancer and slow down cancer cell growths is by preventing angiogenesis, the formation of blood vessels which provide the necessary nutrients and oxygen to a tumour. The researchers suggest that food is most effective in blocking the formation of these tumour-feeding blood vessels in ways that the more conventional treatments of cancer such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are not. The way I look at it is that in addition to the conventional treatments (I have had both surgery and radiation), food is my most potent plan of defence. First, I am in control of what I eat and second, there are no side effects except a full belly. (Or anaphylactic allergic side effects if I eat the fish which I can't and won't anyway.)

I learned about this book in a Vegetarian Cooking Class and Workshop offered at Wellspring Cancer support centre. The dietician who presented this workshop focused on the FOODS THAT FIGHT CANCER (but included a few others she added as well). These FOODS THAT FIGHT CANCER are:
1) Cabbage family which includes all cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, collard greens, turnip, watercress
2) Garlic and onions also includes such things as leeks, shallots, and chives
3) Soy also includes edamame, dry roasted soybeans, miso, soya sauce, tofu, soy milk
4) Turmeric
5) Green Tea
6) Berriesincludes strawberries, blueberries, and cranberries
7) Fish for their Omega 3 fatty acids but if you are vegan and/or anaphylactic like me you can get the same benefits in flax seed, soy, and nuts
8) Tomatoes are here because of their lycopene but so are watermelon, guava, and pink grapefruit
9) Citrus Fruit includes oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and mandarins (clementines, tangerines)
10) Red wine but you can get some of these benefits in grapes
and my favourite
11) Chocolate but not the milk kind that I love but dark chocolate

There are other plant-based foods, fruits, and vegetables that could be added to the list such as eggplant, celery, spinach, apples, mushrooms, and algae.

And it's not because these foods contain a lot of vitamins and minerals (although these help), it's that they contain phytochemicals which actually slow the growth of these cancer cells. Isn't that exciting???

I love books like this because they give me such a sense of hope. A hope that cancer fighting is in the hands of the patient and not only in the hands of the medical establishment. There are things we can do!

So whether you have been diagnosed with cancer or not, I recommend this book. Beyond cancer, it provides a lot of healthy suggestions for diet which can help prevent other diseases and illnesses as well. I think our ancestors knew it best since many of them ate these foods readily. The ancient Japanese first drank green tea for healing and now it is quite integrated in their culture. The same goes for garlic and onions in southern European and Asian cuisines. Indians ate turmeric and black pepper in combination to increase their healing potential. Isn't this amazing???

So before you think I'm a lunatic, read this book!!!!

NOTE: Shout out to Gingras and Beliveau, my new French-Canadian research homeboys!!!

Coming next: THE CHINA STUDY


On a visit to my local library, I was pleasantly surprised yet suspicious to see THE TROPICAL VEGAN KITCHEN: Meat-free, Egg-free, Dairy-free Dishes from the Tropics. Surprised because, “Wow, it’s a vegan cookbook!” but on the other hand suspicious since it had no photographs whatsoever (except for the salad on the cover). Cooking with a cookbook that has no photographs is kind of like seeing someone in person after you’ve read their profile on a dating website. There are definite risks involved. Have no fear! Unlike said dating site, THE TROPICAL VEGAN KITCHEN does not tell you he is 6 foot 5 when he is really 5 foot 2 or that he is built like Taylor Lautner when he is more like Michael Cera (not that there is anything wrong with him, geek chic is in). And just like Michael Cera, this cookbook is quite an amazing find, humble and smart but not as typecast. The best part is that as an amateur chef I could feel confident preparing Aussie-Style Fettuccine with Basil-Macadamia Pesto without comparing it to professional food photographs found in other cookbooks. The dishes in this book take you around the world to sunny, exotic, and breezy locales. The Thai Pineapple Fried Rice is to die for and no quesadilla would be complete without Kiwifruit Salsa. Want to try an interesting flavour combination? Try sinking your teeth into coconut milk-moistened banana, pineapple, kiwifruit, and mango chunks in the Tropical Whole-Grain Muffin. I even got in touch with my ancestral roots by making some serious Roasted Vegetables in African Peanut Sauce on Fufu. THE TROPICAL VEGAN KITCHEN will take your tastebuds on vacation.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Not winning

After I got this beautiful hairdo from Glenroy, I had to take lots of photos. Adam, my fiance, got this one quite by accident when the flash did not go off but I love it. It reminds me of a Grace Jones album cover from the 1980s-- glamourous, mysterious, bold, and eccentric.

On another note, I got the results of the Vida Vegan Con International Vegan Blog Conference Burrito Bonanza contest and the winner is... Monk and Mao with her dessert-rito.

I did not win.


I have not had this feeling in quite some time. It reminds me of jobs that I have applied for in which I throw myself into the application process and have glowing references and amazing portfolios, and go beyond what is asked for by assembling a proposed project outline and vision and even make it for the second and third round... but still not get the job. It was really a tough decision but.... Ugh! I cringe at those words.

But this time it is not a job.

It is a burrito.

Or rather 7 original burritos, one for each day of the week, each with cancer-fighting vegan ingredients and cultural relevance and sensitivity, original and funny names, and two fun and silly comicstrips. Plus tons of votes on Epicurious Vegan's facebook page and on her blog, I might add.

This is more than just a burrito.

I know, I know... don't be a sore loser. That's what my fiance said as he tried to comfort me. "Look on the bright side..." all that stuff.

It's not that I thought Monk and Mao's entry wasn't good with it's caramel chili apples and vegan dulce de leche. (I too love dulce de leche.)

It's not that the four other entries (beside Monk and Mao's and my own) were not good. And I admit there were a few really original and exceptional ones. (Shout out to my sistren' with the seitan burrito. When I read her entry, she would win for sure. Smoked seitan and tofu sour cream. What a dream?)

It's that I truly thought I had a chance at winning and at going west to Portland. It's that I thought my entry was really good, original, silly, and funny. And besides, I had seven burritos. Seven. (Isn't that supposed to be a special number?)

As a teacher (the other hat I wear), I often tell my students "it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game". Oh really? I have to eat those words. (And not just because we're talking about burritos.)

Well, the truth is that it is still hard to lose and sometimes a child may cry or scream or throw a tantrum when he does lose which I am doing a bit of right now. Nevertheless, he eventually, often calms down. The nice thing about being a kid is that there is usually some sort of consolation prize like a purple participation ribbon or a certificate. Even kids get goodie bags at their friends birthdays so no kid goes away sad.

But when you're an adult, there is no such thing. You either win or lose. You get the job or you don't. You get the promotion or it goes to someone else. He pops the question to you or he asks someone else. One or the other. Couldn't we all win?

I can't remember which author I read about who's mother told her to not worry about losing because it is the loser to who most people relate to.

Well, here's to losing!!!!

Now before you go ahead and think I am going to throw a pity party for myself, I did prepare for the possibility of losing (after I completed my burrito entry, helping me deal with the anxiety of waiting for a winner.) Before I share this with you, I would like to thank all of the folks who took the time to vote for me. You are truly awesome and I appreciate the few minutes you took to figure out the voting system and leave your thoughts and words.

So in the way I know best, with positivity, creativity, and tenacity, here are the things I learned about my Burrito Bonanza experience:
1) I have a lot of creative ideas hidden in my brain and they are dying to get out.
2) I really get wrapped up in a project I care about and will focus all of my creative energy on it.
3) I think in words, pictures, and now food.
4) I work really hard towards a set goal or project, especially if there is a reward at the end.
5) I have the basis for other successful projects.
6) My comic strip is funny and useful.
7) I love expressing myself.
8) I'm pretty competitive. I didn't get intimidated by entering this contest as a new vegan and even newer vegan chef. (There were at least two professional vegan baker/chefs/restaurateurs in this competition.)
9) I asked for support for my burrito and it came in abundance. Don't be afraid to ask for something.
10) A lot more folks have visited this blog thanks to the Burrito Bonanza contest, hopefully raising awareness about thyroid cancer, young adult cancer, and veganism too.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Totally wants me to stop procrastinating on my next idea.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Vote for My Burrito Bonanza Entry Until June 25th

VOTE FOR MY BURRITO AND BLOG TODAY (until June 25th 11:59 pm Portland time). Portland time is 3 hours behind Toronto and New York time. I need your help so that I may win the last ticket for the VIDA VEGAN CON International vegan blog conference.

How to vote for my burrito
There are two ways to vote:
1) Please visit Epicurious Vegan's facebook page to express your thoughts about my Burrito Bonanza contest entry. Click on the post that says BLUE BUTTERFLY: BURRITO BONANZA.
2) Go to Epicurious Vegan's blog and leave a comment under the posted called THE BURRITO BONANZA SIX.

Thank you for taking the time to show your support.

In my post, you will see that I have included some scanned images of a Cancer Comic Strip I am working on related to the burritos.

I'd really like to attend the VEDA VEGAN CON International Vegan Bloggers Conference for 10 Reasons:
1. Meet other vegans
2. Travel to Oregon and maybe make other stops as well (it's supposed to be beautiful in that region- northwest United States)
3. Learn other vegan recipes
4. Share wisdom
5. Represent Canada
6. Have a cool way to end my summer (Don't you know that winter begins in Canada on September 1st? All joking aside, this is not true. Summer ends in August for teachers like me, though.)
7. Hone my writing craft
8. Represent vegan cancer survivors who became vegan after diagnosis
9. Blog about the experience (so I could share it with you)
10. Explore Portland (and it's mysterious past, there are some famous tunnels under the city)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Burrito Bonanza

First of all, I wish to thank the Mexican-American people for such a wonderful, versatile, and tasty dish as the burrito. I understand that the burrito, and other handheld foods like the taco, have a long and rich indigenous past. The tortillas I use wil not be traditional corn but instead flour but I would like to thank the ancestors of the Aztecs, Pueblo and other peoples who helped to bring this food to our table. I also realize that many cultures around the world have some sort of flat bread, wrap, or pastry filled with assorted food including my own (Jamaican) so I would also like to give thanks to these cultures. Through generations upon generations, these foods have sustained people and we are so blessed to live in a time in which we can expand our plates and palettes to include such a variety of food. So thank you to the indigenous people worldwide who have tried and tested the health benefits of many of the foods that I include in these dishes.

So now about the Vida Vegan Contest: Burrito Bonanza. When I learned about this contest, I was so excited but unfortunately learned that all of the tickets sold out. There were only three left and I had missed the contest to win the first one which was songwriting. When I saw the winning entry, I thought it was well selected. (She is an amazing songbird.) Then there was the second one, an edible version of yourself. I thought, yes! I can do this. But as the days rolled around, I found it difficult and I was not feeling motivated (or well at the time). So finally, the last contest rolled around. A burrito contest! Oh my gosh! It was a puzzle.

I wanted to enter this contest and Epicurious Vegan, the woman organizing it, wrote:
This is a silly contest, meant to be fun for everyone involved.

I had to make a burrito but, this burrito had to be special. Really special.

So I decided to make this a cancer fighting burrito.

"Scary," my fiance said. "Cancer is scary." True. I know that and we have experienced some scary moments through this journey as a couple. I have also met some young cancer survivors and patients who have shared some of their experiences. Some of these stories were scary. But... how do I take something as scary as cancer and make it fun and silly. That's a puzzle.

An anti-cancer burrito. I even named it that. ANTI-CANCER BURRITO. I showed it to my fiance and he said, "No. No one is going to eat a burrito with the word cancer in it." (My fiance is very straightforward.) My youngest sister agreed. So I went back to the drawing board and found a cool name for this burrito. ZAP! We wish for all of the cancer cells to go away in a ZAP!

I have done quite a bit of reading and have come across literature in The China Study, The Anti-Cancer, Skinny Bitch, Foods that Fight Cancer, and Crazy, Sexy, Cancer and films like Forks Before Knives that indicate you can slow cancer growths through many plant-based foods. Many of our ancestors knew this because the foods they ate had phytochemicals and antioxidants which slowed cancer growths and prevented cancers.

So how do I make this burrito address cancer yet make it not scary and "fun and silly"?

I came up with some superheroes associated with this burrito. They all have superpowers and use the burrito to strengthen their superpower. Each of these superheroes is a cancer survivor.

The ZAP Comic Strip Draft

I introduce to you... 7 Days of ZAP Burritos. (Complete with cancer-fighting ingredients.)

Day 1 BurrEdo- Japanese style contains tofu, broccoli, peanuts, ginger, soya sauce, onion, garlic, shitake and portabello mushrooms, and seaweed

Day 2 B"Irie"tto- Jamaican style contains cabbage, pumpkin, soya sauce, onion, jerk sauce, turmeric, black pepper, and split peas

Day 3 Burritaliano- Italian style contains olive oil, portabello mushroom, garlic, pinto beans, walnuts, lemon, red wine, oregano, and dark leafy greens

Day 4 BurrIndo- Indian style contains chick peas, turmeric, black pepper, tomatoes, chili pepper, cumin, onions, coriander, cayenne, mango, spinach, lemon juice, and garlic

Day 5 Burritalamode- Dessert style burrito crepe contains red wine, dark chocolate, walnuts, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries

Day 6 Burrito Original - Mexican style contains black beans, mole (dark chocolate, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkin seeds, almonds, garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, cocoa, cacao nibs), avocado, spicy tomato salsa (onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lemon)

Day 7 Motherland Burrito- West African style contains yams and fufu flour (these are low-glycemic), peppers, black-eyed peas, and peanut butter

In all, I made seven burritos-- one for each day of the week and one for each of my superhero characters. These burritos contain vegan (plant-based) foods which contain antioxidants and phytochemicals which prevent the growth of cancer cells. The superheroes, all cancer survivors, eat these burritos and they use their superpowers to fight cancer.

I present to you the


flour tortillas
3 cups of negro (white) yam (may use yellow yam) Note: Yam is not to be mistaken with sweet potatoes which is orange inside or the Caribbean variety which has purple skin and white insides.
1/2 cup of crunchy peanut butter
1 plantain
red hot pepper sauce

Akara (Black-eyed Fritters)
1 cup of black-eyed peas (soaked overnight or for at least 8 hours)
1 shallot
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp chili
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cups of water
1 cup of fufu flour (plantain or cocoyam)

Soak the black-eyed peas overnight.

Peel and cut the yam into 1 inch slices.

Then cube the yam.

Put it in a pot filled with boiling water for 25 minutes. Make sure that the water covers the yams

Rub the black-eyed peas in the water vigorously with two hands to remove the skins.

The skins of the black-eyed peas will float to the top of the water. Then remove the water and skins by pouring it out of the bowl, holding back the peas so that they stay in. Then refill the bowl with water and start to rub them vigorously again. You will need to repeat this task several times. (It gets a little frustrating and can take a long time.)

But soon you will have removed all of the skins off your black-eyed peas.

Peel and chop your shallots.

Put black-eyed peas, shallots, cayenne pepper, chili, black pepper, ginger, and salt all in a blender or food processor.

Blend the items until they make a thick batter. It does not need to be smooth. Add water if necessary to keep the blender blades moving.

Pour black-eyed pea mixture into bowl.

Heat pan with vegetable oil on high until sizzling, then turn to medium. Place spoon fulls of black-eyed pea mixture into the hot oil to form patties. Cook each side of the akara for two mintues.

The akara is finished.

Now for the fufu. Boil two cups of water in a pot. Remove 1 cup of the water. Pour in 1 cup of fufu flour.

Mix with spoon for 4 minutes.

Fufu will form and resemble mashed potatoes. You may roll the fufu at this point.

Cut plantain into slices.

Fry plantains in 2 tbsp of hot vegetable oil. Fry for 2 minutes each side or until golden yellow.

Place peanut butter into the microwave for 2 minutes until it is softer and more spreadable. Now all your ingredients are ready for the Motherland Burrito.

Spread peanut butter onto torilla, then the akara.

Place fufu, yams. plantains, and hot sauce on top.

And there you got your Motherland Burrito.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How Am I Doing Now?

MAY & SOME OF JUNE: In the weeks after my radioactive iodine (RAI), I felt just okay but after I stopped taking my Cytomel and was only on the Eltroxin, I was a bit of a mess. I was exhausted all the time, I needed to take naps of 1-2 times each day for 1-3 hours in length. I felt sluggish, depressed, zombie-like, and unmotivated to do anything else but write and cook. When I write, that includes journaling and blogging, or cook, that includes preparing a meal, I actually forgot my symptoms. As soon as I stopped these activities, I would be like, "Oh yeah, I'm tired" and then I'm out like a light. I think this is remarkable. Creativity and the arts can really soothe discomforts. I was having crying spells and feeling more isolated. It was really weird that I was feeling worse instead of better. I had already done the surgery and the radiation, so now what? My naturopath suggested some blood tests to check my thyroid hormone levels. So I did the blood test and there was nothing alarming but it's so hard to tell with this mood swingy, depression thing. Is it this because of the thyroid or lack of thyroid? Is it depression? Are my hormone levels out of wack? What is it? All of the above? Probably. I have heard some Thy'Ca survivors tell me that it can take 6 months to 1 year until the fatigue would subside.

NOW: I am learning to express my needs to my family and friends. They have been wonderful and supportive. For example, I needed help cleaning my place and I asked my mom and she came over the very next day to help. Another friend said I should go dancing that it would be good for me. So I went (for the first time in almost a year) and loved it. My mother-in-law hauled away junk from our place. I am learning that my friends and family were always there ready to help, I just needed to know how to ask for it. I am learning how to express my needs and so thankful for my fiance, family and friends, especially the friend who helped me recognize that I need to express my needs more. Also, I go for acupuncture once a week and since then have felt more and more energy in my body. I am able to do more activity without heart palpitations and feelings of fatigue than what I could do before. I go to Cancer Exercise two days a week. I love the trampoline and the treadmill which I can do without getting winded, however my floor pushups have become a challenge so I need to modify them. I am trying to integrate more yoga and nature walking into my week. I feel more motivated and inspired. I am looking forward to the summer. A lot has slowly improved but the one thing that continues to be affected is my voice. One woman at my church described it as sounding almost like I have a cold. It's a strained kind of sound which comes out especially when I am excited. Also, my singing voice is completely different. I can't get the low and high notes I used to. :-( I cringe when I hear my voice (like in church) sometimes so I pray that it will come back. I am learning about ways to help bring it back like voice lessons, therapy, and of course, there is always rest and time.

THANKFUL: So very thankful that I have received a blessing. I got approved for my claim so I will have some income until I return to work this September. I am so happy about this. I applied for it in March and there were a few times when I became fearful and thought it would not go through. I was worried... so worried that it would not go through. And the wait was so long. My sick benefits from the government ran out... what was I going to do? At the same time, I had this faith that everything was going to be okay. I was so tired of waiting for an answer at the same time, I had this feeling that it would all work out. Between my prayers, the weekly prayer requests at church, my friends, family, and strangers praying for me, I felt more sure about this. When I went to Edward Gardens (featured in Nature Walking 1), I began to cry when I saw these living things-- the beautiful flowers, the groundhog, the butterfly,... they were all okay, living, thriving without worrying whether or not they would be provided for. So the Dennis Brown song, Created by Father, means so much to me. So I end this post with a story from the Bible which I remembered on my nature walk.

This is from the New Living Translation.

Luke 12:22-32
22 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

And to the folks who leave comments about the effectiveness of porcine and bovine thyroid in their treatment, thanks BUT I am vegan.

Bovine: of a cow
Porcine: of a pig
Vegan: plant-based diet which excludes including dairy, meat, eggs, as well as animal products

Monday, June 20, 2011

Young Adult Cancer Canada Profile

Please visit my profile on the Young Adult Cancer Canada website.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Vex in the City: Part 5 Simon's Wok

>< >< >< >< >< A dis' ya' top of de' line someting (Outstanding)
>< >< >< >< Everyting irie (Good and very good)
>< >< >< Alright still (Just okay)
>< >< C'mon man! You c'yan do better 'den 'dat (Needs improvement)
>< A what de ras'? (Deplorable)

Taste of the food
>< >< >< This rating was a little iffy. The springrolls get 3 butterflies. The main dish I had, the pineapple chicken, deserved >< ><. The rice with the main dish was >< >< ><.
Look of the food
>< >< >< >< The presentation of the food here was okay too. When I saw the food in these photos , I had really high expectations, the food looked outstanding. But in real life, the food looked alright. So I have found a happy medium by giving 4 butterflies.
>< >< >< Reusable cutlery which is nice but the take-out container was styrofoam.
Health Savvy This was a tough one since I did not get into a conversation with the owners so I have chosen not to vote. I did not see any posters or advertisements about the nutritional value or health of veganism.
>< >< >< >< The wait staff seemed very attentive with us. There was one mature waitress who went up and down the stairs constantly bringing new dishes for each person. I wished she had some help because that couldn't have been easy. They must have been inside my head because soon the first waitress was replaced by another younger one. They were very friendly and accomodating and it helped that we had a Chinese/English translator to act as a go-between.
>< >< The decor is pretty sparse. It is clean and tidy but it's not elaborate. Tables are covered with white plastic.
Added Perks Again, I cannot answer this one. I was part of a group so I did not get to ask.
Ethical and Community-Minded Don't know although they are located in Toronto's East Chinatown. (There are 6 Chinatowns in the Greater Toronto Area.) I did not notice a special affiliation.

$0-$10 1 spring roll, 1 serving of plain rice, pineapple "chicken", green tea

I attended my first Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) Meet-up at Simon's Wok. This was my first opportunity to meet with a
group of vegetarians and vegans in a social setting. I sat down with a group of around ten smiling folks at a round table typical of many Chinese restaurants. I have to admit, I felt a little young since I appeared to be the most green (both young as a vegan and in my years) out of the group. Many folks were retirees but that didn't seem to matter. We all had something in common. The love of vegan food and the adventurous spirit required in trying out a new restaurant. So here I sat at Simon's Wok, a little late I must admit. Folks were very friendly. I am sure I was a bit of an anomaly. The only Black person there and with my cherubin face, I was asked if I came from school. Not quite. I am not a university student nor am I teaching in a school at the present time. Nonetheless, folks were as curious about me as I was about them-- a retired couple with grandkids, a yoga instructor, a technical writer... The conversations continued around the table while being interrupted sporadically by the petite middle-aged Chinese woman who ascended and descended the stairs brought up plate after steaming plate of food. One gentleman member who spoke Chinese fluently, translated her announcement of the dish. "Who ordered the eel?" No one claimed this dish or apparently it was thought by the person who ordered it that it would be something else. So many people got to sample this mysterious eel dish. Simon's Wok is definitely shy about drawing comparisons with meat-- meat that is constructed with gluten (wheat protein) and soy (tofu). One could sample eel, shrimp, chicken, scallops, and duck all plant-based. That's right! I was still not convinced so I ordered pineapple chicken which I thought would be safe enough. I've had the real pineapple chicken (that is the meat version) so I thought it would be safe to try the vegan version. Well, it was okay. I wouldn't say it exactly tasted like chicken, but the texture and the chewiness was very similar to chicken. The look also resembled chicken. Nevertheless, the presentation was colourful and they were speedy with the service. And besides, I was there more to meet other vegans than to eat the food. So all in all, Simon's Wok is cheap, quick, and natural. (Ew! That sounds like a little TMI). But it's all good!

Simon's Wok my first TVA Social Meet-Up

Cheap meals are on Simon's.

Green tea and $ 1.50 spring roll.

All this for less than $ 10.

Pineapple chicken

Chinese food meal complete with fortune cookie

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nature Walking 1

Created by the Father by Dennis Brown

After writing about Mortality, I decided to post something uplifting and inspirational. I have some beautiful photos that I took while spending moments at Edward Gardens in Toronto. This is one of Toronto's most beautiful places. I saw a lot of beauty that day. This song Created by the Father reminds me of being fully appreciative of nature around us.

The goose family.

There are Mama Goose, Papa Goose, and all the baby geese.

Meet the other residents of the park: Ms. Green, the glowworm

Mr. Spiky, the caterpillar

Ms. Kwok, the duck

E Signorina Farfalla (the butterfly)

Lovely flowers

And a waterfall.