I’m Back!

Hello wonderful people!

After taking some (okay a lot) of time off from my blog, I’m back! I find it difficult to believe that it has been nearly a year since I last published a post on here, and yet, it has been. My, how time flies! I am going to attempt to give a quick recap of what I’ve been up to since I last connected with you on here, as so much has happened and changed!

Last fall, 2016, I finished my Master of Science degree in Psychology at Western University. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next, and after poking around in different areas of interest I stumbled onto the field of psychosocial oncology (PSO). Essentially, PSO addresses the psychological, social, and emotional aspects of cancer throughout the continuum from diagnosis, to treatment, and so on. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard about this field before!

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Harbor View in Vancouver during the CAPO Conference, 2017

I quickly dove in and immersed myself in the literature, getting involved with key organizations such as the Canadian Association for Psychosocial Oncology (CAPO). After learning of an upcoming CAPO conference in Vancouver in May 2017, I decided to register and go! This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. It was at the CAPO conference that I met Dr. Fiona Schulte, a brilliant researcher and clinical psychologist at the University of Calgary who specializes in pediatric and adolescent and young adult (AYA) PSO. After chatting more we found that our research interests aligned closely and that we would make an extraordinary team with her as my supervisor. In June 2017 I applied to the doctoral (PhD.) program in Medical Science at the University of Calgary. By July  2017 I was driving half-way across Canada with my Calvin (my kitty) and my life packed into my car, headed for Calgary and ready to start a new and exciting adventure in Calgary!

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Calgary has many attractions, including this delicious oatmeal cookie dough ice cream from Made by Marcus!

And so, in an almost surreal way, it seems I have come full circle. First a cancer patient, then a survivor navigating my own cancer journey, and now a psychosocial oncology researcher. It has been over a decade since my diagnosis, treatment, and the challenges that followed. I feel a sense of pride for overcoming many obstacles, and gratitude for having had the opportunity to do so. But, I am acutely aware of the need to continue to grow and to achieve my goals!

For many years I wondered why I had survived cancer and what my purpose in life was; now I understand. I firmly believe that the reason I survived and endured such challenges was to prepare me for the opportunity to help others through the cancer journey. So here I am, living in Calgary, Canada, and completing my PhD. in psychosocial oncology at the Cumming School of Medicine. The focus of my research is on AYA cancer patients and survivors, as this group is often under-represented within research and also one with whom I am intimately familiar, being an AYA cancer survivor myself.

Aside from my new and exciting academic adventures, I have also taken up pole fitness. Last fall, 2016, I was looking for a fun and challenging form of fitness, as I am not particularly fond of the gym. One of my dearest friends had been doing pole fitness (or “pole” as we say) for the past two years and encouraged me to try. I almost quit twice!

Doing one of my favorite moves, the Crescent, during Pole Fitness beach day with my Studio Chic London pole family at Port Stanley Beach!

Pole fitness requires strength, flexibility, endurance, and grace, and when it came to strength, my struggle was real! But I stuck with it, attending several classes a week, and within a few months I started to notice some serious improvements in my strength. Not only that, I found that pole fitness was helping me to address and overcome some longstanding issues I have had with body-image and self-esteem, related to late-effects of my cancer treatments (e.g. my permanent tracheotomy).

I quickly became passionate about the sport, and I feel that it has had such a tremendously positive impact on my life! I am so passionate about it, in fact, that I am hoping to develop a pole fitness based program specifically for AYA cancer survivors, and to share this amazing sport and experience with others.

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Pulling a pole trick on a sign, mid hike, atop Whistler Mountain! (I felt so bad a$$!)

Finally, this past summer I visited Whistler, B.C. with my mom, sister, and aunt. It was a wonderful trip and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend more time with them before starting school in September. I have never lived far from home until now, and moving to Calgary really pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and to embrace chance. Was it intimidating? Heck ya! But it has also been so worth it and I am so incredibly grateful for this new journey I’ve embarked on, the amazing people I have met over the past year, and the exciting opportunities to come!

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Hiking with my amazing mom and little sis, Robin, in Whistler, BC!

I am going to stop here, as I’ve already written far longer a post than I had intended to. But I hope that you have enjoyed this update and I truly appreciate you joining me through my blog on this adventure of mine!

Stay tuned for a Thanksgiving themed recipe post, coming soon!

xo Julie


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