20 Years

IMG_2176gWith Mom – 1984

On September 25 my mom and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary. Let me elaborate.

I had a Renal Transplant aka Kidney Transplant 20 years ago. My amazing, generous, gracious, selfless, beautiful and loving mom ended up being a match and donated one of her kidneys.

So technically she has given life to me twice. Now we celebrate our Transplant Anniversary aka My Additional Birthday, every year on September 25th. It’s kind of a big deal for us. A huge deal for me obviously. Without her I literally would not be here. Not a day goes by (not a 1) that I don’t think about the major sacrifice she made to save my life.

Twenty years ago I became extremely ill and was diagnosed with a very rare disease called Goodpasture Syndrome. Ironic name considering there’s actually nothing good about it. It is so rare that literally 1 in a million are diagnosed each year. I wish I could be so lucky with those odds in a lottery!

Doctors aren’t totally sure how I got it. Since it is so rare they’ve narrowed the cause of this disease down somewhat to, smoking (I don’t smoke) or 2nd hand smoke, hydrocarbon solvents, glues, diesel and Inflenza A, to name a few. It is an autoimmune disorder which damages the kidneys (and often lungs as well) with the worst case scenario obviously being death or you lose both kidneys. Which is what happened to me. You need at least 1 kidney to survive. Both of my kidneys failed. 

As with any disease, early detection is paramount in being able to save your kidneys &/or life. But it’s not always easy to detect Kidney Disease early as it progresses silently and is less obvious then some other critical diseases. Sometimes Doctors can ‘re-boot’ kidney function if there is some percentage of the kidneys still working. The prognosis is much worse if the kidneys are already badly damaged by the time of diagnoses. The kidneys most likely will not be able to be ‘re-booted’/ saved at that point. Again, this is what happened to me.

Ironically I had also been seeing an Nephrologist (Kidney Specialist) for a couple of years regularly prior to kidney failure because I was constantly passing kidney stones. And I mean a lot of kidney stones. I was like a kidney stone making machine. Weird. I lost count after a couple dozen visits to the hospital in excruciating pain from a kidney stone. Yet, the Nephrologist assured me these stones were not hurting or jeopardizing my kidney function in the slightest. I believed him. After all, he is the Kidney Specialist. To this day Doctors still have not confirmed if the kidney stones had any influence in my kidneys failing. 

Still not diagnosed, I had started to take a turn for the worse but I was convinced that I only had a very bad flu. I had all of the typical flu like symptoms, along with some not so typical symptoms.  I was exhausted constantly, fevered yet freezing, muscles aching, vomiting blood, sweating profusely to the point my body would be soaked, weak beyond belief and so insanely tired ALL OF THE TIME. My Family Doctor told me 3 separate times during this 2 week period of feeling the worst I’ve ever felt, that I had nothing to worry about. She said I just had a Flu mixed with the fact that I was anemic and needed more iron.

My intuition told me otherwise. Something was terribly wrong. Both of my Doctors were wrong as well. Very, very wrong. I knew I needed medical help and I needed it fast.

It was a rough road for many years dealing with my health issues. You can read a bit more about that part of my health journey here.

I wanted to write about this milestone in my life for many reasons. The 20 year mark has made me more emotional and feel blessed beyond belief. It reminds me to appreciate the little things in life, so cliche but so true. And also, to go after your dreams, live the life you desire, while we can. Every single year since I’ve had this kidney transplant is a gift of another year of life. There is no greater gift that one can give. Really. Think about it. My mom gave me the gift of life. Again. I would’ve been dead 20 years already if I didn’t get a transplant in time. I wouldn’t have been able to watch my kids grow up which was my greatest fear when I was ill. During the couple of years that I was on dialysis I had seen several people of various ages die while waiting for a kidney match. It happens everyday because there are not enough organ donations available and that doesn’t have to be the case.

When I first got sick I was 25 years old, I didn’t know a thing about transplants. Even the word scared me because I didn’t understand it. At that time there wasn’t a lot of awareness about it. I actually thought the whole thing was a little a lot weird. Awareness seems to be better now then it was, but I find some people still have no clue. 

Some facts: 

*Anyone can get Kidney Disease, but people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and family history are more at risk and should be checked by a Doctor regularly. I did not have any of these.

*15 people are diagnosed with Kidney Failure in Canada daily.

*1 in 10 people in Canada are living with Kidney Disease.

*Average wait time for a kidney in BC is 5.4 years. Many will die waiting.

*Up to 40% of people who are desperately waiting for an organ will not get one in time.

*People think that being on dialysis is a cure. It is not a cure. It is just a means to keep you alive (barely) until a transplant is available.  50% of these people on dialysis will not live past 5 years.

*Kidney Failure is chronic and there is no cure. Dialysis is temporary and short term. Transplant is also temporary but allows the patient to live a more normal life while taking anti-rejection meds daily. Transplants do not last ‘forever’. However, with continuous research and updated meds, transplants can last 20+ years. (I’m hoping and prayin’ I break all kinds of records and it lasts 20 more!)

It is so important for you to have conversations with your families and loved ones about organ donation. If you do wish to be an organ donor if something should happen, then it is critical to let your family members know this. And equally important to actually have it registered on your Driver’s License, Health card or the Donor Registry in your city. 

I know that no one really wants to talk about death and what happens afterwards. It’s a difficult conversation for sure. It’s also reality. But the way I look at it is, organ donations save lives. Lots of lives. If one of your loved ones was critically ill and going to die, wouldn’t you want to know there’s a good chance of them being saved because someone else had generously requested to be a donor themselves? 

I was blessed that my kidney donation was from a living related donor, my mother. Anyone that is healthy and wishing to donate a kidney to a loved one is certainly encouraged to do so. My mom is a trooper so if you ask her, she’d say the surgery ‘wasn’t so bad’. It isn’t exactly a walk in the park for the donor. I’m not going to lie. However, our transplant surgery was 20 years ago. From what I’ve read and heard the surgery has changed and is much less invasive now. I’d be willing to bet that she’d say it was worth it. Right mommy? ­čśë  

You can find out much more information online to answer any questions you may have.

Be a Kidney Donor: Canadian Blood Services
Kidney Foundation Of Canada
British Columbia Transplant

Here’s to us Mom! And to another 20!! Love you! <3 
Laura xo

Introducing Mr. Gatsby

IMG_1740gWe have been dying to introduce our new baby to you guys!

We have a new addition to our family… an 8 month old fur baby kitten. His name is Gatsby. Mr Gatsby. He used to be called ‘Shadow’. We quickly changed that. Like Natasha said, if we’re the ones that are gonna be taking care of this cat for like the next 20 years or so, then we’re gonna call him what we want. Bam!

I agreed. Does he really know his name at 8 months anyway? I mean really? Does he? He’ll learn his new name soon enough cause that’s all we’ve been calling him. ‘Hey Gatsby! Mr Gats! Gatsber! Gatsby The Catsby!’ Treats work wonders. He comes every single time. He’s brilliant I tell ya.

We’ve had him since the beginning of February so we’ve all been doing the ‘bonding’ thing. You know, getting to know one another, and learning his weird ‘cat like’ behaviors. Very peculiar animals aren’t they? We have never had a cat before. Ever. Don’t think I’ve even held a cat in my life.
We lost our beloved 14 year old yorkie-poo dog, Zeusie, a year ago and we were devastated.  We knew we weren’t ready to bring home another dog.

So we talked about possibly adopting a cat… someday. Go figure. A cat. We’re totally ‘dog’ people ya know what I mean? We did a lot of talking about it yet never really making any affirmative actions to follow through. Lots of internet searching, talkin’, debating and some more searching. Repeat.

Then, this cat appears in our lives. Needs a home. Next thing you know I am driving home with this cat sitting in his carrier staring at me. We’ve adopted him.
Natasha and I were pretty freaked out when we brought him in the door for the first time. We opened his carrier door and the 3 of us stood there just looking at each other. Him frightened of us and us of him.

It’s been a adjustment for myself, Nicholas (my son) and Natasha. And for little Gatsby too no doubt. It’s been almost 3 months since the cat King has moved in with us and I have to admit, we’re all kinda loving it. We’ve totally fallen in love with this guy for real.

Cats are a strange breed for sure but we’re starting to understand his temperament and personality more and more as the days go by. It doesn’t freak us out as much anymore when he suddenly sprints across the room, jumps from table to table, flies across the window sills etc. I have long since removed the rolls upon rolls of tin foil I had taped to all of my kitchen counters and table. And the baking sheets on the kitchen sink. All the training your cat tips I read online on how to keep your cat off the counters and tables. Uhhh. It doesn’t work folks. Here’s a tip… save your tin foil for cooking.
Mr. Gatsby is like not one bit scared of the tin foil or pans. All that did was inconvenience the 3 of us humans. Now we just lift him down whenever we do see him on the counter tops. Oddly enough he has seemed to learn where he is allowed to sit/perch in order to watch us when we are in the kitchen. Like I said, I think we’re raising a genius cat. Just sayin’.

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Mr. Gatsby is full of personality. Big time. He makes us laugh, out loud, constantly. He actually plays Hide n Seek with Natasha. I’m not kidding. When he insists on play time, specifically, Hide n Seek, he will literally hide somewhere and do this most annoying whining which translates to ‘Come find meeee!’  When you find him he literally squeals like a little piggy, does a spin and runs past you encouraging you to chase him. Then if you hide, he goes into cat-like crawl mode and slinks slowly around the corners until he finds you. When he does, we yell Boo! and he can’t stand it. He jumps around like a crazy cat. It’s like the greatest thing since cat nip to him I’m sure.

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Cat in a bag.                                                                         Cat in a box

This guy loves when we get parcels. Now we leave random boxes and brown package paper scattered around the living room. It’s like a little cat amusement park in our house. We continually recycle the old worn out boxes for brand new freshly delivered ones. He can’t get enough. My house has become a cat play ground… anything for The Great Gatsby. We have become wrapped around his adorable little paws. Awwww. 

We never knew just how much fun a cat can be. Seriously. We’re shocked and more than happy we made that choice to bring him into our home and family.

We are lovin’ our new family member and totally encourage anyone considering cat/dog adoption to do so. There are so many animals out there in shelters just waiting to find a forever loving home. As much love that you can bring into the animal’s life, they give it back to you ten fold. They love you unconditionally. Sooo awesome. Added bonus, pets reduce your stress/blood pressure.

You guys have any cat tips you can share with us? Like what about bringing our cat outdoors? On a leash? We have read and talked to so many people about keeping a cat indoors, which we totally get. We want him to be safe, but we also feel guilty when we see him gazing out the windows like he’s in prison. The thought of him NEVER being allowed outside to smell fresh air and grass, well, kinda makes me sad. Any tips from other cat lovers would be sooooo welcome!!

Check out the website for British Columbia SPCA,they have so much information. Even if you can’t adopt a fur baby there are so many other ways to help. Donations, volunteering, sponsoring are just a few of the ways you can lend a hand. Even the littlest things are much appreciated.

Check out the local SPCA where you live! And remember to get your pets spayed/neutered.

Laura & Natasha xo

Secret To Success

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We are well into the New Year and it’s time to get down to business. A New Year which means new opportunities, aspirations and goals. I’m definitely not into making any of those ‘doomed to fail’ resolutions that so many naively commit to. Year after year. Dreadful. I’m happy to say I have learnt my lesson years ago. One of the few great benefits of aging is wisdom. I’m not suggesting we should never set goals and have dreams. Of course we should! That’s the beauty of life, the reason we are here. To set goals for ourselves to learn, grow and succeed. It’s the pressure of making New Year resolutions I prefer to stay away from. Why set yourself up for failure of achieving grand unrealistic promises made to oneself? I mean, we have enough life stresses thrown upon us daily to deal with as it is! Why voluntarily add to those just because it’s a New Year? Quit smoking, lose weight, start yoga, go to the gym, write that book (this year for sure), marry Mr. Wonderful, yadda yadda. On and on. Puh-lease.

I’m more interested in making constant growth changes in life which are attainable and realistic. Baby steps. Let’s not place the weight of the world upon our shoulders and then feel like complete sh*t when we can’t achieve the goal. Instead begin with genuine intent for long term goals and work on them in short term intervals. For instance, your overall intent could be, ‘I’m going to lose 50 pounds!’  You start out extremely motivated and ready to kick ass then it all seems to fall apart. Right off the bat you could find yourself getting overwhelmed and feeling like you’ll never accomplish that. The goal seems so far away.

The key is to narrow down your goals and be very specific. So that ultimate goal of losing 50 pounds begins as a 5-10 pound goal. Suddenly your intent goal becomes more reachable and realistic with each successful interval. It’s easier to envision the steps needed to get there and it’s not so daunting. After you reach each 5 pound goal you celebrate your victory. The best reward you are recieving during the journey to your goal is really a secret reward.

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This ‘secret‘ is the power you are subconsciously gaining with every success. The power of CONFIDENCE and the proof that you can do it. Essentially we are programming our brain to succeed and to consciously be aware of how amazing it feels when we do. Celebrating your small victories gives you the strength and determination you’ll need to continue and conquer on. You begin to feel like you can achieve whatever it is you truly desire. And guess what? You can. Mind power is just that… powerful stuff. That’s where all of the actual will power and strength begins, in our minds. It’s incredible just how powerful our mind is. That saying, ‘You can do anything you put your mind to’ is so true. Most of us don’t use this power to it’s full advantage. 

I’m not exactly a pro at this whole positive mind power thing quite yet. It’s hard to constantly stay in a positive mind space when the universe is continually throwing curve balls at you. I totally get that, trust me. But I am here to say I have been giving it a real honest to goodness go the past couple of years and it does work. It takes mental effort but I think I may be onto something here! I’m living proof it’s never too late and you’re never too old to learn how to re-program your mind. To live positively and to actually achieve our goals. However small or large they are, we can do it.

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My beloved Oprah (Omg how I admire her!) and motivational guru, Deepak Chopra (whom I recently started paying attention to) have become incredible influences in my life. Like can we be best friends Oprah? They definitely have things figured out and know what they’re talking about. Real talk. I have taken their advice and applied it to many situations. I was super excited to have the opportunity to attend Oprah’s motivational speech tour here in Vancouver a couple of years ago. I can’t even tell you how intently I listened to every single word she said. I felt as though she was speaking just to me!  She said numerous brilliant things but what struck me most was when she talked about living your true life. Whatever your true goals in life are, you can accomplish them. Basically if you believe you can achieve. Again, mind power. I could listen to her talk all day long. 

So people, to sum this up, I want you to screw those lame New Year’s resolutions once and for all. Instead trade them in for some real goals with true intent. However big or small those goals are, just believe you can do it! Remember, baby steps, small victories while working towards your ultimate goal. There’s no reason in the whole wide world why you can’t replace self doubt thoughts with ‘why the hell can’t I’ thoughts. 

It’s time to get real and I am totally on board as well. This is the year for accomplishments, no more self doubt and giving up before even beginning. No more allowing your brain to fall back into negative thought patterns. It’s going to take some serious mental work and facing your fears head on. 

I will continue to share my journey to achieving my goals with you and I encourage you to share with us. It’s amazing how much easier it is when there is strength in numbers. Just knowing you’re not alone gives you encouragement to succeed. 

Stay tuned… I am working on my true intent goal list for this year. I’d love to hear what some of your goals are for 2015 and beyond!

Laura xo

Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year Everyone!
We thought we would post some of our photos from the holidays before we get completely engulfed in the New Year. We took a little time from regular blogging during the holidays and enjoyed more time spent with family and friends. We have to say it was really great!
December is always a busy month for everyone, so much to do crammed into 30 short days. Sometimes you get so wrapped up focusing on the ‘big day’ that you forget to take in all of the special Holiday moments that are quickly whizzing by. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions but that’s one of the things I’ve been learning to do more of… living in the moment and appreciating the little things in life. It’s not that easy to always do you know? Just give it a try. At the end of every day, before you go to sleep, think of one thing that day that you are grateful for. It’s great ending the day on a positive thought.

IMG_9686gWe absolutely love this Vancouver radio station, 103.5 during the holidays. It plays nothing but Christmas songs 24/7 for the whole month. Not everyone’s cup of tea but we can’t get enough of it! All of our radios/clock radios in the house (and car) are permanently set on this station for December. Funny thing is on Christmas Day we were playing board games listening to the station and at exactly 12am midnight that night and not one second past (technically Boxing day) they stopped playing Christmas songs! It was back to their regular soft rock playlist.

IMG_9660gThe stockings were hung… uh, placed by the chimney with care. Okay I couldn’t hang them, they were way too heavy. This year our family decided not to do a ‘gift’ exchange between the adults, opting to donate money to a charity instead. However, my parents are forever extremely giving to myself and my kids that I wanted to at least fill a stocking for each of them. The 2 stockings on the right are handmade stockings for both of my kids. Grown kids no less but since the ‘Big Guy in the Red Suit’ doesn’t fill them anymore, I still do. The stocking was always my favourite part of Christmas morning. So I love to carry on the tradition.  I made Nicholas’ stocking over 20 years ago and my mom made Natasha’s. We used to cross stitch a lot back then and these 2 stockings have always held many special memories of Christmas’ gone by.

IMG_9651g2Christmas morning.

decorIMG_9658gThe past couple of years I’ve decorated with a purple and gold theme. Instead of changing the whole theme this year I decided to add some new ornaments to the tree and decor. I bought these gold poinsettia beauties and sparkling gold branches from Micheal’s Craft Store. They had this crazy big sale a few weeks before Christmas and all of their Christmas decor was 50-70% off. Score!

IMG_965g7rAnd then there were deer. Loving the deer decor this year. I discovered 2 fabulous gold deer ornaments for the mantel at Winners in November and that was it. Love at first site. (Take note of the previous pics of my mantel with the deer adorning the ledge.) All it took was finding these 2 new deer for my mantel, I then became my predictable obsessed self and had to ‘hunt’ for more deer ornaments everywhere I went. Not as available as one would think! Found these adorable little gold prancing deer at Canadian Tire! For all of you non-Canadian readers, it’s a popular hardware/a little bit of everything, not just tires store! I know… sounds weird doesn’t it?

IMG_9667tFirst photo of the day… Natasha posing by the tree!

IMG_97135Here are 2 of my favourite little peeps, aka niece & nephew. This is basically how they looked most of the evening on Christmas day. Completely entranced by their new Nintendo 3DS. Kids these days hey? 

gThis little cutie is the newest addition to our family.  More specifically, my parents new puppy. Three month old Bear aka The Bear. Like how cute is he right?!  Bear loved his first Christmas with our family. Toys and treats galore for our fur babies! Ooooh, what a face.

collageThe photo above right is me with my kids… Natasha and Nicholas at my parents on Christmas day.The photo bottom right is the game Jenga. Natasha always wanted it so I got it for her. We instantly became addicts and had a Jenga marathon Christmas evening and Boxing day. I’m not so good at it and Natasha claims she’s the ‘master’. Ahh. Yeah. Right. We’ll just see about that. Bring on the next marathon! Let’s do it! Anyone know of any winning tips out there? Let me know!

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IMG_9740gThis little lady is Mindy. My parents 4 year old Chihuahua. She likes getting new toys anytime but absolutely loves opening new toys at Christmas. She particularly enjoyed her new red stocking that squeaks and quickly became very protective of it. Mindy gets exhausted guarding it from that new Yorkie, The Bear. She really believes she’s the QUEEN and she finds him so terribly annoying. Aren’t dogs the cutest? They have little personalities, it kills me.

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Mr. Bear playing with one of his new Christmas presents.
Just stop it! So cute.

photo (21)Of course we can’t make it through too many posts without including some Makeup/product pics! Above are some of our current favourite Holiday products! ^

We hope everyone had the most magical holiday season and got to spend it with the special people in your life. Here’s to a completely awesome New Year ahead. May all of your hopes, wishes and dreams come true.

Check out some of the Holiday fun we had at the Vancouver Christmas Market here and some more Holiday fun here!

Laura & Natasha xo