ARVC and ME… looking for a new normal in a FUN physical active world

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 8.42.07 AMHere i was in the doctor’s office on Oct. 22 preparing myself to go though the same tests i have already done repeatedly for the last 2.5 years; years of which the cardiologists i had seen up to now could not diagnose me or tell me what is wrong with my heart. But now i have a new doctor who is young and beautiful and very good at what she does Dr Danna Spears at Toronto General Peter Munk Centre. How did i get here? Its a long story but i will make it short: First i want to say that I live my life as good as i can, I eat healthy, drink moderately don’t smoke and exercise is my sanity (run 4 times a week and hit the weight room 2 days a week)… i try to be a role model to my kids so that their lifestyle becomes that of a healthy well adjusted Canadian with a long heathy lifespan ahead of them and here i am trying to show them its possible; On september 13, 2012 i went for my usual morning run (5 AM on the road) i was clicking 11km in 45 min that morning, 1/2 way through it i felt light headed and my heart rate was spiking uncontrollably so i slowed down the pace to a light jog and that was the last thing i remembered . I woke up face down on the pavement bloody from the cuts on my face and knee, the knee was really bad and i could feel the left eyebrow and upper lip throbbing with pain and the blood taste in my mouth was a bit overwhemling; not sure how long i was out for and as confused as ever I jogged my way home. That day did not feel right and at a request of a colleague who listened to my morning event I went to St Mikes’ emergency to check myself in; had an ECG done and the doctor told me i was fine and the faint was due to lack of sleep (that all mothers of young children are custom to) and or lack of fluids in my body. The next day was my day off running but my day in the weight room however that was brought to a halt when i got a call from the family GP advising me not to exercise under any circumstances until i see the cardiologist that woks in her clinic. Now that was worrisome! A week later and very crabby week (as i was not getting my exercise dose of sanity and felt my heart rate spike every time i took the stairs) saw the cardiologist; 2 weeks after that i was diagnosed with irregular arrhythmia and put on a waiting list to see a cardiologist specialist at St Mikes hospital. The arrhythmia was more prominent now and i was put on beta blockers until i get a diagnosis. 2 months later after wearing numerous holter monitors and undergoing an MRI of the heart i was diagnosed with Right Ventricular Tachicardia and was considered a good candidate for Intracardiac electrophysiology study (Wire electrodes are placed in the heart to do this test, these electrodes measure electrical activity in the heart). That seems to have fixed the irregular arrhythmia i was having while exercising or watching a scary movie or under stressful situations or even when flying. Life was good again until the spring of this year when once again i was on my morning run and felt the same symptoms but this time i stopped and instead of light jog i laid down and try to breath my way through the symptoms but it did not stop, it was getting worse at which time I panicked and called my husband and told him where i was before I would passed out. A kind man walking his dog saw me and stayed with me until my husband picked me up. Sigh…. back at the cardiologist and so this entire summer and my last summer as a 39 year old woman was spent doing various tests and feeling totally crappy but to no avail as my condition was so unique based on my cardiologist’s view that I could not be diagnosed. An annual trip to my dentist in september who is a total health nut convinced me to get my GP to refer my case to the Toronto General Peter Munk Cardiac Foundation. So here i was Oct 22 at the Toronto General seeing my new cardiologist at 8 AM while learning from the nurse performing my ECG that this app was a last minute app due to the seriousness of the charts and results that were sent to Peter Munk by the previous cardiologist. Dr Spears gave me two possible diagnosis both genetic but very different from one another; one dealt with the right ventricular muscle deteriorating called ARVC  or Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cradiomyopathy and the other was the electrical system within the heart called CPVT or Catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (a rhythm disorder of the ventricles of the heart that occurs in genetically predisposed individuals). Long and the short afScreen Shot 2014-11-22 at 8.45.02 AMter my second MRI at Toronto General on Nov. 6 i was diagnosed with ARVC or as i call it the more evil of the 2 diagnostics and i am now schedules for heart surgery on Monday Nov. 24 at which time i will get an ICD or Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator  or the life insurance policy as my doctor calls it to keep me alive if I happen to go into a cardiac arrest. I am sad and very disappointed but this is the only option i have so here I am learning as much as i can on life altering ways that will help me live longer with this progressive heart disease. I am sure you have heard this before but here i am saying it again it SUCK and its NOT fair.

A day at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair – Toronto


feeding frenzy

What a great day we had at the fair this year and a great way to beat the crispy weather outside. There are lots to do and see for small, young and the experienced 😉 however we did focus more on the small and young rather than the later but i am sure adults do not get bored while walking around the fair. Great exercise for all to have.

For the small and young  there are plenty of family events that we enjoyed while there:

President’s Choice Animal Theatre – the best dog show in town
The aMAZEing Food Journey – who does not want to play with their food?
Ag-tivity Central – Kinder photo centre – FUN, tractor rides – thrilling
Royal Rodeo Show – did not catch a show but heard its thrilling
The Horse Palace – we got to pet a few cute horses
Petting Farm – the $2 per feeding cup was  bit steep but thrilling for the goats and kids
Giant Vegetables – huge pumpkins and cabbages that we will never forget
Gay Lea Butter Sculpture Competition- lovely things to see but not quiet as thrilling as the rest, this was a quick stop for us
Square Dancing – missed the show 😦
Royal Poultry, Waterfowl and Pigeon Show – learned a few interesting facts like ducks have 3 eyelids and the hen rolls each egg 50 times so that the yolk does not stick to the shell 😮 amazing!!!!!!

The show is on until November 16th so all of you stuck at home with no plans for a day go see it its worth the trip and a great fun educational activity to be had by all.

PS – for the adults i have heard that the exhibits at the fair are legendary… maybe next year i leave the kids behind 🙂


paintings in encaustic – pet portraits by Kari Serrao


paintings in encaustic – exhibit


paintings in encaustic – exhibit


Meals to for busy bodies!

meals to goI find it extremely difficult to pack nutritious lunches and snacks for either school or when driving the kids to their extracurricular activities either before school or after school. But as a health nut myself I keep on thinking and sharing with my usual suspects that nutrition and performance go hand and hand for athletes or soon to become athletes (giggles). As parents it feels that it is our job to provide our kids with the proper meals that are packed with the appropriate amount of calories and carbohydrates to fuel their bodies, enough fluids to maintain hydration, and the vitamins and minerals to support tissue growth and repair damaged muscles. However the million dollar question that most likely we all tend to have: How do we provide our kids all that while being stuck in a car racing to hockey, dance gymnastics soccer and so on?

So after a long research from talking to a lot of friends that are in the same predicament as I am and most likely a lot more parents find themselves in, here are some ideas of pre and post exercise snacks and meals for families on the go. What makes it tough yet much necessary is the little prep work beforehand which proves to go a long way!

My Staples: Fresh fruit and vegetables cut up into Tupperware or grab and go zip lock bags.

Healthy alternative snacks
* Cottage cheese
* Humus and crackers
* Bean Salad
* Cheese Strings
* Almonds
* Hard Boiled Eggs

Early Risers:
* Whole wheat waffles with fresh fruit.
* English muffin with jam (peanut butter) optional.
* Yogurt with granola and fresh fruit.
* Hard boiled eggs
* Cottage Cheese with Fresh Fruit
* Fruit smoothie with all your kids’ favorite fruit
* Bagel

Mid-Day Games:
* Whole wheat wraps packed with vegies and cream cheese
* Whole wheat bread with lean deli meats or cheese.
* Humus and vegies
* Pasta salad with tons of vegies cut into it
* Omelets
* Bagel with fried egg and cheese slice

Pre-game Meal:
* Pasta with tomato sauce
* Grilled Chicken breast with steamed vegetables
* Grilled Fish with Brown rice (never been a fun alternative around my table; but we are almost there) and veggies
* Omelets packed with veggies (cheese is optional)
* Tomato Boccochini sandwich with fresh basil

Proven fact: Fresh fruit such as bananas, oranges and apples are great snacks before a game (3 hours before) snacking on fruits and Vegetables will provide additional energy during the game and will prevent that tummy from growling.

My lesson that i have learned the hard was is that including the kids in the process does increase the success rate of the planned meals vs surprising them with the new change in their meals. I now invite and encourage them to help cut the vegetables and fruits during the week. Take them shopping (which is not their preferred activity of the day), and continuously talking to them about the importance of proper nutrition, often throwing in a few names of famous athletes they can identify themselves with such as Crosby, Messi and no other than Roger Federer.

I keep on reminding myself that all of this effort and ‘small pain’ is to set my/our kids on a path of healthy nutrition they will carry for the rest of their life.

Halloween pumpkin fun

here is a great activity for kids that involves: hand eye coordination, upper body  strength and whole lot of tummy muscles stimulated by the sheer giggles and belly laughs as a result:

Pumpkin Roll 


Broom x 2

pumpkin x 2

Instructions:  Determine a starting line and a finish line. Set 2 pumpkins on their sides at the start and have the racers line up behind them. At “Go,” each pair of challengers uses sturdy brooms to propel the pumpkins over the finish line

we have played this game at this year’s halloween party and it was a HOOT!

Wanna dance while waiting at a cross walk?

Before and after school clubs for kids are so much fun! In most cases for girls you get the dance/ballet favourites while the boyz tend to gravitate more so towards the gameopoloza and treasure hunts type of activities. However this year i made a decision to shake things up a little and push the comfort boundaries of my two boys as much as they push my boundaries at times….. so this years for clubs they picked one and i picked one for them. My pick for them was Hip Hop a huge attraction for girls but not so much for boyz at least not at their age (9 and 7) after the sign up i get big fat lips all day but than, we come across this youTube video, the lips turned magically the right side up… why can’t we have these implemented in Toronto not only is it fun but it promotes movement, ‘FUN’ movement for all ages. How much fun could this be?

IMG_2537We all fall into the turkey trap every year around this time of the holiday season…. too much turkey and family sitting around recipe to a lovely time 🙂 however kids get pretty antsy and so if indoors for too long jump on the good old iPad or the trusted Tv. So this weekend i decided to make cycling one of the attractions before dinner and pumpkin carving the grand finale for after dinner activity. Here are a few great facts about cycling for all ages:

  • Low impact – it causes less strain and injuries than most other forms of exercise
  • A good muscle workout – cycling uses all of the major muscle groups as you pedal. Cycling has been shown to get you fitter than walking, as it lifts your heart rate to a more beneficial level
  • Easy – unlike some other sports, cycling does not require high levels of physical skill. Most people know how to ride a bike and, once you learn, you don’t forget
  • Good for strength and stamina – cycling increases stamina, strength and aerobic fitness
  • As intense as you want – cycling can be done at very low intensity to begin with, if recovering from injury or illness, but can be built up to a demanding physical workout
  • A fun way to get fit – the adventure and buzz you get from coasting down hills and being outdoors means you are more likely to continue to cycle regularly, compared to other physical activities that keep you indoors or require special times or places
  • Time-efficient – as a mode of transport

For those that do care here is a great table i found on the internet about caloric expenditure while cycling:

Activity (1 hour)
130 lb
155 lb
180 lb
205 lb
Cycling, mountain bike, bmx
Cycling, <10 mph, leisure bicycling
Cycling, >20 mph, racing
Cycling, 10-11.9 mph, light
Cycling, 12-13.9 mph, moderate
Cycling, 14-15.9 mph, vigorous
Cycling, 16-19 mph, very fast, racing
Stationary cycling, very light
Stationary cycling, light
Stationary cycling, moderate
Stationary cycling, vigorous
Stationary cycling, very vigorous

lets not forget the carving pumpkin after dinner: Carving a pumpkin for 15 minutes burns 39 calories. If you are a perfectionist like us, it should take you about an hour!

IMG_2536 IMG_2560

Good exercise habits can never start too early… can they?

hikeAs a young mother I have always been told by our pediatrician that food should not be portioned when it comes to meals for our children. ‘Kids will stop eating when they are full’ I have been told and not to remove the plate from them until they are ready to give it up… and I am fine with that; however alarming bells start ringing when we read reports about children being overweight and obese. In Canada, studies have shown children and youth are getting larger and less active. Over the past 30 years, obesity rates have tripled. Here are some stats for you: one in four children and youth are either overweight or obese. Even more worrisome is the fact that less than 10% of children are meeting the recommended 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity each day. To double up on that worry is the fact that children or adolescents who are obese are more likely to remain obese as adults and so the old saying of ‘not to worry he will lose the baby fat any day now’ becomes irrelevant and a little too late. One of my current goals is to instill good habits into my children’s little heads… and so here is what I have come up with:

  • Chores – who is not in favor of that? Yard work, mopping, sweeping gets the muscles of the body moving; muscles they didn’t even know they had. It is also exercise without being labeled as such.

    • Family activities – can’t really get a way from technology L so say ‘HELLO’ to virtual video games for family game night. The Wii game system has revolutionized gaming as a family; we can play fun games while increasing the calorie expenditure; usually I let the kids choose games that they like and we ALL play.

    • Group exercise – Family walks, bike rides and hiking adventures in the park or nearby provincial parks; doing it together gives everyone the benefit of a healthier lifestyle; I often see families where dads/moms are on their phone sitting on the bench while the kids are riding in circles…. hmmmm … I find that kids need to know that we are in it with them and they will gain confidence and courage from us.

    • Role model – escalators are fun! BUT take the stairs if you are looking at one or two flights of stairs in a mall for example; I usually park the car away from the front door and walk to the door. Try the escalator if you need a break but NEVER take the elevator.

    • Encourage them to play with friends – Get their friends moving as well. Buy equipment that they all can share to have a good time outside in the backyard or the driveway. Your home could be the saving grace of the kids in the neighborhood… MODERATILY that is. I can no longer keep count of how many hockey sticks and baseball gloves we currently have. I need a shed!

    • Get them involved – How about school or recreational activities? We have recently joined the local YMCA so that I can get my workout and got them and their friends joining indoor sports teams and even gymnastics ;)… not only have the benefit of exercise but also of camaraderie.

    • Begin a pattern – So of course I did not come out and say… WE ARE DOING THIS AND WE ARE DOINT IT NOW!…. even though I wanted to! So instead we start off with a few days a week acclimatize to the new schedule. We are not just yet into an exercise routine but slowly we are getting there.

Burning more calories than you take in is how we lose weight. I don’t think it’s just a factor of eating habits, and with kids, exercise can help it come off faster. When they see results, they will want to do more to see more.

Swinging in a swing…. great exercise

IMG_2494Who would have thought that swinging in a swing will burn calories, as a matter of fact for every hour kids/adults swing they burn 200 calories. Swing fitness used to be be an old trend back in the days when school playgrounds had them incorporate in their playground equipment… purpose: loose weight, tone up and gain strength. Its time we help ‘swinging’ make a come back. It is an activity that the whole family can do. If you are taking the kids to the park to play, join them.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 1.21.20 PMSome Benefits

  • condition the joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments — most of the body
  • it can be adjusted to fit any level of fitness your fitness or lack thereof.
  • swinging can blur the line between workouts and recreation
  • you can complete an entire body workout in less than 20 minutes
  • if you are swinging, your children will want to as well, and you will be teaching them good fitness habits

Here is what we built in our attempt to take swinging with us up at the cottage: homemade wooden seats and rope.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 1.27.51 PM