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I see it with every woman I serve - their hand reaching out, in search of assurance & connection.

We are afraid.

We feel insignificant...unqualified. 

Our story seems unimportant. Sharing it would be an imposition.

But, our story has the power to breathe life into another, to connect and inspire, to strengthen and bless.


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𝕁𝕠𝕒𝕟𝕟𝕒 ℤ𝕚𝕤𝕔𝕙𝕝𝕖𝕣 


On July 27, 2018, our family went through something we never thought was possible. It was a typical morning and we were at our cottage. My husband, Juergen made strawberry pancakes for breakfast. Our daughter Emily, 5.5 years old at this time, went to her bedroom to lay down in bed. We found her curled up in a ball on her bed crying and saying her tummy hurt. At first we didn’t think much of it... tummy aches are pretty routine. 


For months prior she complained of an occasional sore tummy, but once again I did not think much of it and I was going to mention it to our family doctor. The odd thing was, that it came in waves. As the morning went on, she threw up. I suspected a flu bug. As the day went on, I made the choice to take her to the hospital. We carried Emily in and were taken in immediately. Within minutes we were seen by a doctor and sent off to get an ultrasound. Emily continued to scream and curl up in a ball in waves. I lied with her in her bed and she would sleep off and on. We were told that it was not her appendix, but they did see something around her ovary and were on the phone with Sick Kids. The next thing I knew we were in an ambulance with Emily to Sick Kids - lights and sirens all the way. I was so scared but continued to be strong for Emily. She held on to my hand the whole ride up. 


We arrived with Emily at Sick Kids with my husband right behind us. We then had to go for an ultrasound again. Emily was still in a lot of pain. We then met Dr. Allan from the gynecology department. Emily had what was called a twisted torsion of her fallopian tube. She needed surgery and we had to sign paperwork, which was incredibly scary. It was not just signing a piece of paper to say please fix our daughter, it was giving permission to remove her fallopian tubes and ovaries if needed. 


This was my baby girl, who I hoped would become a mom one day. 


Emily was finally sleeping and comfortable, so we gave her a kiss and said I love you as they rolled her bed away from us. We waited for what felt like hours when Dr. Allan came out. We went to a quiet room for her to talk to us and were told that everything went well. Her fallopian tube was twisted around 2 times, hence the pain. However, we were also told that her left ovary did not look like a typical ovary. We spent the remainder of the night at Sick Kids. She had stitches at her belly button, and on each side of it. Before we left that day, Emily had to have a hand x-ray to show the age of her bone growth. In less than a week I received our first phone call from Sick Kids with test results. 


Emily was producing estrogen. My little girl had her first period within a few weeks of her surgery. We went back and forth to Sick Kids for further tests. She had blood work done a few times, more ultrasounds, full body x-rays, and an MRI. My heart broke for her every time she had a test. We honestly had no idea what was going on. With frequent communication with Sick Kids we learned that Emily had started puberty. She had started to develop breasts, had some vaginal hair and her bone growth was 2 years ahead of her age - she had a large tumor on her left ovary. We were introduced to the ‘hormone’ doctor and between him and Dr. Allan and her team, they felt that the best and only procedure to do was to remove her tumor, left ovary and fallopian tube. We signed the scary papers again. 


The day of Emily’s surgery was probably the most anxiety that I had felt. I put on my big girl pants for Emily to show her that she would be fine. I remember her being so scared and snuggling up on me in the bed. Nurses and doctors coming and going. Emily was already to go, but there was no way in hell she was letting go of me. She clung to me so tight. I honestly had no idea what I was going to do as I was trying to hold myself together for her, but tears were coming down my face as I was trying to convince her to go back and lay in her bed so the nurses could take her. Juergen tried and she was not having it. 


In that moment, the nurses said that I could go with her, but I had to get changed to go in. I remember putting on the thin paper-like jumper, blue boots, and a hat to cover my hair. Emily then climbed back into my arms and I walked with her to the operating room. I have been in an operating room before but bringing in my little girl was so hard. There were nurses, an anesthesiologist and Dr. Allan. Emily had to put a mask up to her mouth to help her get a little sleepy, but of course did not want anything to do with that and I was not allowed to do it. She had to do this part on her own. Finally, she was able to do this, still in my arms and holding on tight. They had her count and you could hear her starting to get sleepy, but she was still holding on tight. I was able to have her lay down on the bed, still attached to me and they put the IV in. She was finally asleep, and I just stood there watching her. I was reassured she was in good hands and that I could leave her. I gave her a kiss and left with a nurse. 


I got back to the waiting room and saw Juergen and I just cried. This was the first time I felt I could let it all out. I know she was in the best hands possible but trying to hold myself together for what felt like forever was so hard. I don’t even remember how long Emily was in there for, but I do remember when Dr. Allan came out and said everything went well and they only had to remove one ovary and her fallopian tube along with a very large tumor of over 8cm. I remember going into the room to go and see her and she was hooked up to so many machines and they were trying to wake her up. When she was stable, we were moved to a room to spend a few nights. Not only did I have to deal with Emily, but I had to deal with the fact that my other 3 children were at home with their grandma. This was the very first time I had ever left them for more than a few hours, let alone a night. I spent the night with her snuggled up in bed while Juergen went to the hotel to get some sleep. He came back and I was able to leave and take a shower, which was incredibly hard to do as I had not left her side. I remember walking quickly and showering as fast as I could to get back. 


I could not leave her. I needed and wanted to know she was okay. We celebrated our 18th anniversary in the hospital with our we will never forget. We continued with testing and regular check ups with Sick Kids. Not only were we learning, but so were the doctors. This is an incredibly rare thing, so rare that it took two biopsy places to conclude what Emily’s tumor was. I remember getting a call saying we needed to come back to Sick Kids for October 1. That day we learned that our baby girl had cancer called Stromal Tubular Tumor. HAD being the key word. It took everything in me to once again hold myself together, but yes, I did have a few tears going down my face, with Emily not truly understanding. 


We were reassured that the tumor was removed and there were no further signs of cancer and no required treatment. She was ok and would continue to live a healthy life and be monitored for a very long time at Sick Kids. Today Emily is a healthy young girl. The estrogen that was produced by the tumor is now gone. Any physical parts that started puberty are visible but are no longer developing.


During this time, I had no idea that  my mental health was taking a severe hit. When Emily started back to school, I stayed off work. I had no idea I was going to take a year off. I went into a depression like I had never experienced. When Emily was at school I worried and kept my phone close. I was so afraid of something happening. I just wanted security. The hard part was I could not provide that for her or for my other kids. I remember many days where it was hard to just get the kids ready for school and out the door in the morning. There was so much yelling, no patience and anger. My doctor put me on low dose antidepressants. I was not sleeping and was exhausted. I would sleep a little through the day occasionally, but most of the time I would just lay there. I watched so much TV and ate. I made cookies just to eat the cookie dough. 


My doctor suggested that I go and talk to someone. This was a big step as I had never done this before and did not know if I could open up to anyone. A friend recommended a wonderful therapist who welcomed me with open arms. I shared my story and so many more as time went on. She gave me steps to try and find my way back. The problem was I needed to work on me, which also meant finding time for me...and let’s be honest, being a mom of 4 kids makes this incredibly difficult at the best of times.


Sleep was impossible. Nothing seemed to help. One day I received a message from an old friend...I am so incredibly grateful for her for reaching out, as we had not talked to in years. She heard I was not well and wanted to help. I did not respond right away. I do not ask for help and do not accept help easily. It came to the point where I felt I had nothing to lose. She was a massage therapist and I truly believe she was part of my healing process. She did her magic and we would talk on a weekly basis. She also introduced me to wild orange essential oil. I used this to help with my depression even though I was skeptical. I tried serenity oil and capsules, vetiver and cedarwood. I still thought she was crazy, but for the first time in months I started to sleep. I was sleeping through the night. I finally understood the power that essential oils had on my body and understood what she was talking about. The sleep may have happened quickly with the oils, but the depression still had a long way to go. As I was dealing with all of this, we were trying to get things started on building a new house, as we had a house fire on a property we owned a week after Emily’s first surgery. Also, I had to fight with long term disability to be covered, which was denied, not just once but three times. I went with no pay for a long time which added additional stress. I always had something I was trying to deal with. Over time I was able to heal and to be able to function as a mom to my children and a wife to my husband...and to be me.


Do I ever feel that I am the same as I was before? No, I don’t. When I see an ambulance with lights and sirens I cry instantly. I went up a size or two in clothing during this time and do not feel beautiful most days. I worked so hard to get to a weight and a look that I could love myself physically. This is something that I struggle with daily and continue to always work on. I am so incredibly grateful for a friend that checked in on me daily, and to a husband that was beyond patient and there for me through everything. I have 4 beautiful and healthy children. Do I think twice about tummy pain with any of my kids, yes, I do. But I also look at Emily and realize how lucky we are to have her in our life as things could have been completely different. She is a strong and independent little girl that I admire more every day. I am reminded of what she went through each day, whether I see her large scar or even her beautiful face - but I carry on. 


I carry on for my family and for me too. There are good days and bad, but that is ok. I learn more and more about me each day and I will take those learning opportunities to help my children grow into strong adults.

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𝕂𝕚𝕞 ℍ𝕒𝕘𝕝𝕖

Ontario, Canada

I spent the first 40 years of my life hating my body. As a child, I was painfully shy, clumsy and slow. I was the last kid picked for every team at school. I first thought I was fat at the age of 8, when I tried on a bathing suit and my mom and aunt giggled about how I had the “family pooch”. I know they didn’t mean anything by the comment, but it sure grabbed hold at the time.

I spent my childhood, teen years and early adulthood trying to avoid the embarrassment of physical activity and secretly cycling between binge eating and starving. I did my first real diet when I was 22, and the next 18 years was a wash-rinse-repeat cycle. Diet/workout - lose weight - lose willpower - fail - quit-gain weight - hate myself - start again.

After I had my third child, I hired a personal trainer. This was the start of understanding food and exercise in a different way. I got into working out and running and I REALLY loved it - I felt strong and powerful for the first time in my life. learned about clean eating, and thought I had found the ticket to escaping the diet cycle. In 2012 I became a personal trainer and started my schooling in Holistic Nutrition. I was passionate about nutrition and a fault. It became an obsession, and all I really cared about was being thin. I got to my lowest weight, a size 2, and everyone praised me for how “good I looked”. But I was MISERABLE!

I felt I had to be perfect all the time because I was a role model to others.

I felt isolated and ashamed and like a complete fraud. When no one was looking I would sneak foods and then go for an extra long run the next day (which I did NOT have time for, but HAD to do). I knew all the things I should do, and I did them - but I was doing the right things for the wrong reasons.

Eventually my body had enough. I started to gain weight and I literally could not control it anymore with food or exercise. I tried dieting again but I couldn’t stick to anything. Over-exercising resulted in a major injury that grounded me for over a year. Not being able to run or exercise was devastating for me - I realized I NEEDED that outlet for my well being, not for weight control. I HAD to change to stay sane.

I worked with a coach and we went deep into my self image. Long story short, I gradually started to improve my relationship with myself, with food and exercise, and eventually my body.

I stopped punishing myself with restriction and over exercise and focused on truly feeling my best. I listened to what my body wanted, I levelled out at a medium sized body, and I broke up with the scale for good.

Through it all, as I’ve shared my experiences, I’ve realized I am not alone. So many women are riding the diet train, believing that if they could just have the “perfect body”, suddenly everything will be better.

I’m here to tell you, happiness isn’t a destination, or a dress size. It’s a mindset; a product of our thoughts, and it’s my mission to help women make the connection between their feelings, thoughts, behaviour and results.

I re-entered the wellness industry healed to help women find freedom around food and their bodies.

Get to know how Kim’s approach is so very beautiful and different by following her on fb @ Radiant Vitality - Empowered Wellness or IG @ Kim Hagle - Radiant Vitality

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ℕ𝕚𝕔𝕠𝕝𝕖 𝕂𝕚𝕣𝕔𝕙𝕟𝕖𝕣
Ontario, Canada

Question:  Do you like who you live with? 

Now, I’m not talking about your spouse or your kids or even your pets (and let’s face it, in these COVID times, the answer you’d give to that might be a little... influenced right now).

The person I’m talking about is someone who has been with you since day One.  Your inner roommate.  That person whom you share your every thought and feeling with.  The person who is there intently listening and influencing your every move.

I did not like who I was living with for most of my life.

Starting at a relatively early age, my inner roommate was taking precise stock of my shortcomings and wouldn’t hesitate to inform me of when and where I didn’t measure up... in school, in activities, but mainly in my physical appearance. The assault of beratements she’d lay on me left me feeling worthless and empty – an emptiness that I began to fill with food.  Food became my friend, my confidante. It never judged or denied me.  It was just... there.  And as you might imagine, this routine of low self-esteem and worth being muffled by emotional eating patterns only led to (ta-DAH!) weight gain and even lower self-worth.  I kept up this pattern – a habit – all throughout adolescence, which gave my roommate something to talk about.  By this point she could hardly stand me and made her opinion known every chance she could get.

Highschool – which, let’s face it are some of the hardest years to navigate – are the years where we’re trying to figure out not just what we want to do, but WHO we want to become in this world.

And I felt like I was losing myself more and more.

Winding down high school and looking ahead to post-secondary adventures, something inside me clicked.  Maybe it was all the feelings of possibility and change that were on the horizon, but I felt inspired.  I started taking charge of myself and not letting my roommate dictate my every move.  Always the skeptic, she thought she would stand back and let me try this new behaviour out, but carefully waiting in the wings for when it failed and she could tell me, “I told you so!”.  I began exercising. Nothing drastic or overdone, just simple movement.  It began to take the place of comfort for me instead of turning to food, and the weight started to come off.  I felt great... and people noticed.  My inner roommate was doing cartwheels over the attention and was digging on all the external validation this new behaviour was bringing.

And then my roommate got this brilliant idea...If a little is good, a lot must be better. Less food, more exercise.

Restriction must be the key to success. 

Because I was so busy with all the change happening in life, I didn’t hear my roommate plotting her latest takeover.  And to be honest, I liked the newfound attention so I was eager to keep up whatever I needed to in order to make it happen.  It gave me a sense of control – or at least I thought it did.

See, my roommate was a smart and crafty bitch.  She’d quietly done her homework, gained my trust and made a new friend whom she invited to come live with us.


After that, there was no more calling the shots.  I was tired and they had worn me down.  It was easier for me to not feel anything, and so I let my eating disorder take over.

Fortunately, I have a caring and conscientious support system.  It didn’t take long for my mother to go into full momma bear-mode on my new guest, getting me to see any doctor, therapist or specialist in our area that she could (and in the mid-nineties, lemme tell you there wasn’t much available!).  With her help, and the help of Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, I was able to get the support and treatment I needed to evict anorexia from my life (however she did leave behind a t-shirt to remember her by).

During this time, something else happened.

I met a boy.

And this wasn’t just any boy... he was one of those boys that mothers love and fathers just can’t seem to find any fault in them.  He came into my life when I was messy and broken, and he bravely accepted me in this disastrous state.  He made me feel safe.  He made me feel loved.  He made me FEEL again.  And eventually, he made me his wife.

We were into the ‘roaring twenties’ - that decade of new love, new careers, planning a wedding, buying a house, making a home.  A life.  I was the happiest I could remember being since I was a child.  My inner roommate had been pretty quiet once it became her and I again.  She would speak up every so often with a jab or criticism, but I was just too busy to really pay attention.  Life was happening... I became a mother, a business owner, I began teaching fitness classes and building a tribe of support. 

I was settling into a life that was... comfortable. And then I began to feel an itch.

An old familiar voice that was calling out to me, reminding me that this was not enough, that I was not enough.  My inner roommate had this overwhelming need to change me, and all I kept wondering was, “What’s it going to take?  WHEN WILL I BE ENOUGH??”.

I wished that I could just evict this damn girl - life would be SO much easier if I could.  But wouldn’t you know it, she signed a life lease.  No getting out of that one.  I needed to find a way to make this work.  I gathered myself up and went in search of the next quick fix... but instead found something that ended up being life-altering.  I thought I was getting into a new “diet”, but I ended up in what I call my year of therapy.  I had coaches and support that helped me peel back the onion layers of all my actions, behaviours, habits.  For the first time ever, I took accountability and ownership of my life and my actions.  I stopped being the victim and began being the champion.  I forged a new path with healthy habits that nurtured both my body and my mind.

After 37 years, I had finally done the work and repaired the relationship I had with food, my body and myself.  My roommate and I – we had finally come to a place of mutual respect and admiration.  I had learned how to put my own oxygen mask on first.

And I had done all of these things without the knowledge that my plane was about to go down...

By November 2016, we were facing some tremendous industry challenges and decided to sell our family-run business before more change took place.  It was just the right time and the right decision for us.  Throughout all of the stress that we had encountered, I stayed calm, focused and felt as if I could conquer the world (whereas normally I would be flying off the handle).  I finally felt like my shit was together, neatly filed and colour-coded.

But something was off.  Something was lurking in the shadows and was about to attack.

That something came on November 9, 2016 when in the midst of negotiating the sale of our business, my husband – that boy who so long ago accepted a messy, broken girl – died by suicide.

As this news came to me, and the world beneath my feet gave way and I (literally) crumbled to the ground, I heard a whisper...

“It’s okay.  You will be okay.  I’ve got you now”.

My roommate.  My friend.  She showed up when I needed her the most.  And she helped me to see - in the darkest of dark – all the amazing love and support that we had cultivated in our life.  Instead of anger and panic, I was overcome with gratitude for this life.  For MY life.  For who I had become and for who I could be right then for others, because they couldn’t be there for themselves.  She gave me the strength to carry those that needed to be carried through this, especially our daughter.

This is about as true and raw an illustration of the importance of putting your own oxygen mask on first.  It is the power of true self-care and how much we all need it.  This isn’t a luxury, or something to be put off until later.  No, this is a necessity.  A critical life skill that every man, woman and child have stocked in their tool box.  If I have learned anything, it’s that life is happening to us all the time, and happening at a moment’s notice.  The question to ask yourself is... are you (and your inner roommate) ready for it?

It’s been three and a half years since Adrien left us, and I am forever grateful for my roommate’s love and support.  She is still here to help when I need her (which is always), and has been trying to help me navigate the new world that we find ourselves in.  Widowhood comes with it’s own set of challenges, like an IKEA cabinet with no instructions.

But that, my friends, is for another story.


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Ontario, Canada


I grew up as the child of an alcoholic. It had interesting effects on me, the biggest one being that my highly empathetic natural personality was magnified. I became a fixer, a doer and a pleaser. I became a feelings-hider.  No one needed the burden of my feelings when they were dealing with their own. Maybe that’s why it took a lot of encouragement to tell this story.


What’s even more interesting is that the alcoholic I grew up with was the one person who was not safe from my feelings. 


When I was a teen, I told him exactly what I thought, and no longer played the codependent game with him – for him, I wouldn't be the person to make things ok. I stopped taking his drunk midnight calls. I called him out on inappropriate behaviour. And to this day, we don’t have a relationship. I “don’t approve of his lifestyle” is the overall impression I’ve left. I see him once a year. During that visit, we dance around small talk.


Being a pleaser and fixer, I have always attracted men that need that. Angry, abusive men that need me to calm them down and make them happy...I’ve lacked the courage to express what I need in return. I’ve been in relationships with men who lack the ability to take responsibility for their own actions. Some I recognized right away...some took longer. 


I have had a few relationships, but with long breaks in between to recover. I met a man in my 20’s who I allowed to string me along, and when I found out I was pregnant, he chose not to take part or responsibility. I learned to be really efficient at getting shit done, being a fixer and a doer, and not getting into relationships because my son was more important than anything.

I was fortunate – I’d bought a house with my mother and sister when I was younger, and we lived together. They took such joy in my little boy, and were a great support to me during this time. My son was in the care of my mother the day she passed away at home, at the age of 56. When I arrived home from work in the evening, he was still in his pyjamas, and she was on the floor of the living room, having passed 7 hours earlier. To this day, I have a fear of losing people I’m close to, but at the time I didn't grieve. I put my head down and continued fixing and doing.


Fast forward a few years - I met a man. He turned into my best friend, he was good for my soul and he supported and encouraged me in my work and life. We got engaged after a year of dating, bought a house and got married. Then the mask started to slip. He became emotionally abusive, chipping away at my self-worth. I went through days of the silent treatment for no reason, months of withheld physical affection. I got accustomed to little traumas, every single day. I allowed him to isolate me from friends and family. I allowed him to control the finances. Then, everything was wrong, and it was my fault. After 3 years’ marriage, he discarded me.  But in a final act of insult, he first encouraged me to quit a job that I’d been unhappy in, while at the same time he quietly started a new relationship and started to plan his exit. I started my new single life unemployed, with a tiny self-employment income. 


I had met the classic narcissist, and had allowed myself to go through the whole process. Idealize. Devalue. Discard. 


Being a fixer and a doer, I never recognized my own strengths and achievements during that time, but I see them now as I write this. In quick order, I secured employment, got a mortgage and bought a home. I moved closer to my big, huge supportive family and started a new life, just my boy and I. We worked it out, and despite financial troubles, he enjoyed summer sailing camps and other exciting experiences. I enjoyed very little. I was too busy working hard to make things work, losing sleep over finances, feeling not enough in every way.


One day, during a job change, I met a group of people that changed my life. A group so real, so honest and brave, that I was able to be myself, and I was able to magnify my desire to help others in a positive, meaningful way. That has meant the world to me.   


Last June, I got sick. Since 2006, I’d had several episodes of Bells Palsy, a nerve condition that causes facial paralysis and a host of other symptoms. This time, it came with debilitating nerve pain and complete exhaustion. It has impacted my life greatly, forcing me to slow down my life to a crawl, forcing me to stay quiet when I’m normally not, forcing me to back up how I connect with others. There hasn’t been much relief, but I’m grateful to say that I’m now connected to a caring neurologist who is on track with testing and scans to see if there’s a cause, and to see if we can find a treatment.


The past year has been hard for this fixer and doer. Having dropped a lot of non-necessities, I have had to learn to sit quietly and be alone with my thoughts, for the first time ever.  It’s been a learning experience, not always good, but I’ve had the chance to reflect on what life is all about. 


It turns out, life is not all about fixing and doing. I’ve found that the purpose of life is joy, finding it and helping others to find it. It’s the only thing that matters. 


Learning to find the joy and learning to recognize it in the little things is my mission now. And yes, sometimes it’s a struggle. But quiet time helps. It helps me to sort out what is important to finding that joy, and what isn’t. It also helps me to see that in the little details, there are little flashes of joy - and these add up to way more than they seem, individually.


These days, I find joy in helping others to recognize their own joy. This has been the biggest blessing to me of all.


Chrystal xx