Well typically when someone goes to the extent that I do to eat and live clean, it’s because of a significant life encounter that they’ve experienced, bringing one to a different perspective on their life overall….and so my (sort of long) story begins…
I am a born and raised Torontonian from Canada where I studied Interior Design and began working in the field in my mid 20’s. Fast forward. It was July 2002. I was visiting and helping my sister in Pennsylvania with her first born (my nephew) for the majority of 6 months. By August, desperately missing my own gym back home, I joined the local gym down the street. Minutes after signing up and starting my work out, Rob (who would turn out to be my future husband) walks in, sits on the rower beside me, sparks up a conversation and the rest is history. We were inseparable from August until February, 2003 when he went off to medical school up in Maine, and I returned to Toronto to resume my life at home. That was the start of a 10 year, long distance relationship between two countries, requiring a 10 hour drive in either direction. How we’d make it work? We weren’t sure but somehow we’d manage.
Rob spent 2 years in Maine, 1 year internship in his hometown in Pennsylvania, and then up in Boston until he’d finished his 4 years of residency. Concluding, he took a year off to work in his field before putting his final fellowship year in. I continued on with my design work and, applying all of the same design theories as Interior Design, I created a high end costume jewelry line. I focused on Interior Design and Lanart Studio jewelry simultaneously, loving every second of it.
In March, 2007 very much to our surprise we found out I was pregnant. Surprised first, then excited and already in love with this unborn child. I remained in Toronto and Rob plugged on with school in the United States. Pregnancy was great until month 6 when for no apparent reason I developed a clot in my leg which grew to a grotesquely massive size, putting both me and my unborn baby is danger. As my due date of November 5th approached, blood thinners had dissipated my clot enough for me to give birth naturally although I was closely monitored for a pulmonary embolism. Our daughter was born healthy, beautiful and perfect! She instantly changed our world! Meanwhile hundreds of miles away just 5 days prior on Halloween night Rob rushed himself to the hospital for a ruptured appendix which led to pulmonary edema from the sedation. He spent 4 days in ICU and would finally meet his newborn daughter soon after once we were all able to travel.
This sort of paved the way for more to come. At two and a half months old our daughter developed localized swelling in her left leg at the exact location where she’d received her immunization shot. When her leg continued to increase in size I called Rob in the U.S to tell him I was going to bring her into Sick Kids Hospital and I’d be home in about 6 hours. As I lay with baby M in emergency for endless hours of testing and updates, 12 hours later baby M would be one of the youngest babies then to be admitted as a cancer patient; AML Leukemia. I found out that day that M and I would only return home 6 months later, rather then 6 hours. Those months ahead were something I could never have imagined for anyone. I lived with M on the Oncology floor from February 28 until August 26 throughout the duration of her aggressive chemo treatment. With only one eye closed the entire time, I slept on the cot in our room beside her crib. What M and each of the the other children on the oncology floor would go through each minute of each day was something Rob and I can never erase from our minds and hearts. Rob had began residency several months before M was diagnosed and during this time he traveled back and forth between the US and Toronto, post-call every moment he could. We were on auto drive. On March 3rd, we had M baptized in the Sick Kids Chapel. Prayers, holy water from the Pope, endless love and support flooded through to us for M throughout. By August 26, 2008, our prayers were answers and M, in remission was discharged.
Leaving Sick Kids for the first time was entering the unknown, but we simply had to manage, and we did. In addition to M’s amazing remission, more blessed news awaited us. The following week of our departure from Sick Kids, the house that my brother Mark and I had put an offer on two months prior along Lake Ontario had been accepted! A perfect triplex with wonderful existing tenants and a vacant top floor unit for us! Another week following that, Rob and I found out that we were to expect our second child. Our daughter was born on May 1st, 2009. Slowly life seemed to be turning back around for us. Slowly things were subsiding. Those next two years we spent resting, adjusting, reflecting and accepting. We yearned for simplicity and privacy and the time in our new home was just that. We had to relearn how to breath and relished ourselves in our new young family. Rob and I had mastered traveling back and forth between countries by this point. We wanted more children and in June 2011 I got pregnant with our third child. We felt as though all that we’d endured could now remain in the past, and we were finally able to move forward. Our third daughter would enter this world on March 23rd, 2011. But, our journey was yet not over. In July of 2011, just one week after learning we were pregnant with our third, we learned that Rob’s father had advanced lung cancer. This hit Rob especially hard. Once Rob completed residency he found work near home to be able to spend the next 2 years helping his father with appointments and staying by his side. Amidst all of this, we felt it finally time to set a wedding date to allow us to be together as we should be, in one country, the USA and be closer to his father as a whole. Our date was set for June 16, 2012 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. It just so happened that Nick Walanda was tightrope walking across the falls the night before our wedding! Our wedding day signified to us and to all of our loving and much loved guests that we had fought, and we had won with their undying support and strength as our pillar. We were united as a family of five and it was an incredible feeling that filled the room that day with rejoice. In complete contrast we were distracted by and greatly worried about Bob, Rob’s father and best man. He had been doing extremely well with his chemo up until 4 days before the drive to Niagara Falls when he’d drastically declined. During the early hours in the morning before our wedding Bob collapsed and was rushed to the hospital where he remained until he was air lifted back to Pennsylvania 2 days later. What an intricate mixture of emotion, both extreme joyfulness and deep sorrow, complete opposites. Bob wanted more than anything for us to marry and enjoy our special day and so the wedding went on, however emotionally confusing it was for us. Bob sadly passed away 2 weeks after our wedding, and a heavy, deep void would be left in all of us.
We were trying desperately to understand why we were made to endure and experience so much and why so close together. As soon as we were met with a blessing, we’d be met with a painful hardship each time. We couldn’t catch our breath in between, let alone have time to understand each. Our most joyous occasions were challenged and overshadowed by tragic ones. Yet, we did not feel self pity or that we were unfortunate, rather we eagerly wanted to understand the message we were being sent over and over again. This is when I knew that we were to help others with our strength and wisdom and that time would guide us there. We had been helped by so many; family, friends and even those we didn’t know. That support and love would carry us on to want to do the same for others and so we began to fundraise each year for the LLS (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada), and I would bring home cooked, healthy meals to families on the Oncology Ward at Sick Kids, something that these families seldom got living there. In time our daughters would be taught by us to do the very same. Rob was taught to become an even more compassionate Doctor. We were taught about perseverance and determination and, most of all how to remain positive through it all. While we were given outside support, on the inside Rob and I had a system, a mindset that we laid out when M was first diagnosed. We referred to it as our Bible of Survival. It never steered us wrong and we still follow this today.
To date our three daughters, ages 12, 11 and 9 have their own fundraising stand for Alex’s Lemonade Stand and this will be their 8th year. Like clock work the first two weekends in June are stiflingly hot. Like champs the girls endure the heat, determined to raise more money then the year before without complaint. People in our community have come to expect and look so forward to seeing them at their stand each year.
The fine branches of our story are what have become the foundation of the life we live today. Clean living, clean eating, clean thinking where everything that comes into our home is a conscious decision. The least possible toxins and the least to no VOC perspective. My approach is the same with Interior Design…and so, through this wonderful gift of insightfulness and knowledge that I’ve been blessed with, I now offer it to you ❤️