Project Think Positive Guest Post: Susan at The Great Balancing Act

You may have read my blog post about supporting The Great Fundraising Act awhile back for my blog friend Susan. If you haven’t clicked over to her blog yet, you totally should. You may not think that a blog about cancer would be interesting. You may think it could be sad. But not only is her blog totally interesting, what I’ve noticed is that it’s not sad at all. While Susan doesn’t sugar-coat her posts about her cancer treatments and updates, she has this knack for looking at and finding even the smallest positives out of every situation. When I read her post about how, after losing her uncle to cancer and finding out about Susan’s diagnosis, she and her family  celebrated (yes celebrated!) with the most beautiful cake, I knew I wanted to ask her about doing a guest post to share her wisdom with you for Project Think Positive. Please welcome Susan to The Chic Life


Hi. My name is Susan. And I have cancer.

I will admit, this is my second go around at writing this guest post for Diana. She asked me to contribute to Project Think Positive because of my naturally sunny disposition. Isn’t that right Diana?

Truth of the matter is, when I laid it all out for you, suddenly my story didn’t sound very positive, despite my positive outlook. It’s hard to make cancer sound like a good thing. And that’s because it’s not. But we’ll get to that.

First, here is what you need to know:

1. I am a personal trainer and certified Nutrition & Wellness Specialist. I blog about these things and my love of cooking, baking, and restaurant-ing at The Great Balancing Act.

2. In February 2011, I fell skating and shattered my left elbow. After a 5-hour reconstructive surgery, I found myself unable to work as a personal trainer and moved back home to be closer to my family.

3. In June 2011, after months of getting headaches and feeling weaker than normal, I get a bad pain in my neck. It’s swollen and the veins in my chest become visible. My mom gets worried and makes a doctor’s appointment against my will.

4. The doctor orders a CT scan on June 22, 2011. It finds a blood clot in my jugular vein. Another scan then reveals a large mass in my chest, along with increased lymph nodes under my arms and base of throat.

5. I spend a month in the hospital waiting for a diagnosis and to start treatment. After one needle biopsy and two surgeries, I learn it’s Hodgkins Lymphoma.

6. As of today, I am four weeks into treatment, having received chemotherapy two times.

7. My hair started falling out this week.

That my friends, is a very shitty situation. There is no denying that. I am not one of those people who will sit here and tell you that cancer is a blessing. Cancer has indeed changed my perspective on life for the better, but I am certainly not thankful for it. I would never wish it upon my worst enemy, let alone myself.

The night I was admitted to hospital and told that I had cancer, I wrote the following:

“Through all of this, I know I need to keep my wits, optimism, and sense of humour.”

That’s not an empty statement. Those are words I have come to live by. From the beginning, I was given a good diagnosis. Hodgkins is one of the cancers that can be cured with chemo and radiation. Yes, it takes a year or two of hell. Yes, it can return. Yes, I may need a stem cell or bone marrow transplant someday. But what is the point of fighting for my life, when I don’t allow myself to enjoy life in the first place?

From the beginning, there has never been any doubt in my mind that I would get through this. That the treatment would work, and that this would all someday be behind me. For me, positivity is survival.

It would be really easy for my to stay in my pyjamas all day and mope around pulling clumps of hair out of my head. But if I were to get even sicker tomorrow due to complications, would I be happy with how I lived my last few days?

Positivity to me isn’t about being annoyingly cheery and optimistic all the time. It’s about seeing the silver lining. About finding small things over the course of the day that put a smile on my face.

And when we’re faced with the big things, like The Big C, it’s about knowing without a doubt that we will get through it in one piece. Okay, maybe two pieces if you now count my prosthetic hair piece.

In the end, what I’ve really learned, is that life is difficult. It’s harsh and brutal, don’t ignore that. But that’s why we need to make it easier on ourselves. In my experience, the best way to do that is to stay positive. Why make life harder than it has to be?


Thank you so much Susan for your wonderfully written guest post! I hope we can hang out again soon! :)

And for the readers, be sure to check out Project Think Positive – it’s never too late to start utilizing some of these positive thinking tools and challenges. Here are links for Week 1 {counter a negative thought with a positive thought} , Week 2 {counter a negative thought with a positive act}, and Week 3 {daily positive affirmation/thought}.

Reader question: Do you look for the silver lining?

Project Think Positive {Week 2}

I hope everyone is having as much fun with Project Think Positive as I am. I’ve been pretty amazed at how far a little positive thinking goes, and I’m happy to hear from your responses that you’re achieving successful results, too.

Week 2 {Counter a Negative Thought with a Positive Act}

There was a time a couple years ago where I have was having a horrible day at work. Everything seemed to be going wrong. I was getting frustrated with everything, especially myself. As my frustration grew, I decided to do something positive rather than storming around or being all pissed off or sad. I wrote an Operation Beautiful note and, when no one was looking, stuck it to the mirror in the ladies restroom. I didn’t realize at the time that that’s exactly how Operation Beautiful got started, but after having that moment, it totally made sense. Sometimes the best way to counter negativity is to do something nice…not for you…for other people.

*This week’s challenge: Counter a negative thought with a positive act*

Example 1: You’re having a tough day and nothing seems to be going right for you. Rather than let your frustration set it and control your day, write an Operation Beautiful note.

Example 2: You’re feeling down on yourself for being so <insert word that applies to you here>. Instead of feeling bad for yourself, you sign up for a volunteer event.

There are so many ways you can do something nice for someone else. Can you think of some other ideas?


“If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.” ~Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama


Reader Question #1: What’s a negative thought you had this week and what was the positive act you did to counter it. (if you’re too shy to share the negative thought, you can just share the positive act) :)

Reader Question #2: What are some ways you can do something nice for someone else?

Reader Question #3: What is your favorite quote on giving, love, and doing nice things for other people?

Your Project Think Positive {Week 1} Responses

How’s everyone doing with Project Think Positive so far? We’ve just wrapped up Week 1, and I will be posting the challenge for Week 2 tomorrow morning.

I have been having such a good time reading all of your positive thoughts to counter your negative thoughts. When I read the strength in your stories, it reminds me to be strong, too. I think the thing that sticks out to me the most in your responses is how empowered you all sound! Like you’re not letting the negative thoughts make you wallow in a sea of pity. You hear the negative thought and you defeat it with your positive thought…or even thoughts. All I have to say is…great job!

I had a good experience of combatting negativity with positivity last week. I’d had a really long and stressful day at work. You know one of those where you just can’t wait to get home and relax? Well, I kept getting hung up from leaving the office by random, little things (needing to clean my tea mug, forgetting a bag, and pushing the wrong button on the elevator). I was starting to get really frustrated (probably because my temper was short because I’d been so stressed all day), when I reminded myself that the work day was over and that I’d have the rest of the night to relax and re-charge. As I had my positive thought, I pictured myself at home on the couch cuddling with Bailey and all my frustration melted away in almost an instant. I was a little surprised at how well the positive thinking worked but glad it did!

Your Project Think Positive {Week 1} Responses

Here are some of your responses to the Project Think Positive {Week 1} challenge (which was to counter a negative thought with a positive one):

  • “Over the last year I’ve come back to the same thing, time and time again – that I’m going to love {it/him/her/whatever} anyway. Something is not as I would like, then I just shrug my shoulders and say to myself that I’m going to love them/it anyway. Not quite what you asked, but the closest I can get! I don’t think you can get more positive than being generous with love though :) ” -Emily of Flores Azules
  • “Negative: I don’t like my job and i wish i was still on vacation, Positive: I have a well paying job and i get to see my work friends after a week of missing them :)” – Donna at Life of a Happy Blonde
  • “Yesterday I had a pretty hard day at work planned. All weekend I was freaking out, thinking that everything was going to go wrong and that it would be awful. After realizing how bad these thoughts were, I made myself instead view all my work as a learning experience. Regardless of what happened, I would leave with experience that I could put toward further projects. It did help in lessening my nerves!” -Liz at Tip Top Shape
  • “My negative thought turned positive: I don’t want to go to work. But I am luckily to have a job as a neuroscience researcher, as well as a boss and coworkers who I consider some of my best friends.” -Ashley at Freckles and Spice
  • “Today I’m struggling with my body image! I am super frustrated with how I’m feeling in my own skin. I reminded myself of the hard workout I had this morning. I also thanked my body for being strong; as I biked the Ironman Wisconsin course this past Sunday!” -Danielle
  • “Lately I’ve been frustrated with the challenges both in vollume and intensity I’ve been facing at work. I try to remind myself it’s not forever and that I’ve been there before and have come out on the other end stronger for it…plus its a great learning experience…I just keep telling myself their growing pains :-) .” -Sara
  • “I just had a bike accident on Saturday that prevented me from doing a triathlon I trained for 3 months to do. This has been coming up in my mind all day and I am countering the negative thought- If I would have walked my bike I would not have crashed, with the positive- thank god I didn’t get that hurt from the wreck. I am going to be doing this a lot this week I can tell, but your challenge will keep me thinking positive!” -Aly at This Kat is Krazy
  • “Negative: “I’m not valuable or talented enough to actually have or deserve a day job and work environment that I love.” (Actually had myself believing this today….) But thanks for the reminder to counter POSITIVE: “I AM valuable and talented enough, but am still young, only 2 years into full-time working, and just haven’t found the right career to maximize my potential and passions yet!”" -Whitney

Your Project Think Positive Quotes

I also asked you guys to share your favorite positive thinking quotes. Here are a few of them, along with some quotes I’ve shared on my TCL Facebook wall:

  • “When I have negative thoughts, they’re usually because I’m too scared to face what could happen if I challenged them. “You’ll never finish a race” = “you’ll have to really apply yourself in training for the race in order to accomplish it, and it might get tough,” for example. That quote always puts things in perspective!” – Faith at For the Health of It
  • “A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes” ~Mahatma Gandhi
  • “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” -Willie Nelson
  • “My favorite quote: “The secret of attraction is to love yourself. Attractive people judge neither themselves nor others. They are open to gestures of love. They think about love, and express their love in every action. They know that love is not a mere sentiment, but the ultimate truth at the heart of the universe.” -Deepak Chopra” -Winifred at Strive and Surrender  


Does anyone have any new moments of positivity that you want to share? We’d love to hear from you. Please post a comment with the negative thought you had and then also post the positive thought that you used to squash that negativity!

Project Think Positive {Week 1}


I have a new challenge for you dear TCL friends! And it’s a goodie!

First off, thanks so much to everyone who voted on the next challenge via Twitter and my The Chic Life Facebook page! The choices were Project Think Positive and Project Get Organized, and while votes were almost even (by one vote), I decided to go with Project Think Positive for this month. I’m going to take August to get organized for Project Organize, so look for that one next month! Side note for the organization fans: Ooh and for those of you who are interested in Project Organize, you may want to go ahead and get a planner. I ordered the Life Planner by Erin Condren (the other calendars are super cute too) and it should be arriving very soon (whee!). The EC planner (and other custom planners available online) can take a couple weeks to make and ship, so if you want to be able to use it during the challenge month, you may want to go ahead and order it now.

Challenge Origin

How would you respond when asked what you see – how full is the mug of oatmeal:


Of course this is that famous optimist/pessimist question. So, what do you see? Supposedly, if you see a half empty mug, you’re an pessimist. :( If you see a half full mug, you’re an optimist. :) Whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist, I think we could all use some more positive thinking in our lives. Riiiiight?

I know I do.

Challenge Details

Normally when I do blog challenges, I provide all the “rules” up front. I want to do this challenge a little different. Each week, I’ll provide a challenge for the week. But, as we progress through the month, I’d like you, if you can, to try to add the challenge for that week to the previous week. So, by the last week, you’re keeping the challenges from each week in mind.

Week 1 {Counter a Negative Thought with a Positive One}

I’ve been down a bit lately between being stressed in general and from my injury. And I’m human, I have negative thoughts occasionally. But I got pretty frustrated the other week with something random and I thought, to myself that I didn’t want to encourage all that negative energy. So, I did something to counteract it by thinking something positive. And with that, we have this week’s Project Think Positive challenge…

*This week’s challenge: For every negative thought, think a positive one.*

Example 1: If I got frustrated that I haven’t been able to teach my Zumba class in three weeks, I could counter that by being thankful that my injury wasn’t worse.

Example 2: If you’re frustrated that there’s a long line at Starbucks. You could counter that by appreciating the fact that you can afford the luxury of enjoying a Starbucks beverage (because that is something so many people in the world cannot do).

Try to find a positive way to spin your negative thought – to look at it with a more positive perspective.


Share the Love

If you want to tweet about the challenge, I would LOVE that! Please use twitter hashtag #projectthinkpositive

I’d also love it if you shared this challenge with your friends, family, co-workers, and even blog readers (if you’re a blogger). There are a lot of share buttons at the bottom of this post (even one to email the post to someone!), so feel free to use those. Let’s spread the positive vibes people! :)

Feel free to use this button on your blog:

<a href=""><img src="" border="0" width="180" height="180" /></a>


Here’s a little inspirational quote for you to enjoy:

“The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.” ~Unknown

I’ll be sharing more positive quotes during this challenge month here on the blog, as well as via twitter and Facebook, so be sure to follow me there, too!

Reader Questions

Reader Share 1: Please leave a comment with your negative thought and how you countered it.

Reader Share 2: What’s your favorite positive thinking quote? Please leave it in a comment.

PVU Guest Post: Embracing Vegetables (Katy Widrick)


And for Project Veg-Up(PVU), here’s a specially written guest post by one of my favorite bloggers Katy Widrick. Take it away, Katy!


Katy Widrick is a vegetarian triathlete who blogs about healthy living and social media at She’s also founder of #Fitblog Chats on Twitter, which is pro-vegetables!

In all my life, there’s only been one vegetable I didn’t like — in fact, I’d pick it out of foods, trying to avoid even the smallest speck. I’d ask for special preparationat restaurants and I’d walk out of the kitchen when it was being cooked.


I’m talking about the dreaded onion. That tangy, spicy, crunchy enemy of my youth.

But youth is a funny thing. You know how people (parents) always tell you to keep trying things? That one day you’ll like what you currently hate?

I can’t believe it myself, but sometime between the ages of 20 and 25, I fell in love with onions.


Sauteed in stir fries? Yes, please.

Battered and fried? Nommmmm…

Caramelized to dark perfection on sandwiches and pizza? Oh, be still my stomach.

But I could have gone my entire life thinking I was an onion hater. One day, I just didn’t want to go to the effort of picking those bad boys out and I decided to just give in an eat those darn onions. Imagine my surprise when I didn’t just tolerate the vegetables — I relished them.


I’m a veggie freak. I love squash and mushrooms and carrots and potatoes and corn and just about everything under the sun. But if you don’t — I totally understand! All I ask is that you give at least one vegetable a second chance.

My name is Katy. And I love onions.


Thank you Katy for this fun guest post. :) Here’s to the veggie freaks! I kind of want to go saute up some onions right now! lol

Click here to check out another fun Project Veg-Up guest post with two recipes!

Note: photo credits -

PVU: Fruit and Vegetable Serving Sizes


As my beach vacay was coming to a close and we headed home, I was really looking forward to two things specifically:


Hubby and Bailey!

The comfort of my own bed wasn’t too shabby either. ;)


I got a couple surprise extras, though, thanks to sweet hubby – flowers!


And a local doughnut! Actually, it’s a “honey bun”, but it’s pretty much a doughnut. What a sweet “welcome home”!


Hubby also whipped up a fantastic grilled dinner – grass-fed filet, asparagus, and potatoes. I can’t get enough of those grilled potatoes, for realz! They are so tasty! I’m currently brainstorming ways to create a grilled potato salad. Doesn’t that sound drool-worthy?


Fruit and Vegetable Servings Sizes

As I mentioned for Project Veg-Up (my challenge for you to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day in June), you make the rules. If you want to measure your servings, go ahead. If you’re like me and prefer to eye-ball and estimate, that works, too. And if you just want to say “I ate some broccoli – there’s 1 serving”, that’s cool, too. Your game – your rules. ;)

However, if you’re going to estimate or even guess-timate your serving sizes, it may be good for you to know what actual serving sizes are. In fact, you may wish to measure out a couple servings till you get a handle on what the sizes truly are (up to you, though!).

For all things food and health related, I turn to my favorite RD – Ellie Krieger. If you haven’t seen her book, Small Changes, Big Results, you should totally check it out. The book has a wealth of knowledge, including tips, recipes and perhaps one of my favorite things – a factoid-filled appendix. Take a look at the book next time you’re at the book store.

In the interest of keeping things easy, what you basically need to know is that you should shoot for the following for one serving (according to the USDA):

  • Vegetables: 1/2 cup of vegetables or 1 cup of raw leafy greens (Ellie says eat as many as you want)
  • Fruits: 1/2 cup of fruit or about 1 medium-sized fruit (Ellie says limit this to no more than 4 servings per day)

Ellie compares these portions to a baseball, saying that 1 medium fruit is the size of a baseball and 1/2 cup of fruits/vegetables is 1/2 of a baseball. She also considers fruit and vegetable juices as servings, but I’m shooting to get mine from full versions. Additionally, she actually has different suggestions in her book for serving sizes for some particular fruits, like 1 cup or chopped canteloupe = 1 fruit serving. Click here for a snippet of her book with more info on her take on serving sizes, how you almost can’t eat too many servings of vegetables, as well as why you shouldn’t eat more than 4 fruit servings.

Check out this site (click) for some other useful fruit/vegetable portion ideas. My favorites, that I most commonly consume, are:

  • 10 baby carrots
  • 1 banana (however Ellie says 1/2 a banana is a fruit serving, though I’m guessing it depends on the size of the fruit)
  • 5 broccoli florets
  • 1 apple

If you’re searching for additional information on serving sizes, you may notice that they vary a bit. Just go with whatever works best for you and follow whichever sources you trust most. :)

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It’s not too late to join in on the challenge! Click here to read more about Project Veg-Up and join in on the fun.


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What do you think? Do you measure your fruit and vegetable servings or do you estimate them? Do you have any tips or tricks on measuring or estimating fruit/vegetable serving sizes?

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