Amaryllis Bulbs, Plant Them Now!

amaryllis, red and white

Plant your amaryllis bulbs indoors this week for Christmas-time blooms. They take six or seven weeks to grow into gorgeous flowers. I have seen them in red, red and white, white and pale pink; all are beautiful!

Most grocery and department stores or nurseries carry them in kits with everything you need included. Each box contains a bulb, soil, and a pot with instructions on how to grow your amaryllis. Once potted up, leave it in an (indirect) sunny spot and watch it grow. Turn the pot regularly to keep the stem growing straight. Some may need to be supported as they get tall and top-heavy.

I purchased such a kit at a local grocery store recently for my granddaughter to plant between her online school sessions and one for her younger cousin to plant on her next visit here. Both granddaughters are turning into garden and plant enthusiasts.

In recent years I have planted lots of variations. One thing I have learned is that they are extremely top-heavy when full-grown. For that reason, be sure to add a stick to support them in their pot, attaching the growing stem to the stick with a loose tie.

Take your pick, but do it soon if you want them to bloom in time for Christmas. As you can see below, Amazon has lots of gorgeous varieties to choose from:

Champlain Screening Outreach, For Those With No Family Doctor

Champlain Screening Outreach

Do you reside in Eastern Ontario and have no family doctor? My GP retired in 2021 and I have not yet (2.5 years later) been able to find a new family doctor. I came across the services of the Champlain Screening Outreach program recently during my search for medical help.

What is the Champlain Screening Outreach Program?

Through the Ottawa Hospital, the Champlain Screening Outreach offers support to those living in Eastern Ontario who are eligible for OHIP but are currently without a family physician (GP). If you are eligible, a nurse practitioner can book you an appointment to be screened for colorectal, breast, lung, and cervical cancers at provincial screening centers already in place. Screening for these cancers leads to early detection which in turn creates better survival rates.

Screening results are shared through the Ottawa Hospital’s My Chart online program or by phone.

The Champlain Screening Outreach Program does not offer diagnostic workups, blood work, or urgent care services. Walk-in clinics do offer these services, although they often require a long wait.

Once a patient of this program subsequently finds a family doctor, they will no longer be eligible for the screening outreach program. You will also risk being removed from the program if you do not show up for your scheduled appointments.

Screening Procedures and Symptoms

While screening for colorectal, breast, lung, and cervical cancers is very important, it cannot prevent these diseases. What screening can do is detect the cancers before symptoms appear meaning at an early stage. The earlier they are detected, the better the prognosis (chance of survival).

Colorectal/bowel/large intestine Cancer

To clarify, the term colorectal refers to the combination of the colon and rectum. Since the colon is also referred to as the large bowel or large intestine, colon cancer is also known as bowel cancer. The rectum connects the colon to the anus.

Colorectal screening consists of a fecal occult blood (FOB) test which can detect blood generated in either the colon or rectum. Occult means hidden although sometimes the blood is visible in bowel movements. The FOB test cannot however indicate the cause of the blood, just whether it is present or absent. This lab test is packaged in a small kit available through your GP or Champlain Screening Outreach. You perform the simple test in your home by placing a small sample of your poop on a stick, sealing and labeling the package, and mailing the kit back to a lab for testing.

Colorectal or bowel cancer symptoms include unexplained weight loss, change in bowel habits, constant abdominal pain, or visible blood in stools.

Breast Cancer

Screening for breast cancer starts with a mammogram, which is simply an x-ray of the breast. Clients considered to be high risk (have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer) may also be screened with an MRI which uses radio waves and magnets.

Self-examination is also recommended as a screen for breast cancer. This is something all women should do at home; simply feel your breasts for lumps, changes in size, and even painful areas on a regular basis. Any changes should be reported to a doctor. A nurse or doctor can also perform this type of examination during routine checkups. Although self-examination is important, it is not as effective at screening as regular mammograms.

Lung Cancer

Screening for lung cancer in eligible clients involves low-dose computed tomography (LDCT), which is a CT scan using a lower dose (than regular CT scans) of radiation. This screening is performed once a year for three consecutive years.

Lung cancer symptoms include shortness of breath, unexplained constant fatigue or weight loss, chronic (won’t go away) coughing or wheezing, or coughing up blood.

Cervical Cancer

Screening for cervical cancer is performed through regular pap smears/tests. The cervix is the anterior (outermost or closest to the front) area of the uterus, at the top of the vagina. The Pap smear, named after its creator George Papanicolaou, is a lab test where cells scraped from a client’s cervix are examined microscopically for changes that may indicate cancer.

While early stages of cervical cancer generally exhibit no symptoms, later stages may result in heavy bleeding, loss of appetite, leg, back, or pelvic pain, fatigue, unexplained bone fractures, and more.

Are You Eligible for Screening?


With our once esteemed Canadian healthcare system currently in a critical state, the Champlain Screening Outreach program is a proactive approach. Created recently (July 2023) this program offers some help to those searching for medical care. Hopefully, other provinces and regions offer or will soon develop similar services.

If you are in the predicament of not having a family physician and would like to continue or begin screening for the cancers above through the Champlain Screening Outreach program, check out the site online or call Sarah Junkin at 833-551-4125.

Salicylate Sensitivity vs Eating Healthy

salicylate sensitivity

I have spent the last few months trying to figure out why my skin is sensitive to just about everything, including it appears, sunlight. Now that my garden and cottage seasons are winding down, I have more time to investigate. I’m getting desperate as my skin is still a mess, almost four months later. The prickly sensation on (just) one side of my neck is still driving me crazy, and most recently, my lips are always burning. The burn marks on my face have healed but have left (not so) lovely brown spots. Are these symptoms a result of salicylate sensitivity?

What is Salicylate and Why do Some People React to it?

You may recognize salicylate as salicylic acid, the main ingredient in the popular pain killer known as aspirin. It’s also a natural pesticide produced by plants for their protection. That explains why so many fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs contain high levels of salicylates, while meat and (unflavoured) dairy products are salicylate-free.

According to Healthline:

Salicylate sensitivity is thought to be caused by an overproduction of leukotrienes — inflammatory mediators that have been linked to a variety of conditions, including asthma, allergic rhinitis, anaphylaxis, rheumatoid arthritis, and interstitial lung diseases

Symptoms of Salicylate Sensitivity

There are lots of symptoms of salicylate sensitivity, the one that set off warning bells for me was the skin reactions I have been plagued with recently. Here are a few other symptoms:

  • asthma-like symptoms like wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • stomach pain
  • itching, skin rash, or hives
  • nasal congestion
  • excema
  • swelling of hands, feet, and face
  • changes in skin colour
  • headaches
  • gassiness, nausea, diarrhea
  • lack of energy

The Salicylate Handbook

I’ve just started reading a book by author Sharla Race titled The Salicylate Handbook; it’s fast becoming my favourite resource for all information about my possible salicylate sensitivity. You can purchase it at Amazon in Kindle or paperback format. My favourite piece of (very reassuring) information so far is this:

A key factor to remember is that it is impossible to 100% avoid all salicylates and it would be unadvisable to try. Your aim is always to reduce the level of salicylates in your body to the point at which unwanted symptoms reduce and, hopefully, completely stop. Then, the aim is to maintain the diet in such a way that symptoms do not reappear.

My Dilemma

If you follow this blog, you will know I am addicted to my morning smoothies. Over the years, I have been eating healthier (and feeling much better) after learning of my sensitivity to wheat. That discovery eliminated so many foods. Then I became aware of destructive lectins in our foods so tried to eliminate (most of) them from my diet.

So why, all of a sudden, is my skin reacting?

Well, it turns out that most of the foods I currently consume, (mainly meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, red wine) are all high in salicylates.

The book mentioned above explains the possibility of a buildup in my body, or more precisely, my liver. I started noticing the changes in my skin this past summer (mid-July). What I realized very recently is that I started adding rosemary, oregano and thyme as well as celery and more cucumbers to my daily concoctions this same summer. All of these (assumed to be healthy) ingredients just happen to be on the HIGH list of salicylate contents. Added to my long-time favourite ingredients, (avocado, blueberries, pineapple, and green tea) that also right up there high on the salicylate list, I may just be in salicylate overload.

Coincidence? We will see, as I slowly go through the process of revamping my smoothie recipe from scratch, starting with the food items that contain negligible amounts of salicylate. Perhaps I am over-analyzing (and slightly paranoid) but as I have not yet been able to find a new doctor since mine retired I don’t have much choice than to self-advocate and try to figure it out on my own.

I do believe that we can and should be aware of how foods affect our individual bodies. No one else can monitor our own bodies as well as we can. I also know that both the interior and exterior of my body have always been ultra-sensitive. From food and drinks to hygiene products, medicine, and makeup, I first became aware of these sensitivities when in my teens. (a few years ago)

Photo Credit: pexels-photo-2255935