Is a recording contract next? or, Lebed Healthy-Steps isn’t just exercise

Me and the girls from my exercise class just belting one out. (This photo shows The Five DeMarco Sisters, Arlene DeMarco, centre, who performed with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis , Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason. Photo courtesy Noah K. Murray/ The Star-Ledger)

Me and the girls from my exercise class just belting one out. (This photo shows The Five DeMarco Sisters, Arlene DeMarco, centre, who performed with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis , Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason. Photo courtesy Noah K. Murray/ The Star-Ledger)


Quick answer: no, but it’s certainly a start 😉

Every Wednesday since October I have pulled on yoga pants and top to take part in an exercise class. The last time I did that was before I had Tessa, pre-1991, and that was with my sister Heidi. We had joined Premier Fitness Clubs, and would go there and do weights and machines and a class and then sit in the parking lot and have a cigarette and wonder when we were going to start feeling that wonderful exercise “high.” I never did.

Now I drive downtown to Toronto General Hospital every Wednesday for an exercise class designed to increase lymphatic flow. I do not have a cigarette afterward—quit that for good in 1999—and I do feel good afterward. The Healthy-Steps Lebed Method exercise program was designed by two doctors and a dance movement therapist to heal and prevent complications from all cancers and chronic illnesses, with a special nod to those thrivers/survivors of  breast cancer and lymphedema (the dance-therapist co-creator has both, plus hep C). From very humble beginnings, the classes are now available in 900 locations around the world, and Toronto General Hospital is one of them.

I am not a joiner, a cheerleader or a dancer, and frankly, I really had to force myself to even sign up for this class, let alone take the elevator to the basement to find the room. It’s part of ELLICSR, the very name of which conjured up the taste of a nasty medicine. The full title is ELLICSR: Health, Wellness and Cancer Survivorship Centre (the acronym stands for Electronic Living Laboratory for Cancer Survivorship and Research) and after spending time in this warm, peaceful, multi-use space I think the long-life, changing-base-metal-into-gold definitions for elixir are more appropriate.

There are two certified Healthy-Steps instructors for the two weekly classes: Barbara Jenkins and Stephanie Phan. The Lebed organization announced a contest for a theme song last fall, and sent out guidelines for the song, including a long list of words and phrases that had to be in the song, all of them buzzwords for the exercise program: “smooth, slow resistance” and “Sherry, Mark and Joel”—not exactly lyrical on their own! Barbara took on the challenge of writing the song, and set it to the tune of the World War I marching song “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile.” She worked it out so the words perfectly fit the tune, then printed them out and took us through practices before and/or after class for weeks.

The women I exercise with are sweet, funny and very brave. They come from Etobicoke, North Toronto and downtown (Scarborough too, I’m sure) with headscarves, curly chemo hair, stylish short cuts and a few with beautiful full heads of hair. We blow bubbles—to increase deep breathing—do leg raises to work on balance, and do all manner of “jazz-hands” moves to get that lymphatic fluid moving past zapped lymph nodes and back into the system. Singing wasn’t exactly on the program description, but when you listen, stretch and dance to Adele, The Beatles and Beach Boys, UB40, ABBA, Pit Bull, Madonna and Stevie Wonder, what’s a WWI marching song? Barbara and Stephanie had us sing it a few times to get it recorded, and then sent it off to Lebed. The winning song would give the creator, host organizations (TGH and PMCC) and songstresses bragging rights for winning an international competition. The song will be played at Lebed functions and conferences, and be on the website—whether it will be our voices remains to be seen.

Weeks later, we got the word—we won!

Congrats to Barbara for doing all the work, and to Stephanie and all my fellow thrivers/survivors for hitting those high notes (or not) and laughing all the way through. And that was in the fall. This winter Barbara choreographed a dance for a second competition, this time to The Beach Boys’ Kokomo, and we did it on video with paper palm trees, beachwear, Hawaiian shirts, flowered skirts and flip-flops. It’s been like the summer camp I never attended. And it has been lots of fun. So much so it’s almost possible to forget, for a while, why we’re all here.

Found on

Found on


Seven years of blogging; or, have I really been doing this since 2007?

Wordpress's anniversary award

WordPress’s anniversary award

After more than a month of not posting (thank you to Tessa, daughter who even at 7,457 kilometres distance can still get me to do what I’m supposed to be doing but are not) I got a little award thingy in my blog mail—see above.

I am, I stress really am, working on my fatigue by sitting with it in guided meditation, and slippery brain, and self-massage with skin care and compression garments, and lymphatic openings and exercise. I know I said I would post more often, but I am exhausted, and I honestly don’t have anything interesting to say. Sorry Tessa.

So, for this post, which WordPress marks as an anniversary, I’m going to re-post my first entry to this blog. It had a far larger audience than I now have, because I was the Mom Blogger for Canadian Living magazine then, and eyes were reading from across the country. In this post I introduced myself to them:


Mom blog: All about Jacquelyn, the mom blogger


Posted on  by itsbecauseisaidso


Hello. If you are reading this, you are the witness to the very first words of’s Mommy blogger. I am thrilled to be here – winning the reader poll to become the Mommy blogger is on my Top Ten List of Achievements, along with giving birth to my three incredible children, beating back my son’s leukemia, being nominated for a National Magazine Award, hanging on to a marriage for 19 years, quitting smoking, and the rest are state secrets.
One thing you’ll learn about me is a secret is a secret. And a state secret is even more sacred. Don’t ask me how old I am.
I am a mom (I prefer mum – my kids call me “Mummy” not “Mommy”) (when they’re not calling me Goofy-Head, or Boss, or Mummy-Dearest, or Slave-Girl-Mummy – this is only allowed from my six year old). I have three kids whom I am currently in negotiations with regarding their privacy, the parameters of their exposure in my blog, any possible compensation – this is where I start laughing hysterically and negotiations predictably break down. The cat, Angel, who is nothing like her name, lives here, as does Nibbles the hamster.
When things were getting very stressful in our home a couple of years ago, the kids thought it would be good to get a hamster. They actually thought it would be way better to get a dog, but I’m not that crazy. I was crazy enough to be talked into not one hamster, not two, not three, you get the idea. We had six hamsters at the height of our love-in, in five cages. We were told that sisters could live together in the same cage. Miss Jellybean and Princess Lou Lou shared a cage for quite a while, until one day we thought Jellybean had escaped. But how could she escape when the door was near impossible for us humans to open? Realization dawned ugly when we spied a wee half-square-inch of Jellybean-coloured fur. Hamstericide!
Suffice to say, Jellybeans’s piece of fur was carefully wrapped and boxed and shrink-wrapped and triple Ziploc-bagged and put in the freezer alongside Hammy Yu-Gi-Oh, Crazy Connie, Victor and Ooch, to wait for the spring thaw for appropriate internment. We got a few more hamsters, among them Nibbles and Bunny. Sisters. Did we put them in the same cage?DID WE PUT THEM IN THE SAME CAGE????
Read my next blog to find out.

Illustration courtesy of Juli Waller at

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Now, I will aim for an original post in less than a week. Promise. 😉