Prevention is the best tool against breast cancer

Do a self exam to prevent breast cancer

I will always remember the day my mother called me to tell me the news.

It was 2012 when she told me that my Nana found a lump the size of an egg in her left breast. What followed was actually worse.

She had found the lump a few years prior, however she ignored it because Poppop was terminal with lung cancer. Within a few months I received my own re-occurrence.

While I went with a more aggressive approach, my Nana -God love her- she chose an alternative treatment so she would not lose her hair.

I would send pictures of myself to my mom to share with her to see that radiation and chemotherapy wasn’t that bad. However, after a long, tough year my Nana finally succumbed to the disease that not only took her health but her mind in the end.

I will never know why my Nana, who was such a strong woman, chose not to fight, but I like to think that she just missed my Poppop.

The ending of your story

These past few paragraphs were written by Shannon, just one of the many women out there whose life has been impacted by breast cancer. What lesson can you learn from this story?

Besides not saying anything to her relatives about what was wrong, there is something else:

Check yourself

We can learn from other people’s experiences, and from Shannon’s story in particular. For all the young women, monthly self exams are very important, and clinical breast exams are even better, just to make sure everything is okay. If you have a history of the disease in your family, though, your safest bet is that you get a mammogram.

After your 40th birthday, regular mammograms are the best tool to prevent breast cancer from affecting you in any way.

It’s SO easy, so simple, and so quick to check yourself, that you just need to do it!

You write your own ending to your story, and the only possible words at the end of it have to be: “and she lived happily ever after”. As Shannon says: “Monthly self breast exams, and yearly physicals are the tools for early detection, which is key for successful treatment”.

Let’s save ourselves some trouble, shall we? And LET’S DANCE!

To all the LGBT youth: there will always be someone out there willing to help


Purple is now the color that will always come to mind whenever people want to create awareness against bullying the LGBT youth.

The initiative has taken the social networks as well as various websites, and mainstream media, so more people know how serious this matter is, and how important is the role you and I have in our society to help others who need us.

Tips and facts about bullyingEarlier today we posted these tips and facts about bullying, that may well apply to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender teenagers and young adults out there who are not only struggling to find their true self, but also need to deal with feeling accepted and loved by their families and friends.

One of my favorite from that list is the one that says that, according to a survey, 70% of kids argued that they felt good whenever they were able to stand up for someone who was being bullied.

We are all different. We are all special in our own, awesome way. The moment parents, children, and friends understand that we can embrace our differences and appreciate what makes us unique, that’s when hurtful actions will become less and less. Remember that you are not alone, that it’s not okay for others to treat you badly, and that there is a complete network of sources where you can find help.

An ideal scenario right?

Acceptance in the LGBT world

This subject brings to mind a film that will be released on DVD very soon, and that deals with this subject in a very particular way.

It’s called Once Upon a Time in Queens and it’s the story of how an ex-mob boss who was released from prison has to deal with life after so many years behind bars. When reunited with his family, he finds out that his daughter is gay, and he needs to find a way to comprehend and deal with this issue.

I won’t spoil you! but I can tell you that this movie can be a great lesson for parents and relatives. It’s about acceptance. If an old, hard-headed, ex-mafia boss can learn to accept his gay daughter, anyone can.

We leave you with the trailer. And remember, let’s keep spreading awareness and showing others that respect and love is above any sort of violence.

How much of my personal information is public?

How much of my personal information is public?

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

As we mentioned in our previous post, October is Cyber Security Awareness month, and it’s a good moment to reflect on how your data online can be bait for others to take it and use it.

Just to make you more conscious of how things work on the internet, here’s Maaike’s list of strategies to protect your personal information.

Your future employer might not hire you

Cyber security is one of the things I’m focusing on in my study, and we came to the conclusion in one of the lectures that the real issue here is the lack of awareness of how much of your information is actually out there for the world to see.

how much of your personal information is out there for people to see?And it’s not just about cyber crime. What if it’s time for you to look for a job, and your employers or recruiters do a search on Google, and find pictures of you drunk, for example?

What would their impression of you be? It’s a fact that recruiters do online background checks of job applicants (it’s becoming more and more popular), including checkups on social media, whether you like it or not.

Your social media pages can say a lot about you. They have all sorts of cues

  • self generated: everything you yourself post on there
  • generated by others: pictures you’re tagged in, posts other people post on your Facebook wall, etc.
  • system generated cues: the amount of Facebook friends you have, how many followers on Twitter.

You may believe it or not, but all of these cues tell people something about your personality. This is called the Brunswikian Lens Model. People make judgments about you with the blink of an eye just by looking at your social media accounts.

Scared yet? I know, we also came to the conclusion that some people aren’t even bothered by these kind of stories. But if you are, here are some additional tips:

Tips for protecting your personal information

  • A Google search about you

If you have Google Chrome, open a private new window (shortcut on a Windows computer keyboard is ctrl+shift+N, Mac is Shift+N), and start searching for your name on a search engine. Mozilla Firefox also has this option.

The reason for you to work in a private browser is that in normal browsing mode, your search results will be tailored for you based on your previous actions online (the not-so-yummy cookies, remember?)

  • No Facebook on Google, please

Click for BIGGER version

Did you know that Facebook has a setting that allows your account to stay hidden in search engines? Go right now to your privacy settings, and look for the option. Here’s a screenshot of where you can find the option to disable the search engines to link to your timeline.

  • Buh-bye tweets

There are several tools available to mass delete your tweets on Twitter. Examples are and Some of these should even allow you to automatically delete tweets after a certain time.

  • Instagram is all about you

You can set your Instagram account on private and only people who you allow to follow you, can see your pictures.

  • Additional info to stay safe

There is a very interesting website called Kim Komando that has lots of very useful information about cyber security. You should definitely check it out, and educate yourself about this matter.

be careful with what you post online. it can  influence your future

Special thanks to Maaike for the information for this post, and to Marlene, a victim of cyber crime, who provided us with the Kom Komando Show website.

Cyber Security Awareness Month – Take care of your info

cyber security awareness october

Cyber-bullying and cyber-crime is a real issue for anyone of any age. Bullying, stalking, scams and crimes all take place in our virtual world every single day.

Personal security is compromised when our information is made overly public…

Just think about that.

If you are on social media, there are vast amounts of people you do not actually know following your posts –if your location settings are on, for instance, those people can just show up on your doorstep. Personal safety and security aside, do you really want a random Twitter follower showing up at your house unannounced? I’d personally be creeped out.

We wanted to do this post to let you guys know that there are ways to discourage any type of creepy behaviours. Social media makes it just as easy as it is difficult to keep your personal information private.

Turn off all your devices

location-services-privacy-settingsOk, I’m kidding. But I wanted to start off there. Unless you have a business you are trying to promote and that is what you are posting about, be sure that your location services are turned OFF. If you’re posting a photo of yourself, your family, your kids, you don’t really want a stranger on the internet to know exactly where you live.

  • Take some minutes of your time to check the settings on your phone to know if this service is on or off.
  • If you use social media quite frequently, you should also check the options they offer in terms of location. You might not know that they are on by default.
  • Foursquare can be a lot of fun for lots of people, but you have a risk of being followed or stalked by the wrong people.

OMG Facebook

Facebook and its ever-changing, often elusive privacy settings. Use them. Educate yourself on them. I find Facebook is where people share very personal details about their lives. Did you know that the top of every single post you do on facebook tells you exactly who can see it?

cyber-security-awareness-facebook-privacy-settingsIf there is a globe at the top of your post, anyone who finds your profile can look at that post. For instance, cover photos can never be private –they are always available to everyone- so ensure that you aren’t posting any pictures as your cover photo that you don’t want the world to have access to.

Remember, any photo that can be seen can be saved. Profile photos seem to automatically set to the globe now when you add a new one, so make sure you change that, unless you want the world to see your selfies ;)

The last thing I want to remind everyone about Facebook is that you only have control over who sees your posts on your page. If you are posting on a friend’s page or a business page, your privacy becomes subject to their privacy settings.

If you are trying not to be found online for whatever reason, this is something to keep in mind. Also, even if you have your privacy settings so others cannot see photos tagged of you, all someone has to do is go on your friend’s page to see them –so make sure you let your friends in on your desire about your pics.

Twitter. Instagram. Tumblr. Snapchat. Etc… just remember that if it is out there, it can be accessed by people you might not want to see it. Remember when you post a photo with your location settings on, the location is embedded in the data of the photo. And it doesn’t take a pro-hacker to get that information.

There are lots of steps you can take to keep yourself safe online. We want to encourage everyone to take them.

If you’re concerned that you’re not understanding your privacy settings well, let us know. Myself at Ugly Ducklings Inc and Dana at Bullies Keep Out are kind of privacy pros… so if you want us to take a poke around your Facebook and let you know where you might be compromising your privacy, shoot us an e-mail, or leave a comment, and we will let you know.

If you want us to tell you how easy it is to find you on social media, we can do that too. If you’re being hacked or bothered on social media, Dana is an excellent source for you. So don’t hesitate to reach us. We will do everything we can to help!

- Erin

Trolls lurk on Bullying Prevention Month

Trolls lurk on Bullying Prevention Month

The word can mean so many different things to people today. Troll.

In fact, when I asked Ugly Ducklings about what a troll meant to them, these were their answers:

  • “A fairytale creature on fantasy shows and movies”
  • “A doll with fantastically fluorescent hair”
  • “An incredibly disrespectful person that enjoys hurting others with words”

I never thought that after asking the question, three completely different meanings were going to show up.

Also, I certainly wish with all my guts that I were going to talk about the awesome mythical creature that has made it into epic films like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter or even the Neverending Story, and Labyrinth.

Even better, I wish the company that made the funny troll toys (I remember I had one with fuchsia hair!) were paying me to write wonders about these little funny, hairy little dolls so their sales would drastically go up.

Unfortunately, no.

The horror of bullying

It’s October, and it’s time to sadly remind ourselves that there is a Bullying Prevention Month, which not only refers to the normal bullies kids find at school, but it includes the myriad of people that use the internet and the social networks to harass, attack, intimidate, offend, and mock other web users.

trolls-bullying-octoberThose are the new trolls. Trolls 2.0, who came out of their caves, with their spiky clubs, and exchanged them for a computer screen and hateful words.

But then, one day, one man stood up, and used even more powerful words.

His name is Shane Koyczan. He said in an interview that the genre that can best depict what bullying is and feels like is horror. He knows it. He had to endure every second of the suffering. The unmeasurable agony that no one sees.

On how to conquer bullies and trolls

If you suffered from bullying at some point in your life you will probably agree with this:


If you are still struggling, both online and offline, simply remember that:

  • You are not the only one, and you are not alone.
  • There will always be someone willing to help you: family, close friends you can trust, a counselor, a psychologist, a priest, a hotline
  • Even though it seems endless, there will be a moment when it will all end.
  • Karma, fate, destiny, life or whatever you want to call it actually exists, and the bullies will not escape the consequences of their actions.

In Shane Koyczan’s beautiful and heart-rending piece ‘To This Day’, you can both cry and understand what goes inside a child that is suffering from this type of violence.

And then came Troll, his latest work. Amidst the pauses he makes, the moments he breathes before he keeps reading, the beautiful music, and the breathtaking graphics, you will understand how words can become the secret formula to vanquish these creeping web creatures. 

Leave your comments and tell us which was the part of the poem that struck you the most.

She Misses Her Sister, And Wants You To Know Something

“There’s so many things, that my little sister has missed. So many things that she’s not been a part of…”

It’s September 7th, and although we kinda hate that there even is a week for suicide prevention, we are here to make our part in telling all those who still don’t see how serious this topic is, that it is happening. It is happening so often that it is scary. I didn’t really know this until I saw the video.

This is Jenn. She lost her little sister seven years ago after she decided to take her own life. Their relationship was truly special, and now that September 10th is upon us, she wants you to know something.

40 seconds were never so relevant, until now…

PS: Don’t ever hesitate to reach others if you need to. Ugly Ducklings Inc is a community of people who can offer support and encouragement. We are not professionals, but you can check our resources page to contact helplines. Try to find counsellors near you, or close friends and family who care. There will always be someone out there for you. 

If You Had The Chance To Change Your Life Right Now, Would You Do It?

If You Had The Chance To Change Your Life Right Now, Would You Do It? She Did

At the beginning of this year, I decided that it was time to make a change in my life. I didn’t like where I was or who I was becoming; I really needed a life change. One thing I decided I needed to do was take control of my health and fitness.

whole life challenge, colouring contest

Colouring Contest for “FIT”

I have this inspiring sister who is incredibly gifted when it comes to helping people with their health and fitness, but she never pushes herself and her ideals on anyone – and that usually means people ask her when they are “ready”. I was ready. And so it started.

That was in February. You may have noticed that I dropped off the planet a bit then –sometimes that is what it takes to really get things under control. It means managing your time differently. For me, it meant not putting health and fitness last, in the “I don’t have time” category. It meant gradually moving it higher up on the list until everything else could work around it, rather than it being fit in where it really didn’t fit.

I even used this idea for a “colouring contest” at a gym-opening I was at. They asked participants to draw a picture of what “fit” meant to us (shout out to FIT by Fun Fitness Fast – amazing place to go in the Burlington, ON area!).

So everything was going great on this front… and around rolls April. I had heard about the Whole Life Challenge in February from my friend Heather. In March during a discussion about health and fitness, she recommended I might want to try it out the next time… in April, her Facebook page began piling with information and promos about the Whole Life Challenge that was about to start in May. I signed up immediately, recruiting my sister and one of her besties to join me. After interviewing Heather for Ugly Ducklings in April, our very own Jenn also joined the team.

The challenge changed my life.

Sisterly texts... Day 1

Sisterly texts… Day 1

And, besides that, it was a lot of fun! I gained valuable information, education, and insight, self-esteem, and confidence.  I was able to let go of a lot of the notions I had in my head about what health and fitness “looked like” and for the first time in forever, I felt like I was in control of my life and my health.

Anyone who wants to make a healthy change in their life, for whatever reason, I highly recommend you grab a friend who lives close by and join the WLC (even a long-distance friend can be a total game-changer, I’ve learned). ANYONE can do this challenge, regardless of your current health and fitness level – it just requires you to be mindful and accountable for the choices you make. There aren’t any crazy workouts or fitness regimes – it is about making health and fitness work for you. 

The first thing I will say about the challenge is that Undisputed Fitness (the community we joined for the WLC) really knows how to build a tribe. There was so much support in their Facebook group and on the website –everyone on their team genuinely wants everyone else to succeed; they offer advice, recipes, encouragement and answers to the questions everyone has. It was such an honour to be a part of such an incredibly strong and gifted group of people.

I cannot thank Heather enough for all the love and support she gave me during this challenge (and just in general!), the conversation I had with coach Lorenzo just before the challenge ended was a HUGE game-changer and Nate was a fantastic team captain and creates the best Facebook memes.

This entire team is so badass.

whole life challenge - making almond milkI also learned so much about myself and my environment. I learned to be conscientious of what I am putting in my mouth.

I haven’t stuck to the “compliant nutrition” since the challenge ended – but I am way more educated now about the foods I am eating, what is in them and how they make me feel. You think almond milk that you buy at the store is a godsend?

Read the ingredients – you can’t even say half of them. I made my own!
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Ugly Ducklings from Netherlands, Switzerland, and Argentina together

Ugly Ducklings Inc members get together

There are people who are very skeptical when it comes to cyber friends and meeting people you’ve only talked to via a computer screen.

Well, The Ugly Ducklings are an exception…

This past summer, Maaike, Maressa, and Marie had the incredible opportunity to meet each other, defying long distances (in the case of Argentina, especially), and other tiny obstacles. Below you’ll read the three diaries of these three duckies who got this great chance to meet.

Maaike story, summer with ugly ducklings

Having some of my best friends living abroad is a unique experience to say the least. Everything feels exactly the same as with friends living close to you, except for the *bloody* concept of distance (who came up with that anyway?).

You cannot just ring your friends on the other side of the world to ask if they feel like going out or to meet up. Conversations are only possible via text messaging applications or social media, and face to face contact is limited to online video chats. It’s weird feeling so close somehow, but so far away at the same time.

But sometimes… sometimes luck is at your side.

That moment when all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, and you can actually be together with friends you love so very much. It happened to me this summer when I was the most fortunate girl in the world to be able to spend some time with my dear friends Maressa and Marie (a.k.a. Sisters from other Misters).

Last summer, Maressa and I were on a road trip for a week in her home country Switzerland (and we also shared our experience with The Ugly Ducklings here!)

Right away we agreed that we would meet up again next summer too, regardless of where that would be. Well, since Maressa never visited my home country, the Netherlands, we agreed that she would visit me this summer. We planned some day trips and even visited my second home, London, where I used to live in 2012. It was once again an amazing experience that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss for the world.

meeting ugly ducklings from other places

With our Ugly Ducklings t-shirts!

Then there’s this other peculiar case of faith I need to tell you about. Our dear Colombian friend living in Argentina (still following?), Marie, happened to attend a wedding in Rome in July… at the exact time Maressa was in the Netherlands. Everyone can do the math, right?

Exactly! Marie also took a flight to the Netherlands. I’ll spare you the details, but the journey to Europe entailed a lot of work and stress for her. But finally, she made it and the three of us were reunited.

I really have to say, it felt so natural to have these girls with me. So perfectly normal. Like we’re not living 450 and 7107 miles (!) apart, but just next door to each other. I was then also extremely sad to see them leave.

I had an amazing time with my Sisters and loved to show them my homeland. Also looking through their eyes at my own country and its culture taught me so much. It’s good to reflect upon these things from time to time and to open your eyes to your own country’s beauty and its unique aspects.

Friends enrich your life and having friends living so far away makes you appreciate that fact even more.

Maressa and Marie, I felt extremely privileged to be able to show you my country and to have you around me. Het was gezellig! Love you girls to the moon and back!

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Rest in Peace Robin Williams

Robin Williams was the voice of the Genie. Try to fight depression

Don’t you feel like you just lost a long-life friend?

Someone who taught you how to laugh, how to cry? How to laugh and cry at the same time?

Robin Williams passed away yesterday, August 11th, and according to media reports, he had been fighting some depression demons for a long time.

You think that people who are always doing funny things and making people laugh are just showing the rest of the world what they are experiencing inside… well, sometimes it’s just their own way to cope with the problems and aches they have inside.

Don’t ever hesitate to reach out if you feel depressed

“I’m sad”. We all go through moments when we cannot deal with our inner feelings and we look for ways to escape. Perhaps we can’t seem to see an exit door. Here, at Ugly Ducklings Inc, we have been fortunate enough to create a supportive community, where people in need might come to us and ask for advice. At the same time, we have some amazing group of people who are willing to say some words of encouragement at the moment they most need it.

After the sad news of Robin Williams’ passing, and how everyone has felt touched by his leaving us, it is very important that we reinstate, and encourage you to look for someone who can help you, as there will always be someone willing to be there for you. As Sky Williams said in his video “A message to the Depressed”, always try to look for someone who is near you, a friend, a therapist, a relative. If not, you can try the different hotlines available.

We have a list of resources that you can turn to if you need to. Just click here.

And to all those who have been in close contact with depression, either because of a friend, a relative, or because you yourself are suffering, this message is for you…

“I’d like to live in a world where happiness is as easy as buying a soda in a vending machine. But it’s harder than that.”

Special thanks to The Telegraph and MindFullUK for sharing this beautiful video.