Category Archives: Health

Pink Night

St. James CWL hosted their 17th annual Pink Night in Wilkie, Sask., October 17. As always, the evening was filled with fellowship, fundraising, door prizes, information and many good things to eat. Please see the October 27 Press-Herald for a full report. Below the photo of ladies checking out the door prizes is the full text of the speech given by guest speaker Helena Long.

at St. James Catholic Church, Wilkie

It has been an interesting couple of years, to say the least. Since the fall of 2015, I received a breast cancer diagnosis, had surgery to remove a breast, surgeries to install and remove a port in my right arm, went through several months of chemotherapy, five weeks of radiotherapy, a year of Herceptin drug infusions and was just starting to feel like myself again when I went flying off the back of a horse and broke a hip and an arm.

The left side of my body has really taken a beating. It was my left breast that was cancerous, and my left hip and arm which were broken. Chemotherapy, of course, affects the whole body but the radiation was all focused on the left side. I’m not sure if that really means anything but it does sort of seem like an odd coincidence.

I had my fall August 26 and as you can see, some 7 ½ weeks later, my mobility and the use of my left hand are still somewhat restricted. On the positive side, every week I see improvement and anticipate a full recovery.

But you didn’t come here tonight to hear about my broken bones. I will talk about my breast cancer, the treatment and results, but I also want to talk about something you might not have expected to hear about – God, fate, listening to your body and trusting your intuition. I could have chosen to talk about the significance of breasts to us women, statistics or some of the latest research but I’m going to talk about trusting God and trusting yourself.

I went many years without having annual physical checkups. In fact I remember telling Dr. Bloem one time that the only reason I was there was because of her and John’s nagging. Then, in July 2015, I attended a sweat lodge hosted by a Lakota elder. The evening before the lodge, the Elder hosted a tea at which people new to the experience could ask questions and learn a little bit about what to expect. As there were a few people at the tea who were unable to come to participate in the actual sweat lodge the next day, Hawk decided to conduct a small dancing exercise that evening.

To drumming and chanting, we danced barefoot on the grass. Hawk suggested we hold our hands high in the air and draw in goodness from the universe. Then, periodically he suggested we lower our hands and focus on our feet stomping the earth and releasing negativity from our body. As we did this, quite unbidden to my mind, came the thought that I was releasing bad health. As I continued to dance and the thoughts of releasing bad health likewise danced through my head, another part of me was wondering where did that come from here? I felt fine but the thought was overpowering.

I was already booked for a physical later the same month. A conflict arose and whereas normally I would happily have phoned the medical office and postponed the physical no matter how many months it took to get a new appointment, I didn’t. The checkup resulted in a clean bill of health, but for the first time in a number of years, I kept the mammogram requisition front and centre and actually called for an appointment. Of note is that the doctor did not feel anything in my breasts during the exam.

My mammogram was in late September, 2015. Most of you ladies present will know the drill. After having the “girls” pressed and photographed, I sat in the waiting room while the images were checked by the technician. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had come back and said everything’s fine you can go. On the other hand, I wasn’t surprised when she came back and said they needed to take a few more pictures of my left breast, this time with ultrasound.

Once again, I sat in the waiting room and waited. Then I was told I could get dressed but needed to stick around to see the radiologist. Again I was not surprised. The radiologist showed me the screen with a very small tumour and some other whitish marks which indicated calcification in the breast. He said I would need a biopsy of the tumour.

A couple of weeks later I found myself at the Saskatoon Breast Health Centre in City Hospital. The biopsy proved to be more difficult than anticipated, largely because the presiding doctor wanted a sample of a very deep, small calcified spot. Biopsies were also taken of the small tumour and other calcifications.

After the lab results were received, we saw the oncologist surgeon. Although of course I was hoping for a benign diagnosis, once again I was not surprised to learn the tumour was cancerous. In addition, the biopsy that had proven to be so difficult revealed a second cancerous tumour. Although the original tumour was very small and might otherwise have qualified me for a simple lumpectomy, the second tumour and all the calcification in the breast – which the doctor said suggested things were very unstable there – resulted in a strong mastectomy recommendation.

To be told you have cancer, no matter where it is, can be a frightening thing. It certainly makes you pause and take stock of your life. I may not have been surprised but I was scared – scared about having cancer, scared about surgery, scared about losing a breast

On one of my days off, during the week when John was at work and my teenager was at school, I went for a slow, meditative walk among the trees in our shelterbelt. At that time, I had a hanging chair in one of the trees which was a favourite spot to sit, gently swing and think or pray. Not surprisingly, that is where I found myself after the walk.

Soft snow gently fell about me and the woods were utterly silent. And, there is no other way to say or explain it, I felt the presence and love of God. I was comforted and reassured that, no matter what the future might hold, God would be with me.

After the surgery, the chemo and radiation, there was another drug I was asked to take for the next five years. The initial test attempts did not go well for me. I had unbelievable nerve pain in my feet which I found wholly incapacitating. I quit taking the drug and it was at least a week before the last twinges of pain were gone. The doctor and the nurse did not believe this side effect was from the new drug, and I had to agree the research I did seemed to say the same thing. Rather this side effect may have been from the last chemo drug, although the last dose had been almost 3 months earlier. Although no medical person openly agreed to my statement, I think the new drug still somehow triggered the remaining chemo in my system.

Even before this incident, I was hesitant about taking this drug. Similarly, I had agonized and wrestled over the question of whether to go ahead with the chemo originally or not. It was one night at three in the morning, after much thinking ansd prayer, when I made the decision to proceed. Although there were things I didn’t like about it and times I suffered from it, I never second-guessed that decision. It had felt right when I made it and it never didn’t feel right.

On the other hand, I never felt right taking the five-year drug although I did try it again for a couple of weeks later on, without having the same side effects.

One long-term side effect of the drug is a possible reduction in bone mass. That one worried me a lot as my mother had osteoporosis. As I said to the doctor, I had waited almost my entire adult life to live an acreage lifestyle. My mother’s collarbone snapped in the bathtub as she reached over her shoulder with a washcloth. I did not want a collarbone snapping as I threw a bale of hay on the trailer on a hot July day.

Last fall, I did make the decision not to take Arimedix. As I said, it just did not feel right. When I fell from the horse this past August, I fell on hard dry packed ground. Although both my left arm, just below the elbow, and left hip were fractured, nothing was displaced. I did not have to have my arm set, only casted. I did not have to have surgery on my hip, only avoid weight-bearing for 5+ weeks.

I do have to wonder, if I had been taking the drug, whether my bones would’ve shattered rather than simply cracked. We will never know but I do wonder how much more severe my injuries might have been.

Another side effect of Arimedix, which increases with time as I understand it, is pain and stiffness in the joints. But, on the other hand, exercise is highly recommended as a breast cancer preventative – for everyone and also for women seeking to avoid a recurrence. In fact the World Cancer Research Fund and other organizations suggest recurrence of any cancer can be reduced by as much is 45% for those who spend at least 2 ½ hours a week in moderate intensity physical activity.

How much exercise would I do if my knees were stiff and sore? I preferred the exercise route to avoid recurrence much more to the drug route. Of course, I’m not exercising very much right now but I will be working back up to a minimum of 10,000 steps per day as soon as I can. Of course, there are no guarantees either way, anyway.

My point here is that everybody should stop and take time to be silent. How can you expect to hear God or your intuition over the TV program playing in the background, the notifications beeping on your phone, the demands from your kids, the needs of your husband or the frantic following of breaking news when events like the Las Vegas massacre occur? Silence today is rare. I know there are many people who are uncomfortable with silence, and yet it is in the silence that we can hear God. Psalm 46, verse 10  “Be still and know that I am God.”

Similarly no doctor, however well trained and educated, knows your body like you do. I know there are people who suffer from hypochondria and worry needlessly, but for most of us if it feels like something is not right, then indeed it is probably not right. Follow your instincts.

So during my own journey, there were four significant moments when I felt guided in my decisions: the initial experience at the sweat lodge camp, my pause in the woods prior to surgery, when making the decision to go ahead with the chemo and when making the decision not to take the five-year drug.

One very small point made by last year’s speaker at Pink Night is something I have thought about a lot. She mentioned itching. Even before that, I had heard or read that a symptom of breast cancer can be itching in the breast. However, I’d always assumed that meant the entire breast would be itchy. It wasn’t until I heard Toni Ducklow speak that I realized I too had had this symptom.

It was a very small thing. Simply that at the end of the day where the strap of the bra ran under my breasts, under the left one it would be a little bit itchy. When I would take my bra off to put on my pyjamas, I would simply rub there a couple of times and it would be fine. I attributed it to irritation from the tightness of the brassiere, which honestly I have never enjoyed wearing. It wasn’t until Ducklow’s reference to itching that I thought back and made the connection and realized it was always on the left side and never the right where that irritation occurred.

Just a little tip, something to be aware of. When documentaries, articles and medical people tell you about symptoms to watch out for, they don’t always give you the fine details.

We probably all heard the one in nine number – one out of every nine women in Canada is expected to have breast cancer at some point in her life. While that is a bit of a scary number, we also need to remember that today only one in every 29 women will actually die as a result of meta-sized breast cancer. What’s important to remember is that 30 years ago, in the mid-1980s, more women were dying from breast cancer.

Early detection does help, as does the fact that there are far better targeted therapies now. I mentioned receiving an entire year’s worth of drug infusions; this was a specific antibody to a protein found in my main tumour. That is a relatively new drug and combats what could be a more aggressive cancer.

With one in nine women expected to receive the diagnosis, you are likely to face one if not in yourself then amongst family members or close friends. Breast cancer does touch us all and so I thought I would give a quick overview of what to expect.

As I said, after the “bad” mammogram, you will need a biopsy. That means local freezing – yes an needle in your breast, although that was not as bad as I thought it would be – and then another needle which goes down into the tumour and extracts a part of it. Waiting is a big part of breast cancer diagnosis, and treatment. You wait for the biopsy, although not months, and you wait for the results. Then you wait for the surgery date if that is what is called for.

After the surgery, you wait for the lab results again. In my case because a lymph node was involved, I was referred to the Cancer Centre. Now we waited to see the chemo oncologist, although again not very long. Prior to the chemo, I had to have an echocardiogram and I had several of them over the next year as the drugs can be hard on the heart. Also prior to the chemo, I had more surgery when the port was installed in my arm. The port provided access to the IV drugs without the nurses having to hunt for vein each time.

The waiting can seem long but in reality I was pleased at how quickly things moved along. Only four months after the mammogram, the surgery was done and I was already at my first chemo treatment appointment. Those continued every three weeks for 18 weeks. Then I had almost a month off to recuperate a little before starting radiation. That took another five and a half weeks. And then after the radiation I continued to receive the Herceptin drug by infusion every three weeks, although I did not find I had any significant side effects from this drug. I still had to have periodic echocardiograms and I was also sent for a bone scan. Of course bloodwork happened regularly as well.

There is a lot of waiting for appointments, both at home and in waiting rooms. There is a lot of poking and prodding and testing. And for some, like myself, simple daily life can become a big challenge during the worst of the chemo side effects. That is not true for everyone and I know people who worked part time throughout their treatment. That would not have been possible for me.

September 2015 I knew there was trouble in my breast. March 2017 I had my last drug infusion and later that month was at University Hospital again for surgery to remove the port. So it was about a year and a half devoted to dealing with breast cancer, although for the last six months of it I was able to lead a relatively normal life. I know I have heard others say that cancer, successfully treated, takes a year out of your life – that rings pretty true to me, but it is a year worth giving up if it means I can come here again next year to visit you all, and the next and the next and the next.

There are no guarantees. You could do everything right, follow every recommendation to reduce your cancer risk, and still end up with cancer. And of course we all know of those folks who live unhealthy lifestyles, eventually dying of old age in their 90s or beyond. Giving up a year of my life for cancer treatment doesn’t mean that I’m cured; it only increases the likelihood of non-reoccurrence.

That being said, I want to leave you with two pieces of advice. One is to take the time to be aware of your body and to trust your intuition if you feel something is wrong. Take time to listen to God, or the universe or higher power or your own inner knowing – whatever your belief system allows. But do seek silence occasionally and listen.

The other is to exercise. Physical activity – even as simple as a brisk walk daily – is now proven to be so very, very beneficial. Exercise not only reduces your risk of cancer, even reoccurrence of cancer in existing patients such as myself, but also heart disease, stroke, diabetes and a myriad of other health concerns. Speaking for myself, not long ago I came across an article on walking meditation and I can’t wait to wander among the trees in our shelterbelt felt, breathing fresh air, praying and exercising, all at the same time. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Today’s paper

There is lots of local news in the October 28 issue of the Unity Wilkie Press-Herald. Be sure to get a copy for:

  • photos and a report on another successful Pink Night hosted by the St. James CWL;
  • a heart-warming story on a new sport for area Special Olympic athletes;
  • a summing up of activities at McLurg this fall; and
  • a wrap-up of local runners’ results at provincial high school cross-country championships.

And don’t forget to check out the new “What is it?” on page 15!

Below, the table full of door prizes at Pink Night October 11.Pink Night at Wilkie SK

“Immunize or Mask” in all SK health care facilities

Starting Dec. 1, if you haven’t had your flu shot, you will have to wear a mask when you enter any Heartland Health Region facilities or sites where patient care and service is provided, r any other health care facilities in the Province of Saskatchewan.

If you are not immunized against the flu, you will have to keep wearing a mask while in patient care and service locations until April 3, 2015, the approximate end of the annual influenza season.

The expectation to ‘Immunize or Mask’ applies to all members of the public who come into hospitals, long-term care facilities, primary health care sites, public health locations and other sites where patients, residents or clients typically access health region care or services. It includes common areas in these facilities such as hallways, lobbies and waiting rooms, as well as patient rooms, wards, units, departments and other areas where patients, residents or clients typically access care or services.

All HHR employees and other health professionals, including physicians, are required to have their seasonal influenza immunization or wear a mask while in the health region’s patient care locations. Volunteers, students, vendors and contractors must also wear a mask in Heartland Health Region’s patient care locations if they have not received their seasonal influenza immunization. In the community, healthcare workers are required to be immunized or wear a mask when delivering care or service to patients or clients at home, or in public locations such as Wellness Clinics.

The requirement to be immunized or wear a mask is part of a new province-wide influenza immunize or mask policy in effect in all Saskatchewan health regions and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency. The purpose is to further protect the health and safety of patients. It also serves to further protect healthcare workers, their colleagues, families, friends, and communities.

Dr. David Torr, consulting medical health officer for the region says “The number one prevention against influenza is to get your influenza vaccination every year. It is the best protection for you, your family, friends and communities from influenza.” Although the immunization cannot guarantee that you will not get the flu this season, it greatly reduces the chance you will get it and, if you do get the flu, the vaccine will likely reduce the length of time that you will suffer from the symptoms, as well as the strength of the illness. With vaccine, you will also spread less of the virus for less time to those around you, if you get it. It is also very important for everyone to always practise proper hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and not to visit patients and health care facilities when you are ill or just recovering.

It is not too late to get your flu shot. In Macklin, a clinic will be held at St. Joseph’s Health Centre Dec. 16 from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Unity’s December clinic will be Dec. 18, at the health centre, from a to 7 p.m. From January 2015 to the end of March 2015, flu shots are available at your nearest public health office.

In Heartland Health Region facilities, surgical/procedure masks will be available for individuals who have chosen not to be immunized against influenza. Gel hand sanitizer, an additional tool to further minimize the spread of infections, is located throughout HHR sites. Instructions on how to properly put on and take off the masks will be posted.

Temporary helipad built at Wilkie

Representatives from the Town of Wilkie, the Wilkie Health Foundation, Heartland Health District EMS, Wilkie volunteer firefighters and STARS gathered November 7 to have a look at the newly completed temporary landing pad built especially for use by STARS helicopters. The landing pad is located behind the Wilkie and District Health Centre building.

Temporary landing site for STARS helicopters at Wilkie, Saskatchewan

Terry Kosolofski, Wilkie EMS and volunteer firefighter; Jackie Gerein, Wilkie EMS; Margaret Skinner, Wilkie and District Health Foundation; Julie Brooks, Wilkie and District Health Foundation; Barry Tolmie, Saskatoon STARS base manager; Craig Sittler, volunteer firefighter and deputy fire chief; and Wilkie Mayor David Zeigler pose on the brand new temporary landing pad for STARS, constructed right behind the Wilkie and District Health Centre.

Cpt. Barry Tolmie, Saskatchewan STARS pilot and aviation base manager at Saskatoon, explained the temporary landing site allows STARS to come straight to the hospital, in many cases avoiding an extra transfer of the patient. The less transfers, the easier it is to stabilize a patient and the better chances of a positive outcome.

Tolmie also described the site as “a nice, safe place to come” for the pilots flying the helicopters.

Wilkie Mayor David Ziegler concurred, saying, “That’s why I pushed it.”

After the tragic loss of their son Wesley earlier this year, the Zieglers designated memorial donations to the Wilkie Health Foundation for the specific purpose of building a place close to the hospital for STARS’ use. Ziegler was active in helping plan the construction and even planned to work on the landscaping around the cement pad, together with Ed Jaindl. However, winter intervened and the landscaping will have to wait until spring.

Health foundation chair Margaret Skinner recognized not every project they fund “has the mayor so involved.” Once started, the project moved forward quickly with the actual construction being done in two weeks. The foundation designated $35,000 towards the landing pad, which is 17 metres across and five inches thick.

Ziegler commended the contractors who worked on the project – Wangler Construction who did the earthwork and Jaindl Construction/Ed Jaindl who did the cement work with the assistance of Blaine Heitt of Unity. A crew of six were in action when the cement was poured, and Ziegler said the contractors came on very short notice. “We (only) just beat the winter,” he said.

STARS’ procedure

Tolmie explained the procedure when STARS is called. There are two types of calls – scene calls, such as a vehicle rollover, and inter-facility calls.

In a scene call, local EMS and firefighters as well as STARS are notified. Sometimes the helicopter with its medical team will head out but turn back – for example, perhaps the first responders at the scene advise there are no serious injuries. Sometimes the pilot changes route, heading to the nearest hospital to meet the ambulance, for example, rather than trying to touch down by a busy highway.

With an inter-facility call, the STARS transport physician will decide, based on consultation with the local doctor and the waiting specialist, whether to send ground ambulance, fixed wing or a chopper.

Tolmie said pilots and medical staff prepare for a flight in separate areas. That way, the pilots are not influenced by any medical details or personal information pertaining to the patient if they need to make a decision as to, for example, whether to continue a flight in bad weather. The pilots make those decisions based solely on flight safety considerations.

“Safety,” said Tolmie, “is paramount for the crews, the people on the ground and for the patient.”

STARS has made approximately 350 flights out of the Saskatoon base so far this year. It costs about $20 million a year to operate STARS in Saskatchewan. The government provides half of the operating budget and the organization has to fundraise the other half.

Tolmie said, “It’s great to see the community embracing the service we provide. Ultimately it’s good for the patient.”

Firefighters’ role

Firefighters are called out to all STARS landings. They keep spectators out of the way and remove any debris or other impediments to a safe landing. They also report wind direction and anything unusual to the pilot on route. At night, firefighters use lights to mark the four corners of the site where it would be safe for the helicopter to land.

With “an identified area that we know is safe to land,” such as the one now in Wilkie, Tolmie said they would not need the firefighters to light the corners on the designated site. Firefighters will still have to attend to take care of spectators, debris, etc.

Wilkie Health Foundation

Skinner said, the Wilkie Health Foundation was formed in 1998 and, with this latest capital expenditure, is approaching $490,000 in the improvements it has provided for patient care in Wilkie.

Next week’s paper

Another week has come and gone and the Unity Wilkie Press-Herald for next week, the November 17th issue, has been prepared. In it, you will find:

  • wrap-up of Remembrance Day coverage, including elementary school winners of the Legion’s annual Poster Contest;
  • a report on the completion of the temporary landing site built for STARS helicopters at the Wilkie Health Centre;
  • how the Unity Community Resource Centre is remembering Shirley Parkinson; and
  • the list of winners in the Suffern Lake lottery early bird draw.

Of course, there are new ads to peruse and the RCMP Report, a new Faith Matters column and hockey reports to catch up on too.

And remember, if you’re not already a subscriber to the print paper, call 306-228-2267 and get your subscription this week for a chance to be entered into a draw for a free year’s subscription and two free tickets to the Louisiana Hayride Christmas show!

Paper this week

A key feature of the November 3rd issue of the Unity Wilkie Press-Herald is the full colour centre-spread recognition of Remembrance Day, sponsored by a variety of businesses, organizations and individuals in Wilkie and Unity. The Press-Herald will be donating $5 from each sponsorship to the Wilkie or Unity Legions. Be sure to check it out!

Next week’s paper also includes:

  • an article on the fears of current local Legion branch members as overall membership declines;
  • an introduction to Wilkie’s new Ring in the New Year cash lottery;
  • coverage from both a parent and a student perspective on a presentation by SADD speaker Greg Drew, who lost his son in an accident caused by speeding; and
  • an article on the construction boom in Luseland.

Hockey news, softball news, a press release on ambulance service in rural Saskatchewan, an opinion on the proposed new recycling taxes and plenty more fill the rest of the pages.

Ring in the New Year Lottery

Wilkie, Saskatchewan councillors Maryellen Herzog and Kathy Heilman pull back the covers to reveal Wilkie’s new Ring in the New Year cash lottery! 2014 proceeds will be going to local health-related projects.


Renewal stickers for health cards coming

The Government of Saskatchewan announced September 15 that renewal stickers for health cards are being mailed to Saskatchewan residents with provincial health coverage.

Provincial health cards expire on December 31 this year and the stickers will validate them for a further three years, to December 31, 2017.

“The Saskatchewan Health Services Card indicates you are entitled to health coverage under the provincial health insurance plan,” Health Minister Dustin Duncan said.  “We encourage people to place the renewal sticker on their health card so they can continue to receive medical services.”

The renewal stickers are being mailed out by eHealth Saskatchewan from September 15 to 30.  Residents who have not received their renewal packages in the mail by mid-October should go online to update their personal information  Other contact information is also available online.

The most common reason for people not to receive their renewal stickers is because they have moved and not updated their address.  This year, packages will be sent to more than 689,000 households in the province.  In addition to the renewal sticker(s) the Health Services Card package also includes information about the Provincial Electronic Health Record, HealthLine stickers and organ donor stickers.  If organ donation is desired, individuals must attach the organ donor sticker to their health card, and sign the card indicating their intention to donate organs or tissues which is also included in the mailout.

For more information on health benefits, visit

Wilkie Health Centre

Reminder to take precautions against West Nile virus

Health officials are reminding Saskatchewan residents to protect themselves against mosquito bites as the risk for West Nile virus (WNV) continues to increase.

The risk of contracting WNV infection usually peaks late July and in August when the mosquitoes that carry the virus, Culex tarsalis, are most active and present in higher numbers.

People are advised to take precautions when outside in areas with mosquitoes.

“Protect yourself from mosquito bites by covering up and wearing repellents or reducing the amount of time spent outdoors,” Provincial West Nile Virus Coordinator Phil Curry said.  “Mosquitoes can be active at any time but are most active in the evening and throughout the night.”

People can also minimize exposure to mosquitoes by eliminating mosquito habitats around their homes:

  • Clear yards of items that can collect water;
  • Regularly clean and empty bird baths and eavestroughs;
  • Ensure rain barrels are covered with mosquito screen or are tightly sealed around the downspout;
  • Keep bushes, shrubs and lawns clear of overgrowth and debris; and
  • Make sure door and window screens fit tightly and are free of holes.

Although the vast majority of people who have been infected with WNV experience no symptoms, some people will get a mild illness (fever, headaches, body aches) and will improve on their own.  A small number of people will develop a more serious illness called West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease, which includes encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

Symptoms of infection with WNV usually occur two to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.  There may be a considerable time lag from when the risk of WNV transmission to humans is greatest to when human cases are confirmed.

“If you are concerned about your symptoms, contact your health professional or call HealthLine at 811,” Saskatchewan’s Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Denise Werker said.  “Seek medical attention immediately if you develop severe symptoms such as severe headaches, persistent high fever with neck stiffness, confusion, seizures or paralysis.”

Recovery from WNV neuroinvasive disease may take several weeks or months, and some effects may be permanent.  In some cases, this form of the disease results in death.

Updated information on WNV including risk levels and maps and surveillance results is posted every Friday before noon on

Barbara Risling – 103 and still happy with life

A typical interview question, when talking to somebody who has reached an age milestone, is to ask whether that person has any regrets, or whether there is anything they would do differently given a chance to go back in time. Barbara Risling, formerly of Scott, Saskatchewan, who turned 103 March 3, wouldn’t change a thing.

She said, “I had a good life. I had a good husband. I just enjoyed life and we enjoyed life together. I wouldn’t do anything different … I had a happy life and a good life.”

Although having to move into a care home in Wilkie, SK, Poplar Courts, in the fall of 2013 after living by herself in her own home up to then was difficult, she recognized it had to be done. After falling and breaking a couple of ribs, she told her son, Bill Risling, “Winter is coming and Scott is just a little town . What if I fall and you can’t get to me or we can’t drive in. I think it’s time.”

Being “102 and still taking care of myself at home, I didn’t want to do it but I did. I cried my heart out but I feel at home now,” she said. “Everybody seems to be my friend. They even grind my food for me. When they put me to bed, some of them, they even give me a kiss good night. I’ve settled down to life here. I’m okay now.”

And her friends still come to visit her. Every year in Scott, the ladies would get together and buy ice cream and cake to celebrate Barbara’s birthday. They would bring it to her house “to celebrate in my home.” Although “too many have died already,” those remaining all came to her 103rd birthday party in Wilkie last month.

Barbara Risling poses with her birthday cake at a tea celebrating her 103rd birthday.When asked what she was most proud of, Barbara told a story about an event that happened when she was 80 years old. The story also provided the answer to another usual question asked, the one about advice for those who want to live to a similar good age.

When she was 80, a friend in Tramping Lake was celebrating a 90th birthday. Barbara’s niece picked her up and they went to the get-together in the hall at Tramping Lake. Another friend, also named Barbara and also 80 years old, was there as well. The two Barbaras and some others sat together at the same table.

Someone asked, “You ladies are both 80 years old and you both look good. What do you do, Barbara, to keep yourself like that?”

The other Barbara replied, “I smoke, I drink and I do very little work.” Barbara Risling replied, “I don’t smoke and I don’t drink and I still work hard. I make my own garden. I mow my lawn.” With two such opposite answers, everyone at the table had a good chuckle.

The next morning, Barbara Risling’s phone rang. It was the niece who had taken her to the party at Tramping Lake, with the news that the other Barbara had died in the night.

“That was 23 years ago and I still don’t smoke and I don’t drink. I can’t do hard work anymore but I still exercise.” Barbara does stretches every morning and evening. She started doing them after her husband died in 1987, and, she added, “to this day, I add more and more.”

At 95, Barbara planted her last garden. That summer she started having trouble with her balance and needed help to take the garden off in the fall. Her balance troubles also put an end to her annual appearances as a performer at the Wilkie Carol Festival.

Barbara, whose maiden name was Schneider, immigrated to Saskatchewan from the United States, with her family when she was six years old. Her family came to Revenue when she was seven, and that’s where she grew up and went to school. As a teenager, she used to help out in the field, looking after and driving a team of four horses.

Barbara remembers, “As soon as I could talk, I could sing.” When visitors came to the house, they would have her come and sing for them. “They gave me 5 cents and 10 cents for singing for them. I taught all my children to sing,” she said. “The whole family sings.”

At 103, Barbara is not on any regular medications. She drinks a can of Boost daily to ensure good nutrition intake. She walks on her own to meals every day, and was busy helping another Poplar Courts resident with a jigsaw puzzle the day of her interview.

Barbara credits her good health to daily exercise and Boost. “I eat good, I sleep good and Bill takes care of me,” she said.

For those interested in reading more about this remarkably resilient and contented woman, she was interviewed in July, 2000, as part of a North Dakota State University project exploring the stories of Germans who came to the United States from Russia. The interview can be found at

Volunteers in Wilkie recognized

“A town can’t function without volunteers.” says Heartland Health volunteer co-ordinator Celeste Bridgeman .

About 40 Wilkie and area residents were entertained, fed and given door prizes at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Tea in the New Horizons Hall in Wilkie, SK, April 14. The afternoon, was sponsored by Heartland Health Region.

National Volunteer Week ran the week before, April 6 to 12.

Bridgeman shared some facts from Statistics Canada.

Saskatchewan has the highest rate of volunteerism in Canada – 58 per cent of the population did volunteer work in 2012.

In all of Canada, over 13.3 million individuals volunteer, 47 per cent of people. StatCan’s press release stated “a relatively small percentage — 10 per cent — accounted for 53 per cent of all hours given to non-profit and charitable organizations.

“These ‘10 per centers’ logged a minimum of 390 volunteer hours each on an annual basis, the equivalent of 10 weeks in a full-time job.

“There’s no explanation about why Saskatchewan has the highest volunteer rate, although the study notes that rates of volunteering are consistently higher in rural regions.”

Bridgeman said volunteers in any capacity are always appreciated, but right now she is especially short of volunteer drivers. Anyone willing to donate time to drive the handi-van, deliver Meals on Wheels or take residents to out-of-town appointments can contact Bridgeman at 306-228-8887.

wilkie skAl Gil of Wilkie and Leon Ochs of Landis donated their time and talents to the afternoon, playing guitars and singing.

Hazel Lorenz, a member of the board of directors for Heartland Health Region, helped Bridgeman hand out the large number of door prizes, many donated by businesses in Wilkie and Unity and some by individuals. There were enough door prizes for everyone to win at least one.

We all know good deeds like random acts of kindness and volunteering in a non-profit organization “make you feel good.” Medical research backs that up. Not only do volunteers have better mental health, an article on the Harvard Medical School blog references a study which found volunteers generally have lower blood pressure and longer lifespans.

The Wilkie volunteers all left the event with smiles on their faces. Having a special moment to visit with friends and enjoy refreshments and entertainment, and receiving a small gift, was the icing on the cake for these residents who take the time to help others in the community.