Adam Fanaki and his son Sam. Whistler 2014.
I recently met a woman who starting talking with me about downhill skiing. Something I know little about, even though I tried it for almost 20 years.
My husband Adam was passionate about it and it was poetry in motion to watch him go down a run.
I can say it now, "I am and never will be a downhill skier".
I blame the fact that I took it up as an adult, the fear of sliding down a vertical slope and my disdain for cold weather.
Adam would say to me, "I love it when we go skiing as a family". The reality was that we would start at the top together and then he and the kids would take off and leave me to snowplough down alone.
I knew what to expect so I wasn't angry about it. They were having fun and it made him happy.
Back to the woman and our talk.
I shared with her that it wasn't my favourite sport. She told me that she was disappointed to not be able to go with her husband anymore.
"At least your husband doesn't have a torn meniscus" she blurted out. To which I calmly replied, "No, actually my husband is dead."
UGH! The stunned look on her face, as if Bigfoot just jumped in front of her.
She came back with, "Oh, but you're so chipper".
Huh. It wasn't the first time that I'd heard that one but it still surprised me.
Each widow or widower's journey is different and I don't think it's fair to judge how anyone grieves.
For the last four and a bit years, since Adam was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, I've been grieving. He passed away nine months ago.
My worst feeling comes everyday when I wake up and open my eyes.
There's a brief moment when I think that nothing has changed, but then I quickly realize that he's not coming back. It's the same disappointment, every morning.
Adam and I had many conversations about what his wishes were for the kids and me after he was gone. He wanted us to cherish the great memories, move forward and be happy.
I took this to heart and am thankful that we had these talks. It's one of the reasons I'm happy much of the time.
Adam was right. It's better to be grateful that we got to experience a great marriage and so many good times together.
And when COVID is over, I'll be the first one out the door with a suitcase in hand, with a big smile on my face.
Janet Fanaki is the host of the RESILIENT PEOPLE podcast. She interviews EXTRAordinary people around the world who are admired for their resilience. They've bounced back from a major challenge in their lives and created something to help others be resilient too. She lives in Toronto with her two children and mini poodle. Learn more at www.resilientpeople.ca
Jana Girdauskas is a teacher, a mother and the creator of a successful non-for-profit group called, The Period Purse.
She provides a solution to the challenges that the homeless face, when they get their period.
With her army of volunteers, they collect tampons and pads along with wellness items, packed in purses, and deliver them to homeless shelters across Ontario.
The Period Purse started in a very organic and modern way.
In 2017 Jana had menstrual items that she wanted to donate to people experiencing homelessness, but nothing to put them in. She posted a request to a local Facebook group looking for a purse.
Before she knew it, she had dozens dropped off on her back porch. By the end of the month, she collected over 300 purses.
With the attention she received on social media, only a week later she appeared on CBC Radio’s popular radio show, Metro Morning.
She never ran a business before and the rapid growth that The Period Purse received in a short amount of time was overwhelming to her.
“I didn’t think it would explode the way that it did,” she says.
It’s a massive effort, but with its overwhelming response and simple method of spreading kindness, she told me that it would be hard for her to stop now.
I met Jana at a west Toronto church where dozens of volunteers were sorting, organizing and stuffing purses.
A motivational note like this one, “You are strong, you are powerful. What you are going through today doesn’t have to be your forever” is included in each bag.
Jana did not plan on The Period Purse becoming a full-time operation, on top of her career as a teacher. Currently there are 8 chapters across Ontario and in Toronto alone she helps 12 shelters, servicing 530 women and transgender men.
Running it involves managing donations, recruiting and organizing volunteers including school groups, maintaining the website, posting to social media, corresponding with the chapters, as well as storing and delivering product.
“There were things like governance and accounting that I did not know and had to learn quickly,” she says. “I asked a lot of questions, set-up a Board of Directors and struck a partnership with some large corporations.”
Even with a lack of staff and only so many hours in a day, Jana is focused on growth and helping more individuals so that no one is left behind.
“It’s important for people to know that someone is listening to them and cares.”
Her advice for anyone looking to start something similar would be to, “delegate, take breaks and holidays, and take all of the help that you can get.”
The Period Purse has launched the Support A Menstruator program. To find out more, visit www.theperiodpurse.com
Anastasia Belbas was born in Ukraine during World War I. She is 104 years old.
When she was twelve, she moved to Canada with her mother and three younger siblings.
She still remembers the harrowing boat ride over the Atlantic Ocean.
“I remember it being so windy and dark with the ship making loud noises that scared me,” she says. “The sea was so rough and the boat went up and down with water splashing everywhere.”
She thought that she would die.
When they arrived, they were reunited with her father who had settled outside of Winnipeg. Anastasia began living a normal childhood in Canada that included going to school. But, this would be short lived.
An aunt, who lived on a farm a few hours away, had suddenly died when Anastasia was 14 years old. Her mother sent her to live with her uncle, and help care for him and his five young children, one of which was a newborn baby.
Barely a teenager, she left school to clean their house, cook all meals and care for the family and animals.
“I didn’t know anything,” she remembers. “The first time I baked bread, my uncle told me it was like a rock.” But she recalled watching her mother bake it many times, “and so I just kept trying until I got it right.”
The following year her uncle remarried and Anastasia was able to move back to live with her family. But, she never returned to school.
Years later, she married and moved to Toronto to begin a new life. She volunteered with the Ukrainian community, raising funds to build St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Church on Bathurst Street, among many other initiatives.
She rose to become President of the Ukrainian Canadian Council and traveled extensively in this role.
When asked what she credits her longevity to, her answer is simple. “Waking up every morning with a goal, kept my brain alive and active, and it gave me a purpose.”
Her strong faith also guided her through every experience.
“I don’t know how I didn’t go crazy,” she says. “God gave me life, and I just knew that everything that I went through, was meant for me to do.”
Anastasia is now 104 years old and continues to tell amazing stories
What is Resilience?
Resilience is a process and the capacity to adapt in the face of adversity or significant sources of stress.
People commonly demonstrate resilience and emerge stronger, wiser and more able. The level to which they are or feel resilient varies in each area of their life.
Compared with people who have lower levels of resilience, people with higher levels of resilience perform better at managing any obstacles they are presented with and they tend to not be phased by them.
Resilience is comprised of your thoughts, feelings, behaviours and actions - the things you exhibit and experience every moment of your life. Developing resilience is a personal journey that can be learnt.
Identifying the strategies or approaches that work best for you is key to building your resilience. That takes time and involves thorough exploration.
How will resilience matter? Future trends predict significant changes in our economic, environmental, legal, political, societal and technological systems.
Being resilient will become - and is - a critical component to our individual and collective survival and prosperity. The implications of these changes will impact your career, your health, your relationships, your perspectives, and much more.
By understanding and enhancing your resilience today, you can be better prepared for whatever - large or small - presents itself tomorrow. The road to resilience is likely to involve a period of distress and an emotional response to that challenging experience.
Many people often carry these experiences with them as they navigate their present and future career paths, their personal relationships and their community affiliations. Identifying and addressing what serves you today - as opposed to what worked yesterday - is vital to learning, processing what is happening, and thinking about what is possible.
The Centre for Creative Leadership identifies 8 key steps to become more resilient:
1. Accept Change. Change is not easy. Change is constant and inevitable. The more comfortable you are with change the more resilient you will be.
2. Continuously Learn. As things change, you will need to learn and apply new skills and understanding. Holding onto behaviours or skills that do not work anymore will not help.
3. Take Charge. Empower yourself to make a change and make meaningful shifts to guide the way. Do not expect someone to do it for you.
4. Define Purpose. What gives you meaning and puts things into a larger context?
5. Create Balance. Separate who you are from what you do and what is happening to you. You are not your work or your job. You are not a disease. You are not a moment in time. How would you define who you are?
6. Cultivate Relationships. Develop and nurture a broad network of personal and professional relationships. It will act as a strong base of support which is critical for achieving goals, dealing with hardships, and developing perspective.
7. Reflect. Make time to reflect on what has happened in times of hardship or celebration. Reflection fosters learning, new perspectives, and a degree of self-awareness that can enhance your resilience.
8. Reframe Skills. Question your definition of yourself and your life. Reframe how you see your skills, talents, and interests. By casting your skills in a new light, you can see how they may shift into new patterns.
Questions to consider might be:
To schedule a free 30 minute consultation today with Amanda Calzolaio, visit www.amandacalzolaio.com
Janet Fanaki wrapping herself in comfort. Photo cred: Sam Fanaki
We celebrated New Year's Eve with a lot of anticipation for the year ahead. Even just saying 2020 sounded fun.
On January 2, CNN posted an article titled, "20 things to look forward to in 2020". Among them were the summer Olympic games, new blockbuster movies and the US presidential election.
Out of that small sampling we've seen the Olympics postponed to 2021, movie houses closed indefinitely and an election that many feel will be fraught with unprecedented anxiety and violence.
2020 has not delivered on the fun but instead brought a lot of bad news and heaviness.
At only 51 years old, my husband died in February from a lengthy battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. My family of now three had so many plans to help with our grief.
Booking a big trip, getting back to school to be with their friends, having the entire family over for Easter brunch (the first time being together since the funeral) and eagerly anticipating my son's entry into university this fall.
And for the first time in years, we were able to start breathing deeply again.
Living with someone who has a terminal illness came with years of trauma and physical affliction for me. Honestly, I felt like an elephant was permanently planted on my chest.
Now, with Adam at peace, we were finally on the road to recovery.
And then COVID-19 happened. From schools to travel, parks and trendy dinners out with friends the world stopped in the blink of an eye.
So we shut our doors and got comfy in our loungewear, left the car in the garage except for grocery runs and were riveted to news from medical specialists and our politicians on next steps.
And just as we were adapting to "the new normal" the unthinkable happened - the murder of George Floyd.
A black man who was apprehended and asphyxiated with a knee to his neck while lying face down on the ground by a Minneapolis police officer. All while pleading "I can't breathe".
The charge was for using an alleged $20 counterfeit bill in a shop. Recorded on many smartphones and shared on 24/7 news, it was taking the year to a new low.
The world rose from their homes in defence of George Floyd and all black people who have been abused and marginalized by society.
The signs at protests read, "If you were peaceful we wouldn't need to protest" and "George Floyd's life mattered".
A virus had kept us all quiet for so many weeks but this one event had the world raise their voices and take to the streets. Masks on and off.
To add insult to injury, US President Donald Trump commenting on the US economic numbers on June 6 saying "it's a great day for George Floyd" further angering his opponents.
There are few things that have been great this year.
Quora.com published "What's one thing you're excited about that's coming up in 2020?" and the comments were broad.
So many students looking forward to graduation (cancelled), prom (cancelled), piano camp (cancelled) and birthdays (not cancelled but hold off on blowing out any candles for fear of spreading COVID-19).
One person wrote in, "I'm looking forward to being done with 2019."
It's June 8 and I'm already pining for whatever happened last year because it wasn't nearly as bad as what we've witnessed in the last six months.
And being a leap year, 2020 will be one that we all wish we could have just skipped right over.
It is with tremendous pride that we announce Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP as the lead sponsor of The Adam Fanaki Brain Fund.
Adam Fanaki was a partner and distinguished member of the Competition Law practice at Davies from 2009 until his death in 2020 of brain cancer.
Learn more about Adam's illustrious career here.
Thanks to this financial contribution from Davies, The Adam Fanaki Brain Fund will be able to help more organizations, patients and caregivers living with a life-changing brain tumour diagnosis.
May is Brain Tumour Awareness Month - Toronto woman creates fundraiser to help patients and caregivers
MAY 18, 2020
TORONTO, ON., May 18, 2020 -- Janet Fanaki lost her husband Adam this past February to brain cancer. He was only 51 years old.
May is Brain Tumour Awareness Month. In his honour, Janet and her children created The Adam Fanaki Brain Fund to raise awareness and money for patients and caregivers living with a brain tumour diagnosis.
“In 2016 my husband was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a terminal form of brain cancer," says Janet. "Since his passing, and being on the other side of this disease, we felt it was our duty to help others and the organizations that were so vital to our wellbeing.”
Since late February, The Adam Fanaki Brain Fund has raised $90,000 in pledges for programs at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital and the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.
These three organizations were central to the Fanakis treatment program and emotional support. Donations have come from individuals as well as corporations like Davies Ward Phillips Vineberg LLP and BMO Nesbitt Burns.
Janet Fanaki is the founder of RESILIENT PEOPLE and The Adam Fanaki Brain Fund and RESILIENT t-shirts where 100% of the proceeds go to The Adam Fanaki Brain Fund. She is a speaker, writer and mother of two from Toronto. Donations can be made to https://my.charitableimpact.com/groups/the-adam-fanaki-brain-fund.
For more information, please contact Janet Fanaki at (416) 271-7887, email@example.com and www.resilientpeople.ca
My husband Adam passed away almost two months ago. Since then I've barely cried or felt any deep sorrow.
Today is Easter and I woke up feeling very alone. As if today was somehow different than any other day.
I've heard many times that the first holidays are the hardest when you lose someone. This is our first.
Easter was the holiday we hosted each year. Usually around 25 people including our brothers and their families, my mom, his aunt, cousins and sometimes close friends.
The morning would start with Adam's carefully orchestrated egg hunt. He always had the best hiding spots.
"Sweetles, you look, too" he'd say as I would contentedly sit on the couch watching the kids search under cushions, behind furniture, on top of hanging frames and in flower pots.
I loved looking over at Adam and seeing the expression on his face as he watched them feverishly trying to outdo each other in who could collect more.
Hectic preparations followed in the lead-up to everyone's arrival. The dog would bark at the non-stop knocking at the door. Adam would be there to greet everyone along with Isobel and Sam, with lots of hugs and kisses, and shouts of "Happy Easter" to me in the kitchen.
We'd sit crammed together around a few long tables. Adults and big-kids in one room with the little ones in another. There was a lot of noise and laughter. It was beautiful.
COVID-19 and the pandemic it has ensued has halted everyone's celebrations. I take solace today in knowing that we're not alone in feeling miserable and isolated beyond our social distancing.
It pained me to contact our guests a couple of weeks ago to cancel Easter brunch. I followed with offering to host something once we get the green light to socialize again.
I already can't wait for that day.
So 32 plastic-filled eggs are waiting to be found this morning, but I'll admit that my hiding spots aren't that clever. The noise level during our big meal will be, well, much less noisy.
With the 3 of us instead of 4, I can't help but wish we had the big sounds around us today.
Thinking about all of you who are feeling the same way.
April 12, 2020
Author with a furry friend at Hide Seek Toronto. Photo cred: Maggie Knaus
My grief started the day that my husband was diagnosed with a terminal disease. He was given a year and a half to live and surpassed that by another 2 years.
Most of that time I lived feeling like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Every symptom had me reeling and ready to call the cancer centre's nursing line to check if we should come in for analysis.
It especially got bad for the last 7 months when the cancer moved to his brain stem and impacted his walking, speech and vision.
All I could do most days was to take each minute as it came and step out the minute that respite arrived at our door. A friend coming to visit, someone to take him to lunch or when he lay down for a nap.
In many ways, it felt like having a baby again. "Grabbing those moments" as parenting experts would say.
Adam and I were only 47 years old when he was diagnosed with glioblastoma and 51 when he died in February. The prime of our lives when we were beginning to make plans for the next phase in life. This was not part of that plan.
Shortly after the funeral, I found myself starting to make other plans. Visiting out-of-town friends was a big one. A trip to spend a few spring days New York to visit my friend Jackie and see a Broadway show with some more time with Laurence and her family in Brooklyn.
Another good one was going cross-country skiing in the Ottawa area of Gatineau Park with my longtime friend Vicki. There would be good wine consumed at dinner the night before and tonnes of girl talk on the couch.
The kids and I had even started thinking about an end-of-school trip. The kind that we often took as a family. This one might have taken us to LA and then on to Maui. A place that we hold close to our hearts.
After years of being a caregiver and having my time and energy at someone else's disposal, I was ready to move on. And along came COVID-19 to derail it all.
This worldwide pandemic has impacted everything, not the least our healthcare system, the economy, education and people's lives.
To date, millions of people around the world have been affected either by being diagnosed with this virus or in losing their lives. And there's no quick end in sight.
I'm lucky that I have my children living at home with me. One who moved back from university and the other finishing high school. Being together so soon after the funeral and during this global crisis brings me a lot of comfort in having people to self-isolate and socialize with in-person.
But I was ready to start living my life again. My calendar was already marked-up with a few fun events and fabulous outfits at the ready. Yes I was still in mourning, missing the person who was no longer here but who also wanted me to carry on living.
Virtual coffee and wine chats have been a phenomenal way for me to stay connected with family and friends. But when will that time come when we can all bust out of the bubble? Imagine how good it will feel to be together with the ones you love again?
I know I'm not alone in this thinking but missing a partner in this journey puts me at a big disadvantage. It would have been much more fun to be isolated and canoodling together.
So in the meantime, I'll keep wearing my "good" outfits daily, styling my hair and face and virtually keeping up with the outside world with the hope that we'll all be socializing in-person in the not-so-distant future.
Janet Fanaki is the founder and lead creator of RESILIENT PEOPLE where she interviews EXTRAordinary people around the world who are admired for their resilience. She lives in Toronto with her children and mini poodle Ella. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram (@resilientpeopleca), Twitter (@resilientpeopl) and on the RESILIENT PEOPLE Youtube channel.
April 7, 2020
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing us into self-isolation, I’ve been wondering how different groups are coping with these changing times?
Recently I spoke with three young adults about their challenges and learned about their methods for finding fun and staying connected outside of their homes. School has switched to online learning, programs are cancelled and times are stressful. We can’t get together with our friends to vent and commiserate. So what are these three doing to get through these tough times?
I was joined by two 18 year olds Caitlin Starr and Sam Fanaki as well as 20 year old Isobel Fanaki.
There’s a lot of stuff that’s not so positive going on. How are you all doing?
Sam: My biggest concern was in getting school together. There was a lot of uncertainty but teachers have been putting stuff online so I’ve been planning my days around that. If we do go back to school I won’t be super far behind. I’ve been coping by keeping myself busy.
Caitlin: This whole thing was very out of the blue. I’m trying to take it upon myself to stay ahead and keep going. I have my textbooks and there’s tonnes of stuff on Youtube to keep me learning.
That takes a lot of self-discipline. How about you, Isobel, as a third-year university student how are you finding it?
Isobel: University is already a self-sufficient environment. It’s also harder not being in that environment where you’re surrounded by other people and you’re cheering each other on. It’s also strange not being able to study with your friends and go to the library.
With the lack of in-person social contact, how are you all coping?
Sam: I didn’t do a lot of online gaming before with my friends but it’s been a good way to keep us connected. Giving yourself another outside activity is a good way to stimulate social interaction.
Caitlin: The main thing that’s been difficult for me is that I can’t go to my competitive dance classes. Instead of us all being sad about it, we get onto Facetime groups together and talk about how we’re all doing. My dance class did a neighbourhood walk together which was really fun. Instagram and Snapchat are a huge help for me, because I get to stay in-touch with my friends.
Isobel: I’m surrounded by the university environment and I sometimes work from home but not for this length of time. It’s very different staying up till 2 at home when everyone’s asleep at 9, versus everyone staying up at school. One of my friends and I went on a walk together, we were walking but in our respective neighbourhoods talking together but not together. My friends and I will watch Twilight together from each other’s places. There are ways to be with your friends but be apart.
Sam: My friend and I did a social distanced walk but you can’t do that with a big group. We do a lot of calling and Facetiming to simulate being in the same room together.
Caitlin: I want to do the Netflix party extension. You pick a Netflix show or movie and you get a link that you send to your friends and you can all watch it together. There’a live chat too so you’re all watching it together.
These three have found some creative ways of spending their days and learning to cope with a lot of uncertainty. None of us know when we will be with our family and friends again, but technology is clearly helping this group to embrace being “together alone”.
Janet Fanaki lives in Toronto and is the founder and lead content creator for RESILIENT PEOPLE, a website that profiles EXTRAordinary people who are admired for their resilience. Her guests have bounced back from a major challenge and now help others be resilient too. To learn more, follow her on Facebook and Instagram, Twitter or email