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My journey in surviving ovarian cancer has been a difficult one, and also rewarding. I have met many wonderful people, learned a lot about myself, and have a deeper appreciation for life. Follow me on Twitter @KarenIngalls1, www.facebook.com/Outshine-An-Ovarian-Cancer-Memoir, and you can find my book at: http://www.outshineovariancancer.com. Proceeds will be donated to funding ovarian cancer research. ALL ORIGINAL CONTENT COPYRIGHT 2011 THROUGH 2015.

Friday, April 24, 2015

THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

        A few weeks ago a group of gynecologic cancer survivors met for their monthly lunch. It is always a special time of sharing, learning, and support. One particular Tuesday we talked about the book/movie Wizard of Oz, its various characters, and how this can be compared to our own journeys with cancer. To help tell us our stories we made collages.

     At first many of us were hesitant to participate saying such things as "I'm not artistic", "I do not know how to do this", or "this is something for my grandchildren to do." Gradually we each began to create our own work of art as we reached for photos, pieces of fur or straw, sparkling letters, magic markers, and glue. I became more introspective as I thought about what I have learned, gone through, and accepted since my diagnosis in 2008.


     The scarecrow character struggles with the feeling of     inadequacy.  His strengths are intuitiveness and sensitivity to people. He is fun-loving and at times to the point of being ridiculous. A scarecrow is used to protect the crops by scaring the birds away; just as the character in our story tries to dance, sing, and laugh away the sadness in his life. He believed the crow that said he was nothing but a mindless fool so he wants a brain.




     The tin man wants a heart. He is dependent on others to oil his joints so he can keep going. His dependency is the same as victimization. Do you ever feel like you are being manipulated by others? Do you use your own sense of trust and strength to not be dependent? He is also the most sensitive and emotional character. He has a soul and a spirit unlike the other mechanical characters. He remembers his humanness and therefore desires to have a heart again.



     The lion roars loudly to show he has no fear and is more powerful than anyone else in Oz. However, he is fearful and incorrectly believes he needs to have the loudest and most ferocious roar. What he needs to learn that his innate ability to support and defend is through Love, not the sound of his roar. He was distracted by his love for Dorothy, the scarecrow, and the tin man, which helped him to let the over powering sense of Love, not a roar, help him to overcome fear.


     Our path in life is represented by the yellow brick road. To walk any path we must first take a step, another, and then  another. With each step there may be twists and turns along the way. Sometimes we are met with unexpected and frightening events. Do we use our heart, our brain, or our courage to face and overcome our perceived inabilities, troubles, or fears? Like Dorothy we sometimes feel lost and just want to get back home; we all are suddenly faced with challenges and "need to grow up" or "find ourselves." When we return home, we have had new experiences and opportunities to grow and be stronger. Dorothy learns from each character and experience including the Wizard, just as are to learn from the people and events in our lives.

     My collage shows (Dorothy) me in my home with a beautiful garden...things and places I love. Then the monkeys and black birds appear (cancer) flying over and around me. The letters G.O.D. separate the past from my new beginning or life as a survivor. I am surrounded by words and pictures of flowers, sun rises, peace, harmony, a butterfly, and the word "outshine." The collage represents my yellow brick road for the past 8 years.

     What would your collage look like? Which character do you relate to the most? Are there any flying monkeys surrounding you? Is there a "witch" who is trying to keep you "from going home?"

     Collages are a fun and magical way for us to let the child in us come out; to face issues that we have tried to avoid; to find answers and hope for our future. I encourage you to get the magazines, markers, and paste out and make your own collage.

My thanks to Eileen and Latanya from Waterman Hospital by bringing this fun and thought provoking activity to me.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A PERSONAL LOOK AT FRIENDSHIPS

I received several personal messages and comments in response to my previous blog about friendships. Here are some excerpts from them:

 As a single mother for so many years raising my 3 sons, I did not develop near the female friendships I would like to have.


How sad it is that she doesn't enjoy the benefits of her close friendships 


I think often about you, and I send you my best positive emotions.


I have lost friends because of my cancer, but I have also gained so many new ones.


Loved the piece on Friendship. Creative friendship is a discipline with multiple rewards. At every juncture of my life the path has been decorated with beautiful human beings. Some tips to cultivate lasting friendships;
Treasure the "old gold" friends. Routinely I connect with "kids" I met in first grade high school college....
Keep in touch with groups of friends from every life experience. We remain connected to our exchange student Alice from Estonia, college friends, England India Dutch and Scottish friends, work friends and life is enhanced each time we connect. Many of my former patients and their families remain dear friends.
Make new friends of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. Best friends range in age from 6-96 and come in a wide range of colorful packages.
Take time to make memories and schedule the next friendship date before you depart. Currently we are scheduling a date with a Malaysian couple we met on a cruise in February. We will stay with them in D.C. in September. 
Friendship is one of life's greatest gifts. Very happy that we met you through Ted and Cindy and look forward to our next friendship connection.


The treasures I receive from, and hopefully give to my friends:

       LISTENING AND ADVICE
           HUGS, HUGS, AND MORE HUGS
                  LAUGHTER,
                        SHARED TEARS
                              PRAYERS
                                     FUN & GAMES
                                            HELP IN ANY FORM


                    Let your friends know what they mean to you. 




Friday, April 10, 2015

CANCER & FRIENDSHIPS

     When a person is facing cancer, sometimes a friendship is difficult to continue. Cancer creates fear in others: will I get it? I am not sure I am strong enough to see him or her in such a state. It is not just cancer, but any challenge is when we each need the help and support from a friend.


What do you look for in a friendship? 
                 Trust?
                 Honesty?
                 Good listener?
                 Good advisor?
                 Available?
                 Laughter and tears?

     

     Trust is one of the most important traits I look for in a person. I know that I can tell this person anything and it will stay strictly between us. Honesty and availability are natural parts of trust. I must feel trust from others just as I trust that God is always is here for me. 


     If your friend is not honest with you, then it is not a relationship you can trust. When I went through my cancer both times, I quickly found out who was being honest and genuinely caring with me, and who was not. Sometimes the truth does hurt, but for a friendship to be true and healthy then honesty must be there. One friend said to me,"You may not like what I am going to say, but...." Friendship was and still is alive and well between us. She took a risk, but I trusted her and knew she was being completely honest with me.


 It was during the initial cancer diagnosis that I needed people the most, who were both good listeners and good advisors. During a crisis time the mind is more scattered and less able to make good decisions. Certain friends always helped me to think more clearly. They looked me in the eye; not distracted by their surroundings or own inner thoughts; often put a hand on me conveying love, empathy and attention.


     How available is the friend? For the most part a friend will put aside other activities and make time to be there for us. Certainly that does not mean they can be physically with you 24/7, but it does mean that they will be there for you in any communication style possible. 


    

 My husband is my closest friend and I love him for having every one of those traits I have listed above. I am blessed to have several friends who also fit this criteria. And, the friendship goes both ways. 



     When you have a friendship there is the gifts of laughter and tears. At the right time humor is a very healthy quality. Laughter increases the endorphins, reduces stress, and it just plain feels good. When we cry we release pain, sadness, and fears.  It is particularly effective when we can shed our tears with a friend. Sometimes we cry so hard we begin to laugh; and when we sometimes laugh so hard, we cry. Friendship helps to make both situations because you are doing it with someone you trust and love. Probably they will be laughing or crying right along with you. What a beautiful moment!


     

    We each will face at least one challenge in our lives; some more serious than others. No matter what occurs, we all need friendship to face these challenges in a healthy way. As the song goes, "That's what friends are for...." You are never alone when you have a friend no matter the physical distance between you.

     

Reach out to others and allow the friendship to build and grown. There is nothing more beautiful between two humans than the beauty of this magical gift called friendship.





I am a retired RN with a Master's Degree in Human Development, who worked with clients in my private practice as a nurse therapist. The subject of friendship was often discussed and I tried to help each one to understand what friendship is or is not. www.outshineovariancancer.com

Friday, April 3, 2015

WELLNESS: TIPS FOR EVERYONE

What is WELLNESS?
             
               **Good health, physically & emotionally
               **Complete mental, physical, & social well-being
               **Making choices towards a more successful existence
               **A balance between mind, body, and spirit.


What can I do to achieve and maintain wellness?
  • Be optimistic
  • Turn your frown into a smile; find humor and laughter 
  • Eat nutritionally well balanced meals and snacks
  • Exercise
  • Relax
  • Meditation or deep prayer
To adopt all these behaviors into your life might seem overwhelming, so take one step at a time. Start with the one that seems like it might be easier and then when it becomes a natural part of you, move onto another one. 

ALL THESE STEPS MUST WORK TOGETHER TO ACHIEVE WELLNESS:

     Optimism is confidence and trust. A friend recently shared that this year she is going to focus on trust. Trust in people, events, and most importantly, GOD. Have you ever had someone break your trust? I am sure most of you will say yes. I know I have. When that happens, pray for that person, do not take responsibility for their action, and move on with your head looking up.

                         "You will never find a rainbow if you are looking down."

    

Smiling reduces stress and increases positive emotions. Children smile about 400 times per day; adults smile only about 20 times per day. No wonder watching children creates happiness: we long to bring out the child of playfulness, happiness, and joy back to us.
Click on this link and allow the joys of being a child again put a smile on your face.
        https://www.youtube.com/embed/pfxB5ut-KTs?rel=0

Dr. Bernie Siegel wrote Laughter is the Best Medicine where he outlines the many physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits from smiling to laughter. All I have to do is start recalling some Laurel & Hardy, Carol Burnett, Red Skeleton, and The Marx Brothers antics and every muscle relaxes, my blood pressure and pulse increases sending more oxygen around my body. Some experts say it has the same benefit as a good workout.

                                Wife: I look fat. Can you give me a compliment?
                                Husband: Your eyesight is perfect.


Nutrition in my opinion is one of well balanced meals of protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. I encourage you to seek out professional guidance from a dietician to find the most healthy and balanced diet for your body. When we eat the food that is right for us, every part of our being is healthier. If you are overweight, join Weight Watchers or seek help from a dietician.


Exercise and relaxation are both equally important. A professional in exercise programs will be able to design a regimen that is right for you. Relaxation is the time to do something that you enjoy quietly. For me reading, knitting, writing, and playing word games are fun and quiet activities that slow my pulse rate, lower my blood pressure, and release tension. What are your exercise and relaxing activities?

                    Walking, jogging, weight lifting, swimming, water aerobics, playing 
                                       racquetball, tennis, or soccer, and yes even yoga. 




Taking 15-30 minutes a day to deeply pray or meditate brings benefit to you physically, mentally, and spiritually. There are many ways to do this and I find the best for me is to lie down, listen to soothing music or a meditation tape, and quiet my mind. Those last 3 words are the hardest, but when you achieve that state it is when you "hear God."



The body you are born with is the only one you will have. You cannot trade it in for a new model as we do with cars, homes, appliances, etc. How we treat our body from our teens and all through our early years, has an affect on how our health is in later years:

                   Diabetes...result of poor diet, obesity, and familial predisposition
                   COPD...smoking, exposure to certain chemicals
                   Obesity...poor diet, lack of exercise, familial predisposition
                   
If we stop smoking NOW, eat a well balanced diet NOW, and started an exercise program NOW, we will enjoy more WELLNESS NOW.

                             ADD LOVE, KINDNESS, FAITH, AND FORGIVENESS!
                   

Thursday, March 26, 2015

LOVE YOUR LADY PARTS

 I am very pleased to present this most informative article about gynecologic cancer written by Karen Carlson, Executive Director of the Foundation for Women's Cancers.            


           Love Your Lady Parts: Join the Movement to End Women’s Cancers


     95,000 women will be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer this year – that’s another mother, daughter, sister, friend or colleague every five minutes. Too many are diagnosed in the late stages, and nearly a third will die.

     Far too few women – or men – know how to recognize the symptoms of these cancers, and where to turn for the best treatment and outcomes. Risks rise with age, weight and other factors.


We all applaud the great success and strides made by the breast cancer movement. The time has now come to think outside the bra and focus on our other lady parts – to raise awareness and research funding to defeat these less talked about, below-the-belt women’s cancers. It’s time to Love Your Lady Parts



The Foundation for Women’s Cancer urges all women to:

                   LEARN the symptoms
                   LISTEN to your bodies
                   ACT by getting regular checkups; reporting all unusual symptoms that persist          for more than two weeks; and seeking care from a gynecologic oncologist – specialists with an additional seven years of training – for the best outcomes.

What are the symptoms? They vary for the different GYN cancers: cervical, uterine/endometrial, ovarian, vaginal and vulvar.

Cervical
     **Bleeding after intercourse
     **Excessive discharge and abnormal bleeding between periods

Uterine/Endometrial
     **Abnormal vaginal bleeding
     **Bleeding after menopause; even brown spotting or a single spot after menopause should be checked

Ovarian
     **Bloating
     **Pelvic or abdominal pain
     **Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
     **Urinary symptoms: urgency or frequency

Vaginal
      **Bleeding
      **Pain
      **Problems with urination or bowel movements

Vulvar
     **Itching
     **Burning
      **Bleeding
      **Pain
      **New lump or ulcer in genital area

     For more information on risks, prevention and treatment of gynecologic cancers, please see How to Maintain Your Gynecologic Health on the Foundation for Women’s Cancer website.

     The National Race to End Women’s Cancer is the Foundation’s major annual awareness and fundraising event, supporting all our efforts. Held in early November in Washington, DC, this inspiring weekend unites survivors, loved ones, surgeons and other health providers, sponsors, runners and other supporters – gathered together with one voice to cast a bright light on cancers that have been kept in the dark too long.






Camille Grammer, Real Housewife of Beverly Hills and one-year survivor of endometrial cancer, lends her voice and celebrity as National Chair of the 2015 National Race to End Women’s Cancer. Join Camille and the thousands of other women – mothers, sisters, daughters, friends -- whose lives have been affected. Love Your Lady Parts and support this growing national movement to end women’s cancer. We warmly welcome you!






Karen Carlson has served as Executive Director of the Foundation for Women’s Cancer since 1991, leading the organization’s mission to support survivors, provide educational programs and resources, and raise awareness and research funding to defeat women’s cancers. Learn more and join the movement at foundationforwomenscancer.org. Register or donate to support the 6th Annual National Race to End Women’s Cancer on Sunday, Nov, 8, 2015 at endwomenscancer.org.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

MARCH: NATIONAL READING MONTH


The Importance of Reading to Children 
  
I am honored to have Janice Spina as my guest blogger this week. March is National Reading Month so it is only fitting to have an author and an advocate for children's literacy. Reading stimulates the imagination, provides information, and can help heal the body through this relaxing activity.


  Being an author of six children’s books I love to inspire children to read. All my children’s books (geared to preschool to grade three) are written in rhyme with life lessons with nothing that will frighten young children. My husband John, also my illustrator, and I work together to publish books under Jemsbooks.

    I have been writing since I was nine years old in the form of poetry and greeting cards. Rhyming has been my love because of its musical quality and cadence. Children seem to love this quality and listen more carefully when things rhyme. The rhyming makes stories more fun and entertaining to them.

    Children who have been read to by their parents or other family members have been known to do better in school and are more self-assured. My husband is a former grammar school principal and he saw evidence of this in many of the children who attended his schools through his teachers’ feedback.

    I am a former teacher aide and secretary in a school system where I spent many days working with children one-on-one in reading and math. I noticed children who knew some of the books I read to them and others who did not. I started some of my sessions with the children by asking them how many were read to at bedtime. There were always a few that did not raise their hands. I made sure that I spent more time reading to these children to help them catch up with the others. Their reading and writing skills were not as strong but improved as they spent more time reading along with me. I even recorded my voice reading books in one teacher’s class so that the children could listen to the stories as they turned the pages helping them to learn how to read by repetition.

    Spending time with your children is not only good for their health but yours too. It forms a strong bond and children feel safe, loved and confident.

    I will continue to write books that will entertain, delight and introduce children to a love of reading that will help them grow and become more confident and one day help them to lead more rewarding lives.

    My motto is Reading Gives you Wings to Fly. My logo is Jemsbooks – books for all ages. My goal is to encourage children to read.

The title of my books are: Louey the Lazy Elephant, Ricky the Rambunctious Raccoon, Jerry the Crabby Crayfish, Lamby the Lonely Lamb, Jesse the Precocious Polar Bear, Broose the Moose on the Loose.


My books are available here:
Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/janicespina7             


LAMBY THE LONELY LAMBRECEIVED THE SILVER AWARD FROM MOM'S CHOICE AWARDS! http://momschoiceawards.com



Thank you, Karen, for having me on your blog. It was a sincere pleasure to spend time with you and your readers.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

FOG: A METAPHOR OF LIFE





Yesterday morning the fog was thick as it hung over the lake in front of our house. I watched a fishing boat slowly drive from a nearby canal going deeper into the fog until it disappeared. There are days when we each might travel in a metaphorical fog (depression, fear, ignorance, sadness, etc.)



I grew up in Southern California two blocks from the Pacific Ocean. Many were the nights I would fall asleep to the calming sound of the fog horn.

One time my sister and I were on our dad's boat making our way up the coast from San Diego to Long Beach. The fog came in quickly and unexpectedly. Dad had each of us stay in the pilot room and watch out for any danger. Suddenly my sister yelled out, "I see a rock just ahead." How often are we met with an unexpected injury, illness, financial downturn, job change, etc.


Life's events are often like the fog. Sometimes we cannot see what is coming, but if we travel slowly and cautiously the sun will come out to reveal our path. When I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I did not know what my life's path would be. For the last 7 years, I have lived as a cancer survivor, an advocate, and a volunteer. I love my new life!


When we are in "the fog" we rely on the experiences and advice of others. They are like the foghorn to guide us to safety. The many ovarian cancer survivors, who I have been privileged to meet, have been a wealth of love, inspiration, and advice.

And, we all need family, friends, mentors to help us when we are lost in the fog. They help us to see any dangers ahead, guide us to new acceptance and understanding, and help us to be strong and avoid the rocks of self-pity, fear, and loss of hope. I am blessed to have so many people who have helped me steer away from the rocks.

The oncologist today said there was No Evidence of Disease from my recent CT Scan, but will keep me on Avastin for 3-6 months to be sure all cancer cells are destroyed. Hearing that was a "rock in my path" until my husband and I talked about the benefits for long term protection. The fog from disappointment cleared once we let the light of hope shine through.


I titled my book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, because I knew from other life experiences when the fog was surrounding me, that I needed to believe in the gift of outshining any negative event or person. It is the warm rays of the sun that burns away the fog. It is our use of positivity, humor, exercise, good nutrition, and a faith in a God or a power greater than us.

All proceeds go to gynecologic cancer research. Ovarian cancer is the most deadly and is the 5th leading cause of death for women.