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My journey as a writer began as a child. I wrote poems and short stories which were my way of dealing with various life changing events. I have three published books and several articles for journals and websites. Follow me on Twitter @KarenIngalls1, www.facebook.com/KarenIngalls, and you can find my books at www.amazon.com. My first book is about ovarian cancer and received two awards. All proceeds will be donated to funding gynecologic cancer research. My second book is a novel Novy's Son, about one man's attempt to find love and acceptance from his father. This is an all too common problem in our society. My third book is about the mistress and model for Augustus Saint-Gaudens, America's premier sculptor from 1880-1910. ALL ORIGINAL CONTENT COPYRIGHT 2011 THROUGH 2016.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

HOME SWEET HOME

Have you ever revisited the home you grew up in?

      What are your favorite memories of your home?

            Does it seem smaller than you remember it being?

                   Did you share a bedroom with a sibling?

                        What did your bedroom look like? Posters? Books or toys?

Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel had a most interesting and nostalgic article when he revisited the home in which he grew up. His parents were downsizing and they were moving. The kids came home for one last night to sleep there.
He talked about the kitchen table "where my mother always insisted all five of us gather for dinner." He remembered every step that would creak when he was trying to sneak in after curfew.
           "My parents are older. Downsizing is simply an inevitable, if emotional, chapter in the book of life we all write for ourselves."

Jim and I downsized when we sold our St Paul, MN home to take up permanent residence in Florida. It was an emotional and exhausting move, but it was time to make such a change. I remember every detail of that home we lived in for twenty years.

My memories of my childhood home from 9 to 16 years old are clear and real. About 15 years ago my sister and I revisited that home and I could not get over how much the front yard had shrunk! Truth be told, it did not shrink, I just grew up.

Mr. Maxwell concludes his article with a wonderful tribute to his parents, both of whom were positive and caring people. The kind of role models every boy or girl should have. "But if that final night taught me anything, it was to strengthen my resolve as a father and husband myself. So that when I finally leave my own house, I might also leave behind a legacy for which my children will be as grateful as I am for the one my parents left us."

The message in my book, Novy's Son is about passing the Iron John concept on to our children. This theory was popularized by Robert Bly in the 1970's from his book, Iron John.  Murray who is Novy's son searches for love and acceptance from his father. It is based on my father's life and other men who I had counseled when I worked as a nurse therapist.

Yes, a home is more than it's size, number of bedrooms, or how much the staircase creaked. It is about the people in it. Home Sweet Home should be more than a structure where people only exist, but a place of peace, harmony and love.

My thanks to Scott Maxwell (maxwell@orlandosentinel.com




Novy's Son is available in Kindle or paperback at Amazon. (www.amazon.com/Novys-Son-Selfish-Genius

Book of the Month winner through Rave Reviews Book Club





Saturday, May 7, 2016

CREATING A NEW ME

                                        May 8th is World Ovarian Cancer Day.
                                       May 8 is Mother's Day in the United States.
           Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir is Rave Reviews Book Club "Push Week" book.
                
                  I was named the winner for this story How I Can Create A Better Me.

The lights from the recovery room were very bright as I drowsily awoke from the anesthesia. I peered through my half-open eyes and saw my surgeon standing next to my bed. He reached over and took my hand. Just then my eyes quickly searched for the clock on the wall. “Oh, no,” I groaned. The clock read 4:35 pm. I had been in surgery far longer than the two to three hours I had hoped to be. I knew that the longer the surgery, the greater was the chance that I had cancer.

Dr. Boente squeezed my hand and gently said, “I am sorry but your tumor was cancerous.” Tears began to flood my eyes as he went on to say, “However I feel confident we got it all.”

Thus began a new life. No longer a healthy sixty-seven year old who only took one prescription medication, which was for insomnia. I was a retired nurse enjoying life living in Minnesota part time, then spending the winters in Florida.

From that day forward in June 2008 I would be living with ovarian cancer as my constant companion. Twice I would lose my hair and go through chemotherapy for three months and then again for two years. Many were the visits with physicians, numerous blood tests, and scans. I live with side effects and monitor everything about my health.

I read several books and many articles about this lesser known cancer. I was a Registered Nurse and had no knowledge about ovarian cancer. The only thing I did know was that there were very few survivors.

During the early weeks of this new life I began to ask God some questions: What am I to do with my life for whatever time remains? How can I best serve Him? What lessons am I to learn? In other words, “Will I be creating a better me?”

I know there are areas of my life where I need to be a better me. It is not always easy to admit them to myself, let alone anyone else. However, it is a mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy thing to do.  Two such areas are: one is the need to let go of regrets; and secondly to be a more worthy child of God.

Since a little girl around nine or ten years I had found ways to deal with some not so pleasant things. In the 1940’s my parents divorced and both had remarried. I was angry that I could not say, “My mom and dad” in one sentence as all of my classmates did. I rarely saw my dad. We moved out of the only home I knew and to a different city far from my dad and grandparents. My stepfather betrayed my trust through sexual, emotional, and physical abuse. I was angry and hurt that my mother chose to stay with him and send me away. She did not protect me. I went to live with my dad, but again it meant a new school, distant city, and a different home.

Early on I found solace, answers, and a sense of hope by journaling, writing poems, short stories, and even a novel. I never shared them with anyone. I did not trust that people wouldn’t laugh at me. I had no self-confidence, but I kept writing just for me.

I learned from my grandmother about healthy exercise, good nutrition, laughter, and positive thinking. Over the years they were lifestyle choices that kept my mind and body in optimum states.  They each release endorphins, improve blood circulation, and increase the body’s immune system. I have always strived to be healthy and it is still true today.

Growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s girls were looked upon as tomboys if they liked to compete in sports or exercise. I always loved to walk and play volleyball and those were acceptable types of activity. Today I walk, exercise at the YMCA, and play golf.

My grandmother in particular taught me about vitamins, minerals, herbs, and good nutrition. She would say, “Do not eat much red meat, but eat lots of fruits and vegetables.” With her encouragement I replaced processed sugar with honey and gave up sodas and caffeinated beverages. I have never had a weight problem or been on a diet. I have always incorporated complementary medicine into my daily life. I used massage, herbs, acupressure, Reiki, yoga, and deep meditation to enhance my body’s ability to tolerate chemotherapy and improve its effectiveness.

Laughter viewed as the best medicine was popularized by Dr. Bernie Siegel. When we laugh or smile gray clouds disappear and the sun shines brightly. Our spirits are lifted and we believe we can overcome any obstacle. I recall the day when I had my head shaved for the first time. My husband rubbed my now baldhead and kissed the top of it. I cried and then laughed and said, “Grab the camera and let’s take pictures of me with different hats, scarves, the wig, and bald.” I was soon making different faces or standing in a variety of poses. Then I posted them on Facebook and sent emails to friends and family.

Closely related to laughter is the power of positive thinking. When I read Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking so many years ago, I knew this was an important part of being a better me. When I learned I had cancer I certainly went through the stages of grief, but I quickly took the attitude what can I learn and use to make me a better person?

I did bring intentional prayer and meditation ever more deeply into my daily life. There was one particular prayer of St. Francis of Assisi that brought clarity, peace, and purpose:
                        Lord, help me to live this day quietly, easily
                        To lean upon thy great strength trustfully, restfully
                        To wait for the unfolding of Thy will patiently, serenely
                        To meet others peacefully, joyously
                        To face tomorrow confidently, courageously.

            My spiritual life is a central part of who I am. I know that God and His angels are always with me. I try to always be open to their guidance and help. Yet, I know I fall short. The most important spiritual lesson I have learned is that of forgiveness. To forgive my stepfather and mother have been powerfully healing.

            I wrote in my journal throughout my cancer journey. I trusted a friend to read my journal upon her request. When she returned my journal she said, “Karen, you must get this published. You have an important message for everyone with a serious illness or a life-altering challenge. And, you are a gifted writer.” I was shocked by her enthusiastic response. She had been a friend for a long time and we shared everything. I trusted her and somehow knew that this was a scary step I needed to take. The result was Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, which won an award. It has opened many doors for me to speak to groups of women, nursing and pharmacy students.

The better me is an eight-year ovarian cancer survivor who has since published two more books. One of which is the novel I wrote when in my twenties. I have two blogs I write in every week. One reaches out to the general public and the other for readers and authors. My purpose in life is to bring awareness about ovarian cancer; to be supportive to those with cancer; and to bring information, hope, joy, and comfort to others through my writing.

Am I a better new me? Yes. I am more fulfilled and happier because I know that I am trying to do God’s will. I chose to not let cancer take my life. I chose to let my life be richer because of it.

I also know that creating a better me is a process. It is part of life’s journey. A favorite quote is “You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.” (David Emerald from The Empowerment Dynamic)
             
            Life is a beautiful gift that should never be taken for granted. Every minute is an opportunity to create a more beautiful and better you---and me.




My book is available at www.amazon.com/Outshine now at a reduced rate for the Kindle version. A limited time offer.
All proceeds go to gynecologic cancer research.


My thanks to Rave Reviews Book Club for all it does for us authors. I encourage all authors and avid readers to join this fine organization.            

Thursday, April 28, 2016

HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW*

Larry Magnum sang the song "Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow" at a birthday party for a dear friend. Listen to it, tap your foot, and let it put a smile on your face. https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=larry+mangum+Hair+today+gone+tomorrow&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

Whether it is due to aging, stress, heredity, illness, or chemotherapy, hair loss can be devastating to some.

     It is an expected part of aging so most people accept it for what it is. However one might see more
     toupees, hair pieces, or extensions.

     Yes, stress can cause hair loss among many other health issues. Lower the affects of your stressors
      through relaxation, laughter, exercise, meditation, or sharing with a confidante.

      Heredity is not something with which we have any control. Look at your parents and you can be
      pretty well guaranteed you hair (or lack of) will be pretty close to the same.

     The more serious and long lasting the illness, the more likely there could be some loss of hair or
      damage to the hair. There is a disease called alopecia which causes permanent hair loss.

     Having cancer is bad enough, but losing one's hair to chemotherapy is an added loss that is very
     emotionally painful.


Whatever the reason that our hair is gone today, what is important is how we cope with it.  Do we laugh it off? Cry and hide? Walk with pride and show the baldness off? Wear hats, wigs, or toupees?

OR we can be like this person in the following story:


      There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head.
      "Well," she said, "I think I'll braid my hair today." So she did and had a wonderful day.
      The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head.
       "Hm-m-m," she said. "I think I'll part my hair down the middle today." So she did and she had a grand day. 
       The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head.
      "Well," she said. "Today I'm going to wear my hair in a pony tail." So she did and she had a fun, fun day. 
       The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there was not a single hair on her head. 
       "Yeah!" she exclaimed. "I don't have to fix my hair today!" 
                                      (Author Unknown)
   http://www.spiritual-short-stories.com/spiritual-short-story-100-Three+Hairs.html





Shelley Smith a SportsCenter reporter has been diagnosed with breast cancer. In an interview she stated, "I’m bald. Yep. Was sitting around one day wondering why the dog, Rosalita Rosario, was shedding so much? Then I realized it wasn’t her. . . it WAS ME!" 

http://www.espnfrontrow.com/2015/02/beautifully-bald-shelley-smith-continues-battle-cancer/






There is beautiful beauty queen pageant Kayla Martell who has alopecia and refuses to let her baldness keep her from following her dream. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1346025/Bald-beautiful-Beauty-queen-suffering-alopecia-Miss-America-hair.html




 Right now I am off of chemo, my hair has grown back, and my scarves and hats are packed away. I donated my wig to the chemotherapy room for anyone to have. I just never wore it and know I will not in the future.
Most of us can make jokes and laugh about our particular stage of baldness. We grieve at first and eventually come to acceptance.
What is not acceptable is the reason why we are bald...illness, alopecia, or cancer are not acceptable reasons. Research is desperately needed for the causes and treatments for these. 

My personal research cause is for gynecologic cancer. For more information as to where to donate contact Ovarian Cancer National Alliance or National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.


*Credit for the title to this blog goes to Larry Magnum, a talented singer, musician, and songwriter.                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnfYIcbJK-A




Monday, April 11, 2016

RAINBOWS AFTER THE STORM

      My thanks to Cindy Helgerson, who was willing to be interviewed for this blog. All too often we are unwilling to discuss the death of someone we love; or to talk about our own mortality. Why we are uncomfortable with this subject is a sad a testament of our society. I believe that through death we learn about living.

When your child dies, how do you cope? How do you keep going day in and day out? How many times do you ask, “Why”?  Is your faith strengthened or weakened?

     Cindy’s son unexpectedly died from fatty metamorphosis of the liver. Zack was only 27 years old with a long and productive life ahead of him. However, he found alcohol as his way to deal with his challenges.
     His mother states, “He was a young man not meant to navigate in this world.” He had dyslexia and reading was his greatest challenge. She continues, "The school system puts all the dyslexic kids in a box and teaches them with all the same methods." Zack’s mother is a retired special education teacher and she now sees her mission is to design teaching programs that can be individualized.

    Cindy states with full conviction, “God decided it was too painful for Zack to continue to live in this world. So, he was taken home to be with God.”

    Zack loved to cook, plan and be a part of any party or holiday. He had a keen sense of the artistic and applied it in several forms. “He was a designer.”

     “My greatest regret is that I was not with him when he died. That is the hardest thing I still struggle with today.” She wipes some tears.


     Zack was also a wonderful friend to his cousin, Taylor. Though they were almost 10 years apart in age, they always had a special connection. Their lives were intertwined, and even in their deaths. Taylor was killed in a head-on collision and was buried just 17 days after her cousin’s funeral.

    To lose two young and vibrant people in such a short period of time is a tragedy that few of us will experience. The strength of Zack and Taylor’s families is remarkable and inspirational. In memory of them the family has started a program called: Rainbows After The Storm. 
              
       Duane and Candis Fancher (aunt and uncle of Zach and Taylor) were a part of a 75 member medical mission team who spent ten days in Tacloban after a November 2013 typhoon struck and devastated the city.

     "On the evenings of both their memorial services, storms struck, and clearing skies produced 
       rainbows. Rainbows After The Storm seeks to honor their lives by providing hope, health, and 
       happiness to the people of the Philippines."

    They collect crutches, canes, wheelchairs, walkers, eyeglasses, body washes, and loofah sponges.

     The family is strengthened by their faith in God, themselves, and a sense of hope. “Every morning the first thing I do is give thanks for this day. I pray for God to fill me with inner peace," Cynthia says. "Since my son and niece’s deaths I am more attuned to other people and more readily reach out to them.”

                                                 
           

  Her final message is for each of us:
                               Live each day.
                              Bring every day to the Lord.
                              Thank and trust God will help you.
                              Don’t dwell on deaths.
                              Carry on and try to do positive things.





               This song was played at Zac’s funeral. I invite you to please listen to it:
                            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fahr069-fzE

Beloved Israel "Iz" Ka'ano'i Kamakawiwo'Ole sings his renowned medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World." Israel was among the most celebrated of Hawaiian performers with a kind and gentle spirit that is evident in his touching voice. He tragically died in 1997 of a heart attack at an early age (38) and has been sorely missed by his many adoring fans.



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

BUT YOU DON'T LOOK SICK

       Over the last 8 years people have said, "But you don't look sick." Even when I was in the depths of chemo and recovering from surgery, these were the words I heard.
                       
                                                           I then ask myself...

                                     Were they said from an honest observation?
                                     Were they meant to make me feel better?
                                     Or, what did these words really mean?

     Growing up I heard frightening descriptions of horrible pain, surgeries, and eventual deaths of relatives who had cancer. "Chemotherapy is toxic and will kill you." "There are no medications that can take away the pain from cancer." "People lose their hair and spend their whole time sick in the bed."

              ** Such descriptions are not healthy to hear at any time.
              **When I was told that I had ovarian cancer, these negative words came to mind.
              **Yet I was determined that I would face the chemo, pain, and hair loss with positivity.

    How does one live each day knowing they have or had cancer? I LIVE IT THE SAME AS BEFORE!
               **Except I live each moment to its fullest with gratefulness.
               **Now I appreciate the little things far more than I did before.
               **I am more assertive in making God a part of every thought, word, or action.

     Many of us with a serious illness do not look sick, while others do. Attitude and where we are in our treatment schedule has a lot to do with it.


     I read an article about how one young lady explained to her friends what it was like having lupus. Here is the link: http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/


                              A lesson for those who are living a life of wellness:
  • Treat those with an illness the same as you did when they were healthy.
  • It is okay to ask questions such as "What is it like to have cancer, lupus, or other such disease?"
  • We do NOT need or want pity...that is destructive to everyone.
  • Laugh with us. It is the best medicine.
  • Cry with us. As tears flow out, love flows in.
  • Be honest and say, "I don't know what to say."
  • Be open and offer, "I am here if you want to talk about it."
  • "Let me know how I can help." 


THE POWER OF LOVING TOUCH IS IMMEASURABLE. PLEASE GIVE US HUGS, HOLD OUR HANDS, WRAP AN ARM AROUND OUR SHOULDER, PUT YOUR FACE NEXT TO OURS. 



Friday, March 18, 2016

WHO PACKS YOUR PARACHUTE?



     I have never parachuted from a plane...nor do I want to. Sky jumping or diving is not on my bucket list. However, there is a deep message from the question,

                "Who packs your parachute?"


     Did you know that there is an exact and precise way to store the parachute? One step done incorrectly could mean the parachute will not open or will do incorrectly. This is a life or death matter.

     So who or what brings a sense of safety or peace into your life? Who or what protects you? Who or what do you rely on?

     There was a time in my life when I was a teenager, I relied on my dad for safety and protection. Though I did not live with him I knew he was only a phone call away.
And, one day at 17 years old I made the phone call and he got a traffic ticket when speeding to get to me.

     During my junior year of high school while living with my dad, two people began to pack my parachute. One was a classmate named Judie, who introduced me to God by inviting me to the youth group at her church. She was always with me talking about God and listening to my fears. I chose to be baptized one year later.

     The second person was Arleigh Castle, a neighbor and my role model. I adopted her as my "aunt" which she still is today at the age of 92. She listened to me and carefully advised me helping me to pack my parachute correctly.


     God has never left my side nor have I left His. I completely put my trust in Him as He guides who I choose to be a part of my life. Whose advice will I listen to? Who can I confide in? Who do I trust? If I keep God as the Master Packer of my parachute, then those helping Him will guarantee that my parachute will open and I will land on earth safely.


Here is a true story that you might have heard or read before. But it is a powerful one and well worth hearing/reading again.
                             
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqtUlMA3Jqo
                                                                     http://speaker.charlieplumb.com/about-plumb/parachute-story/

Just as in my journey with cancer, I have trusted Dr. Matthew Boente and Dr. Robert Holloway to "pack my parachute" with the best medical care. Their nurses and staff have been phenomenal.

My newer journey as an author has been guided by some very remarkable people: Amy Quale, Dara Beevas, Jay Monroe, Ruth Fisher, and those at Beaver's Pond Press. All of them have put encouragement, support, and help in my parachute. I have landed on both feet safely with the publication of three books. See my new author website: www.kareningallsbooks.com  All books are available on www.amazon.com


.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

KNOW, LISTEN, ACT

KNOW YOUR BODY...

                  LISTEN TO YOUR BODY...

                                   ACT ON WHAT YOUR BODY SAYS TO YOU...



THE FOLLOWING ARE REAL STATEMENTS BY WOMEN
JUST LIKE YOU AND ME:
"I was probably sick for two years, but I brushed it off---and that's what bothers me most," says survivor J.S. now 50, who was diagnosed in 2007 at age 41."I had become very aware of my own body," she explains. "That's what drove me to press for a diagnosis."

M.S. then 62 felt bloating and other symptoms slowly take shape this past winter. She initially dismissed them. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer at a late stage.


I was 68 and my only symptoms was loading. Diagnosed Stage IIC in 2008. The first doctor ordered
an ultrasound and CT Scan.  

"In Aug. of 2012 I went to ER and saw DR. He did not order any type of scans...next time I was in ER Jan. 1, 2013, they did a cat scan and found a 10b tumor that was malignant" K.B.

From K.L. "My OBGYN had misdiagnosed me for seven months until I demanded a transvaginal ultrasound when a six cm tumor was found."



                        


This mother lost her daughter to ovarian cancer. Visit http://www.thinkoflaura.org

And even an 8 year old was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

A two year old also was diagnosed.


                          
                             PAP smears do NOT detect ovarian cancer. Only cervical.
                              All women should get pelvic and rectal exams every year.



         Why are we hesitant to talk about the area below our waist? 
           We women need to speak out and advocate for our bodies. 

  DEMAND a CA125 and a transvaginal ultrasound BEFORE going from doctor to doctor. 

            Let's rule out ovarian cancer first...then consider 
                         other diseases or disorders. 

                        LEARN FROM GILDA RADNER!"

At a recent conference in West Palm Beach I met some outstanding women. Many of them shared how many years they had been survivors. I heard responses like  "I AM:

  • Just a few months
  • Three months
  • Two years
  • Six years
  • Twenty-nine years
  • Thirty-seven years
  • Forty-eight years
                    Congratulations to all who are survivors for however long it has been.

And congratulations to those women who seek out medical intervention as soon as they recognize    some symptoms and act on them.

Some of us need encouragement to go to the doctor from our spouses, partners, family member 
or friends. Listen to them and go see the doctor. What can it hurt?! It might save your life