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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.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

USING GOD'S GIFTS FOR HEALING.


    A few weeks ago my blog was about wellness tips with the intent of helping you become the healthiest and happiest you can be. Not perfect! We are mortal beings with our flaws but it is up to us to take the best care of all parts of who we are.



     I have always found relaxation a very healing time. It is when a person goes into a meditative state creating peacefulness, guidance from God, and a state of unconditional love. 

 
     There are also relaxing activities that are provided by God's work in nature and to marvel at the beauty of God's accurate creations.

      When was the last time you walked along a beach or shoreline? Felt the sand beneath your feet? Thought about the wonder of the tides and how the moon affects them? The human body is more than 60% water; blood is 92%; brain and muscles are 75% and bones are about 22%. Does the sound of waves relax you? Waterfalls bring you peace? If you have positive past experiences with water, then those same emotions can be recreated.




     I love to watch butterflies flit from flower to flower; dragonflies darting around as they catch small flying insects; or to watch animals sleeping peacefully, not having a care in the world. Animals do not toss and turn or walk the floors at night worrying about anything. The joy of animals to love, care for, and enjoy watching are gifts from which we can promote healing.



    Do you remember as a kid watching the clouds in the sky? Did you imagine people or animals in their formations? Did you marvel at the various colors and shapes they were? Why not take time each day to enjoy the clouds and get lost in your imagination?





Trees are one of my favorite plants. Some stand so tall and regal...like a Queen palm; others spread the limbs out wide as if they are ready to wrap me up in a hug; some produce beautiful flowers after a long winter; and others have such fragrant and colorful flowers from which delicious fruits come.
    I love to be beneath the limbs of the oak tree so common here in
Florida and the trunks are low enough inviting me to climb up them.
Their acorns provide food for God's little creatures.

     For some relaxing moments, take a blanket and sit under a tree; close
your eyes, let its shade cool you, and its limbs protect you.




When was the last time you smelled a flower? Have you seen a flower growing from a crack in a rock or sidewalk? Did you wonder how it got there? Marvel at the difficult challenge it overcame? Do you have a favorite flower? Is it fragrant? Is it the color or shape?

   An exercise I find healing is to look deeply into the center of a rose. See yourself as the rose that started out as a bud just as you started life as a baby. Over days the rose unfolds more and more of its pedals; the human grows from babyhood to an adult hopefully opening up more of themselves. As we look deeper into the center of the rose, so should we be looking deeper into our very being, our soul.


    Meditation and relaxation are important components to our everyday health. Looking at the beauty of God's work, appreciating it, taking it all in, listening to the wind, feeling the grass beneath our feet, smelling the flower, tasting the apple, and marveling at the wonder of nature's beauty.



"TAKING TIME EVERY DAY TO DO SOME DEEP RELAXATION OR MEDITATION, I BELIEVE HELPED MY BODY, MIND, AND SPIRIT TO BE HEALTHIER AND TO COPE WITH THE CANCER CHALLENGE."

LEARN MORE IN MY BOOK, OUTSHINE: AN OVARIAN CANCER MEMOIR. GET A SIGNED COPY BY CONTACTING ME AT kareningalls1941@gmail.com. 

ALL PROCEEDS GO TO GYNECOLOGIC CANCER RESEARCH.



Thursday, May 14, 2015

WHAT TO SAY TO A FRIEND WITH BREAST CANCER


     Face it, hearing a friend has cancer is never easy.  However, the words we utter and comments we make can have a profound effect on your relationship and her healing.  Many of us have heard things like “maybe if you had breast-fed your kids you wouldn’t have gotten it” or “hey, they’re just boobs and heck, now you get a free boob job” or “everything happens for a reason”.  Even something like “what is your prognosis, or what are your odds?” can strike a cord—believe me, if she wanted you to know that she’ll soon be kicking the bucket, she’d share that news with you. Our loved ones mean well, but they often make these comments out of fear, awkwardness or often just for a lack of something to say. So what’s a friend to do?

Don’ts:

  1. If you haven't had cancer or don't have a crystal ball, don't day things like "I know how you feel" or "you will be fine" or "don't worry, it will be okay." 
  2. Don't put on your "expert hat". Everyone does cancer in their own way, so please do not be an armchair quarterback or even comment on her chosen path for treatment. Offer your support, your love, but keep your advice to yourself.
  3. Don't tell her you know someone who had cancer and died.
  4. Don't say anything that begins with "at least"--as in at least you have the "good kind of cancer" or "at least it was caught early."
  5. Don't say "If there's anything I can do, just let me know." such a statement involves action on her part, not yours.
  6. Don't offer help if you don't intend to follow through.
  7. Don't tell her to have a positive attitude. While having the affirmation to beat cancer is a good thing, being required to be happy about it is not.
  8. Don't show up to visit with a brood of kids for her to feed, and don't expect her to entertain you.
  9. Don't avoid her because you can't deal with the situation.
  10. Don't expect her to reassure you that she will make it through.
  11. Do not expect a thank you note or even a response to an email...seriously, this is her time to heal, not your time to feed your ego or "feel good" hormones.

Do’s:

    1.     Offer to accompany her to the doctor.
    2.     Offer to field phone calls so she can get some rest.
    3.     Offer to pick her kids up at school and drop off dinner.
    4.     Send her notes, emails and texts to let you her know you are there for her
    5.     Invite her to go for a walk with you if she is up to it. Or you can offer just to sit and listen, really listen.
    6.     You can say, “I don’t know what to say” and give her a hug (see above—don’t avoid her— she needs you now).
    7.     Acknowledge that she is not just her cancer; she is a person with cancer who might like to talk about something other than her cancer.
    8.     Once treatment is over, acknowledge to her that there is no going back to the old normal. There’s nothing quite like a cancer diagnosis to challenge your inner core. We will hear, “but I thought you were done with treatment?” As if our lives are normal again post formal treatment. The truth is, nothing for her will ever be the same.
                            ~~If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any~~


     Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor, professional cancer strategist, speaker, and the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. She empowers women to choose the path for treatment that best fits their own individual needs. She is passionate about helping others move forward into a life of health and well-being. 
      Elyn has been featured on CNN Money, Talk About Health, and Breast Cancer Answers and has written for the Pink Paper, Breast Cancer Wellness, Integrative Oncology Essentials, Surviving Beautifully, Body Local and more, and writes the Options for Life column for the Natural Healing-Natural Wellness Magazine. 
     She hosts the Survive and Live Well Radio Show on the Cancer Support Network. She is on the Medical Advisory Board for Beat Cancer.Org and is on the Advisory Board to the Radical Remission Project. 
     Elyn lives in New York with her husband and two young boys. http://elynjacobs.com/about/

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A MOTHER'S LESSON


                                                             
   


 This is a photo of my mother taken several years before she passed away at the age of 68. She had a serious heart condition because of damage to her mitral valve when she contracted rheumatic fever as  young teenager. She was in and out of the hospital many times and took many medications.

     In 1962 when she was 50, she underwent emergency surgery to replace that valve with an artificial one. My step-father and younger sister actually drove in the night to the laboratory where the valves were being made. It was the day before Thanksgiving and she was the first patient to survive being placed on a heart-lung machine in an emergency situation and survive. She was written up in the local newspaper and several medical journals.

     Her recovery period was a long one of several months. Once she was discharged from the hospital, I quit college to return home and take care of her.

     Throughout her life she maintained a sense of humor, positivity, and a strong faith in her cardiologist, and an equally strong belief in God.

     Twenty some years later, she contracted stomach cancer from which she died. She wanted an autopsy done in that her journey with pneumonia, replacement of the valve, and her health in general might provide science with information useful for the future. Her valve was still working perfectly; it was the cancer that took her otherwise healthy body.

                                Mother's health history taught me several things:                        
                                 
                                      1. Eat healthy and a well balanced diet.
                                      2. Exercise
                                      3. Find humor in everything you experience
                                      4. Be positive; no need to cry over spilled milk, it won't put the milk back
                                      5. Believe in your physicians AND God
                                      6. Make the most of every day...every moment.

     She shared with me about three near death experiences she had. She recalled them perfectly: seeing the beautiful light, surrounded by loved ones who had already passed, and "hearing" words spoken to her. For those three times she was told "you are not ready," and "you still have work to do."

                 She said, "Karen, never fear death because it is a beautiful experience."

     Watching Mother deal with so many heart issues, I was determined I was going to be as healthy as possible. I did follow her advice about taking good care of my body. For the past 7 years I have faced the health challenge of ovarian cancer. I have endured major surgery and chemotherapy relatively well because for the past 70 some years I took good care of my body. At the time of being diagnosed I was only on one prescription pill, which was for insomnia, I was of normal weight, exercised, ate a well balanced diet, and was happy and content with life.

     However, no body is perfect, but as Mother said, "The better health we have, the better we can heal from or tolerate the process of any disease."





Award winning book about my journey with ovarian cancer, its symptoms and risk factors. Available only on Amazon.com.

ALL PROCEEDS GO TO OVARIAN CANCER RESEARCH.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

THE SLEDGE HAMMER IMPACT

I am happy to introduce Dr. Logan, my guest blogger this week. Her story is powerful and well written.  I know she would appreciate reading comments from each of you. (Karen Ingalls)



The Sledge Hammer Impact:
The Tragic Experience That Revealed My True Purpose in Life.

By Dr. M. J. Logan Family Nurse Practitioner

     Life? Is that what we call it?  I guess that’s the correct word in the English vernacular. There isn’t a day in “life” I have awoken since my youngest son was diagnosed with brain cancer and not wondered about the mysteries of this life I’m living. I often ask why we experience the things we experience, and what is God or the Universe (if that’s what you believe in- God’s my choice) trying to teach us?  My youngest son was diagnosed with Cancer at eleven. Darkness invaded our lives, soaring in reaping havoc and punishing us for some unknown bad deed, some misunderstood or misguided decision, and now my child was suffering for it.  Of course I asked why. Do I still ask why? Yes, every day. I am fortunately, God fearing and try living as a Christian to the best of my abilities.  As I sit here in my cold garage drinking overly sweetened coffee, I ponder a question one of my friends asked as she faced her own challenges.  “What is God trying to teach me?” Unfortunately, I had no answers, because I had the same questions, but wasn’t brave enough to ask aloud.

     You see, her story is like my story. The truth is my story is like many of yours. I learned I am not unique!  All of our stories have different characters, events, and the good and the bad may be different, however, the theme is synonymous.  We ask ourselves why we face challenges, if we treat others kindly, avoid the “isms” of the world, practice good works, strong faith, and give God all the praise!  I am grateful, yet I wonder why innocent children develop cancer or anyone for that matter. What was I supposed to learn from him suffering through brain surgery?  What were 32 radiation treatments to his entire brain and spine exhaustion, hair loss, weight, memory blurs, and grief supposed to teach me.  What was the lesson when the demonic chemotherapy entered his veins and I had to watch, and allow physicians to almost kill my baby to save him! I had to wake up daily with the uncertainty I was putting him through this for no good reason. Yes, I loved my God and my faith was strong, but I was still uncertain.  I knew God was not a respecter of persons, as many parents lost their children, and the guilt of knowing with all the suffering my child was enduring, he was actually thriving compared to some children. So I asked God “what is my purpose in life?” 

     My family and the families we bonded with depended on me for answers.   However, after a series of miraculous events in my life, my purpose was revealed! God Spoke to me and said, “You are here to teach, and your son is healed.”  So first, I had to learn to let go and let God, and began writing a children’s fantasy to escape and let God do his work.  I helped and encouraged families and they would respond “Thank you for your encouragement and inspiration”.   My students chose me as favorite teacher and wrote papers naming me as the one person who most inspired their nursing career. I received over 100 excerpts and someone said “That’s your purpose in life.”

     A sledge-hammer had pummeled our lives, and unfortunately, some had no idea how something of this magnitude takes over changing you forever.  That summer my novel was published, then book II was released, and my purpose revealed.  Previously I believed my purpose in life was to be some great historical/famous person. However, after months of feeling the impact of the sledge-hammer, my purpose was revealed.  It came to me in a dream where I met a little man on the sidewalk. When he spoke, he knew my story and I remember saying to him “Thank You. You have inspired and encouraged me!”  He responded, “Well, isn’t that what you do for others.”  Suddenly, I was walking up and down hills and valleys. I was tired, crying, and breathless. At the end of the hills was Oprah Winfrey (I realized I was dreaming lol). I remember saying the same as before “Thank You. You have inspired and encouraged me!”  She responded, “Well, isn’t that what you do for others.” 

     I woke up and rummaged through files sobbing, and out poured hundreds of remnants from my life (God only knows why I kept). They all carried the theme that I had encouraged and inspired someone. THAT WAS IT!  My purpose in life was simple “to encourage and inspire others!” Now I can do it as small as the little man sitting on the street, or I can do it as big as Oprah. However I do it, is up to me and my determination, but that doesn’t change my purpose and it must be done through God. Suddenly everything made sense; I’d written a fantasy novel about a terrible disease, with God’s word intricately woven throughout it!  I’d been doing what God wanted me to do- serving my purpose! I now knew my purpose as the sledge-hammer impact slowly lifted.  

     I told my friend her challenges were ultimately leading to her true purpose, because we all have one. Some of us may be disappointed that it isn’t to become a famous author, a billionaire, a professional athlete, or movie star. Truthfully, your purpose is what it is. How big or small, depends on the fight and determination within you! How much sacrifice, rejection, sadness, and failure can you endure? More so, how much integrity will you keep, and how many people do you refuse to step on to make it!  Oprah’s a perfect example of carrying out your purpose majestically; I believe she did it with determination, integrity, without hurting others intentionally or knowingly, and by the grace of God! That’s how I want to do it, and if it doesn’t happen for me before the day I close my eyes, I will know two things… 1. I will get to meet Jesus when I open my eyes again, and 2. I have served my purpose on this Earth.

Dr. M.J. Logan is a Family Nurse Practioner and the author of the “Maurpikios Fiddler” Series.  I thank you for sharing this poignant and touching story from which we all can learn.

For more by this Author please feel free to visit the following sites:
mjlogan.net
https://www.facebook.com/mjlogan8149
https://twitter.com/MJLogan8149

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