About Me

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My journey as a writer began as a child, but my first published book came as a result of my ovarian cancer diagnosis. The title is Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir which received three awards. All proceeds are donated to gynecologic cancer research. I am a member of Rave Reviews Book Club. Follow me on Twitter @KIngallsAuthor www.facebook.com/KarenIngalls, and you can find my books at www.amazon.com. ALL ORIGINAL CONTENT COPYRIGHT 2011 THROUGH 2018.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


It is with great pleasure that I welcome Alene Nitzky to today's blog. She is an oncology nurse, advocate for better health care, author, and founder of "Cancer Harbors." Her book, "Navigating the C: A Nurse Charts the Course for Cancer Survivorship" has been acclaimed as an outstanding guide for those facing cancer. Please leave comments or questions. Today she is providing important and helpful information for our doctor's visits.

                                          How to Get What You Need From Your Doctor

As an oncology nurse working in the community, I hear a lot about the physical issues that don’t go away after treatment. While your doctor focuses on treating the cancer itself, there are a lot of unwanted, debilitating, and sometimes permanent aftereffects that people are left to cope with on their own, without clear guidance on how to manage them. These can have severe impact on quality of life and everyday function, requiring teamwork with doctors.

Let’s look at this teamwork from both the medical side and patient side to improve communication, so you can get better results.

From the medical side, doctors focus on treating the cancer, and trying to save your life. Medicine is not the same as healing. They will take a medical approach to treating your symptoms when a more complex approach is needed to completely restore function and well-being. Physical or occupational therapy, and psychological counseling, are important facets of restoration when a person has had a traumatic experience or a loss that reduces their ability to do things that bring fullness and richness to everyday life.

In the clinic, the doctor is not seeing your experience- they only see you, physically, in the appointment, not your struggles at home, not your feelings about having major life changes, not the way your life has changed or your attempts to regain control over those aspects of your existence. If they can’t define, see, or quantify it, they have a hard time knowing what to do about it.
Doctors speak a different language than patients. They speak in data. Their language is objective, tangible, measurable, visible, and numerical. Patients, on the other hand, tend to speak in feelings: descriptive, subjective, qualitative, and experiential.

From the patients’ side, who wants more doctor appointments or to give up more time and money after all you’ve already been through? Patients may lack assertiveness and confidence in asking for help. You may fear being labeled a hypochondriac, after all, the cancer is gone- maybe you should just toughen up, deal with it, or maybe you’ve heard someone else say exactly that, directly or indirectly.

Why suffer if you don’t need to? The doctor cannot do everything, but what they CAN do is refer you to someone who CAN help you. Making a referral to a professional who has expertise that the doctor does not have, is part of the doctor’s job. But if you don’t ask, you won’t get what you need.

You might be asking, how can I ask for something that I don’t know about?

Make a plan before you see the doctor and decide what exactly you want to take away from that appointment.  If you have an unresolved, troubling symptom, tell the doctor you need a referral, even if you aren’t sure what you need, but make sure you explain to your doctor why you need help with the problem, how it affects your life, and how it is tied into your healing and recovery.

Make your appeal to the doctor brief and focused, don’t drift into long descriptions or stories. Use this three-part template: I am having __________________(this problem), it is affecting my life in this way ______________ (how it affects you), I think it would help if I got _________________(this service/a referral). Or if necessary, substitute: I’m not sure where to go or who to ask to get help with this, do you know someone you can refer me to, so I can keep seeking relief?

Most doctors will be pleased that you gave them the information they needed and asked them directly for what you wanted. They aren’t mind readers. They think about medicine first, not the whole picture unless you say something to prompt them into thinking more broadly.

Whether you like it or not, it is up to the patient to direct their own care. Even if you don’t have any medical background besides being a patient, you can still do a lot to make sure you get your needs addressed when you go to the doctor. It’s about communicating and justifying your requests. 

Remember the doctor is human. If you can communicate why this is important to your quality of life they will understand and be likely to help you.  It’s when they can’t see what’s happening that they skip over or dismiss things. 

In my book, Navigating the C, I have a list of questions to help you get more out of a doctor appointment. I am going to address two common ongoing effects from treatment that often require referrals, lymphedema and neuropathy, in the next post.

Alene Nitzky, Ph.D, RN, OCN is an oncology nurse, health coach and cancer exercise trainer in Fort Collins, Colorado. She is author of Navigating the C: A Nurse Charts the Course for Cancer Survivorship Care, available on Amazon. She develops programs in the community for people with cancer and their caregivers and educates people about cancer to build public support and understanding around cancer-related issues. Find out more about her programs at www.cancerharbors.com.
Disclaimer: This blogpost is not medical advice. For medical advice, consult a licensed physician.

Monday, March 12, 2018


I am pleased to have Joanie Shawhan as my guest blogger. She has had an amazing journey with ovarian cancer, which challenged everything that was important to her. Yet, she found peace and acceptance through 12 steps to spiritual wellness.
Please give her a warm welcome and leave a comment or question.


March is spiritual wellness month. I don’t believe that it is a coincidence that it usually coincides with the liturgical season of lent, a time when Christians focus on how the death and resurrection of Christ have transformed our lives.

We are a triune being—spirit, soul and body, so interrelated that the lack of health and wellness in one part of our being affects the other parts.

So, what is spiritual wellness?

For me, spiritual wellness is knowing who I am in Christ, and recognizing that He has a plan and purpose for my life.

But how do I maintain spiritual wellness when I feel as though my identity and purpose is derailed by illness?  

That was the question I asked myself when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I lost my job and my hair, and endured a chemotherapy that seemingly stripped me of my identity, plans and purpose.

But God did not leave me stranded in my malady. As I called out to Him, struggling over time, I discovered the following steps to help restore my spiritual health.

                          12 steps to spiritual wellness:

      1.  Journaling – I find writing my thoughts, prayers and feelings helpful as I sort through the plethora of emotions that churn during a health crisis.

      2.  Scripture – I ask God to reveal to me what verses are relevant to my situation. Then I read and pray these verses, sometimes over and over. I find the Psalms especially comforting as they cover the gamut of my emotional reactions to illness: sadness, loss, depression, betrayal, grief, fear, anxiety and anger.

      3.   Prayer and Praise  – Prayer and praise help me to focus on who God is. They help me recognize that, when I feel like my life is out of control, the God of the universe knows exactly what I am going through. He understands me, loves me and has compassion on me. Prayer does not always change my circumstances. But prayer changes me and offers me the ability to cope with my circumstances.

      4.  Healthy Relationships   My relationships are among the greatest blessings God has given me. These are the people who have laughed, cried and prayed with me, and helped me through times of crisis. They have been instrumental in honing my character, forming my identity and defining my purpose.

      5.  Rest and Relaxation –When I take time to do the things I enjoy, I feel refreshed, whether I read a book, watch a movie, take up in a hobby, listen to music or play an instrument. I find spending time outdoors invigorates me. I love the warmth of the sun on my face and the gentle breezes. Whether my scenery includes mountains, lakes, wildlife, flowers or simply the view from a park bench, the wonder of creation reminds me that no matter what is happening in my life, there is still beauty in my world.

      6.  Exercise – When I exercise, I need to remember to choose activities within my current physical limitations. I found this out when I attempted to take a short walk and almost didn’t make it home. Exercise boosts my mood, helps me sleep better and increases my energy.

      7.  Laughter  – Whether I peruse Far Side cartoon books, watch reruns of I Love Lucy or spend time with funny people, I love to laugh. Laughter releases endorphins and stimulates the immune system. According to Proverbs 17:22, “A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing.”

      8.  Let Go – The word for me this year is “Let go!” Let go of anger, bitterness and resentment, the toxic emotions that drain my energy and strength. Negative emotions suppress our immune systems, and contribute to muscle tension, digestive disorders, stress, depression and anxiety.

           9.   Confession – When I confess my sins, I acknowledge that I have made wrong choices. I in turn receive forgiveness and the opportunity to make right choices. I am reconciled to God and people, which opens the door to healing from the effects of my sin.

10.   Forgive – When I forgive someone who hurt me, my relationship with God is restored, and I release the other person from my wrath and judgment. I love this quote by Marianne Williamson—“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.” Refusing to forgive another only harms me.

       11. Helping Others When I help others, I reaffirm my sense of purpose. I may not be able to do for others to the extent I was able when I was healthy, but sometimes a simple phone call, text, or a card can bless another person. Doing for another others brings joy, combats depression and reduces stress.

1      12.  Take a deep breath  – A deep breath helps to calm me when I am anxious or stressed. Sometimes I take a deep breath before I open my mouth to speak so that I respond to a conflict rather than react and generate more tension.

               How have you learned to restore spiritual wellness during your health crisis?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy. Publishing credits include Coping with Cancer magazine and God Still Meets Needs. She is a speaker in the Survivors Teaching Students program sponsored by the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance. For further information check out her website: www.joanieshawhan.com

Tuesday, March 6, 2018



While recovering from major and extensive back surgery, my husband said, "For the last three years I have come to realize that I am now eating to live. I had spent the rest of my life living to eat."

                    That was a profound statement and a lesson from which all of us can learn.

We recently became more aware of the importance of organic foods. When you research how our animals are given hormones and such to stimulate their growth or how our soils are "enriched" with chemicals to produce more crops and in a quicker time...then you begin to question what are these doing to our bodies. I suggest you read the following articles:





I have provided articles from the traditional medical perspective and from the organic promoters. I will leave the decision up to you.

Experts recommend 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. So with every meal or snack include fruits and vegetables. Here are some suggestions for meals. Go to healthy recipes on your computer and find meal planning and recipes.

            *Make a smoothie for your breakfast
            *Scrambled eggs, melon, and a banana
            *Fruit plate and rye crisp for lunch
            *Fish, vegetable, and salad for supper

A very important part of your meal planning is to READ THE LABEL. Do not consume food with white sugar, fructose corn syrup, maltose, brown sugar. Avoid breads because the grains are too refined and often have sugars added.

According to most nutritional experts we should avoid:
                  Processed Sugar

AVOID all soda pop drinks. Here are the reasons:

            High in sugar
            High in phosphoric acid which interferes with absorption of calcium
            Artificial sweeteners
            Tap water that contains chlorine, fluoride, and trace metals
             Linked to obesity (even with so-called diet sodas), diabetes, gout, heart disease
             High fructose corn syrup
             No nutritional value
             Bad for the teeth
             It can remove the tarnish on some metals...do you want that in your body?
                     Club soda, purified water, and 100% fruits juices are the best choices.

How about your sweet tooth?  With a little research on the Internet you will find many recipes that will satisfy your sweet tooth and be healthy. Here are just a few:

www.eatingwell.com › Healthy Recipes › Mealtimes › Healthy Dinner Recipes

            We only get one body. We cannot trade it in like a worn-out car. 
                I believe it is the vessel in which our soul resides and therefore,
                    must be well nourished, exercised, respected, and loved.