About Me

My photo
Ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in 1 of 72 women; 14,000 will die. Please know the symptoms and risk factors: read Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir. Books at www.amazon.com. ALL PROCEEDS GO TO GYNECOLOGIC CANCER RESEARCH. I am a member of Rave Reviews Book Club and Rave Writer's International Society of Authors, and Patient Leadership Council for Tesaro, Inc. I WILL NOT USE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE THAN CONTACTING YOU DIRECTLY. ALL ORIGINAL CONTENT COPYRIGHT 2011 THROUGH 2018.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


     Victor Hugo's magnificent story, Les Miserables, is about love and hate, war and peace, justice and injustice, kindness and ruthlessness, greed and generosity, and the power of love for country, God, and people. It could be a story written about any country or time of history. One of the main characters, Fantine, is an attractive, independent and financially stable young lady whose life ends in extreme poverty and loss of dignity and beauty. Her only purpose in life is to provide for her daughter. She sings the following words:

                                             I dreamed that love would never die
                                          I dreamed that God would be forgiving

       I dream and believe that love will never die. I see the world and people in it like the ocean's waves. Sometimes they are swirling around in an eddy; or rising high and strong; while other waves gently move; and others splash against jutted rocks, or smoothly washing ashore.

     But no matter the weather or tides, the waters of the oceans keep rolling and moving. The weather symbolizes life's events and challenges; the moon which governs the tides is like God, who is always there for us. And God is Love.

     The underlying theme of my book Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, is that there is no storm we cannot weather through; there is no obstacle we cannot climb over or go around; and if we let God lead us love will never die and God will be forgiving.

     I dream of a world without cancer; a world of peace and love; and a world where humans forgive each other just as God forgives us.

     Order Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir at www.BeaversPondBooks.com and receive 20% off when you use the coupon code "Karen" during checkout. Proceeds go to ovarian cancer research.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas: What Is Its True Message?

Santa Claus, Reindeer, Elves,
      Toys, Presents,
             Gingerbread Houses & Christmas Cookies,
                     Christmas Tree All Decorated and Lit,
                             Stockings Hung From The Mantle,
                                     Jingle Bells, Frosty The Snowman, Little Drummer Boy, etc.,
                                            Crowded Stores Decorated With Lights,
                                                      Snow, SnowAngels, Sleigh Rides, Sledding,
                                                                Toys For Tots, Salvation Army Bell Ringers,
                                                                          Houses Decorated With Colorful Lights....


 One year we celebrated Christmas on Dec. 26th. Our youngest son, David who was a sophomore in college, arrived about an hour late with a large plastic bag slung over his shoulder, just as Santa does every Christmas Eve. "Ho, ho, ho, and Merry Christmas," he said, placing the large bag on the floor in front of his two brothers, niece and nephew (ages 5 and 3), and my husband and me. He opened the bag and before giving each of us our unwrapped gift, he had a story to tell about how and why he picked it out. When it came time to give me mine he shared the following story, "Well, Mom, I was just about out of money when I saw this." He then handed me a framed plaque with a message of love called MOM. David continued to say, "I was short on cash so I went to the ATM, but the machine ate my card, because I left it in there too long. I went to the store clerk and told her I was just short by $1.87 to buy this plaque for my mother; how the ATM machine took my card; and that I didn't have my checkbook with me. The clerk smiled saying, 'Well, I think we can work this out. If this is what you want to give to your mother, then you shall do it. She will love it. Merry Christmas!'"

        The spirit of Christ's birth was demonstrated in our son's earnest and sincere acts of giving, the kind and understanding heart of the sales clerk, and the unconditional love and joy we shared as a family. The true message of Christmas is:

                                                                      Gifts of Love
                                                          Family & Friends Together
                                                       Celebrating the Birth of Christ

Please share a favorite memory you have that demonstrates the true meaning of Christmas. I would love to read them.


                                                MERRY CHRISTMAS


Thursday, December 13, 2012

God's Grip: Taking Life Day By Day

I am pleased to introduce my guest blogger, Elaine Stock.  It has been my honor and privilege to meet her through the medium of cyberspace. I invite you to leave comments, and continue to be connected with her on her blog and Facebook site, which are listed below.

"I'm dying," she said.

     There was a collective gasp throughout the classroom. We were twelfth graders taking a semester of psychology; some of us were genuinely interested in studying what made others tick, then there were those students who thought this elective class would be a no-brainer A. It turned out that it didn't matter since our teacher was excellent in getting us to extend our adolescent soupy brains.
     What was this guest speaker doing standing in front of the classroom, telling us she was dying? We were kids. We had at least a half million years of life ahead of us. Who wanted to deal with death?
    Then, her next line tipped our desks even more. "You're dying too. From the moment we're born we spend each second dying, each second that we age we draw nearer to death."
    You must admit this speaker knew how to seize a teen's brain. But, is it true? Do we spend each second of life dying, or do some of us spend each second living?

Death surrounds us.

    A guest on my blog, Everyone's Story, slated for mid-December, just perished in a house fire the day after Thanksgiving. Her husband was beside her in this tragedy.
    Back in the 80's and 90's I lost three women in my life: my mother, grandmother, and my aunt. Five years ago my oldest childhood friend died after a 13-year battle with breast cancer.
    I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that I presently know quite a few people struggling with either cancer or some other horrid disease. As for myself, I've had a few scares, but thank God each episode was benign.

God's grip.

    This is probably an odd piece to write before Christmas and the New Year holidays. Please don't think of me as Bah! Humbug! Scrooge-ish.
    As a Christian I know Heaven is nothing short of...well, heaven...eternal bliss. Hey, count me in! But do I want to rush it? Of course not. Why? Honestly, I don't know what tomorrow will bring. Life is rough. Life is interesting. Life is scary. Life is a bowl of mixed fruit: some sweet, others tart.
    All I know is that I'm living. I'm dying. I'm holding onto Christ's hands tighter and tighter these days, breathing a bit easier because I know that although my hands may get sweaty with human anxiety, I know that God forever has a grip on my hand.

Author's Bio:

Elaine Stock never expected that a college major in psychology and sociology would walk her through the see-saw industries of food service and the weight-loss business; co-ownership with her husband in piano restoration; and ten years in community leadership. All great fodder for creating fiction. 
Elaine’s blog, Everyone’s Story (http://elainestock.blogspot.com), has been graced by an awesome international viewership from over 125 countries. Everyone’s Story hosts weekly interviews and reflections from published authors unpublished writers and readers who share inspirational stories.
A former RWA member, she has presented writing workshops. Presently involved in ACFW, she was a 2011 semi-finalist in the prestigious Genesis Contest in the contemporary fiction division. Her first short story was published on Christian Fiction Online Magazine.

With her own childhood void of God, and becoming a Christian first in her twenties, she is targeting her novels to adult audiences with the central theme that God’s unconditional and always-present love is with each one of us, even during tough times. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Coping: Facing Life's Challenges in Healthy Ways

       The first time I heard the words, "I'm sorry. You have cancer," all I could do was moan "Oh, no," and slowly let my body and soul absorb the words. It was a few days before I was able to ask questions and truly listen to the statistics, treatment plan and prognosis. I do not remember crying that often for the week I was in the hospital recovering from my debunking surgery. I had already cried for two weeks out of fear of the unknown. Instead I concentrated on the ways I had dealt with other challenges: sexual abuse, divorce, alcoholic parents, and untimely deaths.

    I had learned from my grandmother and an adopted aunt the following healthy ways to face any fear, illness or tragedy:

                   * meditation,
                                *nutritious meals,
                                           *and most important, a faith in God.

       By the time I was home from the hospital I had come to terms with "I have cancer," and tried to live each day with a determination that I would live it fully, healthily, and joyfully. In my book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, I explain in more detail how I used each of the above mentioned coping methods.

       Today I want to focus on my faith in God, because it is the foundation of everything else. Without God, I am lost; an empty shell. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross once said, "People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." 

My light is knowing and accepting God's love for me. The cover of my book exemplifies God's light and my shining through challenges, even cancer.

Faith does not mean cure. Faith for me means trusting God will give me strength, courage, and resolve; that I will still live my life in love, forgiveness, and generosity for however long I live.

     Is your light shining? Do you let fear control you? Are you giving your physical body the nutrition and exercise it needs? Do you laugh, giggle, find humor in everyday things? Are you holding on to grudges, jealousies, hatred, or anger? Thank you for sharing.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

God's Fingerprints

God's miracles are all around us:


                 Animals, flowers, trees, insects, mountains, oceans, meadows, etc.


                                            Parents, children, neighbors, friends, spouses, births, etc.


                                                                       Planets, stars, moons, comets, etc.

PLEASE watch the attached video and learn how God used math as one part in creating nature, people, & the cosmos


It is not long and it will inspire and surprise you. Please share your thoughts and reactions.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ten Things For Which I Am Grateful

Join me this Thanksgiving Day to share, reflect on, and give thanks for ten things:

  • My family; a wonderful husband, 6 beautiful children, and 12 amazing grandchildren,

  • My clean bill of health; no recurrence of the ovarian cancer for 4 1/2 years,

  • Being a citizen of the United States of America, 

  • Friends, acquaintances, and strangers who have had a positive influence on me.

  • The wildlife of bald eagles, hawks, herons, egrets, wood ducks, osprey, and yes, even vultures and alligators,

  • The beautiful flowers, bushes, and trees that grace the landscape,     

  • For those who have and do serve in the military,

  • I love the computer and all the exciting things it does,

  • I am grateful to the Scotsmen who started the game of golf!

  • And, most importantly I am thankful that I have a faith in God. He is the foundation of everything I have listed above,


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Kindness: How Do You Make People Feel?

Maya Angelou said it so poignantly: "...people will forget what you said...what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." I have been thinking about the acts of kindness I have either recently heard about or witnessed. Recently a blogger invited her followers to volunteer two cards a month to send to those serving in the military(cathybiggerstaff.blogspot.com); raffle tickets sold for a donated quilt and basket of toys for a youngster who needs surgery for her epilepsy; my daughter-in-law volunteering her time to help in Guatemala; or the warm and friendly personnel at the Publix store.  Ask yourself, "How am I making people feel?"

Kindness creates more kindness and, unfortunately, the reverse is also true. I like to think of kindness like a tree spreading its roots. "A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees." (Amelia Earhart) While we were in the beautiful Redwood forests, we saw new rings of tree sprouts from burls around the trunk base of a burned or fallen tree.  If they sprouted, the parent tree's roots were used by the saplings. There would not be the majestic redwood trees if they did not rely on one another; grow from and beside one another. How kind!

The Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are fast approaching, so let us each be like a root of a tree and spread kindness around. For what we give out, will be returned.

***Check out "Veterans Day" on Joyful Journey at cathybiggerstaff.blogspot.com for information on cards for the military.***

Thursday, November 8, 2012

One Year of Blogging: Meeting People from Around the World

This month marks one year since my first blog was written. At first I thought, "What will I blog about? Will people be interested in what I have to say?" I wanted it to be about life, not just ovarian cancer. I had read a variety of blogs some of which interested me, while others less so or not at all. Just as my book Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir is going to be of interest to some, it will not be for other people. And that is okay! One of the miraculous and wonderful things about life is how beautiful and unique we each are.

I have had over 6,400 page views of my blogs over the past year. The 54 blogs have covered a wide range of subjects, which I hope have inspired, educated, or raised your interest. I learned a lot doing some research and exploring my social and spiritual or religious views. It has been a time of self-growth! I appreciate the comments (107) I received, and welcome you to leave more in the future. They are interesting and helpful.

I have made new friends, renewed old friendships, and continued others. Some of you are in distant lands, which I would love to visit sometime. Viewers were from all over the world, but most were from the following countries:

  • United States             
  • Russia                          
  • United Kingdom          
  • Canada
  • Australia                                                           
  • Ukraine
  • France
  • Germany
  • South Africa
  • Netherlands

The purpose of my blogs are to help each of us learn, be inspired, and to live life more fully as well as increase awareness about ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer affects people everywhere. If it were isolated to a certain culture, race, or region, perhaps it would be easier for science to determine the cause and therefore, find a cure. Proceeds from the book sales go to ovarian cancer research. Thank you for your support and I look forward to another year of blogging around the world.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Books, Books, & More Books

My grandmother and mother were both avid readers which influenced me to begin reading as a child. I still love to read and many books have become my "friends." I love the smell, feel, and weight of books whether light or heavy. I like to fold down corners, make notes in the margin, or underline special sentences and paragraphs. I have come to appreciate the e-book and reading off of my I-PAD or I-Phone, but if I was to be honest, I do miss the "real" book. A good story teaches me about life, people, history, spirituality, health or social issues. Fact or fiction books both contribute to my learning curve.

This week I am going to recommend a variety of books that I have found interesting, informative and/or inspiring. Some of them I have read recently while others might be from many years ago. And, yes, some I have read several times. Like I said, they are my friends. There are hundreds of books that deserve to be here, but I narrowed the list to just 25, and there is in no special order nor are they categorized.

1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
2. Out of Africa by Isak Dinensen
3. My Stroke of Insight by Jill Taylor
4. The Forsythe Saga by John Galsworthy
5. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
6. Strength Renewed by Shirley Corder
7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
8. Desire by Annemarie Selinko
9. After You, Marco Polo by Jean Shor
10. Saint Gaudens and the Gilded Era by Louise Hall Tharp
11. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
12. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
13. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
14. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
15. Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom
16. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
17. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
18. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
19. Reverence for Life by Albert Schweitzer
20. The Spiritual Woman by Harriet Hodgson
21. The Greater Journey by David McCullough
22. Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
23. Tree Spirited Woman by Colleen Baldrica
24. Damaged Goods by Charlotte Hunt
25. Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir by Karen Ingalls (I did have to include this one!)

Now that I am a published author (it seems strange to say that), I have far greater appreciation for the writer who wants to be an author; the author who goes through the process of publication; and the rewards and challenges that go with being an author.

I want to recognize and  commend the authors of those ovarian cancer books, whose stories informed and inspired me. Those books are: Facing Cancer with God's Help by Jeanne Martin, Torch by ovarian cancer survivors, Bearing Witness by Kathryn Carter, No Time to Die by Liz Tilberis, A Guide to Survivorship for Women with Ovarian Cancer by F. J. Montz, and A Feather in My Wig by Barbara Van Billiard.

Please share what your favorite books are. Which stories gave you insight, excitement, or enrichment to your life?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Seeds of Life

Have you ever paid any attention to the size of a grape seed? They are small and yet think of what each seed produces: wine, grape juice, jams, jellies, oils, and extracts, all of which have healthy benefits. On our recent trip to northern California we marveled at the thousands (maybe millions) of acres of vineyards in the narrow Sonoma and Napa Valleys and the vast San Joaquin Valley. It was Italian immigrants, who came to this area of California with their precious vines, and found the perfect soil and climate. Red wine has more flavonoids than white, but both are rich in Vitamin E.

I believe the mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds with a radius of 1millimeter. According to Kundan Pandey, "They activate biochemical processes of the body and encourage healing....the seeds help to keep us healthy and fit." (Buzzle) The seed can be ground to form a spice, oil, or the very popular condiment mustard. Such a small seed produces a tall plant of which 90% is used.

When I was about 10 years old my grandmother gave me a necklace that was essentially one mustard seed set in a round magnifying glass. She referred to the Bible verse: "You don't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there', and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20 New Living Translation)

A human comes from an even smaller "seed"; the union of the sperm and the egg. We are each a miracle, blessed with our unique bodies, personalities, and abilities. Just like the grape and mustard seeds we can and do affect the lives of everyone with whom we come in contact. So, some important questions for me to ask myself are: Do I affect people in positive and loving ways? Am I living each day to its fullest? Do I give back as much as I receive? Do I have a faith that gives me strength and peace; that can move mountains?

I invite you to share your thoughts, because we can learn from each other. We are all connected. Without the seed, there would be no plant and vice versa. So it is true for the human, we cannot exist without other people. Read Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir to learn how I experienced more connectedness to people and grew in my spirituality.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Highway 1, Northern California

Map of Highway 1, California:

"Why don't you drive the rest of the way to Monterey?" my husband asked. We had driven 14 miles from San Simeon to Ragged Point, CA, where we stopped for a delicious breakfast. Jim did not want to drive the winding, narrow road of Highway 1 for the rest of the trip that day. Despite the fact that we were on the mountain side (going north), and he did not have to look down a sheer cliff to the rocks and sea below, he held the car door with a white knuckled grip.

I have blogged about fear before. Fear in itself is not always bad, but sometimes it does "stop us in our tracks." If we remain in a constant state of fear it will adversely affect our health by increasing blood pressure, heart rate, respirations, and mentally/emotionally depress us. For two to three days the ovarian cancer diagnosis caused fear that kept me in its power. Then I faced it through learning about the cancer, trusting my doctor and nurses, and most importantly, giving the fear to God.

                 Try to relax and enjoy the scenery," I said, but the fear of heights was strong and Jim was only able to relax when the road straightened and was not so close to the edge. No matter the degree of fear, it can prevent us from enjoying certain aspects of life or to rationally face certain situations. As beautiful as the scenery of Highway 1 is, it is a road that can test the patience, reflexes, and good driving skills of tourists and natives alike. Rock slides, earthquakes, and car accidents are not unusual.

But, Jim did not let his fear stop him; he trusted my driving skills; and we both prayed for God's angels to guide and protect us. Our reward was to spend two days in the beautiful and charming areas of Carmel and Monterey. It is an area that is one of God's masterpieces. Thank you, God.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Challenge to Survive

From the 2012 Ovarian Cancer Survivor's Course in September these facts were presented. First, roughly about 60 to 70% of patients have advanced (metastatic) disease at diagnosis. Secondly, surgery and platinum-based chemotherapy are effective at producing clinical remission for 75% or more of patients. Finally, roughly 2/3 of patients in remission relapse with disease within 5 years, and require multiple ongoing interventions. These facts make it all the more imperative to encourage women (and some physicians) to respond to the body's subtle warning signs. In Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, the subtle symptoms and risk factors are discussed. Proceeds from the sales of the book go to ovarian cancer research.

Like the turtle in the photo, it symbolizes how many of us who  are facing ovarian cancer feel. Just like the turtle we have to make decisions that will help us to survive. Will the turtle slowly move back and try to get away in the grass or under a log (should I do lots of research, get second opinions, try alternative medicine); should the turtle just sit there, hoping the alligator will lose interest (if I do nothing, will the cancer go away); or will the turtle go into its shell (should I get surgery and chemotherapy as soon as possible)? Actually, the turtle's best defense mechanism is going into its shell. According to "Scienceray" only alligators, killer whales and large sharks can penetrate its hard shell. However, the turtle is not a gator's favorite choice of food because of the challenge in chomping through some turtle's shells.

So I believe that just from the medical perspective, to give women the best chance to survive ovarian cancer is two-fold. One, get an early diagnosis by responding to the symptoms; and two, have an gynecologic-oncologist surgeon do the necessary surgery and provide the chemotherapy regimen. Recognizing the symptoms is such an important, yet difficult, key; therefore, I ask you, my blog readers, to talk to the women in your lives about this cancer's whispering symptoms.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fountain of Joy

The good news is the following statistic: in 1975, the survival rate for ovarian cancer was 9 months, but in 2012 it is now 5 1/2 years. I learned this at the 2012 Ovarian Cancer Survivor's Course last week in Orlando. I celebrate the progress that has been made, and I am optimistic that the future holds great promise for all cancers.

I like the image of a fountain of joy. I see a beautiful area in nature with a fountain of clear, sparkling water that sprays droplets of joy into the basin below into which I can dip my hands; drink the water; or splash water onto my face. Last week we talked about the power, vastness, and importance of water, and today I am using it as a symbol of happiness. A cold glass of water refreshes your dry and drenched throat on a hot summer day; the relaxation a shower or bath provides on a sore or tired body; the overwhelming feeling when the ritual of baptism is performed; or the peace that comes from just watching the rhythmic waves of an ocean. These are all examples of the fountain of joy. Can you think of others?

Several times at the Ovarian Cancer Survivor's Course, I wiped away tears of joy: learning from the professionals who are dedicated to the cause of finding answers to the suffering of others; listening to some survivors share their stories; hearing about the tireless work of OCAF and its volunteers; and I bathed in the warmth of love, acceptance, and earnestness. While on our afternoon break I was told that a dear friend was being removed from life support. "In times of care and sorrow, keep a fountain of joy alive in you." (Dietrich Bonhoffer) I went to the fountain to shed my tears of sorrow and also be refreshed by splashing the water of hope that the Survivor's Course provided.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

God Will Bring You Through It

"Hi, my dearest. I am so glad you called," Aunt Arleigh answered her telephone with her usual brightness and enthusiasm. I smiled and let out a sigh of relief. I had put off calling her because I was concerned I would hear that she was very sick. She is 86 years young, has COPD, and works as an actress in Hollywood, mainly doing television commercials. She is my bright star!

For the past two weeks I have received too many phone calls about someone who has passed away or is seriously ill. A wonderful young mother died of ovarian cancer in Michigan. She was diagnosed 6 months before me. A dear friend went in for back surgery and has not been well since; another friend is fighting for every breath due to the long term affects of agent orange; and my brother-in-law has been diagnosed with bladder cancer. A dear friend just learned that her 45 year old son has Stage IV colon cancer and it is inoperable. Heavy burdens for so many.

"If God brought you to it, He will bring you through it." I do not know who deserves credit for this quote, but I think it is powerful and appropriate for today's blog. The fact is that life is full of challenges, diseases, and even death. I am sure you have seen pictures of trees or flowers stretching up toward the sun through the smallest of cracks in a rock. Sometimes they seem to defy gravity. That is the image I keep in my mind as I pray for strength, courage, and understanding when I am faced with what may seem to be an overwhelming challenge.

Like Aunt Arleigh says, "I am not ready to go now, but if God is ready for me, I will go with a smile on my face." She always reaches through "the cracks of life" and shines in God's love.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Planting Seeds of Life

This morning I planted a croton in a large pot, sat it on the plant stand, and decided that this colorful plant would be a welcome sight at our front door. I then went to my various plants scattered around the front and back yards; pulled some weeds; dead-headed the marigolds; cut back the impatients; then fed them all some fertilizer and water.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." I believe it also could be said, "Don't judge your life by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." How am I living each day? Am I interacting with love in my heart? Have I been forgiving? Do I offer a helping hand?

Recently three of us were talking about our lives and the question came up, "What would you do over differently if you could?" One friend said, "There is not one thing in my life I would change," while two of us said there were some things we would do differently. We cannot go back and change the past; we can only live in the present. One important lesson I learned as a teenager was that I must plant the seeds of love, kindness, and generosity now. My favorite Bible verse then and now is: "I must work of Him while it is light, for the night cometh when no man can work." (John 9:4)

In my book Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, I share how this lesson was reinforced.  Bad, tough, or tragic things can still happen. They are the weeds of our lives. But if we live in the Light, the flowers  of goodness and love will grow.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Waves of Life

This past weekend I participated in a golf tournament to raise money for the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Florida. My husband and I stayed at a hotel in Daytona Beach and our room overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. In the late afternoon I sat and watched the pounding surf and began to marvel at the power, vastness and uniqueness of each wave. I watched the surfers and realized that they had to either ride the wave on their boards, gently float over it, or they had to dive into it. Is not that a simile of our lives? Sometimes the wave appears so large that we know we have to react to it with perfect timing to ride and survive it. When we are faced with such an event in life, we need to use our healthiest resources to "ride" or get through it.

Some surfers were tossed about as the wave crashed over them. Perhaps they underestimated it or were not looking for it. Just such a wave hit me when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was not "looking" out and did not heed the warning sign of the bloated stomach. Like the surfer, I was tossed around for a while, then I gathered my resources of excellent medical care, complementary therapies, prayer, laughter, and positive thinking.

When I went through my divorce it was like diving into a wave. My life did crash around me, and at times I gasped for air hoping to rise above the turmoil. I once again used the healthiest coping resources around me such as friends, meditation, counseling, good nutrition and exercise.

"When life gives you rough waves, surf them," is a wonderful saying, and I wish I knew who said it to give that person due credit. I pray that each of you will use your healthiest resources to ride whatever waves life brings you. God bless.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Teal for Ovarian Cancer

September is ovarian cancer awareness month and teal is our color. This month is not about wearing teal. It is about spreading the word about this deadly disease.  My mission in life is to keep speaking out about ovarian cancer until every woman is as informed about it as they are for breast cancer.  I have written this information before, but if each of you send this blog to all your friends, awareness will be increased, and perhaps we will see a decrease in the mortality rate.

Symptoms are:
      1. Bloating or increased of abdominal size
      2. Abdominal pain
      3. Feeling full quickly after eating less than normal
      4. Urgent need to urinate
      5. Painful intercourse
      6. Change in bowel habits

These are not unusual symptoms for any woman, no matter her age. They are similar to menstrual, menopausal or post-menopausal signs. The key is if they are new, recurrent, or worsening for more than 2 weeks. That is why it is important to document and take that information to a physician. 

If you have any of the following risk factors, then it is imperative to see a gynecologist, or a gynecologist-oncologist is ideal.

Risk Factors:
      1. History of breast, cervical, rectal, uterine, colon, or ovarian cancer; or family history of same.
      2. Never been pregnant
      3. Eastern Jewish descent
      4. Risk increases with age.

There is always HOPE and I believe that education AND research are the keys to winning this "battle".  We teal sisters of ovarian cancer thank you for your support and helping us to get the word out. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Medical Professionals and Touch

On August 29th, I spoke to a group at Mayo Clinic called "Bright Spots". The group included nurses, administrative personnel, a doctor, and other medical professionals, who work in the gynecology, oncology, and research departments. From my perspective as a cancer patient, I tried to convey to them the importance of how they touch patients physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Obviously physical touch involves anything from a gentle hand on the shoulder and up to a hug. The skin is our largest organ and affects the four senses. We need to be respectful of an individual's boundaries, and yet provide the type of touch that the patient needs. If we are sensitive to their body language, the patient's needs will be met without invading their boundaries.

Emotional touch is the smile, the warm look into the patient's eyes, listening, and sharing tears or laughter. A nurse is very busy and it is not always easy to take the time to listen or provide the patient with the necessary emotional support. Actually, I believe that if a nurse takes the extra few minutes to truly "touch" the patient, his or her professional duties will be actually decreased. Cancer patients in particular have many fears, and the medical profession needs to be sensitive to how a smile or compassionate eyes can relieve many fears.

Spiritual touch is demonstrated through prayer, acts of kindness and love, and such energy channels as Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, Kofutu, and Healing Touch. A nurse's prayer for her patients can be powerful. With my cancer, I knew that many people were praying for me, and still do.

How have you been touched? How do you "reach out and touch"? Share how a nurse's touch affected you. As a medical professional, how have you used touch to promote health and reduction of fear?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bubbles For A Cure

A friend recently told me about a woman, who upon completing her chemotherapy, went outside and blew bubbles while she said a prayer for each woman she had met with cancer. Obviously it is a symbolic act, but it carries so much meaning and I thought it was a beautiful idea.

I remember the mixture of soap and water I made for my kids, and now grandchildren. There is something about blowing bubbles that is joyful and fun, no matter our age. Each bubble is different with its size, shape and how long it lasts. Does that not describe each of us? We are beautifully special and one of a kind. Even identical twins are not 100% the same. One twin might react to an event  different from his/her sibling. That reaction will help shape as to what kind of a person he or she becomes.

Each type of cancer is also unique with its symptoms and treatments. I have learned that there are several different types of cancer cells for ovarian cancer. Some respond to chemotherapy or radiation different from other cancer cells. We need to help research laboratories find ways to bust the cancer bubbles, and hopefully someday eliminate their creation. I am an ovarian cancer survivor, and my passion is to inform and inspire women, and support the ovarian cancer research fund.

I encourage you to blow some bubbles in honor of someone you know who has or had cancer, say a prayer for a cure, and then support and contribute to cancer research.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tina's Legacy

Tina was a young lady from London, with whom I became acquainted through her blog "Tina's Journey". She fought the disease of ovarian cancer for 3 1/2 years and passed away a few days ago at the young age of 45. Each blog was one of inspiration, humor, education, or wisdom as she shared her faith in God, love of life and family, and a determination to leave a positive legacy to her two young children.

Today's blog is to celebrate Tina and the too many women who have or had ovarian cancer. I am all the more determined to educate/inform women about ovarian cancer, and inspire them and their families.
The self-help author, Karen Salmansohn, wrote "Let go of what you cannot control. Channel all that energy into living fully in the now." Tina lived in the now right to the end. I have often used the analogy of outshining whatever challenge I might face. Tina shined so brightly (and still does) that her light reached across the miles of cyberspace.

I invite you to read the following books to become more informed about ovarian cancer:

         **Facing Cancer with God's Help by Jeanne Carol Martin
         **A Feather in My Wig by Barbara Van Billiard
         **Bearing Witness by Kathryn Carter

and I hope you will read my book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir. (Proceeds go to ovarian cancer research)

Please forward this blog to the women with whom you are in contact. Let's spread the word together, because that is the best way to fight this disease.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

God's Medicine Chest II

I am very pleased to present a guest blog from Shirley Corder, a breast cancer survivor, author, and Christian from South Africa. Please leave her your comments, and check out her links. 

Ms. Corder did this guest blog 2 years ago and since it was so well received I am presenting it again.

As a student nurse, I hated the subject of nutrition. Provided I ate what I considered to be a balanced diet, I believed I'd be fine.

Years later, after being diagnosed with fast-growing cancer, I was determined to do everything possible to fight the disease. I read every book I could find, flipping past chapters about food, so I could concentrate on the "important" parts.

But when I came to the end of a full year's treatment, I felt panic. I was no longer actively fighting the disease. What could I now do to restore my good health and build my immune system? How could I fight against a possible recurrence?

                                         Then I discovered God's medicine chest.

I visited a nutritionist, and discovered the "healthy" menu I served my family every day didn't have enough vegetables. And despite living in the Fruit Kingdom of the World, I often went for days without fruit.

The recommended daily requirements of fruit and vegetables made me full just to think of them. Following the expert's advice, I bought a juicer and commenced each morning with a cocktail of five raw fruits and vegetables.

                                                      **My energy levels started to rise.
                                                      **My passion for life was re-fired.

Instead of seeing fruit and vegetables as necessary food products, I saw them as God's provision to boost my health and immunity.

"Eat an assortment of colors," the nutritionist urged. "Especially the bright ones." Yellow and red fruits and veggies, I learned, are highest in anti-oxidants, so they are important weapons in our arsenal against cancer.

                          Did God deliberately make fruit and vegetables so attractive?
       Was it part of His plan, that some of the most valuable foodstuffs are also the brightest?

I don't know for sure, but nearly 15 years later, I rejoice in my good health, due at least in part, to the contents of God's medicine chest.

Further reading including many juicing recipes

SHIRLEY CORDER's book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast here to read more, and Rise & Soar, her website to encourage and inspire those on the cancer journey.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Let's Dance

Those of us who have faced cancer or other life-threatening illness are familiar with the phrase, no evidence of disease or N.E.D.  Those words are magical, joyful, and music to the ears! Some of us do the N.E.D. dance, which is an individual's own dance steps. No formal training required.

Today, a very special lady named Sandy, is doing the N.E.D. dance with her husband, Owen, and family. She received the good news of no cancer detected on her recent scan. After 3 surgeries, 3 years of chemotherapy, and 4 hospitalizations, Sandy has traveled this difficult road with dignity, a positive attitude, and gratitude for each day. I have never heard her complain, but always been there to support and help others.

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. PLEASE, support your local ovarian cancer alliances or groups. There will be rallies, walks/runs, golf tournaments, dinners, or other events to celebrate the lives of those who are not with us anymore; to support those who are thriving (or surviving); and to educate and inspire women and their families. Like pancreatic cancer, 70% of those women diagnosed with ovarian cancer do not survive the first year.

It is only through research funding that we will someday find a cure for this deadly disease and find a more efficient way to diagnose its subtle symptoms earlier. The proceeds from the sale of my book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, goes to ovarian cancer research (ocrf.org/donate). Help us spread the word. All of us want to do the N.E.D. dance.

Friday, July 27, 2012


As Margaret Lee Runbeck stated, "Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling." How am I choosing to live my life? Am I trying to find the good or positive? Have I allowed a fear or lack of confidence to cloud my perspective? Do I let the reactions of others influence me?

I believe that I am the only one who can create happiness in me. When an event occurs I may find good things in it that will make me smile. Another person might experience that same event and may not find joy in it. At such times there is an opportunity for each person to learn from the other. Perhaps we might come to a deeper understanding, or see the event from a different perspective, or come to appreciate the differences in people. Happiness has levels of intensity, and will not always be a "Rocky Mountain high." Contentment is a wonderful state of happiness.

For me, how I live each moment of every day is an important key to experiencing happiness. I like the quote "Happiness is like jam, you can't spread even a little without getting some on yourself." (Vern McLellan) When we are around happy people it often affects us in a positive way; and the reverse is true for those who are sad or depressed. No one is happy all the time. Our feelings are changing sometimes minute to minute or day to day. 

When I travel in the manner of happiness, my mental, spiritual, and physical health is improved. I want to live with a smile to share with others; and lick the jam of happiness on my fingers!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


I traveled to the northern part of the U.S.A. to do a book reading/signing at a Barnes & Noble bookstore for Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, and to seek future opportunities to spread the word about ovarian cancer. The audience consisted mainly of friends, but four people who were there because of God’s plan or purpose. One woman read about the event in the newspaper where there was a two-sentence announcement. She was a 14year, Stage III or IV survivor. “When I was diagnosed, I didn’t think I’d see another Christmas.” We hugged each other knowing we are sisters doing what we can to help other women.

As I gave my presentation there was a woman in the front row sitting alone. Every time I looked in her direction, her eyes were on me and she wore a beautiful smile. She came to get information for her neighbor, who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her neighbor did not feel well enough to come, so this young lady gave her neighbor the gifts of kindness, generosity, and her time. God bless them both.

“Please sign my book for a dear friend who has ovarian cancer. She planned on coming herself, but was unable to,” were the words from a smiling elderly lady. When I handed a book to her I noticed a brace on her left wrist. I gently placed my hand on it, and she said, “Oh, my husband has Alzheimer’s and he….” I wrapped my arms around her and told her that she was an angel so willing to help her friend and yet be there constantly for her husband.

For the third lady, all I know is that her name was Jane, and that she was in Barnes & Noble to buy a book or two to read on her trip to Ireland the next day. While she browsed the shelves, she heard my voice due to the microphone, and being drawn to the subject she stood in the back and listened. She bought the last book. “Here is a picture of me and my mother. She died 4 months ago from ovarian cancer.” We were once two strangers, but now new friends. Just to listen to her talk about her mother, my shoulder to cry on, and my arms around her appeared to be what she needed most at that time.

There is no doubt in my mind that God led each of these women to be at that bookstore that night and at that time. I will never be able to thank God enough for bringing them into my life. They each demonstrated different ways God works through each of us. Often we call it serendipity. Thank you, God.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Quilt of Life

If you were to create a quilt with each patch representing your life, what would it look like? Would you have the patches represent the lows as well as the highs of your life? Would it show mistakes or failures? Or would you try to portray yourself as always having a good, perfect life free of those negative events. What colors would you choose? Would you include lessons you learned, role models who influenced you, or life-changing events?

Facing Cancer Together has a digital quilt for those of us who have faced or are dealing with cancer to make a patch that shares our story about cancer. I was honored when they invited me to share my story and my book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir. You can find the quilt on www.facingcancertogether.witf.org.

My life quilt's background would be mainly of blue and green colors (my favorite colors) with splashes of white. My patches would include a picture of a piano, a bouquet of violets, and a Siamese cat. Each of these represent role models. Then I would have a square of just black, which represents the child abuse; a square with mountains for Colorado University; one with a nurse's cap; one with many books; and another with a computer. A big round patch with the names of all my children and grandchildren; and a heart shaped one with my husband's name. I must have a patch that will have flashes of light emanating from it which represents my spiritual journey.

Writing this blog stimulated my imagination and so many memories. What I described above is only a small part of my quilt. Have you begun to design the quilt of your life? I encourage you to do so, because it will put your life in perspective, give you a symbolic way to look at it, and for others to perhaps learn something new about you. Just know you can always add or take off a patch, but no matter what the quilt is YOU; that special gift from God.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"What We See"

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for," are words spoken by John Lubbock, who was a British statesman from the late 1800's to the early 1900's. I love this quote because it speaks to so many issues. What we hear depends on what we expect to hear; what we do is often a result of what we anticipate or think we should do; we expect to smell a rose, when it may be another less fragrant flower; and I look for a genuine hug, handshake, or arm around my shoulder.

We live according to what we expect, which is influenced by many factors including how we were raised, our education, role models, hormones, and our previous experiences. Every second of every day we are bombarded by our environment, our bodies' health status, and our most recent history. If I have a more positive outlook about life's events, I will see the glass half full. However, the opposite is true. The more I hang on to the image of the glass being half empty, the more difficult my life will be because of my reaction to it.

Do I see the trees through the forest? For me, the trees represent a lesson to be learned from each experience of one's life. I try to use my cancer as an opportunity to be a better person and to help others. Did I see last night's rainbow after the rainstorm, or was it just a spectrum of colors.

As I go through this life, I will try to see the trees and not just the forest. I will try to be more aware that what I see does depend mainly on what I am looking for.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


My best friend from fourth grade to tenth grade was MaryAnn Meyer. We promised each other that we would never end our friendship. We used to laugh and say "When we are old we will still be friends and talk about our kids, husbands, and life in general." We thought we were inseparable until one day I moved to live with my dad some fifty miles away. In the 1950's that was a long way away and our contact became more distant. In those days we had the telephone, which meant an expensive long distance call, or a hand written letter with a 3 cent stamp. We were also young.

I have just moved 1500 miles from my Minnesota friends of 20 to 45 years to Florida where I have wonderful friends from 1 to 10 years! All these people have been there for me through life's many adventures including my cancer diagnosis and treatment. I think I have been there for them too.

I am so grateful that I have lived long enough to be computer-savvy; to be on Facebook; to take advantage of the Internet; to Skype and to email. However, friendships take effort. Someone has to be proactive to communicate, invite to, or to demonstrate caring about the other. Some friendships are deeper in that they are intimate where what is shared are soul-level thoughts, concerns, and revelations. With other people it may be at the level of caring and concern; or it may be someone to just have fun with because of shared interests; or he/she is a good listener and lets you do all the talking.  Whatever the level of friendship it is a give and take relationship with many rewards. I don't know where MaryAnn is today. By the time I left the state for college, we had stopped communicating. I hope she has a friend(s) that she can talk to about her kids, husband, and life, because I have been blessed with many friends in Minnesota and Florida, plus a few scattered around the country.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Today is my birthday. June 20th marks the 4th year since I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and I recognize it because it created a new me. I believe I am a better person since June 20, 2008. I am filled with so much more gratitude; I am closer to God; and I am living with a new mission in life.

I am inspired by the most amazing women who I would never have met were not for this cancer. I have been able to write, lecture, and teach about a subject I once knew so little. I have opened my eyes to God's wonderful gifts of the spirit; to truly see His work in people and nature; and to feel His love.

A friend sent an email today that in one part said: "Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live." So, today I will celebrate my 4th birthday without balloons, a cake, or presents, but with prayerful thankfulness and excitement to see what each new day brings.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Are you a strong person? Assertive? Do you ask questions until you have a clear understanding? Do you seek out information? Are you independent? I consider myself to be strong and assertive, and somewhat independent. When I told my gynecologist about my symptoms and when she could not get the speculum in because something was blocking it, I am glad that she was assertive, strong, and sought out answers to her questions. She immediately ordered scans and blood tests; then 3 days later sent me to a gynecology-oncologist surgeon. Her ego did not get in the way to send me to another physician.

Too often women with ovarian cancer have been misdiagnosed or ignored by physicians, because the symptoms were subtle, or too similar to other medical issues. When a woman experiences  abdominal bloating, pelvic or low back pain, changes in urinary or bowel habits, or difficulty eating or feeling full quickly for more than 2 weeks, she needs to be assertive and see her family physician.  The more written documentation of symptoms and family history of diseases, the better the doctor can make a preliminary diagnosis.

No one knows your body better than you. We often "sense" when something is not right. If a woman is not satisfied with the doctor's diagnosis, or lack thereof, that is when she must be her own advocate. My suggestion is that she seek out a gynecology-oncologist surgeon. When I read about women who were diagnosed with advanced cancer, I get angry that either she did not listen to her body and act accordingly, or that her physician was too casual about her symptoms. It is far better to be a nuisance by insisting, demanding, or screaming for appropriate tests and examinations by a specialist, than to not get the immediate attention one deserves. Be your own advocate.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Positive Thinking

This past week I experienced an event that caused a lot of stress and negativity for all of us involved. It can be so easy to slip into negative thinking about the who, why and what of an event, rather than looking to find what was beneficial or healthy.

I have never liked negative thinking or behavior in myself or in others. Since early childhood my grandparents were role models of positivity as compared to my parents. Fortunately I chose to model myself after my grandparents. By my early teens I was reading books by Albert Schweitzer and Norman Vincent Peale.

When I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I was angry and was convinced that my life was over. Those feelings only lasted a couple of days and I began to look at my new life, my new reality, as a challenge. There were lessons to be learned; opportunities for new growth. I knew that the best way to help my body heal was to have a positive outlook; not bury my head in the sand; cooperate with medical advice and treatment; and not do a pity-party. I used prayer and meditation, exercise, good nutrition high in antioxidants, and tears to express any emotion. I believe that when we let tears flow, we let love in.

I incorporated these same techniques, for lack of a better word, and the stressful issue of last week was resolved by all parties. I learned some important lessons and believe I am a better person for it. As the saying goes, I made lemonade out of a lemon!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Change: Good or Bad?

I have exactly 21 more days to sit in this office, at this desk, and look out this window. In three weeks we will pack the last box in the car and say "good-bye" to our Minnesota home, in which we have loved and labored for 23 years. Here is where I wrote my book Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir. I feel sad/glad. It is a positive change in that we no longer have stairs to climb several times a day; a garden that has grown too large (or have I slowed down?); leaving behind some exorbitant high taxes; plus all the additional costs of having two homes. It is sad to leave family and friends, but we look forward to visits.

So, here we come central Florida! Year round sunshine and warm to hot weather; a home on a lake; great friends; lower taxes; and year round golfing, boating, and gardening. All wonderful good changes.

When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer I thought that this life-changing event was bad, and the worse thing that could happen. I wish I had not gotten this particular disease, but for whatever the reason (genetics, diet, environment, bad karma, etc), I did. Despite the uglies of this particular change in my life, I have found incredible good. Yes, good. I have met the most inspirational women and their caregivers; been treated by kind, caring, and skilled doctors and nurses; I have a much deeper and meaningful relationship with God; and I live my life with much more gratitude and service.

I believe life is about letting go of one baton so you can grab onto the next baton. I will always have the wonderful memories of my Minnesota home as I build new memories in Florida...that is good. I let go of the baton of fear and anger with ovarian cancer and took hold of the baton to do whatever I can to educate and inspire women; to raise funds for research; and to do God's work. My book was designed and published to do all three. Change can be good; sometimes we just have to look for it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Dear Friend

As I get older a friendship becomes more valuable and appreciated. Recently I said goodbye to a dear friend, Betty Sue, who had won the challenge of ovarian cancer four years ago, then breast cancer less than a year ago, but succumbed to a massive stroke that left her without the ability to fight anymore.

The purpose of this blog is not to be morbid, but to actually celebrate the beautiful gifts we receive from friendships. Why do we develop a relationship with one person, but not another? Why do some friendships last for many years, while others only a relatively short time? Some friendships flow easily, yet others require more interaction. For me a friend is someone who is always there; a person who is a confidant; is trusting and honest; who freely shares tears and laughter; and with whom I build dreams and memories. A variety of friends are described in my book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, and how important they were during that challenging journey.

"Every soul is a unique and beautiful gift from God,"is a phrase on a card I received during my cancer treatment. It describes how I see a friend...a unique and beautiful gift from God. So, Betty Sue, thank you for the friendship we shared and the wonderful memories you have left with me. Your spirit will be with me always.

What roles do friends play in your life? How do you see yourself as a friend? Did your friends change when you were faced with a difficult challenge such as divorce, a death, or serious illness?