About Me

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My journey as a writer began as a child. I wrote poems and short stories which were my way of dealing with various life changing events. I 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. My first book is Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir which received two awards. All proceeds are donated to gynecologic cancer research. My second book is a novel Novy's Son, about one man's attempt to find love and acceptance from his father. This is an all too common problem in our society. My third book, Davida: Model and Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens is about the love affair between this great American sculptor and his model. ALL ORIGINAL CONTENT COPYRIGHT 2011 THROUGH 2017.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

BE HERE NOW

                                HOW OFTEN DO YOU WORRY ABOUT THE FUTURE,
                                     OR FRET OVER WHAT HAPPENED IN THE PAST?

                  ARE YOU ABLE TO STAY IN THE MOMENT...MOST OF THE TIME?


I believe we are to build from our memories of the past, learn from the experiences, treasure the positive events, and honor those who loved and taught us. Here are some steps or strategies you can take on that I believe will help you to live in the moment, or be here now. 

STEP ONE: 
       Turn towards life, not away from it. That is, we need to face reality, which can be very difficult
at times. It is not always easy to face the reality of our challenging marriage, our health status, our financial situation, or relationships with others.
       Once we accept the reality of an event, condition, or person then we can more effectively deal with it. Life becomes more manageable. We are stronger. We are at greater peace.

STEP TWO:
       Embrace your life as it is, not how you want it to be. In other words, want you have and not want what you do not have. It is accepting the good and the bad, the wonderful and the tragic, and life with death. When we embrace what we are, we embrace the joy of life.


STEP THREE:
       Time is a precious gift and each minute is an opportunity. If we rush around, scurrying around to do this or that, we actually have less success because we make more mistakes, we might cut corners and pay the price later, and we may not learn from our "rushing around." Slow, methodical, and disciplined actions are more likely to bring you success and satisfaction. Be like the tortoise, not the hare.

STEP FOUR:
       Counting our blessings is healthier than counting our troubles. When we have gratitude, are grateful then there is an enormous change in our health physically, mentally, and spiritually. With gratitude we can face whatever troubles come our way.
      Be in touch with your feelings, however painful they might be. Without feeling our relationships suffer and we are not at peace; our energy is drained. When we allow ourselves to be in touch with our feelings, there is more energy and vitality to our lives. Our life is now worth living.


STEP SIX:
       Accept success as well as failure as opportunities to grow. We learn from each experience and even failure can be a teacher. No one goes through life without some times of not succeeding. We might look at "the rich and famous" and not realize how hard they had to work, how many times they might have stumbled, or just plain failed. Yet, they did not give up. They followed their dream.

STEP SEVEN:
       Do not forget to pay attention to your loving relationships. They need to be tended to and nurtured. There may be times when we will hurt one another, but we must take responsibility for our mistakes and try to make amends.

                 LIFE IS A WONDERFUL GIFT. DO NOT WASTE ONE MINUTE OF IT.
                                        LIVE IN THE MOMENT...BE HERE NOW


Saturday, September 30, 2017

LIFE AFTER CANCER



FOR ME, I SEE CANCER AS A PART OF MY LIFE. I DO NOT SAY THIS AS A NEGATIVE, BUT RATHER A STATEMENT OF ACCEPTANCE. I AM CONSIDERED TO BE IN EARLY REMISSION ON MAINTENANCE THERAPY.  WHEN OR IF CANCER RETURNS, IT WILL NOT HAVE CONTROL OF MY LIFE.

There is no cure for many cancers, but there are some that now curable: breast, prostate, skin, cervical, and Hodgkin Lymphoma are just some of the ten most curable cancer.  Early detection is the most important factor.

How does our life change once we have been told we are cured? How much do we trust or fear that the cancer will return? 

As survival rates improve, cancer rehabilitation continues to play a critical role in optimizing health and quality of life for survivors. Cure is the main goal, but quality of life in survivors is a paramount issue. The development and promotion of a combination of exercise, psychosocial and survivorship programs are very important....

People with cancer look to rehabilitation services for strategies to cope with impairments resulting from cancer and its treatments, including changes in physical and cognitive abilities, independence and activities of daily living, as well as physical activity participation levels.
Cognitive symptoms can have a major impact on individuals’ personal and professional lives. Several studies have demonstrated only a weak association between self-reported cognitive symptoms and objective cognitive impairment on formal neuropsychological testing, but premorbid intellectual quotient and fatigue seem to be important predictors of baseline cancer-related cognitive impairments.
We have been mastering our medical approach, but we must not forget the physical, psychological, social approaches and, of course, strong health care communication skills.
(FROM QUALITY OF LIFE http://qualityoflife.elsevierresource.com/articles/importance-physical-psychological-and-social-approaches-and-strong-health-care)


Q: What medical concerns do patients have right after treatment ends?

A: Typically, there is a surge in anxiety and worry over the possibility that the cancer will return once active treatment is completed. Often, people feel they are not doing enough to actively fight the cancer. Another common problem is that some physical and psychological changes don't disappear with the last treatment and seem to last for months or years after treatment ends. A few examples of such symptoms are fatigue, lack of stamina, difficulty focusing, changes in skin texture, or neuropathic (nerve) changes in fingers and toes.
People often want to know what signs to look for to detect a cancer recurrence (return) as early as possible and to recognize the long-term side effects of treatment. For example, a person who received a medication that may affect his or her bone density needs to know how his or her bones will be monitored and what treatments are available.

Q: What are some of the emotional concerns patients have once treatment ends?

A: These include worries about cancer recurrence, one's identity and future, and dying young or leaving things undone. Some patients may also suffer from poor body image or low self-esteem because of the treatments they received. They often need help to learn to accept their new body.

Q: How can patients cope with these concerns?

A: We know that worrying alone feels awful and makes the sense of distress experienced by many patients and survivors worse. Being able to understand one's fears and to talk about them is a good starting point for effective coping. Ultimately, a patient's inner strength and resilience allows him or her to endure this experience, sort through available options, and define a path or journey through the difficulties that lie ahead. Effective coping requires the ability to understand the situation, think through alternatives, ask for and experience the support of others, and feel comfortable with the chosen course of action or treatment.

Q: How does a cancer diagnosis affect a person’s family, friends, and caregivers?

A: Cancer affects not just the individual undergoing treatment, but the entire family unit. Spouses, children, parents, and friends often suffer along with the patient and may need information about the transition to survivorship and assistance coping with their emotions. 

Q: What should patients and doctors discuss during the last few appointments?

A: The last few appointments should allow patients time to discuss any concerns they have about the future, clarify the treatment given, and revisit the prognosis, which is the chance of recovery. They should also provide them with the necessary tools to advocate for good care going forward and coordinate this care with the primary care doctor. Every patient needs to understand his or her diagnosis, the treatments received, possible late complications or side effects of such treatments, the follow-up care schedule proposed, and who will be involved in his or her ongoing care.

Q: How else can survivors prepare for life after treatment?

A: Survivors should ask their oncologist for an "end of treatment summary" that outlines the original diagnosis, including the cancer type, stage, and the treatments received. It should also clearly state the proposed schedule for follow-up visits and recommended testing to monitor the person's recovery.
Another, very helpful resource is a support group. It allows survivors to share experiences and give and receive advice and support from individuals who are outside their circle of family or friends.
Meanwhile, some may find it useful to look for more information regarding their specific cancer type or information on coping with cancer using web-based materials, while others may turn to literature, hobbies, or spiritual advisors to help them move forward. The important message is that life may be forever changed by the experience of having cancer, and those changes deserve careful attention and respect. (FROM CANCER.NET)

Monday, September 25, 2017

FEMALE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM


Smorgasbord Health 2017- Top to Toe -The Female Reproductive System updated – Some health issues to be aware of.


This is a blog from Smorgasbord, Variety is the Spice of Life. My thanks to Sally Cronin for her in-depth information. It is important for women to know and understand their bodies. There is a rise in cervical cancer. September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Ovarian and breast cancer.
Research has made great inroads into finding viable treatments and a cure for both these cancers. They deserve to have their own posts.. on Thursday a guest post by ovarian Cancer survivor Karen Ingalls and next Monday a guest post by Judith Barrow who is a breast cancer survivor.
The message from both of these authors is that you need to get checked regularly and to be aware of symptoms is one that I am happy to keep repeating for new readers of the blog and also for those of you who have been with me for four years.
The fertile years 10 – 50 years old.
In this third part of the series on the female reproductive system a look at some of the health issues that might occur in the 40 years that it is active.  Every woman is unique and I can only give you averages when talking about events during a monthly cycle.
From the age of ten a girl is maturing towards becoming fertile. Puberty marks the start of an average of 40 years of one of the most miraculous, but also often inconvenient monthly cycles. Beneath our skin a complex series of actions are taking place to ensure the smooth running of this female process. Although the actual period only lasts an average of 7 to 10 days but can be shorter or longer, the process is ongoing for the full 28 to 32 days. The cycle can be different depending on a number of factors and will change as a woman matures.
The menstrual cycle
There are a number of hormones, other than estrogen and progesterone, involved in the menstrual cycle and the process is normally very precise and runs like clockwork to afford the very best chance of fertilization of the egg.
There are three distinct stages that are orchestrated by the hormones, in sequence, and the whole cycle will take between 28 and 32 days to complete.
The health of the reproductive system.
Forty years is a very long time in body terms and it is hardly surprising that a system as complex as the reproductive function is not going to suffer from problems. These are either due to disruptions to the hormones in charge, or the organs themselves.
I know that you expect long posts from me but even I draw the line in covering all the health issues we might face over the years. Here are the headlines!
Conditions associated with the reproductive system
Many young girls and women suffer from PMS (Pre-menstrual syndrome) and in some cases this continues right up to menopause. This can be helped by changes in diet and exercise levels as well as some supplementation of specific nutrients and herbs.
Infertility is a problem that may not be discovered until a woman is in her late 20’s and 30’s and is actively trying to get pregnant but there are certain lifestyle and dietary issues as well as possible physical or hormonal reasons for difficulties in becoming pregnant. I will cover the basics under that heading.
Premenstrual Syndrome
PMS symptoms tend to occur at specific phases of the menstrual cycle, which are modulated by the changing levels in the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. It is logical then to assume that any adverse symptoms are caused by some disruption to the balance between these two hormones.
PMS always occurs during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle when the luteinising hormone (LH) increases the production of progesterone and oestrogen in the ovaries. This phase in the cycle is specifically to encourage secretions in the fallopian tubes and womb to ensure the proper nourishment and implantation of a fertilised egg.
There are a number of theories that have been put forward to try and explain the various reasons why individual women suffer differing symptoms at this time from water retention to depression. Some studies suggest that it is a lack of progesterone that causes the problems with some women responding favourably to progesterone therapy and other studies finding that it makes matters worse. The common factor appears to be an imbalance of one or other of the two female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. I think the key lies in a number of factors one of which is that we are all individual and this includes our hormonal makeup.
I have worked with many teenagers and older women who were suffering from PMS and I found the best way to start was with diet and exercise with particular attention to any other influences such as Candida Albicans or stress. Many women respond very favourably to being treated for Candida Albicans, as some of the symptoms for this are lower back pain, depression and water retention. Candida takes over the intestines and healthy and friendly bacteria are in short supply. Bacteria in our gut is responsible for the manufacture of certain nutrients such as Vitamin K that plays a role in regulating our menstrual flow so it is logical that Candida could also contribute to PMS problems. You can find more information on Candida here.
Some doctors prefer to put women on the contraceptive pill to help regulate periods and minimise PMS but I am still not happy about taking additional hormones without first trying the natural approach for at least two cycles. Talk to your doctor about making lifestyle changes first including reducing the amount of sugar in your diet. The recommended amount of sugar is 7 teaspoons per day.. It is easy with breakfast cereals, flavoured yoghurt etc to consume 14 teaspoons for breakfast.  Blood sugar levels are erratic and hormones are affected.
Infertility
Infertility can be devastating to a young couple who have dreamt of having a large family and assumed that it was going to be as simple as stopping taking the pill or any other form of contraceptive. Unfortunately, for some women, there are physical reasons why they are unable to either produce an egg in the first place or carry the fertilized embryo to full term.
Usually there are a number of factors involved that cause or add to the reasons behind a woman’s infertility.  Since these are also the more common health issues with the reproductive system in general it is worth focusing on them in this post.
  1. Hormone levels are not sufficient to stimulate the release of an egg from the ovary or for it to successfully implant into the lining of the womb.
  2. A woman is more than 30% over her ideal weight or severely underweight and this effects ovulation. There is a link between eating disorders such as anorexia where body weight is reduced for extended periods of time. The body switches off non-life sustaining body functions. If you cannot nourish yourself then you would not be able to nourish a foetus.
  3. Fibroids of the womb.
  4. Endometriosis where the normal tissue that lines the womb is found outside in other areas of the pelvis.
  5. Production of antibodies that attack a partner’s sperm and kills them before they can fertilise her eggs.
  6. Infections throughout the pelvis caused by Chlamydia or by appendicitis leading to damage and scarring of the reproductive organs.
  7. Age.
Hormone Imbalance
Abnormal ovulation results in irregular or absent periods. This is usually caused by a lack of co-ordination between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, as these regulate the release of the hormones into the bloodstream.
If insufficient LH (luteinising hormone) or FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) is secreted then the levels of oestrogen and progesterone will not be high enough to begin the process of ovulation. This may require hormonal treatment but the first step is to ensure that diet and lifestyle factors are not playing a role in the imbalance.
Weight Issues
Extreme weight fluctuation can also cause periods to cease as this is linked to hormonal imbalances associated with diet. Being overweight puts incredible stress on all the operating systems in the body including the reproductive system. Most women who have been overweight since childhood are likely to suffer from irregular or no menstrual cycle at all. Even being slightly overweight can affect hormone levels and it is recommended that a women get down as close to her ideal weight as possible before trying to conceive. There is additional wisdom in this as a woman who is already over three stone overweight is going to add another three at least during her pregnancy which can add significantly to risks of complications such as Gestational diabetes, very high blood pressure and the need for a Caesarean delivery.
In nature, in times of drought or famine, certain animals will not only cease to ovulate but they will also stop the gestation of their young until such time as conditions improve. One of the long-term issues with eating disorders such as Anorexia is infertility, as there is insufficient nutrients being made available to manufacture the necessary hormones. Before trying to conceive anyone who is dramatically underweight should take a close look at their diet and seek professional help in building up nutrition, calories and body mass.
Fibroids
One of the staggering statistics is that one in four women will enter the menopause because of medical treatment, the leading one being a hysterectomy (removal of the womb and ovaries). The biggest single reason is fibroids, which are benign tumours inside and outside the womb. There are three general locations for fibroids.
  1. Subserosal –on the outside surface of the uterus
  2. Intramural – within the muscular wall of the uterus
  3. Submucous – bulging in to the uterine cavity.
The submucous location is rarer than the other two but is the one associated with failure to conceive and early miscarriage. If the other two types of fibroid grow too large however they too can have an effect on the reproductive system.
No one is entirely sure what causes fibroids to form. There are a number of factors and hormone imbalance is probably involved. However, our diet may also be partly to blame as many foods that we consume contain substances that mimic the way estrogen affects the body – and these include growth hormones in milk, beef and chicken, pesticides on our food and even the plastics we use in our kitchens for storage. This leads to estrogen dominance in a woman, which can then lead to a number of reproductive problems including the growth of these benign tumors.
There is also a genetic link and if your female relatives have tended to get fibroids then you are at risk of developing them too. The light at the end of the tunnel is that they nearly always shrink when you reach menopause but if they cause heavy and painful bleeding and are making your life a misery you should deal with them as soon as possible.
Endometriosis
Endometriosis develops when tissue resembling the endometrium inside the womb begins growing out in the pelvic cavity. The most common symptoms of this are painful sexual intercourse, period pains and infertility.
The endometrium is made up of blood, endometrial skin cells, glands and pieces of blood vessels and connective tissues. Although the endometrium is usually discarded and broken into pieces to be excreted in menstrual blood through the vagina, it can sometimes find its way through the upper openings of the womb that lead to the fallopian tubes. The ends of the fallopian tubes are open to the pelvic cavity and the pieces of endometrium can then attach themselves to any surface within the cavity and reform using all the components to grow and develop.
If the fallopian tubes are blocked and the ovaries are now coated with growing endometriosis there is little chance of an egg being produced and fertilised by a sperm – leading to infertility.
The usual treatment is to remove the lesions surgically or prescribe drugs that suppress the endometrium in the womb to keep it thin. This, in effect, creates a false menopause as it also suppresses the ovaries and the production of oestrogen. If you are hoping to have children it might have a long term effect on your ability to conceive.
Killer Mucous
When the body is not ovulating, cervical mucous has a role in killing any harmful bacteria trying to get into the body via the vagina. However, during ovulation a chemical change occurs which is designed to ensure the survival of the sperm on its way into the system. Some women react to their partner’s sperm, by developing antibodies instead, and killing the sperm as it fights its way towards the cervix.
Chlamydia
One of the more common causes of infertility today is an infection that has damaged part of the reproduction system. For example, Chlamydia is a bacterial infection transmitted sexually and is the most common of the STDs contracted by adolescents and young adults today. The biggest problem is that you may not discover that you have been infected until you are trying to have a baby because 75% of women and 50% of men have no overt symptoms and it is therefore known as a silent disease.
Left untreated, Chlamydia can spread and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which rises through the vagina and the cervix before infecting the womb, fallopian tubes and the ovaries. The resulting scarring to the fallopian tubes can cause infertility and increase the risk of ectopic pregnancies (inside the fallopian tube).
In the rare cases where symptoms are present they can mimic other pre-menstrual symptoms and be ignored such as lower back pain, bleeding between periods, nausea and fever. However, if these are also accompanied by frequent urinary tract infections, chronic pelvic pain and vomiting it is necessary to consider that it is Chlamydia and seek medical attention.
Age
Fertility levels decrease with age in women. Although there have been some reports of women becoming pregnant during the change of life it is rare. Women are at their most fertile up to 24 years old but today many women are putting off having children, preferring to wait for career or economic reasons. It is estimated that one third of women over 35 will experience some problems getting pregnant and at least half will have severe difficulties.
Declining hormone production, lack of viable eggs and an accumulation of the other factors I have covered in this article will combine to cause fertility problems. If a woman has also smoked, drunk too much alcohol and not eaten a healthy diet she will add to the difficulties.
Dietary influences.
Our body has very specific needs and this includes essential nutrients that can be processed and distributed around the body to where they are needed. As always a varied diet with lots of fresh vegetables, lean protein, fruits and whole grains is a great place to start… And need I say.. Cooked from Scratch without any industrialized sugary additives.
For those of you who would like to know more about the nutrients we need here is a directory where you will find the nutrient, what it is needed for and the foods that supply it.
Thanks so much for dropping by and if you have a private question that you would rather not put in the comments section you can contact me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Friday, September 15, 2017

PEOPLE NEED PEOPLE


Hurricane Irma is gone, but not the damage she left behind. Trees were blown down, power outages, flooded areas, and gas and food shortages. Fortunately only a few lives were lost. How well Florida was prepared for and endured the hurricane is to the credit of Governor Scott, the city mayors, law enforcement, the volunteers, and the "true grit" of Floridians.

As of this writing, five days after the storm our home is still without electricity, but thankfully our home was untouched. Our friends who live north of us, invited for us to stay with them before and after the storm. God bless them.

As soon as the curfew was lifted we drove to check on our home. Several neighbors just two houses from us were hit hard and tree branches flew through windows or doors were blown open. Debris cluttered their yards making it difficult to get inside their homes. Everyone who was around began to pitch in and help with the cleanup. We hugged, shared tears, and offered words of encouragement. We took photos to send to those residents out of state. Branches, Spanish moss and uprooted plants were piled along the street. Various lengths of aluminum were stacked up.

Here are just a few stories of people helping people.

     **Before Irma made landfall there were reports of people giving generators,  batteries, flashlights, water, and food to others.
     **A gift shop donated all their sales for two days to hurricane relief.
     **All Blaze Pizza locations in Florida offered free pizza and a drink for utility workers and first responders until Sunday.
     **An organization of Muslim American Marines bravely traveled to Orlando to lend a helping hand.
     **So @kristenanniebell literally saved my parents and my entire family tonight from #hurricaneirma . When they were stranded in Florida, she got them a hotel room at her hotel in Orlando and saved them, my brothers, my sister-in-law and niece and nephew. 
     **From Richard Branson: “We spent the day on Virgin Gorda helping with water, supplies, shelter. Incredible spirit from everyone here.

The best in people often comes out during tragedies, storms and earthquakes, or enemy attacks. It is interesting that Irma attacked Florida during the same days that we were attacked on 9/11/2001. Everyone in the United States rallied around those who lost lives, were injured, or in need of help. The same happened during Hurricane Irma when thousands of National Guard men and women, utility workers from surrounding states, medical personnel, volunteers, Congress and our President supported and helped everyone.

I have to wonder why more of us cannot keep that same spirit everyday. Now that life is returning to a more normal pace, some people begin to let their road rage show. Or there are fewer smiles from people in stores. Others are complaining that there is still some shortage of food, golf courses are slow to reopen, restaurants are unable to offer everything on the menu, or there are still some lines waiting for gas.

People do need people. But we need the helping hands, friendliness, caring, and love that we each can give to one another every day. I personally want to thank my friends, family, and strangers who have helped us through this difficult time.

Here is a poem by Benjamin Zephaniah, which brings the message of people needing people so beautifully and poignantly:
People need people,
To walk to
To talk to
To cry and rely on,
People will always need people.
To love and to miss
To hug and to kiss,
It’s useful to have other people.
To whom to moan
If you’re all alone,
It’s so hard to share
When no one is there.
There’s not much to do
When there’s no one but you.
People will always need people.
To please
To tease
To put you at ease,
People will always need people.
To make life appealing
And give life some meaning,
It’s useful to have other people.
It you need a change
To whom will you turn.
If you need a lesson
From whom will you learn.
If you need to play
You’ll know why I say
People will always need people.
As girlfriends
As boyfriends
From Bombay
To Ostend,
People will always need people-
To have friendly fights with
And share tasty bites with,
It’s useful to have other people.
People live in families
Gangs, posses and packs,
Its seems we need company
Before we relax,
So stop making enemies
And let’s face the facts,
People will always need people,
Yes
People will always need people.
–Benjamin Zephaniah


Friday, September 8, 2017

HURRICANE IRMA


Due to the threat of Hurricane Irma, I will not be doing a post for a week or so. We have our home prepared for the storm, but will be leaving tomorrow morning and will be staying with friends who live a little farther north. We are stocked up with non-perishable food and water. Once we have returned to our home and electricity is available, I will return with more blogs.

What can we learn from natural disasters?

   How strong are you?
             If you lost your home and most of your possessions, would you be able to rebuild?
             Will you be able to help your neighbors?
             
   What possessions would you take if you had only minutes to get them?

   How prepared are you to help with physical injuries?
             Do you know CPR?
             Do you have bandages, alcohol wipes, antibiotic creams, etc.?
             Do you know how to apply splints, prevent swelling, know stroke or heart attack symptoms?

   What are your important papers?
             Do you have a living will?
             Do you have a will?
             Are you personally insured?
             Are your home and personal possessions insured?

There are many storms that can come our way. Hurricane Irma is just one. I have survived the storms of ovarian cancer, sexual and physical abuse, divorce, and untimely deaths. My faith in God, trusting my instincts, help from friends and family, and my own sense of strength has seen me through many trials.

My prayers are for the people and families of Florida.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I have an e-book copy of my book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir available for 0.99 in the UK and USA on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Outshine-Ovarian-Cancer-Karen-Ingalls-ebook/dp/B00KI1HGZI/ref=sr
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outshine-Ovarian-Cancer-Karen-Ingalls-ebook/dp/B00KI1HGZI/ref=sr_

Saturday, September 2, 2017

OUTSHINING OVARIAN CANCER

This was first published last year but it is a message that is important and should be repeated regularly. My thanks to Sally Cronin for sharing my story and also the symptoms all women should be aware of on her website.
September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the reproductive system. Karen is an ovarian cancer survivor and therefore supremely qualified to write this article.. The post carries an important message about understanding how our bodies work and how we should be on the alert for anything that seems out of the ordinary.
OUTSHINING OVARIAN CANCER  by Karen Ingalls.
photo-on-2-14-16-at-139-pm-crop-u6133I am a retired registered nurse and had very limited education about gynecological diseases and cancers. From working in hospice I only knew that ovarian cancer is the deadliest one of all gynecologic cancers. My journey and initial diagnosis with ovarian cancer is not an unusual one.
I had gained a few pounds and developed a protruding stomach, both of which were unusual for me since I had always bordered on being underweight. When my weight continued to increase, I began an aggressive exercise and weight-loss program. I never considered these changes to be anything more than normal postmenopausal aging.
I saw my gynecologist for my routine PAP smear, which only determines the presence of cancer cells in the cervix. She could not get the speculum into my vagina and when she palpated my abdomen she felt a mass. I was rushed to get a CT scan, which revealed a very large tumor in my left lower abdomen. Two days later I had an appointment with a gynecologic-oncology surgeon for an evaluation.
A week later I had a hysterectomy by the gynecologic-oncology surgeon from which I learned the tumor was malignant. It is critically important that such a specialist in this field of oncology perform the surgery. They are experts and know what to look for and how to safely remove any tumors.
My surgery involved removing the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, omentum, ten lymph glands for microscopic investigation, and ten inches of my colon where the tumor had grown into. I am blessed that there were no cancer cells in my lymph glands or other organs. Two weeks later I was then started on chemotherapy for six rounds.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are subtle and common to many women so they are often ignored or attributed to something more benign. Most physicians do not consider the possibility of the presenting symptoms to be related to ovarian cancer. Often the woman is sent from one specialist to another, which I call the “Gilda Radner Syndrome.” With each passing day the cancer is growing and putting the woman at greater risk of being at a more terminal stage.
These are the most common symptoms:
*Abdominal bloating
*Pain in abdomen
*Low back pain
*Frequency of urination
*Changes in bowel habits
*Increased indigestion or change in appetite.
*Pain with intercourse
*Fatigue
*Unusual vaginal discharges
*Menstrual irregularities
If a woman experiences any of these symptoms for two weeks, it is recommended that she see her gynecologist and insist on an abdominal ultrasound and a CA125. The only laboratory-screening test currently available is a CA125 blood test, which unfortunately has a high incidence of false positives. We women need to be our own advocates and demand these inexpensive tests.
If the ultrasound and possibly a CT, MRI, or PET scans reveal a tumor, then in my opinion the woman must see a gynecologic oncologist. Typically the woman undergoes a debulking surgery, which is a complete hysterectomy and removal of any lymph nodes or any suspicious surrounding tissue or organs. The only way to accurately determine if cancer is present is through specimen testing of the tissue.
The risk factors are:
*Family or self-history of breast, colon, ovarian, or prostate cancers
*Eastern Jewish heritage (Ashkenazi)
*History of infertility drugs
*Never been pregnant
*BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 positive mutation
*Older than 60
I was staged at IIC and given a 50% chance of surviving 5 years. I had no family history of ovarian cancer and only one relative who had had breast cancer. I did not fit the typical criteria, and the BRCA1 and BRCA2 markers were negative for mutation. So the question, “Why did I get ovarian cancer?” remains unanswered and it is actually not an important one any longer.
The word cancer creates fear in everyone either mildly or extremely. Yet so often the things we fear are never as great as the fear itself. As a young person I had learned from my grandmother and adopted aunt that attitude, acceptance, and determination are the keys to facing a fear and to healing the body, mind, and spirit. Those women were, and still are today, w strong role models for me. They taught me about living a healthy lifestyle, which included a belief in God, exercise, good nutrition, positive thinking, healthy touch and meditation. These lifestyle choices had helped me face childhood abuse, divorce, alcoholic parents, and untimely deaths, and now they have helped me live with cancer.
I prefer to use the word challenge instead of problem, test, or trial. I like the word challenge because I envision positivity, learning, growing, and putting my best efforts forward. I did not think about being cured of the cancer, but more about how I can live my life with dignity, and what I am to learn from this new role as a woman with cancer. A family friend, Dr. LaJune Foster once said, “Look about for each bright ray of sunshine: cherish them, for in the days ahead they will light your path.” I deeply believe in this way of living.
I wrote about my journey with ovarian cancer to educate, support, and inspire women and their families. It is my own unique experience, but there are some common emotions, events, and experiences that all cancer survivors share. Like many others traveling this road, I have experienced valleys and mountaintops, darkness and rays of sunshine. I do not know what the future holds for me, but I have learned a lot about myself and met some incredibly courageous women.
The challenge of ovarian cancer was an opportunity for me to become a better person. My life is far richer and has the greater mission, which is to spread the word about this lesser known disease. I truly see each moment as a gift that is not to be taken for granted, but lived to its fullest with love. An important lesson I learned with the challenge of ovarian cancer is that the beauty of the soul, the real me, and the real you, outshines the effects of cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation. It outshines any negative experience.
  51gerumf7fl-_uy250_Buy the book: www.amazon.com/Outshine-An-Ovarian-Cancer-Memoir
Karen Ingalls is the author of the award-winning book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir; a volunteer with the Women & Girls’ Cancer Alliance of Florida Hospital and Women for Hospice; a public speaker; and an advocate for ovarian cancer awareness.
                        ALL PROCEEDS GO TO GYNECOLOGIC CANCER RESEARCH.
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She is the author of two novels: Novy’s Son and the award winning, Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Buy the books
www.amazon.com/Novys-Son
www.amazon.com/Davida-Model-Mistress

Connect with Karen on her websites and social media.