Cancer sucks – Meet an amazing lady who survived Cancer, it can be a killer, but for one woman it became a challenge.
Hi Karen, thank you for accepting my invitation to talk to my readers about your book Outshine.
Thank you, Margaret, it is a pleasure to be here.
Karen just to let my readers know before we start you are a cancer survivor.
Yes, I am.
So you developed cancer, can you tell us what your reaction was?
When anyone hears the word cancer it creates fear, anxiety, and sometimes panic. This is true no matter the language, culture, religion, or nationality. When I heard, “I am sorry but the tumor is cancerous” I also felt fear and thought my life was over. This lasted about two days but as I asked questions, did research into ovarian cancer, and turned my fear over to God then I began to see the cancer as one of several challenges I have had to face.
Why do you use the word challenge, Karen?
I prefer to use the word challenge because it does not signify negativity, but an opportunity. Just as the athlete trains for the competition, I saw my training as putting my body, mind, emotions, and spirit in optimum condition to live with cancer. I have always been the health nut of the family choosing to eat few red meats, little processed foods, and lots of fruit and vegetables. I have always exercised or been involved in yoga. Meditation or deep prayer has been a daily (or more) event.
Your positive outlook appears to be key in dealing with your diagnosis.
Well, I am a retired registered nurse who specialized in holistic counseling in my private practice as a nurse counselor. I offered the client therapeutic massage, healing touch, biofeedback in addition to the one on one counseling. I pursued these same modalities for myself and after the diagnosis I added Qigong, Reiki, and nutritional advice.
I am sure the readers would like to know a little about your earlier life.
Since I was a preteen I wrote short stories, poems, and nightly wrote in my diary. I found this to be very helpful in dealing with my alcoholic parents and abuse from my stepfather. In the 1950’s there was no programs, information, or sources for those of who were being abused. It was a family secret!
How has writing helped with your recovery Karen?
I wrote and journaled for my healing and continued doing it right up to today. I did not think I had any gift for writing so I did not share it with anyone. One of the positive things that came out of my cancer diagnosis was the publication of my award-winning book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir. This is the story of my cancer journey which anyone who hears the words you have cancer will relate to it. Cancer is cancer is cancer. Even though our specific cancer might be different and there may be some variations to our journeys, we do walk similar paths. It is my hope that my ways of training for this challenge, or coping will help others.
Being a nurse you are obviously aware of the symptoms but can you tell the readers of other less known indications.
Yes of course, I also wrote the book Outshine to bring awareness about this lesser known and too often deadly disease. Every female, no matter her age, needs to know the symptoms and act on them. Briefly, the most common symptoms are:
*abdominal or pelvic pain,
*indigestion or feeling full sooner than normal,
*changes in urination or bowel habits,
*unusual vaginal discharge, to name the most common symptoms.
If these symptoms persist for two weeks it is imperative to see a physician and demand a transvaginal ultrasound and a blood test called a CA125. These tests are not expensive and they are all that is available to help diagnose ovarian cancer at an early stage.
What is your advice for any woman who may be concerned about Ovarian Cancer?
Too often physicians do not consider ovarian cancer initially when the patient presents with any or a couple of these symptoms. It is imperative that the woman know and share her family history and be proactive. Gilda Radner was sent from physician to physician until her cancer was so advanced she died young. This still happens today. Physicians, nurses, and every woman needs to know about ovarian cancer.
Does this cancer only affect women over 60?
This cancer is not just for women over 60 years old. There have been diagnoses of preteens, those in their teens, twenties, thirties, and on up. Did you know that Olympic gymnast, Shannon Miller was diagnosed at age 34, Gilda Radner was 42, Maureen Connolly the tennis champion was 34? A teenager in Florida was diagnosed at the age of 18, a 7 year old, and even an infant were diagnosed with rare forms of ovarian cancer.
How can we help more women be aware of this condition?
I hope you will share this information with everyone. It is only through knowledge and action that we can save the 14,000 lives that are lost every year just in the United States alone. Please feel free to contact me at my website or email listed below if you have questions or require more information.
Karen, your approach to Ovarian Cancer, can it be used in other instances?
Yes of course Margaret, no matter if your challenge is related to health, relationships, finances, abuse, addiction, or any other number of events my holistic approach can be of help to the reader. I talk about such things as meditation or deep prayer, exercise, diet, imagery, and laughter to name just a few. I hope the reader will find the necessary ways to cope with the stress or challenge in his or her life.
I would like to ask you if you would share an excerpt from your book Karen, is that possible?
I would be delighted to.
Thank you, Karen, it has been a great pleasure to talk to you. I hope many readers will be encouraged by your testimony.
An Excerpt from Outshine:
Prayer and Love
It’s said that as tears flow out, love flows in. I believe that to be true. For the next two weeks, a lot of love flowed in. Jim and I sobbed until our throats and stomachs ached. The week was painfully difficult while we waited for answers; informed our kids, family, and friends; and I made preparations for surgery and recovery. It was the start of a journey that would have us enter hell and then travel various peaks and valleys of hope, fear, ministry, doubt, prayer, and an ever-closer relationship with God and each other. I have always believed in God, even though I was raised in a home where there was no talk of God, Jesus, or the Bible. We never went to church, Grace was only said when my stepfather’s family was at our house for a meal, Easter was about the bunny rabbit, and Christmas was about Santa Claus.
My grandmother, Edith, was the one who taught me about God, all religions, and how Jesus was her Savior. In my junior year of high school, the abuse had escalated to a point where I knew my life was in danger. I left my mother’s house in Long Beach, California, to live with my dad and his wife in Hollywood, California. Starting in my preteen years, Dad and I had become very close. He did not know about the abuse because I was scared to tell him the “secret.”
The move meant changing schools, making new friends, and seeing very little of my mother and two sisters. Both sets of my grandparents had always been very important to me, and now they were even more so. Both Dad and my grandparents provided the stability, strength, and spiritual and religious beliefs I needed. It was an ending and a beginning, frightening and safe, confusing and sane, nightmare and dream, sadness and happiness.
A classmate invited me to the youth group at her church every Wednesday night. So began my journey in truly knowing and accepting God into my life through Jesus the Christ. My faith has never stopped growing, and it was the foundation for which I found the strength and courage to face what lay ahead.
The time before my surgery gave Jim and me an opportunity to come to a new level of grief. We talked about the power of prayer and how our love could see us through anything. Prayer and love had already seen us through some difficult times with family, careers, and our own relationship. We were overwhelmed, too, with the love and support we received from family and friends.
Every message in a card, whether written by Hallmark or the sender, touched my heart and soul in a completely unexpected way. I learned a lesson in life that any birthday, sympathy, or get-well card might be very meaningful and powerful for the receiver. Therefore, cards need to be selected and sent with the ministry they are intended to have. Too many times in the past, I have sent cards without paying close attention to the words inscribed. I must get this in the mail, was my thought as I quickly selected a card after barely scanning the verse. That was not ministering to others. Rather, it was being too self-absorbed in my own busy-ness.
Being on the receiving end of so many special cards opened my eyes and heart. As the days brought us closer to the surgery, I learned that friends are one of the most cherished gifts I appreciate. One morning, I joined my dear friend, Charlotte, for a cup of coffee. We had met twenty years ago when we worked together in the hospital’s epilepsy unit. Sharing the same philosophy of life and nursing, we quickly formed a deep friendship. We talked about my upcoming surgery and the unknown challenges that lay ahead of me. She helped me deeply explore and discuss my true fears. “I think my greatest fear is for Jim,” I said. “How will he be if I die?”
For over twenty years, we had lived each day as if we would live forever, though we had buried his parents and said goodbye to other relatives and friends. “Jim and I have such a close bond, it’s like we’re one. We’re best friends, besides loving each other so deeply and profoundly.” Charlotte took my hand and said, “Jim is a survivor. He’ll go through his stages of grief and will miss you terribly, but he’ll survive just because of his love for you. He knows that’s what you would want.” After a few minutes she added, “Besides, none of us knows when we’re going to die. Just because you might have cancer does not mean you are automatically going to die from it.”
If you wish to buy a signed paperback copy at the special price of $3.99 for any of my books, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your support. Thank you, Margaret, for this opportunity to share about ovarian cancer and healthy ways to cope with any life-threatening or life-altering event.
Disclaimer – Any of the views expressed in this interview are solely the participant’s and not necessarily endorsed by the interviewer.
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