A CHALLENGE CAN BE AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE A BETTER PERSON.
According to the dictionary a challenge is defined as an invitation to a contest; a questioning of something; a stimulation of intellect; or a stimulating test of abilities. I see it as a physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual event.
Examples of challenges that anyone of us might face are: financial, job loss, marital or relationships, health, or retirement to name just a few. As a young person I faced several challenges, but the one that was the greatest was the physical and sexual abuse from my stepfather. In the 1950’s I had nowhere to turn and believed I was somehow responsible. I never told anyone until I was in my twenties.
I had learned from my grandmother and adopted aunt how to live a life filled with love, peace, and forgiveness. They introduced me to God and I wanted to be like them and how they faced their life challenges.
I survived the abuse. I forgave my stepfather. I turned the negative event into a positive one by helping other abuse victims.
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 was 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.
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 see 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.
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.
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!
I wrote and journaled for my healing and continued doing it right through 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 to which anyone who hears the words you have cancer will relate. Cancer is cancer is cancer. Even though our specific cancer might be different and there may 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.
Some of my healthy ways to cope are:
Daily deep prayer
Positive thinking and actions
Joyful pastimes (gardening, reading, golf, music, etc.)
Reach out to people with love
Never lose hope
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
These symptoms can appear vague and not unusual, but please pay attention to them. Keep a calendar of them, what you did to relieve them, and any results. Show this calendar to your doctor. 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 the only tools to help diagnose ovarian cancer at an early stage.
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.
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.
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.
No matter if our 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.
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, my
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 gotta 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
“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.”
Thank you, Diane for giving me the opportunity to share about outshining challenges.
Remember to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of
the book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir. I will be giving away
It is available on Amazon and all proceeds go to gynecologic cancer research.
Karen Ingalls is a retired registered nurse, 9yr ovarian cancer
survivor/thriver, author and blogger, and public speaker. She
has won two book awards for Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer
Memoir and Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Other books by Karen Ingalls are:
Novy’s Son http://www.amazon.com/dp/BO1BO2VQY
Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens http://amazon.com/Davida-Model-Mistress-Augustus-Saint-Gaudens/dp