Archive for August, 2011

Avon Books makes donations from sale of select books for National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Funny how a person can remember exactly where he or she was when something bad happens that affects your life profusely. I have days that are forever etched in my mind. One of the foremost is the day I found out my mother had ovarian cancer. Even worse, I was sitting with her at that exact moment and I often wonder what was going through her mind when she heard that word…that awful “C” word…no ones wants to hear.  That day began a journey that lasted a little over three years. A journey that I spent with my mother…trying to be her support through the bad days and helping her live life just a little better on those good days.

September is recognized as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. September is the month I lost my beautiful mother to her fight against this disease (September 23, 2004). In a touch of irony, teal (one of mother’s favorite colors) is the official color of the ribbons, jewelry and other items used to bring awareness to this deadly cancer.

How can a vibrant person who loves life and has a great respect for health get mixed up in this fight? How can one so aware of the health of others not see this coming?

Long regarded as the ‘silent killer’ ovarian cancer is almost always detected in late stages. A person is incredibly lucky to be diagnosed in the first stages. Many are able to get help while the disease is in the second stage. But…most ovarian cancers are found in stage three and stage four. For those unfamiliar with these stages, let me give a quick primer. In Stage One, cancer is limited to one or both ovaries. Stage Two has the cancer in one or both ovaries and it has spread to other pelvic structures. By Stage Three not only have one or both ovaries been involved with the disease but also either the cancer has spread beyond the pelvis and is in the lining of the abdomen or cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. The tumor is limited to the true pelvis but also malignant extension to the small bowel. By Stage Four again one or both ovaries are involved and the cancer has actual metastasized to the liver or lungs. Also, the pleural fluid (excess fluid located around the lungs) contains ovarian cancer cells.

For each of the first three stages there are three grades of I, II or III…each a step worse than the next as far as the exposure to the cancer.

Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary, just a few weeks before her diagnosis. Mama was already quite sick.

My mother, when hers was found, was already at Third Stage, III. Not to be graphic, but to be helpful to you, her cancer had spread into her pelvis area, her abdomen and its lining. None was found in her lymph nodes. When she had surgery two LARGE tumors were removed…one located right at her stomach; also she had to have the protective lining to her abdomen removed, leaving her susceptible to herniation of that area of her body. With the ascites (fluid) that occurs with many cancers plus this loss of abdominal lining, she often had to have the fluid drained (I actually sat with her many occasions when this was done (mind you, she was awake for these procedures)…while it relieves pressure on organs and gives the patient relief it also speeds the accumulation of even MORE fluid).

I know I am not painting a pretty picture, but it is a picture of a wonderful, brave woman who loved her life…suffering one of the deadliest cancers today. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is not called a silent killer for nothing. Symptoms are not very easy to spot. And when they are, often they are mistaken for gall bladder trouble, weight gain or other maladies.

During Mama's brief remission

My mother thought she had gall bladder trouble. She experienced some bloating and had trouble with not wanting to eat at times. Food didn’t seem to agree with her…either she wasn’t hungry or although hungry she couldn’t eat very much. Spotting/unusual bleeding occurred even though she’d already gone past menopause. She never mentioned constipation or abdominal pain to me but these are also signs of a possible illness. Her stomach appeared distended, which she attributed to a possible gall bladder problem. Again, nothing alarming and nothing too out of the ordinary that she felt in danger. Taken all together, these symptoms are quite obvious she was sick. But they all didn’t happen at the same times. Also, by the time these symptoms are all coming together there is a great possibility the cancer has ventured into the Stage Three area.

According to ovariancancer.org you should also watch for other symptoms that have been commonly reported by women with ovarian cancer. These symptoms include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse and menstrual irregularities. However, these other symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are also found in equal frequency in women in the general population who do not have ovarian cancer.

These are not silent symptoms. A person can and does notice these unusual or uncommon things as they happen to the body, especially a combination of a few. These are signs that you take and run straight to your doctor!

Early detection is KEY! For those in the high risk category, there is the CA-125 test, while it does have false positives…it measure the concentration of protein CA-125 (elevated numbers are found in cancerous cells). Transvaginal ultrasounds are a wonderful backup to this test. My mother had these tests done at regular intervals while undergoing chemotherapy and during a brief remission to measure the rise or fall of the number of cancer cells…determining the advancement or sometimes loss of numbers in cancer cells.

OVA1 has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for determining risks for surgery and helps determine if surgery can be done by a gynecologist or a gynecological oncologist –  a doctor who is specially trained to treat women with gynecological cancers. My mother’s surgery was done by a gynecologic-oncologist.

Pelvic exams, like those you get in your annual exam (ladies, get those examinations) do not usually detect ovarian cancer. If it does it is usually in the advanced stages. They are helpful and should not be overlooked as they will be part of the official diagnosis and staging of ovarian cancer. They are also vital in keeping other medical problems at bay.

Avon Books has made an initial donation of $25,000 to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. And Avon has announced that beginning August 30, it  is committed to donating 25¢ from the sale of each book, physical and eBook, in the “K.I.S.S and Teal” promotion between 8/30/2011 and 2/28/2012, up to an additional $25,000 toward programs that support ovarian cancer patients and their families. Be sure to look for the KISS and Teal logo on your next Avon purchase! You can also go to their web page to make individual donations.

A ‘critique raffle” is being held by fellow writers for author Heather McCollum…who is fighting ovarian cancer with dignity and with grace. Five fellow authors are donating critiques to be raffled at $1 per chance with the proceeds going to fund awareness of ovarian cancer and the need to find a cure. I find this a sweet, heartfelt gesture and would love anyone reading this blog to check it out at http://www.virginiakantra.com/CritiquesforHeather.html.

Treatment of ovarian cancer includes one or any combination of the following: surgery, chemotherapy, intraperitoneal chemotherapy and radiation. Naturally, a person could expect hair loss, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, nerve problems, sexual issues, diarrhea or constipation, differing tastes of foods and problems with teeth and gums and what is known as “chemobrain”, forgetfulness or trouble concentrating following chemotherapy. If it goes into remission please continue to get regular checkups, for around 70 percent of patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer will have a recurrence.

My mother enjoyed a few months without chemotherapy and with low CA-125 numbers, then it returned and seemed to never respond to treatment. According to the ovariancancer.org site:

One of the factors in determining a patient’s risk of recurrence is the stage of the cancer at diagnosis:

  • Patients diagnosed in stage I have a 10 percent chance of recurrence.
  • Patients diagnosed in stage II have a 30 percent chance of recurrence.
  • Patients diagnosed in stage III have a 70 to 90 percent chance of recurrence.
  • Patients diagnosed in stage IV have a 90 to 95 percent chance of recurrence.

We need better early detection. We need reliable tests that can find this illness in its earliest stages. We need more accurate screening tools!!

Please take a few minutes to look at a few ovarian cancer sites. Famed Saturday Night Live member, Gilda Radner, died of this disease. A great organization was founded by her husband after her death because she’d felt “no one should face cancer alone”. Along with the sites I’ve mentioned, visit Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, A Survivor’s Journey For Women with Cancer, Ovarian Cancer?? Pass the Wine…Now!, Wikipedia List of Women with Ovarian Cancer…or one of the scores of sites for information concerning finding, treating and curing this disease.

Please, listen to your body! Insist on more attention to ovarian cancer research and testing. Ladies (and gentlemen) please pass along the link to this blog to raise awareness with others who should know more about this deadly cancer. Let’s raise awareness among our writing (and reading) community!

Let’s make many, many more people aware of this most deadly disease,


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As a veteran of many hurricanes, near hurricanes and tropical storms, I have watched with interest over the past few days as Hurricane Irene approached. It seems a bit surreal as I sit here watching television as streams of cars clog the Parkway as evacuations are in order in New Jersey.

New Jersey? New York? New England?

I do know that hurricanes, many fierce and historic, have devastated those areas in years past. It just is unusual to me (I suppose) because I live in an area regularly on the alert for this type weather. My home has been in the direct path of Hurricane Camille’s eye and within miles of the eye of Hurricane Katrina. These two make the others that have inundated our area seem much smaller and less destructive. But….destructive they are!

Trees down, branches broken and strewn about, store fronts losing signs, glass windows broken, possible flooding. Just a few of the things to worry about with hurricanes. My vivid memories of Camille are still very much with me. THAT was a storm I will never forget. Katrina? I left the area and returned after the storm had passed only to find my hometown and many cities and highways around it covered with downed trees, no power, limited access to food and gas.

To those in the Carolinas, batten down the hatches…you are surely receiving wind and rain from the bands of the storm that are entering your area. To those farther North, please heed all warnings of your city and state officials. It is much better to over-prepare than to find yourselves with no food or water or gasoline for several days. Often we have gotten prepared for a bad storm only to have no power problems or destruction. But never let your guard down when it comes to these types of storms…they are unpredictable and dangerous. Wouldn’t you rather be well prepared…just in case?

High tide. New moon. The pathway of the storm. All factors when the storm approaches New Jersey and New York. Areas north of these states will also be affected with wind and rain…and probable damage.

As Irene travels up the East coast it creates dangerous currents and, nearer the storm eye, waves currently above forty feet.

To all along the entire coast and in both the direct and indirect path of this large, dangerous storm, please heed all warnings and stay safe,





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Constructing websites…

For the past several weeks I have been considering changing the look of my writing website. It has remained the same for quite some time…same background, same layout, same general information. I’ve even been playing with different types of layouts as I ‘teach myself’ how to update my pages. One thing that I learned quickly…re-building a website is not done in a day…or even two!

For those of us who are a bit HTML challenged, using website building software seems to be the way to go. Also several web hosts (both free and fee based) offer premade web pages. Simply fill in your information and upload to the Internet.

I am considering adding pages to discuss ebooks, progress on current work in progress and a few other goodies I’ve seen while exploring the web pages of some of my own favorite authors. Just comparing my own to theirs has given me some great ideas. I am also researching how to get readers and other authors interested in coming back for regular updates on my writing.

When complete, I will link this blog to my website and I hope you will feel free to check it out and send any comments or suggestions my way. I always appreciate constructive criticism.

Oh, if you have any suggestions or advice to pass on now…..please do!

Time to get back to learning about links and codes and color palettes,


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I love to write. Looking back at different times of my life I can see how putting words to my feelings often helped keep my sanity! LOL

Writing a book is quite different from journaling or keeping a diary. Or writing that explosive letter that you’d NEVER send when a relationship goes awry (yes, I have done that as well). I have to fight the tendency to edit as I go and watch every punctuation mark, misspelled word or hanging preposition! From all the advice I’ve received, writing a book through the first drafts should be about the story…later edits can fix those other issues. I was taught to use correct grammar (okay, I am not perfect…I still have those hanging prepositions, misspelled words, etc.) so I am trying to train myself to immerse my thoughts in the story, get that on paper and leave corrections for later. Honestly, when I am feeling inspired and that muse is working overtime I have to write it down quickly…it flows from my mind like molten lava…so leaving edits til later works better for me.

With these summer thunderstorms and days of self-imposed exile from the heat I have had time for much introspection and my muse is chomping at the bit. I am loving the feeling! I wonder why the intense thunder and lightning seem to fire up my imagination…..

I am very happy with my writing these days, feeling inspired and unusually optimistic about my works in progress.

Hopefully I’ll keep you in the loop about how my work is coming along….I think I see a glimpse of that light at the end of the tunnel!




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