Archive for the ‘Cancer remembrances/research’ Category

For 2012 I’ve decided to expand my blog. Not only will I be posting updates to keep you abreast of my writing adventures and sharing more of my personal experiences but I want to add guest bloggers to my site.

Do you have a book coming out and want to let us know about it? Maybe you have an important award or contest you want to plug (or perhaps have won!). Maybe your book just reached #5 or #10 or #100 on your favorite book lists…share it with me and with others here!

For the most part my blog will continue to follow my writing … I plan to finally release some of my work … preferably through a publishing house, if not then through self-release via ebooks.

This is January…a new beginning of a new year…time for new hopes and new things,




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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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Ovarian Cancer Awareness

Today would have been my mother’s 78th birthday. As I sit in my darkened room and write this, I realize all the wonderful things that have happened since her death seven years ago. My children were truly children then…now both have graduated high school and moved on to college. While one just completed her first year, the other is starting her first year of graduate school. Mama believed in great educations…she married in her senior year of high school and within days of graduating had gone with my dad after his draft to Fort Breckenridge. A brilliant woman who never got to attend college herself, she was an excellent role model for us, teaching us independence and strength, just two traits among many she valued.

I am glad she wasn’t here to see the agony of my older sister’s fight with lung cancer. My sister was a lover of life. Strong-willed and determined, she could have done anything…yet had a very soft heart and an incredible love of laughter. My sister was diagnosed a year after Mama died…and lived almost a year fighting her own disease. Just a little time passed and we lost our dad. Sometimes I think he lost part of his will to be here after losing his wife and daughter so quickly.

Mama never got to meet some of her great-grandchildren. And she will never get to see all her grandchildren as they marry and start their own lives. I hope these children will learn some of the values Mama passed on to us…her legacy is a strong one.

She’d be proud that I continue to write. Of all those who have known me from childhood to adulthood, she was one who encouraged my dreams of becoming an author. I know she’d had goals as a young woman that she put aside to raise her family…and she was determined that  my sisters and I know that whatever our circumstance, we should never give up on our dreams.

She died of ovarian cancer. It is a silent killer which quite often isn’t easily noticed until too much time has passed. Know the symptoms, know the way your body feels normally and listen to those silent hints it gives you when you have an inkling something could be wrong. Ladies, it is better to find it early and have it treated than to find it too late.  I won’t preach of what you should and shouldn’t do…but do learn about this disease. Suggestions are…

Check out http://www.ocrf.org/ or http://ovariancancer.com/app/index.php or http://www.gildasclub.org/.

She was my mother and she was my best friend. Happy Birthday Mama,





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Last night I watched Dancing with the Stars for the first time in a very, very long time. Not that I don’t like the show….just that I usually do not watch much network television. But I had heard that Jennifer Grey, the wonderful actress who starred opposite Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, was to be one of the contestants.

I am a great admirer of Swayze for many reasons. First, and probably the  most notable, was his performances in so many of my favorite movies…including Ghost and Dirty Dancing. He probably couldn’t be described as a modern-day Clark Gable but he was most definitely a person you did not forget after having seen him perform. Buddy to his friends, he had a mother who taught ballet and he even met his beautiful wife while dancing at his mother’s studio. He had the ability to mesmerize me when he appeared onscreen. Was it his personality? His acting ability? Perhaps it was his movements as he walked, talked, danced or fought onscreen. After all, he was a professionally trained dancer and it showed in the way he moved. Also, because I am a great advocate of cancer patients, victims, survivors and all the much-needed research needed to develop cures for this terrible disease, I watched as he valiantly fought one of the most deadly of cancers. His fight and determination to live his life so reminded me of my mother and my sister as they fought (and lost) this battle themselves.

But I digress. I watched to see Jennifer Grey as she performed a fabulous Viennese waltz…the first time I’ve seen her dance since her performance as Baby. It was awe-inspiring. Yes, I am an incurable romantic…and I knew her dance reminded her of the times she and Patrick practiced and performed for their movie. But the effect it had on her and on those who were there to support her and those who watched the televised performance…it was more than heartwarming. It brought tears to my eyes as she glided across the stage.

I read recently she, too, was found to have cancer. A little known fact…but during the physical to become a Dancing with the Stars participant a lump on her neck was tested and found to be malignant. It was subsequently removed and, again from reports in the news, she is now fine and has a clean bill of health. I am so happy she decided at this time to dance for us again…and even more happy this lump was found and removed in time……

I fell in love with the story of Baby and her handsome dance teacher, Johnny. My family picks on me because I watch movies that mean something to me over and over again…this one included. But I can’t help it….love, romance, overcoming obstacles….great inspiration for a writer’s soul.

It affected me in more ways than one,

Now I want to learn the Viennese waltz,


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Although I missed attending the RWA ’10 convention in Orlando, I have seen many wonderful pictures of authors, agents and publishers enjoying meetings, lunches, outings and other convention fare. One addition event was a raffle in honor of one of romance’s own writers who is currently a breast cancer patient, Jennifer Haymore. A beautiful lady and a fabulous writer (I have been a fan of hers for quite a while), this raffle was for critiques, for books and for having a character in an upcoming Haymore book named after the winner. What a wonderful publisher! My sincere admiration to you, Forever Romance!

Remember to give to your favorite cancer organization each year. It is from these funds that cures will be found and patients receive extra support. Based on personal losses, I often favor the American Lung Association (in memory of my sister and grandmother) and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry (in memory of my mom). There are so many associations that help with research funding, patient assistance and family support for battling many types of cancers…all could use a helping hand.

A little support goes a long way,


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My paternal grandmother celebrated her 97th birthday this past April. She has appeared before in my blog…I related the story of my dad’s birth in a boxcar back in 1930, in the logging camps of Louisiana.

Her health hasn’t been very good for about two years now. For a very, very long time she seemed healthy for a woman of her years. A few months back she complained about hurting in her right chest and side and scans revealed some unusual places in her right lung. The doctor had his suspicions but with her advanced age any procedures to verify or disprove whatever it was could have been more harmful than the possible illness.

She has taken a turn for the worse over the past month or so. No longer is she able to walk with assistance or be mobile in the wheelchair. She is now bedridden and I visited her for a while today. She seemed so tiny and fragile, maybe because I’ve never seen her so helpless. A stroke quite recently had affected her right side and speech; and she has lost so much of her energy. It amazes me that just about three weeks ago she was up and talking and still laughing and kidding with me and today was so very different.

I have lost so many close loved ones over the years, it hurts to feel my grandmother slipping away. To have lived and experienced all that has been in her lifetime….incredible. And I will continue to visit with her, and talk to her for as long as she is in that bed. I will still treat her with the admiration and dignity a lady of her years deserves. I can sit at her bedside and tell her about my day and keep her company.

To all of you who still have your grandparents or your parents, give them a huge hug. You never know what can happen in just a few weeks time and always, even if that parent or uncle or aunt or grandparent is nearing the century mark, it comes as a surprise when you realize you could soon be losing a dear family member. And what is even more surprising is the frustration that comes with the reality that you cannot do anything for them physically…but you can pray.

Offering prayers for my Mamaw,


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Tomorrow would have been my sister Maria’s 57th birthday. She was my big sister, the protector for me and for our younger sister. At first glance, you would see she was such a tiny person as the shortest of the three of us. It seems as my parents had the three of us girls that each subsequent daughter would be a bit taller in their adulthood than the next. Ria, as everyone called her, was just 5’2″ with eyes of such a brilliant blue. In retrospect she had my Daddy’s wonderful blue eyes. That old line of a song “Five foot two, eyes of blue…” would definitely describe her.

Maria had a laugh that could draw people to her. She never forgot a joke and was the life of any party or family get-together. Wherever the laughter and good times were occuring…she was in the middle of it all. She absolutely loved life and had fun living it. As she got older she loved to go on cruises, she visited Puerto Rico, and she loved to go to Orlando to play golf. She started her adult life at the early age of 17 when she married while still a high school senior…and spent the next twenty years of her life mostly raising her two kids. In fact, she went back to school, to college, to become a RN long after her high school years, when her children were older. She became a respected RN and her career spanned Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. She preferred nursing in Intensive Care and loved the night shifts. As a nurse, I often wonder if she knew or suspected the warning signs. Looking back, I can see one or two…but less than a year after the death of our mother, Maria was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005. Not only did she have lung cancer, but it had already gotten into her system and spread to the bones in her legs and tumors were wrapped around her heart and spine. The news was fast and devastating. We went from hearing she was going into the hospital to get checked out to learning phone call to phone call of each thing that was found. We were floored. Maria was the strong one, the big sister that was invincible and so successful and so wonderful. We needed her.

I could spend days writing her story…and some day I plan to write a memorial to her and to my mom (also a victim of cancer). But today I remember the fun times, the happy times, the times she spent here with all of us. She had a laugh that made you smile, she had a temper that could make a grown man cower, and she loved life with such spirit that we could not believe she’d be taken from us so young. But she was. She fought this foe with grace and with dignity…and for a while we were amazed at the way she still played golf as long as she could, she took care of her own needs at times for she lived away from our family and her husband was employed with an offshore drilling company, she loved her grandchildren and she never gave up the fight. She was incredibly close to my younger sister and I often admired the way they seemed so in tune to each other…and my little sister and I still miss our big sister….she was the embodiment of a person living life to its fullest.

She lived with that cancer almost a year, in October of 2006 she was taken from us….our angel on earth. She collected angels, and today I have a shelf in my den with some of her favorites…angels in snow globes, angels dressed in nursing outfits, angels looking over children…today she is an angel, with a laughing face and twinkling eyes and still (hopefully) watching over her family and her two little sisters.

We miss you and we love you Ria,


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