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SAMSUNGHow long have you been a writer? Or have dreamed of becoming one?

How many of you pictured yourselves stretched on a chaise sofa, dictating your wonderful, flowery prose to an assistant as your editor phones with book promotion tour information, lots of money stacked in the corner or, better yet, your staff caring for your every whim as you release book after New York best seller book….

No, that is not the average life of a modern writer. And most likely not the life of a pre-modern writer. Unless you are the new Barbara Cartland…and even this picture is just too much to have been her every day normal life.

Writing is a solitary life. Very few writers have an assistant at their beck and call. Editors (seen only in old movies) usually do not do JUST YOUR BOOK, but edit hundreds of manuscripts every year.

We write. We query. We send proposals. Someday we could get a great contract deal or a following which allows for less querying and proposing….just more writing.

Writing is not a profession to enter into if you want instant fame, instant gratification or throngs of fans. Being J. K. Rowling is not something that happens every day. We can wish it, we can dream it….but write for yourself, to share your craft, to feel good about your gift and especially for those who read your work. The glory comes from knowing you have touched someone else’s life…and hopefully in a good way.

Sometimes I write curled on the sofa or sitting in the floor as my cats try to chase away my thoughts. Sometimes I go to my quiet office and allow my daydreams and characters to come to life. Sometimes I grit my teeth and stare at an empty page  or into that vast empty space where my imagination refuses to go. Sometimes I cannot type fast enough to catch all my thoughts.

Such is the life of an author. A writer. And wouldn’t you know, most of us absolutely love it…sharing those thoughts that capture our imagination and hoping they inhabit your thoughts as well…

KW

 

 

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I grew up watching reruns of many Walt Disney television shows and loving the light-hearted movies he produced. I can close my eyes and still see in my mind’s eye all those original Mouseketeers lined up…shouting their name and smiling into the camera. One that always stood out then, and even now, was Annette Funicello. She had the darkest eyes and a huge smile. And, in her early teens, became one of America’s sweethearts. Today is Annette’s 70th birthday and I wish her a very happy day! After filming movies with Disney such as The Monkey’s Uncle and The Shaggy Dog, Annette began filming beach movies with Frankie Avalon (remember him…he sang Beauty School Dropout to a throng on roller-haired beauties in the hit Grease starring Olivia Newton John and John Travolta). Beach Blanket Bingo, Muscle Beach Party, Beach Party and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini….to name a few….were some of her hits in the 60’s. Remember that type movie? Girl meets guy on beach, girl and guy fall in love on the beach, maybe girl and guy surf…..sweet romances. I loved them as a little girl and still get a kick out of these happy movies.

Annette was paired with Frankie Avalon in most movies that I saw, and as a child I figured they’d always be a couple. Frankie, however, had married in 1960. He and his wife are the parents of eight children and have many grandchildren. Annette married in 1963. She married Jack Gilardi (at the age of 23) and they divorced in 1981. She and Gilardi had three children.

One note of sweet trivia as I relate their real love stories. Singer and songwriter Paul Anka wrote a song called Puppy Love (Donny Osmond also made a recording of the same song) while dating Annette in their early careers.

In 1986, Annette married her current husband, Glen Holt.

In 1987, 1989 and 1990 Annette and Frankie paired up to act in Back to the Beach and to stage a concert tour. Then, as suddenly as she’d reappeared on America’s stage…Annette retired.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1987, she struggled with the neurological disease. MS attacks the brain and spinal cord and can cause numbness, blurred vision, tingling…followed by degenerative neurological problems. Patients can lose the ability to talk, to walk, to swallow…

For a while, in the early 1990’s, I would see Annette on television shopping networks as she marketed a line of collectible teddy bears, the Annette Funicello Teddy Bears. Part of the proceeds from these sales went to the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases. She was brave and sweet, educating us on this disease that ravages neurological systems.

Today, as I have said, is her birthday. I hope all of you take time to visit The Annette Connection to check out her site as she continues to fight against this disease. Sales, from her webpage, of movies, books, etc. donate to that research fund still. There is also a link to an interview granted by her husband and caregiver, Glen Holt, that explains her current condition and her long fight. I must remind old fans (and new as well) that this is a heart-wrenching portrait of America’s sweetheart today.

Again, thank you so much Ms. Funicello, for making my childhood television viewing time a happy one.  Annette, your movies and television shows often aired on Walt Disney’s television show while I was a little girl growing up and I looked forward to them all…and I still have fond memories of them.

Perhaps today I will search for some of your music, or one of the beach movies, and (if no one is watching) do a little beach-blanket dancing and singing. I know it will make me smile.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful birthday, Annette,

KW

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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,

KW

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