ATTENTION MARKETING: Red Hot Romance

What a great way to end 2016 than to find out my gift bags I gave out at Romance Writer’s of America conference last July, made an impact. Kobo Writing Life posted about them as well as giving the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer a bit of a review.
Like Schoolhouse Rock told us all long ago, Knowledge is Power.
Empower yourself. Know the symptoms and get treatment if you suspect anything.

Kobo Writing Life

Patricia W. Fischer writes Red Hot romance.

It’s true. We found that out when we met her at the Romance Writers of America annual conference in San Diego this past summer.

That’s because Patricia was handing out this cute little wrapped package that included Original Red Hots Cinnamon Candy with a sticker that nicely ties in her fiction. This is the perfect little promotional item that is easily remembered.

img_00181Patricia W. Fischer‘s Red Hot Romance treat bag

Inside the package was the package of Red Hots candy, a bookmark with several of Patricia’s book covers on them as well as a QR code that links to her website and a card spreading the word about an important topic: Ovarian Cancer

img_00191The items from Patrica’s Red Hot package

We applaud Patricia not only for the fun little treat that reminds people about the type of books she writes, but also…

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What To Do–Make Eye Contact

I’m super excited to introduce What to Do Wednesdays to all of you.

Many times when people are hit with that dreaded “C” word, the patient, family, friends alike have no idea what to do. How to help or even where to start.

We’re hoping that this weekly post will give many of you ideas on how you can help in the most productive ways. These will cover everything from social interaction, things to do, recipes, and general feedback so let’s begin…

2015 12 30 Dr Seuss Eyes
With the end of 2015 quickly approaching, so many of us are writing down (either literally or mentally) those over the top resolutions we’re going to accomplish in 2016. (i.e. Lose 75 pounds by Spring Break, find a new job that pays double, but has less responsibility, organize my entire house, eat only organic foods, clean up my potty mouth, etc).

They are all very well intentioned and obtainable, but what I’ve found is many of these resolutions are the ultimate goals. No one ever talks about the journey to get there or the small goals and accomplishments that happen along the way. It’s always the eyes on the prize–the big prize.

Problem is, if the only thing you focus on is the end result, the after picture as it were, then you’ll never get there. It takes work to achieve any goal and fighting cancer, whether you’re the patient or the caregiver, can feel like an everyday uphill battle.

As a person looking from the outside in, it can be extremely difficult to know what to do for those dealing with cancer.
Do I say something?
Do I do something?
What do I do?
Do I even know them well enough to get involved?
I don’t know them at all, so do I really need to do anything?

Here’s the deal. Just like those New Year’s Resolutions we’re all going to set, but many will have no actual plan to accomplish, it starts with small, purposeful steps. Understand, when helping or addressing those that are fighting cancer, Nothing you do has to be grandiose.

It can be the small gestures that can speak volumes. I’ve learned this as Seana has been so gracious to share her thoughts, feelings, and experiences with me about her journey with Ovarian Cancer.
There were things I hadn’t even considered or understood, which brings me to my first tip of what to do when someone you know/work with/see is affected by cancer.

Make eye contact

2015 12 30 Eye Strength

When people are diagnosed with cancer, people around them stop making eye contact with them.
People at work, people at their church, their friends, people they’ve talked to at the grocery store each week, other parents in the carpool—the list goes on and on.
You think, “oh not me. I wouldn’t avoid looking at someone who’s been diagnosed with this.”
Really? It’s hard. It’s hard to look at someone after that crappy news and act like things are peachy keen. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done because it’s done everyday, but understand it’s hard. It’s difficult for the person you’re looking at as well as yourself because the things you weren’t thinking about yesterday  (cancer) are on your mind today.
This especially holds true when the chemotherapy has caused hair loss and I mean every stinking strand of hair from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Eyelashes, eyebrows, arm hair, pubic hair, every kind of hair falls out and this can be visually confusing to those around the person going through it, but don’t turn away.
Do you best not to make that cringe face or with tear-filled eyes. Simply talk to this person, keep the lines of communication open.

If you’ve always known the person, keep talking to them, make eye contact, ask them the same questions you always ask:
Did you watch Grandfathered last night? Isn’t John Stamos gorgeous?
Have you seen that new Star Wars movie? Why don’t they have any Rey action figures at Target?
Did you get that last TPS report?
Did you want anything from Starbucks?

Many who are hit with the “C” word go through a lot of introspection, wonder what they did “wrong”, curse themselves for not eating enough salad–scratch that–not enough organic salad, for being mean to that kid who picked his nose in the third grade, I should have taken that multivitamin everyday, I shouldn’t have looked at those Playboy magazines…the list is endless. There are many, many things that race through their minds like that endless (and annoying) ticker tape that runs across the bottom on the screen of newscasts.

Those who’ve been hit in the face with this diagnosis have enough going on without people avoiding them. Without losing human contact with the people they see on a daily basis. The simple act of looking someone in the eyes can speak volumes.
2015 12 30 Eyes and Audrey

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope this helps. Come back each week to read another tip on how to help and what to do for those who are dealing with cancer.

Thanks for reading.

 

5 Things You Should Know About Ovarian Cancer

**appeared on MomSmack.com**2014 9 7 JKade OC Awareness

By Seana Roubinek and Patricia W. Fischer

Ovarian Cancer (OC). In March, it trended like wildfire due to actress/director Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she’d recently undergone a preventive surgical procedure because of a pre-cancer scare. Because of this and her family history (mother and grandmother died from OC*) along with having the BRAC-1 gene, Jolie decided on the elective removal of her ovaries (oopherectomy) and fallopian tubes was the best course of action. Now her chances of ever being diagnosed with OC have plummeted by 80-90%**.
It’s certainly a proactive approach and one we applaud her for, but what about all those out there who know nothing about OC?
According to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, OC is the 11th most common cancer among women, it is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women, and is the deadliest of gynecologic cancers.***
Because it’s a deep belly cancer, it is harder to detect, but it’s not impossible if you know what to look for.
Here are a few ways you can inform yourself about the symptoms of OC and what to do if you suspect something’s up.

(1) Get tested. If any woman in your family (sisters, mom, grandmothers, aunts, daughters) has been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, get tested for the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genes. Women with these genes are more likely to develop breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Understand not all breast cancers are genetic so if you come up negative for either of these genes, that doesn’t mean you should avoid annual mammograms or monthly breast-self exams. Along with that, not all ovarian cancers are linked to breast cancers.
Many insurance providers will cover for genetic testing, especially with a strong family history of the disease.

(2) Give me a BEAT— Once called the silent killer because of its lack of obvious symptoms, OC can be hard to detect, but it’s far from quiet. Just remember 12-BEAT.
B-bloating
E-Eating, feeling full sooner than normal;
A-Abdominal Pain;
T-Trouble with urination or bowels (poop)
Additional concerns can include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities. Although these symptoms sound rather simple and we’ve all had them from time to time, the parameters of concern start when you have these symptoms more than 12 times during the course of one month. Also if the symptoms are new or unusual for you, contact your gynecologist.

(3) Who you calling old? If anyone tells you OC is an “old lady’s disease”, they’re full of it. Ovarian cancer has been diagnosed in pre-pubescent girls all the way to women in their nineties. The average age of new ovarian cancer patients is 63 years (not old as far as we’re concerned), that means half of the new cases are women younger than that. If you have concerning symptoms and a physician tells you you’re too young for OC, you might want to consider finding another doctor.

(4) Surgical Intervention—Like a woman having her breasts removed greatly decreases the chances of having breast cancer, undergoing removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes (where many cases of OC begins) decreases a woman’s chance of developing OC down to 1-3%. Because the pelvic area can still include some of the epithelium, the same tissue that covers the ovaries, having OC is still possible, but a whole lot less likely with the ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.

(5) Rule of Three—If you suspect OC, there are a few tests/exams you can have to help rule it out. First, a physical/pelvic exam by your gynecologist. Be sure to explain symptoms and concerns.
Second, a trans-vaginal ultrasound can help visualize internal organs and possibly see something too small to palpate.
Third, a CA-125 blood test can also detect many, not all, forms of OC. Know there is much debate on whether this test is useful for women with an average risk of developing OC.

You have to be an advocate for your own health. If you have new or unusual symptoms that persist, keep a journal, write down what makes it worse or better so you have a specific list to hand to your health care practitioner.

For more questions or information about OC, be sure and talk to your doctor, nurse, or organizations such as the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angelina_Jolie

**http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/oophorectomy/in-depth/breast-cancer/ART-20047337

***http://www.ovariancancer.org/about/statistics/

Yep, that's us

Yep, that’s us. Seana (L) and Patricia (R) on Patricia’s great-grandmother’s couch in Austin, Texas, late 1960’s.

Bios:

Seana Roubinek is a 2-time ovarian cancer survivor.  Upon finishing chemotherapy the first time and there was no evidence of disease (NED), she was left with that “What do I now?” feeling.  She attended her first Ovarian Cancer National Alliance annual conference and discovered she had a passion for advocacy – both at the legislative level and through OCNA’s signature program Survivors Teaching Students (r) which involves speaking with 3rd year medical students and nursing students about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.  After her 2nd bout with ovarian cancer, she decided to extend her advocacy efforts to include research and will be a representative of the ovarian cancer community at the American Association of Cancer Research annual conference in Philadelphia this April.

Patricia W. Fischer is an award-winning romance writer, health journalist, and former trauma nurse. She’s written for multiple publications including American Journal of Nursing, Nurse Week, iVillage, Hot Mom’s Club, Modern Mom, and Dallas Child. She’s a mom of four and has two contemporary romance series out.

Since 1967, Seana and Patricia have been best friends. They were introduced to each other when they were put in the same crib while their parents played bridge. They have future plans to be the two crazy cat ladies at the end of the street who yell at kids who walk across their lawns.

You’re So Far Away

  

I have cancer.

Those were three words I never wanted to hear from anyone I loved. Last September, Seana, my best friend said them to me and I didn’t know what to say in response.

The best I could come up with was, “What?”

“Yep, I already have it,” she groggily told me. “Go figure.”

With such a heavy duty history of breast cancer in her family, she and her doctor decided a preventive surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes would eliminate her from getting ovarian cancer, which she’s four times more likely to get because of the breast cancer history. But it was already there– stage three.

Numerous words rolled through my mind—many of them would be bleeped out if I were talking to children or Evangelicals. I was listening to her tell me about it while I sat in line at Starbucks. I literally had my hand out the window to pay for my grande non-fat cinnamon dolce latte when she told me, “I have cancer.”

I hope I left a tip for the bartista because I was in such a stage of shock, I couldn’t process it for a minute.

No. No! NO! She’s not supposed to have cancer. She’s supposed to grow old with me and we’re going to be the old women on the street with thirty cats each, sit our front lawns drinking beer by they keg, and yelling at kids when they walk by.

Breathe Patricia. This isn’t about you, this is about her.
“What…do you need?” I drove out of the drive thru and plugged into my GPS how far the drive would be to Maine from Texas.

Straight through? Thirty-five hours and 2227 miles.

How much coffee is that? How much pee do one of those Depends hold? How much school can the kids miss? Would they wear Depends to get us there faster?

“Nothing yet.”

I felt helpless. She was so far away and I had work, a husband, children in school, life obligations, but I would have jumped a plane right then if she’d asked me to. I knew she never would though. Being a parent herself, she knew the juggle of it all.

“What can I do?”

“Don’t stop being normal.” I could feel her tears over the phone.

“Well, I never was normal so that’ll be difficult.”

Admittedly, my relationship with Seana is unique. We’ve literally known each other since she was born, two months after I was. Our parents were poor college students at the University of Texas in the late sixties. At the time, they did what many poor, young college students/parents did on the weekends—sat around, drank beer, and played bridge while their kids hung out together. We slept in the same crib and were there for every part of growing up.
Now when her life got horribly complicated, I had no idea what to do.

Then I got her to laugh and I knew the only thing I could do was be present. Not disappear or bury myself in my own sadness, but when she called, texted, or emailed, I’d be there. I’d always answer, I’d always talk to her, and I’d always be normal with her.

For the next week, she told me everything on her mind. I don’t know if was therapeutic for her or for me, but she and I talked for hours about the cancer, about life, specials we saw at the grocery store, celebrity news. We texted and told stupid jokes—just like we always had.

We stayed normal with each other.

I didn’t tell her how I felt about her having cancer because I didn’t want to lay such heaviness on her. She had enough to think about but she knew me well enough that I didn’t have to say anything. She knew I was plenty worried.

Seana told me about friends who’d come to help. One woman cooked and baked all weekend for her and her son so they wouldn’t have to think about it.

A neighbor offered to clean Seana’s house while her neighbor’s husband mowed her grass.

Her bosses at work gave her amazing support and her collegues collected things like gift cards for gas and food.

One of her co-workers even blatantly asked Seana, “What the F***?” after she’d heard of Seana’s diagnosis. It made Seana laugh and she loved that the woman didn’t avoid the subject of cancer.

We decided to write an article about it for ModernMom.com. We explained to people what to say and not to say when someone is diagnosed or something rotten happens to them.

She told me the talking helped, otherwise she’d keep it all inside and go nuts.

She filled me in about her visit to the attorney, to have all her “affairs in order.”  I grimaced while she spoke, hoping I wouldn’t lose it.

As if she were reading my mind, she added, “I can’t believe I’m having to do all this but I’d rather it be in place than not. Besides, my attorney said since everything was organized, nothing would happen.”

This really can’t be happening.

“Be present,” I told myself. “Keep being present.”

The following week, she went in for her major debulking surgery. That’s where they remove as much of the cancer as they could. She stayed in the hospital for five days. After the first three, she felt totally nuts.

She texted me, we talked, I sent her flowers. She vented. I sent her a movie gift basket with goodies. She loved the flowers and shared the goodies with her family.

I talked about my day and asked her about recipes (she’s an amazing chef).

During that time, my family got our first foster care placement. I explained her about the sleepless nights and the sweet baby’s adjustment.

She told me her son started a new school and she couldn’t have been happier.

We talked just like we always had.

We texted each other and everything stayed normal between us—except when cancer was mentioned, but it ended up being an additional topic of discussion. It didn’t give us pause or I’d quickly get off the phone when she’d talk about her post-surgical life. Cancer discussions were practical, informative, and therapeutic…and scary.

Still, I wished I could be right there with her. I wondered now many others were in our situation—a loved one is sick and you can’t get there. What happens?

Do they become more distant? Afraid to say anything?

Do they talk on the phone with lots of silence, neither knowing what to say?

Do they talk about everything else but the illness?

Last week she went to WashingtonDC to advocate for Ovarian Cancer funding and research. For the first time since this started, I cried on the phone with her. I think I surprised her because it hit me without warning.
“I’m so proud of you,” I sobbed. “And I’m so sorry I’m not there.”

“But you are there, here. You never left.”

And I never will.

Spoiled Brat Anyone?

There are moments in our lives where things seem absolutely terrible, then you’re reminded of how much of a spoiled brat you can be in situations that are inconveninent at best.

Let me explain:

We traveled to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. We knew it would be a very long trip, especially with three kids, one being under 2 years old. I hadn’t made it easy for my husband on this trip because I knew our little man wasn’t going to like being strapped in a car seat for a total of 10 hours. Plus, now due to American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children remain rear facing until 2 years, the distraction of a video wouldn’t apply to him.

We broke the trip up over two days, stopping to visit friends half way. Then we drove the other half to our destination of Hobart, Oklahoma. Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of this town either until I’d met my husband.

It’s a small town (population 4500) with friendly folks and everybody knows your name (cue the Cheers theme).

The visit with family was very nice and the food was amazing (as always), but our Little Guy had trouble navigating a non-baby proofed house and really got tired of hearing “stop” and “no, not for you”.  After hearing him scream for three days, I’m pretty sure everyone there was ready for us to go and I was ready for a vacation. The last thing I wanted to do was get in a car and drive for 10 hours back home with a kid who’d had enough of not getting to do much of his routine.

Thank God that our older children had a blast visiting cousins and were great at entertaining themselves in the car.

We headed out on Friday morning, but our trip had an immediate hiccup. A Nice. Flat. Tire.

Now, that wouldn’t usually be a big deal except that we have those run-flat tires, which means no spare. You’re supposed to be able to drive on them at 50 MPH for about 120 miles. This is supposed to give you time to get to the dealer and get this special tire changed.

Oh, did I mention we were in Southwest Oklahoma? So the biggest town (Lawton, OK–population 96K) with a dealership was a good 60+ miles away. After I had a, let’s say, a dramatic moment about the entire thing, we headed on our way.

The first town we came to was Blair, OK  (population 894) and a very nice mechanic, who reminded me of Mater from Cars, said he could give us a tire the same size so we weren’t driving on a flat. Well, he tried, but unfortunately, we’ve not only got a special tire, but it’s a special metric tire, so he has no tire that will fit.

He put the run-flat tire back on, charged us nothing (which was so very nice), and we started the drive to Lawton.

So where’s my appreciation moment? Bare with me, it’s coming.

We’re trucking along at about 40 MPH and we’re only 8.2 miles from the dealership (per the GPS) and the  back of the van begins to shake…a lot. We pull over and we can’t go any farther.

I call the roadside assistance and the conversation goes something like this:

Operator: “Yes, can I help you?”
Me: “Yes, our run-flat tire is flat and we’re 8.2 miles from the dealership. We’re just outside of Lawton, Ok.”
Operator: “Ok, can you tell me what the cross street is where you are?”
Me: “I’m on highway 62 east bound, 8.2 miles from the Honda dealership. I”m in Cache (OK).”
Operator: “Oh, I need a cross street.”
Me: “I’m on a highway between towns. There is no cross road.”
Operator: “Look outside. What’s around you?”
Me: “I see a donkey and a horse.”
Operator: (silence) “Oh…are there homes?”
Me: “Yes.”
Operator: “Do you see any the numbers on the house?”
Me: “No, they are farms.”
Operator: “Okay, we’ll have someone out there within the hour.”
Me: “An hour? There’s no one available before then? I’ve got three kids in the car, two of which have to pee.”
Operator: “No, if they aren’t there in a hour, call us back.”

So we waited an hour and called back only to learn that it would be another 30-45 minutes. We waited and another 45 minutes went by. By then, we’d gotten out and made friends with the donkey, the horse and local two dogs.
I called again only to learn it would be another 30-45 minutes, probably.

I’m feeling very insane about that time when I get a text from my best friend. She let’s me know her hair is falling out in clumps due to chemo and she’s headed to the hairdresser who’s offered to shave her head.

Between texts and waiting for the tow truck, I’m also reading a book by Kevin Sorbo (AKA Hercules) who talks about his recovery back from having three strokes.

I want to scream, sob uncontrollably for the things I can’t control. Things I can’t fix or make better, but it won’t do any good right now because I’ve got kids who are hungry and have to pee and a very sweet husband who has kept his cool through this entire episode.

So I’ve got a choice. I can continue to fume and act like a spoiled brat, make my husband more miserable than I have, OR I can realize I’ve got a problem that’s at best inconvenient.

For the first time that day, I realize I’m fine.
I don’t have cancer at the age of 43.
I haven’t suffered a stroke at the age of 38.
I’ve got a flat tire, a few hungry kids, and I’ve got to pee. Big F-ing Deal.

But it’s all FIXABLE, all of it.

Then, a wonderful (Cache) police officer comes by, calls a friend who has a tow truck service in Cache, and he also calls a taxi so we can ride in it while our car is being towed. We all make it to the Milo Gordon Honda dealership where the service department helps us with not only getting our tire fixed, but lets us know who delivers food so we can eat.

After a delay of 5 hours, we’re on our way back to Texas. We end up stopping in Abilene for the night.

It’s after ten at night. Everyone but me is tucked in. I’m finishing the last few pages of Kevin’s book because I have to see how far he fought to recover.

I’m sitting on the floor, in the doorway of the bathroom for light. I finish the Kevin Sorbo’s book and applaud his perseverance and determination to recover from a debilitating stroke.

I think of my best friend on her journey of recovery. Her head is shaved and she’s posted her bald pictures.  I’m afraid to look at them because I know I’ll lose it.

I sit in the bathroom of the hotel and cry because I’ve got nothing to complain about. Nothing to be upset about and I acted like the world was coming to an end because things didn’t go my way for the day.

How easy it is to get wrapped up in life’s inconveniences, things that don’t work out they way you planned. Since then, I’ve apologized to my husband and not complained at all.

I can’t promise I won’t freak out when things are too many things get piled on me in a day, but I do promise I will do my best to breathe and count my blessings everyday because life can change on a dime.

Check out Kevin’s book. It’s an inspiring and amazing journey.

And check out my best friend’s post about her journey to baldness: https://candidaboutcancer.com/2011/11/26/becoming-one-of-the-follicularly-challenged-a-k-a-bald/

Something Simple

 

Yep, that's us

Yep, that’s us at about age 3.
We’re sitting on my great-grandmother’s couch when she lived in an apartment on Oltorf in Austin, Texas.

When Seana told me she had cancer, I was in the drive-thru line at Starbucks.
She called me, all doped up from her preventative outpatient surgery to tell me that she already had the big C. As I reached through my window to pay the Starbucks employee, the work “cancer” ripped through my ear canal and shot out the other side.
“What?” No! I didn’t hear that rightJust keep listening. You heard it wrong.
Cancer came through again and I knew there was no mistake. “O-K.” I grabbed my latte and drove out of the parking lot, not sure what to do or where to go.
I needed to think…of her.
So many things ran through my mind at that moment, most of them were profane, but none of them were necessary because I knew what I had to say.
“What do you need?”
Because she had heavy drugs on board and I’m sure had to be shell shocked, she said “nothing right now.”
After we hung up, I pulled into a parking lot and cried–snot pouring out of my nose sobbed. I cried because the idea of her not being there when we were 90, the thought of her not being there when I needed advice on a recipe, simply her not being there…well, I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
I wanted to do something, anything to fix this. To make her well and yet, I knew I didn’t learn magic powers,  buy a wand, or construct a tricorder (I think I skipped that week in school).
We talked on and off everyday then after a week, she called me and asked if I’d participate in the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) 5K run/1K walk here in San Antonio. “Hell yea! Something I can do.”
I got to feel productive, because I felt totally and completely helpless.
Once I’d registered for the race, I texted her to tell her about it. Within moments, we’re sending each other messages when my husband walked by.
I told him I’d plan to participate in the race, but I wanted to do more. “I want to do something for her.”
He pointed to the phone as another text rung. “You’re doing it. That’s what she needs right now. You to be there.”
Sometimes it’s the small things that are what people need. A note of “what’s up?” today or “How you feeling?” or “Want to hear a dirty joke?” It sounds too simple and maybe it is, but I know she needs me to be, well, me. I’m no good to her if I’m frantic and acting like an idiot. She knows I can’t fix it, but I can be there when she needs me and when she simply wants a cheerleader.
We’re going to be given many obstacles to jump and avoid in our lifetime, but sometimes you’ve got to hit them head on and think of nothing but what someone else needs.
Is that the meaning of friendship? Maybe.
Can it really be that simple?
Absolutely.

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