Tag Archives: breast cancer

Starting Over ~ Check-up Time

A cancer survivor never forgets anything that has to do with her medical

Available October 3rd
Available October 3rd

experience. This includes discovering the lump, the gasp when receiving the actual diagnosis, the crappy treatments, and most important, the support of friends and family.  When all of that is in the rear view mirror, she never, ever forgets doctor appointments.

I had my regular six month appointment this week on Tuesday. You may have noticed a FB post about it. Once made, I never change the  appointment. This year, I gave up a tour and luncheon at the Moffitt Cancer Center’s main campus in north Tampa because of my appointment at their smaller facility across town. I didn’t know about the tour when I scheduled my appointment. Just too bad for me. I didn’t change the appointment. I wouldn’t change the appointment. Perhaps I’m superstitious. Ya’ think?

I was NEVER a superstitious person before I became a writer. Shortly after beginning this career, I began noticing my “rituals.” First, I close my office door. Against who? I don’t know. I’m usually alone in the house. Second, I drink coffee from the same mug every day. Written on the mug are the 011words: Working on a Best Seller. I hand wash it daily so it’s ready for the next morning. Thirdly, no radio, iPod, television or any aural distractions allowed. Other authors must create a playlist for each book before they start writing, but I need silence. In addition, I can’t begin a book without first thinking up a title. Even if it’s changed later on, the manuscript MUST have a title before I begin Page One. I also can’t begin a new story without arranging the research folders on the table next to me…and arrange them just so. I have to begin each day with the piles exactly the way I want them.

Once at the computer, I check email first. Then Facebook. Sometimes a game of Spider Solitaire. The truth is, I’m procrastinating the real work–writing the book! Creating something out of nothing is hard. Very hard for most writers. But here’s another truth: once you sit down and jump back into the story, the writing becomes easier. It’s the thought of starting again that’s worse than the actual doing. In any case, writers have developed a load of ways – rituals – to procrastinate the work.

Which brings me back to medical appointments.  My check-up this week was fabulous! My doctor is fabulous. I gave her a copy of HOPEFULLY EVER AFTER and she immediately started browsing it and laughing out loud. “I love the chapter titles. Oh, look, the Rolling Stones.”  And then, “I have a lot of breast cancer patients who’ve had the disease twice.”  Just like me. I gave her bookmarks to share with others.  She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s in the chapter called, The Search for Dr. Wonderful.  She’s also in the Acknowledgement section.



I mentioned FORCE – Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered–which is the only non-profit foundation in America that focuses solely on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. It’s located in Tampa, and my doctor knew about it! Some of her other patients…the two-time survivors…must be aware of it, too.

It’s almost three years for me now, and my luck is holding. I’m not taking any chances whether rituals or superstitions make sense or not. I don’t walk under ladders, but I do keep original appointments.

Anyone out there have their own rituals or superstitions? Come on. Tell all. Curious minds want to know 🙂

As always, thank you for stopping by.  I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.



OCTOBER CONTEST:  Two winners in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Post a comment and your name will be entered in this month’s drawing for two of the books shown below and a $25 gift certificate to either Amazon or BN. Your choice!

Texas Danger, Brashear


















Celebrate copy










Playing favorites…

Available October 3rd

Available October 3rd

As parents, we don’t play favorites among our children. Each one is unique. Each one is special with both sweet and exasperating ways. Therefore, each one is a favorite. I have  three sons, and I used to tell  David that he was absolutely my favorite middle child 🙂

As authors, we usually don’t have a favorite book among our body of work. Readers ask that question all the time. We might have certain warm memories about writing a particular story. One story may have been more fun to write than another. But the work is always challenging and the usual–and honest–answer to that question is to say that our favorite book is whichever story we’re working on currently. We’re excited, our minds are engaged in the current story, so our work-in-progress is a truthful answer. Certainly, if you write enough books, a few will stand out. The debut novel holds a special place in our hearts because it’s the first. It holds a unique status as the bridge between wannabe and professional writer status. More than likely, however, it will not be the best book in the author’s repertoire.

Among my own fifteen books, a few claimed my heart. In The House on the Beach, Laura McCloud went on with her life–and found love–after fighting a bout of breast cancer. Naturally, she mimicked my own medical experience at that time. Another story that claimed my heart was The Soldier and the Rose, a book set in my own hometown of Brooklyn, New York right at the start of WWII. I loved revisiting not only the setting, but the sensibilities of the time–attitudes, foods, fashion–the energy of people trying to make it through the war and afterwards, no matter what.

As touching and emotional as those stories were for me, they were merely a prelude to the emotional frenzy of writing HOPEFULLY EVER AFTER: Breast Cancer, Life and Me.  This book is non-fiction. It is a memoir. A true story of surviving cancer twice. This is not fiction based on truth, but true on every page. This is not a  story “as told to” another person where truth might get lost in translation with imprecise language. The events I write about really happened to me.

I wish they hadn’t. I wish I was an innocent instead of being an innocent victim. I wish I had no personal knowledge and had nothing to contribute to the national conversation about breast cancer. But I don’t have that luxury, not if I want to consider myself a human being of substance. So, I sat at the computer and began to write.

You’ll love the ending. Heck, I love the ending! After all, I lived to tell the tale. So, I invite you to take this journey with me. After a lot of turmoil, I landed in a soft place. You’ll like it there. I promise.

Before talking about the new contest, I want to thank everyone who visits the blog or follows me on Facebook for all your support and good wishes. I appreciate every one of you, and I hope you know that I wish you only the best in return. As Spock would say, “Live long and prosper!”  And as always, I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.




NEW CONTEST:  To celebrate this month’s release of Hopefully Ever After: Breast Cancer, Life and Me, I’m awarding two $25 gift certificates to two lucky people. Your choice of Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Plus books. Choose two from the group below which were released very recently from the authors of On Fire Fiction:








Celebrate copy














Starting Over ~ Wasting Time or Recharging?

LEAVE ME ALONE!     file951258260864

When my oldest son was about thirteen years old, I found him lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling, hands behind his head. His knees were bent and one leg crossed over the other. The afternoon light penetrated the room. I couldn’t stand it.

“What are you doing?”

“Mom! Can’t I just do nothing for awhile? I never get to do nothing.”

Well, that gave me pause. Fair enough.  As  working mom, I’d made sure my kids were programmed from morning til night, particularly after school. Between homework, bar-mitzvah classes, a newspaper route, and a basketball team, my son may have had a point. So I said, “Okay. Let me know when you’re ready to return to the world.”

That little incident has stayed with me, and I’ve sometimes repeated it when friends talk about kids and their activities. I’ve learned that my generation was not the first to program their kids. From what I can gather, my son was lucky. Kids today don’t have a minute to daydream.  Between soccer, dancing, music, gymnastics, scouts, Little League, clubs….there is a team or a class for every age, every stage and every wage. Classes cost. file0001683376869

Another dream deferred...until now?

Another dream deferred…until now?

We want to give our children everything. Or at least, as much as we possibly can afford. But I wonder if what they most need is time. A free commodity. Which will allow dreams to flourish, creativity to develop, and the mind and body to rest and rejuvenate. Even children need peace of mind. I’m glad some others think like I do:

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”   ….John Lubbock.

My dreamtime occurs in the early morning hours, before my eyes open, before my brain is fully engaged. In that delicious time between sleeping  and waking, my mind drifts to the stories I’m writing, and I usually solve a problem. It drifts to this blog, and a new topic that might interest me. I dream about my own mother and father and miss them to tears. During my dreamtime hours, my mind is free to wander. It conjures up images I didn’t know I had inside me. I love those moments because something good usually results from them. When I actually get out of bed, I’m not only refreshed, but I can’t wait to get to the computer.

Ladies First Choice

Ladies First Choice in Clearwater, FL

We need time to reconnoiter with ourselves. I found the quote from John Lubbock printed in a newsletter from Ladies First Choice, a “stylish ladies boutique” for women who’ve had mastectomies. Women who know that “rest is not a waste of time.” Rest is mandatory for healing and becoming whole again. That’s right. A whole woman–in mind, body and spirit. The breast is not the person. While fighting for our lives, our dreams are laced with nightmares. When we regain our health, our minds can rest.

An active life deserves time for thinking and daydreaming.  Just ask my busy son. Who still fights for a moment to do “nothing.”

What about you? Are there times of the day that are natural dream hours for you?  Do you close yourself away from the family for awhile each day? Refuse to answer the phone?

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over when I’ll announce the winner of the July contest.



LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books from the selection below, written by the authors of On Fire Fiction. Plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN.  Remember, some of these stories are hot, hot, hot while others….not so much.  Your choice!

MA25EC~1ARe DEBRA SALONEN BANG 2Brashear, Texas RootsDire Distraction_lo resRelease-MeNewJpgbook cover


Starting Over~Breast Cancer & Me


We’re talking about actress Angelina Jolie again.With her stunning  announcement about the bi-lateral mastectomy she chose to endure because of the BRCA gene mutation in her family, she opened herself up to criticism. Unfortunately, she didn’t have to wait long before it came. Would it have been better had she remained silent?  I say no. A resounding NO.

Unless we’re living on the Starship Enterprise, surgical procedures leave behind their reminders. Ever have an appendectomy? The scar stays with you for life. Ever give birth by Ceasarian section or have a traditional hysterectomy? The scars remain across your abdomen forever; leaving you without sensation there.. And if you’ve had something more dramatic…say, an amputation of some kind…then yes, the more extensive collateral damage will stick around, too. It’s to be expected. Surgery is not for sissies. angelina jolie

In a very informative and well written article by Roni Rabin in the New York Times last Tuesday, (5/20/13), mention was made of breast surgeons’ concerns for the public. They feared that people might misinterpret Angelina Jolie’s surgical experience as their own.That it was a quick and easy procedure. Specifically, they were concerned about the nine weeks Ms. Jolie said it took her to complete her reconstructive surgeries. For most patients, for the average patient, it takes longer than that–upwards of a year–to say the procedures are over. And there are often complications which Ms. Jolie didn’t speak about. Hmm…if she didn’t have any, why would she bring it up?

I am an average breast cancer patient. I am not what is called a previvor as Ms. Jolie is. My last surgery is a year-and-a-half behind me. I still feel the effects, and they are common, of a bi-lateral mastectomy. The tightness across my chest, the random shooting pains, the aches from stretching, and the unhappiness with that hard circle of scar tissue around the failed implant. Yes, a failed implant. Been there, done that, too. I am not Angelina Jolie. But I don’t fault her for telling her personal story in the way it happened for her. I applaud her for sharing her experience with us.

Some might point a finger and say she had access to doctors extraordinaire. Well, I did, too–in the Houston Medical Center which is second to none in this country. Some might mention her access to research. I was blessed with many doctor friends who provided me with the best intel around.

The truth is that sometimes stuff happens. Unintended consequences. Collateral damage. Unforeseen circumstances. Call it what you will. Physicians try to be prepared for anything, But often, a patient’s body reacts in a way that even the very best of doctors don’t and can’t foresee.

I respect the surgeons’ concern for their patients as discussed in the article by Roni Rubin. I know their intentions are good. They wanted to warn the public that this procedure is not as easy as it might have appeared when Ms. Jolie revealed her story. I’d like to remind the good doctors, however, that they don’t have to worry. They are the ones in charge of their patients’ care. Educating patients is their job. Analyzing the risks and benefits for each person is their job. Explaining that these surgeries aren’t a “breeze” is their job.Discussing each viable option is their job. Helping patients make decisions is not the job of a celebrity.

In my humble–or not so humble–opinion, Angelina Jolie has saved lives. We won’t ever know how many. But you can’t argue with the number of women who are now asking questions about the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 gene mutations. The phone lines at FORCE, an organization specializing in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, were ringing non-stop after Ms. Jolie’s announcement. Women were taking note about their own family’s pattern of cancer. About their own chances of finding a cancerous tumor in their breasts or on their ovaries. And they wanted more information.

Education about a painful subject is a slow process. Who wants to think about cancer? Who wants to admit they could be at risk? It’s a scary proposition. So the word goes out and is sometimes not heard. Not at first. But it will. The more people who speak up like Angelina Jolie did, the sooner knowledge will resonate. And then.,..just watch the hereditary cancer death rate drop.

Isn’t that the goal?

Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered or FORCE, is the only foundation in the country that focuses only on hereditary breast and ovarian FORCE Logocancer. They provide support for women at risk and for members of families in which the risk is present.  I’m proud to support its mission.

For more information, go to:  www.facingourrisk.org

I welcome all opinions! So if you’d like to continue this conversation, please leave a comment below.

BOOK NEWS!  I’m so excited!! Family Interrupted is now available IN PRINT as a trade paperback. Check it out at Amazon.   Here I am, holding the actual book in my hot little hands: 

The PRINT edition is here!

The PRINT edition is here!


DON’T FORGET – you’ll be entered into this month’s drawing for a fabulous book package: LOVE ME SOME COWBOY — five novels by five different authors — AND a copy of my own book, Family Interrupted. All you have to do is: Leave A Comment! 

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book package 


As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.






Starting Over ~ The Pink Ribbon Sisterhood

FACING OUR RISKS–Br Ca Blog icon 1

She is stunningly beautiful. Amazingly talented. And emotionally brave. Last week, Angelina Jolie shared her personal decision to stave off breast cancer by revealing she had undergone a bi-lateral mastectomy of her healthy breasts. Privacy is paramount to this actress, and she could have kept silent. No one forced her to say anything to the public, and she had no obligation to do so. But she did.

angelina jolie

Breast cancer shakes the soul. Shakes the sleep from our eyes, When the probability of forming a cancerous tumor is a shocking 87 percent, everything else takes second place. Suddenly, what could have been kept a secret became a secret to be shared. And that’s the point. Spreading the word about the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations will encourage at-risk women to be tested for them. We know that knowledge is power – the more, the better. With the information we have today, women at risk have choices.

No one said they are easy choices. In fact, they are tough choices. Discussions abound. Criticisms abound. Even among caring physicians. Sure, the probability of cancer is high if you carry the gene mutation, but it’s not a guarantee. So why not wait?  Why not get screened often? Maybe every six months. Or every three months. Or maybe monthly? MRI’s. Mammos. Alternate them. Screening makes sense medically. Absolutely. And if you also remove  the ovaries…? Maybe that would be enough.

A hundred people will have a hundred opinions. That’s why in the end, each woman must decide for herself. She must weigh the risks and benefits. In my own experience and in my conversation with others, the decision is usually psychologically based. If you multiply a healthy woman’s anxiety while waiting for the results of her yearly mammogram by the factor of a thousand, you’ll understand why some at-risk women say they can’t live with the stress of monthly or quarterly screenings. The worry shadows them, affecting their emotional health. Will they find something this time? Next time? The time after that? Every high risk woman struggles to figure out the route she needs to take in order to live as “normal” a life as possible.

I developed a tumor before I knew I was a BRCA1 carrier. So my psychological decision was between a lumpectomy and mastectomy. The risks of recurrence were the same regardless of the surgery.  In the end, I chose the lumpectomy in the hopes of continuing to look like my natural everyday self. Hear that? My natural self. So I understand the enormity of choosing preventive mastectomies. Of how upsetting and unnatural that would be. But reducing the risk of cancer from 87% to less than 5% is enormous, too. In fact, from where I sit after two bouts of breast cancer, I think that’s a good deal. I vote for a natural life span 🙂

So, thank you, Ms. Jolie for spreading the word about hereditary cancer. Thank you for raising the awareness of choices.

A celebrity’s voice, especially a celebrity of Angelina Jolie’s stature, carries far, wide and deep. When Michael J. Fox revealed his Parkinsons disease, he raised national awareness of this condition. He established a foundation, raised funds for research, testified at congressional hearings, and kept on working, too.

Celebrities are a wonderful resource in grabbing the public’s attention. But we can’t sit around waiting for a famous person to get sick! Behind the scenes, day by day, and year by year, are professionals and volunteers who maintain the public’s awareness of medical progress.  I’m very proud of one such organization which was mentioned in the press last week because of Ms. Jolie’s revelations. That organization is called Facing Our Risks of Cancer Empowered, aka, FORCE.  


According to their website  (www.facingourrisk.org):  FORCE was founded on the principle that no one should have to face hereditary breast and ovarian cancer alone. We are the only national non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. 

FORCE is laser-focused on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. The founder of this organization is Sue Friedman, DVM. She and two others wrote a book called, Confronting Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer, published by Johns Hopkins Press. I own a copy and find it an excellent resource when I want clarification about these issues.

As always, I encourage conversation here. If you have a story to share about today’s topic or have questions, please post them and we’ll talk!

LEAVE A COMMENT and your name will be added to this month’s drawing for a fabulous package of books. Five authors from OnFireFiction are offering five stories in LOVE ME SOME COWBOY. Each is a full novel from Jean Brashear, Ginger Chambers, Day Leclaire, Barbara McMahon and Lisa Mondello.  I’m a proud member of OFF and happy to provide this prize in addition to a copy of FAMILY INTERRUPTED, my recently released novel of women’s fiction.  (Now also in paperback!)


Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.


Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book packagebook cover

Starting Over ~ A Sisterhood No One Wanted to Join

May the FORCE be with you…and me…           FORCE Logo

A breast cancer diagnosis slams into you with the subtlety of a freight train. You can’t breathe. You can’t think. And you can’t believe it’s happening to you. But it is. It happened to me. 


As women, we’ve been trained to get our yearly mammograms and do monthly self-examinations. If we’re conscientious, we follow those rules. As our fingers touch and examine , searching our breasts for the unusual, we pray they find nothing. In the radiology lab, we pray our mammos are clean. For one in seven, our prayers are not answered, and suddenly we are members of a sisterhood we didn’t ask to join.

Br Ca Blog icon 1

                                                                 I often wear this.

Although I’ve been part of that sisterhood for twelve years, I know relatively few “sisters” personally. That situation is changing. When I was first diagnosed in 2001, I was working a full-time day job which was integral to maintaining my sanity. Sticking to my familiar routines kept me rooted. When the ordeal ended, I continued to work, write, and pay attention to family and friends.  In 2011, the diagnosis arrived in the midst of our moving to the Tampa area, a thousand miles from our home in Houston. The side effects of chemo knocked me on my keister, and I just wanted to get through each day. Keeping the house spic-and-span ready for potential buyers was all that I could manage–and I even needed help with that.

Now that I am once more healthy and strong, I’ve connected with a national non-profit group that coincidentally is headquartered in Tampa called FORCE which stands for Facing Our Risk of      Cancer Empowered. This group is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Hereditary is the key word that makes this group different from other research foundations devoted to breast cancer. FORCE concentrates only on hereditary cancer. Have you heard of the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes?  We all have them. For some ethnic groups, however, these genes have mutated and now cause big trouble–trouble such as breast and ovarian cancer. After being hit with a second tumor, I was tested for these mutations and learned that I carry the BRCA 1 gene mutation.

In two weeks, I’ll be attending a local get-together with other members of this sisterhood. I’m bringing Mike, my knight-in-shining tinfoil, with me. He’s been through it all. I hope I’m at the point where I can contribute to the strengthening of this force.

To learn more about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer: visit FORCE on Facebook or at their website:  www.facingourrisk.org. .

CONTEST NEWS!! I’m thrilled to add a fabulous prize to this month’s drawing. Five authors from OnFireFiction are offering a five story romance package called: Love Me Some Cowboy. each story is a full novel from Lisa Mondello, Jean Brashear, Day Leclaire, Barbara McMahon and Ginger Chambers. I’m a proud member of OnFireFiction and am happy to provide this terrific prize in addition to a copy of Family Interrupted

Post a comment and have your name added to this drawing. The contest runs through May 31st. 

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book package


book cover








As always, thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.


Starting Over ~ Breast Cancer and Me

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m able to start over because cancer didn’t win. This enemy attacked not once, but twice. Yet I’m still here. So now it’s time to pick myself up and reclaim my normal activities–living, loving, writing, playing canasta and mah-jong and whatever else comes along. If I hide under the bed, I will have lost the battle despite being cancer free, and that is not acceptable.

It’s not that I’m stronger than anyone else. Really, I’m not. I’ve had wonderful support from family, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. This breast cancer sisterhood is not isolated. It draws in brothers, sisters, husbands, co-workers, neighbors, everyone who knows you, everyone who cares about you and everyone who loves you. These are the allies. They were my allies. They shared their strength and offered help as well as hope.

In the end, however, women are the ones who sit in cotton gowns waiting for the mammogram report. It is a routine exam, but our hearts race as the technician walks over. When she smiles and says, “You’re free to go,” we know we’ve received another reprieve. Safe ’til next year.

Or not. In 2001, I found my first tumor myself six months after having had a mammogram. So my battle cry for you is: Vigilance. Self-exams. Mammograms. You’ve heard it before: early detection is the key to survival. The word’s out on television, news articles and in magazines. And yet…and yet…we too often hide.

Have you heard the joke about Cleopatra being Queen of “de-nial?” Well, too many of us qualify for that crown. Including me. I waited weeks before I could admit I was actually feeling something in my breast. Maybe it would go away tomorrow…or the next day…  Maybe I’d walked into a wall and bruised myself…and the bruise swelled a bit… Yeah, yeah, the imagination is sometimes NOT a wonderful thing. (But don’t say that to writers of fiction 🙂

During my last bout with the disease – detected through a mammogram – I can across a website called No Surrender. How’s that for a catchy, uplifting name? Turns out, I not only liked the supportive tone, but I appreciated the layman’s presentation of their Breast Cancer 101 section. They covered the gamut from interpreting a diagnosis to what to expect for all possible treatments. I would recommend this website as a starting point for anyone with questions about breast cancer.

Now, I have a question for you:  have you scheduled your mammogram for this year?  If you have any questions for me, please comment below and enter to win a copy of Family Interrupted.  Drawing at the end of the month. 

Wishing you all the best of health. Hope to see you next time for another edition of Starting Over!