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Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

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.

FORCE LOGO

FORCE LOGO

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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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ARe DEBRA SALONEN 7-1

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting Over~Breast Cancer & Me

AND NOW COME THE CRITICS–Br Ca Blog icon 1

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!

 

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.

Linda

 

 

 

 

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.  

FORCE Logo

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!)

YES, YES…FAMILY INTERRUPTED IS AVAILABLE NOW IN PAPERBACK AT CREATESPACE. WHEE…I’M VERY HAPPY ABOUT THAT!!

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

Linda

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book packagebook cover