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Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

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!


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 ~ Life in the Day Camp


We hit the pause button yesterday in our day camp for adults. My golfer guy didn’t golf. The mah-jong players didn’t mix their tiles. The pool players hung up their sticks. But at nine o’clock in the morning, we all stood at attention–together–in a Memorial Day tribute to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. We also thought about the men and women serving in our military right now. They were not drafted, but are part of a volunteer force. They and their families have sacrificed a “normal” life to serve their country. Our country.

You and I are the beneficiaries of their sacrifices. We’ve been given the opportunity to raise our voices without fear “and let freedom ring.” To stand in silence in unthinkable when the cost of freedom is so high.Whether our heroes lay in Flanders Field, Normandy or in Arlington National Cemetery, we honor our fallen. We grieve. We remember. And we celebrate them as well.

Color Guard

I find there’s an extra benefit in taking time to pause and remember. It centers us. Reminds us who we are and what we are about. We remember that the umbrella under which we all live is a broad one. It’s a strong one. And there’s room beneath it for those who “yearn to breathe free.” For those whose hearts pump love when glimpsing Lady Liberty in New York’s harbor.

The community I live in is only a few years old, but I can see that traditions are being born in that short time. Our Memorial Day started with a dedication of a Circle of Honor (see above) to our fallen heroes. In that circle are engraved bricks with individual names on them, including that of my own dad, who served in the U.S. Army during WWII. The Color Guard presented the flag. Speech makers inspired us. And then the games began.

The ping of bat hitting ball enticed everyone to stick around and watch our co-ed home grown softball teams. Yes, indeed. Whether baseball or softball – it draws a big crowd. Then came bocce ball, pickleball, horseshoes, shuffleboard.  (A day camp needs lots of activities).  Hot dogs, hamburgers and plenty of soft drinks. And wait…there’s more. The doggie park had a grand opening 🙂 

A crowd pleaser

A crowd pleaser011

In my humble opinion, life in the day camp doesn’t get any better than what we all shared yesterday.

Now, about today…the pause button’s been released and life is back to the norm. I’ve got my fingers on the keyboard, social media visits to make, and well…I think there’s a hot mah-jongg game coming up this evening. I’ll be there.  

How did you spend Memorial Day? With family? Friends? Or quietly at home?

Post a comment and your name will be added to this month’s drawing. LOVE ME SOME COWBOY was just released yesterday! This is a fabulous package of five books from five terrific authors: Jean Brashear, Ginger Chambers, Day Leclaire, Barbara McMahon and Lisa Mondello.  And I’m giving it away along with my own novel, Family Interrupted, as this month’s prize.

BTW – Family Interrupted is now available in print from Amazon as well as for your Kindle, Nook, Kobo or iPad.  I am so-o happy about this. Many readers have asked for a “real” book to hold in their hands. So, here it is!

The PRINT edition is here!

The PRINT edition is here!

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



Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book package

Starting Over – Fingers on the Keyboard

hands on keyboardHARD COVERS and SOFT COVERS and E-BOOKS, OH MY!

Gutenberg  invented the printing press in approximately 1439 and changed the world forever. Gone was the dependency on hand written manuscripts as the mass production of printed books became a reality. His movable press became more efficient over time due to improved materials and tweaks, but nothing much changed for hundreds of years.

Enter the electronic revolution.

In today’s world, not only are books accessible to us, but readers have choices. What type of book do you prefer to hold in your hands? A compact well designed eReader such as a Kindle or Nook?  Or a “real” book made of paper pages sporting a rich cover? Most book lovers I speak with enjoy a combination of both, depending on the type of book. But let’s not kid ourselves, Electronic books are here to stay. The entire publishing industry has changed because of them. And authors have led the way.

Authors?. That’s right. I said authors.  But they write the books. They don’t publish the books. That’s what companies like Random House or Simon & Schuster do. Well, my friends, while that may still be true, those businesses now have new competition.

Enter the “indie” author.

The independent author has emerged as a powerful player in today’s book scene. An independent author contracts with a freelance editor, a copy editor, and a cover designer to help her produce–or continue to produce–stories that readers love. The independent author has become her own publisher.

I am one of them. After writing a dozen or so novels for a traditional publisher, I’ve decided to go out on my own.

You might have a few questions….?  Ah-h…I see a some hands up in the back of the room. Yes, Mary?

Q.  Why did you change to indie publishing?

A.  Several reasons. First, I could write more books than my publisher could schedule for release because they had other contracted authors to satisfy. Second, they sometimes turned down projects that I liked a lot and thought my readers would like too. Now I have a chance to make those stories available. And third, It was time for me to grow as a writer with bigger projects. Ergo, Family Interrupted.

Q. But don’t you have to pay those editors to help you?

A. Yes, I do. But it’s worth every cent. I would never release a book that hasn’t been thoroughly edited by professionals. It’s very difficult for me–or any author– to do a good job editing her own work because after re-reading the story a million times, you just don’t see the mistakes.

Any other questions?  I see another hand. Susie?

Q. So let’s talk about money. Doesn’t a big publisher pay you lots of money to write your books?

A.  Only the biggest names — authors who make the lists such as The New York Times or USA Today — earn “big” money.  Authors who publish regularly but have a smaller following earn far less. For most of my writing life, I’ve also worked a day job in order to pay the bills. I taught GED prep classes to homeless adults. Another challenging profession! Frankly, I loved that career, too.

Q. So, is it easier being an indie author?

A. There is no difference in the creativity and effort that goes into writing the story. It is neither easier nor harder to produce the best book possible. The extra effort for the indie author involves promoting the book. The responsibility is all mine, and I so appreciate any help I can get. If readers don’t know me or if they can’t find my books, then all my work will have been in vain. Without a reader, the art is unfinished. The circle is not closed. If I were a painter, I could hang my pictures on the walls of my house. I can’t hang a manuscript. Books are to share between writer and reader and among friends.

Q. How does a reader know if an author is indie or traditional?

A.  When you pick up a book, the publisher’s name will be in it. In my book, Family Interrupted, only my name is in it as both the copyright holder and the “permission giver” for reproducing any part of the work. Some indie authors might have incorporated themselves, and that corporate name would be on the copyright page.

Q. Are printed books available from an indie author?

A.  The author decides whether to publish her book in print. Because of the number of electronic readers out there, they often choose not to. Family Interrupted, however, is available as a trade paperback. There is no difference in the physical quality of the printed book offered by an indie author vs. a large publishing company.  When I hold a copy of Family Interrupted in my hands, the cover is strong, the colors are true, and the pages are formatted correctly. The book has weight and substance. It’s a real book! And it makes me smile.

Q.. This promo thing….if I really like an indie author, how can I help promote her?

A.  Same as you’ve always done. Tell your friends! Use Facebook, Twitter or your telephone. Post a review on the etail sites like Amazon. Your recommendation is still the very best way to spread the word. Thanks so much for asking 🙂

Any other questions out there? Just ask and I’ll answer right here in the comments section.

LEAVE A COMMENT and your name will be entered for this month’s drawing for a fabulous package of books. Five authors from OnFireFiction have put together 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 OnFireFiction and happy to provide this prize as well as an electronic copy of FAMILY INTERRUPTED, my recently released novel of women’s fiction.  NOW AVAILABLE IN PRINT FROM CreateSpace!!!

As always, 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 package