My younger sister, Denise, and her husband, Randy, visited from Vancouver, Washington, three months after my diagnosis of ovarian cancer. It was very therapeutic for me to spend time with them as we laughed, shared, and prayed together. We hugged, cried, talked, played games, then cried and laughed some more. They rubbed my bald head and said, “You’re beautiful.”
The four of us went to our son Michael’s house for his daughter Gabrielle’s eighth birthday party, filling the house with more laughter and talks. My son immediately wanted to see my bald head that he rubbed and said, “Mom, it looks great.” I gave Gabby a quilt her great-great-grandmother had made for me when I was Gabby’s age. I included a picture of my grandmother and wrote about her journey in life. It was a rite of passage of a woman’s role in the family. It was also the right time to pass on a keepsake from one generation to the next.
One morning, Denise and I went to my favorite coffee shop, Brewberry’s, for a cup of white chocolate mocha. Of course, we got the largest size and sat for over an hour, just talking girl stuff. We talked about our kids and our own childhood, but mostly we talked about the cancer and me. It’s one thing to talk about the loss of a grandparent or parent, but it’s unusual and painful to contemplate the death of a sibling. My two sisters are very special friends, and over the years, I could not bear the thought of something happening to one of them. Each of us is unique, and yet we have the common bond of blood, genes, and family history.
We sometimes have different memories even though we grew up in the same house.
“I’m not scared to die. I just don’t want to die now,” I said as I fought back the tears. “There’s so much I still want to do, see, and complete.”
Denise reached across and took my hand as she said, “Karen, you’re not going to die now. The doctor got all the cancer.”
I so wanted to believe her, just as I wanted to believe Jim when he said those same words. But how do we know the cancer is all gone? Who’s to say it won’t come back? Are they in denial of reality? Or do I not trust enough?
Once we exhausted talking about the “Big C,” we moved to other topics, many of which brought smiles, giggles, or laughter. We left the coffee shop arm in arm, and we agreed it would be so much better if we lived closer.
The last night Randy and Denise were here, we sat around the dinette table as they led us in communion. They lit a candle and placed it in the middle of the table. From the Bible they read Luke 22:14–20, broke some pieces of bread on a plate, and filled our glasses with juice. They took turns reading the passages as they moved slowly around the table and placed their hands on Jim and me. It was a beautiful time, and the room was filled with love. My tears were not of sadness or fear, but of the overwhelming joy only God can provide.
We can turn our backs on tomorrow
And live for yesterday.
Or we can be happy for tomorrow
Because of yesterday.
Read a review of this book here.
Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir
is a personal, medical and spiritual journey with the author, Karen Ingalls, a 4 year survivor of Stage II C ovarian cancer.
The reader will learn about the subtle symptoms, risk factors, and statistics for this cancer; about her struggles and triumphs; how God, family, and humor helped her to cope; and resources that have been informative and supportive.
is a retired registered nurse with a master's degree in human development. Her primary nursing career focus was in epilepsy and hospice. For over twenty years she had her own nursing service called, Kare 'N Touch, where she provided counseling, biofeedback, stress management and therapeutic massage.