Joanie

Shawhan

In Her Shoes

Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer

Just A Summer Read? (Part II: The Value of Non-Fiction)

 

 

 

 

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”―Dr. Seuss

 

For many of us, reading non-fiction began in the halls of higher learning, shortly after we mastered “See Jane run.” Depending on our bent, earthworms, ants and mathematical equations may not have endeared us to non-fiction. I am, although, fairly certain geology set the foundation for my love of bling.

 

In parochial school, my education would not have been complete without reading the lives of the saints. I couldn’t imagine leading an army with the courage of my namesake Joan of Arc only to be burned at the stake.

 

Names and dates relating to dead people may spawn yawns. But who isn’t enthralled with a tea party or the late night ride of Paul Revere? The adventures and the audacity of our Founding Fathers formed my introduction to non-fiction characters.

 

 

Genres of Non-Fiction

 

1. Biography. An account of someone’s life penned by another person.

 

2. Autobiography. An author shares his or her own life story.

 

3. Memoir. A collection of memories and anecdotes woven together relating to a specific theme or time period in an individual’s life.

 

4. Academic. Textbook learning including English, history, math and science.

 

5. Instructional. How-to books or step-by-step manuals designed to improve skills such as music, art, crafts, sports, travel, gardening or cooking.

 

6. Inspirational. The author shares valuable life lessons.

 

7. Self-Help. Experts share their expertise on a specific topic.

 

 

What are the Benefits of Reading Non-Fiction?

 

1. Teaches us new skills.

2. Increases our knowledge of the world around us.

3. Helps us grow in wisdom.

4. Inspires hope.

5. Motivates us to meet new challenges.

6. Builds courage to overcome adversity.

7. Promotes understanding others.

8. Increases our empathy for other people.

9. Changes our perspective by shifting our mindsets.

 

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15 NIV)

 

 

A Few Memorable Works of Non-Fiction

 

Recipes, disguises and humor pepper the pages of Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires: the Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.

 

Plots, character development and writing myths punctuate Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, a book devoted to the art of writing.

 

Who of us have not been touched by The Diary of Anne Frank, a teen-ager hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam because she was Jewish?

 

The godly wisdom of Oswald Chambers graces My Utmost for His Highest.

 

In Through the Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis poured out his heart on life, love and loss. He penned numerous books, including Mere Christianity.

 

Elisabeth Elliot describes the faith and martyrdom of her husband and four other missionaries in Through Gates of Splendor. She later brought the gospel to the Ecuadorian tribe who had savagely murdered these husbands and fathers.

 

Other missionaries include Amy Carmichael in India, Eric Liddell from Chariots of Fire and Katie, an 18-year-old who shares her journey of adopting Ugandan children in Kisses from Katie.

 

Many have been persecuted for the sake of the gospel including Vanya, a soldier in the Soviet Red Army, Dietrich Bonheoffer in Nazi Germany, and Nora Lam from China Cry.

 

In The Hiding Place Corrie ten Boom describes God’s grace mingled with the horrors of a concentration camp. Tramp for the Lord highlights her travels sharing her testimony—“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

 

The pages of the Bible are filled with the stories of real people, their struggles, their failures and their triumphs—Abraham, Joseph, Esther, David, Daniel, and Paul. Ultimately, the Bible is the story of Jesus Christ.

 

I have discovered along with C.S. Lewis, “We read to know that we are not alone.”

 

 

I love stories of real people pressing through trials, facing adversity, and making choices that shape their lives and the lives of others for the better. Their heart, passion, motives and transparency inspire me long after I’ve read their story of how they lived out these life lessons.

 

Do you have a story that needs to be shared?

 

 

 

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Just A Summer Read? (Part 1: The Value of Fiction)

 

 

 

From early childhood, I have gleaned a wealth of knowledge from reading fiction.

 

 

I am grateful for the life lessons of Mother Goose. Don’t sit on a wall, or I might fall. If I trudge up a hill to fetch water I might tumble down, especially if I’m with a boy. No matter how tempting, I must never place my baby brother’s cradle in a tree on a windy day.

 

 

The Brothers Grimm reinforced my cautionary nature. I must not prick my finger on a spindle unless I know a prince will awaken me with a kiss. Maybe Doc could protect me from a poisoned apple, but I’m not sure about Grumpy, Sleepy or Dopey. I learned the perils of thievery from Peter Rabbit. Vegetables most certainly are a dangerous temptation.

 

 

As I expanded my reading genres, Nancy Drew taught me the dangers of sleuthing—beware of dark stairwells, attics or secret passages. I am pretty sure that Cherry Ames and Sue Barton were instrumental in preparing me for my nursing career.

 

 

My Favorite Fiction Genres

 

 1.  The Classics. Where would we be without Mr. Darcy? Jane Austin gave us a snapshot of Britain: women, title, inheritance or the lack there of.

 

 

2.  Historical Fiction. Brock and Bodie Thoene opened my eyes to WWII Europe with harrowing descriptions of the bombings, the raids, the resistance.

 

 

3.  Biblical Fiction. Jeremiah, Daniel, Ruth, Esther, Joseph, Abigail, Deborah and Hagar stepped out of the pages of ancient text and were brought to life by Lois T. Henderson, Thom Lemmons and Ellen Gunderson Traylor.

 

 

4.   Mystery, Suspense. Intrigue.I love the adventures of Mrs. Pollifax, an elderly lady bored with her life and inadvertently assigned to a classified CIA mission.

 

 

5.   General Fiction. I am riveted by multigenerational plots such as those weaved by Kate Morton and Francine Rivers. The writings of Charles Martin have moved me to tears.

 

 

Why Read Fiction?

 

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”

 

 

1. To Reveal Hidden Prejudices. Through fictional characters, we broaden our understanding of other people, their attitudes, thoughts, motives and emotions.

 

 

2. To Overcome Adversity. As our characters overcome obstacles or personality flaws, we also learn problem-solving strategies.

 

 

3.  To Develop Empathy. Like us, our characters are flawed, broken and imperfect, searching for acceptance and love. As we walk in the shoes of our hero and heroine, we understand their motives, drives and fears. We are filled with compassion for our wounded characters and offer forgiveness.

 

 

4.  To Learn Life Lessons. We may forget a teaching, but we remember the story that reflects the message. Stories engage our imagination, emotions and our senses. Jesus understood the power of the story. Who of us have forgotten the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son? Jesus taught valuable life lessons through his stories such as the parable of the persistent widow.

“One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.” (Luke 18:1 NLT)

 

 

Stories transform our hearts and minds, rubbing off our rough edges. Stories help make us real.

 

 

Margery Williams Biancoso beautifully describes this process in The Velveteen Rabbit:

 

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit

 

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

 

What works of fiction have impacted your life?

 

Next Month: Just A Summer Read? (Part 2: The Value of Non-fiction)

 

 

 

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A Life Rebuilt—After Ovarian Cancer

 

 

 

In Wisconsin, we have two seasons—winter and construction.

 

For me, a diagnosis of ovarian cancer hurled me into a winter season. Cancer raised a stop sign, interrupting my life. But when I merged into life after cancer, I faced a new challenge. What do I do now? Who am I as an ovarian cancer survivor? How do I rebuild my life?

 

I sought out other ovarian cancer survivors, but found no support groups, Gilda’s Clubs or Facebook groups. Were there other survivors? As I searched for answers, I decided to chronicle my journey so other women would not run into the same roadblocks I did in search of support.

 

After I completed my story, it dawned on me there were other women with their own unique cancer stories waiting to be shared—everyday women with everyday lives interrupted by cancer. So I wrote a book documenting our journeys through various cancers. I hoped our experiences would benefit other women whose lives had been disrupted by cancer.

 

I finally met other ovarian survivors at an ovarian cancer camp in Missoula Montana—Camp Mak-A-Dream. Some of these survivors were involved in a program called Survivors Teaching Students (STS) in which they shared their stories with medical students and other health care providers These presentations raise awareness for ovarian cancer in hopes of earlier detection, thus saving women’s lives. As a nurse and an ovarian cancer survivor, I was excited about joining the STS volunteer team.

 

While participating in STS, I met local ovarian cancer survivors. We formed an ovarian cancer group, The Fried Eggs—Sunny Side Up. We meet monthly, sponsor speakers, plan fun outings and participate in fundraisers for ovarian cancer.

 

At the time of my cancer diagnosis, I couldn’t imagine how God would rebuild my life. What began as a winter journey blossomed into a life enriched by the wonderful people I met along the way, including my writing community and my fellow ovarian cancer survivors.

 

My cancer detour steered me into a new purpose and calling for my life—to write a book and articles encouraging women undergoing chemotherapy, to advocate for women and educate regarding ovarian cancer.

 

June is Rebuild Your Life Month. How have you experienced new construction in your life after a winter season?

 

 

 

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Bladder Cancer Awareness—A Tribute to Tracy

 

 

 

“I have stage 4 bladder cancer,” my sister Tracy said. “It’s also in my lungs and liver.”

 

No! I felt like I was kicked in the chest. Her life-threatening pronouncement sucked the oxygen out of my lungs. How could this happen to my go-to-the-gym-every-day sister? She was only fifty-two!

 

“Do you remember the bleeding I had over a year ago?” Tracy said.

 

I remembered. She had seen the gynecologist for what she thought was post-menopausal uterine bleeding. The doctor told her everything was fine. Or so we thought. She had been to the doctor several times for bleeding since that initial visit and treated for urinary tract infections.

 

Shortness of breath prompted the latest round of doctors’ visits. A chest x-ray, CT scan and bladder biopsy culminated in a diagnosis of stage 4 bladder cancer. Even the medical staff was perplexed. They repeatedly said to Tracy, “Bladder cancer usually affects older men, especially smokers.”

 

Unfortunately, bladder cancer statistics did not apply to Tracy.

 

Bladder cancer affects approximately 68,000 people per year, usually older men. It is very treatable when diagnosed in the early stages.

 

Bladder Cancer Symptoms

 

  1. *  Blood in the urine
  2. *  Painful urination
  3. *  Pelvic pain
  4. *  Urinary frequency

 

Risk Factors

 

  1. *  Age
  2. *  Smoking
  3. *  Male
  4. *  Caucasian
  5. *  Exposure to environmental chemicals
  6. *  Chronic bladder infections or inflammation

 

May is National Bladder Cancer Awareness Month. If you experience the symptoms of bladder cancer, please contact your physician.

 

For my sister, the diagnosis of a rare type of bladder cancer came too late. She did not survive. But she would have wanted to raise awareness of the risks and symptoms of bladder cancer, so others may seek early treatment and survive.

 

 

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Walking a Loved One Eternally Home

 

 

 

“I have stage 4 cancer,” my sister Tracy said.

I groaned as I tightened my grip on the phone.

 

How could this happen to my sister? She goes to the gym everyday. As a cancer survivor and a nurse with an oncology background, I was familiar with stage 4 cancer. But a few days later, my heart sank. God had whispered in my spirit, “Walk her home.”

 

How do I say goodbye to my sister nine years younger, nine hours away and nine years old when I left home? We had rarely visited or talked with one another between crazy schedules and multiple states.

 

How do I walk my sister home? How do we walk our loved ones home?

 

With God’s help, I discovered ways to walk Tracy home.  

 

1.  Pray. Ask God how to pray for them. Ask our loved ones for their prayer requests. My sister wanted prayer for the pain.

 

2.  Encourage. Share encouraging words, scriptures and songs. I sent my sister a Bible, but would she feel well enough to read it? I created daily memes with scriptures of God’s love, comfort and faithfulness.

 

3.   Listen. Some people want to talk about dying. Tracy did not want to talk about cancer, death or anything negative.

 

4.   Respect. We need to respect their choices. Tracy had a rare bladder cancer resistant to both chemotherapy and radiation with a life expectancy of 3-6 months. She did not want to live the rest of her days sick from chemotherapy. Instead, she chose two weeks of alternative treatment in Mexico followed by a home regimen.

 

5.   Contact. Call, text and send cards. I discovered that Tracy was more receptive to conversations starting with “What’s up?” rather than “How are you?” This gave her the option to talk about things other than cancer. She preferred to text when her breathing grew labored.

  

6.   Gifts. My sisters and I sent flowers, Polish pottery, tea, books, DVD’s and hand-knitted socks and blanket.

 

7.   Meals. Tracy’s co-workers ordered food from a local restaurant when they heard family were in town. There were so many leftovers that she invited her co-workers for dinner the following day.

 

8.   Finances. A devastating diagnosis can drain the family’s finances. Tracy’s treatment in Mexico was expensive and not covered by insurance. One of my sisters set up a Medgift account for her.

 

9.   Visits. Visits from friends and family can be great distractions from sickness and pain. But they can also be exhausting. Some days our loved ones may feel better than other days. Call or text to see if they would like a visit.

 

10.  Outings. Movies, shopping trips and walks provide wonderful distractions.

 

11.  Serve. Offer specific help such as childcare, housekeeping or lawn care. Tracy wanted help taking down her Christmas decorations. As part of staging their house, my brother painted and laid flooring.

 

12.  Prepare. Prepare for the loved ones left behind. Help videotape messages, sort photographs or write cards for special occasions. Tracy and I sorted through her childhood photos.

 

13.  Celebrate. My brother-in-law brought Tracy into town for an old-time family dinner. Fourteen of us gathered around the table set with china that hadn’t been outside of a hutch in over twenty years. Wisecracks, laughter and family stories mingled with the aroma of roast beef. For a little while we could forget that this weekend would be our last time together.

 

14.  Hope. Allow hope. Between staggered breaths, Tracy had said “We’ve had lots of miracles in our family. I hope there is one more miracle for me.” My sister still clung to hope despite starting oxygen and entering hospice.

 

 

On Good Friday, Tracy’s husband texted, “Her condition has worsened. I don’t know how long she has.” My Mom, sisters and I arrived in town to be with Tracy during her last days. We enjoyed Easter together, Tracy hooked up to oxygen, swinging on the patio and soaking in the sun. Early the next morning, Jesus received her eternally home. I am sure she would say along with the psalmist David—

 

“When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.” (Psalm 17:15b NLT).

 

How would you lead a loved one eternally home?

 

 

 

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11 Benefits of Creativity Through Crafting

 

 

Blobs of paint, faceted stones and skeins of thread crafted into masterpieces by my own hands boggle my mind. (See photo). Crafting has enriched my life since childhood.

 

 

My Craft Journey

 

I embarked on my journey of crafting at the age of five. I begged my mother to teach me how to embroider. She threaded the needle for me and taught me how to make X’s on the pre-stamped embroidery cloth. With one hand I grasped the hoop that held the cloth taut. Up with the needle, down with the needle as I punctured the cloth, attempting to follow the stamped pattern of a teacup and saucer. I had created a masterpiece!

 

I moved on to weaving potholders on a loom, leading me into my first start-up business— selling potholders door-to-door.

 

During the summer, our local grade school hosted summer crafts. Each day, I had a dime to purchase a craft project. I painted plaster molds, laced leather cases and wove lanyards with gimp.

 

During the winter, I painted by number, created mosaics, sewed, knitted and crocheted. My siblings and I used styrofoam, ribbon and foil to fashion Christmas ornaments. We cut out snowflakes and strung popcorn and cranberries.

 

In high school, my curriculum revolved around academics and music until my senior year. I enrolled in a pottery class. I had no idea what I was doing, but something awakened in my soul when I sunk my fingers into the cool, wet lump of clay— kneaded, moistened, pounded. Finally the clay was ready to be formed into a coil pot—baked, glazed and baked again. Whenever I had a free period, I retreated to the art room, immersed myself in my creations and discovered joy.

 

As a new graduate nurse, rotating days and nights proved very stressful. My oasis of sanity lay strewn across my dining room table—jars of paint and plaster figurines. Each evening I painted and stained the figures until I had created a Nativity set that I still display at Christmas.

 

 

What are the Benefits of Crafting and Creativity?

 

1. Relaxation. Working with our hands can help us unwind and reduce stress. 

 

2. Achievement. Admiring our finished project gives us a sense of accomplishment especially if it is  something we never thought we could do.

 

3. Sharpness. Learning new skills may improve our cognitive thinking.

 

4. Income. The projects we create may increase our earnings in the marketplace.

 

5. Confidence. Mastering new techniques gives us courage that will carry over to other aspects of our lives and enable us to attempt new ventures.

 

6. Practical. Sewing and knitting projects can be incorporated into a wardrobe and accessorized with handcrafted jewelry. Quilts, paintings and needlework projects can add to a home’s décor.

 

7. Gifts. Handcrafted items provide personalized presents as well as donations for fundraisers and non-profit organizations.

 

8. Perseverance. By trying and trying again, we learn persistence and the value of not giving up even when we perceive we have failed.

 

9. Honor. Our creativity can be an act of worshipping God.

 

10. Satisfaction. We are fulfilled when we walk in God’s creative plans and purposes.

 

11. Beauty. Beauty inspires us and lifts our spirits as we listen to God’s creative whispers.

 

 

God is the inspiration for our creativity through nature, people and the artistry of others. We create because we are created in His image. He is the Master Creator and invites us to participate in His creativity.

 

“God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it.” (Isaiah 42:5 NLT)

 

Today, I still enjoy creating through writing, music, painting, knitting and designing jewelry.

 

March is National Craft Month. How are you inspired to craft, using your gifts of creativity? Would you like to share your photos?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ovarian Cancer Survivors: The Fried Eggs—Sunny-Side Up

 

 

 

“We should start a social group for ovarian cancer survivors,” the leader of our STS (Survivors Teaching Students) course said. “Not a support group, but a fun group.”

 

We had just presented our ovarian cancer stories to a class of medical students in the STS program.

 

Our first meeting convened in a private room at a restaurant aptly called The Egg and I. We introduced ourselves, sharing snippets of our cancer journeys. Some of us have had recurrence, some are in treatment and some are cancer-free.

 

“I can make a contact list,” one member said. “I can also put together a binder with our photos and bios. With chemobrain it’s hard to remember names.”

 

We settled on meeting the fourth Tuesday of the month, each member taking a turn choosing the restaurant. Due to the nature of our conversations, we request a private room. We welcome new members, catch up, share info about new treatments, activities and fundraisers. Occasionally we plan to meet during the evening or on a Saturday in order to include those not available during the week.

 

 

FUNDRAISERS

 

“Don’t forget to sign up for the Whisper Walk,” our leader reminds us. The Whisper Walk is named for the symptoms of ovarian cancer that whisper. The walk is a fundraiser for cancer research sponsored by WOCA (The Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance).

 

“We still have seating open for Sparkle of Hope.” This special evening celebrates the lives of women touched by gynecological cancers. The event raises funds for ongoing research at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.

 

 

ACTIVITIES

 

“I’m a docent at the museum. I can arrange a tour.”

 

“We have a place up north with a pontoon boat.”

 

“Our research doctor is offering a tour of his ovarian cancer lab.”

 

“Registration is open for ovarian cancer camp at Camp Mak-A-Dream in Missoula, Montana. It’s free of charge for ovarian cancer survivors. WOCA is offering scholarships to help cover airfare.”

 

 

CATCH UP

 

“My CT scan is negative. The new study drug is working!” one member shared. Her Huskie had sniffed out her cancer and two recurrences before the doctors or scans could discover it.

 

“I just finished chemo!”

 

“I leave for Boston tomorrow,” one woman says. It is one of many trips she makes to Dana Farber every three weeks to participate in a drug trial. Her cancer is stable.

 

We are teal sisters, members of a club we never chose to join, fighting a battle we never wanted to fight. We are ovarian cancer survivors.

 

We are The Fried Eggs—Sunny-Side up.

 

 

 

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7 Steps to Celebrate Life in the New Year for Those Grieving

 

 

 

 

 

The ball drops in Times Square, announcing the arrival of a new year. For many, promises of new beginnings and dreams dance in their heads. But with the coming of the new, we must say goodbye to the old. For some, the goodbye is bittersweet. The year has been marked by sadness, sorrow and heartache.

 

For me, the past year has been filled with painful losses and goodbyes, culminating in celebrations of life. Lives of those who passed fighting health battles and the passing of lives well lived. We want to greet the coming year with hope and expectation, but sometimes we get stuck in grief. How can we move forward when the time spent with our loved ones is locked in the past?

 

January is Celebration of Life Month. We honor the lives of those who passed, but we also want to celebrate our lives in the present.

 

How do we move forward and celebrate life?

 

1.  Hold on to what is good. Remember the good times. Cherish the memories.

 

2.  Let go of the negative. Forgive offenses. Release bitterness, regrets and guilt that trap us in the past.

 

3.  Forgive those who hurt us. Forgive those who left us.

 

4.  Be thankful. Thank God for His faithfulness, for bringing us through this hard season into a new year. Thank Him for the wonderful things He has in store for us.

 

5.  Enjoy the relationships God has brought into our lives. Appreciate those who have stood with us in our joys and in our sorrows.

 

6.  Set goals. So often we set goals that are not realistic or goals we maintain for a few weeks by our own willpower. But what are God’s goals for us? What are His goals for work? Relationships? Personal life? Character development? Ask him. Study His Word. How does He want us to accomplish these goals?

 

7.  Cultivate hope. Hope releases us from the prison of depression and despair.

 

We don’t know what the next year will bring, but as we move into the New Year, let us remember that each day is a gift from God.

 

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

 

 

 

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8 Ways to Cope with Grief During the Holidays

 

 

Turkey, tinsel and Christmas lights cannot fill the emptiness in our hearts after the loss of a loved one. A season to be jolly morphs into a dread of the upcoming holidays. Our hearts are broken. Our holidays will never be the same.

 

How do we cope, let alone celebrate when the vacant chair at our table is a constant reminder of our loss?

 

1.    Recognize that the holidays are going to be painful, especially the firsts. It’s all right to grieve, to  acknowledge our loss and brokenness.

 

2.   Have a plan. Lack of a plan exacerbates the loneliness and isolation. Accept a new invitation.     Find activities you enjoy.

 

3.   Keep the traditions meaningful to you. Let go of traditions or activities that drain your strength.

 

4.   Start a new tradition in memory of your loved one. Create a special ornament or floral arrangement in their memory. Donate to their favorite charity. Light a candle.

 

5.   Reminisce. Talk about the person. Tell stories. Laugh together.

 

6.   Travel. Spend the holidays with relatives or friends. Take a vacation. Go on a cruise. Travel breaks the monotony of grief and provides an opportunity to make new memories.

 

7.   Help others. Helping others takes our eyes off of our pain and ourselves. Serve a holiday meal at a shelter. Get involved with Christmas toy or food drives. Make a phone call, send a card or pray for someone else who is hurting.

 

8.   Give thanks. During seasons of grief and loss, we often don’t feel thankful. When we give thanks, we shift our focus off our pain and onto God. We keep the memory of our loved one alive by giving thanks for the beautiful memories we shared.

 

 

 

How do you cope with the grief during the holidays?

 

 

 

A Sparkle of Hope for Gynecologic Cancers

 

 

 

Electricity filled the air, sparking excitement and anticipation as I approached the registration table at the Monona Terrace. The time had finally arrived to get our sparkle on for Sparkle of Hope, a special evening celebrating women touched by gynecologic cancers.

 

I received my nametag and registered my credit card to place bids for the silent auction. Several large jars of coins had been plunked on the table, coins collected for the year to Make a Change for Sparkle of Hope research and gynecologic projects at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.

 

Cocktails and Diamonds

 

Live music performed by the Mad City Trio beckoned me to the windows overlooking Lake Monona. I mingled with guests in cocktail attire, including other ovarian cancer survivors. Our eyes lingered over the items donated for the silent auction. Easels boasted poster size photos of a diamond necklace as well as a square cut emerald. The silent auction held other attractions: jewelry, knitted baby gifts, food baskets and wine. The auction would not be complete without Wisconsin Badger memorabilia: game tickets, Badger chairs and autographed footballs.

 

I stopped at a painting featuring the iconic table and chair sets dispersed across the Memorial Union Terrace overlooking Lake Mendota. The vibrant greens, reds and yellows provided a lovely contrast to the deep blue lake dotted with sailboats.

 

“What a beautiful painting!” I said to the stranger who seemed to be admiring the painting as well.

 

“I painted it,” she replied.

 

I didn’t know what to say, or maybe I had already said it.

 

I strolled over to a table with rows of gold gift bags—the Diamond Dig. Tissue paper peeked over the top of the bags, hiding their treasures, but only one of these bags contained the coveted diamond necklace. I purchased my chance. Would I be the winner this year?

 

As I passed the Diamond Dig, I spotted a sign, “Punch Out Cancer.” Buy a chance, make a fist, punch a hole and retrieve your gift. Prizes varied from a free scoop of ice cream to $100 gift cards. My last punch yielded a McDonalds coupon.

 

I wanted to raise awareness for Sparkle of Hope, so along with Stephanie Herfel, I shot a Facebook live video. Stephanie is an ovarian cancer survivor, a member of the Sparkle of Hope committee and one of our featured speakers. Stephanie sparkled in her teal evening gown as she shared how her huskie, Sierra, sniffed out her cancer before the doctors diagnosed it.

 

The lights flickered, summoning us to the banquet room. I joined other ovarian cancer survivors as guests at a table sponsored by the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance which included the organization’s directors. A pumpkin overflowing with peach colored roses, yellow tea roses and fall leaves graced the center of our table. We slipped our secret bids into a gold envelope which would determine the fate of the centerpieces at the end of the evening.

 

Journey of Hope

 

Eric Franke, our emcee from channel 3000, opened the program. Defying social etiquette, he endorsed the use of cell phones during dinner. Throughout the evening, we grabbed our phones and continued to bid on the silent auction items.

 

After dinner, the program began with a video highlighting the faculty and staff of dedicated researchers. As grateful patients shared their stories, they encouraged the doctors, reminding them of how important their research is in prolonging the lives of women with gynecologic cancers. The University of Wisconsin ranks thirteenth in the nation for gynecology. Sparkle of Hope dollars allow junior researchers to start projects that may lead to national grants.

 

Cutting-Edge

 

Dr. Lisa Barroilhet shared how the last three years have yielded exciting strides in the field of ovarian cancer research with the introduction of PARP inhibitors, a type of targeted therapy. PARP inhibitors attack the cancer cells without harming normal cells. Even though they are still classified as chemotherapy, they are taken orally, allowing women to live fairly normal lives at home. For some women, these drugs have stabilized their ovarian cancer. For others, the tumors have shrunk to the point that there is no evidence of disease.

 

Diamond Revealed

 

The time had come to reveal the results of the Diamond Dig. We held up our tickets while volunteers clutching the gold bags weaved in and out among the tables, exchanging our tickets for a bag. Once all the bags were distributed, we simultaneously yanked out the tissue paper. Where is the diamond necklace? From the other side of the room, a cry rings out—the diamond! The rest of us console ourselves with the gourmet chocolates tucked in our bags.

 

Lively Auction

 

Spotters scattered throughout the ballroom in preparation for the live auction. Let the bidding begin: a Madison adventure package featuring a premier suite and a private flight over Madison, a diamond earring and bracelet set, custom diamond drop earrings, a Camp Randall VIP package including football tickets and a guest conductor spot with the UW marching band, or Cheering for Charity—a private party with the UW basketball coach and his wife at their home during a Badger football away game.

 

Fervent Finale

 

Stephanie closed the evening sharing the photos and stories of other ovarian cancer survivors as well as the latest chapter of her story. Last year, Stephanie had a recurrence and started the PARP targeted therapy. Today she has no evidence of disease. This past summer, Stephanie also got married. At the suggestion of a friend, instead of clinking glasses, the wedding guests dropped money in a kissing jar, raising $700 for Sparkle of Hope.

 

The call for last minute donations initiated a flurry of cell phone activity. Names of donors along with dollar amounts flashed across the screens to reach the goal of $150,000.

 

Thank you to our generous sponsors and donors who made Sparkle of Hope possible. Total dollars raised? $168,000!

 

Happy 10th anniversary, Sparkle of Hope!

 

 

 

 

Joanie with water bottle
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