Saturday, April 11, 2015

Coping with Life's Challenges

The following is a guest post by Karen Ingalls, an award winning author, seven-year ovarian cancer survivor, retired RN. Thank you Karen, for your words of wisdom on dealing with life's challenges, nourishing the soul, the power of touch, and getting the most out of each and every day. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

Coping with Life's Challenges, by Karen Ingalls

During a lifetime each of us must face at least one problem, negative event, or challenge, which is the word I prefer. A challenge is defined as a call to battle, a contest, or stimulating one to overcome or face an event.

   The challenges I have faced and overcome are divorce, abuse, untimely deaths, and cancer. Experiencing the journey of ovarian cancer has been my most difficult challenge. Just as everyone else when dealing with a life-changing event we go through the five stages of grief outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: shock/denial, depression, bargaining, anger, and acceptance.

When I heard the words “You have cancer,” I immediately felt shock, but then quickly entered a state of depression. I do not recall doing any bargaining though I may have done it subconsciously. My anger was expressed more in the form of depression in short intervals. Suddenly I would feel very sad and frightened and tears would flow. As the weeks turned to months and now years, I have come full circle into a healthy state of acceptance.
          There are several healthy steps I have used to face my life’s challenges, which helped me to move into acceptance. The first one I call is LIVING EACH MOMENT. Do not waste your time on things you cannot change, but use your energy and knowledge to change the things you can. If we live in each moment with an open heart and love, there is no room for worry, which does not help anyone or change anything.
          Dr. Wayne Dyer states, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

JOYFUL PAST-TIMES are those that bring you joy and peace. Some past-times for me are golfing, gardening, and writing. Listening to certain types of music such as Andrea Bocelli, Ernesto Cortazar, Il Volo, Il Divo, and any of the classical pieces bring joy “to my soul.”
Walking alone on a beach or in a garden helps me to connect with the beauty and majesty of God’s creation. I love to pick up shells; to smell flowers; or to walk barefoot on the sand or grass. They each represent the cycle of life.

LAUGHTER is such a fun way to release stress and worry. During the first few weeks after my diagnosis I spent time watching Laurel & Hardy movies, the Carol Burnett Show, and I Love Lucy. Endorphins are released helping to heal us.

As Charlie Chaplin stated: “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”

The gift of LOVE is a treasure that is to be shared. It is the only thing you possess as your own. You will never run out of it, because as you give love, you will receive love.
          Treasure and appreciate your family and friends who love you and show them your love in return.

          To spend even a few minutes in a state of RELAXATION AND DEEP MEDITATION provides healing to the mind, body and spirit. Find a guided meditation tape to help quiet the busy mind. Many times I have “heard” answers to my questions or concerns.
For my thesis in graduate school I presented the subject HEALTHY TOUCH. Whether you are receiving a massage, someone is holding your hand, giving you a hug, or an arm around your shoulder the body responds with lower blood pressure and heart rate, relaxes muscles, and increases blood flow.

 Our skin is our largest organ and affects every other part of our body. This photo of twins shows the stronger twin putting an arm around the less strong one to promote healing. Reach out and touch someone, and welcome the returned touch.

 My FAITH in God is the most important way I cope with life’s challenges. I trust that God is working through my doctors, nurses, and caregiver. Whatever your faith is, I encourage you to make it the basis from which all other coping methods flow.       

          “Cancer might have my body, but God has my soul so I am not afraid.” (The Cobblestone of Cancers). This quote can apply to any challenge.
 Know that whatever challenge you face, there are ways to shine through it. You can become a stronger, happier, and healthier person by choosing healthy ways to overcome your challenge.


Karen Ingalls is an award winning author, seven-year ovarian cancer survivor, retired RN, blogger, and speaker. All proceeds from her Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir book go to gynecologic cancer research. Available at

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~~If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any~~
Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor, professional cancer strategist, speaker, and the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Elyn empowers women to choose the path for treatment that best fits their own individual needs. She is passionate about helping others move forward into a life of health and well-being. Elyn has been featured on CNN Money, Talk About Health, and Breast Cancer Answers and has written for the Pink Paper, Breast Cancer Wellness, Integrative Oncology Essentials, Surviving Beautifully, Body Local and more, and writes the Options for Life column for the Natural Healing-Natural Wellness Magazine. Elyn hosts the Survive and Live Well Radio Show on the Cancer Support Network. She is on the Medical Advisory Board for Beat Cancer.Org and is on the Advisory Board to the Radical Remission Project. Elyn lives in New York with her husband and two young boys.
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