When providing care when someone is ill can be overwhelming. This is a presentation on three such roles: caregivers, caretakers, or care partners. These are strictly my definitions based on my own experience as a nurse, mother, wife, and patient.

To me, a caregiver is someone who gives care based on what he or she thinks the person needs or wants. This is a common definition and is often performed by nurses and medical staff personnel. Outside the medical community, the caregiver provides basic help in the home and tends to the personal needs of the patient (bathing, walking, exercising, cooking, etc.).

One who is a caretaker (not at the cemetery), provides care based strictly on what he or she thinks the patient wants or needs. Time for a bath, go for a walk, you must eat this, take these pills, and so forth.

At the beginning of my cancer journey, Jim was a caretaker. Based on my personality, I wanted a caregiver. We talked and he understood and became the best caregiver any person could want or need.

November 2008

Over the past 14 years, he has moved into the role of a care partner. Such people give care based on what the patient says or needs, and what is most helpful and safe. They listen to the patient. They share their thoughts about what is needed and wanted, coming to a decision that is best for the loved one. They are truly partners.

The important lesson to be learned when a loved one needs care is to provide safety and loving care. It is vitally important to encourage their independence…do not enable them. The goal should always be encouraging healthy choices, independence, and full recovery.

Learn more in my book, Outshine, An Ovarian Cancer Memoir. All proceeds go to gynecologic cancer research.


A person’s fame or fortune does not protect them from getting a serious illness…even cancer. They are humans just like us.

Some celebrities who were diagnosed with one of the gynecologic cancers:

  • Fran Drescher…uterine cancer
  • Kathy Bate…breast and ovarian cancers
  • Judith Blume…cervical cancer
  • Pam Grier…cervical cancer
  • Camille Grammer…endometrial cancer
  • Shannon Miller…ovarian cancer

Most recently, tennis star Chris Everett was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her older sister, Jeanne, passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 62. By the time she was diagnosed, the cancer was at a late stage.

Like her sister, Chris has a pathological variant of the BRCA1 gene.

For Chris, the cancer was discovered after a hysterectomy, which was done as a preventive measure. However, 10 days later a second surgery was performed to remove some lymph nodes and surrounding tissue. The pathology report showed malignant cells. She was staged at 1C.

Her advice is imperative: “Be your own advocate. Know your family’s history. Have total awareness of your body, follow your gut and be aware of changes. Don’t try to be a crusader and think this will pass.

This article is courtesy of




  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that help repair damaged DNA.
  • Every human has both genes
  • They are called tumor suppressor genes
  • About 0.25% of the population has mutated genes
  • They can be passed down to the next generation.
  • A family history of breast or colon-rectal cancer is linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Risk for ovarian cancer from BRCA1 is 30-70%.
  • Risk for ovarian cancer from BRCA2 is 10-30%.

Knowledge is power. Know your family history. Know your body. Know the symptoms: bloating, abdominal pain, change in urinary or bowel habits, change in appetite, painful intercourse, unusual or bloody discharge. Act on any symptoms and see your gynecologist within 2 weeks.


I first learned the word serendipity when Marcus Bach gave a lecture about it some thirty-five years ago at a church I was attending. The word caught my attention and I fell in love with it and all that it means.

Serendipity is magical, good fortune, mysterious, the work of angels, and a part of God’s plan. It is finding something good without looking for it!

The word, serendipity, was first coined in 1754 by Horace Walpole based on the Persian tale The Three Princes of Serendip, who in this fairy tale are “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” It is considered to be one of the most difficult words to translate. Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin is considered to be serendipitous. The same is said about the invention of the microwave oven.

Serendipity in Action

  • A serendipitous time for me was when I chose to see the gynecologic oncologist, Dr. Matthew Boente, in Edina, MN. At the same time, my husband was sharing with our friend and jeweler about my health. Our friend said, “There is only one doctor for Karen to see and that is Dr. Boente. My niece is doing her residency under him.” I did see Dr. Boente for a few years before moving to Florida. He recommended my current gynecology-oncologist, Robert Holloway, MD. I attribute my present health to both these physicians.
  • I traveled to the northern part of the U.S.A. to do a book reading/signing at a Barnes & Noble bookstore for Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, and to seek future opportunities to spread the word about ovarian cancer. The audience consisted mainly of friends, but four people were there because of God’s plan or purpose. One woman read about the event in the newspaper where there was a two-sentence announcement. She was a 14year, Stage III survivor. “When I was diagnosed, I didn’t think I’d see another Christmas.” We hugged each other knowing we are sisters doing what we can to help other women.
  • Another woman in the front row sitting alone. Every time I looked in her direction, her eyes were on me and she wore a beautiful smile. She came to get information for her neighbor, who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her neighbor did not feel well enough to come, so this young lady gave her neighbor the gifts of kindness, generosity, and her time. God bless them both.
  • “Please sign my book for a dear friend who has ovarian cancer. She planned on coming herself but was unable to,” were the words of a smiling elderly lady. When I handed a book to her I noticed a brace on her left wrist. I gently placed my hand on it, and she said, “Oh, my husband has Alzheimer’s, and he….” I wrapped my arms around her and told her that she was an angel so willing to help her friend and yet be there constantly for her husband.
  • For the third lady, all I know is that her name was Jane and that she was in Barnes & Noble to buy a book or two to read on her trip to Ireland the next day. While she browsed the shelves, she heard my voice due to the microphone, and being drawn to the subject she stood in the back and listened. She bought the last book. “Here is a picture of me and my mother. She died 4 months ago from ovarian cancer.” We were once two strangers but now became new friends.

There is no doubt in my mind that God led my husband to visit our jeweler that particular day and for each of these women to be at that bookstore that night and at that time. Often, we call it serendipity, which is God at work. Thank you, God.

How many serendipitous events do you recall? Is serendipity just “good luck”? Is it the work of guardian angels? Are they little miracles? I leave it to you to answer in your own way.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Your comments are welcome and much appreciated.


This popular phrase means that life is sweet and simple, but is it? Irma Bombeck pointed out in her book that a bowl of cherries might have a pit or two. Cherries are indeed sweet when fully ripened, but some can be sour.

Going back to my life’s quilt on the previous blog, there were pits in each patch. The biggest pit was the diagnosis of ovarian cancer, but it has turned out to bring amazing rewards and growth. Yes, cancer can have its positivity IF you choose to learn from it, help others, and be a role model for family and friends on how to face adversity.

Being a parent has many rewards, some heartbreaks, and it challenges one’s patience, understanding, and coping abilities. Parenting is the most difficult and most rewarding role and one I would not trade for the world.

Sally Cronin wrote a wonderful book titled, Life is Like A Bowl of Cherries, Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet. I gave it 5 stars with the comment “each story will touch your heart, search your soul, and awaken your senses. 

Life is (or should be) about touching our hearts, searching our souls, and wakening our senses. The pits are opportunities to become better individuals. If your bowl of cherries has too many pits, perhaps they need to be removed by changes you can make. More about this in the next blog.


When you meet someone very special, who touches your heart deeply, you are very blessed. You will learn, laugh, and cry together. You will feel like you have known each other forever…and I believe at a soul level, you have. When I met Carol Tucker a few years ago, a deep bond was formed.

She loved the season of autumn, especially when she was at Maggie Valley, North Carolina. Carol always decorated for Halloween, welcomed trick-or-treaters, filling her home with the smells of apple cider, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon. Preparing and serving a Thanksgiving meal with family and friends was always brought a smile.

In memory of Carol Tucker, Oct. 27, 1950-Oct19, .2021
Two words describe Carol Tucker: educator, advocate.
   She taught those children with a variety of learning disabilities. Using her intelligence and creativity she designed lesson plans designed to help, educate, encourage, and inspire. 
   As the co-founder and director of the Princeton House Charter School, she was an important leader in providing the best education for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
   Her role as a mother was always teaching her four children with unconditional love how to live to their fullest potential.
   Carol did not let her diagnosis of ovarian cancer slow her down. She advocated for women to know about this lesser known cancer, designed a newsletter, volunteered for every event, provided support to others by listening to those newly diagnosed, and giving them hugs, encouragement, and love.

Her book, Learning About Autism: One Mother’s Journey of Love and Acceptance, is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other book distributors. ALL PROCEEDS GO TO OVARIAN CANCER RESEARCH.