Must See TV?

by Karen on March 2, 2015

IMG_5656 - Version 2Hi, my name is Karen, and I am a binge TV watcher.

There, I said it. I, a writer who almost always has preferred a book to anything on the small screen, am hopelessly, ridiculously hooked on, well, right now, Scandal. Scandal, the ABC political drama that we had no interest in watching when it debuted in 2012, suddenly has my husband and me mesmerized.

We watched all of season one and much of season two during a recent bitterly cold, icy weekend when we didn’t want to leave the cocoon of our warm house. Since then, we’ve watched an episode or two – OK, sometimes three – each night after dinner. Oh, and every now and then, another one when we’re both home for lunch. [click to continue…]

Prescription: Puppy Love

by Karen on February 16, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 2.31.53 PMIf you’re on Facebook, perhaps you’ve heard about Anthony Lyons, a 16-year-old dog lover who has been battling cancer since July. Anthony, who receives chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia at Phoenix Children’s Hospital every week, always looks forward to visits from pet therapy dogs.

So in December, family friend Roberta Lucero-Koron created Photo Doggies for Anthony, a Facebook page to lift his spirits. She asked folks to post photos of their dogs to make Anthony smile.

Lucero-Koron hoped a few friends and family would participate, but by December 31, more than 2,000 people from all over the world had posted dog photos, and by January 4, that number had reached half a million. As of this morning 1.6 million guests had signed on to Anthony’s page. And judging by the minute-by-minute postings – many with multiple photos – there are bound to be least that many pup portraits. [click to continue…]

Breakthroughs and blessings

by Karen on February 2, 2015

get-attachment.aspx - Version 2For the past few years, my doctor has been keeping an eye on promising research into a new class of cancer drugs. At some point, she mentioned it to me, and I scribbled a few details in a leather journal in which I keep odd bits of information – books I want to read, passwords I need to remember, my kids’ friends’ phone numbers.

So when she told me last month that one of those drugs had been FDA-approved, I vaguely remembered our earlier conversation. When she told me it was specifically indicated in women with advanced ovarian cancer who have one of the BRCA gene mutations and who have been treated three or more times with chemotherapy, I was incredulous.

That was a very specific subset of women. And it described me to a T.

Now, this doctor – who has been my oncologist since I was diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago – sees a lot of patients with a lot of different types of cancer. From our conversation last month, I gathered that exactly two of her many, many patients fit the criteria for this new drug. Yet she was on top of it.

She is always on top of it. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34, she was on top of it. When I developed ovarian cancer at age 45, she was on top of it, and when I experienced recurrent ovarian cancer at age 51, she was on top of it.

Just as this pesky inclination to develop cancer is in my DNA, I think a feisty, uncompromising desire to fight it is in hers. [click to continue…]

What’s bugging me

by Karen on January 19, 2015

Our small Christmas tree -- the culprit -- is barely visible behind my kids and nieces. ©Karen Gooding

Our small Christmas tree — the culprit — is barely visible behind my kids and nieces. ©Emily Fisher

We first noticed them a few days into the new year. A clutch of tiny bugs – some dead, some crawling – near the glass doors that lead from our family room to our deck. I vacuumed them up, only to return a few hours later and find more.

Now let me just say I do not like bugs. Not that many people like bugs, but certain bugs creep me out beyond reason. Ladybugs? Fine. A spider here and there? I can look the other way. Even ants don’t freak me out if I know they’re temporary.

But one of those crawly things with a gazillion feathery legs? Or a roach that crunches if you step on it? I’d rather see a snake. As for a flea or a tick or any tiny thing that might try to hitch a ride on my sleeve or hide in my bed or alight in my hair, well, just give me a bucket full of snakes.

And these bugs were of the ultra-creepy, give-me-a-snake variety. Some had wings; some didn’t. Each time I vacuumed them up, more appeared. They did move slowly and stayed mostly by the door, but every now and then, one would make its way to the chairs and sofa. Once, I even found one on me. Not OK. [click to continue…]

Walking on eggshells

by Karen on December 29, 2014


photo credit: Phú Thịnh Co via photopin cc

The annual bill for my life insurance came the other day. It had gone up – not because of anything to do with cancer but just because I’m a year older.

We bought the modest policy when our first child was born. A few years and a couple of cancer diagnoses later, there would be no adding to it. But we have continued to pay for the little bit that I have.

So when a recent conversation with a friend turned to end-of-year bills, I wondered aloud whether it might be smart to drop my life insurance policy and add long-term care insurance for my husband.

There was a noticeable pause. And then my friend gingerly suggested I consider a long-term care policy for both Jim and me.

What? How could I possibly get long-term care insurance? (Insurers generally tend to keep their distance from me.)

And then the light dawned.

“Oh,” I said with a laugh. “They think I’ll just die quicker, so it won’t cost them very much.”

My friend visibly relaxed and laughed, too. [click to continue…]

What are you grateful for?

by Karen on December 15, 2014

©Karen Gooding 2014

©Karen Gooding 2014

Last month, I posed a simple question on Facebook: What are you grateful for?

I heard from a diverse group of people from across the country. In my November 24 post, I wrote about a friend who is grateful for the good that evolved from a really bad time in her daughter’s life.

Today I’d like to share a few more responses. Here – edited a bit and jumbled together in no particular order – are the things my friends and family are grateful for:

Having children who still want to come “home” for the holidays — even when they are far away.

A good, hard, almost-peed-my-pants belly laugh.

O2, H2O, sunshine. Food and a warm house. [click to continue…]

A rough road to gratefulness

by Karen on November 24, 2014

©Thomas Gooding 2012

Last week, I asked my Facebook friends a simple question: What are you grateful for? I heard from more than 50 people in eight states and a whole bunch of cities. They included friends, family, male, female, black, white, straight, gay, liberal and conservative. They range in age from 20-something to 70-something. They are teachers, principals, performers, engineers, artists, healthcare workers, business owners, writers, homemakers, ministers, chefs, real estate agents, unemployed people, gardeners, salespeople, photographers, interior designers and more. And each and every one of them named at least one thing for which they are grateful.

The top responses were variations on what I’ll call the four Fs: Family, Friends, Faith and Freedom. Dogs ranked way up there, too. Folks also were thankful for health and home, children and laughter. I was most surprised (and touched) by those who were grateful for adversity in their lives. [click to continue…]

Nobody told me there’d be math

by Karen on November 10, 2014

IMG_0732 - Version 2

I’m good at a lot of things – OK, maybe not a lot of things – but I’m fairly competent in a couple of areas. There are, however, some things at which I will never excel. Math, technology and any sport that involves a ball come to mind.

So when I was looking through a catalog of continuing education classes at a nearby community college, I quickly eliminated Annuities: Myths and Misconceptions and Laptop Troubleshooting & Repair.  I also skipped over all of the writing classes, since that’s what I do for a living. Discover Your Talent in Drawing caught my eye, since I had enjoyed a couple of drawing classes in college. But then I flipped the page and found the class I knew I wanted to take: Oil Painting. [click to continue…]

Mourning the lasts. Celebrating the firsts.

by Karen on October 27, 2014

A friend recently posted a touching poem on Facebook.

Elizabeth's first experience with the ocean. Now she has her first job in marine science. ©Karen Gooding

Elizabeth’s first experience with the ocean. Now she has her first job in marine science. ©Karen Gooding

The Last Time, clearly written by a mom or a dad, starts by pointing out the challenges of parenthood – the diaper changes, the whining, the exhaustion.

Yep, I remember all of that.

Then the poem continues: “But don’t forget. There is a last time for everything. There will come a time when you will feed your baby for the very last time…One day you will carry them on your hip, then set them down and never pick them up that way again…The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time, until there are no more times. And even then, it will take you a while to realize.”

It’s true. I remember spooning watery rice cereal into sweet eager mouths and cutting grapes into tiny pieces. I remember pushing strollers in the neighborhood and swings in the park. I remember reading bedtime stories and singing lullabies. But I don’t remember exactly when I stopped doing those things.

Now that my two are in their 20s, I sometimes miss the smell of baby shampoo on damp curls and the weight of a sleepy toddler’s head against my shoulder.  I miss snuggling on the sofa watching The Wizard of Oz, day after day, year after year.

And yes, occasionally I yearn for those moments.

But here’s the thing the poem doesn’t say. Every last time precedes a new first time. There’s the first time your child aces a volleyball serve or sings a solo in a community play. There’s the first high school prom, the first college application, the first job interview. [click to continue…]

Eat. Drink. Party Pink.

by Karen on October 13, 2014

Jim, Amy Grant, Karen and Kellie Pickler

I was about 10 years old the first time I met a celebrity. My family and some friends were having breakfast at a hotel in Wilmington, NC, when we looked up and saw Ann B. Davis — Alice from The Brady Bunch.

She wasn’t wearing her blue uniform, but we knew right away who she was, and we were beyond excited. We shyly approached her table. She was kind but not particularly friendly. She took our slips of paper and signed autographs without really looking at us. I desperately wanted to ask her what Cindy Brady was like in real life, but she didn’t seem amenable to conversation, so I just thanked her and went back to my table — happy but a little disappointed. She wasn’t Alice. She was just a quiet woman having breakfast.

Years later, working as a newspaper reporter, I interviewed a few celebrities. And like lots of people, I’ve had random encounters with other stars, as well. Some of those famous folks measured up to my expectations. Others, not so much.

Well, let me just say, when I met Athena® Warrior Amy Grant — the six-time Grammy winner I’ve admired since college — she more than measured up. In fact, Amy, who had been up since before dawn that day to appear on NBC’s Today and then flown (coach, by the way) from New York to Nashville, may be one of the most gracious people I’ve ever met — celebrity or not. Kellie Pickler, the adorable country music singer, American Idol alum and 2013 Dancing with the Stars champion, was equally delightful. [click to continue…]