How Cancer Opened a Door for Me to Walk Through

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Karen Ingalls sharing her extraordinary journey from a nursing career in traditional and holistic medicine to a second act shaped by a life-altering diagnosis.

Here’s Karen!

kareningallspictureThank you, Joanne, for inviting me to be a part of your Second Act Series. When I received your invitation my mind immediately went to several second acts in my life, but I quickly knew that my most recent one was the one to share with your readers.

I remember as a young girl writing in tablets and diaries about magical places, current family events, and many dreams and goals. I wrote poems, pieces of prose, short stories, and even a novel when in my late teens. I never showed my writing nor told anyone about it. I wrote because it was a way to escape reality, create a happier world, or write about people (famous or not) who I admired or loved. I did not think of myself as a writer nor visualize myself someday having a published book or article. I wrote because I enjoyed it, it helped me, and through it I found a sense of peace.

Along with writing I have always loved to read. Here I was and still am influenced by my grandmother Edith, who was a librarian assistant and she gave her grandchildren books at every possible opportunity. Though she had an eighth grade education she was a scholar in her own right. She was a very positive role model for me with the articles she wrote for the library and church, the books she read, her daily diaries, and her constant pursuit of information.

One of my first acts was to put into reality my dream of being a doctor, but instead I chose the field of nursing. I went on to get my Master’s Degree in Human Development with a double major in psychology and social service. For thirty years I worked in traditional medicine, but also opened up my own holistic nursing service called Kare ‘N Touch. There I offered clients counseling, biofeedback, Swedish massage, acupressure and healing work all on a sliding fee basis.

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The second act, my pursuit of writing, was when I co-authored a nursing article with another nurse, Charlotte Tourville, titled The Living Tree of Nursing Theories. This article was well received and today it is a model used by several schools of nursing. Our first publication was a thrilling moment for both of us. It was the result of using her strength in knowledge and research, and my gift of writing. A sense of accomplishment and the accompanying recognition fanned the second act which I now know I was destined to do and be.

A few years later (2008) brought the life altering diagnosis of ovarian cancer. The subsequent surgery, tests, chemotherapies, and many doctor’s visits changed my life forever in a positive way. Again I turned to journaling and writing as one of my coping and healing tools. A close friend asked to read my journal, which I said was just a diary and would not be of interest to her. She insisted and brought it back to me a few days later saying, “Karen, you must get this published. Women all over the world will benefit from what you are saying.”

Due to the recognition of the nursing article and my friend’s enthusiastic response to my journal, I now felt confident enough to ask a retired English professor to read my tattered and often rewritten novel’s manuscript. A week later she returned it to me and said, “Karen, you blew me away. This is excellent.”

Doors were opening for me to enter and walk through. Little did I know that my nursing career in traditional and holistic medicine and an ovarian cancer diagnosis would bring me to my present act as an accomplished and published author of a nursing article and two books.

My first published book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, has earned two awards and been well accepted by the medical community, patients, and their families. I donate all proceeds to gynecologic cancer research at Florida Hospital Cancer Institute.

My novel, Novy’s Son, The Selfish Genius, follows the life of a man searching for love and acceptance from his father. Many times when I counseled men, they were on a similar search and too many of them sought out approval through unhealthy behaviors.

My second act as an author is exciting and I believe it is my God given purpose. I write a weekly blog about health/wellness, relationships, spirituality, and cancer. I give presentations to churches, libraries, hospitals, service organizations, and book clubs. I have published articles in Oncology Times, PearlPoint.com, Southern Writers’ Magazine, and have been a guest blogger for a number of sites.

I am writing my second novel, because I believe it is a story that needs to be told. I love to use my imagination and this story certainly allows me to do just that. It is a story of love, tragedy, and family dynamics in the nineteenth century.

I look back on my life and know that there were many steps I needed to take and challenges to overcome. All of my life events have brought me to where I am today. I say to all who read this, “Listen to your heart and follow your dream.” I love to read a good story, and I hope that my gift of writing brings those same feelings to my readers.

“Your talent is God’s gift to you, what you do with that talent is your gift to God” (Leo Buscaglia). I am blessed to be living my second act with joy, love, and peace.

Karen’s Books

kareningallsoutshineWhen I was diagnosed with Stage II ovarian cancer, I realized how little I new about what was once called “the silent killer.” As I began to educate myself I felt overwhelmed by the prevalent negativity of cancer. Lost in the information about drugs, side effects, and statistics, I redirected my energy to focus on the equally overwhelming blessings of life, learning to rejoice in each day, and find peace in spirituality. In this memoir I offer a perspective of hope with the knowledge that “the beauty of the soul, the real me and the real you, outshines the effects of cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation. This is a story of survival, and reminds readers that disease is not an absolute, but a challenge to recover.


kareningallsnovassonFrom his early childhood, Matthew Collins sought love and acceptance from his father, who was raised as the bastard child of a famous artist. Matthew struggled with jealousy toward his younger brothers, and he questioned the morals and values of people around him.

As an adult, Matthew lived life his way, with years of lying, womanizing, and heavy drinking. Though married four times, did he ever find unconditional love? Would Matthew’s high intelligence, his love for his two daughters, and his unique philosophy of life help him rise above his demons?


Where to find Karen…

Website | Blog | Twitter | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Amazon | Facebook

Joanne here!

Karen, thank you for an inspiring post and good luck with all your literary endeavors. I encourage all readers of this blog to follow Karen online and learn more about her extraordinary journey.

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6 responses to “How Cancer Opened a Door for Me to Walk Through

  1. Pingback: : Is Family History Holding You Back?

  2. Karen you are an inspiration to many. I love how the journey and not an easy one has taken you places you would never have gone to. Thank you for sharing your life with us and good luck with your writing life and novels. It sounds like you are set to fly.

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