Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Guest Post: Five Must-Haves if Diagnosed with Breast Cancer by Dawn Novotny

Welcome Dawn Novotny, author of

RagDoll Redeemed: Growing Up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe   

by Dawn Novotny 
When she married Joe DiMaggio Jr., Dawn thought she would be leaving the tough days of her childhood behind her forever. She didn't know that her new husband was bringing memories of his own tough days into the marriage--and a need to recreate his wife as his very own Marilyn. RagDoll Redeemed tells the tale of Dawn's escape from her marriage and search for the real Dawn as well as the feelings that Marilyn's and her life were somehow connected after her first ill-fated marriage.  

Paperback: 180 pages

Quick Review:

Intrigued by the Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio aspect (and with the songs: “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John and Simon and Garfunkle’s “Mrs. Robinson” playing in my mind), I felt drawn to read this book.  And as promised, these two iconic personalities were weaved into Dawn Novotny’s personal account in a fascinating manner.  Much like Norma Jean (Marilyn’s actual name), Dawn experienced a nearly paralleled troubled and difficult (to say the least) upbringing and young adulthood.  Interestingly, it became the story of Ms. Novotny’s self described “redemption” (one that Marilyn Monroe never experienced) that captivated my interest.  Both heart-breaking and captivating, and in the end, quite thought-provoking, Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing Up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe is definitely worth checking out!

And now, on to today's guest post on a very important topic:

Five Must-Haves if Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

There are different types of breast cancer, such as noninvasive (in situ) breast cancer or invasive breast cancer. There are stages I, II, III or IV of breast cancer, and the type of tissue where your breast cancer arises. All of these factors combine to determine how the cancer behaves and what treatments are most effective. Since every case and course of treatment will be slightly different, then understand what I say here is speaking in generalities and will be influenced by my personal experience. Even though factors depending on gender, age, finances, support systems, medical availability, etc., are all to be considered, these are five "musts-haves" if diagnosed with breast cancer.

1). One way to prepare for your first exams are to read a book on cancer. This will help since in the beginning, when your doctors are explaining medical terms, it will seem as if they are speaking in another language. Add to that, it is extremely frightening to not understand what is happening to your body. You will have many questions and many choices to make. If you are like me, the questions will become horrors in the still of the night like little monsters taunting you. A great book on breast cancer will feel like your new best friend. I would highly recommend Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book. It became my bedside bible for the entire nine months of intense treatment.

2). Permission! Give yourself the gift of permission to feel however you feel. Be as gentle with yourself as you would be toward a friend that you love dearly. Don't wear bright colors and lipstick because someone says that you should just to cheer yourself up UNLESS you feel like it. It is as perfectly okay to be consumed with vanity as it is to not give-a-damn about what you look like or how you are dressed. Just feel what you feel and act the way it feels right for you. As for me, common sense, maturity and even the possibility of death vanished as vanity prevailed upon hearing my diagnosis of breast cancer in December of 2003.
I recall now, how, in gripping the phone, I asked, “How much boob is normally removed during a lumpectomy?”
“We won’t know until we go in and see the size and how much surrounding tissue is affected.”  
“Could you make a guess? Like will I lose the size of a marble, a ping pong ball, golf ball or maybe….? Ok, Ok, Ok, I'll wait and see." Yeah right, I’m thinking as I gnaw on my fingers.
Setting the phone down an inner critic assails me, shouting, “How vain can you get?” As time would tell, pretty darn vain. In fact, vanity was my constant companion throughout my year of cancer treatment. When I wasn’t focused on the chiseling away of the boob, it was the loss of hair, breast reconstruction or how I would ever again wear Victoria’s Secret bras.

3). Ten days before my scheduled mastectomy surgery, as luck would have it, I ran into the doctor who had previously treated my mother. She died five years earlier from pancreatic cancer. He would become part of my cancer treatment team.
His advice to me was, “Dawn, your veins are exactly like your mother's. They are small, they roll and then collapse. They will not support the several hours needed for your IV treatment. Have your mastectomy surgeon insert a portacath."
(Note: "A portacath consists of a reservoir (the portal) and a tube (the catheter). The portal is implanted under the skin in the upper chest. It may appear as a bump under the skin in thin patients, less visible in patients with thicker subcutaneous fat. The catheter runs in a tunnel under the skin, going over the collar bone and then enters the large vein in the lower neck (the internal jugular vein). Since it is completely internal, swimming and bathing are not a problem. The septum of the portal is made of a special self-sealing silicone rubber. It can be punctured up to one thousand times and therefore can be used for many years." Dr. Eisen Liang, Radiologist.)
Make sure you check with your general doctor PRIOR to having chemo treatments to see if your veins can tolerate the needles or should you have a portacath inserted.

4). Should you have the type of cancer that necessitates chemotherapy and you lose your hair, make sure that you have some very soft hats or scarves to cover your head. I was amazed at how cold my head got without hair. While I purchased a beautiful wig prior to my treatments, I was not prepared for how irritating the wig was on my tender bald head. Trust me. Soft hats or scarves are best.

5). Plan something to look forward to after your treatments. Plan the best affordable thing for yourself that you can imagine. Cancer treatment is frightening, intense and takes a lot of your inner strength, along with the compassion of your soul mates. It is important that you have something to look forward to as you are dropped off of the conveyer belt of treatment. I use the term conveyer belt because from the moment you are diagnosed with cancer, you are emotionally and physically pushed, pulled, poked, tattooed, stretched, carried, wounded and scarred. Be infinitely kind to yourself.



"And breast cancer is a dance of initiation, for no woman who dances with cancer is ever the same. She has visited the source and tasted the waters of life and death, savored the sweetness and the sharpness of her own mortality, and tasted her desire to survive.”                              Breast Cancer? Breast Health! Susan S. Weed

Find out more about Dawn by visiting her online: 

About the Author:   
So many words describe Dawn Novotny: clinician, teacher, author, workshop leader, wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, recovering addict, breast cancer survivor, reader, swing dancer, and snorkeler. But what she is most proud of is her ability to "thrive." She thrived in the face of poverty, abuse, and addiction to finally become the woman she is today. She wrote her memoir to encourage other women to look past their difficulties to what is possible, to the women they should be.  


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Art of Loving Your Life (mass blogging event!)

I wrote today’s post as part of the WOW-Women on Writing’s “The Art of Loving Your Life” Blanket Tour celebrating the release of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore by Barbara Conelli (

Barbara Conelli is an internationally published bestselling author, seasoned travel writer specializing in Italy. In her charming, delightful and humorous Chique Books filled with Italian passion, Barb invites women to explore Italy from the comfort of their home with elegance, grace and style, encouraging them to live their own Dolce Vita no matter where they are in the world.

Her latest book, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore offers an intimate view into the unpredictable and extravagant city of Milan, its glamorous feminine secrets, the everyday magic of its dreamy streets, the passionate romance of its elegant hideaways, and the sweet Italian art of delightfully falling in love with your life wherever you go.

If you comment on today’s post on this blog or any of the others participating in The Art of Loving Your Life tour, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore!

Oh. the art of loving your life! The Dolce Vita!    

If you have a rich imagination like me, then you can envision yourself beside me as we sip cappuccinos while sitting at an outdoor café in a quaint Italian village that bustles with activity: artists, musicians, fountains, sexy men complimenting our beauty, an endless array of decadent food choices … and children screaming and fighting in the background– wait a minute – rewind, back it up – oh yeah, that’s reality sneaking into a perfectly good fantasy, again.

Happiness, that gem of a word that is the whole key to proclaiming that you love your life, so many times seems as elusive as the possibilty that I’ll be sitting in an Italina café any time soon (which, as far as I know, is highly unlikely).  But that’s exactly the point.  It shouldn’t take a shift in geography to suddenly figure a way to love your life.

Philosophers, magazine articles, self help gurus, you name it, I Google-searched it to provide you, my fine readers, with the answer of how to perfect the art of loving your life.  If Ponce de Leon could search for the Fountain of Youth, then I could sift through the internet to discover the Fountain of Happiness.  (Yes, I’m pretty sure the actual fountain would look like something found in Italy with half-nude statues and flowing water.)

The secret to loving your life, I found, was about as ambiguous as that scene from City Slickers: remember when Curly played by Jack Palance held up one gloved finger in order to explain to Mitch played by Billy Crystal what the meaning of life was and Mitch said something like, “What?  Your finger?”  and Curly said something to the effect of finding that one thing that means the most to you … remember that?  Well, it seems good old Curly wasn’t too far off.

My findings summed up nice and neat:  It is an art, the whole loving your life deal.  And as an art, it takes work, dedication and nurturing just like anything else in life.  Such as, if you want to be in good physical condition, you can’t sit around eating chips and wishing for it to happen.  It takes work in the form of exercise and eating right.  The same goes for happiness.  When I discovered this fact, it actually made me depressed.  Ugh, can’t anything be easy! 

Luckily, I had learned what it takes to become happy and start loving my life once more:
  1. Being passionate about doing something (also known as “what Curly from City Slickers meant when he held up one finger”).  Figure out what are the things that you enjoy doing most?  And then, do them as much as you can.  Of course, if you’re like me, there will be a thousand obstacles in your way.  Do it anyway, no matter what. 
  2. Get enough sleep and, if possible, quality sleep.  If you’re a parent, then you know it’s true for the kids.  Make it a priority for you and try not to feel guilty about not getting other stuff done.
  3. Laugh.  Honestly, most of the time, I think of my life as fodder for a stand-up act or a sitcom.  It does seem to make the most excruciating of circumstances better, simply by thinking about how I could recount a difficult scenario in a comical way.
  4. An attitude of gratitude.  I know I’ve heard this one a thousand times before and you probaly have, too.  So count your blessings, blah, blah, blah and now I’ll continue.
  5. Live in the present.  There’s tons of stuff out there on how to meditate or act child-like by living in the moment.  It seems from what I read, that people who weren’t holding onto grudges about the past or stressing about the future actually report feeling happier.  Who knew?
  6. Last one:  If Nick Jr.’s Yo Gabba Gabba has taught me anything, it’s this – It’s fine from time to time to have “a party in your tummy”.  I’ll be inviting pasta, wine and chocolate to mine.  And, it’s important to “think happy thoughts”.  Afterall, happiness is a choice that can be found anywhere in the world!

I’m sure there’s more that I could add to this list.  I’d love to hear your comments!  Plus don’t forget that commenting makes you eligible to win a prize.  I’ll say it again: If you comment on today’s post on this blog or any of the others participating in The Art of Loving Your Life tour, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore!
Today's post was inspired by the writings of today's
featured author, Barbara Conelli.
To read Barbara’s post about loving life and view a list of other blogs participating in The Art of Loving Your Life tour please visit The Muffin (

 To view the book trailer for Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Another Mother of all Posts!

Last year, I wrote a fun yet brief entry about the subject of "Mom Guilt" that I think is worth re-visiting!  It scored a few interesting comments and touched on a common, unavoidable affliction.
Enjoy and please leave a comment with your thoughts on the subject!

Here's the link to The Mother of All Posts:

Yes, I am taking the easy way out with a re-run.  But, this motherhood/domestic diva life can be a bit exhausting (and now, I feel guilty for saying that - sort of!)  Anyway, next week I will be back full force by participating in a mass blogging event:  The Art of Loving Your Life.  See ya then!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Backwards, Inside-Out and Upside-Down

Backwards is how my twin son gets dressed pretty much everyday since he started trying to do it himself.  Fortunately, thanks to today being “Backwards Day” at Pre-K, when he came out of his bedroom with the tag sticking out from under his chin, I declared, “Perfect!”  I wonder how long he’ll be able to stand his shoes being on the wrong feet!

Inside-out is how my heart felt this weekend while visiting a well-known Pennsylvania amusement park named Knoebel’s as I watched my children become zinged, spun around and lifted aloft.  Motherhood may have its rewarding moments, but it sure has sucked the fun out of nearly everything I used to find enjoyable … like for instance, wooden roller coasters.  They lost some of their appeal when I latched my oldest son into a seat and sent him clanking off into the great unknown!

And Upside-down is how I’ve been promoting my first novel after the fact of putting it up on Kindle.  Since the release of Going Barefoot in Greener Grass over a year ago, I’ve been reading up on the proper way to market an e-book … Whoops!  My original approach to getting sales has looked much like my twin son’s clothing on his first try!  In the spirit of being backwards, inside-out and upside-down, here’s my quick pitch:  If you consider Bravo TV programming worth your time and do not mind parting with $2.99, then you will find this novel a fine distraction and perhaps, darn entertaining.  See right sidebar for more info.

To all the Moms and Moms-to-be, Happy Mother's Day!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Welcome Mari L. McCarthy and a Guest Post on Descriptive Journaling!

It’s an exciting first here on All Things Audry: a guest post!

Welcome Mari L. McCarthy, journaling therapy specialist and author who owns Create Write Now, a website dedicated to all things journaling. The site includes hundreds of journaling prompts, personal journaling stories, interviews, a blog, and many other resources. Mari publishes many ebooks and e-workbooks to help journalers accomplish amazing things. She also conducts online Challenges, and you won't want to miss her upcoming Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days Challenge, June 4-10.

This challenge is based off Mari’s workbook with the same name, Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days.  For each of the seven days, Mari assigns a task to get those creative juices flowing.  But here’s the kicker:  you don’t have to feel like the world’s greatest writer to start journaling.  As I read through the notebook, it was very refreshing to see days of the week assigned to combating negative voices and blank page anxiety.  If you have an interest in journaling or in using writing as a therapeutic tool, Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days certainly lives up to its name!

But enough of my jabbering!  Onto our guest post: 

Descriptive Journaling
by Mari L. McCarthy

Often, you want to keep a journal just for the purpose of documenting what's going on around you. This could be a journey, a project, or simply daily life. Let's consider some approaches to this kind of journaling.

The classic idea of journaling is a picture of someone pouring their heart out in strict privacy, even locking the notebook away to keep it from prying eyes. On the other hand, keeping a journal as a more objective documentary is also a classic practice, and one with multiple benefits.

Even if you are not a regular journal writer, you've probably had experiences during which you kept a journal, or at least wish you had. Some parts of normal life cry out to be documented. Having a child, for example, or going on a trip, learning a new skill, undertaking a special project, retiring, or other portions of your life naturally beg to be preserved and reflected upon via journaling.

The urge to journal your experience is strong at these times for several reasons. Here are a few:
·        Your awareness and attention are heightened
·        You are challenged, and the act of writing calms you
·        You are highly motivated to remember details about what's going on
·        You want a record that you can refer back to in future years
·        You know that building-in a time for reflection every day will improve your understanding and lead to more skillful actions.

When journaling a project or certain period in your life, you'll be more successful if you're dedicated to daily journal entries. Once-a-week journaling won't do much for you. That said, you need not spend a long time when you write. A few minutes, a short report can be as effective as longer, more detailed entries.

There's another kind of descriptive journaling, besides event-based writings, and that is to use description as your tool in regular journaling. So it's not so much that you are documenting a certain time or event; rather, you are noticing and recording the details of your world as it appears each day.

This kind of writing is objective and refrains from judgment. But it's still a marvelous way to know yourself.

Try 'routine' descriptive journaling:
Pick a time of day when you are likely to be more alert, less introspective. Maybe when you are riding the bus to work, or on your lunch break. Select a pocket-sized notebook for the purpose.

Notice what you are seeing, hearing, or otherwise sensing from your environment. Write out a verbal picture of it in your notebook.

Be careful not to comment or offer any opinions. Concentrate on being factually accurate.

Once a week, read over the previous week's entries. At this sitting, write your thoughts and reactions to those prior posts. What do your descriptions reveal? How does your descriptive writing make you feel?

Over time, you will probably see significant improvement in both your power of observation and your ability to describe your experiences in writing.

Whether to document an event or to sharpen your own skills, descriptive journaling can be indispensable!

About the Author:
When Multiple Sclerosis robbed her right side of strength Mari decided to teach herself to write with her left hand. She gained more than strength, she found herself-buried talents, hidden baggage, and a way to heal herself from the inside out.    

Now a certified Journal Therapist, Mari shares her knowledge and experience with others by teaching them how to find their own strengths and talents and use them to solve problems and achieve goals.

Thank you, Mari, for your guest post.   I'm ready to head outside and give descriptive jounaling a try!

Find out more about Mari by visiting her online:
Author's website: