Monday, February 25, 2008

Cancer Isn't The Last Word--Hope Is!

Survivor Offers Hope to Cancer Patients & Their Families


Hope for the Journey through Cancer

Author: Yvonne Ortega

Revell Books: A Division of Baker

ISBN: 978-0-8007-3186-1

Retail: $12.99


Author Yvonne Ortega

Check out Yvonne's Web site at:

(Yorktown, VA) -- Would you go to work wearing a surgical mask and surgical gloves? Yvonne Ortega did during aggressive chemotherapy. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it's important to realize that cancer is a difficult illness to face. Ortega gives a message of hope and encouragement for those who are struggling with the devastating effects of cancer in her book Hope for the Journey through Cancer.

The book offers 60 short inspirational readings, each containing a part of Ortega's own story from diagnosis to recovery. She shares her personal triumphs and setbacks with humor and refreshing candor, with hope builders to remind us that even when it looks like we are alone, God is with us each step of the way. Hope for the Journey through Cancer is written in a caring and compassionate voice from one who has been there.

Ortega says, "Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a devastating experience. Our lives are never the same. We are not losing our minds. We are frightened, and this is natural. It's okay to cry. If we look around, we will see we are not alone. God would never think of abandoning us." In sharing this experience, Ortega helps readers see that, though cancer is a difficult illness to face, they do not have to face it alone.

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a licensed substance abuse treatment practitioner, a clinically certified domestic violence counselor, and a member of the Virginia Board of Counseling. She celebrates her sixth year as a breast cancer survivor. Ortega is an inspirational speaker to groups of all sizes and makes her residence in Yorktown, Virginia.

Blog Tour Interview with Yvonne Ortega

With all the books on cancer survivors already out there, why did you chose to write this book on cancer? Cancer shattered my world. I wanted a book full of Scripture, prayer, and hope that would assure patients and their families that God would never leave them or forsake them. I also wanted a book that, with honesty and boldness, would address the emotional roller coaster ride that cancer patients, even Christian ones, endure. 

Was there anything good that came about through your illness? Oh, yes. I am a stronger Christian today. I know God loves me and that he is faithful. I no longer doubt his call on my life as a counselor as well as an author and speaker. After going through the trauma of cancer, I counsel with more effectiveness. When clients tell me they are scared, depressed, or angry, I understand because I've experienced those same emotions. 

During your illness and now in recovery, have you ever asked God, "Why" or "Why me?" I didn't ask, but I lashed out in anger at God. I knew he called me to be a counselor. So I spent hundreds of hours studying, writing papers, and completing projects and paid thousands of dollars for my master's degree in counseling. Half-way through my residency, I received my diagnosis of cancer. I thought the timing was outrageous and let God know it. 

Is there ever a time when you can laugh about cancer? I asked God to help me keep my sense of humor. The day my hair started to fall out, I went to work with wet hair. My colleagues thought I had a power outage. I told them I was afraid to blow dry my hair because I might blow it all off and arrive looking like a Buddhist monk. I laugh now about how angry I was with God. I thought he had made a mistake. Now I understand he used the cancer for good in my life and the lives of others. I laugh every time I reminisce about George, my radiation therapist. He entertained me with stories about his childhood adventures.  

What is the most important lesson you learned from your experience in having cancer? In God's economy, nothing is wasted, not even cancer. Romans 8:28 (NIV) says: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." I prayed that God would use cancer for good in my life and the lives of others, that it would be to his honor and glory, and for furthering his kingdom here on earth. I never dreamed he would do that through the publication of my book, much less through TV and radio interviews and speaking engagements. 

Was the Bible real to you during treatment? The Bible filled me with hope and peace. I clung to God's precious promises during treatment and wrote verses with special meaning in my 3x5 notebook. Within days, I memorized those passages and repeated them daily. Terrified after my diagnosis, I slept with the Bible literally over my heart. I took my 3x5 notebook with me daily to radiation and reviewed my Bible memory verses on the way to treatment. 

Why do some cancer survivors say cancer is the best thing that ever happened to them? We say this because God has used cancer as a refining fire for us. He has used it to make us better people, stronger Christians, and more powerful in our careers and outreach. 

How do you live differently today as a result of having had cancer? I've learned to listen to my body. When I get tired, I take a nap. When I'm thirsty, I stop and drink water. Short breaks from my work help me relax. A weekend at the beach revives me. I don't put off my plans and dreams because "next year" may never come. I signed up for a phone package with unlimited long-distance calls. Now I can call my family and friends any time. I appreciate the little things in life--thirty-minute walks to enjoy God's beautiful world, a ride in my friend's convertible, and sunrise and sunset at the beach. I also left teaching to become a full-time counselor because I felt God leading me to do so. I've never looked back. 

How did you keep your spirits up while going through the cancer treatments? I played praise and worship music every day and watched videos and DVDs by Christian comedians. During treatment, I planned the party I would have after completing my residency and obtaining my state license. I selected the music for the dance my friend would choreograph for us to perform. I dreamed about the sheet cake with white icing and hot pink roses with "Yvonne Ortega, LPC" and "To God be the glory" on the cake. I chose the Bible verses for my party invitations. After my diagnosis, I accepted an invitation to present a workshop on writing devotionals at the Maine Christian Writers Fellowship state conference the following August. I listened to tapes and researched the topic to prepare for my workshop and looked forward to the reunion with fellow writers in Maine and snacks of delicious Maine blueberries. 

Did you ever think about giving up--that the treatments were too hard? After my second treatment, my blood counts dropped to 500. Normal is between 4,000 and 11,000. My doctor hospitalized me. She said she would release me when my counts rose to 1,000. My counts dropped two days in a row. I called my parents to come see me, but Dad's heart condition prevented them from doing so. I feared I would die alone in a military hospital more than an hour from my home. After my final chemotherapy treatment, I thought I would never stop vomiting. I experienced a weariness that made my bones ache. I had to keep reminding myself that it would soon pass and in a few months I would travel to Maine for the writers' conference. 

What kinds of emotions did you experience during this time? I experienced denial. If I didn't talk about the cancer, maybe it would go away.I experienced anger at God, the government, the Food & Drug Administration, televangelists who preached health and wealth, and anyone who told me Christians couldn't be angry with God. Fear overwhelmed me after my diagnosis and at times during treatment.Depression forced me to my knees in prayer. When I found out the cancer had traveled to one lymph node and adjacent to another, I became depressed. 

Are these emotions typical for every cancer patient? Not every cancer patient will experience all of them. However, these emotions are typical. Also cancer patients don't experience one feeling, get over it, and then go on to another one. They can go back and forth. 

What can people do to help friends who are going through cancer treatments? Listen without judging them. Expect cancer patients to ride an emotional roller coaster. Send cards, post cards, or e-mail greeting cards, especially humorous ones. Phone and visit them. Prepare a meal for them and take it in a disposable container or help with yard work and house work. Buy groceries and run errands for them. Take cancer patients to their chemotherapy and radiation treatments and pray with them and for them. 

Author Available for Interviews and Speaking Events
(Contact publicist for more info)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Help Fight the War on Spam

I just love checking my e-mail to discover 4 bajillion returned mail notices because some twerp decided to use whatever@ my domain as the reply e-mail for his spam tidal wave. Ugh.

A couple of days ago it was between 100 and 200, yesterday was 500. Tonight when I started to download my e-mail, it was over 1500. That's for 24 hours, folks. The fun part? Now they're not just delivery status notifications - they're delivery status notifications in German, French, and some Oriental language that I can't identify.

Tell me how I make that a filter.

So if you get some horribly vulgar spam that says it's from blahblahblah at 3Stairs, I apologize. Really, I do. I know you hate getting it. I promise it didn't really come from me, and I'd love to stop them from coming to an inbox near you. Unfortunately, I can't. You, however, may be able to help fight the War on Spam.

Here's a very brief, very simplistic tutorial on a Battle Strategy for Fighting Spam:

1. When you get that lovely spamarific e-mail, use whatever option your e-mail client has to open and view the full header of the e-mail.

2. Once you find the full header of the e-mail, read through it until you find the domain (.com, .net, etc.) that is not the one associated with your e-mail address or the supposed sender's e-mail address.

And now you have found The Birthplace of Evil.

3. If your e-mail client has the option to forward with full headers showing, forward that wonderful slice of spam with full headers showing to abuse@ The Birthplace of Evil domain name you found. If your client doesn't have that feature, simply copy all of the header from the window it's shown in, then paste it at the beginning of the forwarded e-mail.

The ISP for that domain will be able to analyze the headers, discover the culprit of said Evil, and - if Justice prevails - suspend the account.

4. Enjoy the knowledge that you ratted out one of the little Spawns of You-Know-Who to authorities.

Will this stop all of your spam?
Probably not.

Will it make a dent?

Will it give you a feeling of power and that you're doing something to fight in the War on Spam?

March on, Spam Warriors; march on.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Little Irish Banister

Being the seasonal girl I am, I couldn't just let the stairs go undecorated for one of the biggest holidays of all. C' can figure it out...look

My maternal great-grandmother was full Irish. Her name was Mina Mae McClannahan - I have to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day!

So being, I've Celted the place. As I've tried to be subtle with it, it'll probably stay this way for a while. As always, let me know what you think in the comments.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Books are Coming! The Books are Coming!

I've got not one, but two blog tours coming up! The first will appear on 25 February about Yvonne Ortega's new book on having hope while battling cancer, Hope for the Journey through Cancer. Be sure to stop by for a great interview with Yvonne, where she'll tell us why she chose to write this book when there seems to be so many out there already dealing with surviving cancer. She'll share how humor played an important part of her recovery, as well as an unwavering faith in God.

Then mark your calendar for 10 March, when we'll laugh and learn along with Vonda Skelton in her interview about her book for women, Seeing through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe. Vonda will give us a peek into her mind, her home, her husband (!), and her faith. You won't want to miss it.

So get out your lap quilt, get your cuppa ready, and settle in on 25 February and 10 March for some great reading!

Monday, February 11, 2008

35 Seconds, 6 Good Deeds

Okay, so I'm still tweaking the new theme. I can't help it; I'm a graphics artist. You'll notice that most recently I added some graphic links to the right sidebar - click them and help. I timed it - from The Hunger Site, which I have as my home page, it takes approximately 35 seconds to click each tab and the link to help. When was the last time you did six good deeds inside of a minute, let alone just over half a minute?


Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger. 75% of them are children under the age of 5 - Sarah's age or younger.


My maternal great-grandmother died of breast cancer. Each year, 211,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 43,300 die.


Over 200,000 children die every week from preventable causes, and many millions more suffer from preventable disease, curable blindness, landmines and other crippling accidents.


Many children nationwide and around the world do not have even one book.


Acres and acres of rainforest, housing thousands of species of plant life used to treat and cure disease, are destroyed every day.


Thousands of animals are put down daily because owners did not spay, neuter, or even just want their pets anymore.

35 seconds, 6 good deeds - don't tell me you don't have the time.

Friday, February 8, 2008

I Love You More Than Words Can Say

"I love You so much that I can't tell You how much I love You, because I would never be able to finish my sentence."

-Marcela*, 7, during bedtime prayers
*thanks for quote permission from her mom, Mayra

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Stepping Out of the Fitting Room

Well, it's been about three weeks, and I think I like it. You'll notice the ads are gone and the site looks much cleaner, which is nice.

Now if only I could figure out how to get my house this clean...

Let me know what you think in the comments.
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