5/1/16

What is Lyme Disease?

Whenever I meet someone who does not know my journey of fighting to regain my health I find that a common conversation takes place. It doesn't matter if this person is a random stranger, a new doctor, a new hospital emergency room nurse, a lady standing in line at the county clerks office as I apply for the disability tag, my former boss, a former co-worker, a cousin that I haven't seen in a long time, the cute guy sitting next to me on the plane as I travel to California to my medical team, or the firefighter that came to save our neighborhood two years ago. I receive a sympathetic nod or a sweet comment of encouragement when they hear that I have cancer but when I mention Lyme Disease they look at me bewildered or with a confused look. 

They hesitate... and then the questions start.

"Is that what happens when you get bit by a tick?" they ask. 
"Yes" I answer. 
"When did that happen?" they ask. 
"2007. May 19, 2007 to be exact." I reply. 
"Not to be rude or anything but you know that you can just go to the doctors and get antibiotics for that." they state. 
"Yes, I am aware of that." I reply. 
"Did you get the bulls eye rash? You just need to go get medicine and get better" they state (most of them very kindly, a few a little sarcastically, and one who accused me of "simply making it up to get attention"). 
"No seriously, if you had the rash you should go get medicine. My ___________(insert some long lost family member's sisters friends cousin's name here) had Lyme and they got better in a few days...maybe a week at most. Why are you waiting?" they state more insistently. I hesitate and then with a quiet sigh my reply comes.

"I was bit by a tick on May 19th, 2007 hiking in Great Falls, Virginia. I remember the date exactly because my ex-finance and I talked about marriage that day. The next day as I was training for a 1/2 marathon I noticed the bulls eye rash on my upper right arm. I received medication (yes, I finished the full dosage) and was seen at John Hopkins University Hospital Lyme Center. After completing the medication I was declared "Lyme free". Except I wasn't..." I calmly reply. 

Absolutely silent they look at me. And some say what I am sure everyone is thinking... "So what the heck is Lyme Disease and how in the world is this making you so ill?"

To be frank it is a question that I have asked myself thousands of times as I approach the 9 year anniversary of contracting Lyme. At a recent Lyme Disease conference it was stated that "Lyme Disease is the growing epidemic and health crisis of the 21st century" and that "in the fullness of time the mainstream handling of Chronic Lyme Disease will be viewed as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of medicine."

Lyme Disease is contracted by a tick bite that has been infected and then infects the person that it has bitten. While a bulls eye rash is common in most cases, in recent years there are more and more cases that occur with the person never seeing a bulls eye rash. In addition to this in recent years studies have shown that in addition to a tick transferring Lyme you can also contract Lyme through being bit by a mosquito, flies, or fleas. 
property of Lyme Disease pictures
Lyme Disease is considered (by most doctors- some would disagree) an infections Disease with the bacteria in Lyme called "Borelia Burgdorferi". The Lyme bacteria is unique in its shape (it has a spiral shape) and unlike most diseases it is able to burrow into not only into the blood stream but into vital organs, muscles throughout the body, the nervous system, and body tissue. (In addition to this studies coming out of Europe show belief that Lyme has the potential to drill into bones.) Due to the unique shape and properties of the Boreilia Burgdorferi Lyme has the ability to literally infect the entire body and travel throughout the blood stream (doing incredible damage to the organs and the cells that it connects with in its way). Over time Lyme also has the ability and capability of surrounding cells, killing them, and creating a "wall" that prevents antibiotics to "break" the barriers. In addition to this the bacteria commonly makes cysts that are also difficult for antibiotics to touch.
property of Lyme Disease pictures
Due to these reasons a person with Lyme (whether mis-diagnosed, mis-treated, or not caught at the time of infection) can suffer for decades before being diagnosed and can suffer a confusing and wide array of symptoms that might or might not look like other "lymies" fighting the same battle. 

Lyme is considered the "Great Imitator" and is known to imitate over four hundred different diseases including CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), Fibromyalgia, IBS, Lupus, MS, Autoimmune Disorders, Alzheimer's, ALS, Migraines, Depression, Meningitis, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and hundreds of others. 

Patients in "late stage or chronic stage" Lyme Disease are fighting a complicated and complex battle as many (including myself) are fighting not just the Lyme but co-infections, additional diagnosis', and issues that have occurred due to the fact that Lyme has waged war on their bodies. Due to the fact that the bacteria from Lyme Disease can not only travel but multiply patients are dealing with multiple issues and symptoms. The bacteria with Lyme Disease does not like the fight and will literally "fight back" which causes a "herxheimer reaction" that can be worse than the disease itself. Due to this the "horror stories" (as the news has sometimes labeled it) are true, as some patients have died and many patients end up in the hospital and are fighting for their lives. 

The symptoms of Lyme Disease vary but most people struggle from many of the following symptoms: debilitating fatigue, heart issues, heart palpitations, arthritis, facial numbness, blood pressure problems, extreme pain, autoimmune disorders, malnutrition, hair loss, vision problems, skin issues, rashes, panic attacks, adrenal failure (or fatigue), memory issues, food allergies, unexplained allergic reactions, insomnia, inability to absorb vitamins and nutrition, hormonal issues, circulation issues, dizziness, seizures, body numbness, blindness, migraines, paralysis in extremities, heart attacks, inability to handle temperature change, lung function, shortness of breath, menstrual issues, and the list goes on and on and on. I have just listed a few but here are hundreds more.


In addition to the physical aspects of fighting Lyme Disease patients are in for the FIGHT of their life not only physically but mentally, financially, and emotionally too. Most Lyme Disease patients have seen dozens of doctors (I personally saw 273-including some of the top hospitals throughout the US-before I was correctly diagnosed) and after the diagnosis can introduce the most difficult battle that is never expected.

 Lyme Disease patients are warriors as they have had to push through hundreds of "all knowledgeable doctors" stating that it is "in their heads" or "they just need some meds". (I had a specialist in 2013 -after we had spent 4 hours in traffic to get to his office-tell my mother (in front of me) that she was "enabling" me to continue to set a "destructive pattern" of desiring attention and that "absolutely" nothing was wrong with me. Within two months of seeing this doctor I not only had been correctly diagnosed with Lyme Disease, but aggressive skin cancer, and Sojourn's Disease.) 

Finding a doctor who is willing to treat a Lyme Disease patient long term is also another battle. Due to arguments with insurance companies, Congress, and medical limitations it is extremely difficult to find a qualified and competent doctor. This takes hours and hours and hours of research and it still doesn't guarantee you an appointment. Mentally this is absolutely exhausting for patients. And after the appointment that you have hopefully gotten there is still the treatment to fight through. 

And both of these things cost an extreme amount of money. 

Money that most patients (like myself) did "OK" with for the first five or six years of wandering the long trail of finding correct answers. But after that time period (and for some it is a much shorter time frame) money is not something that just continues to "come in". It has been spent (wisely, I would like to clarify) on finding answers, traveling to doctors across the country, treating one or two  mis-diagnosis', and on numerous treatments (most alternative so insurance does not cover it). ALL of these things add up to thousands and thousands of dollars. 

Like myself, most Lyme Disease patients are not able to work full time and those that have to struggle to survive day to day. Without a set source of income bank accounts, savings accounts, retirement funds, etc. are quickly depleted. I have been asked by hundreds of people- "didn't you save for a rainy day"? Or... "What about your savings account?". I am going to be incredibly honest here and share something very personal. I had a wonderful savings account (I was a Dave Ramsey's graduate *smiles*) that by year three of this "adventure" was being drained and then at years five and six was completely depleted. (Just to give you a slice of a picture I have spent in the last eight years approximately $75,000 on medical issues, supplies, supplements, travel to doctors, etc. desperately trying to get well!!) I, like most other Lyme Disease patients, have lost any "saved money", savings accounts, retirement accounts, etc in the desperate fight to get better. Many patients like myself have limited funds and to answer the questions that I am sometimes asked- no I do not know where the resources that I am going to need for today and the rest of this week let alone the months and years ahead (until I am able to work full time again) will come from. I am a christian who is madly in love with her savior and have learned to trust that He will always provide for me - each step of this journey. 

Lyme Disease patients worry about things that most people don't think about. I will debate for hours and hours each week on which supplement or antibiotic I should do "without" due to money. We have concerns and stresses that are impossible to explain. We have sold everything we can think of, have had to humble ourselves to ask for money and are embarrassed to admit we have done so, and have asked every family member, friend, and stranger for help. In the process most of our relatives and friends have depleted their savings accounts and bank accounts to help us. Let me say what most Lyme Disease patients are thinking about all of the time but are ashamed to admit:

We don't care about the battles of politics and insurance. We don't care about "which treatment" is supposedly the best. We don't care about "this or that". What we do care about is fighting for our lives and our health and most of us are so scared that we can never get better because we do not have financial ability to do so. 

And I think it takes absolutely no explanation about why Lyme Disease patients also struggle emotionally. The rigor of this fight takes a courage that I never knew before. It takes bravery to face what is realistically going on in your body and the courage to fight for hope despite the odds. It takes courage to look around and realize that your life has been crushed, accept the loneliness of "friends" walking away, and to come to terms with giving up a job that you loved and to recognize that you might never be able to return to it, to find joy despite the pain, to hold on to Hope when it seems so dark, and to believe (against what you have been told) that you can fight this silent and vicious killer. While there are days of tears and darkness Lyme Disease can not silence love and that is what each and every person fighting Lyme is holding onto. 

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Will you please spread the word about this disease and give a BIG hug to those you know who are fighting it? Your kindness in recognizing and spreading the word will touch the hearts of ALL who fight each day. If you would like to spread the word please feel free to use either of these two pictures and link to this post on social media! 

I, like every "lymie" I know, longs to see a world where "Lyme Disease" are words that are understood by the medical community along with friends and family understanding it. We long to see knowledge that is spread so that someday we will have a cure so that no one else has to live this fight. Thank you so much for spreading the word. 

Want additional resources on Lyme Disease? Check out "the Lyme Diaries" series on this blog! Are you a lymie patient or do you have a loved one walking through this journey? Check out my new book, Path of Hope or Praying through Lyme Disease, which provides scriptural encouragement for this journey! Do you have questions, or just want to talk? Please feel free to email me at caravansonnet@gmail.com I would love to connect with you about this topic!

4/29/16

Path of Hope Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: April 27, 2016
Contact: Rebecca VanDeMark
                rebeccavandemark@gmail.com

First Spiritual Book on Hope for Lyme Patients Released

Path of Hope, by: Rebecca VanDeMark

At a recent Lyme Disease conference it was stated that “Lyme Disease is the growing epidemic and health crisis of the 21st century”. While not well known and maybe not well handled there are hundreds of thousands of Lyme Warriors that struggle each day just to live. Many of them cannot get out of bed due to extreme and debilitating fatigue and pain. Many are lying in hospital beds with doctors who don’t know what to do. Many others are struggling emotionally under the weight of loss. Many others feel completely isolated and forsaken. In the midst of all of this there is a voice and a helper that calls through the dark night and says that He will never abandon or forsaken us. But in the midst of sickness and pain it is hard to sometimes know how to celebrate the holiday season. 

“Path of Hope”, written by Rebecca VanDeMark, is a thirty-one topic prayer and reflection devotional for those fighting Lyme Disease and their loved ones specifically addressing the topic of hope. Spoken from a heart of compassion and understanding, Rebecca understands the Lyme Disease journey well as she saw over 273 medical practitioners before being correctly diagnosed with Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease.

Rebecca states in her introduction, “The book that you hold in your hand has been written from my heart. I found out I had Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease the day after my 33rd birthday. For the previous six years prior to that day I had experienced a myriad of intricate and confusing health symptoms that never made sense to any doctor. I had spent hundreds of hours traveling across the United States talking and consulting with some of the best in the country. No answers came and I was eventually told that either (a) this was “in my head”, (b) I had a very “complex case” of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (for which I had been diagnosed for) or (c) “stress was contributing to these issues”. Finally, after seeing 273 doctors in one year, seven years of searching, hundreds of invasive and painful tests, and thousands of prayers, I was correctly and accurately diagnosed with Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease. On this journey with our disease we may experience feeling hopeless about the present and the future, but our God of hope quietly and tenderly reminds us to hope even when everything feels hopeless. I have always found great comfort in the Psalms, but none so much as since this journey began. As I approach another anniversary of when this season began and everything was shattered, I look back on the now tattered pages of the book of Psalms in my Bible with a smile. These 150 chapters have provided much comfort and hope, especially on days where I felt I could do nothing but cry.”

"Path of Hope: Daily Reflections on Hope from the Psalms for the Lyme Disease Journey " (ISBN: 0-9975361-9-5) is an 92 page devotional. “Path of Hope: Daily Reflections on Hope from the Psalms for the Lyme Disease Journey” can be purchased where books are sold, including Amazon. Rebecca VanDeMark is an author of three previous books, Praying through Lyme Disease, When Light Dawns, and Prayers for the Single Journey. She is also a blogger, and speaker and can be found at her website: www.rebeccavandemark.com and her blog: www.caravansonnet.com.


4/27/16

Path of Hope... the book... RELEASE!

Ever since I was a young girl I have always marveled at the way that God is a personal God who knows not only the hairs on my head, takes cares of the birds of the field, but also uniquely and personally shows Himself over and over again. One of those ways for me has been through dates of times and days over the months and years. Three years ago at the exact time that this book was released I had my first appointment for Lyme Treatment. While I have since switched doctors, that time and treatment was the foundation that the Lord used to first save my life, discover my battle also would include a battle with skin cancer, and to begin the work of fighting Lyme. 

These past three years have been beyond difficult and many times I needed the gentle reminder that there was hope despite feeling incredibly hopeless. I turned over and over and over again to the book of Psalms, and continue to find incredible strength and hope from those 150 chapters. 

The timing of finalizing things with this book release and finishing up last minute items with this book has not been lost on me. The journey through this disease has brought a myriad of different emotions: excitement at the progress of healing that I am slowly experiencing, joy at finding a wonderful and experienced medical team to help me, anger over the lack of understanding and support in the political arena of Lyme, discouragement at the extreme lack of energy I have and the way that fighting Lyme Disease prohibits me from living life fully the way that I wish I could, and sometimes hopeless at feeling this journey will never end. 

These past weeks alone brought some news that was completely unexpected to me and another delay in this long road of healing. My heart was broken and I have cried more tears, found myself discouraged again, and have laid out my broken heart once again to the One who loves me more than life. 

But these weeks are also completely reflective of the entire journey. I have found that there are so many emotions and issues that accompany this journey in fighting Lyme Disease, and yet there is incredible hope to be found in the book of Psalms for the different experiences that we face as Lyme Warriors.

Even as I am sitting here writing this I am humbly thanking the Lord for His strength in helping me complete this project. This was a book that resonated deep in my heart and was written out of a love for those struggling with Lyme Disease and this journey of walking this difficult and painful path. I started writing this book over two years ago ... writing on slips of paper, napkins, medication bags, pharmacy bags, magazine pages, etc... and in a variety of different places... in hospitals, doctors offices, the IV therapy sessions, detoxification protocols, hyperbaric oxygen chamber, etc. Finally, these reflections of my heart and precious Bible verses were combined into a book that is a heartbeat and passion of mine throughout this illness... Path of Hope.

This book, "Path of Hope", is the first and only Lyme patient specific book that focuses on finding hope from scripture in the Lyme Disease Journey. There are 31 topics covered in this book to match the days of the months of the year. Each days devotion has a portion of scripture from the book of Psalms, a reflection, a prayer, an inspiring quote, and highlights a specifically chosen song that relates to this reflection. "Path of Hope" can be used as simple encouragement to those who feel hopeless in this journey or as a guided daily devotional. Either way, "Path of Hope" will provide spiritual encouragement and offer hope to those who feel hopeless in this journey. 

On this journey with Lyme Disease patients may experience all of the emotions I listed and more, including feeling hopeless about the present and the future, but our God of Hope quietly and tenderly reminds us to hope even when everything feels hopeless. Our greatest hope lies in the fact that death is not the ultimate answer and that we have a full and perfect life, with no pain, no brokenness, and no Lyme Disease in Heaven. This hope- this beautiful and living hope (I Peter 1:3-4) is for the future but gives us hope for our present. I have always found great comfort in the Psalms, but none so much as since this journey began. As I approach another anniversary of when this season began and everything was shattered, I look back on the now tattered pages of the book of Psalms in my Bible with a smile. These 150 chapters have provided much comfort and hope, especially on days where I felt I could do nothing but cry.

 I am SO excited to announce that it is OFFICIALLY released as of yesterday!! You can purchase it where books are sold or on Amazon (also available in Kindle form) and you can click HERE to purchase it! 

Thank you to each of you that have already purchased it!! Thank you so much to ALL of you that have been walking this journey with me in prayer! TRULY you are a blessing!!

With Love, 

What's Up Wednesday (April Edition)

Happy Wednesday friends! I am excited to link up with MelShaeffer, and Shay for the "What's Up Wednesday" Link up! I have so enjoyed reading these ladies posts and am excited to join in! It is so fun to connect with so many other ladies who are doing this each month!

What We're Eating this Week... 
Garlic. More Garlic. And yes, more garlic. So basically, as y'all know I spend every single day working to improve my immune system through the food that I eat, drinking tons of water, and the supplements that I take. I truly believe that working on building my immune system is just as important as all of the treatment I do to kill the Lyme. BUT whenever I travel I have a system that I start about two weeks where I literally kick that into overdrive. I do increased nutritional IV therapy, drink tons of extra apple cider vinegar, take extra silver, add lots of basil to everything, and eat tons of garlic which is one of the 17 foods that is known to boost your immune system. Despite my immune system registering at a very low percentage this helps me every single time I travel so I am smelling a bit like garlic right now. *smiles*

What I'm Reminiscing About... 
As I shared on instagram, it snowed here yesterday. So naturally I started dreaming of one of my favorite past cruising experiences that included lovely Coco Cay, the beautiful bahamas, warm weather travel, and fluttering palm trees.

What I'm Loving... 
Planning and dreaming about an exciting trip coming up to see my beautiful friend get married in July. Truly the Lord is good for preparing all of the finances from a friend to make this trip possible. AND I weep in gratitude over seeing how far I have healed in order to make plans like this and be able to go to her wedding. There have been so many life events and weddings I have had to miss out on over the years due to my health. To be able to be planning this is truly a dream come true.

What I've Been Up To...
If you follow me on instagram than you know that this past month has been a whirlwind in so many different ways. My time these last several weeks has been slowly healing from treatment and prayerfully working through my upcoming speeches that I will give at a conference next week. (I am coveting prayers for this trip friends- as some of you know this is a complete leap of faith for me, traveling alone, giving these speeches, etc. Thank you for covering me in prayer! Truly the Lord goes before us...)

What I'm Dreading... 
Let's be honest... getting a port in June. I would welcome any encouragement that anyone has heard or experienced? Thanks friends! I appreciate your prayers for all of this!

What I'm Working on... 
Lots and lots of new items for the shop and a couple of exciting surprises that I will be sharing in the next few weeks! I can't wait to share with y'all!!

What I'm Excited About... 
As I shared this morning, I am so honored, excited, and humbled to announce that my newest book, Path of Hope, was released!! You can purchase it where books are sold or on Amazon (also available in Kindle form) and you can click HERE to purchase it! 

What I'm Watching/Reading... 
picture found on internet
Y'all know how much I love to travel and recently I have been reading about lots of travel things, specifically related to Phoenix, Arizona as I head there next week to speak. Does anyone have any tips for me on what to see in Phoenix? I haven't been there since I was a young girl so I really don't remember anything and would love some ideas! 

What I'm Listening to... 
I shared this several months ago but if you haven't had the chance to listen to this beautiful song, "Jesus I am resting" yet, take the three minutes and do it right now. I promise you will be incredibly blessed! (Want to find out more about the Wissmann Family and check out more of their music? You can find their website HERE!)

What I'm Wearing... 
Let's be real... I have been in comfy comfy clothes most of the last few weeks as I haven't felt that great but I am definitely dreaming of spring clothes! 

What I'm looking Forward to Next Month... 
I am looking forward to heading to Phoenix to speak. It is going to be a leap of faith for me, going alone, having the energy for the whole trip, but I am confident that the Lord will provide. I can't wait to see all that He does next week!

I would love to know your answers to these questions friends! Share your thoughts below in the comments!! *smiles* Happy Wednesday!

4/26/16

Mother Cabrini Shrine, Peru, New York

A couple of weeks ago we drove out to the Mother Cabrini Shrine in Peru, New York. I had been hearing how stunningly beautiful this area was and it truly does not disappoint. The gorgeous property, the stunning views of Lake Champlain and the Vermont Green Mountains, and the peaceful grounds are all definite worth a visit to.
To get to the Mother Cabrini Shrine it is only about a 35 minute drive off of the Plattsburgh, I-87 exit in upstate New York and definitely worth the trip. It is definitely one of those hidden treasures in the Adirondack Mountains that you don't want to miss out on seeing!
Before we planned our visit I wanted to look up the history regarding the Mother Cabrini shrine and who Mother Cabrini was. It was so fascinating to learn all about this woman and the work that she did!
Frances Cabrini was born in July 1850 in a small village near Milan, Italy. As a child she was enthralled with stories of missionaries and at a young age committed herself to join a religious order. 
Unfortunately, she was in poor health so she was not permitted to join the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, under whom she had received her teaching certificate. However, at thirty years old, along with seven other women, she founded the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She was known to be as resourceful as she was prayerful, as she found people who would donate to meet the needs that she had not only in financial resources but also with time, labor, and support. 
While Frances Cabrini and her sisters had a dream and plan to become missionaries in China, she was directed elsewhere after obtaining an audience with Pope Leo XIII. Pope Leo XIII told Frances to go "not to the East, but to the West" and to go to New York instead of China. Part of this direction might have been because there were thousands of Italian immigrants that had already matriculated to the United States, or it could have been for other reasons we will never know. 
Nine years after founding the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mother Frances Cabrini and her sister companions stepped onto New York soil. New York City at this time was filled with chaos and poverty and Cabrini quickly went to organizing a variety of different programs to help the poor. Cabrini organized catechism and education classes for Italian immigrants and served the many needs of the many orphans. Cabrini also established schools and orphanages despite tremendous odds that were against her. 
Two of her most famous hospitals that she established in New York City were the Columbus Hospital and the Italian Hospital. These two hospitals were later merged in the late 20th century and became known as the Cabrini Medical Center that lasted until 2008, when it was forced to close due to financial difficulties.
Over Mother Cabrini's lifetime, requests for her to open schools all over the world came to her. She spent her life not only continuing to serve the people of New York City, but also traveled throughout the United States to Europe, Central America, and South America. In her life-time she made 23 trans-Atlantic crossings and established over 67 orphanages, schools, and hospitals.
Mother Cabrini was known to work tirelessly for the cause of Christ throughout her life. One of her most famous sayings was; "I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him." 
On December 22, 1917 at the age of 67, Mother Cabrini died. Almost thirty years later, in 1947, she was canonized as a saint by Pope Pius XII in recognition of her holiness and service to the world. Three years later, in 1950, she was named the Patroness of Immigrants. 
In 1947, the Mother Cabrini Shrine was dedicated in Peru, New York. The Shrine's settings were seen as appropriate on the grounds of St. Patrick's Church. St. Patrick's church had opened in 1841 to serve the large group of Irish immigrants who had settled into the Adirondack Mountains. 
As I shared at the beginning of this post, this is a beautiful piece of the Adirondack Mountains and definitely worth the time to drive to see this beautiful land and views. Happy Tuesday friends! I hope that you are having a wonderful day!

4/22/16

4 Tips to Make your Self-Published Book Look Professional

One of the most asked questions that I receive from people is about publishing a book. So today I wanted to share 4  tips to make your self-published book look professional. I will be sharing more thoughts on getting a book contract in the coming weeks. As most of y'all know I have actually done both traditional publishing (accepting a contract from a book publishing company) and have also independently published my book using Amazon's CreateSpace website. I hope that these tips will help y'all as you embark on this exciting adventure!

If you are looking for other posts that I have done on writing and publishing tips you can find them HERE or in the links below:



10 Ways to Support Your Friends Who Have Independently Published Books

One of the most asked questions that I receive about the books that I have chosen to independently publish is how I have made them "look" professional. In my post entitled 20 Tips for Successfully Self-Publishing your Book (or E-book) my second tip was take the time to make your book look professional. The reason that I had this as my second tip was very simple. In a day and age when even well-known authors are independently publishing their books you want to make sure that your book looks professional (or more professional!) than your competitors. Gone are the days when you are a lonely island self-publishing your work. In today's market it is wise to build a team that will help make your book the success that you want it to be. So here are 4 tips on making your self-published book look professional.

1. Edit, Edit again, Edit some more, and Keep Editing.
Often one of the biggest mistakes that a self-published author makes is not spending the time to properly edit their book. Take the time to edit and make sure that this is your first priority before publishing. Spend the money to hire a professional editor. Don't have the money for a professional editor? Check out your local colleges and graduate school programs and contact the English and Journalism departments. Many times professors, TA's, or graduate students are looking to earn a little bit of money or build up their resume and will offer their services at a reduced rate. 

Anyone who knows me that editing is my least favorite part of the writing process. By the time that I have spent 6-7 months editing (sometimes much more!) I am literally over the book. *smiles* I once heard a well known and famous author say that he never re-read his books once they were published because he could quote them due to all of the editing. I didn't understand his comment until I became an author and now I completely get it. Know your work so well that by the time that you are done you could quote the masterpiece that you have created. 

2. Always Review a Physical Copy of your Book Before it goes to Print.
One of the most important pieces of advice that I give to everyone who wants to self-publish a book is to always review a physical copy of your book before it goes to print. I know to many self-published authors that have gone ahead and hit the "approved" button without reviewing a hard and physical copy. So many things can look different on the computer - including colors, photos, lettering, etc. Believe me- you want to spend the time to pay for a physical copy to review. 
Here’s what you want to check:
* Paragraph indentations- are they consistent throughout your book?
*all margins are the same
*check your page numbers
* check the chapter headings- are they positioned in the same place every time? are they numbered correctly throughout your book?
* can you read your front and back cover clearly?
3. Make Title Pages
One of the simplest and easiest things to fix to make your self-published book look professional is to make sure that you have title pages. When you open a book you will always see the title pages, copyright pages, dedication pages, acknowledgements, etc. You may think that they are not important but your reader will look and expect them to be there. 

4. Professional Cover Design
In a day and age of so many different editing and creative programs there is absolutely no excuse for your cover design to not look professional. Self-published authors feel different ways about this. Some love to spend the time to create their covers and some hate it. I personally love it because it gives me the opportunity to express my creativity, but I still hire someone to help me think through the different aspects that my covers are going to portray. If you like to create your own cover take the time to hire a graphic designer to ask them some questions to help your design look the best. If you don't like to create your own covers, then hire a graphic designer or a professional who works with book designs. Honestly, this and editing are the two most important investments that you must make into your book to make it look professional. 

I have gone all different routes for my covers, but each one had a specific purpose and theme that I was trying to convey. 



"Praying through Lyme Disease" was my first independently published book and I fell in love with this cover for professional and personal reasons. First, I wanted a cover that was gender neutral and second wanted a cover that conveyed where many people get bit by ticks- in a woods. Third even those who don't get Lyme disease by hiking in a woods, the path to healing and through Lyme disease often feels like you are walking a very lonely path through a woods. So this book cover on a professional level hit all of these requirements in my mind. On a personal note when I saw this cover I instantly had tears as I know exactly when I was bit and this looked like the exact path I had been hiking when my life was changed forever. 

One of the most meaningful things to me about this cover is how many people I have heard from who have are walking the journey of Lyme disease and the cover really spoke to them. That to me is the wonderful thing about a great cover- you will draw the readers you are hoping to - in to your book.


"Prayers for the Single Journey for women" went through about seven different cover designs (literally). The graphic designer that I hired created a fantastic one but to me it wasn't yet "perfect". I created one and running it by different people ... it was honestly just lacking. So we kept trying again and again. In the meantime I kept going back to my sweet friend Amanda's (from Marshalls Abroad) blog and a specific picture that she had taken and posted on her blog. I fell in love with it but was honestly to shy to ask her at first if I could have permission to use it (and pay her for the picture). Finally after the sixth cover design that my team and I threw out I designed that I was going to take the leap and ask her. She was SO sweet and wrote back immediately and gave me permission to use the picture. 24 hours later the cover design was completed after an 8 month process and it was perfect. Professionally it conveyed exactly what I wanted to and personally the picture reminded me of many walks on the beach, praying for my future husband, and dreaming of holding his hand one day. 

One thing that I definitely recommend is to think outside the box with your cover. This situation definitely reminded me of this. Don't be afraid to explore photography of your friends and co-workers and pursue this as an option for your book. (I do have to give a shout out again to Amanda and her amazing photography. She takes amazing pictures and if you are ever looking for gorgeous pictures for your home I definitely recommend contacting her. She is so sweet and is amazing. You can find her blog (and her contact information) by clicking HERE.)


When I first started writing my book, "When Light Dawns" I knew immediately the picture that I wanted to use as the cover. I had taken this picture during the Christmas season, the year before my health crashed completely. I can remember the moment very clearly and had been amazed by the way that the lights of the Christmas tree reflected the birth of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, coming into the darkness. When I first started writing "When Light Dawns" in December of 2013 I needed this beautiful reminder that there was hope during the holiday season. I loved how the picture summed up such a personal journey for me and conveyed not only the color of Christmas, but the theme of light in the darkness. 

Don't be afraid to explore using your own pictures in addition to using those of others. You never know what picture you may have taken that could be a perfect fit for your cover!

I can't stress enough how important it is to really take the time to figure out a cover that will be the perfect fit for your project and that will give it a professional edge! 

What are some of your tips in making your self-published book look professional? I would love to hear them! I hope that you are having a wonderful Friday friends and that you have a fantastic weekend! 

4/21/16

18 Things to Pack in Your Emergency Room Bag

While some trips to the Emergency Room may be not traumatic, in reality- all trips to the Emergency Room are usually unexpected and unplanned. So today I wanted to suggest a couple of things that can help with making this visit a little more comfortable and productive by preparing in advance an Emergency Room Bag. 

(I do suggest having this Emergency Room Bag somewhere that is easily accessible. The purpose of this specific bag is that you will not have to go flying around the house gathering things that you may need in a crisis situation, therefore you want the bag to be easily seen and to be used. And while there could be many emergencies that take place where you will not have your bag handy- this will hopefully help in the situations and times that you do.)


(1) Small Pillow. 

(Hospital chairs (and "beds") are notoriously uncomfortable. Sometimes having the chance to have a small pillow to use to prop your head up or to use to lean against a wall while you are in the waiting room is incredible helpful. I would suggest getting a travel size pillow - they are light and small and can easily fit in your bag. (Side note: Don't buy a pillow that you have to inflate. If you are seriously ill you are not going to have the desire or energy to do this. Yes, I have seen this done.)

(2) Eye Covers. 

Lights can be extremely annoying when you are seriously ill.

(3)Your Health Notebook or a mini version of your Health Notebook. 

Don't have a Health Notebook? Click HERE for instructions.

(4) Comfy Shirt/Pants 

This can be incredibly helpful in making you feel more comfortable. Just make sure that these items are easy to slip on and off. 

(5) Copy of an easy to read book


(6) Favorite Magazine


(7) Deck of Cards


(8) Small Blanket

Sometimes the rooms in the ER are freezing and those "warm" blankets don't last very long!

(9) a
 reminder note to grab your wallet or purse 

(10) If you are not going to use your Health Notebook than make sure to have a copy of your doctors information in your bag.


(11) Cell Phone Charger


(12) Extra copy of Your medicine list and your supplement list


(13) Instant Ice or Hot Pack 


(14) Ear plugs


(15) Face Mask


(16) Tissues.


(17) Small garbage bag


(18) Pack a new or favorite stuffed animal for small children.


What do y'all grab as you head to the ER? Any suggestions or thoughts we could add to this list? Happy Thursday y'all! 


{Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.}