Sunday 17th February 2019

The Big C and Me. 15/2019.

The Big C and Me. 15/2019.

It’s time to share more about me and the Big C.

Yes, it’s about C for…..

CONFIDENCE!

(ha! not the other big C for cancer)

I think I give an outward show of being confident. It is not really a fake it till I make it confidence either.

It is about self-confidence in selected settings.

  • I am confident about my school life and teaching days and enjoy sharing the stories from then.
  • I love this part of me that can share now. I know there were days in education that were not always great (yes, my emotional health took a beating in 2002) but I have grown so much as a person and learner since then.

 

  • I am getting more confident of how I am managing my self-care in regards to less anxiety that plagued me for the years of my transition into retirement.
  • What good news that is! It was horrible for me with IBS thrown into the mix and I have done so well taking on board exposure therapy and a small medication routine.

 

  • I am less than confident in my belief about how well I am going in terms of my mental outlook since my cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments and surgeries.
  • What is the evidence each day? None, really. It just happens sometimes.

 

  • I remain under-confident about my changed appearance a.k.a. my body’s change from very overweight to ‘almost normal weight’ and then back to a slightly ‘overweight’ status.
  • Am I taking steps to understand this huge shift and learning as I go? Yes. Every day.

 

  • I am still not as confident as I think I need to be to take on a continuing role in educating others about Head and Neck cancer because I am sensing judgment of others. I do know that I call upon courage to help me through even I have doubts.
  • Do I have evidence? Not really.

WHY?

I am who I am.

I am the product of a childhood and teen years spent in a dominant paternal household. I was told what to do. I may not always have done it but the memory of “other people’s words” being my measure for self remain.

I am able to give myself a ‘good talking to’ at times and can turn this matter of lack of self-confidence around.

But it takes energy and time AND motivation. I do not always have these on hand together and so there are days when my lack of self-confidence AND worth impact me more.

I am learning more in terms of self-compassion and how each of us is connected via shared humanity.

AM I FOOLING ANYONE?

Possibly but what of it?

  • I am on Instagram each day keeping myself accountable for dressing with purpose and going out somewhere for coffee.
  • This does help me ramp up some of my confidence in just doing so. I am not reliant on the comments as much any more because I know the effort I put in makes the outcome worth it.
  • But then when I have kind followers write comments of “congratulations, kindness and cheering me on” I do appreciate this a lot but also that inner critic rises up and adds her voice “would they say that if they really knew me?”
  • Lies. I do not tell them as far as I am aware but it seems maybe I am believing them from this inner critic. Who? Moi?

WHAT NOW?

Onward.

I know that putting these words here has helped me see that it’s my faulty thinking that has been affecting my self-confidence.

OK! How to change that?

  • Already I have in some ways as I now recognise this inner critic voice and her role.

 

  • My actions, my words and my inner life help me remember MUCH more about the confidence I like to have and know I can bring more to the fore.

 

  • Each time I dress and go out for coffee, I am embedding self-confidence.

 

  • My daily journal keeping can continue to be a ‘write it all down’ place and then review for evidence of this confidence tracking upwards not the downwards the inner critic can believe.

 

  • My on-line interactions with people from my various communities in education, blogging and head and neck cancer are ways in which I grow my self-confidence and also give back to others where I can and it is asked for.

 

  • Seeing myself as others do and may. It helps to believe that I am both good and doing good. This is something I have struggled with all of my life and want it to change. I can do this. I will remind myself more.

 

  • Maintaining practices of:

 

  • being in nature,
  • time-outs with my art journal,
  • chats with my husband, meditation each night,
  • helping my physical body to relax,
  • exercising within my limitations,
  • planning to eat well and doing the same without any deprivation,
  • cancer checks and better understanding of the fact that cancer actually never leaves but might take a back seat in my life,
  • taking time to make contact with family and friends,
  • exploring the local area’s beauty,
  • browsing at the shops,
  • reading,
  • keeping to a timetable of sorts each day for balance in my life.

Already I feel better!

Thanks for reading.

Do you have an issue with the Big C?

 

Denyse.

Joining with my blogging friends here:

Min on Tuesdays here for #ZenTipsTuesday

Sue & Leanne on Wednesdays  here for #MidlifeShareTheLove

Leanne & Crew on Thursdays  here for #LovinLife

 

 

 

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On Learning About Eating. Part One.10/2019.

On Learning About Eating.  Part One. 10/2019.

I have been eating my way through life for over 69 years now. As anyone does.

Yes, I “am” the baby. I also know my grandmother (left) and Dad struggled with weight issues too.

But, I still do not understand much about eating ….unless it is:

  • diet-based (fail)
  • managing to eat enough for nourishment after cancer surgery in my mouth (pass/fail/maybe)
  • how to moderate my choices for more than a day or so ( pass or is it fail?)

Why I am I writing about this topic?

It has puzzled me (and I am thinking many who read this) why I ate. Because I know it was often not based on sound nutritional practices and in fact was in some way disordered. I do not have an eating disorder but I do/did eat like this:

  • some secretive ways – late at night or when no-one was around
  • using stashes of chocolate to soothe me
  • having take-away food in the car

I have written a long post here about my “weight” and how I played “possum” about it. No-one could (or dared) mention it yet I was/still can be ashamed of my behaviour.

Since my cancer surgeries where I lost more weight through not being ABLE to eat much, I did enjoy the unexpected outcome of buying lovely clothes to fit me and to show my newly acquired physique…thanks to oral cancer…

And that was lovely and I will always appreciate that time in my life from October 2017 to around the same time in 2018.

Some examples of my pre-upper prosthesis meals. Mind you I cannot face any of these as a meal now I am post-teeth.

Then I began to eat more food from late August 2018 on. Because I could. Oh and it tasted so good, the senses were in over-drive and the fact that I could now BITE, CRUNCH and CHEW was amazing. This happened because “I got my upper prosthesis”. Yay.

And my weight has crept up. What did I do? I was glad I could eat from a wider (pardon the pun) range of foods but I sensed my retreat into anxiety about my appearance and that it would become noticeable to others. Early in 2019 my husband could see my emotional state had become less content since my early months of “having teeth” euphoria and we had a very frank discussion where I confessed I was worried I had not learned anything new about eating despite the privations of 14 months with no upper teeth. Because of cancer. If you want to read about my cancer, here is the page with the posts.

Organised and planner me took over for a while and this is what I came up with since that chat:

  • weigh-in once a month
  • focus when I go out on coffee part not the add-on of a food such as donuts, date loaf or muffin
  • eat more regularly: make specific time ranges for three meals a day. Add snacks.
  • plan groceries around my meals (my husband and I eat a shared meal a few times only in a week)
  • resist late-night snacking in bed by allowing hunger to be felt
  • speaking kindly towards myself in any times of difficulty (this is such a different me to old, punitive me)
  • look at the facts about my appearance rather than the perceptions aka mind-based ones
  • move more each day – it has been very hot so it has been better to stay home than to get outside BUT I can walk more when I go to a coffee place in a shopping centre

Then I heard about Mindful Eating. As someone who has practised mindfulness as part of my cancer recovery time along with when I am faced with anxious and scary times, I was very interested. So I bought the two books AND am now listening via CD to this program.

I KNEW I ate for more reasons than stomach hunger! The author who knows from experience of both an early eating issue, is a doctor and a mindfulness practitioner has opened my mind! I am doing some of the exercises and I now know I (we) eat to satisfy:

  • eye hunger
  • nose hunger
  • stomach hunger
  • mouth hunger
  • heart hunger
  • mind hunger
  • cellular hunger

The tracks on the CD are listed here. I am a work-in-progress of course.

Here’s what I am learning so far:

  • I eat visually: eyes it seems come first BUT
  • I also eat by the stomach so I recognise the feelings of fullness
  • I KNEW I ate from mouth hunger but had no idea why. It explains how much I (we) miss chewing, crunching, savouring and tasting….as I did in my 14 months after cancer surgeries.
  • I need to care for and about myself around this issue of eating. Not say anything negative about what I am doing. The inner critic needs to be back in her place. Doing well so far.
  • I need to eat at regular intervals but to also feel the stomach hunger too. I am very much into the early stages of making things around eating work for me but am proud now that I:
  • meal plan – and include some protein at each main meal
  • snacks are well & truly covered and are linked to helping my meet my mouth hunger, visual hunger and heart hunger
  • can look at my image in the mirror or photo and be proud of the body that has helped me overcome cancer 
  • am learning lessons about eating I wish I had known a long time ago

29 Jan 19 : Writing this post after going out for coffee and groceries.

Part Two will be an update. This is most definitely a project in health and head and neck cancer recovery worth taking my time over.

Is eating something you struggle with?

How do you make eating choices?

I would love to know more in the comments!

Denyse.

Joining with Sue here and Leanne for the Wednesday link up MidLife Share The Love.

 

 

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Best Gift Ever. 3/52. #LifeThisWeek. 7/2019.

Best Gift Ever. 3/52. #LifeThisWeek. 7/2019.

The best gift ever has given me food for thought.

I have had some great gifts in my life including these:

  • parents who gave me life, shelter, education, care and loveand who were wed for over 60 years.
  • a man I met and married within 3 months who has loved me for over 48 years now as I have him. This is on our wedding day, 23 January 1971.

  • the first gift of a child: our daughter (story is here) and then much later, our son (story soon!) and even though we did not know much about parenting, both are doing well in their adult lives.
  • a career in K-6 education in New South Wales schools which took me from probationary teacher to school principal thanks to the gifts of others who saw the potential in me, degree courses I completed with loving support from my family, and the children, teachers and parents of the many schools. Latterly I enjoyed teaching and supervising pre-service Masters’ students at University. On many occasions I was glad I could help these people and share what had been shared to me as gifts in my career.
  • the gift of meeting people and socialising is one I enjoy and to this end am doing it in a new area and loving making new connections socially: on-line and in real life, as they say!
  • I love the gift I have been given as someone who notices nature, enjoys solitude from time to time, and has learned so much about herself during some times of turbulence in recent years.
  • The gift I have been given of enjoying art and especially making mandalas has also seen me make 100s of bookmarks to help a charity called The Big Hug Box.
  • How good is it to give back! My story was also in a book that was published. What a gift that was.

But what about cancer? Is THAT a gift? 

I cannot finish this post without mentioning my fairly recent brush with the big C and what a gift that has been.

  • Life is a matter of how it’s viewed by the individual.
  • I do not like having had cancer because of many of the ramifications in my life, yet I know its presence has been a present. Let me explain more!
  • I was in a major life transition which had, in its own way, strangled my confidence and demeanour because of the grief involved. Yet I had some ideas of how to help myself.
  • That series of ideas was supplemented by the gift of amazing professional support, amazing and unending personal support and many hours of time to both learn and absorb.
  • When it was found that I had cancer, up from within me, emerged what had been hidden for almost 3 years and over time, my personal qualities of determination, belief in my surgical and oral health teams and in my capacity to heal and that I could share my story with others as I have and do.

The Best Gift is:

  • A return to “Denyse”. She had been long gone and I am so glad she is back.
  • This is my best gift: I am back. It does not matter I am ageing – that’s a privilege, nor that I have some physical scars I cannot overcome – they’re part of my history now and I am so glad to be here and look at my image in the mirror to say:

Hello, looking OK for someone who’s been through so much.

Well-done, you!

 

What is your best gift?

Denyse.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not. * Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do! * Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

Joining Alicia here for Open Slather and Kell here for Mummy Mondays.

Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 4/51. What Is Hope? 28/1/19.


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Second Six Month Check-Up…With Myself! 3/2019.

Second Six Month Check-Up…With Myself! 3/2019.

What is this six month check-up about?

It is about my assessment of my physical and emotional health for the second 6 months of 2018.

Oops it is already 2019 I know but I have just scraped in I believe.

Here I go, following on from the first six month check-up with myself, here.

It’s no secret that when you have a cancer diagnosis that check-ups are both regular and scary. Regular ones are like this protocol for my head and neck cancer:

for the first 2 years: every 3 months. I have completed one year and really only had ONE formal check up because…I have been for surgery with my Professor 3 times post initial big surgery, and my prosthodontist is checking inside my mouth at all of my very regular visits. 

for the next 3 years: every six months. This assumes no symptoms in between checks. On Tuesday 8 January my mouth needed a check as skin was growing more than it should. I was relieved to know it is not a cancer recurrence but I did get news that more reconstructive surgery could be ahead. I am still absorbing this news. 

Let’s get started:

July –  December 2018.

My Contribution to Our “2 Person Retired” Household.

  • cooking my meals which can be eaten with little chewing, with good nutrition & taste until I could eat in a more normal way
  • cooking more meals that we can eat together as I got my upper teeth prosthesis we get to do this
  • making cakes & biscuits. As I can eat cake & now some biscuits, there is greater variety for us both. I still have a stash of small iced cakes for me and un-iced ones for my husband to which I now add (at his request) sultanas and walnuts
  • cleaning the floors that require vacuuming each fortnight – oh so necessary but thank goodness for the battery-charged stick Dyson
  • cleaning my en-suite bathroom and all surfaces of shelves, sets of drawers etc in the house
  • ensuring all plants outside are watered and cared for – watering, moving them around as need be and pruning
  • grocery shopping now my full responsibility as there is a very convenient local Woolies. My husband picks up some needs for himself at the local IGA.

My Self-Care Routine.

  • I would like to think I have this down pat. I do not. I sometimes do too much and wonder why I am tired or tetchy.
  • I kept the same first sentence as last time. I have made it a priority to recognise my fatigue before it really hits and I also want to be less focussed on social media for a time each day.
  • Even though I was someone who loved her busy-ness in work and then when caring for our grandkids and part-time teaching I now know I am better with stretches of time that are mine
  • I am getting better at my ‘going to sleep’ times and continue listening to some ‘sleep stories’ via my Calm meditation app
  • I know for sure I am not in a race for self-care or self-improvement and I do think marathon rather than sprint much more than I did 6 months ago.

Love sent to me by a friend. A beautiful mandala crocheted blanket: perfect in the cooler months.

My Care For Others.

  • I am getting better at this one!
  • When I was recovering from cancer surgery in those months from July to November 2017 my physical restrictions and mental tiredness meant I could not do much at all
  • I now know the value of caring for and about others does not mean I have to fix anything 
  • I have stepped much further away from my “must fix everything for everyone” self.
  • I need reminders from myself about this and usually I ask myself the question “who am I doing this for?” If the answer is to make me feel better I no longer do it.
  • It is essential though, to know each of us is connected to the rest of the humans in one way or another and to share what we can for the common good
  • I believe this means my people pleasing has diminished even more in the past 6 months by setting boundaries
  • I know the boundaries for me and that how others are behaving might relate to their boundaries. This is big learning life lesson for me.

With Naomi, our property manager, on the Tenants Awards’ night where we won Tenants of the Year “Gratitude”.

My Physical Appearance Each Day.

  • In  2018 over time my physical appearance has taken on a new dimension with new & colourful clothes which suit me and fit well as I continued to #dresswithpurpose each day
  • It is also something I look forward to as it is part of the way in which I self-care to take myself out for a coffee.
  • I continued having my photo taken and into 2019 it will continue
  • I am keeping myself honest about my appearance too as I know my weight has increased as I can eat not only more easily but from a greater range of foods
  • As someone who was very overweight for decades  – read about it here – I can still become a little concerned about the weight creeping on but am now seeing myself as being healthier as I do eat better than I ever did.
  • Instead, I took a challenge to dress well each day quite seriously. It was a self-created challenge. I am not going to stop it as I know it helps me each day.

With this man by my side “we” can do and be all we need. Love is our relationship that will celebrate 48 years of marriage in late January 2019.

Summary.

  • I am happy with many aspects of my six month review as I know I feel better emotionally and physically
  • I have taken on board some disappointments relating to my cancer surgery and the on-going work inside my mouth and I trust my professional team wholeheartedly
  • I am glad to have found a support group for Head and Neck Cancer patients on Facebook and it is making a difference to have a kind and safe place to share stories.
  • My confidence about myself and my ability to re-join the world more widely was proven many times as I drove myself to functions where I knew no-one and socialised, and met up with friends for coffee and cake
  • I also was finally recognised for my service to students of N.S.W. Public Schools in December and that closed a gap in the circle that had been messy in terms of my almost 40 year career.

Met fellow blogger and Central Coastie Sanch for morning tea.

 

I believe I have allowed myself, even writing this, to be vulnerable. I am taking braver steps each day as I not only recover from cancer but learn to live well as a woman who will be 70 this year!

 

Have you ever considered a ‘check-up’ with yourself?

It could be a good thing for you to ask yourself “how am I going?”

Thanks for reading.

Denyse.

Joining with Sue here & Leanne for MidLife Share The Love Linky on Wednesday – the first one for 2019.

Joining in with Leanne here  on Thursdays for Lovin Life linky.

Hello everyone!

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Not A Smooth Recovery Path For Me: Head & Neck Cancer. 2018.133.

Not A Smooth Recovery Path For Me: Head & Neck Cancer. 2018.133.

Update One: Monday 24 December, is that whilst it is always disappointing to have changes like this in recovery, I am actually able to manage the issue of pain, when it arises and am feeling better in general.

Update Two: Monday 14 January, the pain comes and goes but the news from my Head & Neck surgeon is that he was looking for cancer when I saw him on 8 January. This made me quite concerned. Whilst there was not cancer there as he could see, I do now know there could be another surgery this year. Sigh.

It’s Friday 21 December 2018 and not a normal blogging day for me at all.

But, head and neck cancer recovery is not ‘normal’ I guess!

My blog has been a great source of comfort to me as I can write down what is happening to me, and often receive support in return.

That is lovely.

Today I just need to share this story.

Since my last blog post here, I have continued to be back and forth to the great team I have at Westmead: my prosthodontist and nurse. Each visit since October – when I last saw my Head and Neck cancer surgeon and nurse – has been about:

  • checking the health of the skin which was added to my upper lip (under it) last May
  • checking I am keeping the metal abutments clean where they are attached to the upper teeth prosthesis
  • and fitting me for a partial lower denture to add to my remaining 8 teeth

Showing my mouth’s flexibility – reduced now.

I have had some pain. It is like a sharp nerve pain and each time I mentioned it I was told it is part of ‘re-modelling’ and I have taken that to mean, this will go on as my new mouth and lip settle into their space. I am pretty good at managing pain but earlier this week I needed to share what had been noted by me after seeing my G.P.

  • the pain, which initially we/I thought was from some abrasion of the new tender inner side of the lip against the prosthesis was not likely to have been only from there…because
  • when I tried to use my small micro brush to clean in between the gaps left at the top of the screwed in prosthesis there was  no gap 
  • where the gap had been was skin, resting and immoveable, onto the top of the acrylic prosthesis

After my G.P. saw it, I sent these photos to my Professor and the Prosthodontist. The prosthodontist rang to say, stop using the microbrushes and use the water pik only to clean. The professor emailed to say “come and see me early January for a closer look”.

Yay to having responsive professionals. Very grateful.

Not so happy for the pain it is causing, the lip tightening even more and the disappointment that things are not going as I had hoped. Probably as my team had hoped too!

On the positive side, I have overcome setbacks before AND I trust my professional team BUT this is not a situation I imagined.

Skin does its thing it seems. My post here is about how the stent being taken out too soon prevented the full healing and I needed a 4th surgery and then over 3 months with a new stent.

I seem to think….more surgery may be on the cards.

Sigh.

I am taking pain medication as advised by my G.P. I am doing all I can to treat myself more gently. I am looking forward to seeing the family on Christmas Day here but my eating may be even more compromised by then. Who knows?

Many I know in the Head and Neck cancer support groups are in quite different stages of healing, acceptance of many aspects of their recovery and managing things well. I am buoyed by them, and already support for me and my update has helped. I also know as an Ambassador for Beyond Five, that those of us with Head and Neck cancers are affected by treatments long after the five years.

I am just over 19 months since diagnosis. I am also less patient than some! I am, always very grateful for my cancer treatments and follow-ups in an Australian setting here:

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse

The late Prof Chris O’Brien. In the hospital named after him.

Westmead Oral Restorative Sciences

Thank you for your support, friends from blogging land and readers!

Denyse.

 

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Head & Neck Cancer: “Beyond Five” Ambassadorship.2018.130.

Head & Neck Cancer:”Beyond Five” Ambassadorship.2018.130.

Last week I wrote a post called Farewell and Hello. It was pretty long so I stopped at Farewell promising to be back for Hello. Here we go!

Regular followers here know that I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) in my upper gums and under the top lip. The whole story is here, in posts, from the day I was told until the recent post on adjusting my eating requirements when I am out of the house.

Hello, I am now a Beyond Five Ambassador!

How this came about was partly after this day in October 2018 when I was back at ‘my’ hospital Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, but I had offered earlier this year if there was any way I could help spread the news about head and cancer awareness I would like to do so. I had already been sharing the work of Beyond Five here on the blog for World Head and Neck Cancer Day 2018.

Following that day, the Board of Beyond Five met, Sr Froggatt and Professor Clark are board members and Nadia Rosin is Manager, Business & Communications,  and I then received a formal letter of invitation to become a Beyond Five Ambassador.

Role of Community Ambassador

  • • Share your personal head and neck cancer story for use in Beyond Five communication e.g. website, social media portals etc.
  • • Raise awareness of Beyond Five through family, friends, other personal connections.
  • • Where possible, attend events e.g. patient support group meetings, education days to help raise awareness of Beyond Five.
  • • Support Beyond Five grant applications where relevant e.g. as a consumer representative.
  • • Provide feedback to Beyond Five to help us improve and develop the way we work.

About Beyond Five.

Background

Beyond Five was established in December 2014 and is Australia’s only not-for-profit organisation supporting patients with head and neck cancer, caregivers, family and health professionals.

Beyond Five was established to provide evidence based, comprehensive, easy to understand and easy to access information to everyone, regardless of where they live.

Beyond Five is the first organisation in Australia supporting patients and their families through their cancer journey, from diagnosis to treatment and life after cancer.

Mission

Beyond Five’s mission is to improve the quality of life of everyone affected by head and neck cancer through education and access to support and to raise awareness of head and neck cancer nationally. We are committed to working collaboratively with all specialties across Australia to achieve our mission.

 

I have joined the inaugural Ambassador, Julie McCrossin and Marty Doyle too. Their stories and mine, can now be found here on the Beyond Five site. There will be more ‘thinking time’ for my involvement and what form it may take as everyone is going to be on a break soon. We are getting together in February 2019. I look forward to helping where I can especially now I am post almost all of my cancer treatments and now in ‘check-up and check-in’ mode.

I know that I am keen and ready to help others learn more about head and neck cancer as it is not well-known. In fact I had no idea you could get squamous cell carcinoma inside your mouth (and other areas of the skin inside the head & neck region, till my day of diagnosis in May 2017.

And here we are sending Season’s Greetings.

I wish that no-one had cancer of any kind, of course, but the fact of life is we do. I want as many do, to help pay back the time and effort and research that has gone into the amazing surgeries and mouth reconstructions I had. That I can smile and eat well again is testament to the wonderful work of my team and their integration of allied professionals too. I have written posts about how many helped get me well again. Now, it’s onward….and to say I am glad to be an Ambassador for Beyond Five is an understatement. It is an honour and a privilege to be in this new role.

I want to do the role justice, and help others as I too have been helped.

Thank you to the Board of Beyond Five for entrusting me with this role as your Ambassador.

Denyse.

Joining with Sue and Leanne here for Midlife Share the Love and with Leanne here for Lovin Life link up.

 

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Two Steps Forward. One Step Back. My Cancer Recovery Update. 2018.126.

I am dedicating this post to the memory of a lovely woman whose life was cut too short by cancer. Chelsea, my friend Leanne’s step-daughter lived life to the max. Cancer may have been ‘in her’ but cancer did not take her spirit nor her love of life…and for her family including her husband and your daughter. My shared experience with Chelsea was that we were both patients of Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and because of that connection I wrote one of the Letters to Chelsea Leanne mentions on her blog.

Thank you for sharing the love and the life of Chelsea dear Leanne.

 

Two Steps Forward. One Step Back. My Cancer Recovery Update. 2018.126.

Update to update: even though I have outlined what was disappointing to me in this post which was an event from last weekend it has also taught me more about my capabilities in eating than I knew. I like many had tended to think eating with new teeth in my gums would be ‘back to what it was’. Not so, and I am now being more realistic and flexible.

Yesterday, 30 November, I turned 69. I had a wonderful and low key birthday celebration at a morning tea for two with my dear husband. We chatted, ate well, had our favourite drinks – small latte with an extra shot for me and English breakfast tea for him. Afterwards we wandered through the grounds of this lovely nursery, bought a plant each and came home to a relaxing afternoon spent at home. It really was just as I would have liked.

Except for this:

  • it has taken me sometime to adapt to some extra teeth added to my own on the lower jaw and I am very conscious of how much ‘saliva’ escapes and am constantly wiping – especially if I am talking…and drinking/eating. But with my husband or by myself I just get on with the ‘tidying up’ and enjoy what I can
  • I know my upper lip is shrinking in. I accept that. But, did you know you cannot ‘blow out the candle on your cake’ unless you get much closer…and I also cannot drink with a straw as there is no vacuum made in my mouth
  • I have a small but significant pain area in my….index left hand finger…the dominant one..the one where I write, draw and play. I have had pain in the tip of it before, as there is significant arthritis in the joint below. But not as bad as this. Our G.P. could not see anything affecting it from the outside, so he advised anti-inflammatories for a few days.
  • both of the above are so small, in the overall scheme of things I know, but I am writing about them (not using the left index finger!) because they have both given me cause for concern today especially.

Out Socially for Lunch.

  • Last Monday I had lunch at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and was asked what I could eat. I nominated a simple cheese white bread sandwich and a lemon slice I had tried there before. Whilst I did not eat more than half of the cheese sandwich, I managed and did not feel as self-conscious as I thought. I also took my leftovers home! Win.
  • Today, I ventured to a local large club for a Christmas lunch get-t0gether with the Head and Neck Cancer group I am in. It was the first time I have gone out for anything other than coffee and cake. I gave it my best shot. It is a very friendly group and I did get to know people more today in this social setting.
  • What I found though was a reality check for me about my current status in recovery as a Head and Neck cancer patient.
  • Knowing I ‘could’ have taken the easy way out and ordered a safe coffee and cake that I knew I could handle, I decided to join in and actually have lunch! Remember I have only ever eaten a meal at home for over 2 years.
  • At the ordering desk, I asked for a small meal: I could see a baked dinner was on offer and was pretty sure I could manage some meat, potatoes, pumpkin and grave. “No”. Sorry,  we do not do small meals on Saturdays. “Can I have just one slice of meat with a couple of the vegies?” “No”. No offer of a kids’ meal (I think they would have refused that too) so I asked could I have just the potato and pumpkin and gravy. “Yes”.
  • OK. I thought, well this is a lesson. Not everyone ‘gets what they think they can’ and also maybe this establishment does not cater for people with different needs. And, I stayed quiet about it. I was a guest. Everyone else at the table was either way down the cancer recovery trail than me or could find foods to suit them.
  • I could eat one half of each vegetable and then as it takes me a while, it got cold. I had leftovers and asked if I could take them home. “No”.
  • I went and got a coffee later, no cake, chatted some more then drove home and ate….some lunch.

Why Write This?

  • It helps me to process it and maybe others who know what I am talking about can understand
  • The fact that I may have given myself something creative to do over the past 3 days as I needed to has not helped my mood much. I really miss using my finger.
  • I am hopeful, that by being patient and having the meds it will come good. Or I will go back to the G.P.
  • I am concerned I over-expect of myself, so writing this is helping me process
  • Maybe I just needed to ‘get it off my chest’ as they say!
  • It is not a post where I am wanting any sympathy but I did get insight into a world out there today that, in some respects, has no flexibility to meet special needs
  • I also know people face this as a challenge every.single.day
  • I am wondering if my ‘reaction’ was a bit of an over-reaction to a day which I had wanted to go well, and in terms of socialisation it did.
  • But it came up short for me, the head and neck cancer patient getting used to eating again in a regular environment, and so I wonder if I need to be more prepared for the situations I place myself in as I change from ‘no eating’ to ‘limited eating’ to ‘regular eating’.

It feels like two steps forward and one step back….but probably it is more like five steps forward and maybe one step back!

And maybe I will take a little container of my own next time for left-overs!

Thanks for reading!!

Denyse.

P.S. It IS most unusual for me to post on a weekend but for my emotional health I am…and I already feel better for writing it out. THIS is why I blog!!

Linking up with Leanne here for Lovin’ Life on Thursday…sending love to Leanne and her family. xx

 

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November Notes #5. 2018.125.

November Notes #5. 2018.125.

I went to a million (give or take) in-service courses as a teacher/principal.

I think they are called “professional learning” now and I also know they “count” towards accreditation each year.

I also devised and delivered many as both a teacher and University tutor and Adult Educator.

So what is this about in relation to my final November notes?

It’s how my personal development was & is enhanced by having cancer.

I am aware I have written at some length about the processes I have learned behaviour-wise and they are here, on the page “Denyse and Her Cancer Story”.

What I will do now is write about my changes in behaviour and attitude and how this can be linked to my cancer diagnosis. To make it easier and for me to see the changes, it will be in photos.

  • I gained independence
  • I became much less anxious and fearful following my diagnosis and subsequent BIG surgery
  • I tried new things with greater ease than ever before
  • I knew that to follow the processes and trust in the professionals, I would be OK.
  • I sometimes had to challenge the negative voice inside that wanted it all “done and now”
  • I found calm in more ways than I realised: particularly by going outside, into nature and doing art.

And then more:

  • As I already knew from the experiences of ‘exposure therapy’ the more I did the more I could do with increased confidence
  • Things do not occur linearly nor with ease and of course there were (still are at times) so tears that spill over and some worries
  • What is different now is how quickly I recover and re-group
  • It feels so much better for me to be a calmer person who is less afraid to travel, meet up with friends old and new and see greater times ahead
  • I can also put the “cancer voice” back in its box with relative ease by using my thinking strategies well.
  • I no longer try to ‘case manage’ anyone else’s behaviour.
  • I accept with great assurance that not only am I doing the best I can, so are most people
  • I am much more likely now to reach out a hand in friendship and care rather than recoil because of the anxiety and fear based on social engagements and effects of IBS.

And this is why and how having cancer helped me grow. It is a learning process of course. However, I am loving how my life is now and what I have gained back from this past 18 months living with a cancer diagnosis.

There is such a phenomenon called Post-Traumatic Growth. Article can be found here.

This resonates with me:

Types of personal growth

People may experience different types of change while coping with cancer, including:

  • Improved relations with others. Living with cancer may increase feelings of closeness or intimacy with family or friends. It may make it easier to connect with others who have had a traumatic event.
  • New life experiences. Having cancer may change your priorities, causing you to make different life choices. You may be motivated to make a career change, overcome a fear, or fulfil a life goal.
  • A greater appreciation for life. A cancer survivor may have an increased regard for life’s value or a new sense of vulnerability to death. This awareness may help you appreciate the world in new ways.
  • A sense of personal strength. Living with cancer can help you develop increased mental strength and a sense of empowerment. You can be proud of what you have accomplished.
  • Spiritual development. Some people living with cancer find they gain an increased interest in practicing religion or adding spiritual depth to their daily lives.

Having post-traumatic growth does not mean that you have completely overcome the stress and other feelings about having cancer. Growth and suffering can happen at the same time. In fact, most people who report post-traumatic growth also report having struggles. A person may grow in one area of their life and not another, or in a number of areas at different times.

I have been incredibly fortunate of course to have the surgeries and treatments and I never downplay cancer but as an educator I know what it has taught me and continues to teach me.

Have you had experiences that have changed part of your life and your outlook?

Please share!

Denyse.

Joining in with Leanne for Lovin Life linky here.

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