Wednesday 22nd May 2019

Musings On 2 Years Of Living As A Head & Neck Cancer Patient. 56/2019.

Musings On 2 Years Of Living As A Head & Neck Cancer Patient. 56/2019.

I have written frequently over the last two years about my diagnosis with a rare head and neck cancer. You can find the many posts, and ones where I have shared on other sites here. I keep the posts at the top of my blog’s home page to help any other head and neck cancer patients and their families.

Musing One.

What has happened this month?

I am a memory-keeper and in some instances that can be good, others memories remind me of not-so-good times. As May 2019 drew closer, so did the second anniversary of my head and neck cancer diagnosis. I sensed that I needed to mark it in some ways, and that was through writing starting even before May. I also used my creative side and constructed a big mandala documenting every day since diagnosis.

I did these to help me through and to show, when I shared, what the experience was like for me.

Thanks to this blog, and a facebook page along with instagram I got some caring comments and support on-line which I have always found helpful.

What I have also found is that I am the only person who really remembers the lead-up to that morning on Wednesday 17 May ’17 and then how it affected me afterwards.

I guess, “my” cancer is like any life experience that we have as an individual. It’s mine. Yes, I share. (some might think over-share: sorry!) And my dear husband “knows” the stories as he has experienced them alongside me. However, he is  was my carer and now that I am as independent as I can be, I am “the loved wife” in our long marriage. That’s great.

On my 69th Birthday 2018

Musing Two.

How has the lead-up to the anniversary been?

I thought it was good. It was like box-ticking and I felt good doing that.

Remembering what I experienced with the tests before the diagnosis. Ok. I remembered but did not over-think it.

The weather and the dates changing on the calendar also reminded me but again, I was feeling pretty good.

I had two hurdles, if you will, and they were the visit to my Prosthodontist on May 13 and to my Head and Neck surgeon on May 21. These were of concern in a way because at my last visits to each (three months earlier) there was talk of a possible fifth surgery to ‘fill out the top of my mouth.

I can tell you now, dear reader, the prospect of the surgery did not concern me nearly as much as the recovery from it…the LONG time with no top teeth and then more time with getting the mouth healed enough for a prosthesis. I have just had 8 delightful months being able to EAT again and that would be tough. Of course, the smile would change…ok.

December ’18

Musing Three.

What actually eventuated.

Visit to the Prosthodontist.

Dr Deshpande asked me about pain levels. Pain comes and goes in my mouth where it has all been reconstructed and I told him a few weeks earlier it was significant. However, as it settled I did not need to call him. I was much more confident about those calls than I ever was in 2018. He examined the upper prosthesis, the gums, and where the abutments are in the gums. Yes, there was some tiny more skin growth but nothing to be concerned about at this stage.He did a small clean around the abutments and told me what I had been doing every day was going very well and the gums were in good health. Phew. Using the waterpik twice a day was a key element. He showed me around the inside of my mouth and his nurse videoed it as best she could as he explained it all. He is so patient and very thorough and professional. After taking lots of close-ups inside my mouth he told me his view that my surgeon would be unlikely to want to do more re-construction because the skin area of concern back in January/February had not changed. Back for my check up 16 July.

Fistbump! Photo of “us” knowing each other in this professional setting for 2 years.

 

Visit to the Head and Neck Surgical Team.

This was on Tuesday 21 May. Both he and his nurse were delighted to see me and it wasn’t just because I brought cupcakes I had made. They can see a different me emerge I guess, and someone who has taken on an Ambassador role to work towards helping head and neck cancer awareness and both Professor Clark and Sr Froggatt are foundation members of Beyond Five. Again my mouth was examined and as I recalled the words of my last visit “I am a cancer doctor, so I AM looking for cancer” and it all seemed fine I was OK. He decided any choice about more surgery would be determined by what happens inside the mouth. “Could get worse, better or stay the same”. And now would not be in my best interests to do this. Phew. However, I also learned that the interval till my next visit is 4 months, not 6. And that I will require some CT scans as baseline ones. This was a wee bit threatening to my equilibrium but as I do, I went along following instructions. Before I left, I asked some questions about my mouth: here are the answers.

  1. the tightness will remain up top as so much more has been added for the re-construction than a normal mouth would have
  2. sniffing is part and parcel of having the nasal area invaded quite a few times…sniff and manage!
  3. dry top lip probably from not being able to seal off my mouth
  4. need for a new upper prosthesis? “If it ain’t broke, you don’t fix”

Then there was this. “A Photo with Denyse with her Badge on.”

Hugs and farewells and I will be back to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to have a check up on September 24.

Musing Four.

When having cancer is a reality that I am reminded of every time I visit Sydney for cancer treatments.

Westmead.

Where I see the prosthodontist. I lived in western Sydney and had never been to the Dental part of the hospital until May 24 2017. Since then I have been 37 times. Each time could be lengthy and required patience from me in spades. However, there were some visits that were emotionally bumpy and Dr D and O handled my state of health brilliantly. When I was there recently, the lady of the front desk said “Denyse, we are like family”.

That was lovely. I would not have met so many kind people there without a rare mouth cancer, and where the expertise was right there. Someone working alongside my surgeon in each surgery. Wow. Talk about fortunate.

Camperdown.

Specifically Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, slap back in the midst of Sydney’s major health precinct on Missenden Road. Sydney University on one side, Royal Prince Alfred on the other, and new buildings mixed with the historical on either side.

This is where I first met my professional team one day after being told I had cancer.

I had my husband with me of course. He was (and is) the patient man by my side. So, I recall, being there for the first time, seeing this amazing purpose-built cancer centre which had come from the vision of Dr Chris O’Brien who was on our telly as part of the reality series R.P.A. Such a professional and friendly head and neck surgeon with heart. I sensed I was in the right place WITH the right people straight away. Finding out later that my surgeon had trained under Chris O’Brien made me feel even better about what was ahead. And so Lifehouse was where I had the first BIG surgery and stayed for 10 days in July 2017, then further day surgeries in November 2017, February 2018 and May 2018. Follow ups too mean I have been there 12 times.

Musing Five.

IF I did not have cancer here’s what I may have missed in my life….

  1. the opportunity to take on new information and run with it. I learned I can deal with more than I ever imagined.
  2. getting to know people from the health fields who amaze me with their professionalism, the wealth of knowledge, their compassion, their skills and their genuine humanity
  3. being able to recover as quickly as I did from the decline in my emotional health which was ‘strangling my enjoyment of life’ from 2014 to mid 2017
  4. meeting people from all walks of life: in real life and on-line, a facebook group in New Zealand is an amazing space,  who have also been diagnosed with head and neck cancers: Yet, I still have not met anyone that has had mine exactly: Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Upper Gums & under Top Lip: no risk factors of smoking or alcohol: rare of rare ME.
  5. the many ways in which I could grow and change to become ‘the Denyse’ I wanted and needed to be again: strong, positive, confident
  6. sharing my story of this cancer and being able to offer help when asked to others with head and neck cancers
  7. becoming someone with a role to play in terms of education and awareness of head and neck cancers working with Beyond Five. The charity to support patients, carers and family members with information, videos, print-outs and connections to local support groups as those affected with head and neck cancer need support “beyond five” years of the traditional
  8. to take more time to actually enjoy what is rather than be longing for what’s next. I add, this is me as a definite “w-i-p” because it requires constant reminding from me to me
  9. a greater appreciation for those who have been part of my life and have added their emotional and other support to me over the internet, phonecalls and visits, along with cards and gifts. I have been spoiled!
  10. to take what I have experienced and give back. I will return to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse on Monday 3 June 2019 to be in the audience to listen to my professional head and neck cancer team talk of what working with and learning from Chris O’Brien was like. This week marks 10 years since his early death due to cancer.
  11. to look at the posters and information about how Chris O’Brien Lifehouse came into being and thank the governments of the day for helping it happen. Chris was well enough to know it would be constructed but his wife Gail took over his role after his sad demise.
  12. becoming part of the community at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse even though I am not there much physically, I donate materials to the art program, I wrote a blog post for their website and I have been in a couple of other site’s telling my story including Beyond Five.

 

Musing Six.

Blogging & helping others works for me to manage my emotions relating to cancer.

I have a great group of on-line supporters who have helped carry me through this story or journey as I call it. I prefer not to use war-words like warrior and ‘beating cancer’ as I also know not everyone does. I have already known of two young women die in the past two months from cancer. Not head and neck but cancer. So it does ache to even talk about that. I know though that we have many people helping with fund-raising to support cancer research and I won’t name any others than these as they are close to my cancer-heart.

The Big Hug Box. I started making some bookmarks for Lisa to include in the Big Hug box back in 2018 and loved contributing to her charity started because as a young mum just diagnosed herself with a rare cancer, she knew patients like her could use a BIG hug. For more about Lisa’s work go here.

Beyond Five. For Head and Neck cancer patients, family and friends. This is a website and offers lots to help. It continues to grow and change but with no government funding, some donations by companies in related fields and one part-time business manager, a fund-raiser began for them in 2018 called Soup for the Soul. Soup is often a food that patients with head and neck cancer can manage and it is comforting. Soup for the Soul is already live and I have a Virtual Soup for the Soul page here. More about that as we get closer to World Head and Neck Cancer Day on 27 July.

Writing my story has helped me manage emotions, experiences and responses well. I am indeed going well two years AFTER my cancer diagnosis. Thank you for being here to read about it.

Denyse.

 

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Confidence is. 19/51.#LifeThisWeek. 50/2019.

Confidence is. 19/51.#LifeThisWeek. 50/2019.

I have TOO many “C” words on my mind. I have: cancer, confidence, contentment, courage….and YES, I write a post based on confidence rather than contentment…so, given it’s optional prompts here, I shall leave as is! Who gets her own prompt incorrect? Me! More on my mind that I thought. 

There is a part of me that is ‘fake it till you make it’ in terms of my outgoingness (is that word?) because I seem to be able to join in or initiate conversations with people I do not know or those I am getting to know.

Yet, behind this, can be a very self-critical voice telling me all kinds of nonsense and back in February 2019 I wrote here about the Big C(onfidence) and Me.

By the time I finished that post, I came up with this. I have re-written it here, with comments/photos, to indicate I now think I know for me, what:

Confidence IS.

From February 2019:

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.

Having fun smiling at my husband after his daily photo-taking of me for social media

  • 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.

Out for a coffee, reviewing my new Ambassador role and journalling….

 

  • 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.

Stopping to take Autumn tree photos and including me now!

  • 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!

Now “that” for me is Confidence!

I have days when I am ‘not as confident as I like’ but they are far fewer now.

Something to note for this week and next: as you read this on Monday morning 13 May I will be sitting in the prosthodontist’s chair  at Westmead after a few months without seeing him and H O P I N G all will be well inside my mouth. Then on Friday 17 May I will remember it was 2 years ago I heard from the oral surgeon that cancer was found in my gums…onto Tuesday 21 May and I am attending a meeting at Beyond Five as part of my new Ambassador role and then, drum roll…..seeing my head and neck surgeon for my 3 month (2 years done!) cancer check. Whilst I look forward to all of these events I do not know the outcomes so a little bit of unease can form yet I am confident in myself to deal with whatever comes up and to know I am in the best care possible. 

What about you?

Denyse.

Linking here on Mondays with Kell for Mummy Mondays.

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!

Next week’s optional prompt: 20/51.  Share Your Snaps.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

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Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

 

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Courage Is. 48/2019.

Courage Is. 48/2019.

I guess that when it comes down to it, courage is whatever it means to you.

I know I have had to draw on courage in recent years since having cancer and also being anxious during the time of retirement transition.

Each time I did something, as they say, out of my comfort zone, then I was being courageous.

When I reviewed some of my posts and photos I came up with these examples of courage.

 

That’s me….In the prosthodontist chair at Westmead. Having a 1-4 hour session.

 

2015. We left the house we sold and all that was familiar to move to the Central Coast. My courage may have been hiding on many days but “we did it.”

 

In Winter 2017 before my first surgery for cancer, I visited here to connect with the elements and rejoice in what I saw, felt and heard. This was enhancing my mood to add courage to the mix.

 

I love a wave. I used to dive into waves like these. I am now older and some of my courage has been replaced by commonsense. You see, I am wise enough to know, that this beach has rips and ‘older’ people like me can easily be knocked over.

 

After knowing I had cancer and what the surgery would mean I took this pic to represent: one step at a time. This was one of my first examples of courage to help me manage my inner fears.

 

Nothing like a hand to hold when needing more courage. Perhaps also offering a hand to another to garner their courage.

 

2016 Poppy Project in Terrigal NSW for A.N.Z.A.C. Day reminded me over and over of the courage of so many who left Australia to fight wars in other lands. Some to never return, others to return with wounded bodies and souls.

And yet, sometimes we resist. We hold back. We fall into old habits. We know what we have to do but cannot.

Pema Chodron’s words come to mind:

In terms of courage, I think I also learn from meditation, stilling my outer self and paying attention to my inner self.

Of course, I cannot stop the thoughts from coming, but I can now let them go.

Take your time, and get into some times of self-care via a meditation app or just sitting quietly with your hands in your lap and your eyes closed.

Listen…..feel….and take your time.

Each time you do this, you are helping settle an anxious body and mind. It is courageous to actually STOP . Being courageous is not all action-based.

Only you know what is courage for you!

Tomorrow, I will outline my new Wednesday series of posts called Women of Courage.

Please call in again and see what this is about.

Denyse.

Today I am linking with Min for Zen Tips Tuesday here.

On Wednesdays you will find the posts about Women of Courage here and on Thursdays here.

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Self Care. Share Your Story.#2.14/51. #LifeThisWeek. 36/2019.

Self Care. Share Your Story.#2.14/51. #LifeThisWeek. 36/2019.

In the past seven weeks what has been my self care routine?

Pretty much the same each week.

I know though that I need to remember self care before I notice I NEED to do something.

It can be so easy to forget what helps me remain as well as I can emotionally because I can get caught up with achievements, busy-ness and striving.

  • Striving.
  • Achievements
  • Being Busy.

These are words I am deleting as part of my past vocabulary.

I have been a striver, an achiever and a busy person since… 1970!

Just noticing the difference in me has been interesting to say the least!

Here’s what I notice:

  • I am walking more slowly
  • I am noticing more around me
  • I am prepared to actually sit and just enjoy being relaxed
  • I give myself permission to go on social media for a while but to be careful to notice when social media changes me emotionally…then I get off
  • I can actually waste time. Some would be horrified at this but I now know I can!
  • I like to read books and articles I enjoy and sometimes learn more but I can also just ‘chill’ like this
  • I can go outside and notice what is happening in the garden

I am still enjoying my dress with purpose and having a photo taken.

I love going out for a solo coffee still

I do like catching up with people this way too.

 

What does your self care look like these days?

Are there changes you are making?

Tell us more!

Denyse.

Linking here on Mondays with Kell for Mummy Mondays.

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!

Next week’s optional prompt: 15/51 Share Your Snaps. 15/4/19

 

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Click here to enter

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Calm and Balm For My Soul. 27/2019.

Calm and Balm For My Soul. 27/2019.

A gentle post of photos and how I help myself achieve more peace and calm in moments that are not always wonderful.

Some of those moments for me are pre-surgeries, recovering from surgeries at home, distracting myself from being hungry when eating was hard, calming my mind during a procedure or treatment by listening to music or an audio book, reducing my anxious mind’s whirling whilst being driven by my husband….not about him, about me, and not being in control!

I know many people have tried some if not all of these, but here’s my offering!

Getting Outside. Even Into the Backyard!

Making Something Creative.

Having These On Hand & On the iPhone Playlist.

These are some of the major ways in which I help myself achieve a greater level of calm. It is not easy. I am learning all the time. I also use the Calm app program each night. I highly recommend trying Calm and then signing up. I got a lifetime offer last year which has paid for itself over and over. Not only is there meditation but there are master classes in many fields such as cravings. There are adult ‘sleep stories’ which are a delight to listen to and hopefully nod off under the covers. I recommend these but no-one pays me to do so.

This link takes you to Calm and there is a sign-up for free sessions. See how you like it!

There is no sponsorship on my blog. I only want to share what I find works for me. Then if I tell you about it, and you like it too, that is a win!

What are your ideas for calm and balm for your soul?

Denyse.

Joining here with Min and friends for Zen Tips Tuesday. Thanks for the link up!

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Two Years Ago: Before My Cancer Was Diagnosed. Pt 1. 20/2019.

Two Years Ago: Before My Cancer Was Diagnosed. Pt 1. 20/2019.

In this series of posts relating to my head and neck cancer, specifically (quoting from pathology reports after my 6 July 2017 surgery):

hybrid squamous cell carcinoma (in my upper gums and under my top lip) showing features of both verrucous squamous cell carcinoma and conventional squamous cell carcinoma

I am writing about the times of leading up to the day I was told cancer was in my mouth. I think I thought I had cancer of some kind for a year or more earlier. But, to the medical and dental profession’s credit, my cancer is both rare (head and neck cancer is around 3% of the population) and even rarer in someone like me with no risk factors.

There is another BIG reason I am writing this. I need to feel I can say now what I could not before ….because I did not know what was wrong! I thought it was my emotional health letting me down. Again. I did so much to help myself. Therapy, medication, being outside, doing volunteer work, having some hobbies, and more. NOTHING gave me an answer for what was changing in me and I was a nervous nelly anyway …but deep down, cancer was on my mind.

Below are photos of just some of the examples I did to help me emotionally. Mind you, they have indeed helped me still now that I know it was cancer but back then, I was following instructions!

To blog about this is helpful for me

I am re-living a time of memories of the ‘unknown’ and also one in which I was doing all I could in an incredibly challenging time in my life: selling up in Sydney, moving to the Central coast , getting sad about leaving our family and finishing my worklife after decades in education. Two years on, I KNOW the sometimes good that has come from my cancer diagnosis and I acknowledge that . It has also been, and continues to be as hard path to walk but I am doing the best I can.

If my post are helpful to others, then I am also glad to write them.

From my memory and using my word journal.

In preparation for my teeth to be deep cleaned by AB after consensus from the specialist gum dentist was same as 3 other dentists (2014-2017) & a biopsy on a white patch under top lip near gum: candida.
Fungalin did not help. Mouth rinses with nilstat did not help. Already gums were over growing top teeth (bridge at front) & behind on soft palate was constantly red & irritated for at least a year.
Instuctions to “clean better” … under an impossible to reach back of a bridge just served to make ME feel at fault for my sore mouth!

2nd March 2017

My dentist is AB, and I had been seeing me for around a year & knew my dental history. I was a fearful person but always had 6 month check ups & had gone through extractions, fillings & root canals. After I did not pursue allergy-test for nickel (component in the bridge) as AB researched the composition of 2011 installed bridge done in Sydney by HS, I was coming back to him for a ‘deep clean’ on 2nd March 2017.

“I took immodium as I was wary of IBS coming on my 30 minute drive from home to his surgery. I was so stressed about that & whether I could make it but I was also determined to see that I did.

Having done some practice “exposure” therapy in small bits, I knew I had to have this “deep clean” of my upper teeth & bridge as the pain, gum growth & irritation had been there too long.

For most of my adult life I had felt “the teeth troubles I had were my fault” as I had a sweet tooth. There was a part of me that felt guilty about my mouth!

So, I set off on the road the most physically anxious I’ve been but in control of the drive in my car. I had one loo stop then arrived at the dentist. I was so stressed that when I finally saw AB & his dental nurse I broke down. Through my tears I said how worried I’d been & how judged I’d always felt about teeth & I was grateful they were helping me.

They were very kind & reassuring & I popped in my ear buds & was ready to listen to my favourite story teller, William McInnes. His voice is like a balm for me especially when telling the tales from his life as a kid.

It took so many needles to numb the area at the top where I’d had gum over growth & soreness for almost a year now . AB was to deep clean & get right into the top area where my bridge sat containing my front teeth.

As I didn’t quite know what to expect & what the outcome would be I was naturally tense. However to my credit I stayed & got it done only asking how much longer (10 mins) & telling him when it still hurt (more needles required)

William McInnes voice helped distract me from the noises of water, sucker & instruments as I visualised as much of that as I could. From time to time I had to rinse out & the blood & water that were going down the drain shocked me.
I felt quite shaky when it was done & it took more than 90 minutes I believe.

The ‘good’ news is AB believes all irritation is due to left over cement from when it was put in & debris accumulated in spaces under the bridge.
I have candida & need funglin for a while. I could come back in 3 weeks for check up if I like & he hopes all will improve over time.

They were so lovely & kind even in their front office. I was touched.
It was a trauma in a way because I had to beat 2 things/ worry re IBS & treatment & outcome.

So… I did well considering how much it took out of me to get there!

Boy that was a huge exposure therapy success.

Quiet arvo at home getting over it all
then wanted to see the sky over beach as wet weather is coming.

Spent an hour taking it in & pics too
Soup for dinner & mouth actually feels bit better already Have a special floss to use.”

Making the best effort to ‘be’ what I did not feel. Two months before I knew I had cancer. March 2017.

Stand by for what happened next.

Denyse.

Joining with Alicia who is hosting Open Slather on Fridays now! Yay for being back…and a different day. Here is the link.

 

 

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Changing Me. 19/2019.

Changing Me. 19/2019

Changing me is I now realise ON-GOING!

It has been many years as I have mentioned in previous posts of living overweight and obese that has given me a skewed view of my image. My most recent post is here.

I am doing what I can now, to approach my thinking with:

  • kindness
  • self-care
  • words of encouragement

and seeing that thoughts are not always true.

I already use the Calm app for meditation each day, and often in taking a time-out will be mindful in whichever are my circumstances as I learn to be present and here….in the now.

Eating mindfully (and planning to eat) is helping me in these ways:

  • I do not follow those rules of ‘only concentrating on one food and mouthful at a time’ mindfully in eating.
  • I do now examine and observe my inner feelings (physical and emotionally) about the why and when of eating.
  • I am getting so much better at this!
  • I am also recording what I eat via a free app and it is Australian foods-based and gives me an idea of how well I am doing.
  • As a no-diet person, this feels good to have some control but also to eat within the generous range I have allowed myself.
  • I am using my fitbit to slowly up my steps each week by 500 steps  from a base of 6000.

On Tuesday 19 February 2019 I had my 3 month cancer check, and my Professor Jonathan Clark was delighted to see no reason for further surgery (yay for now) and when I mentioned my weight gain since ‘teeth’ he said “that’s good.” Oh, he means that is healthy and I am doing well! Of course now I get it…but as I chatted with his clinical nurse consultant who is just the best for me, she and I agreed that moving more is a good idea!!

 

On 23 February 2019 I posted this image and the words on Instagram.

One Year On.

As a person who was overweight to obese for decades, losing weight pre-cancer diagnosis & post cancer surgeries has been a mental issue.

I realise to others I look well, healthier and ok now.

I acknowledge I was 5kg+ lighter a year ago & pretty darned miserable at times because of eating restrictions due to 4 cancer surgeries & reconstruction inside my mouth.

I do think I did the best I could at the time to nourish myself but acknowledge how much I missed:

*chewing

*crunching

*biting

*savouring

FOOD from a variety of offerings! My shopping for over 14 months took me away from foods I missed biting, chewing, crunching & savouring.

From 21 Aug 2018 this changed. My upper prosthesis was fitted. It was novel to try the foods I’d missed: cheese on a cracker took minutes to eat. Then over time as my mouth & my brain handled the different foods better it was/is great.

Then, about a month or so ago the creeping up of my weight on the scales (once a month weigh in- years of measuring my worth via the scales is a horrid memory) was noted & I “have” to admit I knew what to do IF I still wanted to:

*like wearing my new clothes

*feel comfortable in my body

*enjoy all aspects & variations of foods I could now choose from

It was time to choose a better balance between foods that nourish & are enjoyable & to increase my movement each day.

This mindful eating plan I’ve made up is working for me.

I am now understanding the WHY of how I used food to deal with emotions & that it does not work like that MAKES so much sense!

Keeping myself active by changing my approach to movement. Upping the steps weekly by 500 a day,  starting at 6000 a day.

Most of all I want to add is how grateful I am to be well after nearly 2 years of oral cancer & that I can continue to learn best how to care for myself emotionally & physically!

Changing the voice in my head…. the inner critic…to low volume or mute whenever she begins to shout!

So have you ever taken steps to change you?

Denyse.

Joining with Min for Zen Tips Tuesday here.

Finding a place with Sue and Leanne here in MidLife Share The Love on Wednesday

and, of course, Lovin’ Life with Leanne here each Thursday.

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Self-Care: Share Your Story #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 16/2019.

Self-Care: Share Your Story #1. 7/51  #LifeThisWeek. 16/2019.

It is my plan this year to be accountable to my personal growth via this blog each 7th week.

I will post what I have done for self-care and what I may not have done for self-care and the why and how of this:

Self-Care.

I admit I have been somewhat confused about this as I tread my path through life, so I went to this source and liked the definitions.

What is self-care?
Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.

What isn’t self-care?
Knowing what self-care is not might be even more important. It is not something that we force ourselves to do, or something we don’t enjoy doing. As Agnes Wainman explained, self-care is “something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.”

Self-care isn’t a selfish act either. It is not only about considering our needs; it is rather about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, being subsequently, able to take care of others as well. That is, if I don’t take enough care of myself, I won’t be in the place to give to my loved ones either.

https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt-2/

Before I Really Understood Self-Care.

Way before I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer, I had quite a few years of being anxious and it was attributed to my (then) life transitions from active grandmother caring for grandkids, part-time teaching and tutoring roles, preparing the family home for sale, and then moving away from all “I knew” with my husband to begin our life in retirement.

This transition was so rough on my physical and emotional health that I lost quite a bit of weight (needed to anyway), had irritable bowel issues multiply and I developed a fear of travelling and more. This kind of thing meant intervention (I wanted it too) by my caring GP and eventually a great psychologist. She was relentless in her way of making me see what I was capable of doing and I admit it was hard at times, but she also gave homework which I (teacher-me) was diligent to do. One such exercise back in 2016 was to make a list of what I did for self-care.

It is an old-ish list but much of it pertains to me still even through the “life lesson of cancer”. I stopped needing the help from this psychologist about 6 months post my first cancer surgery and I only ever saw her infrequently then. Her work sending me ‘my work to complete’ paid off! I carried this with me and had it at the old house in my art room It was a good reminder.

Self-Care Post-Cancer Diagnosis.

In late 2017 after my first big cancer surgery I needed a LOT of time to recover physically and emotionally. Art continued to be helpful. So did keeping in touch with people via social media. I did, after 8 weeks, know I needed more. I missed seeing the ocean and the various spots of nature I love so my husband and I would take a drive to the beach on occasion. I also knew, by the end of October, I needed to ‘do something that was personal’ for self-care and that was when my #dresswithpurpose began as did my outing for a coffee.

At the beginning of 2018 I decided on 3 elements to my self-care every day.

  1. Dress With Purpose and Go Out For a Coffee.
  2. Notice Nature Deliberately Wherever I am.
  3. Make Something via Art or Create Daily.

And now, in 2019, Self-Care.

  • I am continuing to dress with purpose, have a photo  taken and go somewhere for a coffee. Sometimes it is to meet up with a friend.
  • I love my art and mandala making and the mandalas in particular have made a come-back as I knew I needed to get my mind into one place again aka mindful so this is very self-caring
  • I notice my body signals better when I am moving from self-care to self- indulgence. This is mostly related to eating. It has been a joy and a challenge to eat within reasonable limits and not keep on eating. I am s  l  o  w  l  y learning that self-care requires me to be self-aware.
  • The Mindful Eating book and CD and the Mindless Eating book and audio version are teaching me more about MY previous ways of eating than I ever knew. That I am doing this for me is very self-caring. The first post I wrote about this is here.
  • Being able to tell how I am slipping down the self-unkindness slope is even better. That critic that lives inside me has been outing herself a little too much of late, so when I realised, I thought about it and came up with this…..
  • We are all works-in-progress of course. I love that I am learning something new every day even about myself. I have found ‘old voices and messages’ come through when I am more stressed or tired.
  • To help my self-care stay on track I have added reminders in my phone in blocks of time about eating meals, getting off social media, taking time outside, reading and even switching off for the night. It is working well. Mostly. Social media…mmmm time stealer and confidence can wane if I spend too much time there.

Jade Harriman’s tweet caught my eye, and with her permission, I am linking back to her blog post about Self-Care. Jade has 4 pages of ideas around self-care. Do check them out! Here are six.

  • Taking some spending money and going second-hand shop just for fun
  • Buying a bunch of fresh flowers for a friend, neighbour or colleague
  • Going for a run outside
  • Spending time with an animal
  • Washing your hair with something that smells nice and drying it with care
  • Writing a card of appreciation or care for someone in your life

Thank You Jade

And in noting gratitude, I read this and it has resonated as the person “who was/still can be fear-driven’ …see what you think. I believe that when we notice and connect with what we are grateful for and about, then other matters fade into the background.

“Gratitude isn’t about ignoring everything that could be improved; it’s about shining a light on what’s already working, which creates positive feelings about now while enabling positive plans for later. In a very real way, gratitude is the antidote to fear.

Fear views events as insufficient, obstructive and unfair; gratitude sees circumstances as useful, empowering and ultimately positive.

Fear Implies there’s something to hide and run from; gratitude suggests there’s something to embrace.

You can only experience positive emotions and results if you are willing to be responsible for creating them – that means tapping into the part of you that recognises the good both in what is and in what can be”

Lori Deschene:  Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom For Life’s Hard Questions.

P 252.  2018 (republish) Rockwell Publishing.

That is it for now. Self-care is on-going.

What are you doing to self-care?

Denyse.

 

 

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Next week’s optional prompt is: 8/51. My Favourite Decade. 25/2/19.

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