Tuesday 18th December 2018

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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Living B.O.L.D. 2018.16.

Living B.O.L.D. 2018.16.

One year ago this week I was an anxious, hypervigilant and fearful woman because……of nothing other than what went on in my mind.

There  was NO real reason At ALL for this.

However, my mind over-rode the outside messages of safety and security and commonsense and left me:

fearful

worried

catastrophising

and really, really disappointed in myself for being like this.

Does this sound true for anyone else reading?

These sayings are from blog posts in February last year. I knew I needed help and to change my thinking but gosh it proved hard and I really had to move away from ‘positive affirmations’ which are now said not to do us much good at all… and WORK hard at the shift.

I did. I saw my psychologist about the ramping up of my fear to travel on the M1 (read about that here and here for part two) whilst she was kindly she did say I would have to do this work for myself. I baulked at it over and over. Why? It all seemed far too hard and my mind was leading.

But it took THIS!

In April 2017 my  teeth & bridge  needed extracting because they were causing me pain and I was sure something was wrong. Forward to the results of a biopsy of the gums in the front of my mouth in May 2017 where cancer was found. Posts are here about that.

From June 2017 until now I have gently and firmly led myself out of that busy and annoyingly bossy mind to be able to:

  • accept what is happening to me in terms of my health
  • understand that I have the inner capacity to manage my emotions now
  • give back to others who have supported me as I found my strength and confidence again
  • joyously proclaim each day that I am going well (even in some pain or discomfort it is OK)
  • be grateful for the big wake-up call to assist the change
  • MAKE the inner and outer world of me one which I am most happy to inhabit

This has led me to the intention I set earlier this year. I chose B.O.L.D.

Be Brave

Optimistic

Learning & Loving

Determined Denyse

and I had the ‘word’ engraved on a bracelet I wear 24/7 (other than hospital surgeries!) and it really has helped me move my old mindset to the new. This is something that will always be a work-in-progress for me I forgive myself readily for forgetting then congratulate myself for changing my thinking.

My “message to me” bracelet.

Sign Above Where I Blog.

Did you find a word or intention for 2018?

I understand that for some people they mean little and for others they like the process and the product.

Last year’s worked for me more than I realised. Thank you KINDNESS especially when I remembered to be kind to me too!

Today as this post goes live I will be in Sydney having my post-surgical check up from last Wednesday’s mouth reconstruction #3.

I will be glancing at my bracelet a few times I imagine!

Denyse.

UPDATE: I will blog next week about the outcome of Wednesday’s visit to Sydney to see Professor Clark and his wonderful Practice Nurse.

Joining in with Sue here and Leanne here for their link up on Wednesdays.

And because of the Theme for Leanne’s Link called Lovin’ Life I am joining in there too on Thursday.

 

 

 

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Bye to 2017. #LifeThisWeek. 1/52. 2018.1.

Bye to 2017. #LifeThisWeek. 1/52. 2018.1.

It’s New Year’s Day 2018 and for me, I need to move slowly into the new year before I let go of the old as I need to reflect and comment as I do. Some years we are so glad to see the back of, and others we may be holding on for as long as we can. In my case, I am in the middle as far as 2017 is concerned as its lessons taught to me have taken me further than I ever might have gone without those lessons.

Being the teacher and liking things to be done in an orderly fashion, I am going to approach this post month by month. Hold on, here we go.

Oh and it’s long. As usual I have a lot to say and photos to match. Grab a cuppa! Cheers and Happy New Year!

JANUARY 2017.

Memories of making a ‘word’ for the year: Kindness and deciding each week to have an intention as a direction in my life started 2017. I had begun the month on  a personal level at high anxiety status, and typically of me, wanted to do more to help myself. The ways in which I chose were not that helpful as I resisted (thanks brain!) strongly and ended up being stuck. Not helpful. In fact, harmful to my emotional health too. My mouth and gums were sore. Often. Visits, under difficulty for me thanks to stress/IBS, were made to my dentist and a periodontist in the hope that my mouth would be better after deep cleaning.

FEBRUARY 2017.

On the blog it was a great start with #LifeThisWeek link up and I was posting quite often each week. Over time, however, I know this was not sustainable and as different events in my personal and family life impacted me, I knew that I needed to self-care moreI completed my first #takingstock and it was replete with more negatives than positives which is a portent to what I was experiencing. Knowledge of a  family crisis impacted my physical and emotional health. I cannot share this news but to someone who feels her emotions it was a big shock to my system. Over the year as it has gone on, my responses to this have eased.

MARCH 2017.

If there is a way to try to explain what I know I was going through emotionally whilst trying to live intellectually then I would. Suffice is to say, that this month, as in the previous ones and back into 2016 I kept trying to discover not only what made me tick but to seek out people who could help me be a better friend to myself. I listened to a lot of people and found their philosophy on life simpleaccept what cannot be changed and that life is suffering. Simple to write but hard for me to practise.

Luckily I had have a very patient listener and teacher, my husband and his words always repeated: stay in the present. And all the while, my IBS was prominent, I could not leave the house for long. I certainly could not visit my father in Sydney. I was in so many ways stuck. Oh. And my mouth hurt. A LOT. So much so that I finally got the dentist to agree to taking my front teeth which were attached to a bridge in April. Before we go there, here is what I wrote about the first 3 months of 2017.

APRIL 2017.

For those who have read my blog and updates you may already realise the significance of what I was able to achieve, despite being fearful and unsure, in April. I had been told way back in January that for me to gain further skills in being able to take my thoughts  and challenge them by actions I would need to do some exposure challenges as I re-framed them. In other words, being dead scared of doing something can be fear-based and have no connection to the reality of the situation but still we can STOP ourselves by thinking the brain is right. By early April my mouth was painful all the time, it smelled and I had troubles even getting to the doctor I had found in 2015 at Wamberal. I knew I needed to do something and bravely I DID.

With the help of my husband who had already found us an amazing GP only 5 minutes from home who began his first consultation with me telling me he could help me with some meds for IBS. Wow. As arranged in March, on 6 April, I was the passenger on valium and some immodium to reassure me I would be OK, in the car when my husband took me to our dentist some 20 minutes away and I bravely (with 2 mini-breaks) had the painful bridge and teeth removed. The healing time took ages but the deed was done. I had done this. I later was able to drive myself to subsequent check-ups….and best of all for my confidence, to see Dad in Sydney. Go me! And I posted this.

MAY 2017.

I started this month with some trepidation about the continued state of growth in my gums so visits to my GP for the last time saw her GASP at the sight of them and promptly order CT and X-rays….and to the dentist the next day in early May for his opinion which was “biopsy asap” and the next day (Friday before Mother’s Day) for that to occur at the oral surgeon’s place on the same day as the scans etc. Phew, I thought the Monday after Mother’s Day when I was told all was clear.

Then…..it was the phone call no-one wants to take…..the news from the further investigation by the pathology team that squamous cell carcinoma was found in the gums. I have written about that here. From that day it was FULL-ON with trips to Sydney to see the Surgical team at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and to Westmead to the specialist dentist who would assist in my mouth re-construction over time. To say my exposure therapy was tested is no exaggeration! My GP and my dear husband did all of the supportive things they could but in the end it WAS up to me and through my tears and fears I managed!

JUNE 2017.

After the shock of May’s news, this month was surprisingly quiet but there was always an undertone of tension, anticipation and wonder about what the surgery ahead might mean and my future after cancer. We had visits from our family in Sydney and that was special as we had not seen some of our grandchildren for almost a year. I did find the most amazing support from  my blogging community and facebook friends both met IRL and those not. The outpouring of care for and about me was overwhelming at times but always appreciated.

I took myself out and about when I could knowing there would be few chances for independence once a surgery date was set. I also did some reluctant shopping (because of the reason!) for undies and nighties. I made meals in batches to help me eat once I could again. I went to my GP and psychologist who both told me they believed I was managing my emotional health well. My husband of course, helped me in so many of the not-so-good times. There were a LOT of tears and fears!

JULY 2017.

The month it all happened. I did wonder IF it ever would ….the major surgery I mean as it was a wait of 7 weeks. In the meantime the associate professor was happy to answer my MANY questions via email. This was because in the 2.5 hours consultation and planning for surgery appointment ONE day after learning I had cancer I could not think of anything then as I was processing what on earth it would be like to have this surgery AND to spend time in ICU and have 10-14 days in hospital.

The photos below and captions tell the story of July. Some of it anyway. I did have 11 hours under a anaesthetic and only 3 days in ICU but it took a toll on me mentally so I could not even add comments on IG and I certainly did not blog for two weeks. I wrote here and here for those who did not read the posts then.

AUGUST 2017.

My recovery time at home was mostly unremarkable as they say but that does not mean there were no times of a bit of anxiety as I feared any sign I may not be recovering according to the doctors’ predictions. At the end of July we went back to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for a post-surgery check up where I learned that whilst my cancer had been found in the jawbone it was the head of the team’s opinion that the cancer was gone and no follow-up treatment such as radiotherapy was needed. This was GOOD news but of course I needed to remember that TIME for healing from this surgery and needing more surgeries for mouth reconstruction were ahead.

My right leg, which was the place that gave my upper mouth bones and flesh needed regular treatment and care by the community nursing service. My leg was sore and it was hard to stand or walk much but I am a determined person and made sure I did what I was told but also had some initiative. Blogging sustained me and gave me connections to the world outside I loved. I blogged about my reflections about having cancer. Here and here. By the end of August my right leg no longer needed the boot and I was able to drive. I would still need covering of the wounds for showering and fewer visits by the nurse into September. Full independence was on the horizon!

SEPTEMBER 2017.

This was a GOOD month where my new normal became more aligned with my needs and wants. I had greater independence and by mid-September my leg wounds were so well-healed the community nurse visits stopped. I got the green light to have a shower without covering my leg wounds sometime later. I became completely independent in meeting my meals needs rather than my husband helping out. I made many mini-meals of foods I could eat for the freezer and me! This blog’s Monday link up turned one.

My GP continued to encourage me in my recovery when I had some moments of doubt and needed some professional advice. Needing to face my worries and fears I used my skills in exposure training to drive to Sydney, solo in my red car, in mid-September to see my Dad at Dee Why. He was amazed at my recovery and my appearance did not bother him at all. Maybe this is just me, I think. I had been sending him updates with photos and blog posts too along with chatting regularly. This month was when I returned to the beach to dip my toes in again. Marvellous!!

OCTOBER 2017.

Moving into this month with the beginning of the 6 months of daylight saving. I don’t mind it but I liked it better when it was for 4 months. I blogged about this and many other topics of course but also slowed down the number of posts per week in keeping with the the fewer numbers of link ups. Enjoyed linking up each week with Kylie Purtell for I Blog On Tuesdays, Leanne from Deep Fried Fruit, Kell from All Mum Said andAlicia from One Mother Hen . The blogging community is a very caring one and I have been delighted to make IRL and on-line friends there!

My link-up will continue in 2018 with each 5 weeks being photography-centred. Had one visit to my professor at Lifehouse for my first 3 month cancer check and to tell me there would be a second surgery in November. Bring it on, I say! Good friends from the last school I worked at visited me for lunch and it was wonderful to see them again.

NOVEMBER 2017.

I had been unwell from the end of October until early November with a nasty flu-like virus that was not the flu. So it kept me quiet and at home as I recovered. I must admit I was not the most patient patient as I had enjoyed my newly regenerated independence. Nevertheless I recovered to visit the specialist dentist in Westmead in preparation for the second surgery and then on 15 November we left home at 6.00 am for me to have day surgery that morning. It went for 2 hours and adjusted the free flap to expose the implants and add some skin from my right thigh into the area as well as abutments to my implants. Whilst I came home on the same day, the new ‘moving things around in my mouth and stitching them in’ hurt more over time and slowed the ways in which I could eat.

I kept myself distracted as much as I could and it was within November & into the next month that found myself again in terms of physical care and outward appearance. I continued to post photos everyday of what I wore and had fun choosing the clothes (and buying some new ones!) and accessories. I no longer saw myself as OLD, FAT and  having CANCER. I saw myself as many others do, through the eyes of pride, love and achievement and it was a game-changer. Turning 68 I donned a dress for the first time in 15 years and we celebrated my birth with a cake I could eat in the company of our eldest granddaughter.

DECEMBER 2017.

Almost the end of the year as I write and this will be published on the first day of the NEW year. This month has been one for reflection and for me to consider the many changes I have made for myself. I can say it has been on some levels harder than I imagined to deal with my anxiety and IBS but also easier in some ways to manage the news that cancer was found and what I had to do to recover from it. Determined person I am, I have been getting on with life and taking myself out for a coffee each day somewhere different in each week. I am finding I am good at finding bargains in the clothing department. I drove to Sydney to see my Dad and brother and that was good.

I am finally, as I wrote here, admitting all that was challenging me in my life as a fat person. One big event for me was to attend our granddaughter’s 21st in Sydney. Back in January I felt my anxiety was too high for me to manage such a trip, but I did with NO problems and the bonus was seeing each of our 8 grandchildren. I have missed this contact with one side of our family and it made my day to see them. I sure hope we get to do more of this as 2018 unfolds. We had a quiet Christmas Day as we expected. Then our 3 oldest ones visited for morning tea and my specialty of cupcakes were back on the menu.

ALL-YEAR ROUND……

The depth of love and appreciation I have for my husband of almost 47 years can barely be measured. He has endured calmly as I suffered almost crippling anxiety and fear even though he knew what I could do, I did not believe it for quite some time as I said earlier. His patience is beyond anyone’s I know. He is my best friend, my rock and the most loving person who, despite his discomfort and pain from physical ailments always finds time to help me and encourage me. His strength and wisdom and downright practicality cannot be underestimated in the recovery process for me. Thank you to my husband. Sending all love your way as always. Denyse xxxx P.S. He is my IG photographer for my every day style too! Love him for this especially!!

Well, if you read this far! Thank YOU for your interest and support. It did take me a few days to write and in turn it helped me recognise the significance of 2017 for me. So, the first post for 2018 is up. And the first link up for #lifethisweek is open.

I welcome you and hope that you continue to join in the link up each Monday! It stays open from Monday 5.00 a.m. until Wednesday at 5.00 pm (previously it was Thursday). On or off prompt posts are welcome as are old or new ones. The list for the first 10 weeks is on the home page here.

Denyse.

This post will also be added to Leanne’s Lovin’ Life Linky on Thursday.

#LifeThisWeek. 1/52. 2018.

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: Word or Intention for 2018. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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Courage, Exposure Challenges & Me. Part One. 2017.110.

Courage, Exposure Challenges & Me. Part One. 2017.110.

Background.

I have mentioned a while back here on the blog that for quite some time, IBS, fear of having to find a loo quickly, anxiety about travelling on the M1 to Sydney were all contributing to a heightened sense of anxiety and worry. So much so, that I found it stressful to have family here to visit and resisted entertaining people. This was further exacerbated very early in 2017 when some very hot days in NSW, seeing a HUGE line of cars which could not move on the M1 because of a major accident and my mind immediately imaging what it be like for me to even contemplate such a happening that I literally and figuratively FROZE with fear. My planned visit to my father’s in Sydney for his birthday in early January was cancelled. By me. Crying, sad and fearful me. I felt so guilty but I also felt incredibly relieved. Interesting!

What is exposure therapy, or as I like to call it ‘personal challenges’?

Here is some information:

Exposure therapy is often essential if you are to overcome your anxiety disorder. The cognitive behavioural treatment of  conditions such as: panic with agoraphobia, simple phobias, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress usually entails an exposure component.That is, you must subject yourself to the situations you are worried about in order to beat anxiety.
Although this sounds frightening, your therapist will give you the tools to cope with confronting your fears (e.g. rational thinking, slow breathing and isometric relaxation).

The guidelines for exposure therapy are that the sessions must be
* graded
* repeated and regular
* prolonged

Graded:
 Your therapist will work with you to determine what would be an appropriate first step; it should be difficult enough to provoke some fear but easy enough for you to be fairly confident you can do it. Once you can cope with Step 1 confidently, then you can move onto a more difficult situation and gradually work up your most feared scenarios.

Source: http://www.anxietyaustralia.com.au/exposure-therapy/

Shortly after my decision not to drive to see Dad, I summoned up enough courage to keep my next Psychologist appointment after I had been to my lovely GP to tell her what had happened. Rationally I knew what I was doing and feeling was not helping me but I could not escape from the rope fear and anxiety had wound around me. I also was NOT diagnosed with an anxiety disorder nor was I depressed but my behaviours and resistance to trying the challenge myself were making me (and I guess those who loved me) a bit frustrated but kindly not showing it much! I resisted even though I would tell my professionals I would give the exposure ideas a go in a graded sense it never seemed to me anyway, to be enough.

Some of the ways I was ‘convincing myself’ that things were going well. Deep down, I knew they needed to be better and only I could change that.

My Personal Challenges Getting Me Started. 

Recently I have been listening to Brene Brown on her Rising Strong – A Spiritual Practice CD and she talks of the stories we tell ourselves because our brain wants us to be rewarded with a shot of dopamine when we work out the story to fit the situation. It does not, however, mean that having that story makes you better or right. It IS just a story. I know I was telling myself many stories back in January to March. I know that they were wrong too but I could not even see myself being able to move further along the exposure challenge way. Until I HAD to.

Early April 2017. The BIG challenge after a few smaller but important ones.

It is no secret to readers here and Facebook followers and friends and family that my teeth, notably my upper jaw and gums had been giving me hell for about 8 months to this point. After some nervous but successfully personal challenges – driving on M1 to the Dentist, discussing what treatment I would need and back and forth, I faced 6th April. The day my hub would drive me to the dentist for a 1.5 hour extraction of both the bridge holding my 5 front teeth and the teeth themselves. I cannot lie that I was not scared. Not about the procedure actually but about whether my stress levels about IBS and worry of IBS would escalate. On the advice of our new then GP, I had valium and meds to counter any fears of IBS and with my hub taking me and staying in the same room with me, and listening to a CD of relaxation, I came through the biggest challenge I had to date.

How That One Event Helped Me Go to Sydney.

I drove home, alongside my caring husband, congratulating myself for having the courage to go beyond my fears and as it is said, do it anyway. I recuperated with relative ease and drove back by myself to the dentist after a week in a more relaxed and calm manner. It felt so good!  Then the so-called bigger challenge (exposure therapy-wise) was for me to drive to Sydney to see Dad. I do have to explain that it was because of ME I had to do this, not because of any pressure from him. He just wanted me to feel well and be less anxious. I did that drive, caught up with him, took him some meals and felt very pleased to have met the challenge!

So, there I went. Going well…but there was more, waiting around the corner…as regular readers know but I will continue next week!

Part Two Comes Next Week. 

Have you had anxiety or fears about doing some things in your life?

Have you overcome them?

Tell us about this.

Thank you for sharing!

I believe it IS important to share.

Denyse.

 

Joining with two blogging friends’ link-ups: Kylie here who hosts I Blog On Tuesdays and Leanne here who hosts Lovin’ Life each Thursday.

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