Friday 22nd March 2019

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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Appreciation in August. #1. 2018.69.

Appreciation in August. #1. 2018.69.

Update: This post is being shared to a new link up called: Zen Tips Tuesday here on Write of the Middle’s blog.

My post is about how I overcame. and continue to overcome my anxious thoughts and physical experiences, that are NOT wonderful, in order to live the best life I can as a post-Head and Neck Cancer diagnosis patient.

 

Thanks to my readers and commenters I am continuing a more ‘on the spot’ post and perhaps adding to my stories of what I would like to share.

In line with this title: Appreciation.….Today I am thankful for:

Opportunities to share my story about my head and neck cancer diagnosis and what has followed since 17 May 2017

  • My blog has, of course, been the main way of sharing since then
  • This year a number of organisations have taken note of my blog’s purpose in keeping readers updated with my cancer treatment and progress and approached me to write a post for them or to engage a writer on my behalf.
  • Both versions occurred: Here with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.…and Here with Beyond Five and most recently here with  Cancer Aid App
  • The connections I have made on-line in groups on Facebook, for example this one and then meeting people from a local group continue to add to my knowledge of what others are doing in managing both the cancer diagnosis and treatments along with post-cancer life
  • I was approached by one newly made friend who is also a head and  neck survivor, to write about what I do each day to both be active and busy but to be mindful in my post-cancer surgery times and into the 14th month of recovery

I understand that each and every person, with a cancer diagnosis or not, will find ways in which to live their lives in semi or full retirement.

I am only one person…who has found the transition to retirement an anxious one. I have written about it here  

However, knowing it was up to ME to make things work better for me each day, I used my instincts and skills…and some creative thoughts to determine this:

The emotional impact of cancer cannot be under-stated but I have taken steps to ensure my physical and emotional health are priorities. I do this by:

  • Getting dressed each day with purpose, having a photo taken and posted on Instagram. This keeps me connected and within a routine I enjoy. Losing weight before the cancer was diagnosed and keeping it stable while recovering meant I could celebrate with buying new clothes

From 30 Oct, I did an Outfit of the Day post…now into my 10th month!

  • Taking notice of the world outside – the natural one in particular – by driving the the local beaches and walking or just taking in the scenes with all of my senses or just looking skywards and seeing the clouds and patterns. I also post a photo with #noticenaturedaily on Instagram

The week before #4 surgery

  • Creating art or designing mandalas and colouring them and making patterns to colour and decorating cards. Whatever I make I add to Instagram with #createdaily2018
  • Completed Mandala

  • Being a sociable person and meeting up with friends when I can and even if I go out alone (which I actually enjoy too) I engage in conversation with others as much as possible. I have learned long ago not to be self-conscious of ‘no teeth’ in my upper mouth.

Coffee & Morning Tea. Can only eat 1/3 of a scone out! Messy.

  • Staying interested and informed via reading newspapers, commenting on others’ blogs and generally taking an interest in the lives of those I may have met or am still to meet via social media.

I wear this to remember I AM!

That’s my Appreciation in August for this week! But before I go: on World Head and Neck Cancer Day 2018 last Friday I felt a great need to visit here and enjoy the space, sounds and more….but to also give thanks for all the beach has helped me through so much since we moved away from Sydney in 2015.

What are you thankful or grateful for this week?

Denyse.

Joining Leanne and friends here for Lovin’ Life Linky each Thursday.

My blogging friend from Ballarat is starting a first day of the month linky called Good Grateful. I think it’s always a great plan to reflect on gratitude! In fact, I AM grateful to her for rekindling old blogging friendships recently which spurred me on to making a Blog Roll on this blog!

Thanks so much Caz! Her blog is called Room For My Soul. I wish you well and will be there for sure! 

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Eating With No Teeth*- Head & Neck Cancer. 17/2019.

Eating With No Teeth* – Head & Neck Cancer. 17/2019.

Update on Being a Head & Neck Cancer Patient. 

Oh I “did” have 8 teeth*…in my lower jaw and they remain. Yay for “some” teeth.

In the past year I know how far I have come as far as eating is concerned since my Head and Neck Cancer diagnosis in May 2017. I have been delighted to have an upper prosthesis of teeth now screwed into my abutments in my jaw. They were attached on 21 August 2018.

The Before and After of “Teeth Day” 21 Aug

OH HAPPY day….it really was but I had many eating lessons to come and I still do. More on that in a future post.

Day 1 post surgery to around Day 8.

Back to those months when I was post-first surgery. I recall being fearful of what it would be like not to eat but with a fluid drip and then a gradually introduced naso-gastric feeding tube my body was cared for. My mind did accept what it was until around Day 7 post-surgery when I recall feeling hangry. You know: angry because of hunger. So, when I was given the chance to see if my mouth (and brain!) remembered how to sip water and my throat allowed it to swallow…remember all of the inside of my mouth had been affected in some or many ways but my reconstructive surgery…it was heaven!

This:

Day 9 and Day 10. Discharge on Day 10.

This:

First meal in hospital. Then next 3 times I did not enjoy it much.

Early days at home. First Weeks.

I have IBS and with an empty gut receiving food for the first time in a long time, as well as the prescription of a far too strong for me anti-biotic on the morning I left hospital as a “your drain in your leg looks infected” ….my gut (and I) were just not happy in that first 10 days home even though I was starving. Poor husband did his best to please, and I also tried to be helpful but it really was a challenging time.

When my GP unravelled the cause of the massive diarrhoea episodes I had, he told me to forget any (hospital dietitian suggestions of ) liquid meal replacements, protein additives and eat what I could and felt like. The relief was amazing and coming off the giant dose of anti-biotics helped as the leg looked fine. The toast in these pics really wasn’t consumed but I liked ‘tasting what was on it. Avocado and soup were good friends, and also peanut butter eaten off the spoon. Jelly and icecream have never been a favourite but they provided so much mouth comfort with their smooth coolness.

The next weeks turned into months.

By the time the second week at home was over, despite my sore leg, I was able to do some meal prep. It frustrated me that I depended on my husband’s kindness and labour as I wanted to contribute. Eventually I worked out how I could have some say and also make some meals that would work for me. We mostly ate separate meals anyway because of his health. I also had many types of soup: homemade vegetable soup, pumpkin soup & tomato soup. For someone who was never a cereal girl at breakfast, weetbix and milk were/are my go-to foods!

Why this post about eating as a Head and Neck cancer patient?

I have written about my management of eating in two posts.

Part one is here, part two here.

Why I decided to do this more detailed one is for any  newly-diagnosed head and neck cancer patients who come here to read and view. Sometimes it is the head and neck cancer patient’s carer who needs some ideas. It can be very overwhelming and confronting when something as normal as eating & drinking (let alone speaking and swallowing) is changed dramatically via a cancer diagnosis.

I was fortunate in many ways. I had a limited time with only a naso-gastric tube before returning to eating and drinking as well as I could.

I know some people have long-term eating and drinking challenges following different Head and Neck cancers and procedures.

My health is good. I am looking to the 2 years marking the first cancer surgery in July 2017. What I know is that I may have to modify my eating again over time if more surgery is prescribed inside my mouth to enlarge the space between the lip and ‘teeth’ on upper prosthesis.

How To Seek More Information On-Line.

In my case, the words and written information from my Chris O’Brien Lifehouse dietitian helped me. I learned about the important of protein and fat in a post surgery diet. I also learned to value-add and I am grateful for that. For information on Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, go here.

Each head and neck cancer patient needs to be guided by their professional team.

The site and organisation called Beyond Five has a comprehensive page of information and this takes you to pages on nutrition with links here.

Beyond Five is the organisation I am working for as an Ambassador in 2019 to raise awareness of Head & Neck Cancer.

The stories of others with Head & Neck cancers are shared for here all to read:

 

This is a link to finding avenues of supportive care on the Beyond Five website.

There are support groups to help you as well. Here is the link, again from Beyond Five, to those in Australia and New Zealand. Correct at the time of posting.

Recently it was World Cancer Day and I submitted my story which was published here.

I AM a head & neck cancer patient

I WILL share for others to be aware

 

This post is going live on the morning I will be driving 2 hours to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, donating some craft supplies to their Arterie program, having the first meeting with Beyond Five for 2019 and then visiting my Head & Neck surgeon, Professor Jonathan Clark and Clinical Nurse Consultant & Surgical Assistant Sr Cate Froggatt. After my cancer check, I will be better informed about ‘what’s next’ and then drive myself back home!

  • UPDATE: the meeting went well and provided much for me to discover as I move into my role as Ambassador to Beyond Five, and then my cancer check went well too. My professional team told me the inside of my mouth looked better when they last saw me early January and no surgery is required (I always add, at this stage…as my journey has had some detours!) and I will be back for a 3 month cancer check in mid May. That will be 2 years since diagnosis!

Wishing you well, from me. a head and neck cancer patient, to patients, carers, family and friends.

Denyse.

Joining with Sue and Leanne here for Midlife Share the Love link up on Wednesday

On Thursday linking up with Leanne for Lovin’ Life here.

 

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No (ONE) Word Of The Year For Me. 6/2019.

No (ONE) Word Of The Year For Me. 6/2019.

Dear Readers,

In my earlier post here, I gave a rundown on my success/lack thereof with recent “words of the year”. I said I would be back with what I have in 2019.

Here I am.

I have no (ONE) word of the year at all. I have many and I need to share the story more.

Thank you,

Denyse.

If you have ever wondered why it is hard to come to a decision about something? I have been like this with the notion of a word/intention for 2019.

I have asked myself MANY times why and the response is usually because I want to cover all I need for me in 2019.

This is impractical so I will share the range of words here in this post.

Last year as I went through two surgeries for re-construction and re-modelling inside my mouth after my oral cancer diagnosis in May 2017. In doing that I had a significant need to remember to be B.O.L.D. that is: Be Brave Optimistic Loving & Learning Determined Denyse. It was (and still is engraved on a small bracelet chain I wear day and night. I could ‘touch it’ or read it to remind me of how I wanted to be even in the hardest of situations. Some of these included being told a 4th surgery was necessary and would be a much longer time for me to wear a stent inside my mouth to allow the space to stay open.

I kept my practice going of wearing an outfit, having a photo taken, going out for a coffee and sharing what I got up on Instagram and the on-line support was a boost I always appreciated.

Of course, I did not only rely on the bracelet and already had so much knowledge and experience from the even more emotionally hard days well before my cancer diagnosis. Even though I did not seem to be able to live as I would have liked then I was sowing the seeds within. Many of these titles were listened to in the car and in my then art room as I made patterns and mandalas (another coping mechanism for my anxiety pre-cancer) and meditate along with some of these mindfulness teachers.

I believed I was going well in many aspects as I could face the hard things which I wrote about here and here. I also had greater understanding of what it is to be human! We are not alone at all. My meditation practices helped. Not always. But anything which slowed down my critical voice and over-active mind was a good thing!

In August 2018 the event I had waited over 14 months for occurred. I had the new upper prosthesis of teeth screwed into my new jaw and gums. At last, I could eat more again! So exciting. It was (and still is) and work-in-progress as the mouth I use to eat is so very different to one that has natural teeth attached to a natural jaw.

3 months difference! I like to recognise special days

But I loved trying new foods. Until in the last few months my weight changed. Up. I am continually torn between eating for fun/enjoyment and for nourishment. Sigh. So, not being disrespectful to my professional team at all, I need to take personal responsibility for my eating. I am not 100% confident with that yet (again!) as I have had issues with being very overweight (related to using food for needs other than hunger) and I confessed all that here.

I value honesty and truth-telling and I know some people who read here tell me that they think I am being brave. Well, that maybe the case but I cannot hide. I tried that a long time ago and it does not work. So I must accept my truth is that I am vulnerable and sometimes look to food to be a salve for what I cannot fix. I actually do not want to be like this anymore. I am needing to find the words to help me through and they seem to be based in:

  • self-care
  • self-kindness
  • self-compassion

But even before I can do this well, I have to accept what my ageing body is doing (70 this year) and normalising that is hard! I thought managing cancer was all I had to do. Nope.

  • I have to manage my IBS symptoms when and if they appear,
  • I need to be aware of my regular skin checks, eye sight (I had a wee scare late December which turned out to be floaters),
  • my feet cannot embrace many shoes so I need to care for them better
  • manage my weight. Oh I was so hoping I would not HAVE to go there
  • acknowledge that some foods add weight & were what I used to calm me then I need(ed) to be able to embrace those emotions that are stress/anxiety/worry based …
  • and, in owning up to them, let them arrive, and let them go of their own accord.

This is what I have also learned in my mindfulness, meditation, podcasts and more.

So many wonderful people speaking on these CDs and each has helped (and continue to help) me.

Calm is my latest and the each 10 minutes has something of value to me to shift my attitude and be more at one with myself.

A word popped into my head two weeks back as I considered this topic (where were we….ah, Word or Intention!) and INTEGRATE stayed. I now have this word on a second bracelet and it may look a teensy bit over-done but as a visual and sensory reminder, with the tiny heart bracelet in between I reckon they will help me return to calm(er) waters.

The bracelets don’t stay like this of course but each faces me so I can see them and remember!

What now?

I continue to face what I need to do to live honestly and to embrace the emotions I dislike.

  • To this end, and because I had been learning lots about self-compassion, I have just started on the Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Kirstin Neff PhD & Christopher Germer PhD. I shall share progress on this in future blog posts.
  • I remain committed to something creative each day and am exploring different ways of using my small and medium art journal and finding that excellent. I am returning to mandala making. I have, to a greater extent, ruled out Tarot cards. I just am not in a headspace for that right now.
  • I think too, that I have been pretty distracted since Tuesday 8 January 2019 where I had an unexpected mouth check as more skin was growing and it came as a shock that it was done in case it was cancer. THAT in itself is another post. I had pushed cancer to the back and I was jolted back to reality when my surgeon said “I’m a cancer doctor”. Oh.
  • He also mentioned the possibility of further and extensive in-mouth surgery if the lip continues to have reduced room between it and the teeth and when he outlined what they might involve, I was pretty shocked. HOWEVER, nothing is decided yet but it’s there, hovering.

Every 7th week now on my Monday link-up the optional prompt will be Self-Care and I have added this for me and for anyone else who wants to share their self-care. 

I have written a lot and still there is no conclusive one word or an intention  but this is how it is for me in January 2019.

Thanks for reading!

I hope it’s been of interest to you.

It has helped to write it out.

Denyse.

Linking up with Sue here and Leanne on Wednesdays for Midlife Share The Love link up.

On Thursdays I link with Leanne and the crew at Lovin’ Life here.

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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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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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My Bookmarks & The Big Hug Box. 2018.121.

My Bookmarks & The Big Hug Box. 2018.121.

Regular readers would know I have a ‘thing’ for creating with paint, markers, crayons and pencils. In fact, this creative side of mine has bloomed in the past few years. I made a pact this year to create daily and I did until about a month ago. Here’s the post about my creations which focussed mostly about mandalas. I will come to the bookmarks soon!

I am someone who has learned to enjoy the process of creating as well as the product. Many of my mandalas have been given away or made into coasters and placemats after laminating.

Before mandalas became a thing for me, I created patterns in grids, patterns in free form and more. I just get/got a lot of relaxation and meditative experiences through taking my time, letting my mind flow and enjoying the sensations of adding colour to blank pages.

Then: I still am a product-person too! I began to make bookmarks using strips of the patterns for friends and family. I laminated them and it was pleasing to see them being used and appreciated by others.

But: I ran out of people to give them to…

Until: I heard of the Big Hug Box. Lisa Greissl, a cancer patient herself 3 years ago, wanted to help ‘give back’ and to raise funds for cancer research. I followed Lisa via the Big Hug Box and could see how special her “boxes of hugs via gifts and more” were. I wanted to help by contributing and asked Lisa would my bookmarks work in her gift boxes.

Her response was as joyful and positive as she is. YES. Emphatically YES. A bright, hand-made bookmark would be a great addition.

I loved my skills being helpful to others with cancer. In fact, I was stoked to see an Instagram photo from a friend I met via blogging…who sadly has cancer…but had a Big Hug Box given to her and one of MY bookmarks was in there. I felt like I had contributed to her HUG.

Above is a selection of my most recent delivery to Lisa: 200 bookmarks. I have probably donated well over 100 before this!  I admit I now streamline my making.

  • Firstly, the art is cut into suitable size,
  • I have sheets of coloured card which I cut to match The Big Hug Box’s dimensions. I need, in future, to make slightly smaller ones for the Random Hugs of Kindness Boxes.
  • I paste my patterned paper on one side of the card
  • On the other side I add a now-signature Owl stamp at the top of the bookmark and a little quote that is on the bottom
  • Somewhere along this side of the bookmark I write an individual “My Bookmark”, later I embellish that side with some dots of paint.
  • On the front, where the pattern is, I often add a star, or heart symbol sticker and then as Lisa suggested, a little message from me on a sticker: Hand Made For You By Denyse Whelan Who Blogs Here: denysewhelan.com.au
  • Then I place 4 or 5 into an A4 laminate sheet and start the slow but careful job of feeding them in.
  • Lastly, over time again, I trim each card and the group becomes  individual bookmarks.

I do take a few days to a week to make a group of bookmarks. I recently made 60 on top of these at the request of the Central Coast Cancer Centre Head & Neck/Lung Nurse who is part of the group I meet with once a month. She will be adding them to new patient packs.

One reason I continue to make these is that I can share my love and care for another person affected by cancer as I was. I do make a definite and  conscious decision as I create each one to send loving kindness.

Update!

A little while back, Lisa, who lives only 5o minutes away was planning a “packing of Big Hug Boxes and Random Acts of Kindness Boxes” morning at her place and I accepted her invitation to attend. There were a few of us connected to Lisa via friendship and/or cancer. I even got to meet the creator of Colour Me Well who asked me to supply some of my mandalas for cards she was selling to patients.

It was a heart-warming morning, and at the completion, we had some photos taken. Lisa then went to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse on Monday 12 November to deliver 40 boxes, ready for gifting to cancer patients, and donated by various groups and individuals. I was thrilled to play a small role.

There is much to be said from helping our fellow humans and connecting and for those of us with cancer even moreso. Do check out Lisa’s wonderful work on The Big Hug box and she is now partnered by Cancer Aid app (another start-up from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse). Do share the information about the Big Hug Box widely…it helps all of us.

Lisa’s story on Channel Tenhttps://tendaily.com.au/news/good-news/a180530vxb/cancer-survivor-gives-back-with-the-big-hug-box-20180530

Thank you Lisa for your initiative and hard work. I know it’s for the love of it too but with a young family and working, it is a lot that you do for many!

Denyse.

Joining Kylie for I Blog On Tuesdays here and Sue & Leanne here for Midlife Share The Love linky on Wednesdays.

 

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November Notes #2. 2018.116.

November Notes #2. 2018.116.

This month, 5 years ago, a unique and amazing event occurred.

I did not know how much this event would affect me 18 months ago.

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse: Comprehensive Cancer Hospital opened in November 2013.

I am incredibly grateful for the vision of both the late Professor Chris O’Brien OAM and his lovely wife Gail, AO.

Chris, who was to die from brain cancer in 2009 before the hospital started, had a vision based on his experience as a Head and Neck surgeon and then a patient with cancer. That there needed to be a place like a ‘one stop shop’ for cancer patients and families as there was so much to manage when someone is diagnosed with cancer without more added to the stress such as visiting as number of different places for treatment.

For Gail, on receipt of her AO said however, the award is a reflection of the community of which she feels lucky to be a part. “I could not be more proud of our independent, benevolent hospital and the care we give our patients,” she says.

Her words are a tremendous reminder to all of us of the importance of Chris O’Brien’s mission. With this award we are encouraged to strive for the best at all times, and to continue to turn your support into a positive force in the fight against cancer.

A chance meeting here I had longed for. I met the late Prof Chris O’Brien, Gail.

Even though I cannot be there for this week of Open Days and Celebration, I am there in spirit.

From my first, scared and very tense visit of over 2.5 hours on Thursday 18 May 2017, through to major surgery on 6 July 2017 and my excellent recovery in ICU and on the wards, through to check-ups and tests and then for more day surgeries on 15 November 2017, 6 February 2018 and 16 May 2018 it is always a rich and inclusive experience to be at Lifehouse. Of course, I have been back for follow-ups and to chat with people I would now call friends. Who knew that would be how I would interact with a hospital and having cancer! Not I!

This one session, held on Monday 5 November when I have to be at Westmead  to see the prosthodontist, features my Head and Neck Surgeon, Professor Jonathan Clark who was trained by Professor Chris O’Brien. How fortunate am I!

Jonathan said ‘he was stoked’ about how my teeth/mouth worked out.

Eventbrite for Organizers's photo.

NOV5

Innovation and technology in cancer surgery

Public

More here about the week of celebration, innovation, care and sharing from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
My little collage and tribute to wish Chris O’Brien Lifehouse congratulations on 5 years of helping patients like me!

Do you know of the great work done by the late Professor Chris O’Brien? He became, as his family remembers, the unexpected ‘star’ of the long-running T.V. documentary called R.P.A. That’s short for Royal Prince Alfred – the hospital opposite Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Thank you to you all at Lifehouse!

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne who also  knows a lot about the work at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, here for Lovin Life linky.

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