Monday 24th September 2018

What Is The Hard* Thing? Part One. 2018.91.

What Is The Hard* Thing? Part One. 2018.91.

Hard* as in challenging. scary, not easy, fearful, anxiety-making…but ultimately will or does help with personal growth, wisdom, satisfaction and sense of accomplishment …no matter how big or small.

The ‘hard thing’ is something I have had to accept and do if I want to move on or forward in my life.

There are times when the hard thing can feel too hard or even unacceptable for me to try to do or be.

Noticing nature helps me focus on “just one thing”

Here’s an example.

Last week I had an elevated feeling of anxiety/worry about my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) ramping up to let ME know what my thinking self was not aware of. That is, as I understand the mind vs the gut thing, that my IBS was ramping up because it sensed a fear situation happening.

If you have read here for a while, you will recall that I have really had to work via exposure therapy based messages and activities to make changes to be able to do ordinary, every day activities. This is the first part of the story and here is the second one.

I had ticked a pretty major (for me) life experience challenge box when I drove to Sydney on Monday especially to meet a friend for coffee and a catch up. Awesome and planned by me and I was so glad to be doing it. However, my gut rumbled and let me know:

 “ah ha you are about to get in the car and go down the M1. This is something that you have been scared to do because of IBS”

I refused to play the old IBS, crying, fearful game and instead, took some preventative action and had a successful drive, a wonderful catch up and came home with no ill-effects.

Go me. Right? Right! Until this…

The next day. I had found I was pretty tired from the physical and emotional effects of yesterday’s much wanted success and when I had my IBS back again AND needed to leave the house to go to the hairdresser, I did similarly to the day before, and gave myself the meds, the talk and set off. I was OK. Mind you, I remained somewhat on high alert and that bothered me because:

In the past, I would have had  the haircut, gone to the loo (again, to see I was OK) then driven straight back home. The place of security and comfort.

But something stopped me. These words:

Do The Hard Thing

Why did I listen? Well, based on my past experiences, I have often regretted being beaten  by the fear once I am home. On this occasion this was the conversation in my head:

Do you want to go straight home and then regret not going for a coffee which is your daily treat?

No, I don’t

Then stay, and sit down for the coffee and do something in your art journal so your mind & body  know who is in charge.

And that was how I did the first hard thing that day.

Next one was this. As I usually drive home from The Entrance, I stop somewhere close to the water and take photos as I notice nature for that day. Instead, I told myself to do another hard thing. I drove in a different direction, to Long Jetty, got out of the car, walked and took photos and a little vid without rushing at all.

This is now my locked screen saver.

These two instances might sound small to some readers but I know that I valued myself more highly for doing something that was out of my comfort zone on two different days as I know how much that helps my inner confidence and ways in which I manage IBS.

It is not the end.

It is never the end.

As long as there are things within me that are scary (to me) and may heighten my gut’s reactions, I am going to need to continue to do the hard things.

For too long, I have avoided hard things and that made me even sicker emotionally than ever. I do not want to go back to that space again.

Next week will be about the why of this strategy and how important it is not only to me, but those readers who let me know about their hard things in the comments.

What is the hard thing for you?

Is there more than one?

Do share in the comments.

Thank you.

Denyse.

Joining with Kylie for I Blog On Tuesdays here and with Sue and Leanne here for Midlife Share the Love.

 

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Six Month Check-Up…With Myself! 2018.56.

Six Month Check-Up…With Myself! 2018.56.

What is this six month check-up about?

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

Subjective? Yes.

Tougher on myself than most? I hope not. But I can be more self-critical than I probably need to be! I suspect we are all like that.

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

for the first 2 years: every 3 months. I have completed one year and really only had ONE formal check up because…I have been for surgery with my Professor 3 times post initial big surgery.

for the next 3 years: every six months. This assumes no symptoms in between checks. My cancer was a very slow growing one which was contained in one area. All fingers crossed that stays like that.

Let’s get started:

January  –  June 2018.

My Contribution to Our “2 Person Retired” Household.

  • cooking my meals which can be eaten with little chewing and are nurtitious and tasty
  • cooking and freezing meals that are adapted for me and suit my husband as well e.g. spag bol
  • cooking some add-ons for my husband’s meals e.g. my fried rice
  • making cakes. Lots of little cakes. Since discovering I “can” eat cake – with a teaspoon – this household always has freezer space for “little cakes”. I like ones with lots of icing – helps get the cake down, my husband likes no icing
  • cleaning the floors that require vacuuming each fortnight
  • cleaning my en-suite bathroom and all surfaces of shelves, sets of drawers etc in the house
  • ensuring the plants outside are watered and cared for – watering, moving them around as need be and pruning
  • grocery shopping that is specifically for me and some catch-up items as my husband does the main & bigger shop

My Self-Care Routine.

  • I would like to think I have this down pat. I do not. I sometimes do too much and wonder why I am tired or tetchy.
  • Balance of some kind is ideal. I am still learning and I can imagine many of us are too in our retirement years.
  • As someone who loved her busy-ness in work and then when caring for our grandkids and part-time teaching…but also had it affect her emotionally I KNOW this is something I need to do better.
  • What is self-care anyway….for me it is this: enough to ‘do’ each day for nothing to feel stressful and enough to ‘be’ each day to feel calm and in control of my emotions
  • I could improve my ‘going to sleep’ times and am already listening to some ‘sleep stories’ via my Calm meditation app which is helping somewhat
  • I need to remember I am not in a race for self-care or self-improvement
  • I am aware I need to think ‘marathon’ rather than ‘sprint.’

My Care For Others.

  • I am getting better at this one!
  • When I was recovering from cancer surgery in those months from July to November 2017 my physical restrictions and mental tiredness meant I could not do much at all
  • However, I now know the value of caring for and about others (without trying to be the FIXER or the PEOPLE PLEASER) and this, my readers, is a BIG step for me
  • I continue to learn about this – am I doing or saying this to ‘fix’ this person or something that can be fixed or am I doing this to show my love and support for the person as he or she fixes things themselves. A BIG one for sure.
  • And in saying that, I know my people pleasing has taken a back seat…even in the ‘boot’ of ‘my car’ as I continue to know the value of pleasing myself (not indulgently) by setting BOUNDARIES.
  • Who knew? Boundaries for me and noticing that may be my interactions with others are not exactly as I might have anticipated because of THEIR boundaries! Great learning this one!

My Physical Appearance Each Day.

  • If you have followed by blog since late last year and into 2018 you will know that, over time my physical appearance has taken on a new dimension
  • Before late October 2017 I was in survival mode as well as under life stressors including IBS and anxiety and a cancer diagnosis. This meant I cared less for my outward appearance as I was concentrating on trying to figure out how to help myself inwardly.
  • This, as it turned out, was not helpful.
  • Instead, I took a challenge to dress well each day quite seriously. It was a self-created challenge. I am not going to stop it as I know it helps me each day.

Summary.

  • I am happy with many aspects of my ‘progress’ as I know I feel better emotionally and physically.
  • I also know there are more challenges to me on the horizon but I have learned that I can and do meet challenges much better than I did.
  • All in all, I am going well.

I believe I have allowed myself, even writing this, to be vulnerable. I know I take more brave steps these days than ever before.  And yes, I have read and listened to all of Brene Brown’s work. She tells it as it is. Bravely. Words matching actions.

Have you ever considered a ‘check-up’ of this nature?

I thought it was a good way for me to review how things are really instead of giving myself a hard time about not making progress because that is clearly a bit of a fib.

I will be interested in your comments! Not about me, per se, but about the notion of a self-check.

Denyse.

On Tuesday this posts links with Kylie here

On Wednesday this post links with Sue and Leanne here

 

 

 

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Moving House Stories. Pt.2. 2018.42.

Moving House Stories. Pt.2. 2018.42.

A few weeks back I wrote my first part of Moving Houses stories here. Some great comments from readers were much appreciated as it seems Moving House is topic in which we can all recall our experiences. Thank you for sharing them then. This post takes off where the last one ended.

We moved to Sydney and ….here we go.

1978 – 1993. Kellyville – Northwest Sydney. N.S.W. 

Two teachers on a teaching salary could not afford to buy their first house anywhere near the coastal areas of Sydney. So, it was to the north-west of Sydney we went to search. That also made sense as both my husband’s and my teaching appointments were in the region. Many a time we made the drive from the remote country areas back down the hills of Bells Line of Road, to travel along (and past!) Windsor Road…Kellyville.  Never realised it would be home for such a long time!

Parents of one daughter, we were successful in getting a mutual society loan to purchase the NEW house and land for $44,600. My parents did put us up for some months while we travelled to schools until the house was ready to move in on 17 March 1978.

So proud to call this our first home…that we were not renting.

In the years that followed, and our family grew to include a son, we did some extensions. Above the garage became a second storey with master bedroom, ensuite. The garage was converted to a teaching space for my retired husband who tutored students after school. The backyard eventually got an in-ground pool after an above-ground one did a great job for some years. We held our daughter’s 21st here and she moved out of home that year. Our son, a teen, was living at home.

Suddenly (do not ask me why!) we wanted to do something MORE to this house but were advised that it would over-capitalise it. It was the era of “we can lend you the money if you have secure employment and a good deposit” and in 1993 we sold. For $225,000. We rented for 6 months whilst we BUILT……

1994-1997 Bella Vista. Brand New Estate (then!) Northwest Sydney. N.S.W.

My husband by now was sole trader in his business of designing, making and installing kitchens and cabinets. It was a builder he worked for who suggested we build. We engaged this builder who had an architect draw up plans for this original house of ours and as my husband was doing the cabinetry the house price was lower. We had purchased the land. And, of course, we added an in-ground pool while we were in a borrowing frame of mind…and the bank said YES.

Lovely house with beautiful fittings, a view over the park….

We moved in by January 1994 and our daughter, who was now engaged, left this house as a Bride. Parents of the Bride we were of course. We enjoyed parts of living here a lot. However, it was, unfortunately, somewhere we had to sell in 1997 due to my husband’s illness and business not being able to be carried out. Oh, there is one wonderful memory from this house: we cared for our now 21 year old granddaughter here for 6 months when I took some leave from teaching to do so. Her mum got as full-time teaching gig at a school.

1998-2015 Glenwood. An almost new estate between The Hills area and Blacktown. Northwest Sydney. N.S.W.

The move to Glenwood was bitter-sweet (for me). We had to start again as homeowners/borrowers as we were in essence, wiped out by the business losses. However, we got on with life. We had our family who cared, and we rented as we purchased a house/land package and moved in later in 1998.

This was from earlier days at Glenwood. When the house sold in 2014 it had a carport on one side, and driveway across the front of the house.

The years at Glenwood are tinged with sad times for family reasons and also many glad times. We heard the “grandchildren-to-come” news here and then welcomed them to Grandma’s and Papa’s house for play, meals. sleep-overs and many swims in…the in-ground pool! We made quite a few improvements which made the house very user-friendly for a now- teacher and a now-builder (again – for fun and family). I finally retired from teaching (again) in 2010 and with some casual work teaching at Uni and my small consultancy we were very comfortable until….

The vacant block next door was being changed to add a carpark abutting our side fence, the vast changes in the traffic around where we and our families lived was incredible, I wanted to cease all paid work, and the family told us they had new plans for daycare for the grandkids in 2015. we were OVER being Sydney-siders. We sold and were ready to begin our adventures as a fully- retired couple.

2015- present. Central Coast Region. N.S.W.

I found the move this time heart and gut wrenching even though I “knew” it was the thing to do. I had no idea that the physical move would play so much on my emotional health but it did. I was already quite stressed/anxious and tended to get IBS in 2014 but it worsened with the move. I have written many a post about it. However, I did make a promise to myself to blog every single day in 2015 and into 2016 and I carried that out.

Empire Bay. Southern end of the CC until November 2015.

This house was found before Christmas 2014 and even though it was higher in rent than we thought we would pay, we did because the house had air-con (not ducted) and it was secured. So much wrong with this place…for US. Yes it had great views but no comfort for us who should have seen we needed to be on one-level…and that ducted air was a must. We found that place and moved (again!).

Gorokan. Northern end of the CC.  Nov 2015 – April 2018.

Once we viewed this house, it was so comfy and like our Glenwood house I did all I could to secure it before it went to public viewing and we got it. Such a relief. We couldn’t wait till the end of the lease of the place above, so did the double rent thing just for the peace of mind. This house was somewhere we settled. We really did. In fact, the property managers told us a few time how happy the owners were with us as tenants. This was the house where I found out I had cancer and where I came home to after each of my surgeries. It felt like HOME.

We hoped to stay for a lot longer than the 2.5 years BUT the owners plans changed and they told us they wanted to move in by August 2018. As we were advised by the same property managers (we did not want to leave our wonderful real estate people) to go week  by week when the lease stopped in February 2018 it meant we could look at new places.

 

Hamlyn Terrace. Northern end of the CC. April 2018 –

BUT oh gosh that is tiring and I really had to think about how much I could muster the energy (even though my husband would be doing most of the physical work) to plan a move again. AGAIN. But, knowing I would be having more surgery in May 2018 it made sense to suss out a recommended house about 6 mins from where we were. And we did, and before there were any open homes, we secured it.

It’s been home for just over a month now and we have not unpacked everything deliberately this time. In the last house there was copious storage and we used it. We even set up bunks for the grandkids to come and stay but over time this happened once or twice. So now we have made…are making the house comfy for two and we are enjoying the recency of this build and the features.

That’s the story for now. One day…one day…we will be buying somewhere to live but we are not ready yet. I still need to be in Sydney frequently for my cancer checks and surgery. The area we are in means a day trip from where our adult kids and their respective children live is feasible.

Have you moved house much?

Do you like living where you are now?

If you HAD to move, what would your next place be like and where?

Tell me in the comments!

Denyse.

Joining with bloggers who link up here for I Blog On Tuesdays: here for Midlife Share the Love on Wednesdays: here for Lovin’ Life Linky on Thursdays. Thank you ladies for hosting!

 

 

 

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Learning To Deal With Uncertainty Via Cancer. 2018.28.

Learning to Deal With Uncertainty Via Cancer . 2018.28.

In the past four years I have been on such a long and hard learning experience.

Perhaps I am short-changing that time frame.

Possibly it has been since 2003 when I had to resign, for medical reasons, from my substantive role as a K-6 Principal.

However, in May 2004  I was deemed well enough to return to teaching duties only and that was fine by me because I actually missed schools!

In my working life in N.S.W. public schools from 1970 until 2010 I liked the certainty:

  • of the school day,
  • the rhythm of schools
  • and the fact that my work life was timetabled
  • and I could work knowing I had familiarity and knowledge.

I now modify the above by adding: no school day was ever the same and of course there were many uncertain times and experiences but they were all familiar and I understood them well.

In the years following my retirement from teaching in 2010 up to 2014 I decided that helping families learn more about transitioning to school would be good and set up a solo education consultancy. There was some certainty in this once I found a group of early childhood centres who were not only interested in my work, but would pay me a fee too. Win!

In 2013 I was fortunate to meet then Prime Minister Julia Gillard who thanked me for my work in education.

What changed for me and how did I HAVE to learn to deal with uncertainty?

Three major triggers during 2014 and into 2015.

  1. Deciding to sell our Sydney home of over 18 years, pay off the mortgage and other debts and move to rent a place on the Central Coast.
  2. Resign or down-grading my employment status in education: teaching at Uni, having my business and remaining as an observer for (then) NSW Teachers’ Institute.
  3. Leaving the families of our adult children and their children with whom we have loved and connected from 1996 to the present including daily child-care before they started school.

I have written about them before, but the memories of those times appear in my ‘on this day’ in Facebook and in ‘time hop’ so I see and recall them usually with a sickening thud to my gut. But then because it is NOW in 2018 and I am learning much more about how to manage uncertainty I am able to counter it!

Sign Above Where I Blog. B.Be Brave O.Optimistic L.Learning & Loving. D. Determined Denyse.

Where were we?

The rational and thinking brain does not  know why because it was logical back in 2014 and KNEW the decisions we were making to commence what felt like a proper retirement for us both were right. We needed to have no more debt. We wanted to live away from Sydney. We had been told my our family that childcare was no longer required.

The thing is, I found out in many hard ways that I had created a situation (or actually more than one) where my inner soul and feelings were in conflict with my brain choices. I spent all of 2015 trying to make sense of it and until a psychologist told me: Denyse, feelings take a lot longer to catch up with decisions and change, I felt I was doing it all wrong!

And in some ways I was.

I was ignorant of so much. I finally accepted the sadness and grief that enveloped me for that year. I actually thought things would improve for me when we moved house at the end of 2015 but it was short-lived. My brain was now on super alert setting and affected my decisions and my life. I tried medications (no, none helped) and meditation (a little bit helped) and walking and art too.

But it was not until I started learning more about the Buddhist way of living in the now, as it is all the certainty we know from teachers Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, and Anne Lamott  more that I clicked:

OH. I cannot control anything really.

At all. I can control my responses.

A big gap was closing in my learning. My husband had been doing his level best to enlighten me but I was not ready. Or, I was obstinate and wanted proof!

So for all of 2016 I continued to ‘try’ to accept things but then I would revert to the default in my brain and work on all the ways “I” could control life. This did not make a happy Denyse even though I felt I needed to look like I had things under control. Ha! My Irritable Bowel Syndrome told me in its very special way “no you do not!”.

Into 2017 we (my brain and my feelings) went… and matters worsened. And I hated how reclusive I became. I rejected ideas of trying exposure therapy because ….no control!  It was a to and fro between head and heart (with the gut in the chorus) until matters changed dramatically.

Late March – early April 2017.

I HAD to follow through with using graded exposure therapy to get my awfully sore gums and teeth sorted. I did.

It felt a bit better and when my new local GP met me and suggested a small dose of an evening anti-depressant from the ‘old school’ which would help ‘firm up’ my IBS issues, I trusted him and gave things a go.

THEN. May 2017.

I had a biopsy, I thought something serious was wrong in my mouth post teeth/bridge extraction and I was right. Squamous Cell Carcinoma in my upper gums and away I went on the cancer journey.

WHAT DOES HAVING CANCER HAVE TO DO WITH UNCERTAINTY?

Everything for me. I had to change so much in terms of my ill-founded beliefs that I could control my life.

Nope. That was a BIG lesson.

What I did learn, and have  learned every.single.day. since May 2017 is that I need to trust those who care for me and provide their services as they know more about this cancer of mine than I ever will.

This does not mean I surrender because no-one does that without thinking. What I learned about myself is that I can get through some very tough times (I did and have) because I can let time pass, let my body heal in its way and take the advice of those who are experts in the field where I am not.

Of course I ask questions! In fact, I sent off about 20 before my huge initial surgery in July 2017 but I had a much greater sense of security in having met the Professor and Associate Professor, the Prosthodontist and the Practice Manager. No-one seemed to mind my questions and it was clear to me, that by asking I was helping myself be better prepared for not only cancer surgery but for the relative uncertainty in the life ahead.

On Thursday last…waiting for the next part of the treatment. Selfies rule, right?

And now, into almost the fourth month of 2018 I am now driving myself to the prosthodontist appointments in Westmead and managing my physical and emotional health whilst doing so…and in between visits and surgeries I am doing the best I can to stay well and do as is required for my continued health.

I am letting uncertainty into my life as a gift for what it teaches me:

patience

courage

confidence

trust

I have said, more than a few times, that this cancer diagnosis (and subsequent surgeries and treatments) has helped me get back a Denyse I really like being and a person who is more out-going (as I used to be many years ago) and one who is more loving and giving to others.

What lesson(s) in life have you learned about yourself?

Do you have any issues with surrendering control?

Tell me more in the comments if you are prepared to share!

Denyse.

Joining with three generous and sharing bloggers who host link ups:

Kylie Purtell here for the I Blog On Tuesdays link up.

Sue L and Leanne L  here who host the Midlife Share the Love Linky Party on Wednesdays.

Leanne who is the sweetest hostess here on Thursdays for Lovin’ Life.

 

 

 

 

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Eating After My Gum Cancer Surgery. Part Two. 2018.24.

Eating After My Gum Cancer Surgery. Part Two. 2018.24.

Now where was I?

Oh yes, about my eating after cancer surgery. Part One is here.

Let me tell you this eating with only 8 teeth on the lower jaw and one tongue has called for:

  • imagination – what might that food feel like in my mouth and will it be able to break down to enable swallowing
  • care of my mouth. Yes, this mouth needs even more oral care now. So it is brushing of my teeth and rinsing with a particular mouth wash after morning and evening meals
  • shopping lists for foods I had not previously considered eating but do because of nourishment and ease of eating
  • trying to remain creative with meal choices for me while I am very restricted. It is hard and I do get frustrated but I try to remember it is not forever
  • nothing that is pre-made or take-away (boo to having to make everything from scratch) unless it is a plain cake, a scone or yoghurt.

My mouth: at least the lips seal but it remains a challenge to get any drink into it. I use a ‘squirt’ water bottle and when having a cuppa – tea of coffee – I have a serviette under my mouth. Messy Me.

As the initial months changed from me being dependent on my husband for meal-prep and shopping to me doing this for myself it did give me freer rein for creativity and independence but in some ways in was harder. My husband eats very simply but from a different meal-base to me (and it has been like that even before my cancer) so there have been few shared meals….except for that one time, before I had surgery #2 and he made a Baked Lamb Dinner…which was so soft and delicious and easy-t0-swallow the memories are fresh!

MEALS & SNACKS.

BREAKFAST.

Once I learned that tiny slivers of toast do not equate with a satisfying breakfast, this long-time cereal avoider embraced weetbix and I am a two weetbix, sugar and milk girl every day.

MORNING TEA.

This is mostly Morning Coffee as I go out each morning around 10.30-11 for my daily outing. See more about that here. More often than not it is just a coffee but on some occasions I can add a treat. It takes me a long time to eat some of these and I often bring part of it home.

LUNCH.

If I have had a snack as above I will not have anything for lunch…because I will still be full and I cannot find the energy to try to decide what I will take ages to make and then ages to eat. It is true! However, I know the value of nutrition and need to give myself more credit for knowing actually what to select and eat it. The last few weeks I have found it harder as I have a 3rd surgery which has left me in some discomfort and even less room inside the mouth as a stent is in there where the implants will eventually go.

On the way home from Sydney when I saw the Professor recently my husband ate the cheese sandwich we took for him and I had a little kids’ yoghurt with the squirty-top.

AFTERNOON TEA.
Depending on how much I have eaten at lunch, this may not be anything or it might be a cup of tea with biscuits that can be dunked. Yes. Only those. I have tried a few but only these work for me: Malt biscuits, Scotch Fingers, Orange Creams. Even gave Tim Tams a go but the biscuit part was too hard for my mouth.

DINNER.

I have always cooked in bulk for me and for my Dad. I often made spag bol variations and beef casseroles and chicken ones too. However, I am someone who craves variety and I was O.V.E.R. anything with chicken once all of the chicken soup with vegies were done and even those with added noodles. I had low iron after surgery so determined to eat myself better (along with the iron tablets) I used red meat meals.

I made and still have in the freezer in small meal sizes for me: Beef Casserole and Veggies  along with smoothly blended mash potato & sweet potato frozen in small meal sizes to add on top. Spaghetti Bolognaise and Pasta Bake. For a change of taste, some Salmon. Cheese and Rice meals which are a comfort meal I invented ages ago. I have also cooked chicken mince with sweet and sour sauce to add to rice.

OTHER SNACKS AND TREATS A.K.A. BEATING THE BOREDOM.

Firstly what you need to know:

I cannot bite anything.

I cannot, at the moment, completely seal my lips.

I cannot use a straw because of how my mouth has been changed.

I can put very small bite-sized pieces of suitable food into my mouth, allow them to move against my lower teeth along with some encouragement from the tongue and then when I believed they are small enough and soft enough I swallow.

I have not choked (yet) but I will always have water bottle next to me when I eat.

I use a teaspoon for eating my meals & some snacks unless it is bite-sized as above and I can use my hands.

The softer and wetter a food is, the easier it will go down.

 

PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE.

I miss the many textures and tastes of so many foods  but I am also grateful to be able to eat after this surgery as not all of those having surgery like mine get to do that. Some have to eat permanently through their stomach or via a feeding tube. I do try to keep my whingeing to a minimum as a result.

I am so very grateful to the team who has brought me to this point. From Friday 23 February my trips to Sydney will be to Westmead Oral Restorative Services where my upper jaw implants are being planned. Currently the most recent surgery saw a large stent/mouthguard put over the area where the implants will go and it has made my mouth quite painful. Eating has been even harder.

I am over 9 months into my cancer journey and am hopeful that all that needs to be done will have occurred by the time May comes…my first year anniversary. We shall see! Meanwhile, I will be doing some more ‘out for coffee’ visits and eating as safely and nutritiously as I can.

Sunday Night Dinner: my invention…taco in a bowl!

And me on Sunday 18 February. Check out my top lip! My mouth above is swollen because of recent surgery to add more skin to my top lip (thank you) and added in there is the stent pushing the top jaw forward. Uncomfy, yes. Worth it. Hell Yes.

I hope that you have found reading both parts of my story of Eating After Gum Cancer Surgery of interest. My operations took place here at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and the Team headed by Professor Jonathan Clark performed all three of my surgeries. I follow Head and Neck Cancer Support Australia on Facebook and Beyond Five

On Friday 23 February I visited Westmead Oral Health Services and the two men who are part of my surgical team as well, determined that I could do without the stent for the next 4 weeks and so this was good news. My photo updating the one above is here:

UPDATE: 

Unfortunately my relief was short-lived as when my surgeon saw the pictures of my gums on Monday 26 Feb he wanted the stent returned on my  visit on Thursday 1 March. At the time of publishing this post I will be two days away from having the uncomfortable hard plastic stent removed and first impressions made…..which mean teeth will take months from then but my prosthodontist says “we have to get it perfect, Denyse.” Sigh.

Denyse.

Linking with Kylie Purtell for I Blog on Tuesdays here, with Leanne here for Lovin’ Life Link up for Thursday’s Lovin Life Linky  and on Wednesday, with Sue here for her link up.

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My Last Meal Was. #LifeThisWeek 11/52. 2018.23.

My Last Meal Was. #LifeThisWeek 11/52. 2018.23.

When I made this prompt up initially it was “My Last Meal” but that conjured up those of prisoners who are about to be executed (yikes) get to choose their last meal. I have wondered, as you do, how on earth ANYONE could actually EAT before they were led off…anyway, I need to lighten up…and here we go.

It’s hard for me to write about a meal in actual fact . I can have meals of course and I have written about what it’s been like to eat after cancer surgery here and tomorrow is the part two of that series.

It’s really been more than a year since I have been able to chew or crunch with success. My upper front gums were very sore and inflamed before we knew it was cancer. See here if you are new and missed that post back in May 2017. So even before Christmas 2016 I was seeking food that was softer.

Onto the now.

I cannot cite my ‘last meal’ because I am writing this pre-Monday. Every day for many months I have had two weetbix and milk for breakfast. Before I discovered I actually did not mind weetbix I was struggling to get something resembling toast down. I no longer try that. I can’t. Yet.

But here are some main/lunch meals I eat now with 8 front lower gum teeth and my strong tongue!

Each of the above requires a lot of time (I used to be a 10 mins and it’s eaten girl) and concentration so I do not overfill my mouth and can swallow with ease.

I always have water near me to help the food go down and for me, a long-time talker at meals, I try not to chat and to get my food down safely. I have been fine to date! I have had to use my ingenuity in this LONG (over 8 months now) post-surgery journey as I miss variety, textures and tastes.

Each of these was borne of my need to have all of those within my limitations.

I am quite proud of these. But will be glad in a few months when chewing and crunching may return!

Here’s two meals I had in the past that I will be looking forward to have again. Simple but nutritious and very comforting!

Now I realised “this” is not a meal. But oh my gosh it is both comforting and delicious and I do not have F.O.M.O. when I treat myself to this!

As I cannot bite into a donut, I break off tiny pieces from the BEST BIT, the edges and place them in my mouth. I leave the middle ….I never liked that much anyway.

I wonder what your last meal was….I must say I have stopped being envious of people who get to eat what I cannot yet as it was not helpful to me or to them.

Eating food we like is such an enjoyable event I would never want to put someone off theirs!

Here’s to eating well!

Denyse.

Joining with Alicia for Open Slather here…and let me say, some of her food pics are wonderful and almost everything is home-grown!

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 is the optional prompt’: 12/52.  “Out My Window I See.” 19.3.18.


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Eating After My Gum Cancer Surgery. Part One. 2018.18.

Eating After My Gum Cancer Surgery. Part One. 2018.18.

I thought it may be of interest to readers if I outlined how I have been able to ‘feed and nourish myself’ since last year when my cancer was cut from my upper mouth, gums and jaw and I was left with…not much! Actually it was a miracle of science how my upper mouth was made from my leg and there is much to be read here for those who do not know my story.

In the months leading up to my eventual cancer diagnosis my upper gums made eating difficult as they were sore, and with a new denture it was hard work. I guess in some ways it was practice for what was to come. I could not really crunch or bite down on something like an apple or chips. I could have smaller cut up bread-rolls but not bite into one. Mmmm. I had forgotten this and now I am writing it I can see why I could not even eat steak or a cutlet. Foods I cannot eat now but am longing to have again!!

Happy Snap?: my 67th b’day: 30/11/16. Upper teeth seen are those made by a bridge/crown over 5 of my front teeth. My mouth was already irritated in the back of this area. Had been for at least 2 years.

 

I recall being quite concerned about how I would deal with feelings if I could not eat. Yes, I like to do that..and, over time, found that I still can but I am actually dealing with feelings better than I used to! Who knew!

After surgery on 6 July. I was told I would have a drip and a feeding tube inserted naso-gastrically and that I would not have any liquid until at least 7 days were up so that the area that had been added to my inside of my mouth was deemed to have sealed and be ready. OK. I did not argue but I did not like the feeling when the feeding tube would fire up and deliver the prescribed nourishment. In fact I used to think it might be regurgitated but it never did. After I left ICU and was in my own room, the amount I was fed ramped up and I had to change my attitude towards this feed. I decided I could deal with the amount of time – up to a few minutes it took to feed me because it was helping to heal me.

Feeding Me To Heal Me became quite the mantra which I used a lot at home too. My psychologist had told me that patients who have head and neck surgeries have a changed relationship with food and that it cannot always be enjoyable as it is like a medicine we need to heal.

I came home on the 10th day and my dear husband already had shopped with the list of what he knew I could eat and we thought: YES, we have got this! Not so. You see, as the patient who was still very much learning to eat again, I thought I could direct my husband to sort out the food I could eat. It did not work well as I was still highly emotional, on a very strong anti-biotic to ensure my leg wounds did not become further infected. In short, adjusting to eating when I couldn’t really eat (and was hungry) and found that my gut was rejecting everything via diarrheoa meant my early days (and nights at home) were a bit challenging. And I was wanting to do stuff for myself. My goodness. I know.

My hospital dietitian had sent me home with samples of high protein drinks, I was given sheets with lots of information about soft and pureed foods and I am a compliant person. I must do this. Right? Well, actually my body said NO. My GP told me just how much I needed to let my (IBS-centred) gut settle after being empty for over 8 days and it needed to come back to balance. His sensible approach saved me and whilst I appreciated the knowledge that was shared with me it was time to eat what I could and when I could.

I admit that with having my right leg encased in a boot and the stitches from surgery had only just been removed as well as two large flesh areas that needed healing I did my body no favours by deciding to make some chicken and vegetable soup one morning. You see, I have always been the cook and I found that if I had to instruct my husband our marriage might not last (OK, an exaggeration) and I needed some sense of independence.

Once I had that soup sorted and blended and in the freezer for future use, I agreed to stay out of the kitchen…and my darling husband became the best every toast maker and cutting it into teensy tiny pieces to see if I could eat it. He even made me vegemite toast just so I could lick the taste of it. I learned that yoghurt and honey go down easily and they helped me when I had to take oral medication as did jelly.

The early days and weeks were hard but I was also buoyed by the fact that in all likelihood my cancer had been completely removed. On a follow-up visit 3 weeks after surgery both the Professor and the Associate Professor agreed with no recommendation for follow-up radiotherapy as it has very brutal effects on the face and would change the view of cancer has gone from 95% to 97.5%. 

Part Two will be more on how I gradually learned more about the how and what I could eat…and how it is so vital that we both nourish ourselves with food as well as enjoy it.

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments. Happy to respond.

Denyse.

Joining in with Kylie Purtell here for I Blog On Tuesdays and with Sue here for her Wednesday link up & Leanne’s Lovin’Life Linky on Thursdays here.

 

 

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