Tuesday 23rd April 2019

Two Years Ago: Before My Cancer Was Diagnosed. Pt 3. 35/2019.

Two Years Ago: Before My Cancer Was Diagnosed. Pt 3. 35/2019.

Thanks to readers who have commented on these posts.

They are, in some ways, very personal and maybe a bit indulgent but they are going a long way for me to feel better and recovering well from my version of head and neck cancer, found in my upper gums and under one lip.

The first two posts about the two years ago can be found here and here.

My last words on the previous post were these:

“take the teeth and bridge out, I HAVE to know what is underneath!”. I was a bit better-mannered than that with my request to my dentist but inside I felt these words more!

Why Did I Want The Teeth Taken Out?

For well over 6 months from late 2016 into 2017  this dentist and I worked on “what could be going on with my gums”.

This is why.

  • My upper gums were sore and red. They felt that way in part of my upper palate (roof of my mouth).
  • There was a ‘feeling’ of skin tearing up behind the covered part of the gums as I had a bridge permanently in my mouth.
  • The bridge (and a crown) had been added to the 6 front teeth spaces to add to my appearance and function as the original teeth had been heavily filled and already had been treated to the maximum by the dentist in Castle Hill in 2010-2011.
  • I went along with this procedure without question as I was promised it would be better. It was paid for by Medicare for people like me with chronic dental issues back then.
  • I admit I was ignorant of the what and how of the procedure but it seemed to be right. I trusted the dentist.
  • What did happen over and over from then until April 2017 is each new and subsequent dentist (3 in total)  told me “You are not cleaning behind the bridge properly”.
  • I did what I could. It was a very awkward and uneven space and even the dentists were challenged with their instruments.
  • “You have candida” I was often told. Yes, OK. I took so many fungalin tablets and added nilstat as a mouthwash only to find no change, and diarrheoa as a side affect. NOT something I welcomed with IBS already the ‘beast within’.

The mouth still hurt.

I had thorough cleaning at the dentist as late as March 2017.

The mouth still hurt.

I watched the gums slowly creep over the top of the front teeth.

The mouth hurt more.

But still this dentist wanted to investigate more even though he said theoretically he could take the teeth and bridge out.

I went through trying to get myself tested for nickel sensitivity – nickel is part of the bridge. I chose not to. I wanted action.

I could not eat much at all – combination of the very sore mouth and anxiety about it and good ole IBS.

So, the deal was struck. My teeth and the bridge they were on were coming out of my mouth on 6 April.

But wait….

I am too scared to both travel AND to do this! Right?

From my journal the day before:

On Wed 5 April I was nervous about the upcoming dentist trip

I did go out & do things but the “enormity” of what was ahead overwhelmed me

I broke down & just couldn’t see how I could deal with it

B was good at listening but I knew that despite the dread & worry & fear IF I didn’t go through with it it would be :

Avoiding

  • Would make it worse
  • I’d not get my mouth fixed

So I took steps to make sure I got there:

1. 1/4 Valium in arvo & then at night helped reduce the internal rumblings

2. I told myself it was a positive to be getting it done as it’s troubled me for so long I couldn’t let it go on & on

3. I needed to tell myself the outcome & process had to happen. I stopped thinking there was doubt or other choices. I needed to own this

4. I ate small because I was scared of IBS but that’s not new.

5. I knew I could take immodium if there was a reason

6. I used the hypnosis from audible in a big way

7. I had B taking me & he agreed to do it anything to make it work.

The day came. It was just after lunch. Not that I ate any! Yes, my dear husband did drive me and yes, I took medication as advised. I was warmly greeted by the team who really understood this was hard for me. I had my iphone and  earbuds and a hypnosis session ready. It started with LOTS of needles and reassurance all the way. I could give a signal to stop (I did only need that to tell them it was still hurting too much). I could also ask for a break to go to the loo. I did that once. By the time I decided I had enough…it was done. I was surprised. My husband had sat in the room reading as I was treated and it was nice to know he was there.

I knew there would be a denture put in – and whilst that did not hurt then  it did later. I had the model made the week before. So, then I was shown the teeth and bridge. I took a photo but not the teeth with me. The dentist’s opinion at the time was that everything looked OK gum and bone wise and I would see him the following week. I just needed to get back in the car and home. It was done! Over.

Afterwards I recorded this:

 Mouth sore & swollen

 Ice packs on my mouth

Taking medication – neurofen & anti-biotic

 Still got some bleeding (6 hours later)

Headache & tired

 Ate squashed pear, yoghurt & grated cheese & PButter

Very proud of myself and was told by B I was great.

Now if only IBS would bugger off!

Back to dentist next week to check it out & adjust the partial denture.

It

Is

Over.

Then I had about a week of pretty intense pain manipulating the partial denture in and out of the top gums. The gums were sore. I just expected that I guess. The following week, I re-visited the dentist alone with more self-confidence albeit in pain, where he adjusted the denture, told me what to look out for and I would see him in around 4-5 weeks.

And so, within that period of waiting, things did not progress as well as either of us hoped.

There will be a fourth part to this lead up to the Two Years Since My Cancer Diagnosis.

I hope that sharing my story is somewhat helpful to you. However, I must add, as my Head and Neck Surgeon told me:

“Denyse your cancer is rare and you getting it with no risk factors (smoking, drinking) is even rarer”

With Prof Clark – My Head and Neck Surgeon at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Thanks for being part of the journey in these posts I am writing…for good reason and for information shared as I so often need to do since my Head and Neck cancer diagnosis.

Denyse.

Joining with Sue and Leanne here for Wednesday’s Midlife Share The Love linky,

With Leanne on Thursday for Lovin Life link up here AND with Alicia on Fridays for Open Slather here.

Thank you all for your link ups.

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Reality Bites. Part One. 2017.96.

Reality Bites.Part One. 2017.96.

Today, 6 August 2017, as I write, it is exactly ONE month since my cancer surgery on 6 July 2017.

I am calling this post ‘Reality Bites’ as the consequences of the diagnosis of cancer, the pre-op visits and treatments and then the ultimate ‘reality’…. the complex and major surgery in my mouth and on my right leg have truly ‘bitten’.

I am writing it out so I can honestly tell you, my readers, that I am NOT doing so well in that emotional sphere at the moment.

This is despite my previous posts where I appeared to be going so well. I was/am in a physical sense.

Readers who want to read more about what this surgery was about can go here:

my diagnosis….my updatesmy grateful post #1my grateful post #2.

Reality has bitten in the form of a heightened emotional response (and IBS frequency) to what has happened to me…my feelings are catching up with what I have been through – from date of diagnosis 17.5.17 till now. (less than 3 months!)

Here is how it is for me NOW as I recall memories that are not great and are affecting me somewhat even though I know things will get better over time.

  • Wow, it’s been one month since the huge operation which I  knew was going to (hopefully) take all of the cancer out of my mouth and leave me with a reconstructed mouth using tissue and bone from my right leg.
  • I recall my feelings of being totally overwhelmed when the surgeons began to describe how they would ‘fix’ this cancer in my mouth only one day after I found out I HAVE cancer.
  • I got through the drive home after that with my hub on my least favourite road (M1) as I tried to wrestle the past 24-48 hours into some sort of sense for me. It was surreal.
  • At home I ‘tried’ to go on with ‘normal life’ but that is impossible when the word C A N C E R shone like a red light in my mind constantly.

“last smiles” were/are treasured but under those false teeth it’s cancer

  • I made  plans and prepared for hospital,  making meals for later,  and making sure I had sufficient clothes and activities ready to take to the hospital but it was surreal. I was doing this BECAUSE I have cancer. It still did not make sense to me.
  • I know that I saw my GP and psychologist about the surgery and what is meant to have cancer and yes, I cried sometimes but other times I was just numb. THIS could not be happening to me!?
  • My mouth and its discomfort and smell were the source of the cancer and I began to ‘hate’ it.
  • I also knew this surgery was going to take away 3 things that were and are precious to me: smiling, communicating and eating. Made me sad and quite stressed.
  • I was resigned to what the operation was but I truly had no idea of how it would impact me because it was like I was somewhat detached.
  • I knew that the surgery would be within 4-6 weeks of our consultation with the surgeons but oh how those weeks dragged on as I wanted to surgery to be over…but I also did not want to have it. So horrible. It  ended up being 7 weeks after diagnosis.
  • It took me weeks to finally get out the hospital forms and complete them. I just couldn’t before. I had to make myself do them. Filling them out meant, of course, I HAVE cancer and HAVE to do something about it. 
  • I made a decision to stay in a ‘cheap place’ the night before surgery and I so regret this as we were uncomfortable and I spent some of the time ‘feeling guilty and responsible’ because I have cancer. 
  • On the day of surgery, at 6.00 a.m. we  presented yourselves at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and then once ‘checked in’  I undressed and got into the paper gown which meant THIS is about to happen. O.M.G. 
  • I said goodbye to my husband and was off….the journey into the unknown…the operating theatre.

I’ve written two posts (see above) which described how things went for me in hospital so I will not outline any more here today.

The next post will outline what happened emotionally in hospital and then my homecoming. I have chosen to write about it all from an emotional perspective as life as a cancer patient post-surgery is affecting me and writing it out is to help me.

At home in my first weeks.

Have you had cancer?

Do you have an experience of having a life-changing event for you where things caught up with you later on?

I appreciate your comments and support. I am not looking to ‘get advice’ as I think that in recognising what is happening to me and letting it happen is probably the healthiest way I know how.

Thank you for your support!

Denyse.

Joining with Kylie and friends here for I Blog On Tuesdays and here with Leanne and friends on Thursday for Lovin’ Life linky.

 

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I Am Grateful Today. Cancer Surgery#1 Part One. 2017.91.

I Am Grateful Today. Cancer Surgery#1. Part One. 2017.91.

Hello again!
Today I am listing many reasons I am grateful and am delighted to be back blogging and linking up with dear friends here with Leanne for Lovin’ Life Linky!

Day Before Surgery

Oh, and in case you did not know… I have returned home after my major cancer surgery which removed the inside top of my mouth, gums and teeth (ha! there were only 3 left…and bummer…no tooth fairy coin left either!). When I was in hospital I had PLENTY of thinking and reflecting time so a post about gratitude seems to fit my return to Lovin’ Life today!

This post is live two weeks after my 11 hour surgery on Thursday 6 July. The selected  photos and words are just a part of my grateful list.

I am doing my best to have them sequentially …enjoy!

Wednesday 5 July. Pre-Admission Day.

It was a well-planned departure (I am so that anyway) but I did have a tiny sense of ‘what if I don’t come back’ and sensibly did quite the paperwork tidy-up, prepared official documents so husband and daughter knew where they were, and left my bedroom and art room clean and tidy. The trip to Sydney (by now I had done 3 since diagnosis) so I am grateful that I built up my confidence through challenging my beliefs based on fear of driving on the M1 and ‘getting caught short’.

We arrived in plenty of time at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse (pictured)  for a myriad of health checks (all fine and dandy!) at pre-admission and handed over my life in forms…about 10 pages. There was no money to pay as our Teachers Health covered every.single.item*. Always very grateful we were both in it as young teachers then continued as a family always with top cover. The amount paid by them was in excess of  $21K.*not all doctors’ fees but that is ok.

We had booked overnight accommodation (cheap and cheerful as recommended by the hospital) as it was within 10 mins walking distance of Lifehouse. We were not impressed by the spartan set up however kindly the people were who supplied the accommodation so after our LAST night together for a while, B decided to bunk in with the grandkids and our daughter who live an hour away from Lifehouse. In retrospect I was incredibly grateful he did because as he said ‘it was great to see loving family faces!’.

Thursday 6 July. Day of Surgery.

I have no pictures! Fancy that! But I was grateful for a laugh when I got my phone back from B the next day and there was over 3 hours video of the inside of the phone cover which must have started when I handed it to him in Surgical area at 6.30 a.m.

Friday 7 July – Sunday 9 July. Intensive Care Unit.

After 11 hours of surgery I remember one fact about waking in what possibly was recovery but might have been ICU and it was nighttime. I asked ‘no tracheostomy?’ Of course, my brain tells me now I would not have been able to ask the question if I had, but I was intensely grateful that my surgery did not require this as I had been told it was possible.

In intensive care I was grateful each room was private and I could shut out sounds and light as I mostly needed to rest my eyes, not sleep. I liked that I could talk (a bit) to whoever came to check my obs. Loads of obs checks, especially my ‘mouth flap’. This was checked via a doppler ( a mini ultra-sound scanner) and each time I heard the reassuring beats I did thumbs up as I was incredibly grateful it was alive in me. The catheter came out on the second day and it was good to go to the loo (with help of course, as my leg was in a back slab). I am grateful I stopped caring about modesty. Let’s just get better is my motto!

By Sunday I was stir-crazy and when I heard they were waiting for a room to be ready on the ward I sure was pleased. It took a bit of time to do the transfer but I was grateful to say ‘bye bye’ and ‘thank you’ to ICU.

The Rest of My Stay Until Discharge on Saturday 15 July.

To be continued next Tuesday week where I will link up on I Blog on Tuesdays and the next Thursday when I will link up here again too.

I decided to do it this way as I am tiring and I have a lot to say! Who knew? Ok. I did.

Denyse.

Next Monday I re-start my #lifethisweek Link Up: Here are the prompts: They are also on the Home Page.

Mon 24 July: 28/52. Can’t Live Without.

Mon 31 July: 29/52. Winter.

Mon 7 Aug: 30/52. Birth Order.

Mon 14 Aug: 31/52. Ideal Meal.

Mon 21 Aug: 32/52. Selfie Time.

Mon 28 Aug 33/52. Mindfulness.

Mon 4 Sept 34/52. First Car/Bike.

Mon 11 Sept 35/52. Beach or Bush.

Mon 18 Sept 36/52. Taking Stock.

 

 

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What’s in a word? Cancer. 2017.82.

What’s in a word? Cancer. 2017.82.

Since I heard the word, cancer, to describe what had been found via pathology from the biopsied tissue from my gums, I have seen it and heard it everywhere. However, I think, it’s like when I  first become pregnant, I saw other pregnant women everywhere.

It’s more noticeable because it affects ME. So, whilst there is still no word (ha!) on the exact  date for my cancer surgery, I thought it timely to write a post.

I have been incredibly well-supported already by those in my friendship realm here in the blogging world and elsewhere.

Each has been from someone who has had cancer, knows someone with cancer, and is currently being treated for cancer.

I read recently  that 1 in 2 of us will have cancer. Wow!

My family of course have expressed their concern and care for me. I have been visited by almost all of the immediate family and that has been lovely. What I have found too is the outstretching of hands (figuratively) of so many is helpful and reassuring which is why I blog about it.

Here’s what I wanted to share briefly:

I had been on a roller-coaster of emotions ANYWAY before I was diagnosed with cancer, so to add cancer to the mix has raised those anxious thoughts of mine to greater levels. But, I am thankful that I was already doing much to help myself with anxiety and adjusting to our new way of life. Meditation, being more mindful, walking, being outdoors, blogging, enjoying some Netflix with my husband, going to the beach, taking photos, supportive health professionals  and generally engaging on social media are already integrated into my life. So, they have become tools for managing my thoughts about cancer too. 

Thank you to the many people who have sent me messages, cards and let me know that I am in their prayers, thoughts and hearts.

“We are all just walking each other home” Ram Dass.

It is very humbling to have such a lovely group of you with me.

Most of all, I thank my husband who is already my finest supporter and rock! He will be with me as much as he can within the first days in hospital and I know, not matter what state of grogginess I may be in, he will be within arms reach for me. That IS love. I am so lucky.

Thank you everyone. I hope that if the word ‘cancer’ is part of your world by association or for you that you too will be cared for and about like I have been. I am blessed. This image is one I am using when I need to take myself to a more enjoyable mindful place. Enjoy!

I am grateful every day.

UPDATED: About my present state of health. 

When I wrote this post I thought I was managing myself quite well. Since then, I have had some pretty horrid days (and nights) where I have become fearful, panicked, and so vulnerable I wanted to go into a corner and hide and never come out.

I am shit-scared right now.

I am worried about losing what I valued: my mouth where I speak, eat, share my emotions and smile. It has been days of crying uncontrollably, being held until I calm down (thank you dear B) and taking some valium (which I don’t really want to) and letting out the fears  in words between the sobs. 

I fear: the loss of ability to use my mouth for at least 7-10 days, have a naso-gastric feeding tube down my throat for those days, having the skin/flesh/bone from my right leg inside my mouth after 3/4 of my upper jaw/palate as been removed. Dealing with the not being in control.

I am, as I write, unable to really express what it means to be facing this loss of control of my body. I will be in ICU to start and may even have a tracheostomy to start if the mouth is too swollen. This is very scary to me, and I am admitting it now.

For me to admit how vulnerable I feel right now is to say “I cannot do this without help”. My husband reassures me he will be there as much as possible, and given how I will look and be, he will be my only visitor until I give any indication I can see others. I am facing the unknown and that as we know is the scariest place to be. I will be losing my smile….for more than a while. Possible 3-4 months until my upper jaw recovers.

Have you faced major surgery of any kind for cancer and other reasons?

How did you deal with it?

I am so wanting some answers that help me know – in the pre-surgery phase that I am not alone in my fears. 

Thank you for reading this far! I appreciate that very much.

Denyse.

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

Linking here on Thursday with Leanne and friends for Lovin’ Life.

 

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My Cancer Journey Begins. 2017.75.

My Cancer Journey Begins. 2017.75.

A while back I decided that to best describe the life stage we were at was to use the word ‘journey.’ For some people and their reasons, journey is not liked. I happen to like it and will be using it for what is now being added to this life stage!

Thank you to the many people who commented here last week and on Facebook when I made my news public. Sharing has helped me!

Whilst I do not intend to blog every week about the cancer that is here within…I will for now as it helps me!

The cancer journey continued with a trip to Westmead Oral Health on Wednesday 24 May for a consultation, examination and measurement session with the Dental specialist who will be part of the surgical team when I get my cancer cut out. I admit I was stressed. I still am. It is such an unknown and my mind needs to be more calmed. However, as my GP said when I saw him after this big session on the Friday “Denyse, you are doing very well indeed!”. Today we are back to Westmead for a follow-up with the Dental Specialist and scans on my neck and head to ascertain all is well for the major surgery and on my leg where the bone and skin will be taken for the reconstruction and skin graft.

Sigh.

Still mentally criticising myself for the meltdowns, the tears in front of the professionals and more….yet it is a situation of such immense emotions and I was already struggling somewhat. I am still going about my days at home with as much normality as possible.

In the meantime, I am making art, taking photos, blogging, chatting on-line, reading, walking, tending the garden and talking to my lovely husband and being mindful to eat as well as I can even with my sensitive gut.

On Thursday I made a trip to Budgewoi to take some photos and these help remind me of the journey and that it is, like everything in life, one step at a time.

I am not sure as I am writing this when  I will be making the journey across this bridge again on the way to Chris O’Brien’s Lifehouse. I shall update.

Thank you for reading thus far! I am encouraged along the way via the comments and support.

Denyse.

Joining Kylie Purtell, celebrating her blog’s 8th Birthday, here and with my friends who also Blog on Tuesdays.

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