Friday 22nd March 2019

Telling My Story. Chapter Ten. 1980-1982. 28/2019.

Telling My Story. Chapter Ten. 1980-1982. 28/2019.

To read all of Telling My Story to date: here is the link to the page. Thanks for your interest!

I mentioned at the end of Chapter Nine that telling my story for 1980 would be significant. And indeed it was.

Education Professional Matters. 1980.

I realised more of my professional goals via the fact of healthy competition in the school where I was a teacher. Coming back in May 1979 to a full-time role (no such thing as part-time maternity leave then) I was immediately interested in proving my professional worth.

In the system of public education back then (and for almost the whole time till it ended in the 1990s) a female teacher who wished to gain promotion to the next level to become, in my case : a deputy mistress or  a head mistress of an Infants Department. These were grades Kindergarten to Year Two.

Virtually no men taught in the Infants Departments so their promotions were to deputy master or head master. Sigh. Sorry, more to come!

To gain promotion was to show your readiness via classroom teaching skills, programming, supervision of some other teachers, understanding of the curriculum, providing leaderships skills, being well-read in the latest of education theory and…..being observed in your classroom for a whole day by the local District Inspector. That person observed you, asked you many questions through the day, looked at the children’s workbooks, spoke to the children and read through everything you’d been asked to provide.

Nerve-wracking?

Yes but in some ways gratifying. I recall enjoying the challenge of being ready for this a few months into 1980 having seen others on staff go through it and achieve List One…so I was onto it.

List One meaning? Literally a LIST of people who had been shown and observed in their work to have met the requirements fo List One and on the date of that achievement your name was added to the List. Someone whose List One had been achieved earlier than me, would be “more senior” to me by chronology and so, if we wanted to apply for the same promotion position at a school, SHE would get it before me but I would continue to wait on that list.

Taking a move to a less desirable area might be a faster way to gain the first promotion, pay rise and new role but as I was in north-western Sydney, had an unwell spouse, a child at school and a now toddler in family day care, then I remained on First List within the same school. More to come.

Family Matters. 1980 – 1982.

My clever and very education-focussed husband who had his second list and was a Deputy Master in a large Sydney Primary School was very unwell. His problems related to his spine (cervical initially) and from the time we had returned to Sydney he sought various treatments including awful disc removal and replacement with parts of his hip in 1978. This stabilised his spine somewhat but pain was never far away.

Instead of success in his career as he had so much promise, in 1979 and into 1980 his days were more and more challenging in terms of even getting to school. In a sad time for us both, he reluctantly accepted the NSW Department of Education’s offer of medical retirement at age 30. Such a loss to education and the beginning of a very painful and hard time in his life.

Our children brought him joy and love of course, but he wasn’t able to interact physically as he might have liked and the kids understood but it was hard. He supported my venture into the professional realms of education promotion but it was hard on me and for me to balance home and school life.

My parents offered physical support from time to time, having the kids come to stay in the school holidays and also preparing meals for us and tending to our yard as my previously very fit husband just could not.

It is still sad for both of us to recall this period and even more to consider that some of the medications that he was using under doctors’ instructions were actually making him sicker. Next chapter will tell more.

In the usual way of things, we still had some small family holidays even if it was just for a few nights. Our income had reduced but we could scrape by and our children brought us fun and laughter especially at birthdays and Christmas. Christmas remained a special time and memory for sure!

Onto More In My Career. 1981.

School in many ways offered a great distraction from some of the hard parts of what was happening for my husband. I could not prevent anything for him and it was hard to be an observer of someone in pain. He had good support from local medical professionals and did seek to help himself physically by continuing to drive and help with the children after school time where he could.

I admit that the competitive drive educationally was very strong in me and so with a very helpful set of leaders in our Infants Department which had over 24 classes, there was always room for someone like me who was on a promotion trail. I took the initiative of developing a pre-Spelling program which matched what was currently ‘the’ Spelling program called Quota Spelling.

Do you remember it? Our son in Year Two (getting ahead of myself) was an amazing speller and was on the maximum of 30 words each week to learn. As he always got them right, I did ask his teacher “why does he have to write them out 5 x each night?” I was not appreciated even though I was correct! 

So, I had more responsibilities willingly and loved them. The school was changing in terms of the huge numbers as the new school up the road was finally ready to accept new students and our HUGE class numbers reduced and we all went back to being on the same site. So much better for cohesiveness AND getting to know who was on the same staff as you.

Our daughter came to school with me each morning but many afternoons her dad was able to pick her up as I would be back for meetings and classroom preparation. Our son was in a very happy Family Day Care setting and I could take him and then pick him up later. We were so blessed having him there for the 5 years until his school start. In the two years before school he attended a long day care setting in a pre-school. More on that later.

I was readying myself for a ‘go at List Two’ in 1982. It was a more rigorous inspection and more leadership skills needed to be shown. Even though I did not hold a position at the school, our forward thinking Head Mistress gave people like me curriculum leadership responsibilities so I could hold meetings and help guide the work of others.

Promotions and More. 1982.

A very big two days in my life were those when Mr Inspector J.E. turned up and spent two days with me and my Year Two class asking them and me questions along the way and referring to the many documents I had written and he read through as I continued teaching. He also visited my colleague next door to measure the influence of my leadership within the curriculum and the grade. It was gruelling but I was rewarded at the end with the words “I will be nominating you as suitable for placement on the Second List”. Wow. Then what, I thought?

Not long to wait. In a most unusual scenario I had my Head Mistress tell me that Mr J.E. needed to speak to me about taking on a Relieving Head Mistress role at a school quite a few suburbs away….and I am adding, into a different socio-economic realm from the one where I was teaching.

I took some time to consider it as I needed to speak to my husband first to see if it could work logistically AND then I accepted the acting position. From classroom teacher, up not one list but two, to Relieving Head Mistress (on a class!) with a Deputy Mistress and 6 teachers to supervise.

I met the person who was taking two terms off school due to illness and it was her view that the school needed a new person in (moi!) as there was no-one on the staff who could replace her. This left me wondering even more. However, I was gracious and professional and took on board the class I would be teaching ….and some of those kids…let’s just say, I learned a lot!

From 1982 Staff Photo

Relieving Head Mistress.

I admit it, it was a job I loved. It was very tough though, combining my full-time teaching with the administration of the Infants Department. However, I formed a good relationship with those staff members and I believe they found me refreshing. I was nevertheless thrown in the deep end of leadership and I mostly swam. The community was a different one to get to know. There were families from other countries, and those from Aboriginal backgrounds. In fact some children were, sadly, already known to social services. Interesting to say the least. I did get some teaching time off (there was no such thing as Release from Face to Face teaching then) which was when a specialist teacher would teach the class. Did I mention they were a challenge? Yes, I did.

I missed the staff and the kids in fourth term when it was time to return to my classroom duties a few kilometres (and socio-economic circumstances) away. I was actually restless and that was when the Lists of Vacant Positions was published and there was a school even further west in Sydney needing a Deputy Mistress. It was a List One position and I was on List Two but it did not matter, I was on my way to my first substantive role.

First a telegram came with promotions or transfer offer, which required a visit to Post Office to send back response (YES!). Then a letter confirming all would be sent by mail.

Next time: Chapter Eleven and 1983-1984. Busy times! In the family and school life.

I do hope you are enjoying Telling My Story. I admit I am liking stretching the brain and recalling the memories.

Tell me what you think about “life back then” as I have outlined it. Some of you would have been kids yourselves!!

Denyse.

Joining with Sue and Leanne for MidLife Share The Love link up here on Wednesdays.

Here I add my post to Leanne and friends Lovin’ Life Link up on Thursdays.

And…in Friday I am adding this post to Alicia’s link up called Open Slather, here.

 

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Who’s Grateful? 23/2019.

Who’s Grateful? 23/2019.

I am!

Are you?

This ‘gratitude’ thing has been around lately wherever I read. Conquer fear by being grateful. Acknowledge your gratitude whatever things are like for you. Honestly? Are there days like that when you wonder ….I do not think I am grateful for that day or what’s going on in my life, or ….and there is an endless stream of possible negative situations..

I know.

But…can you ever take yourself out of those situations for a minute or more? I am pretty sure you can.

When you can move out of the head that is keeping you going around and around in the same negative cycles that pop up in our lives and do this:

  • look up
  • look around you
  • touch something close by
  • smell the air
  • taste the food that has been sitting on the plate
  • remember a song you always loved
  • have a smile at something you saw yesterday

that is being present. By being present you are also able to be grateful and practise gratitude!

It is not always about writing in a journal. Nor is a certain number attached to a list of what you are grateful for.

I know that just by harnessing those thoughts away from the centre of self…to the outside and  what is around you then some of the inside relaxes just by the feeling of gratitude! I have found this works well. Even using your fingers (no-one needs to see this) you can count 5 things you are grateful for or even the ten using the second hand!

 

The social benefits are especially significant here because, after all, gratitude is a social emotion. I see it as a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.

Indeed, this cuts to very heart of my definition of gratitude, which has two components. First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good thing in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.

The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.

from here.

I am grateful every day.

As someone who had a cancer diagnosis nearly 2 years ago I can be grateful for this in so many ways. Whenever I feel a bit ‘over it’ which is perfectly human response, I take a minute or too and remind myself of how many people who are supporting me since my cancer diagnosis and I am incredibly grateful for them, medical advances and those in reconstructive surgery and how many new friends I have met as a result of having cancer!

So, what ARE you grateful for right now?

Maybe it is just being able to take time to read a few blog posts!

It could be you are grateful for the weather today so you can get that promised walk in.

It may just be that you are grateful for time to consider your life and how good much of it actually is.

Denyse.

Joining Min for Zen Tips Tuesday here.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To blog about this is helpful for me

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

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

From my memory and using my word journal.

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

2nd March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boy that was a huge exposure therapy success.

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

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

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

Stand by for what happened next.

Denyse.

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

 

 

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Changing Me. 19/2019.

Changing Me. 19/2019

Changing me is I now realise ON-GOING!

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

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

  • kindness
  • self-care
  • words of encouragement

and seeing that thoughts are not always true.

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

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

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

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

 

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

One Year On.

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

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

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

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

*chewing

*crunching

*biting

*savouring

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

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

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

*like wearing my new clothes

*feel comfortable in my body

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So have you ever taken steps to change you?

Denyse.

Joining with Min for Zen Tips Tuesday here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-Care.

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

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

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

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

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

Before I Really Understood Self-Care.

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

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

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

Self-Care Post-Cancer Diagnosis.

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

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

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

And now, in 2019, Self-Care.

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

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

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

Thank You Jade

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

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

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

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

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

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

P 252.  2018 (republish) Rockwell Publishing.

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

What are you doing to self-care?

Denyse.

 

 

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

Inlinkz Link Party

 

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My Mindfulness Practices’ Update. 13/2019.

My Mindfulness Practices’ Update. 13/2019.

I have written about the value of mindfulness and meditation several times here and here since 2015 and I have decided to update my readers and in doing so, join in with Min of who is launching her ZenTipsTuesday link up today!

Join the #ZTT train by linking up your post about any kind of lifestyle choice, activity, or holiday that helped bring you a feeling of ZEN – peace, or enhanced feeling of balance (mind, body and spirit).

Congratulations to Min. I hope this Tuesday link-up is a great one.

In the past year, these are some of what I practise to achieve mindfulness:

mindfulness: rather than me explain it: this one page article has three ways in which to describe mindfulness and I suggest a read because…it is ‘not all about being in this moment’. Nor is it all about meditation and clearing out your mind. That as I know is impossible and no meditation teacher ever expects that to occur.

 

When I notice my body (and soul I suppose!) not being as in sync as I now know they can be, I try to find s part of nature that soothes me and helps me add the world around me to filling me up again.

A place called Porters Creek – part of Wyong River – is a favourite place to walk alongside and stop and take in what surrounds me.

 

Of course, I have written before about Mindfulness and Mandalas and that is here. However after quite a gap between making mandalas due to busy-ness of making bookmarks from my art, I felt called back to this most mindful of art I do. I love the creative process and then carefully deciding after the pattern has been completed, just how I will colour it.

 

An A3 size mandala created by me and eventually coloured with some of these fabulous markers which has a brush end and a pointed end.

 

Recently I could not settle myself. That happens at times when there is more on my mind than I may admit to: possibly related to cancer recovery. So on this occasion again I took myself out in the car and found a place at Tacoma beside the Wyong River and sat. And looked and noticed: what I held in my hand. Check out the tiny mandala shape in nature!

Sometimes it is the change of view that helps and I get out of my house. This find told me that if I look carefully I will find something of interest. I did.

 

I have learned the lesson over and over again that there is no one right time. Take a risk, give something a go and be kind to yourself as you do so. That is living in the now!

 

Calm is my preferred meditation app now and I have life membership – it was surprisingly cheap and there are many options on the app that it is for me better than my previous Headspace app.

 

If my mind is whirling and worrying sometimes a more complex but different kind of drawing challenge helps me focus on “just one thing”. This is an example of a previously “too hard” mandala in its final stages of drawing.

Taking my time, reading the instructions (!) and doing this was such a good thing for me at the time.

 

I have been learning about Self-Compassion for over 3 years now but am always learning something new about it and myself. I am far less likely to speak to myself harshly these days and I remember to practise self-compassion when I do not have a great day. Completing the Mindful Self Compassion Workbook by Dr Kirstin Neff and Dr Chris Germer is helping cement my practices.

Do you practise self-care? In 2019 each 7th week, for LifeThisWeek I am asking bloggers to share their self-care and self-kindness stories.

 

A favourite way of re-connecting with myself in a pleasant environment is this place. I found it before I knew I had cancer in 2017 and visited it once I found out. I like to walk here and take time to gather my thoughts and at the same time immerse myself in the bigger world beyond my mind!

The walking bridge at Budgie is a favourite.

 

It is no secret to those who follow me on Instagram that the beach is a winner hands-down for me as a mood-buster and a ‘time to give thanks’ spot.

I knew last week this is where I HAD to come at 6 p.m. and it cheered me no end. Especially dipping in the water and facing the challenge of crashing waves!

 

And so, that IS my mindful practices’ update. I hope you are finding this thing we are in called LIFE going well for you. If you are not so, and that happens, maybe some of mine could be ones to help you too.

Denyse.

Joining in with Min from Write of the Middle for Zen Tips Tuesday for the first link up!

On Wednesdays I link here for Midlife Share the Love. Thank you Sue and Leanne.

This Thursday I link up here as part of Lovin’ Life linky  with Leanne and friends.

 

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