Tuesday 19th December 2017

A Very Personal Post About My Weight. 2017.134.

A Very Personal Post About My Weight. 2017.134.

In this, my last post for 2017, I am finally unlocking what I have kept inside more than I have let out. Into the world beyond my conversations with my husband who is my trusted confidante.

This is about my weight and what I see and think about the place it has had in my life as an adult. We are talking over 48 years.

Mid 2014 Left. Recently 2017 on Right.

It has been always, and yes it is a not very good analogy, the elephant in the room.

I do not mention my size, weight or fluctuations other than in written form in my diary or in saying something to my husband.

So, where to start with what I want to say….it’s here. As a young woman.

My Twenties.

  • I was 20 when I left home to teach in north-western NSW. I was free to be me. Well, in some ways and I do know I had the first sense of freedom around food. I believe I was a less than normal eater in my teens, still living at home and preferred ‘junk’ food over the better food.
  • I think my parents did what they could but in some ways, I had/have that sweet tooth which I used to calm and comfort. I was not overweight at all but like many young women moving into their 20s I saw the faults of hips and thighs. In fact, being told by a teaching colleague I had child-rearing hips was not taken as a compliment. In the photos above you can see I was a normal  looking young bride and then mother.
  • However, the very first notion that I needed to diet (i.e.) lose weight came at my 6 week post-pregnancy check up where the OB told me I needed to get those (back then in pound/stones) half a stone off me to be back to wedding day weight.
  • Thus it set something off in me about not being good enough AND to add to this, I was one miserable stay-at-home mum (very isolated in the NSW bush for 8 hours a day for 6 months) so I comfort-baked and ate.
  • Onto a new school and a new house and our baby grew to be a pre-schooler and my weight did too. I ate to soothe. I ate to calm and I ate, interestingly enough, because I could not fall pregnant even though the first time round was too easy!
  • We moved to an even more isolated area where we were both on staff: hub was the principal and I was the teacher and our daughter started school with us. We enjoyed the teaching stint because it was incredibly challenging but in the meantime, and the downtime I baked for ourselves and others and I put on even more weight.
  • When I saw my parents, family and friends in the school holidays  it was not a topic for conversation but my imagination took over and there were many judgement of ME by others (that they never said but I imagined). I was already ashamed to be the size I was but I was not going to talk about it to anyone. Some diets were tried to limited success and as someone who hates deprivation it was never going to last.
  • The doctor who told me I would never fall pregnant without losing weight was hated by me. I did so much want to have a second child but it appeared not to be something that would happen so I accepted the fate of one child.

My Thirties.

  • I became pregnant! Not by dieting, oh no. The  next specialist I saw once we had settled back into Sydney, diagnosed multiple ovarian cysts and other things inside that were preventing pregnancy and following major abdominal surgery…and a bit quicker than the specialist recommended, I was with child.
  • I was at a lower weight (still around 18 kgs above my wedding day weight) and kept that weight consistently with no increase until the last couple of months of pregnancy. Gave birth, went well, breastfed (the weight did not drop off!) and back to work full-time when the baby was 18 weeks old.

STRESS: This time in our married lives were amongst the worst as my husband was made to medically retire due to ill-health and the next 4 years or so were pretty grim. I was teaching full-time and seeking promotions as I was the only one now in education. Our kids were growing and whilst their Dad did some things for them, he was very unwell and a lot fell to me. How did I cope? Well, good old food. Comfort foods of course. However, noticing that I was getting bigger did not help my self-esteem and I would put myself through rigorous exercise and restricted eating in the hope that would help.

  • And no, I would not talk about it ever. My GP always checked my BP and bloods and even though I did have highish BP medication helped that and it was not weight-related. Blood tests were awesome. I was healthy.
  • But I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror or photos so I stayed behind the lens as the family photographer.

My Forties.

  • As a mum I used to wonder if my kids (who were of so-called normal weight) were ever ashamed of me and I hoped at the same time that they would never mention my weight. They did not.
  • But I sure told myself stories about how my parents must have felt about me as neither of them was overweight.
  • So, there I was on the outside trying my best to look good: I had nice clothes, I had my hair done regularly but my mind told me I looked fat. Always. And that others must be saying that behind my back too.
  • I went on diets at least 3 times. I lost and re-gained the same 18kg each time. Diets included weight watchers (who never could explain to me how NOT to be an emotional eater) and attending a dietitian.

My Fifties.

  • Life was good in many ways. Our children were now adults and independent to a degree and both eventually left home.
  • My husband was reasonably well and we had the trappings of success outwards (new house, cars etc) but there was more happening inside.
  • Interestingly I never ate when stressed but I ate to soothe when I felt overwhelmed or needed what I would call a ‘reward’ or treat.
  • I became a school principal at this time of my life and the days might not have had time for me to eat but I made up for it when I got home.
  • I liked cooking for others and enjoyed sharing my culinary skills with plenty of leftovers, always making I had put aside food for me that I liked too for another time.
  • By now I realised that I used food emotionally. Yes. Crunchy foods helped soothe anger and frustrations. Soft food, like chocolate and cake soothed my sad or loneliness.
  • I visited psychologists about my weight, I went on exercise plans and I did diaries and I even took a prescription tablet to help me reduce my cravings. That worked for a while but it gave me side-effects so off that I went and back on came the weight.
  • By now I decided NOT to be the number on the scales anymore and threw them out.

From a Slimming Mag Article on Me. Early 2000s. Made up me, around 70kg on left, Grandma me in 2001 much heavier on right.

My Sixties.

  • I was in the decade of when my maternal aunt died. This was a bit scary as she was overweight and I know she comfort ate and her death was related to an unknown cancer.
  • I did get blood tests done annually and it was as a result of one of those around 4-5 years ago that I got my first warning of what ageing, lack of exercise and excessive weight could do. I had raised blood sugar and my GP wanted me to have the Glucose Tolerance Test.
  • She really did understand thought that I was trying to live my life without being a number on the scales. But I HAD to do something myself. I then agreed to be weighed and then I asked her to give me 6 months to do something about this.
  • Six months later, and 3 kgs lighter, thanks to more attention to the amounts of what I was eating AND to increase my walking each day, there was no need to have a GTT. Phew.
  • In this period of 2014-2017 I was affected (still am from time to time) by the immense stressors of the trifecta of transitions as I like to call them: selling our house, moving away from family and friends, retiring from all education work.
  • Enter: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) …it had emerged for the first time in my 30s but had gone till now. Suddenly, and over time I found I HAD to limit what I ate. I also found I was…ahem, going to the loo much much more.
  • My GPs (I was still going to one in Sydney and then I found one up here) re-assured me that this unintentional weight loss was OK as long as I was managing OK. I was but not always.
  • Stressors such as loneliness and sadness of the trifecta of transitions saw me settle into a healthier and better eating pattern which probably halved meals on most days.
  • I no longer went out for coffee and cake as I was too stressed to do so but I missed it. However, this helped me too.
  • I often asked the doctors “are you sure this is OK?” and they always said “yes”.
  • It took me a LOOOOONG time to believe (and I still have doubts) that this weight loss could be sustained.
  • Over the 3 years or so I lost around 33 kg. It goes up a bit then down a bit but I have gone from Size 22/20 clothes to Size 16/14. Interesting!

WHAT ABOUT GETTING CANCER?

  • Interestingly, in the 2014-2017 times I used to ask the GPs and even the Gastroenterologist “do you think I have lost some weight because I have cancer?” and this was always answered no!
  • I do not believe my cancer was weight-related either now but I also know that somewhere along the line our bodies can change inside when we are under stress. The last 3-4 years were those for me. My Professor and GP both have no idea why I got this cancer (neither a smoker nor drinker) either but they have said it can be found in older women (check) and is quite rare. Lovely. Not.
  • So, yes since having a cancer diagnosis IN my mouth it was already hard to eat as my gums and the bridge with teeth at the front of my mouth was tender. So, too sore to eat much. Weight comes down. How do I know? Clothes are loosening.
  • Time to get real about food. After the surgery I had to take responsibility for feeding myself with a very limited selections of food that can be soft, easy to swallow and are generally nutritious.
  • It was impressed on me by the dietitian before I left hospital in July that I was not to lose weight. And THAT was something I had NEVER heard in my life before.
  • Staying the weight I was and am is a bit of an up and down juggle and I weigh myself every few weeks. I have not lost much weight and have even gained a kilo or two since my lowest a few months back.
  • The importance of the nutrition in healing and staying well is something I have accepted more easily. I am eating foods I never chose before. Weetbix is my breakfast and I will even eat some scrambled egg with tasty cheese in it. I am adept at slippery and soft foods and right now, mangoes and avocadoes are my friend. Little cakes and some biscuits I can dunk for softness are my treats.

SELF-IMAGE AND CONFIDENCE.

  • I admit it took me at least 6-7 months to realise once the weight loss had settled  it is likely to stay.
  • I did donate mountains of Plus Size clothes to local charities but could not (yet) bring myself to do that with all of the size 16s so they are in a box in the linen press.
  • As time goes on, I can see with the changes I have made since cancer made me eat differently and consider food as nutrition more than for enjoyment (that still counts!) I will not re-gain those 30+kg.
  • I gave myself permission to buy new (usually on special as we have a limited income now!) clothes and over time I have begun to see myself differently.
  • The person in the mirror has more wrinkles than ever (the fat held the skin more taughtly) but she is looking, in her 60s, more like what she remembers her mother to look like. This has taken quite some time as I never thought I could be good enough to look like Mum.
  • Deciding to share my story, in bits and pieces on the blog has been good for me but until this post, I had never explained the WHOLE story.
  • Taking part in a daily outfit challenge for everyday style has given me such a lift as I do get some very encouraging and positive comments.
  • I like who I see in the mirror and in the photos now and I love seeing my husband’s eyes light up when I appear in something he likes me wearing. The day of my birthday when I wore a dress for the first time in 15 years was one such landmark.

WHAT NOW?

  • I need to remember to be kind to the ‘person who was not at an ideal weight’. I need to forgive her and tell her she was doing the best she could at the time. I do.
  • I see the ‘me’ keeping on keeping on. I know so much more about the why of what I was doing. I also think I know so much more about how to stop that continuing.
  • Getting my mouth re-construction completed in early-mid 2018 will be interesting for me as for the first time in close to a year I will probably be able to eat all foods. I have missed crunching and chewing a lot.
  • I know if I am seeking comfort for something I am not prepared to admit or talk about I want something food-wise so I will keep an eye on that.
  • My IBS is well-controlled now thanks to a medication my GP has me taking.
  • My anxiety levels (which were incredibly high PRE-cancer) have reduced by around 90%. In other words, they are not out of control.
  • Telling my story has, for the first time in ages, been both cathartic and brave. I hope, that if you got this far it has proved to be of interest.

Me: Sun 17 Dec 2017. Off to Granddaughter’s 21st and 7 months post- cancer diagnosis. I miss smiling! It will be back next year sometime.

 

I understand this is a tough topic for many of us and it took me a LONG time to own up to what has been going on for me here.

Thank you for reading and let me know what your thoughts are about weight and self-image.

Denyse.

Yes, it’s the last post in 2017! How DID that happen.

Last linky with IBOT and Kylie on Tuesdays until January 2018 and with Leanne on Thursdays for Lovin’ Life. I know Leanne is returning in the same week I am with #lifethisweek. My Monday link-up is back 1 January 2018. Leanne’s is Thurs 4 Jan.

 

 

 

 

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My Cancer & Surgery #2. 2017.128.

My Cancer & Surgery #2. 2017.128.

I know I have written about the cancer I was diagnosed with on quite a few occasions. It still mystifies me, as it does the medical and surgical teams, how I got cancer at all. However, through the reading I have done – little via Dr Google – mostly from this site as recommended by my team from the Head and Neck Clinic at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse it appears that I have a rare cancer or at least it is most unusual one for me to get. I like don’t like that I am that special. 

The condition I was diagnosed with was squamous cell carcinoma in the upper gingiva. I have also seen it on the operation report as verrucous carcinoma upper alveolus. Whatever is the difference..and they are all contained within my upper part of my mouth it has meant a long surgery written about here and even longer recovery in hospital here and at home here.

WHY IS HEAD AND NECK CANCER DIFFERENT?
Head and neck cancer is incredibly complex and diverse. It includes more than 10 different cancers that can affect a person’s mouth, tongue, salivary glands, skin or voice box.

In the past, smoking was the most common cause of head and neck cancer typically affecting areas like the mouth, throat and voice box. However, today in Australia, many head and neck cancers are due to other causes. For example, the human papilloma virus is the most common cause of tonsil cancer, which is rapidly increasing in incidence.

Skin cancers on the face are mainly due to sun exposure and may extend to the eyes, ears, nose and salivary glands. For many other head and neck cancers, such as thyroid cancer, the cause is unknown. Source: Beyond Five.

I had been told following my first surgery that there would be two more surgeries to come. I was not happy about that but needed to accept that to get a ‘working mouth’ back it would be necessary.

I had a check up with Professor Jonathan Clark at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse on 10 October 2017 where he found all my recovery going well and no new issues with lymph glands  – there never had been any cancer found there but this was my first 3 month post-op cancer check. He said my next appointment would be to have a CT scan of my mouth to see how the bone (from the leg) with the added implant bases were settling, to see the specialist dentist at Westmead and then to wait to see when the second surgery might be.

The CT scan went well. The visit back to Westmead was fine now I knew the dentist so well and he is extremely kind and comforting. He explained how my future 2nd surgery would go and what would be achieved. OK. Done.

But when would it be? Before I had a chance to even think about getting mentally prepared for surgery in the coming days a phone call came from the Prof’s practice manager that it was to be DAY ONLY (what?!) surgery on Wednesday 15 November. So, that was something different. To go home on the same day!

We (ok, I) had a nervous drive to Sydney that morning, in peak hour traffic, leaving here at 6.00 am and arriving in time for the pre-admission of 9.00 am. Then my prep was fine and I was wheeled to surgery (same theatre as last time as it is where the Prof prefers to work) ready for 10.30 and there was a delay. I am not good with waiting. However, a trip to the loo, a chat to the anaesthetist and then to Prof and I was wheeled in at 11.30. I do not remember waking in recovery but I know I went OK and was back in the day surgery area feeling well (as you can after 2 hours surgery!) and by 3.50 pm ready to leave with my husband for the drive home. I was a good recoverer.

It might seem strange but for me the surgery in my mouth has never been well-understood by me. I say it is because I am spatially challenged AND that the changes are within me. So I have some troubles feeling what is going on in my mouth because using the tongue is always something that tends to magnify. I have also been in MUCH more pain than I recalled from my first surgery. So, on Day 5 post surgery the Prof wanted to see me and down to St George Private Hospital we went. It was a longer drive and on a not great day but I dealt with it pretty well and hardly did any front seat driving. My husband is a saint putting up with me.

A ten minute consultation (on time!) and we were back on our way home. 5 hours driving in one day. However, the Prof did not seem perturbed by my levels of pain and discomfort most of the time. I also cannot eat as well as I could (and that was limited then too!) after my first surgery some weeks down the track. So, I have been a relatively unhappy recoverer this time. Parts of the stitches on one side have come away, and some of the places where he put stitches feel strange. The purpose of this surgery was to open up part of the flap (the roof of my mouth taken from my leg) and inspect the condition of the 5 implants…which are WELL- EMBEDDED! Good news.

Then he and the specialist dentist put the abutments (screws) on the implants and added some skin from my right thigh to help the implants become adapted to my mouth. I am not explaining it well. Sorry. However, the added pain including nerve shooting types through my lip are driving me cray cray. I was so concerned I even sent the Prof a photo of the inside of my mouth. Can you imagine how hard that was for my poor hub to take?

I am sparing you these photos.

As I write this I have not heard back from him (yet) but I have sent more recent pictures today after his practice manager rang me. The thing I am finding (and have found since I first found out about the cancer in May) is that things are not well-explained AND unless I am ready with questions I get a very short appointment. We have been around surgeons a few times and know they tend to go in, do what they do, and go out again. I am hoping what I am feeling is normal. But it remains somewhat stressful for me. I see him again on 5 December and then the third surgery (I am not sure of its details) is scheduled for early February. But that could change I suppose.

UPDATE  1: The Prof sent me a brief email late Monday saying the photos of inside my mouth looked OK but to keep an eye on things and he will see me next Tuesday. My husband, who ‘gets what is going on in my mouth more than me’ is reassured that it is OK. Sigh.

I was feeling pretty low about it all on Saturday and it is hard. However as I write it is Sunday and I have managed to have a better day thanks to a regular intake of some food and medication for pain. I am somewhat better mentally now, Monday and have managed to eat something at meal times.

UPDATE 2: The nerve pain is likely to be coming from one of the implants my GP tells me and should settle. It is already somewhat (phew!) and yesterday I soaked in a bath for 20 minutes to allow the top covering of my donor site wound to come off and for the skin underneath to continue to re-generate and so far that is going well!

 

Have you had surgery?

Have you had cancer?

It can be so hard once you are home and there is no-one to ask. At least that’s what it is like for me.

Thanks for reading. It has been a LONG post.

Denyse.

Joining with Kylie for I Blog on Tuesdays and with Leanne for Lovin’ Life Linky on Thursdays.

 

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Meditation. Yay or Nay. #LifeThisWeek.43/52. 2017.121.

Meditation. Yay or Nay. #LifeThisWeek.43/52. 2017.121.

Yay for Meditation from me.

But, over time meditation has changed (me) for the better and I will outline why.

Before we go there, I want to clear up some misconceptions about meditation.

It is not:

  • where you turn off all your thoughts (impossible)
  • a session where you ‘chant’ or repeat a mantra (unless you choose to)
  • something you need a special time and place for (although you might find that helps you)
  • a magical panacea to life’s stressors ( if only!)
  • something to be done occasionally if you want to gain from it (i.e. missing days/weeks/months) 
  • is not always a cost to you (there are some programs I have used at the end of the post)

My brief history as a meditator.

I began formal (i.e. making myself sit in one place, with my eyes closed for 10 minutes) meditations shortly after enjoying and noting the benefits from a half-day course here at the local Buddhist Centre. I wrote about it here too on the blog back in 2015. I think I confused the two words: mindfulness and meditation as being one. They can be joined for sure but mindfulness can be practised in all kinds of settings whereas meditation tends to be in a quieter space often alone. Some meditations occur in  group setting such as the course I went to and on-line but for me, I have only ever meditated alone. More about what I got up to in the early days here.

I started with headspace via their app and did the first 10 sessions for free. I was IN. I then paid for the next stages and that has gone on now for a continuous time. I pay around $75 USD for annual membership.

This gives me the access to so many different topics all based on coming back to the breath and letting your brain note and let get has been worth it. I often repeat a group of sessions. Some are 30 sessions, others 10. I pick my time I want to meditate from 10mins, 15 mins to 20 mins. Right now, I am doing a work-based session called Productivity and it is 10 sessions for my choice of 10 minutes.

“But Denyse, you don’t work anymore says you”….true but I sure know I am liable to be distracted and wander off to do tasks and then get somewhat overwhelmed if I do not have them more organised. So, it is helping me with gentle guidance in a life skill.

So far here are the stats of my meditations history. I am not sure it is entirely accurate as I did have an account double and my date may not have transferred…but what the heck, it gives me a bit of a boost to see how I am going.

Total time meditated
191 hours

Sessions completed
924 sessions

Current run streak
35 days

Last time meditated
17 hours ago

This is reminding me that I have yet to meditate today (Saturday afternoon as I write, so I will be back!) I am back.

Where I meditate and why.

My default behaviour is rule-keeper. That means for me, starting as a meditator I made a special place within my bedroom where I had some items like a candle I would light, a high backed chair with cushion making sure my feet could touch the ground and of course, no interruptions. I also had a special time for it and reminder via my phone. I relaxed that somewhat this year and just have it as a general reminder. My iphone as the app for Headspace and each day it would be ready with the next session I had chosen.

As time went on, and we moved house, I did not have a set place or space devoted to meditation anymore other than not to be disturbed. I now meditate (often) outside in a comfy chair with my back supported and feet up on a seat. I sometimes meditate lying on a bed in my art room. I have meditated in bed at night if I have not done so in the day and I have meditated in my car (parked!) on some occasions.

It has made no difference to me how or where I meditate even though I did think in 2015 I had to do it ‘right’ to get the benefitsWhat I now know is the only doing it right is to actually do it! I have missed a day here and there (and I did not meditate in hospital because of the constant interruptions) and I feel the difference not doing it. I thought it would cure me of my anxiety and IBS and it hasn’t. But what it has done is made me more aware of not getting too carried away with my thoughts and to bring myself back to the breath. Not only via meditation but anywhere. My husband does a walking meditation too.

My breath is my anchor.

But what about mindfulness? 

For me, mindfulness is something I need to attend to more each day. And generally I do. I am more mindful because I notice things and look around me often. I feel the touch of where I am sitting and when driving the car. I smell the smells and inhale the good and pleasant ones as great memories. Of course I eat mindfully MORE now as I literally have to take great care eating and do not want to choke! I also listen more attentively to nature. The bird song here is just wonderful.

So, mindfulness + meditation is about attending to the session I guess. However, in my case, the founder of Headspace, Andy Puddicombe really just asks that we pay attention to the breath, and to let passing thoughts come and go..noting them but not getting caught up in them.

I have tried and still check out three other meditation apps/sites. Here is Smiling Mind which is Australian-based and used in schools now too. This one is called Calm. This is one on my phone too and is free. It’s Insight Timer.  Sometimes I do a meditation from my favourites Pema Chodron, Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield on their CDs. I have one more to add. Comedian and writer, Ruby Wax has had many episodes of depression and it was only through meditation and mindfulness practices with some of the best Dr Mark Williams at Oxford that her health improved. She has now done a Masters there and produced a great book called Frazzled. I have listened to the audio version and she does a great job helping guide people as first time meditators.

I hope that you have found some of this helpful. Please ask me any questions in the comments. I am always happy to share and help.

How about you, are you for Meditation or not?

Denyse.

I link up here for Open Slather with Alicia and here with Kell for Mummy Mondays.

Thank you for linking up today.
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!


 

 

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Cancer and Me Four Months On. 2017.108.

Cancer and Me Four Months On. 2017.108.

Really? It’s been four months since I found out that cancer was in my mouth….and by this Thursday coming, 11 weeks since it was removed. Oh. Then that has  gone both fast and slow!

I did say I wasn’t going to have cancer at the centre of my blogging but I cannot deny that it’s there/here/everywhere around us. My community nurse who visits each week to change and check on my leg wounds’ dressings has cancer. Hers is breast cancer. I know of on-line friends recently diagnosed too and one, very sadly, who has passed away. And the country was saddened to see the recent death to cancer of Connie Johnson from LoveYourSister.

CANCER.

I don’t use the ‘f’ word in front of it though. Many do with the #f…cancer. It’s just not me.

Today though  I am actually wanting to share the lessons having cancer has taught me. I am not going too ‘woo woo’ or having had a new experience from beyond. But it’s true.

Having cancer has taught me these 10 lessons:

  • I am not alone in getting a rare cancer and a most unusual one like mine …even if I did  know that someone else has had it might make a difference. The point I am making is I am not special”.
  • The surgeons know more about how to fix me than I do so I am better leaving things in their capable hands rather than trying to control where my cancer is taking me.
  • About kindness. Of strangers. Of friends. Of people I may only see a few times. So. Many. Kind. Words & Deeds. I am forever grateful.
  • When I need to be, I can be patient and wait. This is a huge life lesson for the previously still  impatient moi!
  • I have more inner strength and resilience than I have previously given myself credit for. It has made a psychological shift in me that has been noticed by those closest to me and the professionals I see more frequently such as my GP and psychologist. I am going well in so many ways, I can see & feel that now. 
  • To appreciate the little things in life. Sunshine on a day where I can go outside and soak up some vitamin D. A warm bed after an early shower (my husband still needs to help by sealing my right leg in a plastic bag. Time to talk. To my husband and to friends who call.
  • My creativity and independence give me great strength each day as I endeavour to feed myself for healing, wellness and enjoyment. It IS a challenge but now I am on my own two feet and fit to cook, I enjoy making meals for someone (moi!)  who has 8 teeth on the bottom jaw and a strong tongue. The rest…is attitude and being aware of how I can eat safely.
  • I can be calm about what is ahead because I am fortunate enough to be able to know (within a small likelihood) that my cancer is unlikely to metastasise.
  • What I face in the next 6-12 months is to get my mouth ‘fixed’ from the inside. I do trust my surgical and dental team 100% that their goal is for me to be cancer free (check!) and back to eating as I might have in the past (on the way) and to have my full smile back (it is half at the moment).
  • Every day is a gift and I need to be more in the present than I have ever been in my whole life. I am a work-in-progress in this as I often spent times in the past (regrets, sadness) and projecting into the future. I know that the only moment we have is NOW. 

What About You?

None of us have to have cancer to consider making life changes. Some of the last 2 years I had been on my way using daily meditation, creative arts and reading & doing on-line courses to better understand the various life transitions that were mine. Retirement. Ageing. Leaving Family. Selling Our House.

What do you do to help yourself?

Thank you to my readers here who have continued to be wonderful supporters and friends of mine as I continue to journey. I am buoyed by your care and words on-line whenever we connect!

Denyse.

Joining with Kylie Purtell (who is cruising along right now!) for I Blog on Tuesdays here and with Leanne here for Lovin’ Life Linky on Thursdays.

 

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Mindfulness. #LifeThisWeek 33/52. 2017.101.

Mindfulness. #LifeThisWeek 33/52. 2017.101.

This prompt, along with my daily meditation via Headspace, was developed for ME to become even more mindful than I am.

I thought that it might help me become more focussed as I know I need to be more present-based in my thoughts rather than past oriented or future centred. 

Having the knowledge of what mindfulness is I need to be more practised in it.

Here’s a few knowledgable people’s quotes about what mindfulness is:

  • “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose,
 in the present moment, and 
non-judgmentally.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn)
  • “Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.” (Marlatt & Kristeller)
  • “Awareness of present experience with acceptance.” (Germer, Segal, Fulton)
  • “Mindfulness is a state of being in the present moment openly, flexibility and with curiosity” – (B.J. Whelan)

So, why be mindful?

The present moment, as it is said by Erkhardt Tolle, is actually the NOW and it is the only time we experience. The past has happened and the future is yet to happen.

So, what am I doing to be more mindful?

  • When I am driving I ensure I pay attention to the road…and the conditions of course, but I also sense the wheel in my hands, listen to the music I am playing and sense the fresh air coming through the vents
  • When I am making something creative, I have my materials to keep me centred as I decided what colours, media and designs to make
  • When I am sitting without distraction, in my chair, or looking at a view, I take it all in through the five senses if that is possible
  • I recognise that if I become too past oriented or future centred, I do not notice or take in the present moment and I may indeed miss something of value such as a bird singing outside or the sun moving behind the clouds
  • It also helps me when I am anxious or worried to take some strategies I have learned about being present: see 5 things and name them to myself, hear 4 things and name them, touch 3 things and name them, smell 2 things and name them and finally, if appropriate taste one thing and name it. Once  I have mindfully done this I will often find the anxiety/worry has moved on!

I found this here and it is a great list for the ‘why’ of being mindful.

The Benefits of Mindfulness
Practising mindfulness helps you:
* to be fully present, here and now
* to experience unpleasant thoughts and feelings safely
* to become aware of what you’re avoiding
* to become more connected to yourself, to others and to the world around you
* to become less judgmental
* to increase self-awareness
* to become less disturbed by and less reactive to unpleasant experiences
* to learn the distinction between you and your thoughts
* to have more direct contact with the world, rather than living through your thoughts
* to learn that everything changes; that thoughts and feelings come and go like the weather
* to have more balance, less emotional volatility
* to experience more calm and peacefulness
* to develop self-acceptance and self-compassion

How are you at being mindful?

Do you sometimes find yourself wondering what just happened as you have not been paying attention to whatever you have been doing?

Can you suggest some strategies you use for being more mindful?

Denyse.

Linking with friends Alicia here and Kell here who also blog on Mondays!

Thank you for joining in the link-up this week.


 

 

 

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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. Part Two. 2017.94.

I Am Grateful Today. Part Two. 2017.94.

Two weeks ago I wrote “I Am Grateful Today. Part One. Here is the link as it is the ‘back story’ to this post.

Where did those two weeks go? I did say I would write Part Two last week for I Blog on Tuesdays and Loving’ Linky on Thursday but a hiccup called anti-biotic reaction in my gut  s l o w e d  me down!  Add to that a  ‘foggy post-anaesthetic’ brain and needing to rest more, time got away!

Here I go, outlining some of the features I was grateful for during my stay on Level 9 North Room 16 at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. I arrived on the ward late Sunday afternoon from ICU and the delight at seeing the V.I.E.W. from my bed made the wait worth it!

I was in my private  room from Sunday 9 July until Saturday 15 July – day of discharge.

Warning: I have added a few photos of myself as I was recovering. In some ways this was very helpful for me to see progress. Scroll on by if you would prefer not to look. 

The arrival in a room of my own brought me some independence even though I still needed some initial assistance to get up for the ‘loo. I was grateful, oh so grateful for my relative independence.

I was still on nil by mouth – liquid food via a naso-gastric tube  ( I tolerated it and guess I was grateful because the nutrition, along with the drip feed of fluid was keeping me alive (LOL) …just disliked the feeling on the fluid  tube feed inside me. 

I stayed in a hospital gown because..I was messy…no details but a fair bit of me in the head/neck area was cut into and then stitched back so there were… messy fluids. I was grateful for a warm quick wash in bed and a change of gown daily. It also meant my nice Sussan nighties stayed in the bag until later in the week.

I have mentioned elsewhere that I had some amazing nurses caring for me and I struck up conversations with them all. Often my chats were to ask them about their career choice and how they liked their working lives, and with only one exception all agreed (from young ones to older ones) that this is a vocation for them. I am incredibly grateful to those who choose nursing and who remain dedicated to it as I saw first-hand how rushed off their feet they could be. I often said to them “I hope you have had a meal and a bit of a break today/tonight”.

The night nurse I had 4 nights in a row who clicked with me was Roan and I know I featured him in a post recently  about how we shared a passion for  photography. He was the one who invited me to get up and onto the balcony for sunrise pics. I am so grateful for his genuine care.

As the week progressed I was grateful to see some of the surgeons’ team arrive each day to check on me (and the flap inside my mouth to see it was still ‘lub dubbing’. I was ALWAYS grateful to hear that sound from the doppler! 

I had excellent care from three allied professionals and I am oh so grateful for their advice and help.: the physio who got me into my boot and walking with some trepidation but I eventually could walk unaided. The speech therapist whose job it was on Day 6 post surgery to see if I could speak well (derrr. who was ever going to stop me!) and to drink my first glass of water…as sips! It was GOOD. So grateful for that drink for sure. The dietitian had lots of advice and seemed well-versed in IBS issues and I was grateful for my first day of clear fluids on the 7th day post surgery. But I never wanted to try the soup again after the third time! I tolerated the jelly and the apple juice well. On the last day in hospital I was on smooth soft foods but there was little for me to choose from (that I liked!) but I was grateful to have some mashed potato and some baked tomato – which I had to smash up for it to ‘go down.

Each day brought me something to be grateful for. I was told by every medical professional just how amazingly well I was progressing. I had no measure for this but they obviously did and when I asked the Professor quite cheekily did he think I could go home on the weekend (I hoped Saturday) he said words to the effect ” keeping on going the way you are and I see no reason why not”. How grateful I was that I would be discharged in the minimum time (I was told initially 10-14 days and I went home on day 10!) And check me out with NO more tubes down the nose or up the nose..oh so grateful for that day! 

The person I am also incredibly grateful to is the anaesthetist who put drips and cannulas in 3 different places ( he said to ensure that if one stopped working in the marathon 11 hour surgery, he has a spare to use!). I might bruise easily, and now 3 weeks post-surgery my bruises have gone. They did not hurt me much. I was grateful for relatively little pain in the mouth and just a bit from the leg’s various sites where flesh and bone were harvested. From day two I only ever needed panadol – drip version first, then  liquid version as swallowing too challenging with the swelling inside my mouth.

There are many quiet and lonely times in hospital once evening comes and I was so grateful for my iphone for messages, texts and emails (as well as IG, twitter and FB) and my new Ipad for games, music and more. I also took my art things but the one I did enjoy the most was making mandalas each evening. The meditative effect for me was so for helpful in mitigating missing my husband and home.

I was grateful for the kindness of friends who understood my request for no visitors other than my husband and my daughter. Our son could not make it in. I had many, many well-wishes and some surprises dropped into my room for me. I did feel grateful for this. It is a distraction and a way in which to reinforce how we need to connect with our fellow humans!

 

On Saturday 15 July, after the minor (which led to some not great complications for my gut later at home) infection  was noted in an area of my leg & treated,  my husband arrived…I was already dressed (keen much?) then he had to pack up the bag and more. It was done with ease and I was grateful to leave my room of shelter, health recovery and protection  to be put in a wheelchair and taken to our car.

I am grateful if you have read to the end. It was interesting trying to recall events chronologically and without the photos to help me I would have struggled. This weekend ( as I write) I am feeling less and less foggy-brained and the gut is settling from the nasty antibiotics.

Have you ever had major surgery?

How was your recovery?

What were you grateful for?

Denyse.

3 weeks post-surgery. On our way home from post-op check up.

 

Joining Kylie Purtell for I Blog on Tuesdays here and Leanne at Deep Fried Fruit for Loving’ Life here on Thursday.

 

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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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