Sunday 8th December 2019

Five Years Ago.116/2019.

Five Years Ago.116/2019.

In late 2014 so much happened to me: as an individual, a partner, mother and grandmother.

It’s timely to remember it and note parts of it.

You see, dear reader, I am an emotional person but also a very practical and organised one too. So when we decided mid 2014 that it was time for me to be able to quit all paid work as I was stressed and weary, and to finish up grandchild caring (we had been doing this lovingly since 2008) and that meant:

selling the house

paying out the mortgage

finding a place to rent on the Central Coast

buy a new vehicle each (the two we had were very much on their last legs so to speak)

and “then all would be better”.

True from one perspective: the practical but not from the emotional one for me and as regular readers know things did not go well for me. For quite some time.

Posts about the years 2015-early 2017 and how my life was affected may be found here (2015) and here (2016) and here (early 2017)

 

To give me some perspective now and to provide a photographic account of “this time 5 years ago” I offer:

 

House went on market & we accepted best offer on same day. Waiting for this sign to go up took a bit longer.

 

In the meantime, it was summer and as Papa tended the pool these grandkids made the most of what would no longer be ours in a few weeks.

 

We found a house to rent (unsuitable as we found later!) before Christmas that worked in with our settlement of mid Jan 2015 so we enlisted the family and up we travelled with some of our ‘stuff’. We had removalists on the day though.

 

 

The ‘last’ NSW Dept of Education School Spec for us (at the Entertainment Centre) made more special by our Yr 12 Drama Ensemble Member and Granddaughter playing the Nurse in a re-enactment based on the commemoration of WW1 A.N.Z.A.C. Centenary. I was in the audience watching with 2 of her siblings and her cousin.

 

And here she is, our dear GD, who was awarded top 10% in Drama for the HSC and is now, 5 years down the track, a graduate in Film Making from Australian Film Television and Radio School. She has her own film-making biz, so ask me if you want to know more!

 

 

 

I cannot leave this one out of my memories. Australian cricketer lost his life in a game when a ball hit him as he batted. In a tribute to Philip Hughes, we “put out our bats”. This is my husband’s from the 1960s. At the School Spectacular 2014 above, there was a segment added about his death as he was a public high school graduate and there was not a dry eye in the house as we sang “Come on Aussie Come on” in tribute to Philip.

 

 

I took a break from packing to drive to Mona Vale one evening and hear the funny and modest William McInnes talk about his (then) latest book Holidays. It was a joy to meet him and he is a very laidback and generous author. I used to listen to his A Man’s Got To Have a Hobby as a ‘comfort’ listen when I was stressed in those years. Lovely man with great family life stories to share.

 

It was hard, but I did it. Christmas decorating for the last time WITH the grandchildren. Practical me did not put a tree up nor did we do much inside the house but for the last time at Glenwood, the wooden decorations were up and some lights. Knowing it was last was hard but like I have said, I am still practical. This advent calendar was always filled with little chocolates for visiting grandchildren. We also had a tradition of “grandkids” only helping me do the tree sometime near the end of November. The older ones tell me they remember it well, so that makes me happy!

 

Then I was 65. Our daughter and her kids hosted us for a little afternoon tea with our son and his family. It was special of course and we took some pics to remember the occasion. We had Christmas Day together with both our kids and their kids for the last time hosted by our daughter and that was a little tinged with sadness but also knowing what was ahead was for us now.

That’s it for me.

Except for this: This photo (from instagram yesterday)  representing ‘then’ and ‘now’ of me visually but more words which helped make sense for the long and hard transition this has been for me. As transitions often are: getting married, moving from home,  becoming parents, starting new jobs, and so on. Mine happened to have three pretty big items: retirement, leaving Sydney, and moving from our family and all that was known.

 

What was life like for you 5 years ago?

Denyse.

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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New Normal For Me With Head & Neck Cancer. 43/2019.

New Normal For Me With Head & Neck Cancer. 43/2019.

It’s occurred to me that I’ve been writing posts about how it was for me BEFORE a cancer diagnosis hereand there are the series of posts about my surgeries and progress found here….but I have not done any updates of NOW.

Now as they say in cancer circles, is the new normalwhich is described here:

Finding a ‘new normal’

Many survivors* say that cancer changes them. After treatment, they may feel different, even though they look the same. With time, survivors often find a new way of living. Many call this a “˜new normal’. It may take months or years to find a “˜new normal’.

Misconceptions about treatment  ending

  • I should be celebrating.
  • I should feel well.
  • I should be the person I was before cancer.
  • I should not need support.
  • I should feel grateful.

Read more at https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/15289/b1000/living-well-after-cancer-45/living-well-after-cancer-back-to-normal/#xc5f7pBq7VeQ7Oeq.99

Fellow Head and Neck Cancer Survivor, Julie McCrossin AM, the inaugural Beyond Five Ambassador hosts a series of podcasts here called About Cancer.

About the word: survivor. My personal choice is this one. However, it is not always looked upon well by some. I have no word to replace it for me. I personally do not like warrior nor does thriver work for me as it does for some. It’s just me. I tend to use patient maybe because I am still getting cancer checks. To each their own, right?

Now, back to MY version of New Normal.

I have really been considering this in 2019 as it ‘felt like’ and ‘looked like’ I was back to Denyse. But which version of Denyse? I am ageing too and I wonder if some of my thoughts are also linked to being in my 70th year.

When I was in pre-cancer times, I was so ‘caught up’ with managing my stress and emotional load at having moved from Sydney and all that entailed in getting used to a new normal for that situation. Suddenly, new normal meant:

  • no longer living in a house we were paying off
  • no more employment for me
  • no more regular contact and care for our grandkids
  • being a more stressed-out person than I liked
  • trying hard (so hard) to be better able to manage the life I had then: 2015-mid 2017

Then cancer entered my life.

Very suddenly I took on a new way of looking at life, and learning what was ahead.

OK. I was stressed but in some ways I knew what was coming and even though there were unknowns, I do know NOW, I have made it through

  • diagnosis,
  • 4 surgeries,
  • recovery times,
  • many prosthodontist visits and treatments,
  • adjusting to life with less ‘in my mouth’ to help me eat,
  • then getting more in my mouth to help me eat…
  • and bingo, the smile is back so…
  • back to normal, right?

OH no, so not true. For me at all.

Partly it was my belief I could be back to eating what I used to eat.

I even bought these foods after not buying anything crunchy for well over a year and they disappointed me greatly. Perhaps, for the chips, a good thing.

However, some of this is true but more is not.

I can only crunch and chew for so long.

It is almost a year since the last surgery inside my mouth to add more skin to the inside of my upper lip and around the top ‘jaw’ abutments. I got my upper prosthesis screwed in on 21 August 2018 and it has been removed only once for adjustment by the prosthodontist. I do upkeep: two routines daily, involving 4 steps using this:

In being totally honest with myself, I can say I need to remember more than anyone that I have changed because of cancer in my mouth.

Head and Neck cancer never really leaves us. This is the reason for Beyond Five where I am now an Ambassador. This site helps patients, carers, families and friends with ‘the years after cancer’s 5 year checks are up’.

Announcement of My Ambassador Role.

It’s stays as it affects our inside and outside areas of the neck, head and inside the mouth, cheeks, sinuses and down into the throat and more. In my case, it is all in the mouth. I was told pre-big surgery, no-one would know you have had cancer or surgery once this is all done, and that is true. In some ways, that is a reason why it is up to ME to manage my new ways of eating rather than expect, as I look normal, others will be able to guess what I need.

This comes home to me even as I can still struggle to eat a meal I have prepared. It takes a long time to eat and sometimes, I just divide it into 2 meals as it tires my new mouth and makes it sore.

This is what I know is my new normal.

  • I get myself up each day between 8 and 8.30 a.m. to eat a nutritious breakfast or weetbix or cereal with fruit/yoghurt and milk
  • I take time to eat as it takes time and as I am retired, I get to enjoy reading the morning paper that’s been home-delivered
  • I will do any minor household chores which are shared with my also-retired husband e.g. a load of washing is put on the line
  • I check my emails, my blog (I have a blog which posts a new post 3 days a week) and any social media
  • Time to get dressed for the day. In October 2017, following the first major surgery I had lost a lot of weight and enjoyed the fact that I needed to buy new clothes. As a previously very overweight person, this was F U N
  • However, I found this to be a new normal for me called #dresswithpurpose and I joined in #everydaystyle for around a year and what a great community of support surrounded me post-cancer. I had no top teeth but as my husband said “I smiled with my eyes”.

Dress With Purpose photos: 2017 into 2018.

  • Each day, after a photo taken by my husband, I venture out for a coffee (and now more often, a treat to eat) somewhere local or more distant. I love this part of my new normal.
  • I have my coffee, I take out my mini journal kit, and draw/write and I people watch.
  • Sometimes I browse if I am at the shops, other times I may be out in nature and enjoy that too.
  • I have my own car which helps me be independent and drive myself to all of my Sydney appointments.
  • After this it is closer to the middle of the day and I come home when I am ready and get my very crunchy lunch ready. It is a joy to crunch.
  • More reading after lunch and sometimes more work/play via the computer.
  • Some outside chores including nurturing the plants that gives me further purpose in cancer recovery
  • Then it is meal preparation or simply getting small frozen version of an earlier meal from the freezer. Batch cooking is the way I go: meat meals made with mince, lamb shanks, beef slow cooked and of course teensy cakes for treats. I love them too.

Now I know this about my new normal.

I need to appreciate this new normal and the state of health I am in. So far, almost 2 years since diagnosis, there has been no return of cancer. I have the best health professionals looking after me and I am grateful eternally for them, their skills and their care.

I will continue to learn more about myself as I both age, and get used to ‘what’s inside my mouth’. I do know that pain comes and goes. I also am reassured that my mouth continues to be healthy inside and I am caring for it well.

I do not have any mobility problems with my right leg even though the fibula was removed for my new jaw. Thanks too for the skin and flesh, right leg!

I am loved and cared for by many as I do of them. This is a very good way to live.

In my 70th year I continue to enjoy creating with art, meeting up with friends for coffee rather than a meal, travelling to other cities by car for events and entertaining our family, along with continuing my engagement with school education, and promoting more about the awareness of this rare, but not nice, cancer called Head and Neck Cancer.

My new normal is awesome.

Denyse.

This post is being shared on link ups here, on Wednesday and  here on Thursday.

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