Wednesday 22nd May 2019

Grateful For These Women. #IWD2019. 25/2019.

Grateful For These Women. #IWD2019. 25/2019.

It happened last Friday: 8 March 2019.

International Women’s Day.

I have always known about green and purple being the colours for women but not exactly why: this might help you:

Internationally, purple is a colour for symbolizing women. Historically, the combination of purplegreen and white to symbolize women’s equality originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union in the U.K. in 1908. Purple signifies justice and dignity. Green symbolizes hope.
Grateful for these Women:
My tribute via Instagram and Facebook, now here is for the women who have helped shape me to be the woman I am today. I also include those who love and support me, particularly since my head and neck cancer. So, from those who went before me, and those who have been born – to me and then to my children, I salute you all. The women I am so grateful to have in my life. And as I said too, those who are not here and there are many more, are remembered with love in my heart.

Top: Mum, Her Sister My Aunty Poppy, Their Mum, My Nanny. Mid: Me with youngest GD on her BIRTHday, My daughter with her eldest & second eldest and her youngest. Bottom: Me held by paternal Gran, on left is her Mum (Nana) and my Mum on right. Three daughters of our son! With my daughter.

When is International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated around the world on the 8th of March.

What is International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when all women are recognised for their achievements. International Women’s Day was first born out of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe.

Since those early days, International Women’s Day has grown in prominence and reach, touching women in every corner of the world. The growing international women’s movement has helped make International Women’s Day a central point for action, to build support for women’s rights and their full participation in the economy, politics, community and in everyday life.

History of International Women’s Day
In 1910, Clara Zetkin, the leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. The proposal received unanimous support from over one hundred women representing 17 countries.

The very first International Women’s Day was held the following year on March 19th. Meetings and protests were held across Europe, with the largest street demonstration attracting 30,000 women. In 1913, IWD was moved to March 8th and has been held on this day ever since.


International Women’s Day in Australia

Australia’s first International Women’s Day was held in 1928 in Sydney. Organised by the Militant Women’s
Movement, women called for equal pay for equal work, an 8 hour working day for shop girls and paid leave. The next
year the event spread to Brisbane. In 1931, annual marches were launched in both Sydney and Melbourne and both marches continue to be held today.

Since these early days, International Women’s Day has continued to grow. It is a day to celebrate women’s achievements and both highlight and work to address barriers that continue to perpetuate gender inequality.


International Women’s Day today

International Women’s Day has become a time to reflect on progress, to call for change and to celebrate the courage and determination of the women who changed history, and those who will advance gender equality into the future. International Women’s Day is an occasion to review how far women have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development. It is also an opportunity to unite, network and mobilise for meaningful change.

About International Women’s Day

Those who cared for me (and still do!) when I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in May 2017.

Top: Cate who has been at every surgery and is the one I see regularly on my check-ups Then: Justine who is a specialist H&N cancer nurse who helped me before the July surgery and in my recovery time at home. Then: Stef who was the oral surgeon with did my gum biopsy & was the person who sensitively told me on Wed 17 May ’17, “squamous cell cancer is in the gums”. Last: never least: Ofelia who has been by my side whether I am laughing or crying at my prosthodontist appointments.

My life, since head and neck cancer, has been enhanced by my social life. Even when it looked like it might be a bit hard, I managed to get out as much as possible – and still do, so I can meet up with people I know via blogging and on-line.

I am grateful always for connections…and made a collage of these and some more friends I have met with.

My tribute to the women on International Women’s Day 2019, #IWD2019.

What did you do on International Women’s Day?

I am grateful for my blog’s followers & to join in Australian-based link ups each Monday, Tuesday, and on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays

 

As I wrote last week on gratitude here, for #ztt is is an antidote to fear.

Thank you Min for #ZenTipsTuesday which I will link up for here.

Denyse.

On Wednesday I link here with Sue and Leanne for Midlife Share The Love.

Thursdays my link up to follow is Lovin Life with Leanne here.

And on Fridays here with Alicia for Open Slather.

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The Big C and Me. 15/2019.

The Big C and Me. 15/2019.

It’s time to share more about me and the Big C.

Yes, it’s about C for…..

CONFIDENCE!

(ha! not the other big C for cancer)

I think I give an outward show of being confident. It is not really a fake it till I make it confidence either.

It is about self-confidence in selected settings.

  • I am confident about my school life and teaching days and enjoy sharing the stories from then.
  • I love this part of me that can share now. I know there were days in education that were not always great (yes, my emotional health took a beating in 2002) but I have grown so much as a person and learner since then.

 

  • I am getting more confident of how I am managing my self-care in regards to less anxiety that plagued me for the years of my transition into retirement.
  • What good news that is! It was horrible for me with IBS thrown into the mix and I have done so well taking on board exposure therapy and a small medication routine.

 

  • I am less than confident in my belief about how well I am going in terms of my mental outlook since my cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments and surgeries.
  • What is the evidence each day? None, really. It just happens sometimes.

 

  • I remain under-confident about my changed appearance a.k.a. my body’s change from very overweight to ‘almost normal weight’ and then back to a slightly ‘overweight’ status.
  • Am I taking steps to understand this huge shift and learning as I go? Yes. Every day.

 

  • I am still not as confident as I think I need to be to take on a continuing role in educating others about Head and Neck cancer because I am sensing judgment of others. I do know that I call upon courage to help me through even I have doubts.
  • Do I have evidence? Not really.

WHY?

I am who I am.

I am the product of a childhood and teen years spent in a dominant paternal household. I was told what to do. I may not always have done it but the memory of “other people’s words” being my measure for self remain.

I am able to give myself a ‘good talking to’ at times and can turn this matter of lack of self-confidence around.

But it takes energy and time AND motivation. I do not always have these on hand together and so there are days when my lack of self-confidence AND worth impact me more.

I am learning more in terms of self-compassion and how each of us is connected via shared humanity.

AM I FOOLING ANYONE?

Possibly but what of it?

  • I am on Instagram each day keeping myself accountable for dressing with purpose and going out somewhere for coffee.
  • This does help me ramp up some of my confidence in just doing so. I am not reliant on the comments as much any more because I know the effort I put in makes the outcome worth it.
  • But then when I have kind followers write comments of “congratulations, kindness and cheering me on” I do appreciate this a lot but also that inner critic rises up and adds her voice “would they say that if they really knew me?”
  • Lies. I do not tell them as far as I am aware but it seems maybe I am believing them from this inner critic. Who? Moi?

WHAT NOW?

Onward.

I know that putting these words here has helped me see that it’s my faulty thinking that has been affecting my self-confidence.

OK! How to change that?

  • Already I have in some ways as I now recognise this inner critic voice and her role.

 

  • My actions, my words and my inner life help me remember MUCH more about the confidence I like to have and know I can bring more to the fore.

 

  • Each time I dress and go out for coffee, I am embedding self-confidence.

 

  • My daily journal keeping can continue to be a ‘write it all down’ place and then review for evidence of this confidence tracking upwards not the downwards the inner critic can believe.

 

  • My on-line interactions with people from my various communities in education, blogging and head and neck cancer are ways in which I grow my self-confidence and also give back to others where I can and it is asked for.

 

  • Seeing myself as others do and may. It helps to believe that I am both good and doing good. This is something I have struggled with all of my life and want it to change. I can do this. I will remind myself more.

 

  • Maintaining practices of:

 

  • being in nature,
  • time-outs with my art journal,
  • chats with my husband, meditation each night,
  • helping my physical body to relax,
  • exercising within my limitations,
  • planning to eat well and doing the same without any deprivation,
  • cancer checks and better understanding of the fact that cancer actually never leaves but might take a back seat in my life,
  • taking time to make contact with family and friends,
  • exploring the local area’s beauty,
  • browsing at the shops,
  • reading,
  • keeping to a timetable of sorts each day for balance in my life.

Already I feel better!

Thanks for reading.

Do you have an issue with the Big C?

 

Denyse.

Joining with my blogging friends here:

Min on Tuesdays here for #ZenTipsTuesday

Sue & Leanne on Wednesdays  here for #MidlifeShareTheLove

Leanne & Crew on Thursdays  here for #LovinLife

 

 

 

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Observations in October #2. 2018.104.

Observations in October #2. 2018.104.

Are we humans ever truly content with ourselves?

I am asking the hard questions today as I know personally, I find this tricky.

My husband/guru tells me “life it about living in the present”. OK. Not just him, but everyone who preaches mindfulness seems to have this view.

I can do this on some occasions now. I can bring my thoughts back to where I am (not so good ones too) and let them go of their own accord.

What made me observe this today?

My appearance. My weight. My changes.

For many decades I used food for calming and soothing and hid from much of my emotions this way. I often ate secretly. I have written about it here. I was performing well academically and professionally but not within my care of myself. The only, easy way was eating what soothed me. 

Back to the present.

I’ve had four years of over-arching anxiety related to life changes and transitions which actually resulted in not only Irritable Bowel Syndrome (diarrhoea) but a reduced appetite and a simple meal regime. I did not go out much at all. I was ‘at home’ in 2016-mid 2017 because of the increased symptoms.

I lost weight. It had started slowly in the year before we left Sydney but continued gradually until I found out I had cancer in May 2017. WOAH. Here is the page with the cancer stories if you are a first time reader.

From the time I was diagnosed with cancer in my gums until I came home from hospital it was inevitable I lost weight. I did. I was focussed on getting past the surgery stage for more than 7 weeks and if that is not an appetite suppressant, I do not have any other ideas. I wore clothes that were baggy but were not my fattest clothes as almost all of them were consigned to charity bins in the previous year. I did not think I would wear them again yet I was very reluctant to buy clothes which fitted me well.

I managed to convince myself to get some nighties and other items of a smaller size for hospital and recovering at home but it held no joy in me to need to do this. Cancer was my upper most thought. Then, once surgery was over, and I was able to finally sip water, and try a clear fluids diet in the 2 days before I came home, the dietitian visited me.

I was bombarded   given the message over and over that I needed to EAT what and when I could and that it needed to be foods of full-fat, high protein and smooth enough for a mouth with only a few teeth to get down. I had never, in all my life, been told NOT to lose any more weight.

I was weighed in hospital and then once I was home, because of the addition of an anti-biotic that played havoc with my gut I did LOSE weight. I got to the lowest I can remember. Ever. And it did not feel good. I knew I was not well.

Once the diarrheoa disappeared and my GP said ‘eat what you like and what you can keep in’ rather than the high protein/milky drinks on offer via the dietitian, I got back to a weight where i felt comfortable and well.

This lasted for a very long time.

Sharing My Image with The On-Line World.

Just under a year ago, my wellness was a great feeling. I began to think about going out by myself for a coffee. It took me until November to do that, and I decided to account for my day by entering a photo each day on Instagram under the various hashtags including:

#everydaystyle

#dresswithpurpose

#outfitoftheday

Many of my on-line friends, family and friends found my daily posts and supported my photos with ‘likes’ and comments’. I found a love of shopping for bargains again. It was fun and I was rewarded by the feeling and knowledge that I was doing this for myself and finally I seemed to understand it was good to feel great on the outside.

Cancer meant more surgeries, and more messing about in my mouth. Food intake became protein items such as mince based meals which I could easily eat with a few teeth and a tongue and treats became staples: little cakes, small donuts, icecream. Each day had something like that in it. I did not gain weight much at all over the time from October until my last surgery in May 2018.

Photos of the day became something others with cancer discovered and they liked the idea of dressing with prpose. With head and neck cancer, because our cancer is usually visible to others, eating and drinking out is seldom done even just going out. So, I was flattered to be followed and asked more about it.

Then, a day came I had longed for…and it had been delayed so it was even more special.

I had the upper prosthesis of teeth added to my mouth. It was in late August. It felt very strange and initially I could not eat much at all. Over time, I could as I became confident of my ability to bite and chew and now…..

I began to gain weight.

Boo. It is not much at all, and I really need to put it in context. 

I have gone from very restricted eating and feeling deprived but I knew I had an end in sight. 

What has been interesting to observe in me is my behaviour changes.

  • I am not hiding my eating like I did.
  • I am limiting my treat food.
  • I am realising that I cannot use food to deal with emotions any more.
  • I am also needing to come to terms with what life is like for me now.
  • I am considering no longer doing the “outfits of the day” posts because they are almost a year old.
  • I may replace them with a “self-care” theme.
  • I am having a small internal battle but less so as I chat with my husband about it, and also follow a mindfulness eating guide.
  • I am wearing my fitbit and aim to move more than 6K steps in a day. I am a work-in-progress!

I thought getting teeth would be the best and it is…but I can eat a very wide range of foods again…but I no longer want to end up very wide again!

It has helped me to share this so thank you for reading! I hope you made it this far.

Back to where I started. Are we ever really content with ourselves?

Denyse.

Joining the lovely Leanne and friends here for Lovin Life Linky and for the record, I am here with Leanne when we finally caught up for a coffee…and something to eat recently!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter Six. Becoming Mum. 1971. 2018.100.

Telling My Story. Chapter Six. Becoming Mum. 1971. 2018.100

Since May 2017 I started telling my story. There have been major gaps of time in between the introduction and Chapter One when a little thing called head and neck cancer took up my time and attention. I am celebrating yet again…with a new smile…

New photo to celebrate my new ‘teeth’ and smile!

However, I would like to pay tribute to my first photo for this series…and the second one too. It’s been quite a time!

Taken on my 67th Birthday – late 2016. Cancer unknown but it was ‘there’

One year post major cancer surgeries.

Chapter Five. Becoming a Mother. 

We were young at 22 (my husband) and me 21 but we knew we loved each other unconditionally and we were going to become parents within the first 8 months of our marriage and that we were already teachers working hard in country N.S.W.

By the time we got to the July appointments with the local G.P. in the town closest to where we lived, things seemed to be going well. I had stopped teaching (and was already bored), but I had a nursery to organise (aka a spare room) and my husband was building our first child a cradle. Mum ensured we had some items like clothing and manchester in the previous school holidays when we visited my parents in Sydney. I think once she was over ‘the shock’ of me being a pregnant bride, she relished her grandmother-to-be role.

A Pregnancy Gets Complicated. 

The next visit I had to my G.P. raised alarm for him when my previous weight had ballooned by around 6 kg in a short time and it was all-fluid. He needed to send me on…to a specialist Obstetrician Gynaecologist in the city that served our north-west region. Yes, now it was serious. And yes, I was more than a bit scared.

Where we lived, in this little cottage on a farming property, access to our place was via a dirt track, which led to the road which was one not bitumened. When it rained, and we got warning, my husband would drive the car to the road and we would walk through the mud and wet to the car. That is what we had to do on the morning of the scary-t0-me visit to the OB/Gyn at T. A trip that would be punctuated by slippery sliding of the car (but my husband knew what he was doing) and me being quite frankly terrified.

Even moreso when we got to the office in T, and with kindness but showing concerned care, Dr G decided I had what was called ‘toxaemia’ then and I needed bedrest, diuretics and that was to be in a hospital. A hospital! Where I would know no-one and it was confronting. I had a stay in a shared ward with other mothers-to-be at risk for a week. It remains as a memory of a pretty worrying time (and I was not a fan of hospitals). Not seeing my husband nor anyone I knew was very isolating. My parents were 6 hours away by car.

Playing the Waiting Game At Home.

However, I was released when Dr G said things had settled and he sent me home with instructions to rest and eat plenty of lollies (I never knew why, but happy to comply) and to return on a specific evening around what was my due date and the process of induction would commence.

Another weird thing (in today’s terms) I had to have was an X-ray of my pelvis to see if the baby was lying properly. The X-ray showed there was a slight placenta previa. When we saw the Dr he did not think it would preclude natural labour.

I was better prepared for my next stay in the large regional hospital…even though it was going to make me a mother! We drove to T after my husband had finished teaching and that early evening on a Wednesday entered the maternity award and he reluctantly said good bye. In a pre-labour ward (4 beds) I was given ‘something in the form of a gel’  to start labour. Umm. Nope, it did nothing. More. Still nothing. All day the next day, niggly pains but nothing of significance. By the time Dr G visited on the Thursday evening he took me to a labour room, accompanied by a nurse and he ‘broke my waters’ finding some blood. He was not perturbed as he thought it was connected with the marginal placenta previa.

Would I Ever Give Birth?

I felt that way on the Friday. I had no real idea of what labour would feel like other than it would be painful. I was in the hands of the experts…and those who were trained in the safe delivery of babies. On the Friday morning I was taken to a more scary room! I say that because it had a bed (for me) and many instruments and hospital things I had no idea about. I had a nurse with me on and off but generally I was alone. My husband was teaching (of course) but at lunchtime, he rang the labour ward to ask if things had started. He was told “no” and was instructed to stay home instead of leaving at 3 p.m. to drive the 2 hours to T. Outside even though I could not see it, I could hear it was very windy and raining. It was early August and the late afternoon turned into early evening with me  saying ” I am going to be sick”. I wasn’t but I had decided I was ‘over it’ and using the only pain relief – a gas mask – along with clutching my lovely midwife’s hand I really had NO IDEA I was near giving birth. This was, as I know now, transition.

Things sure changed from around 5 p.m. and by 6 p.m. in raced Dr G in whites…squash gear. He’d got the phone call that I was labouring (no-one told me LOL) and presented himself quick smart. With a quick application of gloves, and a gown, I pushed our daughter into his hands with no pain relief…although I think I may have bruised the lovely midwife’s hand.

10/10.

At 6.35 pm this child was pronounced 10/10. I had no idea it was an apgar score and teacher-me thought it was about my effort!!

I “think” our girl was placed in a crib – there was no bonding much then nor anything like putting baby to the breast. I delivered the placenta – and was shown where the ‘breaking of the waters’ had cut into it. Interesting!

But the best part, evenso, was hearing Dr G speak to my husband who was so far away to congratulate him on becoming a father. I did not get to speak to him but was assured that he was on his way to see us.

I had given birth and was a MUM!

In the way of those times in the early 1970s, our child was placed in a crib in a nursery with all the other babies, and I was in a shared ward. She would be brought to me for feeding and nothing else and then returned. Her Dad got to meet her behind a glass window around 9 p.m. that night, and then when greeting me, said in that romantic way: “She’s got my long fingers and your fat cheeks.”  It did not matter! I was over-the-moon in what I now know is a wonderful post-partum feeling of endorphins. Reluctantly my husband left to return home in the raging weather but with his mate (my principal-boss) who had driven on a really horrible night.

And then it began. 

Breastfeeding was what I wanted to do and tried. Oh yes I did. With nipple shields but also with ignorance too. There was some help given but not much. My parents, my grandfather and aunt surprised me (us) with a visit on the weekend. I admit I was not gracious. I couldn’t believe they had come and uttered “what are you doing here??” Unbeknowns to me (and my husband) it was my father’s decision to have my relatives catch a train to Sydney, then he met them and they drove, in rotten winter weather for 6 hours to see us. Fortunately my ill-mannered reaction was ignored and they all saw her (via the window) and stayed overnight before the long drive back home.

Almost a week later we were discharged. Mum flew up to accompany us home ( I am guessing we needed help but do not remember if we asked for it) and in the meantime, bought a stroller/pram and other goodies for her first grandchild and granddaughter. Miss almost 1 week was brought out to the car by a nurse and placed in my arms and then I gave her to her Dad. He had not yet held her. It was not done then. I can tell you I do believe bonding is vital and she did not get much in her early days because of hospital rules.

We drove home, a long night ahead, and I held her in my arms. Yes there were seatbelts but no baby restraints, just put them in a basket on the back seat. Mum sat there and we kept our daughter in the front.

I would like to tell you all went well. In many ways it did. She was/is a much loved child. Her maternal grandparents were overly attentive but meant well. Her paternal grandparents visited us in the next school holidays with some of her uncles and aunts and she was welcomed into the family. There was not a lot I enjoyed about being a mother to a newborn. Feeding was a challenge and at a 6 week check up at the clinic, I was strongly urged to forget feeding her myself and start her on a bottle.

Early Months of Motherhood.

We lived in an isolated area and we had one car. Each Wednesday my husband would drive us to his school and then  I would take over and drive to the small town near us. This involved some small socialisation – visits to the clinic and to various shops. Home again. I know I looked for distraction from the tedium of those early months. She was a good baby once her colic settled and loved trying custard and foods like that. I was bored and needed more. So I cooked. I also ate what I cooked and I believe that IS where a lot of my eating to mask feelings commenced.

Denyse.

P.S. I wrote this after Chapter 4 as I wanted to keep identifiers from the story. Please tell me if you think it detracts from what I am writing. Thank you.

In keeping with non-identification and privacy matters within our family and relating to our places of living and working, the next chapters will not disclose them directly. I did give a lot of thought to whether I would continue once the family grew and hope this will work out. If it does not, then I will dis-continue writing it on the blog. Fingers crossed!

 

 

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With $1000 I would…#LifeThisWeek 41/52. 2017.117.

With $1000 I would…#LifeThisWeek 41/52. 2017.117.

Donate the amount to finding a cure for Influenza.

I last had influenza in 1998 and determined to never be that unwell again.

My husband and I have had annual fluvax since then.

Yet this is what I might have and I won’t know until today or tomorrow if it is the flu or a bad virus. Whatever the outcome the treatment is the same: do nothing, rest, eat lightly and drink much.

Updated: NOT the flu. I did start to feel a bit better through the day yesterday and Dr’s office has confirmed throat sample: normal. 

Since the day of the photo I am adding I have felt: aches and pains beyond normal,  had temperatures go as high as 39.5, taken panadol, got the shivers and shakes and for the me, unfortunately the ‘runs’ and severe nausea. I have mild cough, am without energy, and just plain miserable. I am resting because I have no choice.

It’s not fair! I know that is something else I have been doing and kind of stopping. Whingeing. Getting over cancer has been a challenge but this puts me in a place of misery that I had left a while back.

So, away from that. Last Wednesday I did one of my beloved ‘challenges’ and arranged to meet my daughter and her two eldest at the end of the M1 at Hornsby for brunch. I wanted to see them of course, but more than that I wanted to celebrate my daughter’s amazing achievement reached by FINALLY (and she would say the same!) completing her planned 2 Year Part-Time Masters of Education in Teacher Education in her 4th year. Being a single mama, a part-time teacher/librarian in her school because of her family of 3 older kids and one pre-school one, added to her needing surgery x2 in the time, and both of these girls being hospitalised for serious and chronic illnesses in the past 12-16 months…she wondered how on earth she would ever do it. Of course, like any story there is more, but it is not for publication.

She took some LSL and with grim determination got it done. The ‘kids’ were all behind her and they will attend her graduation (of course, she WILL pass those two subjects, just don’t know yet) in Wagga in December. She is back to school this week and it was a pleasure (even though I was probably coming down with this awful thing then) to have met them  and chatted. I don’t usually specifically write  or put pics of the family here but these ladies are over 18 and have already given me permission to share on IG.

That’s it from me. I may or may not comment for a day or so. I will see how I feel.

Have you had this rotten flu/virus?

Do you regularly have the injections?

I hope you are well!

Denyse.

If you like please link up here with Alicia for Open Slather and here with Kell for Mummy Mondays. I will see how I feel.

Thanks for joining in Life This Week.

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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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15 Years Ago & Now. 2017.104.

15 Years Ago & Now. 2017.104.

Fifteen Years Ago.

As I have written before, and is part of my bio, I was a K-6 School Principal in a N.S.W. Public School from 1999-2003. Before then I had been a relieving principal in two schools from 1994-1998. In 1999 I was appointed, by merit selection, to this school. The brief, once I was appointed, from my boss, the District Superintendent was “Denyse, I want you to bring this school into the 21st Century.” He was correct in that. It certainly was stuck back in probably an era two decades earlier. When I began in January 1999, replacing the former principal who died in the September school holidays earlier, I literally had to start the school’s organisation and planning from scratch. Why? Because the person I replaced trusted no-one and kept all leadership matters to himself,  and died with all the school passwords and information for getting things up and running. I took over a mess.

But I love a challenge and there were some good people who wanted to come along on this journey into the century we were on the cusp of entering. The school executive team was keen and wanted to learn more and  I could definitely help them with this and we formed a good group. Until the end of that first year. It really was a change that I could not stop and is part of what happens in school systems anyway but it made my job more challenging for sure. The school was unique in the area at that time with: mainstream classes, a special education unit of 3 classes, 2 O.C. (gifted and talented) classes and an Autism Satellite Class. Two of the people who were part of the executive team sought and got promotions elsewhere. Yes. I would encourage that of course. However, it left a hole for a bit which I was able to carry myself until I could get some new staff appointed.

Over the next 2 years however, this plan started to waiver. I had appointed a person to an executive role who was not up to the role. I take responsibility for that but it was a most unpleasant time as his continued absence from school due to ‘illness’ meant I had parents (and some teachers) calling for action. In the end, my district superintendent moved this person on and I could fill the role internally. I was relieved for a little while but then my best and most competent person in my team had to leave to have her first child. This was lovely for her and her husband and I wished her well. The remaining executive member who was my age decided to take Long Service Leave for the remainder of the year.

This meant I had NO fully qualified person holding an executive role in my very busy and varied school community.  But what did I do? I appointed people who were staff members who said they would like to learn more about the role and support the school  by taking on relieving roles for the remainder of 2002. This worked in some ways but I needed to take on more of their responsibilities myself or guide them step by step. It was as if I was doing multiple roles. I could sense how much I had taken on in June that year when I ended up writing a casual teacher’s class reports!

 

I did not know what this was doing to my mental health although I probably should have read the signs. I sought time out from the school to attend meetings and to meet with colleagues but at NO TIME did I actually tell my boss what it was like for me. In fact, I had said farewell to the District Superintendent who’d appointed me at his retirement and he was replaced by someone in an acting position. And, it still is the same now, a principal is meant to handle anything and everything that comes up. Well. Maybe in 2017 there might be greater awareness of principals’ mental health but not when I was becoming unwell. Even though I did not know it. I can look back now and see I was quick to anger and showed my displeasure when people did not comply because of their own incompetencies or my ‘view’ of how they should behave in the role. This led to….the following:

On a September evening in 2002 I received a telephone call at home from one of my relieving executive staff. She told me that there would be a delegation of staff coming to me the next day to make a complaint about my manner and behaviour. She said they had contacted our union and that person would be at the school. She also said that there was a rumour it was because of me that the school population was declining and that as that would mean at least one staff member would have to be transferred then I needed to step up. I could and did dispute this as the reason as schools’ populations change for a variety of reasons but instead I reacted personally.

This sure was a bolt out of the blue. But then again, I actually could see how my behaviour had changed and recognised that I was fast losing my grip on being a leader. Within moments of the conversation ending, and letting my husband know what had occurred I broke down. In tears and physical distress I knew I had to protect my health/self and I could NOT face such a meeting. I could not reach my boss and had to wait till the next day. I did not sleep and went to my G.P. as soon as I could that morning. It was very unlike me not to continue to be at work.

That day, 4th September 2002, she declared that I was suffering from anxiety and depression  due to work overload and that she would start the process of a work cover application.

I never went back to that school, that role or saw anyone other than my boss and the local district HR staff again. It was final and I NEVER  could have seen me, a competent and dedicated teacher, finishing my career JUST.LIKE.THAT.

Now.

So much time has passed and yet this time of 15 years ago remains very clear. It is imprinted upon my mind as ‘the time when I failed to do the job I was appointed for‘. Then again  as was  the culture of the time it meant I could not share how I was managing with anyone. Mental health management  in the workplace is hopefully becoming more recognised but there is still a huge stigma attached and shame as well. My shame is decreasing each time I tell my story. It did take courage for me to start to tell my story a few years ago because I did not want to admit my so-called ‘failings‘ as a school principal. I am the one who labelled these, no-0ne else.

The upshot of what happened to me impacts me still in some ways. I did have the claim for workcover met and was paid accordingly. However, as in all workcover matters many steps need to be followed as the recipient and these include ‘return to work’ plans. I simply could not do that. My GP was adamant that I NEVER return to that school nor to the role of principal. Interestingly when I was first on leave I could not even attend my grandchild’s school without a great deal of fear and anxiety.

I was treated by more than my GP. I had to attend meetings with my employer and work cover and to see a psychiatrist and psychologist but what they all wanted me to do I could not. I could not even drive on the road that would lead me to my old school. I was scared!

If I knew what I know now about myself I think I may have been prepared to expose myself to the experience of coming to work at the local district office instead of refusing (avoiding) because I felt such fear and shame. I also think with the knowledge I have now about my mental toughness and resilience that I could have stayed employed.

But no, as I found in early 2003, I HAD to resign my role and give up any rights so that I could, hopefully gain my superannuation lump sum. I was in a scheme which did not medically retire (sadly I had taken myself out of that scheme when we were first married) so the action was to leave under circumstances that were never envisaged by me. Then came an even tougher time when the Superannuation people interrogated me and tested me and declared I was fit and able to return to work. This was disputed by my medical team and it took the lawyers from my union (free for me) to gain my benefit.

For all of 2003 I took time out to explore my creative side, I volunteered at the Smith Family and I met with friends for coffee. I had many appointments to continue my self-styled rehabilitation after I declined to take part in any more of the WorkCover requirements. In early 2004 I needed more. I needed to be with people again and to teach!

There was much more that was good to happen to me from May 2004 onwards which I did for myself by returning to a teaching role in friend’s school and having no executive responsibilities. I was happily engaged in that work from 2004-2009 and had to be careful to not take on too much as I was only to work part-time. But I got my sense of being a teacher again.

So why tell this story?

The stories relating to stress, work overload and anxiety in the workplace need to be shared widely. I now know my personality  type and management style is that I need to be sure of things and want things to be done well and correctly. This was not happening in 2002 but I also held onto the notion that a principal deals with everything without telling the boss how it actually is. I have wondered how it may have worked if I had had the courage to tell someone. I did not even tell my husband.  I became unwell mentally and emotionally because I did not reach out to others and when I was finally diagnosed I was not to return to the workplace. I wonder now, if maybe things could have worked out better for me if I had the resilience I have today.

But we shall never know. I hope that by telling this story I could encourage others to speak up and share if the workload is too much. Tell someone. I know I should have.

Does anything here ring true for you or someone you know?

Denyse.

Joining in with Kylie Purtell here for I Blog On Tuesdays and with Leanne here for her Lovin’ Life Linky on Thursdays.

 

 

 

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What is #CelebratingWomen? 2017.76.

What is #CelebratingWomen? 2017.76.

I recently read about Celebrating Women when a friend’s profile was on social media and then I read more about how this project came about. Here is the information about the person who began Celebrating Women, Dr Kirstin Ferguson:

Dr Kirstin Ferguson is a leading businesswoman and company director, international authority in health and safety leadership and corporate governance, and sought after commentator on gender diversity. Dr Ferguson is also the creator of the widely acclaimed global #CelebratingWomen campaign.

An experienced company director and Chairman, Dr Ferguson has experience on ASX100 and ASX200 boards, private company, government-owned corporations and not-for-profit boards. She also sits on the Advisory Panel of a tech start-up incubator, and is the Chairman of the judging panel for a prestigious women’s leadership award.

Dr Ferguson began her career after joining the military aged 17 and went on to become the Dux of her Air Force graduating class at the Australian Defence Force Academy. After being posted to an F-111 Squadron, she studied law and spent almost a decade in leadership roles in a corporate law firm. Dr Ferguson then went on to become CEO of a global consulting organisation providing health and safety services in the mining and resources industry before commencing her professional company director career.

Dr Ferguson is one of the world’s foremost experts in safety governance and leadership having completed a PhD in the field for which she has received numerous awards. As well as a PhD in leadership and governance, Kirstin also has Honours degrees in both Law as well as History. She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a graduate of both the Company Director Course and International Company Director Course. Dr Ferguson was also admitted as a solicitor in Queensland and New South Wales.

Dr Ferguson created the viral, global campaign called #CelebratingWomen in 2017. Using social media platforms to see more celebration and less denigration online, Dr Ferguson committed to celebrating two women, from all walks of life and from anywhere in the world, every single day in 2017. The response to the campaign was overwhelming with women from more than 25 countries around the world participating in the project. The #CelebratingWomen campaign has been widely recognised for demonstrating the positive power of social media while making visible women as role models who may not otherwise have been seen.

An advocate for gender diversity and equality in the workplace, Dr Ferguson is a member of national and international women’s organisations including Chief Executive Women, Women Corporate Directors and the Women’s Leadership Institute of Australia.

 

One day I thought I would investigate further and on a whim, found the site on-line and answered the prompts, added 4 photos of mine and almost forgot I had done this. After I saw some other women’s profiles I went down that path of self-doubt and not worthy. Anyone else know what I mean? But then I was told I had cancer. What a game changer that ended up being, in so many ways.

This week, after a few on-line convos with Kirstin we decided it was up to me to continue to be part of it and I decided ‘YES’ because my story WAS important and that I would add the newest info about me: cancer.

How about joining in and sharing your story with #CelebratingWomen.

Look for @celebratingwomen or @kirstinferguson to see how!

I highly recommend it. There are 4 questions and you supply 4 photos. 3 of these below were ones I sent in. Here’s what appeared via social media on Wednesday 31 May about me:

This is Denyse #CelebratingWomen (Profile 298)

Denyse is a retiree, who now blogs, and is learning to navigate life after 40 yrs in education. Denyse has been married for more than 46yrs, is a mother and grandmother but has recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Since the age of 11 Denyse knew she would be a kindergarten to year 2 teacher. Her career path in education let her to become a Primary School Principal.

Using three words to describe her life to date, Denyse says it has been challenging, interesting and successful.

Denyse hopes to inspire women to know there is a life to be made past the roles of working, caring and parenting. After her cancer diagnosis, Denyse says she is inspired by the love & best wishes for her recovery she has received online & in person.

Denyse Whelan Blogs.

Have a great First Day of Winter those readers who are in the Southern Hemisphere!

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne here and friends who blog when it’s the link up called Lovin’ Life.

On the weekend I celebrate life with Sammie and blogging friends here for The Ultimate Rabbithole.

 

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