Friday 13th December 2019

What Is This Series Women Of Courage About? 104/2019.

What Is This Series Women Of Courage About? 104/2019.

In April 2019 I attended Newcastle Writers’ Festival and got to hear, amongst others, Author and Public Education Advocate, Jane Caro speak. Jane’s been known to me for a long time via social media, her other books and her involvement in promoting public education. She spoke at length of the roles we women have played and often at great loss or expense to our health, welfare and future financial security in her book Accidental Feminists.

 

Her written and spoken words really made me think.

Women do so much unsung, not necessarily because of not wanting people to know, but because we “just do get on.” I know that my life has taken some not great twists and turns and I realised I drew on resources of courage to do so.

This led me to finding out more about courage from others.

 

The words of Brene Brown helped inspire me in recent years.

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognise the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.” 

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” 

“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.” 

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” 

Her program, on courage, is on Netflix here:

https://www.netflix.com/au/title/81010166

 

My germ of an idea grew and initially I wrote to a few on-line and ‘in real life’ friends (although those of us on the interwebs count many as one and the same) and asked, after in introduction to the ‘why’ of the series, if they would become involved with a contribution.

My great joy was the response. Not everyone said yes, but many more said it and sent me back their responses. That was back in May when I started here with my post then one from Sam.

Not every person is a blogger, for instance here is Tracey’s story recently as was Margaret’s here.

Honestly, each and every post makes me think about courage. Every day courage. The kind that you don’t even react to, but do it anyway. Then there is the slow build up to courage, which takes us along to change.

Here on this page: Women of Courage are the twenty one (21!) women who have already shared. Do check them out if you haven’t. I am so grateful for their courage and responses.

Next week and until mid November there will be five more stories shared.

After that Women of Courage series is having a break for the lead up to Christmas and into January as I need to do some posts relating to Telling My Story (homework!) and more.

From February 2020 I have eight more women’s stories ready to go.

Wow.

Here are the women who have shared their  stories to date! 

If you would like to share your story as a Woman of Courage, please let me know in the comments and I will email you the five questions!

Very much appreciate the stories I have been entrusted with for the blog series. Thank you all.

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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Self Care. Share Your Story.#2.14/51. #LifeThisWeek. 36/2019.

Self Care. Share Your Story.#2.14/51. #LifeThisWeek. 36/2019.

In the past seven weeks what has been my self care routine?

Pretty much the same each week.

I know though that I need to remember self care before I notice I NEED to do something.

It can be so easy to forget what helps me remain as well as I can emotionally because I can get caught up with achievements, busy-ness and striving.

  • Striving.
  • Achievements
  • Being Busy.

These are words I am deleting as part of my past vocabulary.

I have been a striver, an achiever and a busy person since… 1970!

Just noticing the difference in me has been interesting to say the least!

Here’s what I notice:

  • I am walking more slowly
  • I am noticing more around me
  • I am prepared to actually sit and just enjoy being relaxed
  • I give myself permission to go on social media for a while but to be careful to notice when social media changes me emotionally…then I get off
  • I can actually waste time. Some would be horrified at this but I now know I can!
  • I like to read books and articles I enjoy and sometimes learn more but I can also just ‘chill’ like this
  • I can go outside and notice what is happening in the garden

I am still enjoying my dress with purpose and having a photo taken.

I love going out for a solo coffee still

I do like catching up with people this way too.

 

What does your self care look like these days?

Are there changes you are making?

Tell us more!

Denyse.

Linking here on Mondays with Kell for Mummy Mondays.

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!

Next week’s optional prompt: 15/51 Share Your Snaps. 15/4/19

 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

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Calm and Balm For My Soul. 27/2019.

Calm and Balm For My Soul. 27/2019.

A gentle post of photos and how I help myself achieve more peace and calm in moments that are not always wonderful.

Some of those moments for me are pre-surgeries, recovering from surgeries at home, distracting myself from being hungry when eating was hard, calming my mind during a procedure or treatment by listening to music or an audio book, reducing my anxious mind’s whirling whilst being driven by my husband….not about him, about me, and not being in control!

I know many people have tried some if not all of these, but here’s my offering!

Getting Outside. Even Into the Backyard!

Making Something Creative.

Having These On Hand & On the iPhone Playlist.

These are some of the major ways in which I help myself achieve a greater level of calm. It is not easy. I am learning all the time. I also use the Calm app program each night. I highly recommend trying Calm and then signing up. I got a lifetime offer last year which has paid for itself over and over. Not only is there meditation but there are master classes in many fields such as cravings. There are adult ‘sleep stories’ which are a delight to listen to and hopefully nod off under the covers. I recommend these but no-one pays me to do so.

This link takes you to Calm and there is a sign-up for free sessions. See how you like it!

There is no sponsorship on my blog. I only want to share what I find works for me. Then if I tell you about it, and you like it too, that is a win!

What are your ideas for calm and balm for your soul?

Denyse.

Joining here with Min and friends for Zen Tips Tuesday. Thanks for the link up!

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Remembering Mum’s Smile. 22/2019.

Remembering Mum’s Smile. 22/2019.

I admit it.

I inherited my Mum’s smile.

I did not always appreciate this until too late.

That was when I lost my smile to cancer.

Today it is 12 years since Mum died.

Wow.

The ‘last’ great smile photo taken by me at Mum and Dad’s 60th Wedding Anniversary lunch. 2006.

Mum was unwell for around 2 years before it was found in early 2007 that she had multiple brain tumours with no known primary source.

That was it. Mum said “no more tests” when there could have been further explorations based on what the Neurosurgeon saw in her MRI. When Mum said that, he said “that is what I would say for my Mum too.”

Dad and our close family agreed of course because Mum was not a fan of hospitals, doctors or illness and in some respects that was why diagnosis was delayed. BUT….we knew Mum. And she most of all knew herself. So, over the next 6 or so weeks, she gradually worsened. We had our chance to say goodbyes and over the final days, Dad stayed at her side in the private hospital going home at the nurse’s insistence as Mum would succumb soon. She did, once he left (that is the way with many isn’t it?) and then we knew that the love of Dad’s life, the mother of two, grandmother of four, great-grandmother of 3, mother-in-law and friend of many had died.

But, we celebrate Mum often. In the years that I have passed, I have called on her help with recipes I have forgotten some ingredients in -she was a self-taught home cook and great! And what I noticed, in more recent times, was how much my smile was like hers. Dad has this image above in his unit where he moved to 4 years after her death. He still has the various dried floral arrangement she loved to make or buy. I think I did get some of my creative loves from Mum but took a long while to acknowledge that.

Mum and I have never been considered alike in body, temperament and education background …I am my father’s daughter. But I am short like she was and I have definitely inherited her love of colourful clothing.

So, when I got cancer in my upper gum and under my top lip, I missed smiling more than eating. I truly did. It came as a surprise to me just how much it meant for me to smile.

Getting my smile back in August 2018 I did not stop beaming for quite some time.

Today then I pay tribute to Mum and her smile….with a few of mine she would love too!

Thanks Mum. Here’s some from me. Love, Denyse xx

How do you remember someone who has been part of your life and now gone?

Have you inherited any of your family’s traits?

It really can be something to consider!

Thanks for viewing and reading about my Mum today: 5 March 2019, 12 years after her death.

Denyse.

Joining with Sue and Leanne here for Midlife Share The Love on Wednesday.

Here I am linking up with Leanne for Lovin’ Life linky on Thursday.

 

 

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My Bookmarks & The Big Hug Box. 2018.121.

My Bookmarks & The Big Hug Box. 2018.121.

Regular readers would know I have a ‘thing’ for creating with paint, markers, crayons and pencils. In fact, this creative side of mine has bloomed in the past few years. I made a pact this year to create daily and I did until about a month ago. Here’s the post about my creations which focussed mostly about mandalas. I will come to the bookmarks soon!

I am someone who has learned to enjoy the process of creating as well as the product. Many of my mandalas have been given away or made into coasters and placemats after laminating.

Before mandalas became a thing for me, I created patterns in grids, patterns in free form and more. I just get/got a lot of relaxation and meditative experiences through taking my time, letting my mind flow and enjoying the sensations of adding colour to blank pages.

Then: I still am a product-person too! I began to make bookmarks using strips of the patterns for friends and family. I laminated them and it was pleasing to see them being used and appreciated by others.

But: I ran out of people to give them to…

Until: I heard of the Big Hug Box. Lisa Greissl, a cancer patient herself 3 years ago, wanted to help ‘give back’ and to raise funds for cancer research. I followed Lisa via the Big Hug Box and could see how special her “boxes of hugs via gifts and more” were. I wanted to help by contributing and asked Lisa would my bookmarks work in her gift boxes.

Her response was as joyful and positive as she is. YES. Emphatically YES. A bright, hand-made bookmark would be a great addition.

I loved my skills being helpful to others with cancer. In fact, I was stoked to see an Instagram photo from a friend I met via blogging…who sadly has cancer…but had a Big Hug Box given to her and one of MY bookmarks was in there. I felt like I had contributed to her HUG.

Above is a selection of my most recent delivery to Lisa: 200 bookmarks. I have probably donated well over 100 before this!  I admit I now streamline my making.

  • Firstly, the art is cut into suitable size,
  • I have sheets of coloured card which I cut to match The Big Hug Box’s dimensions. I need, in future, to make slightly smaller ones for the Random Hugs of Kindness Boxes.
  • I paste my patterned paper on one side of the card
  • On the other side I add a now-signature Owl stamp at the top of the bookmark and a little quote that is on the bottom
  • Somewhere along this side of the bookmark I write an individual “My Bookmark”, later I embellish that side with some dots of paint.
  • On the front, where the pattern is, I often add a star, or heart symbol sticker and then as Lisa suggested, a little message from me on a sticker: Hand Made For You By Denyse Whelan Who Blogs Here: denysewhelan.com.au
  • Then I place 4 or 5 into an A4 laminate sheet and start the slow but careful job of feeding them in.
  • Lastly, over time again, I trim each card and the group becomes  individual bookmarks.

I do take a few days to a week to make a group of bookmarks. I recently made 60 on top of these at the request of the Central Coast Cancer Centre Head & Neck/Lung Nurse who is part of the group I meet with once a month. She will be adding them to new patient packs.

One reason I continue to make these is that I can share my love and care for another person affected by cancer as I was. I do make a definite and  conscious decision as I create each one to send loving kindness.

Update!

A little while back, Lisa, who lives only 5o minutes away was planning a “packing of Big Hug Boxes and Random Acts of Kindness Boxes” morning at her place and I accepted her invitation to attend. There were a few of us connected to Lisa via friendship and/or cancer. I even got to meet the creator of Colour Me Well who asked me to supply some of my mandalas for cards she was selling to patients.

It was a heart-warming morning, and at the completion, we had some photos taken. Lisa then went to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse on Monday 12 November to deliver 40 boxes, ready for gifting to cancer patients, and donated by various groups and individuals. I was thrilled to play a small role.

There is much to be said from helping our fellow humans and connecting and for those of us with cancer even moreso. Do check out Lisa’s wonderful work on The Big Hug box and she is now partnered by Cancer Aid app (another start-up from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse). Do share the information about the Big Hug Box widely…it helps all of us.

Lisa’s story on Channel Tenhttps://tendaily.com.au/news/good-news/a180530vxb/cancer-survivor-gives-back-with-the-big-hug-box-20180530

Thank you Lisa for your initiative and hard work. I know it’s for the love of it too but with a young family and working, it is a lot that you do for many!

Denyse.

Joining Kylie for I Blog On Tuesdays here and Sue & Leanne here for Midlife Share The Love linky on Wednesdays.

 

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Favourite Weather. #LifeThisWeek 3/52. 2018.5.

Favourite Weather. #LifeThisWeek 3/52. 2018.5.

Last Sunday, 7 January,  the temperature outside our house on the Central Coast rose to 43 degrees celsius. Lucky us, we thought, at least we have ducted air-conditioning! THAT, unfortunately did not last. No, like many others, our house lost power.

An outage that lasted 70 L O N G minutes where we both did our best to survive inside.

Just as decided to leave the house, to get in the air-conditioned car to go somewhere for a drive, the power kicked back in. Oh. My. Goodness. Fortunate for sure. However, given that the worst days of Summer heat are yet to arrive, as they did last year in February then we MAY not be feeling as comfy as we were. In fact, the management of Ausgrid who manage the electricity services here came out and said words to the effect of “it is highly likely there WILL be further outages with extremes of heat which put pressure on the electricity grid”. Great. Not. Later in the afternoon I DID go for that drive and it was STILL hot!

Wondered why I chose this optional prompt and then I realised I have been obsessed by the weather and its extremes for years. We lived and taught in Western NSW for 8 years and with little or no air-con, we survived. Is it an age-thing? In 1978 we bought our first house and the affordable area of Sydney then for us was in the north-west and so, knowing we needed our comfort levels at home for both cold and heat, we put in ducted air. From then on wherever we lived, we have managed weather extremes at home as well as we could (and a swimming pool always helped too) …but not when it came to work in schools.

We both worked in un air-conditioned schools and it was always HOT in the summer months and late Spring months. I remember dreading presentation days out west where I would be dressed in my best  and seated on the stage. I was an avid watcher of the TV weather reports and those on radio long before the internet told us everything. 

So hot most times in December. I was (and am) an avid weather watcher. In fact since the extreme heat of February 2017 where the temperatures stayed around 38-42 celsius for 5 days I have subscribed to Higgins Storm Chasers. Not sponsored but for annual  membership the warnings and forecasts these guys send are better than the Bureau of Meteorology for me. Here is the link to their site.

So What is My Favourite Weather?

Unsurprisingly it is the warm days of Autumn and Spring with some breeze blowing. I also don’t mind warmer days in Winter where I can sit and feel a little warmth on my back.

However, in contrast to the equilibrium found above, I also like following some of the extremes of weather to take photos and to be part of it.

I take care of course, but I do like visiting the coastal areas when there are big surfs and windy conditions. Something about being in the elements that takes me out of my head and into the whole senses’ experience.

My weather pics show what I like here:

So, what is your favourite weather?

Hoping you have linked up today and remember the posts can be old or new, off or on prompt too!

Cheers,

Denyse.

Joining with Alicia here for her Open Slather link up.

Join in here today for #LifeThisWeek 3/52.

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!

Next Week’s optional prompt: 4/52. What is Kindness? 22/1/18.


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