Wednesday 22nd May 2019

Musings On 2 Years Of Living As A Head & Neck Cancer Patient. 56/2019.

Musings On 2 Years Of Living As A Head & Neck Cancer Patient. 56/2019.

I have written frequently over the last two years about my diagnosis with a rare head and neck cancer. You can find the many posts, and ones where I have shared on other sites here. I keep the posts at the top of my blog’s home page to help any other head and neck cancer patients and their families.

Musing One.

What has happened this month?

I am a memory-keeper and in some instances that can be good, others memories remind me of not-so-good times. As May 2019 drew closer, so did the second anniversary of my head and neck cancer diagnosis. I sensed that I needed to mark it in some ways, and that was through writing starting even before May. I also used my creative side and constructed a big mandala documenting every day since diagnosis.

I did these to help me through and to show, when I shared, what the experience was like for me.

Thanks to this blog, and a facebook page along with instagram I got some caring comments and support on-line which I have always found helpful.

What I have also found is that I am the only person who really remembers the lead-up to that morning on Wednesday 17 May ’17 and then how it affected me afterwards.

I guess, “my” cancer is like any life experience that we have as an individual. It’s mine. Yes, I share. (some might think over-share: sorry!) And my dear husband “knows” the stories as he has experienced them alongside me. However, he is  was my carer and now that I am as independent as I can be, I am “the loved wife” in our long marriage. That’s great.

On my 69th Birthday 2018

Musing Two.

How has the lead-up to the anniversary been?

I thought it was good. It was like box-ticking and I felt good doing that.

Remembering what I experienced with the tests before the diagnosis. Ok. I remembered but did not over-think it.

The weather and the dates changing on the calendar also reminded me but again, I was feeling pretty good.

I had two hurdles, if you will, and they were the visit to my Prosthodontist on May 13 and to my Head and Neck surgeon on May 21. These were of concern in a way because at my last visits to each (three months earlier) there was talk of a possible fifth surgery to ‘fill out the top of my mouth.

I can tell you now, dear reader, the prospect of the surgery did not concern me nearly as much as the recovery from it…the LONG time with no top teeth and then more time with getting the mouth healed enough for a prosthesis. I have just had 8 delightful months being able to EAT again and that would be tough. Of course, the smile would change…ok.

December ’18

Musing Three.

What actually eventuated.

Visit to the Prosthodontist.

Dr Deshpande asked me about pain levels. Pain comes and goes in my mouth where it has all been reconstructed and I told him a few weeks earlier it was significant. However, as it settled I did not need to call him. I was much more confident about those calls than I ever was in 2018. He examined the upper prosthesis, the gums, and where the abutments are in the gums. Yes, there was some tiny more skin growth but nothing to be concerned about at this stage.He did a small clean around the abutments and told me what I had been doing every day was going very well and the gums were in good health. Phew. Using the waterpik twice a day was a key element. He showed me around the inside of my mouth and his nurse videoed it as best she could as he explained it all. He is so patient and very thorough and professional. After taking lots of close-ups inside my mouth he told me his view that my surgeon would be unlikely to want to do more re-construction because the skin area of concern back in January/February had not changed. Back for my check up 16 July.

Fistbump! Photo of “us” knowing each other in this professional setting for 2 years.

 

Visit to the Head and Neck Surgical Team.

This was on Tuesday 21 May. Both he and his nurse were delighted to see me and it wasn’t just because I brought cupcakes I had made. They can see a different me emerge I guess, and someone who has taken on an Ambassador role to work towards helping head and neck cancer awareness and both Professor Clark and Sr Froggatt are foundation members of Beyond Five. Again my mouth was examined and as I recalled the words of my last visit “I am a cancer doctor, so I AM looking for cancer” and it all seemed fine I was OK. He decided any choice about more surgery would be determined by what happens inside the mouth. “Could get worse, better or stay the same”. And now would not be in my best interests to do this. Phew. However, I also learned that the interval till my next visit is 4 months, not 6. And that I will require some CT scans as baseline ones. This was a wee bit threatening to my equilibrium but as I do, I went along following instructions. Before I left, I asked some questions about my mouth: here are the answers.

  1. the tightness will remain up top as so much more has been added for the re-construction than a normal mouth would have
  2. sniffing is part and parcel of having the nasal area invaded quite a few times…sniff and manage!
  3. dry top lip probably from not being able to seal off my mouth
  4. need for a new upper prosthesis? “If it ain’t broke, you don’t fix”

Then there was this. “A Photo with Denyse with her Badge on.”

Hugs and farewells and I will be back to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to have a check up on September 24.

Musing Four.

When having cancer is a reality that I am reminded of every time I visit Sydney for cancer treatments.

Westmead.

Where I see the prosthodontist. I lived in western Sydney and had never been to the Dental part of the hospital until May 24 2017. Since then I have been 37 times. Each time could be lengthy and required patience from me in spades. However, there were some visits that were emotionally bumpy and Dr D and O handled my state of health brilliantly. When I was there recently, the lady of the front desk said “Denyse, we are like family”.

That was lovely. I would not have met so many kind people there without a rare mouth cancer, and where the expertise was right there. Someone working alongside my surgeon in each surgery. Wow. Talk about fortunate.

Camperdown.

Specifically Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, slap back in the midst of Sydney’s major health precinct on Missenden Road. Sydney University on one side, Royal Prince Alfred on the other, and new buildings mixed with the historical on either side.

This is where I first met my professional team one day after being told I had cancer.

I had my husband with me of course. He was (and is) the patient man by my side. So, I recall, being there for the first time, seeing this amazing purpose-built cancer centre which had come from the vision of Dr Chris O’Brien who was on our telly as part of the reality series R.P.A. Such a professional and friendly head and neck surgeon with heart. I sensed I was in the right place WITH the right people straight away. Finding out later that my surgeon had trained under Chris O’Brien made me feel even better about what was ahead. And so Lifehouse was where I had the first BIG surgery and stayed for 10 days in July 2017, then further day surgeries in November 2017, February 2018 and May 2018. Follow ups too mean I have been there 12 times.

Musing Five.

IF I did not have cancer here’s what I may have missed in my life….

  1. the opportunity to take on new information and run with it. I learned I can deal with more than I ever imagined.
  2. getting to know people from the health fields who amaze me with their professionalism, the wealth of knowledge, their compassion, their skills and their genuine humanity
  3. being able to recover as quickly as I did from the decline in my emotional health which was ‘strangling my enjoyment of life’ from 2014 to mid 2017
  4. meeting people from all walks of life: in real life and on-line, a facebook group in New Zealand is an amazing space,  who have also been diagnosed with head and neck cancers: Yet, I still have not met anyone that has had mine exactly: Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Upper Gums & under Top Lip: no risk factors of smoking or alcohol: rare of rare ME.
  5. the many ways in which I could grow and change to become ‘the Denyse’ I wanted and needed to be again: strong, positive, confident
  6. sharing my story of this cancer and being able to offer help when asked to others with head and neck cancers
  7. becoming someone with a role to play in terms of education and awareness of head and neck cancers working with Beyond Five. The charity to support patients, carers and family members with information, videos, print-outs and connections to local support groups as those affected with head and neck cancer need support “beyond five” years of the traditional
  8. to take more time to actually enjoy what is rather than be longing for what’s next. I add, this is me as a definite “w-i-p” because it requires constant reminding from me to me
  9. a greater appreciation for those who have been part of my life and have added their emotional and other support to me over the internet, phonecalls and visits, along with cards and gifts. I have been spoiled!
  10. to take what I have experienced and give back. I will return to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse on Monday 3 June 2019 to be in the audience to listen to my professional head and neck cancer team talk of what working with and learning from Chris O’Brien was like. This week marks 10 years since his early death due to cancer.
  11. to look at the posters and information about how Chris O’Brien Lifehouse came into being and thank the governments of the day for helping it happen. Chris was well enough to know it would be constructed but his wife Gail took over his role after his sad demise.
  12. becoming part of the community at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse even though I am not there much physically, I donate materials to the art program, I wrote a blog post for their website and I have been in a couple of other site’s telling my story including Beyond Five.

 

Musing Six.

Blogging & helping others works for me to manage my emotions relating to cancer.

I have a great group of on-line supporters who have helped carry me through this story or journey as I call it. I prefer not to use war-words like warrior and ‘beating cancer’ as I also know not everyone does. I have already known of two young women die in the past two months from cancer. Not head and neck but cancer. So it does ache to even talk about that. I know though that we have many people helping with fund-raising to support cancer research and I won’t name any others than these as they are close to my cancer-heart.

The Big Hug Box. I started making some bookmarks for Lisa to include in the Big Hug box back in 2018 and loved contributing to her charity started because as a young mum just diagnosed herself with a rare cancer, she knew patients like her could use a BIG hug. For more about Lisa’s work go here.

Beyond Five. For Head and Neck cancer patients, family and friends. This is a website and offers lots to help. It continues to grow and change but with no government funding, some donations by companies in related fields and one part-time business manager, a fund-raiser began for them in 2018 called Soup for the Soul. Soup is often a food that patients with head and neck cancer can manage and it is comforting. Soup for the Soul is already live and I have a Virtual Soup for the Soul page here. More about that as we get closer to World Head and Neck Cancer Day on 27 July.

Writing my story has helped me manage emotions, experiences and responses well. I am indeed going well two years AFTER my cancer diagnosis. Thank you for being here to read about it.

Denyse.

 

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Women of Courage Series. Sam. 55/2019.

Woman of Courage: Sam. 55/2019. 

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Let’s meet Sam who is 48 (nearly!)

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

I find myself mustering some courage in a lot of everyday situations because I’m a born worrier/scaredy cat.  However, some major health issues, both mine and of those nearest and dearest to me really had me digging deep into my courage reserves.

Just before and just after I turned 40 I received cancer diagnoses (two in the same year!) and that required not just courage but resilience. I was very fortunate in that I had a great medical team behind me who cared for my physical and mental health. In many ways, I found my treatment (surgery followed by radioactive iodine treatment) relatively easy (if inconvenient and a little bit ouchy) to deal with. I definitely needed some courage to jump through all those cancer hoops – endless appointments, surgeries, treatment, special diets, drugs and although my prognosis was excellent – facing off with my own mortality. I wanted to be strong and support my loved ones because in many ways my diagnosis was hardest on them.

Having a loved one with a serious medical diagnosis is heartbreaking because all you want do is make it better but you can’t. I learned this the hard way in 2014 when my husband had a minor stroke. I think being the carer was so much harder than being the patient. I had to reframe all my negative thoughts into positive ones and focus my energy on being positive.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

I sometimes think being courageous is like a muscle, the more you use it, the better you get at it. I think courage leads to resilience and that’s one of greatest life’s tools. These days, I’m a lot more resilient. When I face tough situations, I always think to myself, “well if you got through X or Y, then you can get through this.” Just like muscle memory, I think I have courage memory!

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I’ve learned that I can’t control what happens to me but I can control how I deal with it. Bad stuff happens but the way I think about and act upon it can really make the experience a positive or a negative one.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I know I can deal with difficult things, everything I need is inside. I also know that if I can’t deal with something on my own, that it’s OK to ask for help either from my friends and family or from a mental health professional.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Think positive! I really do think that the body achieves what the mind believes. Some of us are able to draw on our own courage and some of us draw on the courage of others so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes asking for help is the courageous thing to do!

Thank you for sharing your story, Sam!

Find Sam here:

Blog/Website: https://www.theannoyedthyroid.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/annoyed_thyroid

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheAnnoyedThyroid

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theannoyedthyroid/

 

If you would like to share your story of being a woman of courage* please let me know in the comments and I will email you. That would be great! *There are no men included as I  think we women do not talk or not write about our stories which is why I’ve  called the series: Women of Courage.

Denyse.

My story was last week and is found here.

Next week’s Woman of Courage is Megan Blandford. 

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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Women Of Courage Series Begins. Denyse. 52/2019.

Women Of Courage Series Begins. Denyse. 52/2019.

Recently I wrote about the story behind Women of Courage series to begin here and this is that post.

It got me thinking that “I” should tell one of my stories first.

This is my story of courage. And, surprisingly as it was to my husband when I mentioned the topic, it is NOT about getting cancer.

          What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

I have faced quite a few challenges in my almost seventy years of living! One was a cancer diagnosis but I have written about that many times. I will continue to write about it, as time goes on. This one is when I chose courage over comfort and decided to apply for K-6 Principal roles back in 1998. I know we are talking a LONG time ago, but my memories are very clear.

  • I loved my role as a non-teaching Deputy Principal as it meant the best of both parts of my experience was used: supporting teachers in the classroom and being able to assist families in relation to their children. Being ‘on class’ as I had been as an Assistant Principal in previous years made that other part of what I did well much more difficult. So, from 1988 until ‘decision time’ in mid 1998 I was employed and happy to be so, even though the school and its community was in a low socio-economic area of Sydney, we knew as teachers we made a difference. That is why I taught.
  • However, the school population started to fall. That happens in high-growth areas when initial movements into a suburb settle. I was told that my role as a non-teaching D.P. was being taken from the school’s staffing entitlement. That meant, go on class or move to another school. I did stay and go on class and that was a special time because a young student in my class had cancer and within the first six months he died. I was honoured to speak about him at his funeral. Mid-year I got an offer to become a relieving Principal in the wider area where this current school was located.
  • Torn but confident of my decision, I left my school of almost 10 years, and went to the newer one as their relieving Principal. Now, that DID take some courage. I admit, it was such a change of role, even though I had held a relieving Principal role back at my other school, that I wondered at times “what have I done?”
  • But over the two terms, I could sense that my confidence (and courage!) to continue in the ultimate school leadership role was there. But wait, what about after 1998? It seems like destiny or something like that moved me to seek a substantive Principal’s role starting in 1999 because…caught where I was, I had been appointed the next D.P. at the school where I was already relieving Principal and it began to feel like a demotion….so I garnered all my courage and….
  • Applied for substantive Principal roles via merit selection.

 

         How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

  • Doing this did change me because I “had” to make the decision to move forward not to stay still or even go backwards. I had those people who worried about me a little bit (hello Dad) stepping up but ultimately I KNEW it was this or….The other was not an option.
  • I admit, it was hard work, leading a school of over 600 students till the end of that year, AND preparing for applications to new schools as their principal. I ‘got through’ to I think four interviews and was unsuccessful. I was not discouraged, which surprised me.
  • I did (and do) have more courage than I thought.

 

         Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

  • What I learned is to keep on going.
  • The roles I missed out on I took recommendations and feedback from the panel convenors who then could have been my future bosses as they were District Superintendents.
  • Then, I got one very helpful feedback session over the phone and as I knew an interview was happening, I used more ‘tricks’ that were legal of course…and I have recommended these to many since.
  • One was to look at the application and the school’s list of qualities wanted in the successful applicant and write up some likely questions and have your answers written when you go to pre-interview 10 minutes with the questions.
  • Take that with you into the interview, use it to glance at as it is an aid for memory. Of course, make eye-contact with the panel and in particular the person asking the questions but don’t be afraid to add to your responses later.
  • The most important part I learned from this experience was that I was:
  1. brave enough
  2. good enough
  3. knew what I was doing
  4. had a range of skills, knowledge and experience that helped guide others
  5. human
  6. unable to sustain my emotional health during the fourth year as principal (I have written about that here, here, here AND here)
  7. and was COURAGEOUS enough to recognise my health came before my job.

 

      Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

  • Yes I do, from this position of some 16 years later. But I still faced many life challenges where I needed to be reminded I HAD courage and needed to use it more. I know, once I managed to get over the shame of leaving the role I loved, I was much more able to see I WAS courageous. I gave it all my best shot and shame is not a helpful emotion. It did take some years of counselling and reading to achieve that level of confidence and courage.
  • When I KNEW I had some of my courage return, I then applied for and taught in schools, part-time and English as a Second Language, for six years and that was part of my healing.

     Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

You have more within than you realise it. Don’t listen to the naysayers or the negative voice in your head. Take the first step towards whatever your goal is. Sometimes the first step is the hardest…but then, there is no turning back! Onward!

This leads to the next weeks and months ahead where I have quite a few Women of Courage to share their stories.

If you too would like to share your story, please tell me in the comments and I will forward you what to complete to be a part!

Looking forward to each Wednesday!

Denyse.

Joining with Sue and Leanne here for Wednesday’s Midlife Share The Love linky,

With Leanne on Thursday for Lovin Life link up here AND with Alicia on Fridays for Open Slather here.

Thank you all for your link ups.

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

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Women Of Courage Series. Introduction. 49/2019.

Women of Courage Series. Introduction. 49/2019.

Denyse Whelan Blogs.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

 

           

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

http://denysewhelan.com.au

I am  introducing the series with  examples from (my!) life. That post will go live on Wednesday 15 May 2019.

After that, at certain intervals,  other “women of courage”, will be having their stories shared via a post here.

It is a goal of mine as a blogger to connect us all and to share our stories.

Thank you for your interest as a reader and commenter here.

I look forward to this series as the year proceeds and we all get to read about some different and wonderful:

                                 Women of Courage

 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.” 

About Brene Brown PhD, LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston, US, and has spent the past 16 years studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She’s the author of a number of books (and I have them on CD as well) including “Rising Strong” and “Daring Greatly”. Her acclaimed TEC talk on vulnerability is one of the five most watched, with over 30 million views.

 

Her program, on courage, is on Netflix here:

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

Looking forward to the next weeks and months as this blog hosts:

Women of Courage. 

This is what I wrote to each woman who agreed to be part of this series. Interestingly I had only “one” knock back. I am so proud of the women who are sharing their stories in the weeks and months to come.

 

Thank you for agreeing to share your story for my Women of Courage series of posts which will be published from mid May 2019 onwards.

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

Many of you know I have had the experience of a cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery and I am aware I had to garner a lot of courage to come through much of what has happened. However, when my own courage post is live, you will read something different where I believe I was courageous.

I am excited, interested and curious about these stories from real life…and women of courage!

I hope you are too.

If you would like to share your story of being a woman of courage* please let me know in the comments and I will email you. That would be great!

*there are no men included as I  think we women do not talk or not write about our stories enough which is why I have called the series: Women of Courage.

Denyse.

Joining with Sue and Leanne here for Wednesday’s Midlife Share The Love linky,

With Leanne on Thursday for Lovin Life link up here AND with Alicia on Fridays for Open Slather here.

Thank you all for your link ups.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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April Is About.13/51#LifeThisWeek. 32/2019.

April Is About.13/51#LifeThisWeek. 32/2019.

By the end of April it’s 1/3 of the calendar year….gone!

Yet in some ways it can feel like the year has just begun.

Here’s what April is about from my perspective:

Camellias: these were from the house we last rented. Mature and beautiful flowers.

Rugged surf afternoons in school hols.

One grandchild has a birthday in April!

 

Blue Skies. The last of the Frangipani towering over the camellia at our last house.

This is how we ‘survived’ the East Coast low in April 2015. Almost 5 days with no power.

April Musings. 

My late paternal grandmother was born in April 1896. I wonder what she would make of the world now! My late Uncle (Mum’s brother) was born in April too and had a rather sad life despite being ‘the eldest and son’. It happens. Our daughter chose an April wedding day. It was a beauty weather-wise. Whilst her marriage like many did not last, the three grandkids have always had their parents there for them and now in adulthood are forging lives of their own. I have remained very good friends with my daughter’s former m-i-l and we only got together for a catch up last week!

In Australia it is the beginning, in some areas, of less daylight as we turn the clocks back and boom…6 p.m. and it’s almost dark.

Reminder: early Sunday 7 April is when ‘we put the clocks back one hour.’ It will mean we will be in the same time zone as Queensland again. Yay.

In April I am travelling to Newcastle Writers’ Festival to see two of my favourite authors speak about their books! Sunday 7 April – the Festival is from 5-7 April and held generally in the area closest to the civic centre in Newcastle. Here is the link to the site. I will be leaving home early…to drive and secure a park nearby I hope!

Rick Morton: One Hundred Years of Dirt. 10.00 a.m.

Jane Caro: Accidental Feminist 1.30 p.m.

What does April bring for you?

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: 14/51 Self-Care: Share Your Story #2. 8/4/19

 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

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Best Gift Ever. 3/52. #LifeThisWeek. 7/2019.

Best Gift Ever. 3/52. #LifeThisWeek. 7/2019.

The best gift ever has given me food for thought.

I have had some great gifts in my life including these:

  • parents who gave me life, shelter, education, care and loveand who were wed for over 60 years.
  • a man I met and married within 3 months who has loved me for over 48 years now as I have him. This is on our wedding day, 23 January 1971.

  • the first gift of a child: our daughter (story is here) and then much later, our son (story soon!) and even though we did not know much about parenting, both are doing well in their adult lives.
  • a career in K-6 education in New South Wales schools which took me from probationary teacher to school principal thanks to the gifts of others who saw the potential in me, degree courses I completed with loving support from my family, and the children, teachers and parents of the many schools. Latterly I enjoyed teaching and supervising pre-service Masters’ students at University. On many occasions I was glad I could help these people and share what had been shared to me as gifts in my career.
  • the gift of meeting people and socialising is one I enjoy and to this end am doing it in a new area and loving making new connections socially: on-line and in real life, as they say!
  • I love the gift I have been given as someone who notices nature, enjoys solitude from time to time, and has learned so much about herself during some times of turbulence in recent years.
  • The gift I have been given of enjoying art and especially making mandalas has also seen me make 100s of bookmarks to help a charity called The Big Hug Box.
  • How good is it to give back! My story was also in a book that was published. What a gift that was.

But what about cancer? Is THAT a gift? 

I cannot finish this post without mentioning my fairly recent brush with the big C and what a gift that has been.

  • Life is a matter of how it’s viewed by the individual.
  • I do not like having had cancer because of many of the ramifications in my life, yet I know its presence has been a present. Let me explain more!
  • I was in a major life transition which had, in its own way, strangled my confidence and demeanour because of the grief involved. Yet I had some ideas of how to help myself.
  • That series of ideas was supplemented by the gift of amazing professional support, amazing and unending personal support and many hours of time to both learn and absorb.
  • When it was found that I had cancer, up from within me, emerged what had been hidden for almost 3 years and over time, my personal qualities of determination, belief in my surgical and oral health teams and in my capacity to heal and that I could share my story with others as I have and do.

The Best Gift is:

  • A return to “Denyse”. She had been long gone and I am so glad she is back.
  • This is my best gift: I am back. It does not matter I am ageing – that’s a privilege, nor that I have some physical scars I cannot overcome – they’re part of my history now and I am so glad to be here and look at my image in the mirror to say:

Hello, looking OK for someone who’s been through so much.

Well-done, you!

 

What is your best gift?

Denyse.

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!

Joining Alicia here for Open Slather and Kell here for Mummy Mondays.

Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 4/51. What Is Hope? 28/1/19.


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We Made It! 52/52.#LifeThisWeek 2018.134.

We Made It! 52/52.#LifeThisWeek 2018.134.

Thank you all.

Yes, we made it. Each Monday to come here and read, join in with a blog post link up and comment.

Some of my blogging friends have had big changes in their lives: I know there have been travel experiences far and wide around this world of ours. I do also know that some of the bloggers have struggled through life transitions of job changes, moving house, starting new courses, having health issues to overcome and losing loved family members. Sadly.

There is no doubt in my mind, this community here, and ones where I also join in here, are living, breathing and caring ones and I am very grateful for the connections. Always. In 2018 a much loved link up ceased…so I for one am hoping these lovely link ups continue into 2019.

Open Slather with Alicia http://onemotherhen.blogspot.com.au on Mondays and Mummy Mondays with Kelly http://allmumsaid.com.au

Midlife Share the Love Linky on Wednesdays with Leanne: http://crestingthehill.com.au Sue:  http://www.sizzlingtowardssixty.com.au

Lovin Life Linky hosted on Thursdays with Leanne http://deepfriedfruit.com.auand friends

 

Now, for the round-up of blog posts for 2018 on Mondays for Life This Week. I was going to use my teacher-voice and call it an award…but it’s not. I looked at the posts from each month and checked the comment numbers as an indication of higher engagement via the comments…as you know Denyse Whelan Blogs To Connect!

January 2018.

Intention or Word for 2018. 16 links.

Sign Above Where I Blog.

February 2018.

Taking Stock 1. 17 links.

Night before 3rd surgery I walked up to COBLH.

March 2018.

Out My Window I See. 15 links.

HAPPY me, with a smile I almost recognise…in my art room.

April 2018.

School Holiday Memories. 11 links.

The signpost…to where we used to live 1971-1972. House is gone.

May 2018.

My Biggest Fear. 16 links.

Writing this in the sand did not reduce my fear but it did make me think about why I was/am fearful at times.

 

June 2018.

What I Will Never See Again. 14 links.

Loved my art-ing times with my pre-school aged grandkids

 

July 2018.

Taking Stock. 23 links.

Spreading the news of Beyond Five & Head & Neck cancer awareness with my local Federal MP.

 

August 2018.

Famous People I’ve Met. 18 links.

Photo with then NSW Governor Marie Bashir. Taken by former NSW Premier, Barrie O’Farrell.

September 2018.

Have You Ever? 12 links.

Excited not only to be part of #celebratingwomen but to be quoted in the book!

 

October 2018.

What I Have Learned Lately. 15 links.

What a wonderful experience it was to be able to smile again!

 

November 2018.

Share Your Snaps. 15 links.

Waves. The Beach!

 

December 2018.

Taking Stock. 18 links.

My ‘word’ for 2018.

Thank you all for visiting, commenting, reading, viewing, following and linking up in 2018.

#LifeThisWeek starts for 2019 on Monday 7 January:

1/51. Hello Again. 7/1/19

2/51. “Word/Intention/Nothing” 2019.. 14/1/19

In the meantime I will be making up some new prompts.

The GOOD news is Share Your Snaps will continue every 5th week

And, good old Taking Stock, around each 9th week.

See you there!

Denyse.

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!

Joining Alicia here for Open Slather and Kell here for Mummy Mondays.

Next Year’s Life This Week commences on Monday 7 January with: Hello Again, as the optional prompt.


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Not A Smooth Recovery Path For Me: Head & Neck Cancer. 2018.133.

Not A Smooth Recovery Path For Me: Head & Neck Cancer. 2018.133.

Update One: Monday 24 December, is that whilst it is always disappointing to have changes like this in recovery, I am actually able to manage the issue of pain, when it arises and am feeling better in general.

Update Two: Monday 14 January, the pain comes and goes but the news from my Head & Neck surgeon is that he was looking for cancer when I saw him on 8 January. This made me quite concerned. Whilst there was not cancer there as he could see, I do now know there could be another surgery this year. Sigh.

It’s Friday 21 December 2018 and not a normal blogging day for me at all.

But, head and neck cancer recovery is not ‘normal’ I guess!

My blog has been a great source of comfort to me as I can write down what is happening to me, and often receive support in return.

That is lovely.

Today I just need to share this story.

Since my last blog post here, I have continued to be back and forth to the great team I have at Westmead: my prosthodontist and nurse. Each visit since October – when I last saw my Head and Neck cancer surgeon and nurse – has been about:

  • checking the health of the skin which was added to my upper lip (under it) last May
  • checking I am keeping the metal abutments clean where they are attached to the upper teeth prosthesis
  • and fitting me for a partial lower denture to add to my remaining 8 teeth

Showing my mouth’s flexibility – reduced now.

I have had some pain. It is like a sharp nerve pain and each time I mentioned it I was told it is part of ‘re-modelling’ and I have taken that to mean, this will go on as my new mouth and lip settle into their space. I am pretty good at managing pain but earlier this week I needed to share what had been noted by me after seeing my G.P.

  • the pain, which initially we/I thought was from some abrasion of the new tender inner side of the lip against the prosthesis was not likely to have been only from there…because
  • when I tried to use my small micro brush to clean in between the gaps left at the top of the screwed in prosthesis there was  no gap 
  • where the gap had been was skin, resting and immoveable, onto the top of the acrylic prosthesis

After my G.P. saw it, I sent these photos to my Professor and the Prosthodontist. The prosthodontist rang to say, stop using the microbrushes and use the water pik only to clean. The professor emailed to say “come and see me early January for a closer look”.

Yay to having responsive professionals. Very grateful.

Not so happy for the pain it is causing, the lip tightening even more and the disappointment that things are not going as I had hoped. Probably as my team had hoped too!

On the positive side, I have overcome setbacks before AND I trust my professional team BUT this is not a situation I imagined.

Skin does its thing it seems. My post here is about how the stent being taken out too soon prevented the full healing and I needed a 4th surgery and then over 3 months with a new stent.

I seem to think….more surgery may be on the cards.

Sigh.

I am taking pain medication as advised by my G.P. I am doing all I can to treat myself more gently. I am looking forward to seeing the family on Christmas Day here but my eating may be even more compromised by then. Who knows?

Many I know in the Head and Neck cancer support groups are in quite different stages of healing, acceptance of many aspects of their recovery and managing things well. I am buoyed by them, and already support for me and my update has helped. I also know as an Ambassador for Beyond Five, that those of us with Head and Neck cancers are affected by treatments long after the five years.

I am just over 19 months since diagnosis. I am also less patient than some! I am, always very grateful for my cancer treatments and follow-ups in an Australian setting here:

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse

The late Prof Chris O’Brien. In the hospital named after him.

Westmead Oral Restorative Sciences

Thank you for your support, friends from blogging land and readers!

Denyse.

 

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