Sunday 18th August 2019

Women Of Courage Series. #6. Annette. 72/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #6. Annette. 72/2019.

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

Welcome to Annette’s story.  She is 51. I have connected with Annette via her blog and on social media thanks to our mutual interest in art and creativity.  

 

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

When I think of times I’ve needed courage in my life, two things spring to mind.

The first is that as an adoptee, it has taken me many small steps of courage, over many years, to come to a place of peace and self-acceptance. Adoption promises happy endings to all involved. The reality is that adoption begins with loss and creates trauma. Working through how I feel about being adopted has been the most courageous internal work I’ve done in my life, so far.

The second thing that I’ve experienced that required courage was being diagnosed with heart failure. It took courage to accept my diagnosis and then make changes to my lifestyle.

 

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

Adoption has impacted everything about who I am, but it isn’t who I am.

I used to believe that I was broken or defective in some way. Why wouldn’t you think that when all you’ve been told as an adoptee is that your mother gave you away; that love equals abandonment. That’s a messed-up message, and in many cases was not in any way the truth of the circumstances around adoptions in this country.

As for my health issues, that changed everything for me, from what I eat, to how much I can drink every day, to realising that no, actually we’re not immortal. It’s been a good life lesson.

 

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

Courage is not waking up one day with the confidence of a superhero.

Courage is incremental.

Courage manifests itself in tears, in trembling, and in the smallest actions. Often those actions begin in the mind, where we have to decide if we are going to act or hide.

Courage is accessible to all, though many of us don’t believe it.

Courage is believing you can act to change the circumstances, then following through.

 

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

Yes, I’m practised in courage, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy or automatic.

The deeper the fear, the harder it is to draw on the courage you need. But it’s there. It’s there in all of us.

 

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

Believe in yourself, and have COMPASSION on yourself.

Courage takes time to stir up. It can be an emotionally trying process. It can make you want to run away more than you’ve ever wanted to.

The tiniest, almost invisible to the naked eye steps you take towards courage count. Everything counts, not just what is seen or celebrated as courageous.

Courage isn’t about big things, it is about meaningful things. Learning to say no, being willing to say yes, making peace with yourself, loving the person you are, believing in your completely unearned worthiness; these are acts of courage.

 

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post.

I believe in people’s ability to grow. I believe it because I’ve seen it in others, over and over again, and because I live it.

 

Thank you Annette. My life is richer from getting to know you too. I enjoy our conversations on-line about art and more.

Denyse.

Connect with Annette here on Social Media

Blog/Website:     www.igiveyoutheverbs.com

 

Twitter:    www.twitter.com/theverbsblog

 

Facebook Page :  www.facebook.com/IGiveYouTheVerbs

 

Instagram: www.instagram.com/igiveyoutheverbs

 

 

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.

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest

Women Of Courage Series. #5. Kirsty Russell. 70/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #5. Kirsty Russell. 70/2019.

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

Welcome to Kirsty Russell who is 43. I am delighted to share her story as we have been blogging friends since 2012! 

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

There have been many times in my life when I’ve had to be courageous and, to be honest, it takes courage every day to keep going. There have been three main challenges I’ve faced in my life where I’ve needed to draw on every ounce of courage I possess:

  • My kids’ diagnoses (albinism, autism, anxiety, sensory processing disorder) and my ongoing fight to support them in every possible way
  • A stress induced health scare five years ago (I thought I was having a stroke) which made me question everything in my life
  • The death of my parents (my Dad in 2015 and my Mum in 2018)

Each challenge forced me to rebuild my life, reevaluate my priorities and face my fears.

 

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

Following my kids’ diagnoses, I had to change the way I think and adapt how I live to meet their needs. I had to learn to advocate for them, which was hard for someone who avoids confrontation. I had to learn to think differently, to try to understand their behaviours, their anxieties and their challenges. I had to cultivate more patience (still working on that one!) and I had to open my mind to new ideas. Since my eldest son was born 15 years ago, I’ve been undergoing a transformation. It’s challenged my beliefs and hasn’t always been easy but I know I’m a better version of myself now, having gone through everything in that time.

Following my health scare, I had to re-evaluate my life, my priorities and my career in order to put my health first. I was working in a job I loved but could no longer juggle the stress of managing contracts and leading staff in part time hours while also being there for my kids. I’d drop the kids off at school, drive 30 minutes to the office, work for 5 hours with no break, then drive 30 minutes back to pick up the kids and take them to therapies and appointments. There was no time for me, let alone to breathe or think. While I left with sadness, 5 years on I know it was the best decision I could have made. Although I wish it hadn’t taken a near death experience to urge me to take some action…

Most recently, I had to dig deep to support both my parents through their separate cancer diagnoses and help them find peace, while trying to adjust to a new normal without them. Having to take the reins of their lives, while watching them fade away is something that has forever changed me. There’s nothing that can prepare you for that. You just have to be strong because there’s no alternative. Also, I never expected to be parent-less so young – there’s a burden of responsibility which sits on top of the weight of loneliness. I’m the eldest and I know I’m not alone but it feels like I am. Not having them here to celebrate the highs and to support me with the lows will never be okay but I have to find the strength to be at peace with it. To be honest, I’m still working on that.

 

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

You need to believe in yourself and in your ability to adapt and meet each challenge. Most things in life are thrust upon us but in rising to these challenges, it proves that we can rise to others of our own making. Life is too short to live in fear – that’s something that each of these experiences have taught me. Choose to look for the positives and make the best of each situation because none of us know what’s around the corner.

 

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

I’m about to take a huge leap of courage and launch a new business to help fellow parents and educators to find connection and work together to achieve better outcomes for students. I would never have considered taking this leap a few years back – I’ve been ruled by fear for most of my life. But the challenges I’ve been forced to face in the last few years have shown me I’m strong enough and brave enough – I just need to take a chance and start.

 

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

Lean into the situation. Don’t run from it. Face things head on. If you make the decision to face your fears and make the best of the situation you have a better chance of overcoming whatever life throws at you. That’s the only way I’ve been able to deal with all the challenges of my life and I hope it’s enough to see me through whatever comes next!

Thank you Kirsty for sharing your words. I am impressed with how much you do to advocate for many. I always enjoy our catch-ups too!

Denyse.

Follow Kirsty here on social media:

Blog/Website: https://positivespecialneedsparenting.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PosSNParenting

Facebook Page (not personal account): https://facebook.com/PositiveSpecialNeedsParenting

Instagram: https://instagram.com/PositiveSpecialNeedsParenting

Kirsty just added this…at my insistence!
I’m about to embark on the biggest opportunity of my life, presenting 2 sessions and being part of a parent discussion panel at the Asia Pacific Autism Conference in Singapore from June 20-22. I’ll be sharing what we’ve learned advocating for our son at school and providing information for professionals on how to more positively engage with parents of kids with autism. I’m equal parts proud, nervous, terrified and excited but I’m grateful to have the chance to hopefully make a difference.
Here is the link and I am sending her my congratulations and best wishes for this event! I do not believe this will be her ‘last’ appearance!

Next week’s Woman of Courage is Annette.

Annette is a blogger too but we have only met ‘virtually’.

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.

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest

Women of Courage Series. #4. Debbie Harris. 67/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #4. Debbie Harris. 66/2019.

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

 

Welcome to  Debbie Harris, aged 58 who is sharing her story today. 

 

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

Despite what some people may think, my life is far from perfect and I have faced some truly terrible moments along the way. Some I didn’t know about at the time but required me to be ‘courageous’ to continue on – as a baby I contracted pneumonia, was hospitalised and then it went to double pneumonia with the added complication of Golden Staph infection – this resulted in having to have some of my left lung removed. I now have an amazing scar running down my left side! It’s horrific enough now that I’m fully grown but how must it have looked on a tiny baby??

I was involved in a tragic accident while on a school excursion in Noumea, New Caledonia at age 17 where the bus we were in rolled off the steep winding road on a wet night, rolling several times into the river below, drowning 2 students and a civilian and leaving many others severely injured.

I received a Brave Conduct Award from the Queen for my efforts, along with several other students who were involved.

From my blog post May 2018:

It was 40 years ago in May 1978 that I set off on a dream trip with my friends, my French teachers, and other French students from my school, all of us armed with a real sense of adventure. We headed off to New Caledonia ready to practice our French language skills and immerse ourselves in the culture of the French island.

I was 17 and in Year 12, my final year of school, at Bomaderry High School, a public high school on the NSW South Coast (Australia).

Little did we know that within a few days we would be heading home after surviving a tragic accident which took the lives of 3 people, two of whom were young students in the prime of their lives.

I was one of the oldest students on the trip with two of my best friends. But sadly only two of us returned home alive.

At 1.00am on Thursday 11 May 1978 we were returning in two buses to our hotel Chez Maitre Pierre at Hienghene, after spending the evening at a disco at a nearby resort, with a group of students from a Wagga school.

It was raining heavily, and I was on the first bus which left with 13 people on board – 4 adults and 9 students plus the bus driver.  I remember the road was winding, narrow and slippery.  The bus slid from the road and overturned, rolling four or five times down a forty-metre embankment, ending up submerged in the river, La Hienghene, with only a small part of the bus showing above the water.

I was thrown from the bus as it rolled down the embankment and sustained concussion, shock, cuts, glass embedded throughout my body and other minor injuries, but somehow, I had survived.

In total darkness, and with no sign of panic, those of us who had managed to escape from the bus immediately set about the task of rescuing the injured, resuscitating those who had drowned and caring for them until rescuers arrived, more than two hours later.

But for their actions the loss of life would have been far greater.

It was tragic – 3 of the 13 people aboard, died on that bus.

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

As I was only 17 at the time, I hadn’t really suffered any great losses.  This accident made me aware of how fragile life was and to live a good life wherever possible.  I didn’t get any counselling or support from professionals at the time, this would be very different scenario today!  I remember just having to continue on and so I did with help from family and my then boyfriend (now husband).  I think it gave me some resilience.

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

We all need to be brave in our own way and make the most of what life throws at us.  It’s funny that anyone who gets a bravery award says they didn’t feel brave they just did what they had to do at the time.  Those were my exact words when I was given the award.

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

Yes, I now tackle things head on.  Due to the accident I have a fear of heights, but I didn’t let it stop me from walking in the Himalayas in Nepal, tackling the infamous Kokoda Track, skiing in the Italian Alps.  I could have been put off from travelling and to be honest it took me 14 years before I travelled overseas again after the accident but now, I’m a fearless traveller, with my husband, family and even solo trips to Europe.  I grasp opportunities with both hands.

In late 2016 I was made redundant from my rewarding 22 year career of Managing Education programs and working with inmates in a correctional centre.  The government decided to outsource education provision (it was a cheaper option) and they decided they didn’t need qualified teachers in their system any longer.  I was 55 turning 56 at the time and this forced change to my lifestyle nearly brought me undone.  I needed all my courage to join with my Teachers Federation colleagues to fight this abominable decision.  I fought hard, rallied troops, spoke to the media and put myself out there- it was very scary.  But I had the courage of my convictions and I stuck with it.  Unfortunately, the changes went ahead as planned and I was suddenly a very young retiree.  I grieved for months but have bounced back with optimism and enthusiasm, created a new lifestyle and I am happy to say life is good!

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

I know it seems to be a cliché but really you just have to hang on. Try to take the positives out of a situation and get help if you need to.  My family keep me pretty grounded and don’t let me carry on too much!  Everyone sees courage differently and we need to respect these differences.

There is no one way to be brave, sometimes we just need to know it’s inside us all and hope that we will find it when it’s needed.

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post.

I hate roller coaster rides (I think due to my accident) but have learnt that if I close my eyes and count slowly they only last a few minutes at the most.  I don’t enjoy them but remind myself that ‘this too will pass’ – life’s a bit like that in many ways.

Many thanks to Debbie for her story of courage. I first ‘met’ Debbie on-line and as teachers who left their roles in circumstances beyond our control I ‘get’ her part in this post very much.

Denyse.

Follow Debbie here:

https://debs-world.com/2018/04/08/what-ive-learnt-from-surviving-a-school-trip-that-went-terribly-wrong/

Blog/Website: https://www.debs-world.com

Twitter: @wonderwomandebz

Facebook Page (not personal account): https://www.facebook.com/worldaccordingtoDebbie

Instagram: https://Instagram.com/debs__world

Next week’s Woman of Courage is Kirsty Russell. 

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.

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest

Women Of Courage Series. #3. Katherine. 63/2019.

Women Of Courage Series. #3. Katherine. 63/2019.

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 Katherine who is 35 or 36..

 

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

This is the second time I’ve been asked this question in four days. So I’ve had a bit of time to think about it. I don’t know if I could claim being courageous, but I’ve probably done my best impression of it a few times now. All the way back in 2008, I decided to quit my (then) stable job at a suburban newspaper to move to London. Up until then I’d only ever lived at home with my parents, so it was a bit of a leap to believing that I could function as an adult and look after myself in another country.

I returned from London a couple of years later and my mother was diagnosed with a single cell carcinoma around her stomach months later. I was working in Perth at the time and my family was in Sydney. I decided to take time off work and go home to help care for her over her last few months. That turned into a few years of living at home with dad after she passed away.

Then in 2015 it was time for a new beginning, so I packed up my stuff (ok, some of my stuff) and headed over to San Francisco for work, all on my lonesome. It was one of those decisions that changed the course of my life really. I’m about to marry (or depending on the timing of this post, have married) a Californian named Mike who I met at work here. Ed: this post is going live before “the wedding”

 

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

Moving to another country (or state) always reminds me that I can be self-sufficient and as independent as I feel like. I’ve become slightly more outgoing since moving away and having to build new friendships. It has made me much more organised, and more likely to say ‘yes’ to things that I was 98 per cent sure I wasn’t capable of. Because there’s always that 2 per cent chance that you’re selling yourself short.

My mother’s death changed me in many ways, that aren’t as fun to share. It made me feel directionless, alone even though I was surrounded by family, and hopeless. Like nothing would ever be the same and nothing I did would put my life back on a track that I could feel happy with. It seems trite to say that it made me realise everything I was going to miss without mum, and everything she was going to miss not being with us. It also changed me in the sense that I couldn’t stand the thought of falling in love, getting married, and dealing with the death of a partner. It took a long time to get over that.

 

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

I’ve written and erased this paragraph three times now. Everything sounds so trite and ‘more easily said than done’. I honestly don’t think there was anything I could tell someone going through the death of a loved one, because the experience really is different for everyone and it hits you in different ways. Saying that the raw pain will pass feels like diminishing that special person’s meaning to you. So I would say that therapy helped me process some of the guilt and anguish I was feeling. Distance yourself from those who are uncomfortable around you or creating drama at a time when you don’t need it. Focus on yourself and your family.

 

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

I am much more of the ‘go with the flow’ mindset now that I ever was before. If things work out the way I want them to, or had envisioned them, then I’m stoked. But if they don’t it’s just about adjusting my expectations, finding a new way of doing things, or accepting a new reality. There are lots of things looming in my future expat life that could definitely derail our plans – visa applications, work permits, superannuation and 401K accounts etc. But I’m not too worried about it all. If I’ve learned anything it’s that panicking is not going to solve a problem.

 

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

You’re a lot stronger than you think you are, you can handle situations far outside the scope of what you think you’re capable of. Break the situation down into smaller chunks so that you can process it all better and consider your reactions a little better.

 

Thank you for sharing your story, Katherine and Happy Wedding Day wishes sent yours and Mike’s way.

Denyse.

Here’s where to find Katherine on-line.

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/krasf  

Facebook Page (not personal account): https://www.facebook.com/expatsintheusa/

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

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.

My story was here, then Sam’s is here and Megan’s is here.

Next week’s Woman of Courage is Debbie Harris. 

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.

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest

Women Of Courage Series. #2. Megan Blandford. 60/2019.

Women Of Courage Series. #2. Megan Blandford. 60/2019.

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

Welcome Megan Blandford who is in her late 30s.

 

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

Asking for help has been the most courageous thing I’ve done. That doesn’t sound very hard, but when you’re going through a real challenge reaching out can feel like the toughest thing in the world. It took me years of going through depression to really understand that I didn’t have to do it all alone, and that asking for help wasn’t a sign of weakness – it was actually a sign of strength.

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

Asking for help – from my husband, family and friends, as well as professional help – meant that I could start to live a happy life again. It helped me learn to be kinder to myself and drop the expectation of being ‘strong’ all the time.

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

The most incredible thing is that, when you let people know you need them, they almost always step up for you.

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

Absolutely. I think that once the mask is down and you’ve shown that you needed help once, it’s easier to say it again. That’s not to say it’s suddenly easy! But it’s a bit easier each time, in each different circumstance.

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

If you need help with something – whether it’s a big thing like a mental health challenge, or something small in your life – it’s worth knowing that if the help you reach out for doesn’t work out, there are always other options. Keep asking until you find the help that’s right for you.

Thanks for sharing your story.

Find Megan here via these links.

Facebook Page : www.facebook.com/meganblandford1

Instagram: @MeganBlandford

Megan is the author of this book, recently released. I have a copy and it is a great and honest read.

Thanks Megan for sharing and for being a Woman of Courage.

 

 

 

 

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 is here and last week’s about Sam is here.

Next week’s Woman of Courage is Katherine.

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.

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest

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”

Thanks Cate for all your reassurance and hugs too!

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.

 

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest

Women of Courage Series. #1. Sam. 55/2019.

Woman of Courage. #1. 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.

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest

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.

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest