Saturday 17th March 2018

My Cancer Surgery #3. 2018.20.

My Cancer Surgery #3. 2018.20.

Since the diagnosis of cancer in my upper front gums and partially on the inside lip on the right hand side in May 2017 I have had three surgeries. The first, on Thursday 6th July 2017  has been written about in detail and in 3 parts…because it WAS huge!

Here are the links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

And over 4 months passed as a lot of healing needed to happen in my recovery at home. My leg was cared for by the Community Nurse who visited for 8 weeks over a few days each time, and my mouth, well it had to heal over time. Before the next surgery there were visits back to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and to Westmead.

Then I had the second surgery. It was at relatively short notice and was for Day Only stay. So different to last time. But do read the post if you have not because it was a hard start to MY day with my husband driving me down on the same day.

Moving right along now to Cancer Surgery #3.

Again there was a long gap from the previous surgery to this one, but in this case let’s “blame” end of year and January …and that is fair enough because everyone needs a break. And my surgeon sure did! As did the team. But before this surgery and for some weeks in December and January we did not lose touch because as the ‘flap’ inside my mouth healed it was a bit unruly and decided to do things its way so we (ok, my husband) had to take regular photos INSIDE my mouth and send them to Professor Clark. And ‘things were OK’ he said so I managed to take my worry hat off.

I had better understanding of what would happen in Surgery #3 and as my husband agreed with my wish to drive down the night before it was a smooth start the next morning at 6.30 a.m. on an early February Sydney day to walk to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to present me to pre-admission.

The pre-admission room and beds were full! 7th February was a popular day. This time my husband left me to go back to the apartment where we stayed overnight when I went to theatre. No waiting in the anaesthetic bay for an hour this time…I was ‘first’. Yay. Chatted to the same anesthetist from last surgery, also to my oral restorative dentist and once wheeled in and shuffled onto the bed, chatted oh so briefly to my surgeon.

Back in my waiting space within 2 hours….dressed in an hour…and we were on our way home (2 hours away) arriving there some 5 hours after I started surgery. There was ONE big surprise. How I looked!!

The ‘look’ was the foam squares (they were holding a stitch each) to add some movement but also stability to the stitches that were making MY NEW upper lip…from the skin graft from surgery #2 that was taken from my right thigh. I know, my body is a GIVER!!

The other part of the surgery was to add some ‘abutments’ – screws – to the gum/jaw area to allow for the skin there to keep healing BUT to add a cover – like a mouthguard called a stent – to protect this area.

Oh my goodness. That did fill up my mouth let me tell you, and make eating (and drinking coffee!) particularly challenging. In fact, I literally dipped my foam into a cup without realising (Initially I thought it was blood but it had a coffee aroma!) so I had to be very careful.

The foam – with stitches in –  also prevented me from washing my face and hair so my dear hub learned how to help do their hair wash over the laundry sink with me holding a washer to my face.

It was only a week of being like this as when we returned to Sydney for the check-up the stitches were removed AND the area in my mouth indicated that it was time for a visit to the Oral Restorative Surgeon to start planning the implanted teeth program.

Foam Blocks gone. Mouth very swollen due to stent and surgery.

Update #1.

On Friday 23 February we drove to Westmead to have the stent looked at and the condition of the gums. I was a little nervous as my mouth was stinky (food particles under the stent) and my oral restorative dentist had a broken hand and his colleague (who had attended each of my surgeries) would be undoing the stent and examining the gum with my regular person viewing and commenting.

Firstly, the precision with which the stent had been drilled into the current abutments was spot on and as each was loosened the stent eventually yielded and that stinky thing was GONE. The nurse and the specialist dentist did an amazing job of cleaning the area and as they always do for my visits, photos of the inside of my mouth were taken.

The BEST news was that the gums growing around the 5 abutments are doing as expected and there was now no need to put the stent back on. Phew. Phew. Phew. But now what? Well, I have my gums and abutments on display and have been given all the care instructions I need.

I will be returning to Westmead in 4 weeks to have a temporary prosthesis put in if all is well. 

I hesitated about publishing the photo of my mouth but then I wanted to explain it more:

The little silver things are the abutments with caps on – there are 5 – and they started off being attached to the fibula bone from my leg which was cut and made to fit my mouth*. I have only 5 abutments when they were hoping for 6 but my fibula bone was too narrow in one spot and broke. The redness is OK and the area above the ‘jaw’/gumline is the ‘flap’ which has been harvested from my right leg *and has been cut, stiched and used for different purposes such as burying a skin graft** to make my ‘new lip’ .

Update #2.

Whilst my dental team thought my gums were going well it was when they shared the photos from Friday with my surgeon, Professor Clark,  he saw some small issues with the gums that he thought will benefit from at least another week with the stent in. So….back to Westmead this Thursday for that. I understand the need to make things right and trust my team implicitly!

* part of surgery #1 ** part of surgery #2.

This will be the second last of Cancer posts for a while. I appreciate that there is support for me as I go through this but I also want to update readers too. However, the remaining post, Part Two of Eating after Gum Cancer Surgery will be published in two weeks. Unless there are good reasons for updates, there will be a cessation for a while. Thank you for your interest.


Joining with Kylie Purtell here on Tuesday for I Blog On Tuesday.
Joining here with Leanne for her Lovin Life Linky on Thursdays.
And I will also join with Sue and Leanne here for their Wednesday Link Up.
Thank you all for hosting!


Living B.O.L.D. 2018.16.

Living B.O.L.D. 2018.16.

One year ago this week I was an anxious, hypervigilant and fearful woman because……of nothing other than what went on in my mind.

There  was NO real reason At ALL for this.

However, my mind over-rode the outside messages of safety and security and commonsense and left me:




and really, really disappointed in myself for being like this.

Does this sound true for anyone else reading?

These sayings are from blog posts in February last year. I knew I needed help and to change my thinking but gosh it proved hard and I really had to move away from ‘positive affirmations’ which are now said not to do us much good at all… and WORK hard at the shift.

I did. I saw my psychologist about the ramping up of my fear to travel on the M1 (read about that here and here for part two) whilst she was kindly she did say I would have to do this work for myself. I baulked at it over and over. Why? It all seemed far too hard and my mind was leading.

But it took THIS!

In April 2017 my  teeth & bridge  needed extracting because they were causing me pain and I was sure something was wrong. Forward to the results of a biopsy of the gums in the front of my mouth in May 2017 where cancer was found. Posts are here about that.

From June 2017 until now I have gently and firmly led myself out of that busy and annoyingly bossy mind to be able to:

  • accept what is happening to me in terms of my health
  • understand that I have the inner capacity to manage my emotions now
  • give back to others who have supported me as I found my strength and confidence again
  • joyously proclaim each day that I am going well (even in some pain or discomfort it is OK)
  • be grateful for the big wake-up call to assist the change
  • MAKE the inner and outer world of me one which I am most happy to inhabit

This has led me to the intention I set earlier this year. I chose B.O.L.D.

Be Brave


Learning & Loving

Determined Denyse

and I had the ‘word’ engraved on a bracelet I wear 24/7 (other than hospital surgeries!) and it really has helped me move my old mindset to the new. This is something that will always be a work-in-progress for me I forgive myself readily for forgetting then congratulate myself for changing my thinking.

My “message to me” bracelet.

Sign Above Where I Blog.

Did you find a word or intention for 2018?

I understand that for some people they mean little and for others they like the process and the product.

Last year’s worked for me more than I realised. Thank you KINDNESS especially when I remembered to be kind to me too!

Today as this post goes live I will be in Sydney having my post-surgical check up from last Wednesday’s mouth reconstruction #3.

I will be glancing at my bracelet a few times I imagine!


UPDATE: I will blog next week about the outcome of Wednesday’s visit to Sydney to see Professor Clark and his wonderful Practice Nurse.

Joining in with Sue here and Leanne here for their link up on Wednesdays.

And because of the Theme for Leanne’s Link called Lovin’ Life I am joining in there too on Thursday.





Starting School Stories. #LifeThisWeek 6/52. 2018.12.

Starting School Stories. #LifeThisWeek 6/52. 2018.12.

For this week’s prompt I am having a trip down a long, winding memory lane of kids (and teachers!) starting school from this retired teacher, deputy principal, principal, mother and grandmother! There are more than a few stories let me tell you but I shall add the few.

For those readers who have just had a child start school, daycare or pre-school this is my annual letter for you…to send to the teacher.

Me as the School Starter.

Back in 1954 I started school after the September holidays. I was 4 years and 9 months. Yes, there were 3 terms for a long, long time in NSW schools. We lived in the same street as the school so I certainly knew where it was. Mum took me on Day 1 and I looked around me at the kids that were crying. “Why” I thought. Anyway, once we got into the classroom I was in love. Up the back was a white full-size rocking horse. I so wanted a ride. I do not remember if I got one, but I do remember liking school a lot and this was fun.

Off to Gwynneville PS. Our Tunic was Brown (I think!)

Our Daughter as a School Starter.

When your parents are both teachers and they are appointed to a very isolated school in NSW with Dad as the (teaching) principal and Mum as the teacher and it’s time to go to school this is what you do. There is no uniform, so you dress in your fave outfit, add a cool bag because you LOVE Abba…and off you trot across the space between home and school called The Playground. You know this place so well but right now there are around 20 different kids you haven’t yet met but eventually you join in their games, called your parents “Sir” like the other kids do and thrive on the independent learning in a small school.

Born in August and turning 5 that year, MIss K was able to start ‘school’ in February as we had a pre-school class too.

The school is on the right of this pic. The tractor is picking up kids from the local Aboriginal community to bring them to school in Term 1 1976 when we had major floods.

Our Son as a School Starter.

In complete contrast to his sister’s enrolment at her parents’ school, he was enrolled to start at the local (now we were in Sydney) large primary school. Having already been to the orientations and pre-school the previous year he was used to the ‘leaving his parents thing’. On the day he began, I was at my school where I was an Assistant Principal but wanted to be part of his start, so I returned to his (soon-to-be) school, met his Dad holding his hand, and down to the classroom we went. Without a backward glance, his nametag already on after Orientation the year before, he entered the classroom, the teacher said “goodbye” to us. That was it. Anti-climactic but at least I was there.

Student Starts School With Entourage.

As the Deputy Principal in a large Western Sydney school it was my role to meet each new starter (not everyone came to Orientation the year before) and their parent(s) to ensure all the relevant details about the child were current and to ask if there were any questions, and welcome the child and family to the school. I allowed around 10 minutes per child and it usually went well.

On one memorable occasion more than the parents entered my office with the child. I saw siblings and I guessed grandparents giving this one small person an overwhelming sense of “woah”. I could see this and asked the family to please stop the photography of me and the filming of the child being enrolled. They did.

But it set a precedent for me as I certainly understood the reason to mark the occasion but with the stressors placed upon a young child beginning school it was enough. No more photos or filming as enrolment took place. Far more important for the child and family to feel welcomed and at ease with this NEW event.


Underage Child Found To Have Started School.

At the above-mentioned school before I became the Deputy Principal there had been some lapses in viewing and noting the various documents that needed sighting before a child can start school. There is a requirement that a child cannot start school in NSW Public Schools IF they have not turned 5 after 31 July.

So in the year of my appointment to the school here’s how we (the Kindergarten teachers and I) found we had an underage child at school. One little girl seemed, according to her observant K teacher not able to do some of the gross motor activities which included how to walk upstairs (the school was two-storey) and she had little language and seemed “young”. I made a phone call some weeks into the term to the contact number and her mum answered. I asked outright what the child’s birthday was and the age worked out to be that she was 3. She would not be 4 until later in the year. I explained kindly but firmly that she would have to come and get her child now and that she could start the next year. The mother said sheepishly when she came to pick her up “I hoped you wouldn’t notice her and I didn’t want to find more childcare where I have to pay”. Sad but true.

We had much tightened arrangements for enrolment from then and that little girl did come back the following year and started school successfully.

Today’s School Starters.

For the past few years, the Australian government requires all students to undergo an initial assessment upon enrolling at the school where they will enter… Kindergarten, Prep, Year One (we still have different names for the first year of formal schooling in Australia. Sigh).

In NSW Public Schools it is called Best Start. It is a snapshot on one day of the enrolling student’s capabilities/readiness/knowledge/skills PRIOR to starting formal education. This is a good thing! The students’ baseline is a measurement that is used by the schools and the parents in terms of ‘where is my child at’ and lends itself to support if required or extension or that the child’s progress will grow accordingly in the first year of school.

When ‘Best Start’ happens is up to each school but more and more a child is given a Best Start Assessment in the week before he or she starts school. In fact I have seen this occur for three of my younger grandchildren. Best Start is done with a K teacher (usually) and parents may or may not observe but probably will wait elsewhere for the 40 minutes or so for the assessment. Then the child starts school on a date and at a specific time within the next week. This little one was pleased as punch to have her new school shoes when she came to see us. I sure hope she enjoys wearing them for 5 days a week from Monday 5 February.


Handwriting help.

An added bonus to this post. This is an example of the first handwriting children will see and copy in NSW schools. It is NSW Foundation Style. This is the early years’ printing. I used to do this handout when speaking to parents’ groups at pre-schools so they could ‘practise’ themselves. Children learn that capital letters are for names and so on. That is why all capitals is discouraged in early writing.

I wrote this 3 years ago and the message still stands!

What Do You Remember About Starting School?


Joining here with Alicia for Open Slather.

Do link up for Life This Week, I always comment and so do many of the bloggers who join in! We are a very friendly community!

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 is the optional prompt’: 7/52.  “Who’s a Worrier? 12/2/18.



Art Kits, Materials & More. Part One. 2018.6.

Art Kits, Materials & More. Part One. 2018.6.


In 2013 I was looking for something to give me some level of contentment. It was a pretty stressful time in my life and it was a shout-out from Deb Dane who blogs here that changed my life for the better.

That IS a big call, I know!

A R T was it. But back then I was both curious and shy. I had ALWAYS enjoyed creating colourful and crafty classrooms for kids, and then as grandchildren came along I joined the scrapbooking phenomenon of the 1990s and beyond. I also did a college class on sketching when I first retired.

But A R T for ‘arts-sake’ was surely for more talented people than I am. 

Finding My Place as an Artist.

Oh seriously it took some time to apply this term to me but as one of my art gurus said ‘what are the rules for this?’. Rule-maker and keeper me realised I was the one limiting myself. Deb suggested I join the group on Facebook called DaisyYellow and take part in their Index-Card-A-Day challenge from June to July every year. In 2013 I joined, became a devotee, even signing on as a moderator in 2015 and 2016. In 2017 I did the challenge until it was time for my cancer surgery in early July.

This post explains more about it. I thank Tammy Garcia, the founder, for much of her encouragement of my art. Some examples here of my interpretation of the daily prompts in 2016. These are all created on (old speak) 6inch x 4 inch index cards.

What’s An Art Kit?

I credit learning more about art from being a member of this on-line group as above. It’s a free website and there are minimal costs for certain activities. However, as in all things in life, it was time for me to decide what I wanted in an art kit and what would be its purpose.

You know when you are caught waiting in a room for an appointment or sitting in the car waiting for someone and whilst you could look at your phone or read an old magazine there is this idea! An Art Kit.

I always had small one in my bag when we lived in Sydney and then somehow when we moved and I was mainly being at home, I got out of the habit of keeping one. It was when I had to go to hospital last July I thought I needed to take some art materials for when I was recovering AND cognisant. I was right! In 2017 I was obsessed with mandalas! I was designing and drawing them, making patterns to colour later. They were (and still are) a very MINDFUL activity for me. I made a large version of an art kit with my A4 book with pre-drawn circles and some lines on many pages, added in some Unipin pens, some colouring pens and I was set. I did not watch TV at night in hospital, I drew mandalas and they helped in my mood and physical recovery as I relaxed!

Now I am getting dress with purpose every day, one thing I do is go out for a solo coffee. I have been doing that for more than 2 months now and I am loving it. I get to people watch, sip a favourite coffee, sometimes try to eat something nice, and play with ART. Here I am last Friday at a local cafe. By the way, it took me about two goes not to feel self-conscious so now it’s second nature!

Next post I will add more details about:

  • materials I use that might be expensive initially but ‘pay for themselves’ in terms of lasting and quality
  • some ways in which art has helped my emotional health improve
  • how all of us can make art in a way that is meaningful to us and how to shut up the critic’s voice
  • ideas for colouring-in those lovely patterns and pictures in books and freebies on-line
  • and anything you might choose to ask me questions about in the comments!!

I hope this has been helpful.

I wrote this post as a response to Vanessa Smith’s comment recently and she blogs here. Another blogging friend, also named Vanessa and blogs here  is now colouring mindfully and this post may be of interest but the next one will be more so I think.

Happy Art-ing everyone!



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


January Days. Now & Past. 2018.4.

January Days. Now & Past. 2018.4.

Happy New Year!

Welcome Back!

Here’s to a great 2018 for us all.

This year, as I counted backwards on my fingers, is the 8th year I have been blogging. I started towards the end of 2010.

I blogged a lot in 2011  as newbie but who was completely engaged by blogging once I went to the first Aussie Bloggers’ Conference in March 2011.

And I was  even more engaged in blogging in 2012.

I slowed down as 2013 drew to an end and blogged most infrequently in 2014.

In 2015 I re-calibrated both myself and the blog to help me in the transition to retirement by blogging every day for 365 days. I did.

In 2016 I added some categories to blog within and by September 2016 began my Monday linky called Life This Week. Sometime later that year, I cut back my full-time blogging to only blogging on some days.

Into 2017 I was still blogging up to 3 days a week, then over time it reduced to 2 days. Mondays and Tuesdays.

This year I shall see how things go. I may add another day as some bloggers are coming up with another linky on Wednesdays.

What does that have to do with January?

Not a lot because, as much as I would like to share what I wrote back in those earlier years, I let those posts go when my blogs were filling up my account with my hosting service and I had to decided to delete two of the three blogs from 2010-2014. I did keep some of my education and schooling posts and have them in draft form if I ever want to refresh them.

In January  I often wrote about Back to School here and for many others. I am no longer doing those as I have fully retired from paid and upaid education roles. It is also time for others to take those tasks on and they will be more up to date.

So, to kick my post off for the first I Blog on Tuesdays & the second Lovin’ Life link up, I am going to add some photos from around this time of January for the past few years. January can be quite a busy time for many of us even if we are still on holidays or retired!

This week I will be meeting my daughter and her youngest who will be starting school this year and we will be buying her school shoes. That is a January tradition in our family.

I will travel to Sydney to see Dad for his 94th Birthday on Thursday taking him some goodies for a birthday morning tea which we will share with a couple who have been very kind to Dad during his time at Oceangrove.

As I write, it is the end of the most awful Sunday of HOT weather everywhere in most of NSW. We copped a temperature of over 40deg C and then…the worst thing happened. The power went off for around 70 minutes. It was close to hell on earth for us. Fortunately it kicked back on – there were district outages – and my hub could watch the Ashes and I could relax a little. Later on I drove over to the beach and the temperature was actually less than it shows in the photo.

Every day, for the past 5 weeks I have been enjoying getting dressed for a purpose. In other words, taking greater care of myself and having fun in the meantime. I also take myself out for coffee most days too. Sometimes I can even find something to eat that my poor mouth can manage. I often do a little art and journalling when I am out. It is a great experience and it sure is continuing in 2018! It’s the ultimate self-care.

I am committing via Instagram to post, on most days, a maximum of 3 photos:

1. Outfit of the Day. 2. Art/Creative 3. Noticing Nature.

So, how about you?

How has January been for you so far?

I would love to hear from you in the comments.


Joining my friend Kylie’s link up here called I Blog On Tuesdays.

And on my Dad’s 94th Birthday, I am linking with Leanne and friends here for Lovin’ Life.



My Intention & ‘Word’ for 2018. #LifeThisWeek 2/52. 2018.3.

My Intention & ‘Word’ for 2018. #LifeThisWeek 2/52. 2018.3.

Here we are, one week into the New Year and whilst I do not make them any more, it was clear in the media (who are, let’s face it in the business of selling their stories!) that it’s time to make New Year’s Resolutions.

The reason many of us choose not to any more is the real and perceived lack of willpower or character when we ‘fail’ to live up to them. This link re anxiety which can be heightened by making New Year’s Resolutions. So, it is not good for us it seems to do these!

In becoming more mindful over the past years to enable me to live more in the moment I note that my teachers, from the Buddhism area, talk of setting an intention each day. It is in doing this, and appreciating what we already have, that our present moments are valuable.

Last year my intention WAS to set an intention weekly but I ended up giving myself too much pressure to perform over it!

Not helpful in my mindful pursuits.

In 2017 I made KINDNESS and being KIND to myself and others a priority and in fact, the lightbox above where I am writing now, held this message for the year. It did help me centre myself more in the times when I became more negative about myself.

I also embraced gratitude as a mental and written practice. I was not consistent every day and there were days (as you can imagine when I first knew I had cancer!) that I did not feel grateful at all.

What is it to be for me in 2018? I was struck and somewhat humbled by various comments to me personally and in writing about how I have been managing the news of cancer, the surgeries and the long recovery times. The word which arose time and time again was BRAVE. I certainly saw myself as someone who usually actually rose to which ever occasion that was a challenge but didn’t quite think of it as being BRAVE.

Neverthless I am continuing to tell myself that perhaps this word IS a message for me to carry into 2018 as more surgery and recovery times await. So, my WORD was to be BRAVE….and then I listened to Brene Brown in her latest publication Braving the Wilderness and considered B R A V I N G. Here’s what Brene writes on page 149:








Yet still, this was no quite what I wanted. For some weeks prior to this post I have had these words on my locked screen on my iphone and I thought they would be the intention for 2018:


And that seemed sufficient until 5 days ago when I thought of a WORD..which was both self-contained and an acronym. Here it is:

B.  Be (brave)

O. Optimistic

L.  Loving & Learning

D. Determined (Denyse)

So, that is it. I am content with this and already have it here….and on my wrist! No, not a tatt! But an old-fashioned way: an engraved plate on a sweet little bracelet I will wear 24/7. My eyes can go to it and be reminded when my brain and confidence may be lagging and I can be:


My “message to me” bracelet.

Sign Above Where I Blog.

There it is. An intention and a word with more!

Do you have a word or intention for this year?

Have you found that you forget them as the year goes along? I confess to that in a few years gone by!

Thanks for reading, commenting and hopefully linking up too!


On Mondays I also link up here with Alicia for Open Slather! Do pop over, her blog is always interesting and I learn a lot!

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: 3/52 My Favourite Weather. 15/1/18.



A Very Personal Post About My Weight. 2017.134.

A Very Personal Post About My Weight. 2017.134.

In this, my last post for 2017, I am finally unlocking what I have kept inside more than I have let out. Into the world beyond my conversations with my husband who is my trusted confidante.

This is about my weight and what I see and think about the place it has had in my life as an adult. We are talking over 48 years.

Mid 2014 Left. Recently 2017 on Right.

It has been always, and yes it is a not very good analogy, the elephant in the room.

I do not mention my size, weight or fluctuations other than in written form in my diary or in saying something to my husband.

So, where to start with what I want to say….it’s here. As a young woman.

My Twenties.

  • I was 20 when I left home to teach in north-western NSW. I was free to be me. Well, in some ways and I do know I had the first sense of freedom around food. I believe I was a less than normal eater in my teens, still living at home and preferred ‘junk’ food over the better food.
  • I think my parents did what they could but in some ways, I had/have that sweet tooth which I used to calm and comfort. I was not overweight at all but like many young women moving into their 20s I saw the faults of hips and thighs. In fact, being told by a teaching colleague I had child-rearing hips was not taken as a compliment. In the photos above you can see I was a normal  looking young bride and then mother.
  • However, the very first notion that I needed to diet (i.e.) lose weight came at my 6 week post-pregnancy check up where the OB told me I needed to get those (back then in pound/stones) half a stone off me to be back to wedding day weight.
  • Thus it set something off in me about not being good enough AND to add to this, I was one miserable stay-at-home mum (very isolated in the NSW bush for 8 hours a day for 6 months) so I comfort-baked and ate.
  • Onto a new school and a new house and our baby grew to be a pre-schooler and my weight did too. I ate to soothe. I ate to calm and I ate, interestingly enough, because I could not fall pregnant even though the first time round was too easy!
  • We moved to an even more isolated area where we were both on staff: hub was the principal and I was the teacher and our daughter started school with us. We enjoyed the teaching stint because it was incredibly challenging but in the meantime, and the downtime I baked for ourselves and others and I put on even more weight.
  • When I saw my parents, family and friends in the school holidays  it was not a topic for conversation but my imagination took over and there were many judgement of ME by others (that they never said but I imagined). I was already ashamed to be the size I was but I was not going to talk about it to anyone. Some diets were tried to limited success and as someone who hates deprivation it was never going to last.
  • The doctor who told me I would never fall pregnant without losing weight was hated by me. I did so much want to have a second child but it appeared not to be something that would happen so I accepted the fate of one child.

My Thirties.

  • I became pregnant! Not by dieting, oh no. The  next specialist I saw once we had settled back into Sydney, diagnosed multiple ovarian cysts and other things inside that were preventing pregnancy and following major abdominal surgery…and a bit quicker than the specialist recommended, I was with child.
  • I was at a lower weight (still around 18 kgs above my wedding day weight) and kept that weight consistently with no increase until the last couple of months of pregnancy. Gave birth, went well, breastfed (the weight did not drop off!) and back to work full-time when the baby was 18 weeks old.

STRESS: This time in our married lives were amongst the worst as my husband was made to medically retire due to ill-health and the next 4 years or so were pretty grim. I was teaching full-time and seeking promotions as I was the only one now in education. Our kids were growing and whilst their Dad did some things for them, he was very unwell and a lot fell to me. How did I cope? Well, good old food. Comfort foods of course. However, noticing that I was getting bigger did not help my self-esteem and I would put myself through rigorous exercise and restricted eating in the hope that would help.

  • And no, I would not talk about it ever. My GP always checked my BP and bloods and even though I did have highish BP medication helped that and it was not weight-related. Blood tests were awesome. I was healthy.
  • But I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror or photos so I stayed behind the lens as the family photographer.

My Forties.

  • As a mum I used to wonder if my kids (who were of so-called normal weight) were ever ashamed of me and I hoped at the same time that they would never mention my weight. They did not.
  • But I sure told myself stories about how my parents must have felt about me as neither of them was overweight.
  • So, there I was on the outside trying my best to look good: I had nice clothes, I had my hair done regularly but my mind told me I looked fat. Always. And that others must be saying that behind my back too.
  • I went on diets at least 3 times. I lost and re-gained the same 18kg each time. Diets included weight watchers (who never could explain to me how NOT to be an emotional eater) and attending a dietitian.

My Fifties.

  • Life was good in many ways. Our children were now adults and independent to a degree and both eventually left home.
  • My husband was reasonably well and we had the trappings of success outwards (new house, cars etc) but there was more happening inside.
  • Interestingly I never ate when stressed but I ate to soothe when I felt overwhelmed or needed what I would call a ‘reward’ or treat.
  • I became a school principal at this time of my life and the days might not have had time for me to eat but I made up for it when I got home.
  • I liked cooking for others and enjoyed sharing my culinary skills with plenty of leftovers, always making I had put aside food for me that I liked too for another time.
  • By now I realised that I used food emotionally. Yes. Crunchy foods helped soothe anger and frustrations. Soft food, like chocolate and cake soothed my sad or loneliness.
  • I visited psychologists about my weight, I went on exercise plans and I did diaries and I even took a prescription tablet to help me reduce my cravings. That worked for a while but it gave me side-effects so off that I went and back on came the weight.
  • By now I decided NOT to be the number on the scales anymore and threw them out.

From a Slimming Mag Article on Me. Early 2000s. Made up me, around 70kg on left, Grandma me in 2001 much heavier on right.

My Sixties.

  • I was in the decade of when my maternal aunt died. This was a bit scary as she was overweight and I know she comfort ate and her death was related to an unknown cancer.
  • I did get blood tests done annually and it was as a result of one of those around 4-5 years ago that I got my first warning of what ageing, lack of exercise and excessive weight could do. I had raised blood sugar and my GP wanted me to have the Glucose Tolerance Test.
  • She really did understand thought that I was trying to live my life without being a number on the scales. But I HAD to do something myself. I then agreed to be weighed and then I asked her to give me 6 months to do something about this.
  • Six months later, and 3 kgs lighter, thanks to more attention to the amounts of what I was eating AND to increase my walking each day, there was no need to have a GTT. Phew.
  • In this period of 2014-2017 I was affected (still am from time to time) by the immense stressors of the trifecta of transitions as I like to call them: selling our house, moving away from family and friends, retiring from all education work.
  • Enter: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) …it had emerged for the first time in my 30s but had gone till now. Suddenly, and over time I found I HAD to limit what I ate. I also found I was…ahem, going to the loo much much more.
  • My GPs (I was still going to one in Sydney and then I found one up here) re-assured me that this unintentional weight loss was OK as long as I was managing OK. I was but not always.
  • Stressors such as loneliness and sadness of the trifecta of transitions saw me settle into a healthier and better eating pattern which probably halved meals on most days.
  • I no longer went out for coffee and cake as I was too stressed to do so but I missed it. However, this helped me too.
  • I often asked the doctors “are you sure this is OK?” and they always said “yes”.
  • It took me a LOOOOONG time to believe (and I still have doubts) that this weight loss could be sustained.
  • Over the 3 years or so I lost around 33 kg. It goes up a bit then down a bit but I have gone from Size 22/20 clothes to Size 16/14. Interesting!


  • Interestingly, in the 2014-2017 times I used to ask the GPs and even the Gastroenterologist “do you think I have lost some weight because I have cancer?” and this was always answered no!
  • I do not believe my cancer was weight-related either now but I also know that somewhere along the line our bodies can change inside when we are under stress. The last 3-4 years were those for me. My Professor and GP both have no idea why I got this cancer (neither a smoker nor drinker) either but they have said it can be found in older women (check) and is quite rare. Lovely. Not.
  • So, yes since having a cancer diagnosis IN my mouth it was already hard to eat as my gums and the bridge with teeth at the front of my mouth was tender. So, too sore to eat much. Weight comes down. How do I know? Clothes are loosening.
  • Time to get real about food. After the surgery I had to take responsibility for feeding myself with a very limited selections of food that can be soft, easy to swallow and are generally nutritious.
  • It was impressed on me by the dietitian before I left hospital in July that I was not to lose weight. And THAT was something I had NEVER heard in my life before.
  • Staying the weight I was and am is a bit of an up and down juggle and I weigh myself every few weeks. I have not lost much weight and have even gained a kilo or two since my lowest a few months back.
  • The importance of the nutrition in healing and staying well is something I have accepted more easily. I am eating foods I never chose before. Weetbix is my breakfast and I will even eat some scrambled egg with tasty cheese in it. I am adept at slippery and soft foods and right now, mangoes and avocadoes are my friend. Little cakes and some biscuits I can dunk for softness are my treats.


  • I admit it took me at least 6-7 months to realise once the weight loss had settled  it is likely to stay.
  • I did donate mountains of Plus Size clothes to local charities but could not (yet) bring myself to do that with all of the size 16s so they are in a box in the linen press.
  • As time goes on, I can see with the changes I have made since cancer made me eat differently and consider food as nutrition more than for enjoyment (that still counts!) I will not re-gain those 30+kg.
  • I gave myself permission to buy new (usually on special as we have a limited income now!) clothes and over time I have begun to see myself differently.
  • The person in the mirror has more wrinkles than ever (the fat held the skin more taughtly) but she is looking, in her 60s, more like what she remembers her mother to look like. This has taken quite some time as I never thought I could be good enough to look like Mum.
  • Deciding to share my story, in bits and pieces on the blog has been good for me but until this post, I had never explained the WHOLE story.
  • Taking part in a daily outfit challenge for everyday style has given me such a lift as I do get some very encouraging and positive comments.
  • I like who I see in the mirror and in the photos now and I love seeing my husband’s eyes light up when I appear in something he likes me wearing. The day of my birthday when I wore a dress for the first time in 15 years was one such landmark.


  • I need to remember to be kind to the ‘person who was not at an ideal weight’. I need to forgive her and tell her she was doing the best she could at the time. I do.
  • I see the ‘me’ keeping on keeping on. I know so much more about the why of what I was doing. I also think I know so much more about how to stop that continuing.
  • Getting my mouth re-construction completed in early-mid 2018 will be interesting for me as for the first time in close to a year I will probably be able to eat all foods. I have missed crunching and chewing a lot.
  • I know if I am seeking comfort for something I am not prepared to admit or talk about I want something food-wise so I will keep an eye on that.
  • My IBS is well-controlled now thanks to a medication my GP has me taking.
  • My anxiety levels (which were incredibly high PRE-cancer) have reduced by around 90%. In other words, they are not out of control.
  • Telling my story has, for the first time in ages, been both cathartic and brave. I hope, that if you got this far it has proved to be of interest.

Me: Sun 17 Dec 2017. Off to Granddaughter’s 21st and 7 months post- cancer diagnosis. I miss smiling! It will be back next year sometime.


I understand this is a tough topic for many of us and it took me a LONG time to own up to what has been going on for me here.

Thank you for reading and let me know what your thoughts are about weight and self-image.


Yes, it’s the last post in 2017! How DID that happen.

Last linky with IBOT and Kylie on Tuesdays until January 2018 and with Leanne on Thursdays for Lovin’ Life. I know Leanne is returning in the same week I am with #lifethisweek. My Monday link-up is back 1 January 2018. Leanne’s is Thurs 4 Jan.






My Cancer & Surgery #2. 2017.128.

My Cancer & Surgery #2. 2017.128.

I know I have written about the cancer I was diagnosed with on quite a few occasions. It still mystifies me, as it does the medical and surgical teams, how I got cancer at all. However, through the reading I have done – little via Dr Google – mostly from this site as recommended by my team from the Head and Neck Clinic at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse it appears that I have a rare cancer or at least it is most unusual one for me to get. I like don’t like that I am that special. 

The condition I was diagnosed with was squamous cell carcinoma in the upper gingiva. I have also seen it on the operation report as verrucous carcinoma upper alveolus. Whatever is the difference..and they are all contained within my upper part of my mouth it has meant a long surgery written about here and even longer recovery in hospital here and at home here.

Head and neck cancer is incredibly complex and diverse. It includes more than 10 different cancers that can affect a person’s mouth, tongue, salivary glands, skin or voice box.

In the past, smoking was the most common cause of head and neck cancer typically affecting areas like the mouth, throat and voice box. However, today in Australia, many head and neck cancers are due to other causes. For example, the human papilloma virus is the most common cause of tonsil cancer, which is rapidly increasing in incidence.

Skin cancers on the face are mainly due to sun exposure and may extend to the eyes, ears, nose and salivary glands. For many other head and neck cancers, such as thyroid cancer, the cause is unknown. Source: Beyond Five.

I had been told following my first surgery that there would be two more surgeries to come. I was not happy about that but needed to accept that to get a ‘working mouth’ back it would be necessary.

I had a check up with Professor Jonathan Clark at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse on 10 October 2017 where he found all my recovery going well and no new issues with lymph glands  – there never had been any cancer found there but this was my first 3 month post-op cancer check. He said my next appointment would be to have a CT scan of my mouth to see how the bone (from the leg) with the added implant bases were settling, to see the specialist dentist at Westmead and then to wait to see when the second surgery might be.

The CT scan went well. The visit back to Westmead was fine now I knew the dentist so well and he is extremely kind and comforting. He explained how my future 2nd surgery would go and what would be achieved. OK. Done.

But when would it be? Before I had a chance to even think about getting mentally prepared for surgery in the coming days a phone call came from the Prof’s practice manager that it was to be DAY ONLY (what?!) surgery on Wednesday 15 November. So, that was something different. To go home on the same day!

We (ok, I) had a nervous drive to Sydney that morning, in peak hour traffic, leaving here at 6.00 am and arriving in time for the pre-admission of 9.00 am. Then my prep was fine and I was wheeled to surgery (same theatre as last time as it is where the Prof prefers to work) ready for 10.30 and there was a delay. I am not good with waiting. However, a trip to the loo, a chat to the anaesthetist and then to Prof and I was wheeled in at 11.30. I do not remember waking in recovery but I know I went OK and was back in the day surgery area feeling well (as you can after 2 hours surgery!) and by 3.50 pm ready to leave with my husband for the drive home. I was a good recoverer.

It might seem strange but for me the surgery in my mouth has never been well-understood by me. I say it is because I am spatially challenged AND that the changes are within me. So I have some troubles feeling what is going on in my mouth because using the tongue is always something that tends to magnify. I have also been in MUCH more pain than I recalled from my first surgery. So, on Day 5 post surgery the Prof wanted to see me and down to St George Private Hospital we went. It was a longer drive and on a not great day but I dealt with it pretty well and hardly did any front seat driving. My husband is a saint putting up with me.

A ten minute consultation (on time!) and we were back on our way home. 5 hours driving in one day. However, the Prof did not seem perturbed by my levels of pain and discomfort most of the time. I also cannot eat as well as I could (and that was limited then too!) after my first surgery some weeks down the track. So, I have been a relatively unhappy recoverer this time. Parts of the stitches on one side have come away, and some of the places where he put stitches feel strange. The purpose of this surgery was to open up part of the flap (the roof of my mouth taken from my leg) and inspect the condition of the 5 implants…which are WELL- EMBEDDED! Good news.

Then he and the specialist dentist put the abutments (screws) on the implants and added some skin from my right thigh to help the implants become adapted to my mouth. I am not explaining it well. Sorry. However, the added pain including nerve shooting types through my lip are driving me cray cray. I was so concerned I even sent the Prof a photo of the inside of my mouth. Can you imagine how hard that was for my poor hub to take?

I am sparing you these photos.

As I write this I have not heard back from him (yet) but I have sent more recent pictures today after his practice manager rang me. The thing I am finding (and have found since I first found out about the cancer in May) is that things are not well-explained AND unless I am ready with questions I get a very short appointment. We have been around surgeons a few times and know they tend to go in, do what they do, and go out again. I am hoping what I am feeling is normal. But it remains somewhat stressful for me. I see him again on 5 December and then the third surgery (I am not sure of its details) is scheduled for early February. But that could change I suppose.

UPDATE  1: The Prof sent me a brief email late Monday saying the photos of inside my mouth looked OK but to keep an eye on things and he will see me next Tuesday. My husband, who ‘gets what is going on in my mouth more than me’ is reassured that it is OK. Sigh.

I was feeling pretty low about it all on Saturday and it is hard. However as I write it is Sunday and I have managed to have a better day thanks to a regular intake of some food and medication for pain. I am somewhat better mentally now, Monday and have managed to eat something at meal times.

UPDATE 2: The nerve pain is likely to be coming from one of the implants my GP tells me and should settle. It is already somewhat (phew!) and yesterday I soaked in a bath for 20 minutes to allow the top covering of my donor site wound to come off and for the skin underneath to continue to re-generate and so far that is going well!


Have you had surgery?

Have you had cancer?

It can be so hard once you are home and there is no-one to ask. At least that’s what it is like for me.

Thanks for reading. It has been a LONG post.


Joining with Kylie for I Blog on Tuesdays and with Leanne for Lovin’ Life Linky on Thursdays.