Saturday 17th November 2018

Look Good Feel Better Workshop. 2018.115.

Look Good Feel Better Workshop. 2018.105.

Look Good Feel Better workshops are open to anyone undergoing treatment for any sort of cancer.

https://lgfb.org.au/workshop/

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a Look Good Feel Better Workshop in my local area.

It was held in a private room within a community church. It is free and available, on application, to any person with cancer. It started at 10 and ran till 12.30. There was no break nor any refreshments other than water.

There were three women from “Look Good Feel Better” waiting for me and the other people who arrived. Each of us chatted briefly and then we sat around a well-organised table with individual places, products, a bag and mirror. There was help from the ladies as we were given tips on how to make up our faces and things were done in a clean and hygenic manner.

The co-ordinator, Cindy, pictured here with me, ran the event aided by a volunteer and her volunteer co-ordinator Kate.

Cindy, the Co-ordinator with Me…after-shot!

Interested in Being a Volunteer? 

The Look Good Feel Better program relies heavily on our team of 1,300 dedicated and passionate individuals who volunteer their time, knowledge and expertise to help deliver our workshops across Australia.

We ask that our volunteers are over 18 years of age and can commit to a minimum of FOUR workshops per calendar year (where available in your region) to ensure we have sufficient volunteer support for our workshops to run.

The first section (around an hour) was very helpful and I did pick up some tips for my poor ravaged skin on this face that has undergone four surgeries! We learned about the sun protection levels and the fact that those undergoing treatments may be even more damaged by the sun so to take good care. We found out about facial tricks – to hide or minimize ‘flaws’ and I learned more about using the concealing ‘green’ stick on red places.

I seemed to be the only one there who was not affected by hair loss or potential hair loss but not everyone shared what their cancer was so I am surmising.

The second section was not relevant to me and I did think about leaving before it started but to support the lady next to me, I stayed. This section was about losing hair, head coverings, tricks and tips and wigs. I am glad I was there for this lady and I do hope now she has started her chemo she is a little more prepared.

 

Look Good Feel Better is a national free, non-medical, brand-neutral program dedicated to helping you face your cancer with confidence. 

While most changes in your appearance are temporary, we believe that taking control of your appearance is one of the simplest and most effective ways to boost your self-esteem and confidence while going through treatment.

Can’t get to a workshop?

Home-delivered Confidence-Kits are a supplementary service developed to assist cancer patients who are unable to attend a Look Good Feel Better workshop for health, travel or personal reasons.

I came away feeling a bit flat which may have been because “my cancer” is not well-known. The second session in particular geared to those, who through cancer treatments have had hair loss  including eye lashes and eyebrows. I fully understand that more women need this kind of help and support through treatment as do others who have chemo.

There was little to no interest in knowing more or even hearing about my head and neck cancer, but those of us head and neck patients find this is a general response. Now you know why I try to educate and help others as I was ignorant too about head and neck cancers till my diagnosis!!

I would however like to thank those who shared their morning with me, particularly the fellow cancer patients. Some were incredibly kind and generous with their tips to others, like the lady next to me who was scared pre-chemo, and one lady had us all ‘fooled’ when her beautiful head of hair proved to be a wig.

Thanks to those who volunteer with the organisation, Look Good Feel Better, and those who work hard to see it happens. From the time I got my initial email, to the time of attendance the communication was excellent. In fact, I was able to change the day of mine to “when I would have my teeth” and they were happy to do that.

We all got the new products that were on our placemat at our table and each is now in my bathroom and I am using the eye brown pencil, the blusher, the big brush, the mineral foundation and the tinted moisturiser.

Have you attended a workshop?

Do you know someone who might benefit?

Put them in touch via the website and they will be looked after.

Denyse.

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

 

 

 

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I Want This. 44/52. #LifeThisWeek 2018.111.

I Want This. 44/52. #LifeThisWeek 2018.111.

This post’s title has been rattling around my head with some interesting, surprising and somewhat easy answers.

One: I want an Apple Watch. Series 4.

  • it is new
  • I am an early adopter
  • I will get fitter using it

Response: I do not really NEED an Apple Watch. I have looked at them, tried one on and thought “that much for this?”. I also look at my fitbit which is doing the job. I am making efforts to walk more steps with that. So, I will stick with that.

Two: I want my cancer to NEVER re-occur.

  • to be certain of this would ease some fears
  • to know I have had it and won’t face what I have been through again

Response: I am sorry. That is not going to be a sure thing. In fact I know intellectually it can return because, as I was told at my last cancer check, “the risk of return is because you have already been diagnosed with cancer”. OK. I will join all of my fellow cancer friends and just live with that knowledge. Not over-think it, just live with it.

Three: I want my weight to stabilise now thank you…or even drop a couple of kilograms.

  • this would mean like dieting again (eek)
  • this might even mean disordered eating and secret eating happening (no!)

Response: I see I am looking at the scale to determine my worth again. Uh uh. This will not end well. How can I be doing that when I have overcome so much to get well. I need to remember my husband’s recent response (exasperated I think) when he said “I do not see fat, I see a healthy woman.”

Four: I want to be satisfied with our life as it is now.

  • I am doing my best to live in the present
  • I am grateful for much in my life including family, friends and connections on line
  • I no longer see having our own home as a pre-requisite to a satisfied life

Response: I have it already. It is worth thinking it through and coming up with the answer.

I have what I want. It is here. I am glad.

What about you?

What do you want?

Denyse.

 

Today I link with Alicia here: for Open Slather and Kel here for Mummy Mondays. Do visit them too and link up!

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: 45/52. Share Your Snaps 9. 5/11/18.


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Six Month Check-Up…With Myself! 2018.56.

Six Month Check-Up…With Myself! 2018.56.

What is this six month check-up about?

It is about my assessment of my physical and emotional health for the first 6 months of 2018.

Subjective? Yes.

Tougher on myself than most? I hope not. But I can be more self-critical than I probably need to be! I suspect we are all like that.

It’s no secret that when you have a cancer diagnosis that check-ups are both regular and scary. Regular ones are like this protocol for my head and neck cancer:

for the first 2 years: every 3 months. I have completed one year and really only had ONE formal check up because…I have been for surgery with my Professor 3 times post initial big surgery.

for the next 3 years: every six months. This assumes no symptoms in between checks. My cancer was a very slow growing one which was contained in one area. All fingers crossed that stays like that.

Let’s get started:

January  –  June 2018.

My Contribution to Our “2 Person Retired” Household.

  • cooking my meals which can be eaten with little chewing and are nurtitious and tasty
  • cooking and freezing meals that are adapted for me and suit my husband as well e.g. spag bol
  • cooking some add-ons for my husband’s meals e.g. my fried rice
  • making cakes. Lots of little cakes. Since discovering I “can” eat cake – with a teaspoon – this household always has freezer space for “little cakes”. I like ones with lots of icing – helps get the cake down, my husband likes no icing
  • cleaning the floors that require vacuuming each fortnight
  • cleaning my en-suite bathroom and all surfaces of shelves, sets of drawers etc in the house
  • ensuring the plants outside are watered and cared for – watering, moving them around as need be and pruning
  • grocery shopping that is specifically for me and some catch-up items as my husband does the main & bigger shop

My Self-Care Routine.

  • I would like to think I have this down pat. I do not. I sometimes do too much and wonder why I am tired or tetchy.
  • Balance of some kind is ideal. I am still learning and I can imagine many of us are too in our retirement years.
  • As someone who loved her busy-ness in work and then when caring for our grandkids and part-time teaching…but also had it affect her emotionally I KNOW this is something I need to do better.
  • What is self-care anyway….for me it is this: enough to ‘do’ each day for nothing to feel stressful and enough to ‘be’ each day to feel calm and in control of my emotions
  • I could improve my ‘going to sleep’ times and am already listening to some ‘sleep stories’ via my Calm meditation app which is helping somewhat
  • I need to remember I am not in a race for self-care or self-improvement
  • I am aware I need to think ‘marathon’ rather than ‘sprint.’

My Care For Others.

  • I am getting better at this one!
  • When I was recovering from cancer surgery in those months from July to November 2017 my physical restrictions and mental tiredness meant I could not do much at all
  • However, I now know the value of caring for and about others (without trying to be the FIXER or the PEOPLE PLEASER) and this, my readers, is a BIG step for me
  • I continue to learn about this – am I doing or saying this to ‘fix’ this person or something that can be fixed or am I doing this to show my love and support for the person as he or she fixes things themselves. A BIG one for sure.
  • And in saying that, I know my people pleasing has taken a back seat…even in the ‘boot’ of ‘my car’ as I continue to know the value of pleasing myself (not indulgently) by setting BOUNDARIES.
  • Who knew? Boundaries for me and noticing that may be my interactions with others are not exactly as I might have anticipated because of THEIR boundaries! Great learning this one!

My Physical Appearance Each Day.

  • If you have followed by blog since late last year and into 2018 you will know that, over time my physical appearance has taken on a new dimension
  • Before late October 2017 I was in survival mode as well as under life stressors including IBS and anxiety and a cancer diagnosis. This meant I cared less for my outward appearance as I was concentrating on trying to figure out how to help myself inwardly.
  • This, as it turned out, was not helpful.
  • Instead, I took a challenge to dress well each day quite seriously. It was a self-created challenge. I am not going to stop it as I know it helps me each day.

Summary.

  • I am happy with many aspects of my ‘progress’ as I know I feel better emotionally and physically.
  • I also know there are more challenges to me on the horizon but I have learned that I can and do meet challenges much better than I did.
  • All in all, I am going well.

I believe I have allowed myself, even writing this, to be vulnerable. I know I take more brave steps these days than ever before.  And yes, I have read and listened to all of Brene Brown’s work. She tells it as it is. Bravely. Words matching actions.

Have you ever considered a ‘check-up’ of this nature?

I thought it was a good way for me to review how things are really instead of giving myself a hard time about not making progress because that is clearly a bit of a fib.

I will be interested in your comments! Not about me, per se, but about the notion of a self-check.

Denyse.

On Tuesday this posts links with Kylie here

On Wednesday this post links with Sue and Leanne here

 

 

 

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My Head & Neck Cancer 1st Anniversary. Pt 2. 2018.46.

My Head & Neck Cancer 1st Anniversary. Pt 2. 2018.46.

I recently wrote Part One of the Anniversary of my cancer diagnosis here.

The second part is actually a bit harder to write.

I am grateful of course for my cancer being taken via surgery but I seriously had no idea that to recover and be implant-ready would be up to and well over a 12 month period. This is because, as I understand it, bodies heal in different ways and react like that too. I also know that this mouth reconstruction of mine necessitates a lot of work by the multi-disciplinary team of medical, allied health and dental experts.

I am ever-grateful for this team.

With Prof Clark & Cate Froggat, Clinical Nurse Consultant & Surgical Assistant

I know that my Professor Jonathan Clark  leads the Head & Neck team and he is also working with the training of other doctors just as he learned as a resident with the late Professor Chris O’Brien at Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) Hospital. From the Westmead Oral Sciences comes  my Prosthodonist, Dr Suhas Deshpande and his colleagues including Dr David LeinkramDr Matthew McLachlan. Dr Deshpande’s Nurse, Ofelia has seen me through some emotional times and is a very kind person. Norma at the reception desk at Westmead Oral Sciences always has a smile for me and a welcome that’s bright.

Associate Professor Ardalan Ebrahimi was the first person I saw on May 18 2017 and who examined me and put together, along with Professor Clark what would be my BIG surgery in July 2017. A/Prof Ebrahimi was kind enough to respond to my 2 detailed emails pre-surgery and saw me post-surgery in 2017 along with  Justine Oates Head and Neck  Nurse Practitioner who re-dressed my wounds and ensured continuity of care once we were back home on the Central Coast.

In my 10 days post Surgery #1, I was cared for by a number of professional nursing staff firstly in ICU with Dr Tim  then on Level 9 North of Chris O’Brien Lifehouse where Jason was the NUM. I will single out registered nurse Roan as he cared for me most early mornings and made sure I got out of bed to get some sunrise shots!

From the Head and Neck team who were part of my first surgery was a team of doctors including Dr Laura Wang & Dr Rahaul Jayaram who saw me most days in hospital.  Allied professional staff  at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse were physiotherapist Leah ensured I could walk post July surgery after fitting my right leg with the boot, dietitian Jacqueline gave me lots of guidance for eating post mouth surgery and the speech therapist Emma made me drink a cup of water (ahh!) and speak ( not a hard task given my propensity to talking!) to ensure I was going well before leaving Chris O’Brien Lifehouse last July.

I thank the wonderful anaesthetists and anaesthetic nurses who ensured not only that I went to sleep  but that I woke up with no dramas. One was Dr Murray Stoken and another is Dr Paul Goonan. On 16 May I was cared for by Dr Stephanie McInnes. 

Of course I have the excellent and fabulous Cate Froggat, my Clinical Nurse Consultant & Surgical Assistant who is the gentle and smiling person looking out for me in the operating theatre and in post-op consultations.

How could I not mention Julie and Priscilla…a hug and smile each time I see them, those who keep all of us seeing Professor Clark organised with compassion and care.

Once I was home, as I have outlined before, I was also in the care of the Central Coast Public Health Community Nursing Team for around 2 months and Eileen was amazing with her knowledge and advice.

My dentist Dr Alistair Brown saw me for a mouth check last October and to clean the remaining ((and oh so important to me) 8 bottom teeth. He was the person who initially referred me to Dr Stef Calladine, oral surgeon,  who did the biopsy last May and broke the news to me over the phone that I had squamous cell carcinoma. I will always be grateful for her caring manner and more importantly for referring me to a place I had heard of called Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and to a specialist I had not, Prof Clark.

My GP. Dr Owen Greene. What a caring and understanding man he is. I saw him sometimes up to 4 times in a week when I was recovering from BIG surgery #1. He reassured, he checked on me and he continues to do so, letting me know you are doing really well. His office staff and pathology people ask how I am going tooIf I pop into the chemist next door, Tim the pharmacist is always asking how I am going too.

There are those that I cannot mention all by name but have been integral to my diagnosis, surgeries and recovery times:

  • staff at the various Imaging places in Sydney and on the Central Coast
  • staff at the Admissions Desk and Pre-Surgery Desk at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse
  • the nursing staff pre- and post-op in the recovery areas
  • my psychologist from the READ clinic in Erina saw me a couple of times and was most kind in her assertion that I was doing well without any more need for her services.
  • the social media account for Chris O’Brien Lifehouse @chris_obrien_lifehouse & the art programs at COBLH @arterieatlifehouse (Instagram)
  • those lovely people who welcome me to their coffee shops like Randa at Fibonacci Wyong  and ask after me, along with my fabulous hairdresser Tiffany, our great podiatrist Sean who came to the house to treat me when it was easier for me, and our Property Manager, Naomi, who was delighted to see me recently. Kyla who makes the most delicious cupcakes always asks how I am going when we catch up. In fact, I won a generous voucher recently and as cupcakes are something I CAN eat, this is just the best!
  • the Beyond Five Organisation: Nadia for her reaching out for me to help with publication of my story written by Kirsty. Check my photos here to see the fundraising ribbons. World Head and Neck Cancer Day in July 27. I wear my ribbon and blog about Head and Neck cancer because not many people know about this cancer. I do now!

Then definitely NOT last nor least are my friends and family. Those who connect on-line too. My blogging friends, my instagram friends and those from Facebook and Twitter. I love connecting!  To know of so much love, concern and care being out there for me after the diagnosis and through recovery in the year it’s been is marvellous. Thank you for reading my posts, checking out my Instagram pics and ‘liking’ the blog Facebook page.

Each day in 2018 I made a commitment to myself to do at least these three each day:

  • get dressed in an #outfitoftheday and go out – for a coffee, a browse, a shop or just to look at a view
  • go into nature or observe nature and then capture this in a photo
  • make something creative, be it a mandala or a pattern or just so art fun.

I cannot single any one person out from family and friends….other than this person:

My husband. There for everything for me. Always. Love IS what keeps us together…and has done for over 47 years.

Sending everyone my love and gratitude.

Denyse.

On Tuesday this posts links with Kylie here

On Wednesday this post links with Sue and Leanne here

On Thursday this post links with Leanne here.

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Six Months On. #OOTD*. 2018.38.

Six Months On. #OOTD*. 2018.38.

#OOTD* = Outfit of the Day. Used widely as a hashtag on Instagram.

The story starts:

Last year, on 30 October, I began (most unconfidently) to accept a self-made challenge to post of Photo-A-Day of me in a daily outfit for 32 days leading to my 68th Birthday.

Here is the first post:

There were some very encouraging comments. I continued as I am someone who when she starts a challenge, she finishes it! Or so I thought.

Early in 2018 I wrote a post explaining where my reticence had come from the ‘show off myself and clothing’. It has/had been a LONG time since I had actually been proud of my appearance but it did make me take a leap of faith to carry out this so-called 32 post challenge.

I was inspired by some blogging friends too: Jan Wild here, Em Hawker here, Carly Findlay here and Kimba Likes Here

The story continues until my 68th Birthday.

I noticed that by choosing and wearing an outfit of the day, and going somewhere for a coffee (solo is fine for me!) and a browse was improving my mental health. I had a reason to get up and get going each day. I have to admit, I enjoyed the browsing…and the canny-purchasing too. I had to admit to buying properly fitted bras. That took some courage and then once I did that, I felt even better.

I was joining in outfit challenges here with Nikki Parkinson from Styling You. I liked the comments. I know I am no spring chicken but it did my gum cancer emotional self-care a lot of good as I continued doing what I did.

The story goes past the 32 posts on Instagram! 

I admit this was (and still is on 90% of days) fun and I loved the challenge. When I put it to friends on Instagram whether I should continue to answer was a mixture of YES and DO what you want to do.

I wanted to continue. My shopping habits continued. Yet I needed new clothes. It had taken me a LONG time to admit to myself that I could spend money on clothing and accessories because I had been very used to rejecting that I could self-care.

Having cancer actually helped me.

How?

I was determined to get out every day. No.Matter.What. It was always something I was glad I did even if it might have been a short drive to have a coffee and come home. I also take an art kit with me and spend sometime reflecting on what’s been happening.

Special times in the story.

In the months before deciding to become part of #ootd I thought about my eldest granddaughter’s 21st birthday. I used to be concerned I could never travel to Sydney because of my fears. In a post here for anyone who has not read this. And this is the follow-up post about me conquering fears and anxieties.

Healing times as part of the story.

The outfits of the day are helping me manage my recovery from cancer. I recall the photos and can notice my mouth – 3 surgeries to date and one coming up! The daily publication of an instagram photo allows me to see myself which may sound odd. But until I do view the photos – of course, I preview them but they are never photo-shopped, just cropped – I often do not realise the improvement seen  by others mostly my husband.

When I travel to Sydney to visit Dad or see my specialist dental team or my surgical team, it is another good reason to choose an outfit of the day to aid both my confidence and demeanour. It actually does help me to lookgood to feelgood.

What else about the story?

From time to time, I give myself even  more of a challenge! To post a photo where my arms are seen for what they are. To post one of me in shorts and even one day, in the water at the surf. I do these to remind myself that to be true to me, I cannot continue what I used to do which was censor what was published in a photo. The result has been that others may be inspired to give up some of their old thoughts about sleeveless items and how they appear in photos.

Today, 1 May, is the day I am visiting Sydney to see my professor about surgery #4. This was not expected back in February as it should have been the last one. However, my mouth and the way it has healed had other ideas. There is not any room for my implants to go in so I will be hearing today, what the surgery will entail. I am guessing: cutting, stitches, stent back in, and possibly another skin graft. Sigh.

Will I be choosing an outift to wear that day to help me feel confident and in charge…even if inside I am a bit worried and fearful. You bet I will.

It will have RED in it somewhere….my go-to colour for adding to my inner confidence.

Watch for me on Instagram. I have a private account (I was hacked in May 2017) so ask for a follow. @denysewhelan

I hope to see YOU try the #ootd too.

I know Leanne has decided to do this more. Here is her link.

And yes, the story will go on after this 6 months mark.

I am needing and wanting to do this actually. In fact, in the recent article published here: telling my story, there is something said at the end.

Oh, and when I appear for my next surgery, early a.m. on Wed 16 May, I will ensure I wear a better bra for my photo unlike in February for #3!!

And how could I not make a tribute to this man…..the instagram photographer. He knows to tell me when a bra-strap is showing…he has, of late, been quite cheeky and he makes me smile broadly. But then, I have no top teeth so it’s a pretty grim look, then he simply looks at me with love in his eyes and I smile. That’s the secret.

I use these hashtags for my daily outfit posts: blue: relate to blogging, red: to outfit of the day, green relate to cancer, mine in particular.

#denysewhelanblogs

#babyboomerblogger

#everydaystyle

#outfitoftheday

#dresswithpurpose

#ootd

#lookgoodfeelgood

#cancersurvivor

#headandneckcancer

#hncspecialistteam

#squamouscellcarcinoma

#cancerintopgums

#notHPVrelated

#mouthreconstruction

#prosthodontist

#chrisobrienlifehouse

#humansoflifehouse

#beyondfiveorg

Do you dress each day with intention?

How do you find yourself feeling when you dress to meet each day in an outfit chosen by you?

Tell me more in the comments!

Denyse.

On Tuesday this posts links with Kylie here

On Wednesday this post links with Sue and Leanne here

On Thursday this post links with Leanne here.

 

 

 

 

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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!

WHAT ABOUT GETTING CANCER?

  • 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.

SELF-IMAGE AND CONFIDENCE.

  • 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.

WHAT NOW?

  • 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.

Denyse.

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.

 

 

 

 

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