Wednesday 6th July 2022

My Cancer Journey Begins. 2017.75.

My Cancer Journey Begins. 2017.75.

A while back I decided that to best describe the life stage we were at was to use the word ‘journey.’ For some people and their reasons, journey is not liked. I happen to like it and will be using it for what is now being added to this life stage!

Thank you to the many people who commented here last week and on Facebook when I made my news public. Sharing has helped me!

Whilst I do not intend to blog every week about the cancer that is here within…I will for now as it helps me!

The cancer journey continued with a trip to Westmead Oral Health on Wednesday 24 May for a consultation, examination and measurement session with the Dental specialist who will be part of the surgical team when I get my cancer cut out. I admit I was stressed. I still am. It is such an unknown and my mind needs to be more calmed. However, as my GP said when I saw him after this big session on the Friday “Denyse, you are doing very well indeed!”. Today we are back to Westmead for a follow-up with the Dental Specialist and scans on my neck and head to ascertain all is well for the major surgery and on my leg where the bone and skin will be taken for the reconstruction and skin graft.

Sigh.

Still mentally criticising myself for the meltdowns, the tears in front of the professionals and more….yet it is a situation of such immense emotions and I was already struggling somewhat. I am still going about my days at home with as much normality as possible.

In the meantime, I am making art, taking photos, blogging, chatting on-line, reading, walking, tending the garden and talking to my lovely husband and being mindful to eat as well as I can even with my sensitive gut.

On Thursday I made a trip to Budgewoi to take some photos and these help remind me of the journey and that it is, like everything in life, one step at a time.

I am not sure as I am writing this when  I will be making the journey across this bridge again on the way to Chris O’Brien’s Lifehouse. I shall update.

Thank you for reading thus far! I am encouraged along the way via the comments and support.

Denyse.

Joining Kylie Purtell, celebrating her blog’s 8th Birthday, here and with my friends who also Blog on Tuesdays.

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I Have Cancer. 2017.72.

I Have Cancer. 2017.72.

Some news I need to share and it’s not great. I have cancer. I remember people telling me I had a nice smile.

It’s bye-bye smile for a while

My dentist has been treating me for some small overgrowth of the front top  teeth since January 2017.  It has grown. More than ever.

Over time it was my choice to eradicate the gum overgrowth by having  my front 6 teeth and  bridge removed, replaced by a temporary denture,  and

the hope was the gums which were irritated would settle. Some 5 weeks later they had not. When I saw him on Thursday 11 May, we agreed I needed a biopsy of the gums. Fortunately the oral surgeon, next door, could fit me in the next day. I also had CT scans and x-rays of my mouth as my GP was getting concerned. The CT scans and X-rays were fine.

On Friday 12th May I had a biopsy and  the good news from the pathology on the following Monday 15th May was unfortunately premature as on Wednesday  17th May I was called by the oral surgeon to say that the top gums where the overgrowth lies are cancerous with squamous cancer cells.

To say it was a shock was an understatement and I am still a little bit that way. I was alone at home but after a quick phone call to my husband counselling at Lifeline meant  he was home within the hour.

The oral surgeon was fantastic because she rushed a referral to the Lifehouse in Sydney, where the specialist head and neck clinic is, and that afternoon the practice manager rang to say I could see Associate Professor  Aradalan Ebrahimi at 3 p.m. in Sydney Thursday 18th May at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Camperdown Sydney. My original referral was for Professor  Jonathan Clark but as the two doctors work together I was fine with that.

http://ad009cdnb.archdaily.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/54406d61c07a801fe7000441_chris-o-brien-lifehouse-hdr-rice-daubney_image1_brettboardman-530×353.jpg

 

It might sound weird but I have had huge issues with worrying about travelling distances in the car on the M1  because of IBS. I was stressed anyway, let alone having IBS come along at any time. But, with some kind words from our local and new GP about ‘take the valium, take the immodium, you will be ok’ I was. My lovely husband drove and stopped at any toilet where we could find one. I was one nervous lady. We got to Sydney (haven’t been for over 2 years!) within 2 hours, found a park under the Lifehouse…and waited only 10 minutes. We left home at 12.30 pm and were back by 7.30 pm. That day the Motorway played nice. Thanks M1. Back to the story. 

A/Prof Ebrahimi was incredibly kind and professional and we are all on first name terms. Mind you he is around our daughter’s age. I had a full exam of the mouth, a light on a cable went down through the nose to my throat and I had a  physical examination of the neck and lymph glands. It is hoped that the cancer is all in the one place. The top gums at the front and there is some spread inside my top lip. Sigh.

As he started to explain what would be involved in the 10-12 hours surgery,  in my mouth where they will take the tissue out and  surrounding areas. I became more and more overwhelmed. There was this too: they will be replacing the inner part of my palate, my jaw at the top and gums with skin/muscle tissue and bone from my left leg. The bone will have implants put in for future teeth to be added. As  I was told that I had quite a melt down at the thought of the hours ‘under the anaesthetic’ most of all…and that is meant this was a BIG operation.

The associate A/Professor kindly gave me a few minutes to go for a little walk with my husband and check out the view from the building’s windows overlooking Sydney Uni, then I was calmed with the help of a half valium before moving on to the details of the surgery itself. By this stage, his ‘boss’, Professor Jonathan Clark came in and together they came up with more details of the plan for the operation.

Mouth (oral cavity) My Cancer area. 

The mouth includes the lips, gums and tongue. The tongue is the largest organ in the mouth and is made of muscular tissue.
The roof of the mouth is formed by the hard palate. Behind the hard palate is the soft palate, which is an arch of muscle behind the hard palate, going into the throat. The soft palate lifts to close off the passageways to the nose so food does not go through the nose on swallowing.  Source:Lifehouse.

 

Prof Jonathan Clarke. http://www.mylifehouse.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Jonathan-Clark-e1461566255963.png

However, the thoughts are as of now – before I have further CT scans to rule out anything unseen by my previous clear CT of my sinuses – that there is no spread but that recovery from this will mean 10-14 days in hospital. I will have ‘two’ areas in my body to recover from: my left leg and my mouth. I may be in intensive care for a while too.

About the Head and Neck Service

The Head and Neck Service at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse brings together over 40 highly skilled medical and allied health professionals including surgeons, radiation and medical oncologists, dental specialists, speech therapists, specialist nurses and dieticians, along with research scientists and data managers.
The Service has a national and international reputation for excellence. More than 450 new patients (200 with cancer) are seen annually and the computerised database of the department is the largest in Australasia.
The Sydney Head and Neck Cancer Institute (SHNCI), founded in 2002 by the late Professor Christopher O’Brien AO to provide comprehensive, state-of-the-art treatment to patients with cancers and diseases of the head and neck, is also an important part of the Head and Neck Service providing funding for two head and neck clinical fellows each year. Source: Lifehouse

After telling our close family, I reached out to share my news with some lovely on-line and IRL friends. Their support was amazing. Now I am making it public here, on Facebook and Twitter because I need the love and support to surround me as I go into something I had not predicted. Ever. Yet, so many of us affected by cancer. I have not once thought ‘why me?’ more like ‘why not me?’

I have the best people in the profession looking after me at the Lifehouse in the Head and Neck Clinic started by the wonderful, but late, Professor Dr Chris O’Brien. He became one of the ‘stars’ of the TV  show RPA (Royal Prince Alfred Hospital).  The Lifehouse built in his name is part of RPA and accepts both public and private patients. I am being treated as a private patient. Professor Clark was trained by Chris O’Brien in this speciality of Head and  Neck Surgery. Chris O’Brien’s vision was that he always wanted cancer patients to be in one place and this is it.

Professor Dr Chris O’Brien. http://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=zJK%2btLzW&id=BC8CED97E14A6AD24D66DE0C67BD5E7B467E25AB&thid=OIP.zJK-tLzW3gePAyHJjObiDAEnEs&q=lifehouse+chris+o%27brien&simid=608053618380309990&selectedIndex=21&ajaxhist=0

 

My operation will be there, I stay there and have my tests and any follow-treatment there too. Mind you  we don’t live in Sydney anymore and  it’s 2 hours from here but that is the price we pay for living in regional NSW.

Tomorrow we will travel to Westmead (Sydney) Dental Clinic where the specialist in oral reconstruction will examine my mouth for the first time to come up with a ‘template’ for reconstruction. I will have a further visit to him for a final measurement, and a big series of CT scans prior to the team involved in my surgery coming together and then sending the details overseas where a software program will plan my surgery. Apparently there will be two teams working in conjunction  with me. No, we haven’t asked for a quote (yet) but we do have top private health insurance and we have asked for a discount where possible as we are on a relatively low income as part-pensioners.

All good vibes, thoughts, prayers and wishes are accepted with appreciation!

Thank you.

Denyse.

Joining with my friends who blog on Tuesday here with Kylie Purtell.

Already lots of  love comes from here…the Lovin’ Life linky with Leanne and friends.

 

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Telling My Story.Chapter One. My Parents. 2017.69.

Telling My Story.Chapter One.My Parents. 2017.69.

Added: March 2018: This was published one day before I knew I has cancer. Once that was diagnosed a lot of change took place for me as I need to focus on my health, surgery and recovery. The story now picks up again…in mid March 2018 here! 

Recently I decided to begin Telling My Story.

Initially it was school-career based in a memoir genre. Then I wanted to tell what had happened in my life once I’d reached 60 and what I had learned. Where I am at now it a mix of all of this! I am going to start here: the beginning of my life, and interspersed with my career will be aspects of my life and how I have grown and changed…over and over!

I hope you will find something of interest. I know essentially I am doing this for me as it helps. However, as a blogger, I would like to think it has enough appeal for you to enjoy too.

Denyse.

Telling My Story.

I was born in the last year of the 1940s.

Photo taken for my Dad in Melbourne.

But before this all happened….

Obviously most memories of early childhood are gleaned from photos and other people’s stories when they tell us too. My life began in a most conventional way, first born to parents who loved each other and already had secured a house. Mum had worked in retail until I was coming along. Dad was an accountant continuing his career started at 15 with Australian Iron and Steel Port Kembla (later BHP) and joining a new company when the old one wanted him to move permanently (with me and Mum) to Melbourne for work. He did not want to leave the familiar and family which was based in Wollongong and surrounds.

Here’s a bit more to that story….

Dad tells me that in my first year of life when he HAD to go and work in the Melbourne office was one of the worst times he could recall being separated from his loving wife and baby girl. He even had us fly to Melbourne for a stay. What a time that must have been for my mum. In Wollongong we had loving and caring neighbours who helped Mum find her feet as a new parent. This family was amazing and I loved that we had a gate between our two places and I always felt welcomed there! Dad found another job, which was in the same company he retired from some 30 years later, and the family was complete when my brother was born AND we got our first car. A Holden FJ of course!

More on my parents before they met…

They were born in 1924 and raised in working class families on NSW South Coast, living through the Great Depression and World War 2 before meeting in the 1940s. My Dad is from Wollongong and my Mum was from Dapto.

Dad’s father died after a workplace accident at The Steelworks in 1935 and his mother was left to raise 4 children. Dad was the second child aged 11 at the time. He did without but his good marks at school and his willingness to become involved in the community which was predominantly the scouting movement meant he developed resilience and knew the power of having some money to survive. Even though he could have done the Leaving Certificate it was his duty to help support his family so at 15 he went to the Steelworks (AI&S as above) to begin in the role of Office Clerk.  Later this would lead to his training as an accountant as he had the mathematics for it! He tells me though, he never ‘got’ algebra.

Mum’s parents worked hard, one in the home, and one outside the home at the coal mine at Wongawilli near Dapto. My grandfather had lost an eye in a mining accident in 1924 so they gave him work ‘above the surface’ looking after the workers’ change areas. They helped raise two families. One, their own, of three children (Mum was the youngest, and 2nd daughter) and the family of two boys where the widower was my grandmother’s brother. It was not uncommon in the 1920s and 30s for this to be the case. Nevertheless my mum remembered it as the ‘boys’ got spoiled and did nothing and we girls did all the work around the house. Mum left school at 15 and went into retail where she thrived.

So how did a young man from Wollongong meet a young lady from Dapto in the early 1940s when there was a war happening? Dad was exempted from war service (age first, then industry reasons) and Mum had only just left school and was working in retail. However, they were both in the Scouting organisation as leaders in their respective home towns and met at Mt Keira Scout Camp Wollongong. After a courtship of some two years, they married on 2 November 1946 at Dapto. Mum’s cub group put on a guard of honour outside the church.

Wedding Day. 1946.

 

Dad and Mum late 1950s. Still in Wollongong.

In 1959 Dad got a job offer within the company he moved to in 1951 and that was of promotion to Chief Accountant at the Sydney office. It was one that could not be refused and this time with 2 children, I was 10 by now and my brother aged 7, we moved to what was to be Mum and Dad’s forever house at Balgowlah Heights.

Snapshots of Mum and Dad over the years…

They had active social and sporting lives, which continued in Sydney. Mum who had been a district rep in Hockey in her youth, went into tennis and played socially and competitively into her 70s. Dad found golf as a sport and business connection and played each Saturday and then once he retired on a Wednesday. Whenever they went away, their golf clubs and tennis racquets went with them as did groups of friends or they would meet up with friends. Mum loved her cards and working for charities such as the View Club. Both supported me and my brother in scouts and guides and in our sporting and school arenas.

Dad retired in 1983 and they spent 6 weeks annually on the Gold Coast, chasing the sun and meeting up with the many friends who had retired that way as well. Mum becoming unwell in the mid 2000s saw the end of that tradition. Sadly too, by the mid 1980s Mum had lost both her older siblings in their 60s. Dad, now 93, is the longest living member of his immediate family of 4.

1980s & 1990s on Holidays on the Gold Coast

 

Mother’s Day 2006. Mum and Dad with me.

Up until Mum’s 80th Birthday in December 2004 she had been quite well. A few so-called minor things were wrong and I know where my worry/anxiety gene comes from. But my mum, just as I do, could put on a smile no matter what.

Mum and Dad celebrate 60 years of marriage. 2006.

We knew Mum was not well but Dad, as her primary carer, liked to see she did as much as she could that she enjoyed in what ended up being her last 2 years. on 2nd November 2006, after the messages from the Queen and many more, for their Diamond Wedding Anniversary, there was  a very special family-only get together, where this photo was taken. After that, Mum’s health sadly declined.

Mum was diagnosed with secondary brain tumours in early 2007  We will never know how much Mum knew about her declining condition but she was the one, back in late January 2007 who said ‘no operation’ when it was offered. The specialist and her doctors  agreed, along with us,  that we would not want Mum to go through that. She spent the next 2 weeks at home and sadly despite Dad’s best efforts to care for her there, she was admitted to palliative care where she died some weeks later. Dad visited every single day.

Moving along….

Mum and Dad have always supported our families over the years and of course, we have been there to support Dad in his new status as widower. He stayed in the family home for the next 4 years. He is still fiercely independent and wanted to be there. He did all the jobs as he was raised to do, and learned via scouting. By the end of 2010 loneliness was prevalent and he announced it was time to sell and move on. Along with family help of my brother, sister in law and me he was delighted to find the best place I could have found. In June 2011, after selling at the downturn in Sydney markets (!!) he moved into an airy and spacious independent retirement unit at Dee Why and has more interactions with people every day than ever. He has only given up driving, and the car, in the past month.

3 years ago at Dad’s 90th Birthday. 3 years ago!

Reflections now…about my parents.

I love my parents and I was always well-cared for and encouraged to follow whatever path I chose. Dad was keen on continuing education and I when I wanted  to become a teacher and remain in the workplace, there was no feeling that I should be at home with the kids. However, my mother, who had always been at home, used to say “Denyse you rush those kids too much”…and sadly I may have but my work at school, along with childcare drop off, was where I was headed. I am more like Dad in personality and less like Mum. Yet I do have some of mum’s anxious disposition and I do enjoy what she did which was to cook and care for her family. She taught me a lot about cooking and I have her recipe books too. She did not encourage me to read, but I did. I was not interested in helping around the house because I preferred to read! I did not inherit Mum’s sporting prowess but I did her smile and the ability to chat with people. I can do that without my mum’s deafness for which I am grateful. More to come in the weeks ahead!

Please tell me if this has been of interest…and if it was too long.

I do know I can ramble on so I may need help!

I welcome your comments and thank you in advance!

Denyse.

 

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Beginnings. Life This Week. #ltw1. 366/256.

Beginnings. Life This Week 1. 366/256.

Welcome to the first week of the new Link-Up called “Life This Week.” I’ve been writing about the  topic I named “life this week” all year each Monday.

Today’s prompt, which I am following is:-

Beginnings. “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start” sang Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. I began my life in Wollongong NSW as the first born to my parents.

At The Dapto Show age around 4.

At The Dapto Show age around 4.

Life was pretty ordinary in a good way from 1949 until 1959 when we made another beginning…. I began living on Sydney’s northern beaches and went to primary school in Year 5 & 6 there, and onto Manly Girls High School until 1967 where I was in the beginning… of the Higher School Certificate cohort. Yep, the first ones to do 6 years at high school instead of 5.

2nd Year of our 6 Years at High School.

2nd Year of our 6 Years at High School.

I knew I wanted to be a teacher but I didn’t get to teachers’ college at the beginning of the intake. No, I was not ‘good enough’ to be given my teachers’ scholarship in February 1968.  Instead, my offer came at the beginning of the first week of the first prac in April so I was thrown in the deep end and swam because I was ready to begin learning to be a teacher! That beginning was awesome and I knew it was the career for me.

In 1970 I began my first year of teaching and left home to teach in country NSW. That was it! Talk about a “get real” beginning. From a spoiled kid with Mum doing pretty much everything for me, to going into a shared house with other teachers. I was soon sorted out by them and I began to learn more about being independent, how to prepare a simple meal, and, reluctantly, how to clean the house. Later that year my life began the path of ‘forever love’ and more as I met my now husband and we began this life of ours that has been 46 years in the making this October.

At our Wedding Reception

At our Wedding Reception

Beginning life as a new bride, teaching in a new (to me) position at a two teachers school (with a male chauvinist boss – not the hub!), setting up a house together, and being pregnant were HUGE beginnings. Mothering a daughter in 1971 and staying home were contributing factors to my beginnings of over-eating to compensate for unhappiness and lack of social contact. There “were” always diets to begin..and we know they didn’t work out of course.

I love(d) being a teacher, especially those kids aged from around 5 to 8. These kids are at the beginning of their learning and I so enjoy being part of that. My teaching career took me, following my husband’s career path because that WAS how the NSW Dept of Education did that then, to places where I had to begin again in new, rural, and isolated communities. This was a challenging time to a couple in the 20s but we did it. And those 8 years hold great memories.

Many years of hairstyles, ages and weight up & down! LIFE!!

Many years of hairstyles, ages and weight up & down! LIFE!!

Then to the beginning of living in a house we mortgaged and lived in for over 14 years in Sydney’s northwest. We had a second child, after thinking that would never happen and we settled into suburban life with 2 kids, 2 cars, mortgage and 2 of us in full-time teaching jobs. In 1980 my career took off as my unwell husband had to medically retire. It didn’t feel like a ‘choice’ but I did it anyway.

Thus began for the next two decades more beginnings…as I studied two degrees (bachelors and masters of education over 7.5 years via distance education) as I taught and lead in K-6 schools in Western Sydney. I began many different programs to help kids improve learning and was committed to staff development and did all I could for teachers to improve and learn new skills. I was promoted three times to executive positions, finally as principal, in 5 primary schools.

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Worked Hard For These….from 1970 to 2006.

Twenty years ago this year, I began a new role. That of grandmother. This was and remains one of my best ever gigs! Our 2 children have 4 children in each of their families and grandparenting 8 has been a wonderful time. We also began as regular carers to some of these lovely little people when I took some leave from teaching, and later, once I had partially retired. By the time I got to 60 it was time to retire. Again.

The first time was not one of choice but of ill-health. I had started my role of Principal in 1999 with great hopes and endeavoured to make the necessary changes within a school community but after almost 4 years it took its toll on me. I did have time out and whilst I was grateful, I really needed to be ‘back in schools’ so I made a beginning as a classroom teacher and ESL teacher in 2004. This was the school from which I was given a ‘retirement’ that I missed before. I began an education consulting role in pre-schools and also began a part-time, casual role as a University tutor and was an external observer for BOSTES. I chose to leave each of these paid roles with the last ones completed in  August 2015.

End 2009 last days as a teacher.

End 2009 last days as a teacher.

What about now? Before I finish, of course I made beginnings as a blogger in late 2010 and have been blogging in different platforms since then. Whilst I had hoped to make a niche for myself based on my education and schooling experiences, readers did not grow.  But I began to meet loads of lovely bloggers in both real life and virtually! Always fun. Mrs Whelan & Mrs Woog Early 2015, we made the beginning of the next part of our lives when we moved away from Sydney to start a life for two on the Central Coast and I “knew” then that blogging would be my daily go-to and it has proven so. I am so very pleased with how I have been accepted by the blogging community as I am way older than almost everyone! denyse whelan facebook profile picture Now, I am beginning my first link-up here, on the blog where I blog about many different topics. Today’s is Life This Week, and that is the name of the link-up! I hope that many bloggers decide to come on board and post here too!

What beginnings are you thinking about right now after reading some of mine? Thank you for reading….I realised that at my age there are loads of beginnings to note! Warm wishes to you all. Denyse. life 150

Here are the rules for the link-up

  • “Life This Week” is a link up that runs every Monday and remains live for until Thursday at 5 p.m.during that week.
  • 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 and 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!
  • Respect and tolerance however, are the hallmarks of acceptable on-line social behaviour and as my blog is family-friendly I will reserve the right to delete comments that may be offensive to me or others.
  • Tweet with the hashtag #ltw (adding the numeral for prompt) if you like.

life this week icons 150 2

 

 

I am linking up with Alicia from One Mother Hen for Open Slather and with Kell at All Mum Said for Mummy Mondays. Thank you both for your bloggy friendships!

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