Friday 27th May 2022

Five Years Ago. My Oral Cancer. #HNC. Part 1. #LifesStories. 31/2022.

Five Years Ago. My Oral Cancer. #HNC. Part 1. #LifesStories. 31/2022.

Interestingly there are hardly any selfies or images of me from before the cancer diagnosis. In fact, until I knew I had cancer, I was taking photos of nature a lot…as I tried to make peace with my inner stress. In fact, this photo, which is not too great, was taken on the morning of what would be the day of diagnosis as I was trying to make a daily photo of autumn challenge…it did not last!

Those who have been following me and this blog for some time will recall that in May 2017 I found out I had a rare cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip. I am now referring to the cancer as oral cancer, even though it remains as part of the head and neck cancer family. The full story is here. 

I was always going to write about this time…5 years ago…and here it is in the lead up to that day in May!

The bit of history behind the story is that I had been troubled by issues relating to soreness and some swelling in this upper gums that no doctor, dentist or specialist dentist could  find a reason for…other than keep it cleaner, use this mouthwash, suck these lozenges…..

And being the obedient patient…I did. Until I could no longer keep wondering what WAS hiding under the bridge of teeth. 

2017 was the year of more stress for me…and it was compounded by the pain and appearance of extra skin over the top of the bridge. My dentist, AB, was finally convinced by me, and he agreed that the only way to find out was the extract the whole bridge and the teeth. On 6 April that occurred.

By 26 April some of my bravery returned because that was ONE big thing I had done at the dentist, and I got over my fear of driving (IBS related) on M1 and saw my Dad after 4 months. This photo is the relieved me with a still painful mouth (that temporary denture was not fun) on my way home.

The person who takes lots of selfies not did not back then. In fact, I tried as much as possible to distract myself from worsening pain, gums growing and a general horrible feeling in my mouth until…

I couldn’t be distracted any longer and AB was seeing me after he’d been on holidays. But first, a visit to the regular  GP on 10 May who, after going through a few other health matters with me as I was leaving her practice for the one closer to home, THREW her hands up to her face when I showed her my sore mouth and gums without the denture.

Nervous? You Bet. Why?

  • Then Doctor, CS, who raise her hands in horror on Wednesday 10 May  and go “What…” and immediately tries, without success, to reassure you… “get to the dentist tomorrow as planned…and here’s form for CT of your sinuses….”
  • Dentist, AB, with whom I have a great relationship and joke a bit, says, seriously,   on Thursday 11 May “You need a biopsy of this from S. I already know that S is the Oral Surgeon, literally 10 paces back down the path from the dentist.

“right”, I say, with lots of questions but I hesitate to ask them…from my diary notes that day….

“Mouth – gums – inflamed & pretty puzzling to him . Going ahead with tests ordered. By Dr C – X-ray & CT (looking for cancer) 😧He mentioned HPV – what warts come from.. low immune system – maybe as I’ve been so stressed. Need a biopsy/ great not!
He said sockets are healing ok but slowly. Will see him after biopsy – which I have to organise.. he spoke of future might have to go to Westmead & I’m resistant”

  • Oral Surgeon. I meet SC on that Thursday straight after seeing AB…and she is very friendly and says, let’s do this tomorrow morning. OK…I say, but inside already feeling the stress of the tests at the X ray and CT place that will be in the afternoon.

But I Needed To See my “now” G.P. who’d been seeing me just on a month to de-brief…. Still “is” my GP…

Got myself quite stressed to point of tears after trying to make sense of what could be wrong with my gums so decided to see OG to catch him up due to transition from CS to him & having been to dentist AB.
He said tests are way to go & biopsy
Also said do anything different – dentist was keen for me to try more ibobrufen but that affects my gut.
He looked in my mouth & said it doesn’t seem worse than last week
He wasn’t convinced re HPV.
Couldn’t rule out cancer but getting tests essential & biopsy.
Once biopsy done & results in – consult with him & dentist.
He was kindly but couldn’t do much more do reassure other than I’m taking all steps he would suggest
Pretty stressed with it & so over it…

The thing is I had been putting up with much of this for 5 weeks after extraction and for months before that when no-one could give me answers.

 

Friday 12 May. How I Managed

….thanks to encouraging husband, who had to do his volunteer work for cancer council that day, my exposure therapy techniques, 1/4 valium, Immodium and sheer courage.

  • drove myself to Ourimbah (about 20-25 minutes from home) and arrived at Oral Surgery to be welcomed kindly by SC and her nurse.
  • straight into the chair. We spoke briefly. I knew there would be a numbing injection, then the biopsy (and I had one 2 years earlier).
  • once numbed up, SC did her work and then applied dissolving stitches and I was given kind care and told the results would be seen to as an urgent one…and I would hear from her on the Monday.
  • mouth was painful but at least something was being done. Some time at home, and tears too from the sheer weight of the emotional strain and then:
  • drove myself for the CT and Xrays. These were looking for cancer in the sinuses and jaw.
  • home….evening…tired out.

Sunday 14 May: Mother’s Day 2017.

Our daughter and three granddaughters came for lunch. I put on a kind of act I guess but in the photos taken that day, I see the strain in my face. As the family was leaving I just shared with my daughter that I was waiting on test results for my mouth the next day.

Monday 15 May.

I got the blog link up sorted, and live and my post had published. We kept to our housecleaning routine…although my eyes were on the clock and when I could ring the CT/Xray place. I did and was told all good. Come and collect them. Big relief: part one. Part two occurred later that day when SC, the oral surgeon rang to discuss the preliminary findings.

I remember thinking “OK, good but what about these horrid, growing gums”. She replied that over time she could help with cutting them back. And I accepted that for then, and because only our daughter and my dad knew I had the tests, rang them with the good news.

Tuesday 16 May.

A normal day in our version of retirement. My mouth was still sore but I felt relieved. I took some photos of the flowers in the back garden. I would have been getting back to my blog post and to those who linked up. Here is that post…just for the relevance…I did not return to writing Telling My Story for another YEAR! And here’s what happened next

 

Wednesday 17 May 2017.

B went to counselling at Lifeline. I was relaxing in my chair, just finishing breakfast when I got this call from the Oral Surgeon SC, who was working in a hospital at Wagga that day. SC spoke calmly and kindly, telling me that last night she received further results and she was sorry to tell me there was squamous cell carcinoma found in the gums. My initial reaction was surprise but not shock as something HAD to be found I guess. The time was 9.25.

And after a little weep, I was able to speak to lifeline, B came home and in the meantime my organisational self shifted into gear. SC had sorted a referral for a “Dr Clark” at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. I rang his secretary and she said “His associate can see you tomorrow afternoon”. By this time, B was home and after a long hug, we agreed sooner the better…and took up that appointment.

I rang both my dentist AB and old GP CS to share the news. They were very kind and whilst they were sorry about it, there was a sense we were on our way to getting fixed/better….

My head continued to buzz big time and I wanted to share this HUGE news with my now GP, so we had a very helpful late afternoon appointment where his reassurances of me managing the trip would be OK…with the suggested immodium and valium…and B agreeing to stop at any toilet I may need…

Photo of my art:

And that is how I found out I had this cancer. I had no idea of why (there has never been a reason) but I learned over time, not to be concerned about that, just know you have this and that there are people with awesome skills who would  help me over the next two years in particular.

From my appointment on Thursday 18th May:

This is what they saw in my mouth:

This is where B led me to, for a brief minute’s respite to gain some composure after being given the news of what lay ahead for surgery. Window from level 2, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, where clinic rooms are. This is looking at St Andrew’s College in Sydney University Grounds.

And this is what I signed….after having ensured I understood it all, as the Ass/Prof AE was concerned I might have been too upset. No, I said, I understand. It’s just been overwhelming….B had great confidence in the men he met…and still retains the same respect for them.

Some info: This surgery would not happen for another 7 weeks. I will write about that in July. But here is some information from my 2 and a half hour consultation.

Maxillectomy: we are going to take all of the upper part of your mouth inside. The jaw, the gums and remaining teeth and, oh yes, the palate or upper part of your mouth…

LEFT (in the end it was RIGHT, because CT found blood supply to be superior there, to lift the flesh with blood vessels…& skin grafts and dental implants…

(and funny story, it was ME sharing with them IN THE ANAESTHETIC bay some 7 weeks later, that the permissions were for left leg but they were using right…details me hey! Anyway, I was happy to comply with the written changes ON THE MORNING…waiting for THE SURGERY…and signed away)!

And the fibula was removed to form the jaw: all to happen in theatre and skin & flesh from leg would re-construct me an INSIDE of MY MOUTH….

Sneak Peak: I did not get to see how this looked until October after the first surgery! It blew my mind!

Image via CT..top is my upper jaw and 3 sections of bone from my fibula with 5 implants

Thank you for reading this far…if you did…and I will return with some 5 year updates that have meaning for my life now, in recovery and someone who has had cancer. I tend not to use the survivor or any warrior type words.

Denyse.

Denyse Whelan Blogs Is a Community

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post… NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a kind thing to do!

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2 Years Of Change & Uncertainty In Covid 19 Times. Pt. 1/2. March 2020-2021.16/2022.

2 Years Of Change & Uncertainty In  Covid 19 Times. Pt. 1/2. March 2020-2021.16/2022.

I’m composing this post getting close to the 16 March 2022 which marks the 2nd anniversary of “covid bringing change to the way we would be living our lives”…as announced by the Prime Minister of Australia.

There was already much happening in the media as we watched what was happening in other countries….and from where it all seemed to start in Wuhan, China in the latter days of 2019.

My post is about how it affected me, and our family and in some indirect ways, many of those who read here too because of the state-based restrictions and federally based ones.

Dear readers, we are a complicated country for rules and governance and it all goes back to 1901 when we became a Federation of States & Territories: Australia.

The short story is money comes from the Federal or Commonwealth governments (Australia) and is filtered to the States via government of the day policy AND State decisions are made for Health and Education.

Look, sorry, it’s hard to get a handle on this at times….I know. I lived with it as a school principal. Nevertheless, here’s my post, mostly with photos, marking the two years of:

CHANGE

and

UNCERTAINTY

2020- continuing into its third year…2022.

March 2020 onwards….

I was so fortunate to have had both my eyes surgically operated on for cataracts in the week before EVERYTHING changed. Phew. I was also able to get to have an in-person head and neck cancer surveillance check, attend a head & neck cancer  charity ball as the speaker, and to be WELL!

 

And then, over time, we knew we had to stay at home as much as we could. Necessary outings were to:

  • the supermarket
  • the pharmacy
  • the doctors

I could no longer follow this: going out each day to have a coffee and browse at the shops. 

On occasion, when safe, we used “click and collect” for stores such as Big W, Target and Bunnings. We did not do click and collect groceries as it became unreliable, and expensive. I was prepared to take the risks. I shopped quickly, with plastic gloves on, and a mask. However, many food and other items became rare or not found.

Yes, there was such a thing as a toilet paper blitz (I confess, we got in plenty) and not many choices, if any, in fresh meat etc.

So much changed because of panic buying, employment changing as people got covid and…the whole supply chain was affected: truck drivers, distributors too. Anything that might come by plane was not easy to come by because flights changed significantly, and ships were also not allowed to dock if anyone on board had covid.

We all watched the updates on T.V. with the N.S.W. Premier, the N.S.W. Minister for Health, and the Chief Health Officer….for a while, then in our case, we stopped.

It was far too worry-inducing.

It was, for some people, a compulsion to watch and then tweet about it but in my case, I decided better to stay away from those kinds of updates.

Of course we did as requested, and at the doctors’ we had to comply with questionnaires about symptoms (still do) before being seen OR as they preferred then, via telehealth.

April into May 2020.

We were surrounded by neighbours not normally seen as everyone worked from home, and schooling was remote learning.

Every day we saw many people strolling around the neighbourhood. Gyms were shut.

We got through a very quiet Easter.

And as one way to remember “A.N.Z.A.C.” Day 2020, people around Australia held their own driveway Dawn Ceremonies.

Our granddaughter turned 21 early May and there was still travel restrictions from where we lived to Sydney and vice versa…but by Mother’s Day 2020 we got to see family.

We did a socially distanced photo!

Close for this one: Mother’s Day 2020

June, July and August 2020.

I needed surgery (and had probably put it off for too long) so that consumed the next months for me. Even though I had had 4 surgeries for head and neck cancer, this particular surgery: repair rectal prolapse was not a great prospect. I know, however, it WAS a great one to have but I was a scared woman before it, and not because of covid. I admit though that with doctors and hospitals I did it mostly alone because of Covid. My husband was allowed to visit me in July but not for the wound debridement in August.

Covid Meant Rules Changed A LOT.

September to December 2020.

It was not like the world we knew before Covid.

Doctors and other health professionals took a lot of care to see that no-one with any cough/temperature etc came to their rooms.

I still got my September 2020 Cancer Check at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse…lots of safety measures and most of the place were the public would normally be present were closed. Patients with cancer have low immunity and that was the reason such strict measures were in place.

There was talk of vaccines being developed.

Economically, we were OK. We are retirees, and receive a part pension. Many others I know had to ask for supplemented income and in the first year of Covid, it was pretty stable, getting people paid, able to stay at home to work. Remote schooling continued on and off. It was very hard socially on many.

Kids really missed their friends. As did most people who enjoyed socialising. Some though, I know, loved being at home working and would like that to continue! We managed our trip back to Tamworth in October 2020 and that was a special one.

Sadly, we did not get to have Christmas as planned with our daughter and her family as Covid ramped up just before Christmas, on Sydney’s northern beaches. Although she does not live there, I had seen Dad who lives at Dee Why AND visited Manly, so I had to have a test, which proved negative and I had to come to Sydney for a mouth check so rather than both of us risk a Christmas Day travelling…I dropped off the goodies and gifts on my way.

Little did we know that the NEXT year’s Christmas would also be affected. Sigh. Next post!

January 2021 – March 2021.

I like to plan and have good things come together well.

So, I did get to see my father for his 97th Birthday. I did not get to see some family for their birthdays just because nothing was planned and we would see them soon.  The restrictions into January were very tough on visitors to the home.

We could only have 5 and that meant our PLANNED Golden Wedding Anniversary on 23 January 2021 for 13 had to change. We held a lunch for our son and his 4 on one day and then on the actual day, for our daughter and her family. It was a lovely time….and I have written more here.

By February things were less restricted and we were able to have ALL the family together for a morning tea celebrating my husband’s birthday.

And then school was back…I think…in a very restricted way over time. Our youngest granddaughter started school and then, later in the year, was part of remote learning for what seemed forever…more next post.

That was the twelve months…March to March …about Covid in particular.

 

I dealt with the uncertainty by keeping as many of my daily routines as I could.

  • I always got dressed each day before having breakfast.
  • I made sure my exposure to social media was less over time as I knew it affected me.
  • I gave myself little inner talks most days about what I COULD control and what I could not…I admit, I do this most of the time.
  • I also had faith in how the country was being cared for at this most unusual and uncertain time.
  • This slowly changed, but not in the first year.
  • I learned that I can get over things I have planned that cannot work out.
  • I also knew that gratitude found on the hardest of days was a help.
  • I know getting somewhere most days into nature was important and we have such a range of places here….and I know I needed to record photos and videos to share.

And the BEST part: March 2021, we received our first Covid Vaccinations: Astra Zeneca. 17 March 2021, the day booked once they opened.

I also wrote posts here here and here for 2020, as part of Telling My Story:

Telling My Story. Image #8.

How was March 2020 to March 2021 for you, Covid wise?

Take care,

Denyse.

Joining in with Natalie for Weekend Coffee Share today

Thank you Natalie.

https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

 

 

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The Month That Was: February 2022. 9/51. FINAL. #LifeThisWeek. #280. 13/2022.

The Month That Was: February 2022. 9/51. FINAL. #LifeThisWeek. #280  13/2022.

February 2022.

I was going to give away blogging. I was feeling stale and like I had already said what I wanted to share about in this forum.

I did let myself sit with those feelings and thoughts for a while as I have learned over the years not to act upon them quickly.

So I did some of this:

Be kinder to myself

What did I learn from the time spent?

  • That I need to keep my blog going as it is like a part of my life’s history
  • That I do not need to please others to keep blogging
  • That others actually understand more than I may have thought
  • That I can make a shift in my thinking, and blogging practice and run a link up too
  • That I have an outlet for my words and photos…

The History of Life This Week Link Up.

I was blogging most days of the week back in 2016 and there were quite a few friendly link ups. On Mondays, Kirsty used to have “I Confess” and when she was leaving blogging to concentrate on her business and busy family life, I thought why not have a go. I had already been posting  a topic each Monday called “life this week” so that’s where I went with it.

Life This Week is the new link-up from here, on Denyse Whelan Blogs.

Starts: Monday 12 September 2016.

Each Monday I’ve been using the topic “Life This Week” which for me has meant anything I came up with that seemed relevant for that week. It might have been something topical from the news, or something in my life and from time to time I joined in the link-up on Kirsty’s blog.

Started Life This Week Link Up. Sept 2016.

And the very first link up had….24 bloggers link up!! Yay for them…sadly many are no longer blogging but that’s life!

Moving on to the news:

It’s all in the blog post I have linked up to the FINAL Life This Week…so do have a read! Please.

Thank you for continuing to be part of this community. Here’s to seeing you back here on Monday 14 March!

Denyse.

and from Bernard who is pleased I AM still blogging…and Happy Birthday for 27th!

 

Life This Week. FINAL 28.2.2022.

This is opening 9 hours earlier for me to add my post…I am not awake at 5.a.m. Mondays! 

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a kind thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

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NEWS! #LifeThisWeek: Becomes #LifeThisMonth. #LinkUp. 12/2022.

NEWS! #LifeThisWeek: Becomes #LifeThisMonth. #LinkUp. 12/2022.

News from Denyse at Denyse Whelan Blogs.

Since September 2016, I have been hosting a link up each Monday of the year, except the last week of any year, called:

Life This Week.

It became a part of MY life as a blogger for sure as I had no idea that within 8 months of this event, I would be diagnosed with head and neck cancer in May 2017.

My blog, my link up and the community that is OUR community here at Life This Week has meant the world to me…..and then

in

2022

I began

to feel the effects of

doing so much.

Even though I had chosen to reduce my blog output to once a week, I started to feel tired and that I had literally run out of stories but it was more than that, my energy to keep the link up in the way I always intended was waning.

What to do?

I considered a few options.

I even started trimming my blog’s posts so that I could see the end of an era in sight as I have been blogging since 2010 and then I stopped.

I was caught up in a mood from my revelation last week about grief. The post is here.

I was also physically and emotionally still in recovery from doing so much towards the end of the year so I….

  • Gave serious thought to closing the blog.
  • Giving away the link up.
  • STOPPING what had become a regular and valuable routine in my life.

But now I know that the thinking and planning was all for a good reason, because there would be a way of working things out, and with some advice and support from blogging friends

and my husband ( I think he was wondering, what the heck will D do if she doesn’t have blogging….) I let time pass (my great strategy) and decided that:

YES. I did want to continue to blog.

YES. I did want to host a link up.

YES. I did want to self-care too.

YES. A new link up ONCE a month was just right!

Now it’s the FINAL #lifethisweek link up on 28th February 2022….

 

And it’s welcome to Life This Month, where the first post will be on the second Monday (of each month):

14th March.

There will be the same ways to add your post, via my link up.

I will be commenting back at your blog later in the week.

The ‘rules’ for the link up is for you to comment on my post that month, and so on.

The dates for the rest of the year are here:

Life This Week: Becomes Life This Month.

Second Mondays each month.

10 Link Ups for 2022.

14 March 1/10

11 April 2/10

9 May 3/10

13 June 4/10

11 July 5/10

8 August 6/10

12 September 7/10

10 October 8/10

14 November 9/10

12 December 10/10

For your information for the first Monday’s link up and those each month afterwards) this is part of the link up from 14 March.

Welcome to Life This Month.

Denyse Whelan Blogs Is a Community

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post… NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a kind thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

*You are welcome to add my link up’s image to your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Month

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

*This link up opens at 5.00 a.m Australian eastern time on the second Monday of the month, and closes at 5.00 p.m. on the Wednesday of that week.

*I commit to visiting your blog and to  comment on your post.

Denyse Whelan.

 

Joining in with Natalie for Weekend Coffee Share to share my news. Thank you Natalie.

https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Denyse.

 

 

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