Tuesday 13th April 2021

Emerging From Illness To Wellness. #SundayStills. #15. 44/2021.

Emerging From Illness To Wellness. #SundayStills. #15. 44/2021.

As I am loving to do, I played with the words for this week’s prompt for the Photo Challenge from Terri called #SundayStills. Her blog is here so come and check out the posts, particularly those that relate to the photos because you too might join in.

Terri here is still moving into her new abode and her friend from Always Write  is caring for Sunday Stills again this week.

It’s now my 15th week! Loving it.

Content warning: some images may be distressing for some.

When you are ill, for whatever reason, you want to be well again.

Impatience does not help the cause.

However, as so many of us know from experiences there is one factor that usually is the reason….

T

I

M

E

And my experiences in how I emerged from illness to wellness are, in this instance, from my head and neck cancer (in my mouth) surgeries which eventuated in giving me some (artificial) teeth where cancer had taken hold. I used some of the strategies above to help me through the time productively and to stay well emotionally.

 

Content warning: some images may be distressing for some.

 

I admit, some of the images are a bit confronting. I LIVED with them and took photos every day to help mark my progress. On some days, I could feel  despondent….hence the need to do something with my TIME….but generally I felt gratitude for all that was being done for me. I just had to do (and still do) some of the hard yards as we say!

A Little Bit of Information About My Surgeries.

I had half of my mouth removed. The upper part where there was cancer in my gums and under top lip. I had the BEST ever team. Simple as that. In fact, my head and neck surgeon is the top Professor in the field. I was told, in May 2017, one day after diagnosis that the team would remove half of my mouth, and replace it (jaw, gums and palate) with parts from my leg. These 3 photos show some of this. In total I had 4 surgeries. The BIG one for 11 hours, then subsequent day surgeries to add more skin to the inside of my mouth: November 2017, February 2018 and May 2018. Full details are here.

The good news is that I am doing well.

I got an all-clear and I will see you in a year, last September so I am half way there.

I admit, managing the upper prosthesis has its challenges but generally, I do well.

This of course, is how I look now:

Denyse.

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How This Trip To The Dentist Changed Me. 43/2021.

How This Trip To The Dentist Changed Me. 43/2021.

ABOUT Head and Neck Cancer Australia First! 

Before I proceed, I ended up, after a long time. finding out I had cancer in my gums and under one lip. No dentist nor G.P. had even thought of this as being the case. This was not, in many ways, a fault or failing of them and their knowledge and skill set.

I have a “rare of rare” cancer as my Professor told me. I am now an Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia and continue to share the ways in which this rare cancer can manifest itself. This link, to Head and Neck Cancer Australia, formerly Beyond Five, will take you to the page about diagnosis. This is a highly reputable and facts-based and checked website. Its content undergoes regular and thorough reviews by professionals in the field.

One of whom is Professor Jonathan Clark AM – my head and neck surgeon who is also Chair & Founder of Head and Neck Cancer Australia.

Visual inspection by Jonathan  as Surgical Assistant and HNC Nurse Cate records my visit.

Back to my post.

Going to the dentist had been a regular thing for me from the age of 3.

I am now 71.

Going every 6 months as suggested.

Going in between when issues arising in my mouth needed fixing.

In some of my blog posts about head and neck cancer, I have outlined the role played by my now (and he was then) dentist in the discovery of oral cancer in my gums.

Before My Upper Prosthesis Went In: July 2018. My Dentist and My Dental Nurse.

I also wrote with detail last week for Part 2 of 2 about the time 2016 to 16 May 2017.

Allow me, here though, to outline exactly how that one trip, on 6 April 2017 changed me FOR the BETTER.

When I was learning about how to deal with areas of my life where I felt fearful…travelling and getting to see people were distinctly challenging because my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (I.B.S) was so unpredictable I just stayed anchored to home. Safe. My then Psychologist who knew I really wanted to overcome this suggested I learn about Exposure Therapy and over time, she taught me that it could be done in stages.

Yet: I still couldn’t see HOW I could do the hard things like drive to the dentist, and see other professionals when I needed to…etc.

Until I literally HAD to!

Message to me before my first surgery

Backstory.

Reading through my blog posts, as some of you have, you will note that my anxiety about I.B.S. and being anxious about travel in particular escalated. This was NOT me being the me I knew and wanted to be …..until I had enough.

Enough of trying to find out what the heck was going on in my very sore mouth

Enough of thinking I was the cause of all the issues because that was how sometimes I was made to feel

Enough of waiting for things to get better

ENOUGH….but first, this is what had to happen.

  • A scaffolding of how I might get to the dentist to have the all the teeth that were part of my bridge removed
  • A new G.P. who offered me a drug (endep) to help slow my gut and prevent some I.B.S. issues
  • A determination within me to get this done…

No Matter What! Self-care helped!

 

On Wed 5 April 2017 I was nervous about the upcoming dentist trip I did go out & do things but the “enormity” of what was ahead overwhelmed me

  • I broke down & just couldn’t see how I could deal with it
  • B was good at listening but I knew that despite the dread & worry & fear IF I didn’t go through with it it would be :
  1. Avoiding
  2. Would make it worse
  3. I’d not get my mouth fixed

So I took steps to make sure I got there:

  1. 1/4 Valium in arvo & then at night helped reduce the internal rumblings
  2. I told myself it was a positive to be getting it done as it’s troubled me for so long I couldn’t let it go on & on
  3. I needed to tell myself the outcome & process had to happen. I stopped thinking there was doubt or other I needed to own this
  4. I ate small because I was scared of IBS but that’s not
  5. I knew I could take imodium if there was a reason
  6. I used the hypnosis from audible in a big way
  7. I had B taking me & he agreed to do it anything to make it work

Straight after the removal of the bridge, I had this denture put in. It was a very painful time and over time, did not improve…

 

How Did It All Work Out?

I did it.

Together with my dear husband, and the team above in the first photo.

I recovered slowly as it was quite a shock to my system, physically and emotionally

I learned that my determination was a quality I had and could call on again (again and again as it panned out!)

I knew too, that I OWNED my actions and thoughts and that I could, over time, even with fears and reservations deal with anything else that was to come.

And I have and do.

On 6 April 2021 I posted this…with pride and gratitude for all I could do…and need to do now when faced with challenges. 

Always Grateful For My Courage.

And, some three and a half years later, getting a check up of how my upper prosthesis was going (great) as in covid times I couldn’t see my prosthodontist and my dentist also looks after my 8 actual and remaining teeth with a regular check and clean every six months. And I am no longer scared about going to the dentist and thanks to my rectopexy surgery and meds, I have not had (touch wood) I.B.S. for over 6 months.

 

How do you feel about going to the dentist?

I admit, that before I had the bridge extracted my dentist already know how anxious I was about all that was going on in my mouth and between him and his lovely nurse I was very well cared for. Now, he and I have a lot of laughs more than anything and he is as grateful as I am that my cancer was found and has been treated as well and my care for my upper prosthesis is excellent.

Do go to the dentist…and do tell him/her if you are worried or anxious. It is always better to do rather than avoid.

And please, check the symptom list at the beginning of the story….and come back to it anytime.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Self Care Stories #2. 14/51 #LifeThisWeek. 42/2021.

Self Care Stories #2. 14/51 #LifeThisWeek. 42/2021.

Every 7th Week on Mondays.

Who is the 71 year old woman behind this smile?

She is Denyse.

She is ageing.

She is also a thinker, a doer and someone who likes to learn.

She is seeking answers to her age-old question about HER. Her relationship with herself. Her belief in herself. In fact, yes, it’s about Denyse exploring what she is learning via self care and more.

Why the third person?

In learning to place some distance between me and my thoughts, I now know using my own name draws my attention to what I want to do but doesn’t suck me in as much as using the personal pronoun. I learned this, and have put it into action recently, via the book I highlight below called Chatter.

https://www.ethankross.com/chatter/

In Chatter, acclaimed psychologist Ethan Kross explores the silent conversations we have with ourselves. Interweaving groundbreaking behavioral and brain research from his own lab with real-world case studies—from a pitcher who forgets how to pitch, to a Harvard undergrad negotiating her double life as a spy—Kross explains how these conversations shape our lives, work, and relationships. He warns that giving in to negative and disorienting self-talk—what he calls “chatter”—can tank our health, sink our moods, strain our social connections, and cause us to fold under pressure.

Loss of Confidence in Myself. Recently.

Life is not linear although that might appear to be the case. I have found since late January 2021 that some of my usual confidence has waned. I could feel it and as yet another medical test came up, I began to identify with it as

fear of something else going wrong for me

What Happened?

I needed a gastroscopy and iron infusion in early February. They went well. Iron levels from 11 to 225! Who knew.

But any little twinge, ache or whatever had me seeking medical advice. Always assured and re-assured.

Still not that convinced.

Body Image And  What I Saw Not Being True.

Long time readers here would know that way before my cancer was diagnosed, I was on a long journey to losing weight but in a not healthy way. It was via anxiety and I.B.S. However, one by-product was that I was over 30kg less in weight than my heaviest back in 2013. I tried to convince myself that right now, I seemed to look OK but of course I remain overweight but….

I

am

healthy.

I listened to this book, website below, in some parts and found it of interest. I stopped hating my body (and me) as much because I could acknowledge what it had done for me and that being overweight (technically I am) was not a sin, nor something I needed to be ashamed of…and actually for me , it meant I was healthier post cancer than most times of my life.

https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/

The Body Is Not An Apology is an international movement committed to cultivating global Radical Self Love and Body Empowerment. We believe that discrimination, social inequality, and injustice are manifestations of our inability to make peace with the body, our own and others. Through information dissemination, personal and social transformation projects and and community building, The Body is Not An Apology fosters global, radical, unapologetic self love which translates to radical human love and action in service toward a more just, equitable and compassionate world.

The Evidence Was In. Need to Believe.

Just recently I spoke to my main G.P. and my other one, along with my husband, about how I was viewing myself. I had begun to worry about the numbers on the scales. I saw this as a pattern from my past and felt helpless to let it go. I needed and asked for confirmation from others that I was OK, at this weight, and doing well. I had to see myself as a well person. I was to stop weighing myself.

I am on my way to better self-belief and acceptance of this is both who I am now and how well I am.

In fact my female G.P. stressed just a week ago “Denyse, you are WELL, enjoy yourself”.

Truth in that. I think, given that I overcame my head and neck cancer, and then endured a pretty stressful and traumatic series of tests & surgeries in 2020 too, I have only just now, realised this too.

Thankful, indeed!

More Help For Handling Emotions. 

I remain dedicated to my Daily Calm: meditation both day and night.

I go outside every day.

I seek to interact with others somewhere in my day.

I am seeing a psychologist for a few sessions just to re-calibrate!

I saw one, last week who asked, amongst her listening to my stories, “when do you rest?”. Umm. Not much at all. Made me think.

I have a loving husband.

I am well physically.

I know how to care for my eating via nutrition and food enjoyment.

This: Written at my most “difficult & searching for peace within” time of my recent life:

Early February 2017 TRYING to show confidence.

What Do I Really want My Life to Look like Now?

  1. I act with ease & no trouble at all
  2. I smile, I exude joy & peace
  3. People want to be around me
  4. I want to be around them
  5. I want old barriers of ‘excessive & always there’ fear to be reduced so it only surfaces for “real” reasons
  6. I will be comfortable in my skin
  7. I will be happy to be the age & stage I am in
  8. My contentment & ease will continue to bring me closer to my husband & family
  9. I will seek new & other social networks & people when I want to connect
  10. I will be energised & confident to go anywhere & with anyone

I see so much of the above is how I am living my best life now. Who’d a thought that’s what cancer would bring.

Four Years Later. Confidence is there…believing it a challenge at times

 

Emotional Agility.

https://www.susandavid.com/

Psychologist Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility. A talk to share.

Susan David’s Ted Talk: Emotional Agility

What does your self-care consist of?

Do you get enough rest?

Can you think of yourself with kindness?

Share how things are for you.

Denyse.

Link Up #234

Life This Week. Link Up #234

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.

* 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: 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.

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 15/51 Share Your Snaps #3. 12 Apr.

 

 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


 

 

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Telling My Story.Chapter Twenty Two. 2016-16 May 2017. Part 1/2. 37/2021.

Telling My Story.Chapter Twenty Two. 2016- 16 May 2017. Part 1/2. 37/2021.

The backstory first:

Well over a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed.

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at Chapter Twenty Two. And as with other posts, I am making it Parts 1 & 2. 

So, in keeping with my ethical approach to all things, I am making the chapters about MY recollections to various changes in life for me, and us, and life as we knew it. I hope I can continue sharing the story without any intentionally negative or hurtful references to others who are in my life as friends and family members. All of the stories to date found here.

And with this chapter, another photo…taken this year overlooking the harbour at Dobroyd near where I grew up.

Beginning 2016.

In my recent two-part Chapter 21 here and here, I outlined the emotional and physical health challenges I faced and was doing my best to both manage and understand.

This, for practical me, was very hard as the emotional roller coaster of my life often exacerbated the Irritable Bowel Syndrome and then that played into my negative thinking about myself …..and so on.

Not easy. For Me.

And of course, for my husband who was studying counselling part-time, working as a volunteer for two charities and doing renovations at his brother’s too. When I look at this, and he and I have chatted about it since, loneliness was sometimes part of the problem for me.

I made a change to this blog, and formalised the categories into one for each day, and launched Denyse Whelan Blogs, thanks to my dear friend Tanya and her patience and creativity along with my tech man, Craig. I was determined that staying connected and accountable every day to SOMETHING outside myself would in fact, help ground me in some ways.

It did.

Look, I am still here! And the categories are not used like this so much now but I liked how I got on with the changes! Back then too, there were around 4 weekly Australian based link ups!

A Few Celebrations And Not So Good Times.

We celebrated our 45 years of marriage with our family. Our adult children and their children. It was the first time we had all come together in around a year. That was very special.

We also heard awful news early in that same year that was both shocking and impactful on our family, particularly for two people we love very much. So much I cannot say and would not.

However, I did take it all pretty badly. That’s me. I feel. I was already rather anxious but this news did not help. I also felt conflict about it and used my time with my GP and psychologist to talk more.

Over time, of course, we continued to share the love and support within the family for those people but it still remained a wedge for a while for me. These years down the track as I write, things are better but will never be perfect. Life, hey.

We cared for grandkids on special overnight and holidays stays and whilst I loved it, my anxiety levels being high, I could not relax enough to enjoy things. The little people I had cared for back in Sydney were growing and changing and trying to keep myself well when they were there was fine but anticipation and afterwards would bring on bouts of nasty diarrhoea (thanks I.B.S.)

Travelling to Sydney for a first birthday was a mental struggle for me but we did it. I actually loved it and having time, again, with our grandchildren was always so special. However, there were undercurrents of things not being too well within the families and we tried to let those worries go. They eventually would be made known but not for some time. I cannot add any more than that. However, as I am writing now, matters are far more settled and at ease with us.

With birthdays and Christmas we tried as we could, to entertain during school holidays or a weekend and it was always good to see everyone, and for me, Grandma, to do her best with cakes and spoiling with gifts.

My Health….still a bother. 

All the time, with me, was a tension and anxiety I felt and knew, and even if I understood it, found it a challenge to live with but here’s what I am like. I do what I can, with what I can.

I read,

I studied,

I learned,

I did courses about I.B.S.,

Mindfulness, Self-Compassion, Art, Mandala-Making

and I got out most days (when I.B.S. was quiet) to take photos, walk on the beach and perhaps interact with people at the shops.

I saw my friendly G.P. regularly who tried, over time, with some different medications to help me but nothing did. She was a great cheerleader though and her encouragement was good.

I even wrote this on a community page: I was searching for people who might get what I was writing about and I did get loving support. However as I know too well, we do end up working things out for ourselves.

Long time commenter & poster but first time ‘admitting my troubles & needing some advice/support’ … thanks in advance for reading!

I’m 67, been retired from work (happily) & life ‘should’ feel better than this. I’ve been a pretty anxious person (worrier etc) all my life & at times Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS – Diarrheoa) has been part of life too.

Over 2 years ago, we sold our house in Sydney, paid out mortgage etc, found a rental house we like on Central Coast & left our much-loved adult families (g’kids too) behind. I also stopped all my work in education after 44 yrs.

Now, I “thought” I had nailed this! Yep. What we wanted to do. Freedom etc. My emotions disagreed & that’s where I have been falling down, picking myself up, x 10000 (it feels like) since Jan 2015.

I’ve got a fantastic listening hub who “gets me”, a great GP who helps me manage symptoms of IBS & a psychologist who is working with me on plans of ‘exposure’ therapy to learn to live with & accept IBS.

I am fortunate not have a diagnosis of either anxiety or depression but when IBS lurks (just about every week if not more frequently) then I get both sad & upset because of it. I take no medication other than imodium if I have to.

I do not know “who I am” any more because of my increasing fear to venture out to socialise, drive any distance on M1 or even have a cuppa somewhere.

Everything I read & understand about both anxiety-related conditions & IBS says I have to “accept” it and get on with life.

Right now, this seems hard.. too hard.. and I’m floundering. I do know I have determination & strength because I’ve rallied myself many times.

Do you know that around 20-25% of the population has IBS & it’s a functional condition & no treatment is available? I’m fortunate it is nothing more serious… I know.

What I wondered tonight, is anyone else out there like me and how can we help each other through some of these tough(er) times?

I am/was always searching for how to make me better to understand myself.

Weight loss: a mixed blessing. I was unwell.

Did What I Could To Help Myself.

I have all the books to prove it. And whilst all courses and speaking to professionals helped, the one thing that eluded me was how to live with irritable bowel syndrome and its unpredictability.

I tried writing.

I made hundreds of journal entries.

I did an on-line course twice to help understand IBS.

I read and completed a book with self-help ideas.

 

This List Was Something I Kept for Me in 2016.

Here are 20 things you can control:

1. Talking to yourself positively

2. The way you talk to those around you

3. The amount of physical exercise you give your body

4. The food you nourish your body with

5. Your level of honesty

6. Whether you are a listener or a talker

7. How often you smile every day

8. The time you spend worrying about irrelevant things

9. The amount of love you give your children

10. Whether you see the glass half empty or half full

11. How mindful you want to be

12. How you make other people feel about themselves

13. Having a generous heart

14. Allowing yourself to ask for help

15. Offering help in return

16. Whether you judge people or accept people

17. Having an open heart to receive true love

18. Whether you believe in yourself

19. Your words

20. Your thoughts

 

Self help, not helpless.

I was unwell yet wanted so much to be well. I was caught between being embarrassed about my anxious gut and self and wanting to get out and enjoy this life I had longed for in retirement.

Some things I tried (and still do!) were these:

Our Family Life At The Time.

As at the beginning of this year, things did not proceed comfortably for the remainder of 2016 and into 2017 due to changes in family dynamics and relationships. Again, I say no more. Other than this: my heart may be broken yet mended over time. This, fortunately, is true and for me…so grateful. But living with it and through it was something I found very disconcerting. We had limited contact with family members and I travelled far less to Sydney because of my health and anxiety about I.B.S.

Nothing “I” could do to change anything was a lesson I learn(ed) over and over again. Having some faith and trust that matters can be resolved and worked out did, over time, prove to be true but it took a serious illness (mine) for that to happen. More in the next part of the story. Mindfulness and the works of Pema Chodron, and Jack Kornfield and My Headspace app all helped. I did a lot of meditation outside and inside.

 

And What About That Sore Mouth?

It did not get better. I did all I was asked by my (new in early 2016) dentist. I was given instructions for better cleaning, managing so called candida, trying ideas for eating/drinking cooler food as mouth was red on the roof (palate). I am a compliant patient. Yet, some of the treatments were making my I.B.S. diarrheoa worse. Sigh. My G.P. did not have any more ideas. However, “I” must have because diary entries as the year went on towards early 2017 included:

  • I wonder if this is cancer
  • Sore mouth – gums and possible filling breaking. Know I will have to see gum specialist.
  • GP says “mouth inflamed but it’s not cancer”
  • Dentist: “In two months since I last saw you I see pus in overgrown gums over the bridge of teeth, so off to see gum specialist”
  • BUT I said, “back in early January 2017 I want to know what is under this bridge so can you take it out?”

His answer, in short, was conservative and no. It would as you will read in Part Two of this Chapter, happen.

Thank you for reading and commenting on these Telling My Story posts. Yes, they can raise some powerful emotions for me but I also am aware of how far I have come in this relatively short period.

Next time with be Part Two.

I will be taking over my Thursday posts with these now over the next months to enable me to get up to date.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

 

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Self Care Stories #1 7/51. #LifeThisWeek. Ageing. 21/2021.

Self Care Stories #1 7/51. #LifeThisWeek. Ageing. 21/2021.

Every 7th week for #LifeThisWeek optional prompts it’s about Self Care. Time to take a look at care habits, physical, mental and emotional.

And this year as I began to consider my purpose for continuing this blog in a meaningful way as I am changing, I added a category called Stories About Ageing. I introduced my view on ageing and I sought readers’ comments and thoughts. For this week’s post about self care, it made sense to write about what I am noticing about my habits and what I may need to change or update.

Self Care #1. Ageing.

Physical.

What I am noticing about me now. I am, because I can see from the many photos I have that I am looking older.

Yes, I am overweight  somewhat more now than when I was at my then lightest following my first year of head and neck cancer in 2017. However my doctors (and I!) do not want me to change anything.  I am also showing signs on my face with extra sun spot marks and

….for the first time ever, my hair has begun thinning.

When I first remarked on this at a recent hair appointment my lovely hairdresser said she had noticed it before and we worked on a style that will not show it as obviously. I also mentioned it to my G.P. and he said that because I have had a number of anaesthetics in the past 9 months, the effects can do that to hair and growth.

Recent blood tests showed my low iron has continued and in fact is probably the lowest it has been since my head and neck surgery in July 2017. The conservative treatment of iron supplements just don’t work for me as my sensitive IBS gut (potentially) acts up.

To rule out internal bleeding, because I had a colonoscopy back in June 2020 where all was OK cancer-wise, I am having a gastroscopy and an iron infusion. The first will check any potential bleeding sites in the gut, gullet and so on, and the second will, I hope boost my energy because even with the best of intentions, I do find hill walking hard. So I don’t do it! Update: had the gastroscopy and no bleeding areas but will need to increase use of anti-reflux meds and iron infusion went well but making me, ironically, a bit more tired next day!

Mental.

I have been well following my head and neck cancer surgeon’s visit last September when he said “see you in a year!”. At the time, that came as quite a surprise because I thought I would still be having 6 monthly checks.

I did need to take time to process this news.

Coming from my surgeon, who knows head and neck cancer the best (top one who is recognised by his peers as the best) I needed to believe he was right in his judgement.

It is quite a mind shift to make from wondering if any new swelling, pain or slight change might mean cancer is back. And I have had to work on challenging such negative and highly emotive thoughts. They can take me back to feeling fearful as I had for such a long time and I have to trust in the process that I can be well.

I am well!

Then there is this. In July 2020 and then in August 2020 I had some pretty serious abdominal surgeries. One was a rectopexy to repair and make my rectum work as it should, and when the surgeon was inside, he found a hernia, so that meant two lots of incisions. Big upside down T for me…and readers here might recall the wound dehisced. And that meant more surgery. More and much longer recovery and loss of independence, just as I had it back.

How to handle this?

By letting out my frustrations in some tears and telling my husband how I felt.

And making my home space more comfortable so I could recover in comfort. I also needed to allow myself time to grieve for how disappointed I was I needed a second surgery.

Once I had done that, I accepted with gratitude (it truly works!) and allowed the healing from the visiting nurse, my attendance at the G.P.s to go well.

It did. And now, I still cannot believe the freedom I have from having a fully working well ….body. No more worries about prolapse, and so much more embarrassing times I endured for far longer than I needed.

Emotional.

It’s hard to delineate where this fits in between physical and mental but for me it’s about how my mood is and how I can catch myself before go down any rabbit holes of negativity, regret and future concerns.

I remain in the present as much as I can and this for me has been a game-changer!

In fact, I have many more good and great days now than ever.

It has a lot to do with my own growth via reading, learning, seeing a psychologist some years back, a great G.P. who listens (and always tells me how well I am doing to when he first met me in early 2017) and my dear, counsellor-trained husband.

I have been taking an old fashioned anti-depressant since April 2017 which my G.P. originally suggested I take to help calm my insides when IBS was rampant and it would help me sleep. Since then I have, with his support, continued to take it in various doses.

Establishing a daily routine way back in the latter half of 2017 in my early head and neck cancer recoveries is still the basis of my day and it works. I shift times and so on around a bit but the essence of the routine is this which I wrote about here too:

  • Calm Meditation when I wake. Daily Calm. I lie in bed to do this as I am much more comfy.
  • Getting Up times: looser in structure now as we are retired.
  • Having breakfast and getting into my morning: reading the daily newspaper, blog reading and commenting
  • Dress With Purpose and Go Out Of the House. I continue to do this in a modified way with COVID changing my habit of sitting somewhere for a coffee but the delineation in my day makes this something I look forward to every day.
  • Late Lunch and reading
  • Afternoon for Blogging, Some art and NOW some walking outside somewhere. I got slack about this a while back and I am back into it.
  • Dinner Preparation and Eating.
  • News and maybe other viewing for a while with my husband.
  • Later: shower, bed  routine and Netflix or similar in my wind down
  • Calm Meditation of my choice in bed as I ready for sleep

In Summary.

I do all I can to remain in the present.

I remember to go outside if I need a better perspective for a while. I look up, I walk on the grass barefoot and I might drive to the river just to watch and listen.

I spend far less time than I did in comparing myself to others. This used to be a main source of upset for me.

I look at myself with a kinder eye and a warmer heart. Often.

I remind myself I AM 71….

and it is OK not to be as sprightly as those I sometimes see talking about “as we get older” and they are in fact, maybe 45-50. Eye rolling!

That’s me for now.

How are you going in terms of self-care?

Share in the comments for us all to learn.

Denyse.

Link Up #227

 

Life This Week. Link Up #227

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.

* 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: 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.

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* THANK you for linking up today! Next week: 8/51 Explore. 22 Feb.

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My Stories About Ageing: My New Blogging Category Is Here! 5/2021.

My Stories About Ageing: My New Blogging Category Is Here! 5/2021.

This image of me: Left: Jan 2006. Right: July 2020. Same person loving the elements. But ageing is definitely showing!

Why this?

Why Now?

It’s time.

I have been considering writing stories about ageing from my perspective and experience for a while.

Back Story.

I am now 71. I still find that hard to believe! It could be because my Dad, at 97 is still well and I am ‘still his daughter’. But…no, it cannot be that I am a kid and he is the adult. He, my friends, is elderly, I am ageing. Oh, who am I kidding!

The catalyst may have been this: a photo of us aged 21 on our Wedding Day in 1971 and a re-creation image in 2015 when we were 65 (me) and 66 (B)….as we ready ourselves aged 71 to share our Golden Wedding Anniversary (50 years of marriage) on 23 January 2021.

Or, it may have been this past year because events took hold of me health-wise in a big and somewhat confronting (for me) way:

  1. I found I had to dig deep into my emotional capacity, and remember how I managed my inner emotional health recovering from head and neck cancer, to do this.
  2. I also found the ‘reasons’ for my rectal prolapse surgery very hard to accept and share.
  3. I now know, of course, I am better without the physical problem and that whilst I waited a long time to admit to needing the surgery, it was a lack of shared knowledge from other women that was part of my resistance.

 

Onto the reasons why I will post about Ageing and Stories About It from Me.

From my perspective: Denyse at 71!

On my 71st Birthday, 30 November last year, I posted this collage of me at 68,69,70 & 71,  and in fun, a ‘this is 71’ photo was taken by my husband (at my request) too.

Groups. People On and Off Social Media. For Me? Not For Me?

  • I love to be social on-line. It is easier for me to be on-line and meet up virtually with a range of people than it is to go out and find a group.

 

  • Before I go on. I did have a social group of sorts when I was in education.However, these were often work-based and even though friendships stayed firm at work, they tend to peter out at retirement time and when moving schools.

 

  • When I first retired I became a volunteer and was engaged in some interesting but mundane work and felt my skills could be better used in a leadership role.

 

  • I found one of those easily and was welcomed with open arms. It was not, however, long lasting as the intent of the volunteer group clashed with my educator’s values.

 

  • I started a small group for colouring mindfully. There was a lot of interest initially until it came time to attend. Very few did. It stopped. Sad to say, the same thing happened just 3 years ago too.

 

  • I am not a sport player nor hobby-mad really and do what I can at home to get my creative ‘fix’ now. I joined a group learning crochet but left as no-one had any idea how to teach an ambidextrous person how to crochet.

 

  • I even joined, not for long sadly, a local community group for women only. It spoke of meeting for coffee and brunches. I liked that idea. I went, I joined in but alas the ages were not close to mine, and again, sadly, the cohort was almost all local to the area whereas we are ‘newish’ here.

My Observations as an Over 70s Person.

Getting older is, for many of us, a privilege we do not always appreciate.

I admit having a cancer diagnosis out of the blue in mid 2017 sure was a wake-up call to thinking “we are immortal” but I whilst never thought I was dying it gave me a new appreciation for health and recovery from cancer.

I know that I am very grateful now to receive a part-aged pension income, which added to my husband’s pensions gives us a reasonable life here as a couple who are renting.

I don’t mind even feeling somewhat invisible as an over 70s woman because it gives me a chance to be an observer and I like that!

What I notice, particularly now, is that on social media: groups on Facebook, communities and twitter and instagram, that I do not see (nor hear of ) people who are close to my age.

Even the groups geared to seniors, older Australians, retirees, generally cater for those from age 50 to say 65.

And, as I found out in COVID 19 times, now that my husband and I are 0ver 70 we are classed as:

  • elderly
  • vulnerable

Why Blog About It?

I feel somewhat left out!

  • By groups even for seniors and older people.
  • The starting age is now 21 years younger than I am.
  • I want to have a voice that matters to others who might want to hear/read stories of ageing….
  • ones that keep ageing  reality-checked to counter balance with the “promises of using certain products to stave off….”

I will continue to write more here.

  • I want to be included but I sense that in my particular social media setting I am definitely older or the oldest of a group’s cohort.
  • In fact many people I love to chat with and catch up with are indeed closer to my daughter’s age and she is turning 50 this year.

But, that is good for me too as I am flexible in how I interact….

Yet, I want to be the voice (here) of reality in ageing as I wish I had known more!

What Do You Think?

Have I gone too far?

Do you every imagine yourself actually ageing with significance?

Every decade I see people bemoaning the zero coming up.

Really?

OK, for some I imagine it is scary.

The unknown perhaps but since the internet is here, maybe “I” can be a better heard voice of wisdom, failures and experiences for turning:

40

50

60

70.

Am I opening up too much?

Would you like to know more about my experience of ageing?

How could my story help you, perhaps?

Maybe you might share your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you.

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne and friends here for Lovin’ Life Linky.

 

 

 

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Calm Days And Calm Nights. 2/2021.

Calm Days And Calm Nights. 2/2021.

Yes I now have these: days and nights of calm.

I have found the secret to inner peace…forever and ever.

Actually that is so not true …..do read on!

Waaaay back in 2015 I was in transition. From my former to life to the life we had chosen. From work, family near by, security of home (until end of 2014) to retirement, no family nearby and no home other than a house to rent. It was not great YET it was the life we chose to have after turning 65.

 

My husband, above, who is of a much different disposition to me, was fine. In fact, he LOVED the change, except for the awful house we selected to rent, and was busy studying counselling on-line, doing volunteer work with Lifeline and building projects at his brother’s.

Me? I missed company, some work,  friends, going out for coffee and yet…..I knew that I could not get my old life back.

We HAD moved on.

When I get to write Chapter  Twenty One of Telling My Story for 2015 there will be much more revealed but right now, I am leading up to what started to make a difference for me….

Meditation.

I first found it in person, at a Buddhist Centre, in the first months of 2015, and then via an app called Headspace. This helped me from 2015 until into 2018 when I changed my meditation app to Calm. Now I am a life time subscriber and what a difference it makes for me:

EVERY

SINGLE

DAY

& NIGHT.

In 2019 I shared more about Calm and its help for me over here.

These thoughts and views are formed by me, over time, as I changed and grew to understand what I was doing….I was practising meditation. I was practising being still and I was/am continuing to do this every day and each night. It’s called Meditation Practice for a good reason.

What Meditation Is Not.

  • a clearing out of your thoughts
  • a way to get to inner peace easily
  • a place & way of being seated to best meditate
  • perfection found
  • silence

What Meditation Is.

  • a regular 10-12 minutes in my morning, and then in my evening which is just for this.
  • lying in my bed…yes, not sitting nor kneeling, because I can still concentrate, relax and take in what I need to being comfortable on my back with my hands by my sides.
  • a gift to my inner health
  • a space & time which I value that is MINE
  • something I can come back to over and over again
  • being curious about myself
  • learning something a new and refreshing my previous learnings.

How Did I Get Here?

Even before 2015 I was seeking help and information on how to help me calm myself inside and accept more readily what “life” is about. As a teacher and always a lifetime learner I sought much information, learning and help and got it via CDs, courses on-line and podcasts. I have added some images of some of my kept resources.

The first real introduction I had to becoming mindful and helping with the sadness I was feeling, even though I was not clinically depressed was this book and I still listen to it from time to time. These two men, Mark Williams and Danny Penman, are pioneers (after Jon Kabat-Zinn) of Mindfulness for Wellness and Using Mindful Practices for Stress Release.

Some were purchased on-line directly from Sounds True, others via my (then) favourite book selling site, Book Depository. Others I found directly on-line or at my local books sellers.

Some of the authors who helped me “get me” are:- are found here and in my messy but lovely photos of my books and CDs. On display for easy reading….for you, the reader.

Pema Chodron  Tara Brach    Jack Kornfield    Brene Brown  Sharon Salzberg  Clare Bowditch     

Elizabeth Gilbert   Andy Puddicombe  John O’Donohue   Jeff Foster  Judson Brewer

Megan Devine    Martin Seligman     Steve Peters    Andrew Fuller   Kristin Neff    Glennon Doyle

Rick Hanson   Christopher Germer    Lori Deschene    Paul Gilbert  Claire Weekes  Anne Lamott 

Yes, that IS a list and yet, not the end of it. The reason each of these people helped ME and form part of many meditation practices that I know of is that they mention common ideas:

there is only one moment: now

that we can only control one person, us

that we forget the above two often so we need to practise

AND, that it’s human to be like this.

This image is my iphone locked screen.

Calm Days And Calm Nights. What Is This About?

Regular readers of this blog know I was diagnosed with a form of head and neck cancer back in 2017. Full series of blog posts here. I learned so much about myself then, about what I could cope with, about how I could, with support and practise, learn to deal with hard things. I wrote a post or two about exposure therapy as I learned I HAD to do after seeing a psychologist back in 2016.

Changing from Headspace Meditation to Calm Meditation for me was about just that…change. It did turn out to go well for me in 2018 I was offered a great price for a lifetime subscription and being on a pretty fixed and low income that helps a lot.

I liked and still do the ways in which I can pick and choose the meditation for a particular reason*, for example, if  I sense I am being overly self-critical I will choose to do the series on that to learn and learn again (practise remember) the various ways in which I can pull myself up in terms of self-talk and gently guide myself forward.

Each day now, at the time of waking…and in retirement days this can vary from 8.00 am to 9.00 am and I LOVE that luxury, I open the Calm App and settle back in bed (loo stop first) for my morning Daily Calm. Following it, I reflect via the suggestions and may choose to keep and share the quote and image of the day. Then I get on with my day.

Oh, I do not write about Calm because I was asked to or I was paid to do so. I just like to share what works for me.

At the end of the day, again in bed, when I am ready to settle for the night, I select a meditation via need*. It does not matter if I have done this one before, there is always something new to learn and focus on.

If by the end of this one, I am still wide awake – not often – I may choose a Sleep Story. They are awesome and have great narrators and stories to share. It’s much better for me than music.

As we know and admit, we are all “works in progress” and I decided to share my thoughts in this first week of blogging 2021 with you and in joining a couple of link ups.

  • May you find peace.
  • May you be content.
  • May you be well.

When I am here…I am the most mindful I can be outside of practising meditation!

And may you never stop learning!

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne and friends here for link up called Lovin Life.

Now on the weekend I am joining here with Natalie and friends for a Coffee Catch Up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt.3/3. 103/2020.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt.3/3. 103/2020.

Well over a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed.

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at...Chapter Twenty Five*. Part Three of Three.

So, in keeping with my ethical approach to all things, I am making the chapters about MY recollections to various changes in life for me, and us, and life as we knew it. I hope I can continue sharing the story without any intentionally negative or hurtful references to others who are in my life as friends and family members.

To read the earlier two parts of this Chapter go here for Part One (January, February, March & April) and here for Part Two (May, June, July & August).

 

WHAT A YEAR! 

Let’s get on with the final part of Telling My Story….2020.

SEPTEMBER.

But first, here’s to the Dads in my life:

Father’s Day Collage

I did not expect to be continuing to be recovering from surgery but yes, that is so. I was treated at home for 3 weeks by a Wound Nurse who took care of checking the wound, changing the VAC machine that helped heal me and then, as I did so well, signed off so I could visit my GP’s Nurse three times a week. Gosh people. Life is good…hey!

I could not drive (again) because of the machine and its attachment to me, so my dear husband (yet again!) drove me to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for my 6 month head and neck cancer check with my surgeon.

It was the first time my husband had been back with me here since early 2018. Certainly COVID had made some differences in protocol but not to the great ambience we both felt with my head and neck surgeon Jonathan and his surgical assistant, Cate.

Here’s the story of that visit!

It’s always good to see my team. I love them! And the best part of that visit was when Jonathan said “See you in a year!” WHAT? Blown away. I am doing well!!

Mind you they had some fun at my expense with the VAC system I was carrying! Thanks to social media Cate knew about my surgeries. I was advised that my CT scan of chest and neck was fine and to go see my prosthodontist when I could. I did.

 

With My Prosthodontist: I was back in a few days with mouth pain, but with some anti-biotic treatment it went away!

SPRING WEATHER & MEMORIES!

OCTOBER.
What a special month!

October is special because we have a grandson’s birthday and my husband and I celebrate the anniversary of our meeting each October. Just sneaking into October, I was able to say “bye bye” to all wound care. On 6th October I was F R E E. The body, the doctors and  nurses, the VAC system and I had healed me. Hallelujah!

We had a school holiday trip to our son’s place on the outskirts of Sydney to celebrate an early birthday with H and listen to the stories and share much with R, E and M. We loved it.

OUR HOLIDAY!

On 17th October 2020 we celebrated our fiftieth anniversary of meeting. Now, for the first time in over 5 years we planned a short trip to the north western city of Tamworth where we met. We set off on the Monday, venturing into the country roads we remembered so well and with shared driving the trip was most enjoyable.

The next day we went to the top of Oxley Lookout to take in the view of Tamworth and then drove the hour or so to my first school at Barraba. We had morning tea and did a small tour of the spots important to me. They were the house where I lived in 1970 and to the school where I taught.

The town itself was less active and we could understand that. Both of us were worn out too by some of the emotional memories that flooded back.

One was of where I gave birth to our daughter in 1971 and we realised that we had seen and done enough of the memory lane and came back to our most comfy house. Glad to have done this trip.

And back into our retired lives here on the Central Coast of NSW.

PHOTOS, FLOWERS, RIVER & MORE.

OCTOBER into NOVEMBER. 

My improved physical health, fewer restrictions in NSW thanks to good COVID numbers meant I could be out and about more and enjoying what IS retirement now, post my head and neck cancer surgeries and treatments. But first, Beyond Five changed their name to Head and Neck Cancer Australia. Congratulations to them and I remain a very committed volunteer Ambassador into 2021.

 

I was also delighted to have these kind words written about me by Nadia Rosin CEO of Head and Neck Cancer Australia on the occasion of my great outcome at my September visit to my surgeon, Professor Jonathan Clark AM who is the Chair of Head and Neck Cancer Australia.

SNIPPETS & MEMORIES

Time To Renew My Photo Collage for the Blog and On Facebook.

NOVEMBER

  • I remembered my parents’ wedding anniversary: they last celebrated together in 2006 for their Diamond (60th) Wedding Anniversary
  • It got me thinking about “our” up coming Golden (50th) Wedding Anniversary in January 2021.
  • So, then my thinking got me…interested in lots of Etsy, convincing my husband to go along with my plans (he said yes!) and then lots of in-person visits to so-called cheap shops – buying up golden type decorations as there was a bit about for Christmas…
  • And finding places on Etsy which made amazing posters. I am going to save sharing these till the actual anniversary but let me tell you, there are clever people out there and how well they can make items for display for a special occasion
  • My husband and I had fun too ‘getting the info’ we wanted to share: how many places we had lived in, how many cars…and the like.
  • I also started getting more memories out that could prove useful for my version of the day when we celebrate.
  • We settled on a family lunch here because the actual date IS  Saturday 23rd January and we will welcome our two adult kids, their kids and one partner of a grandchild. We will be a lunch party of 13. Our daughter is making the cake (to her dad’s likes) and we will put on a pretty easy cold lunch.
  • Dad lent me the Golden Wedding Anniversary Scrapbook I made for him and Mum for 1996 to read over too. And the 60th one as well.
  • After seeing Dad one time this month, I visited Uberkate Jewels and left my precious Ubercircles chain to have a very small circle added. I have it now and it is very special.
  • Our 2 eldest granddaughters visited for a photo shoot of us for our 50th. What fun we had.
  • I recalled the lovely day a year ago when I met my blogging friends to celebrate my 70th.
  • On my birthday this year, my husband drove us both to see my Dad as he had not done so for a while, and we had a lovely morning tea for me. I brought it but that is fine!

The two of us.

Sometimes something surprising happens when you look outside. This was that! From our glass kitchen splashback one morning.

 

DECEMBER

Could we believe that we might be able to celebrate Christmas “with” COVID still hanging around? Yes, we could.#perhaps not. See below.

Along with:

  • remembering social distancing: 1.5 metres between people
  • limits of numbers at gatherings (mind you, this keeps shifting like the proverbial goal posts!)
  • use of masks where social distancing cannot be practised…except basically no-one but a handful at my local shops are doing this..and that includes me.

However….that said, Australia is grateful to be an island surrounded by sea as is our next-door neighbour New Zealand as it’s because of that, and the closing of our respective countries’ borders early that we have done reasonably well. But even that sounds crass and not empathetic and many people lost their lives in COVID times, with the state of Victoria having the most. I truly send my condolences to all here and around the world where you have been personally affected.

At the time of writing, the first vaccines are being administered in the hardest hit country (to date, my thinking) U.S.A.

It is also the place where the current President whose names rhymes with rump will not accept he lost the November 2020 election to Joe Biden. Mr Biden will be sworn in on 20 January 2021.

FAMILY. 

When I was at Dad’s place on 30 November, I did a walk around the walls where he has many of the family photos and some of them are large collages made by me for him to have memories on his walls. It was interesting for me to re-visit them to regain a renewed sense of gratitude for my life, the lives of those who went before me and to my parents. In fact my very first post for Telling My Story is this one: About Mum (Noreen) and Dad (Andrew).

L:Mum’s parents. Dad & Mum. 1946. R: Dad’s parents.

CHRISTMAS MEMORIES & MORE.

As I write it is mid December with just under 10 days till Christmas Day. This year we are driving to Sydney to enjoy Christmas lunch with our daughter and son and some of our grandchildren. Back in our days living closer we often entertained on Christmas Day and I was pleased to do so. Before I took over the reins for our side of the family Mum and Dad hosted. This is how it works for us. Not doing too much (although I used to..of course) and it really IS about getting together.

UPDATE: Covid…..

If anything was going to change our year, it was “this” quiet and unseen danger.

 

The trouble with COVID19 is that it is:

#invisible

#most places

#highly contagious

#can be asymptomatic

In the time I want to  publish this on Wednesday 23 December, 2020, it could be that life with COVID in Australia, particularly NSW where I live, could have changed what our plans might be…again.

I also got to see some of the family who live in Sydney when I visited my prosthodontist for a sore mouth check on 22 December. My mouth’s skin is sometimes irritated by a tooth of the prosthesis but I can see why more and know, as he said my management inside my mouth is great. Phew.

What I will do, however is UPDATE this post over the days till the end of 2020 if needed.

I do wish you all the very best time ahead. It IS meant to be fun, festive and family and friends time and I hope that works out for you too.

And be kind…..to yourselves first.

Denyse.

To my twitter friends: this was lovely to make. The first circle apparently people I tweet with most and so on to the outer circle. I love my twitter friends.

 

 

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