Sunday 22nd May 2022

After Head & Neck Cancer…. Bright Smiles. 46/2021.

After Head & Neck Cancer…. Bright Smiles. 46/2021.

Recently I joined in the Be Square challenge over at Becky’s blog – see below, with this post. It  was BRIGHT and it certainly won some attention!

Becky’s square theme for April is Bright – it’s a challenge where she posts a photo every day. She invites others to join her in sharing their square photos, either every day or as they feel the urge: Debbie from DebsWorld.

Becky also  encouraged me to do this too, and it didn’t have to be every day…so here I am.

Being Square is Fun!

Join in this lovely challenge and post a photographic square daily for one month every quarter. The theme changes every quarter and is announced on this blog a few weeks, occasionally days, in advance of the challenge month. The challenge months are January, April, July and October.

Taking a Look at Bright Smiles.

Those who have followed me for the past few years, know I was diagnosed with a rare cancer in my gums. Full posts are here.

One thing I missed the most for fourteen months from the removal of cancer and through the reconstruction surgeries was my ability to






I got mine back and to be honest, it’s probably the best smile in my whole 70+ years. But wait, there is more to the story.

My smile was created from parts of my leg. The fibula was harvested for the new jaw to hold the abutments which would eventually hold an upper prosthesis of teeth…..the skin, and muscle and blood vessels from part of my leg were sacrificed for the best reason. They make up my upper palate. However, I still needed some more skin from my thigh to help flesh out the top lip where some cancer had also been removed.

And though this head and neck cancer journey of mine I was alone. I mean that I could find no-one else in Australia or beyond who shared my experience of July 2017 onwards and so I became resigned to that, until one day in 2019 I got a message.

From another woman, who had undergone a similar procedure in the same hospital and with the same fantastic surgical and prosthodontic teams, and she too is a teacher and it turned out we knew of people in education…and so much more.

This is Tara and last year she shared her story as a Woman of Courage here.

We chatted on line, followed each other on social media, swapped stories with our team too.

Then last week, we MET, face to face for the best connection and what did we do most of that time, when not talking….

we S M I L E D.

Here we are

And a square collage of us, with photos from where we were treated and one with our head and neck surgeon.

Thank you so much to Tara for our get together which I am pretty sure won’t be our last.

Thanks always to our team who made sure we got our smiles back!


Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.



  1. I wonder if you can claim you have the most unique smile in Australia… or even the world? 🙂

  2. How lovely to meet up. Although it’s awful to have had cancer, how absolutely amazing that we live in a world where doctors can achieve such recovery and results? We live in good times and there is much to be grateful for in the world of medicine.

    • It was the best! When it’s a cancer like ours, it can feel very lonely and the fact we “met” in reality along with on-line is terrific. We are both going well and incredibly grateful to our shared team!

      Thanks Christine, for your kind words.


  3. oh what an inpsiring post – you are both fabulous women and have gorgeous smiles. How wonderful to be able to meet up with someone who shares your experiences

    • Thanks so much BeckyB.

      We were stoked (as they say in surfer talk!) to find each other on-line thanks to sharing the same surgical team and when we met, last week we had so much chatter to catch up on. So good when you find another person who ‘get it’ and I agree, a perfect way to celebrate all that is BRIGHT!!


  4. Such beautiful smiles…both of you! I am happy you found each other. I am also grateful for modern medicine and science and those people who dedicate themselves to those efforts. Keep on smiling!

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thank you Christie. I am so happy we found each other too. Knowing of someone who ‘gets it’ as I do, is very helpful…and she lives literally less than 30 minutes from me now.

      Medical research into better ways to help people is so worth the money when you see outcomes such as ours. We are both very grateful.


  5. Denyse, you are both walking miracles. You both have amazing smiles that look so natural and beautiful. Thank you for sharing this bright picture. I’m in awe of your surgeon.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thank you so much Marsha. We are both walking and TALKING women too…lol. I know my great fear when I woke from my first reconstruction surgery was that I may have needed a tracheostomy and could not talk..but NO…so glad, I could in my restricted way then, TALK!! Very grateful indeed.

      Our surgeon is a fantastic man who shares his skills as a teacher of many and who learned from one of the pioneers of head and neck surgery in Australia – Prof Chris O’Brien – who sadly died in 2009. His name and vision for cancer patients lives on in the name of the purpose built cancer care hospital where we were both treated: Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.


  6. Oh how fabulous you got to meet in real life!!

  7. Sweet post. So good you got your smile back.

    • Thank you Deborah. You do not realise how much you miss it when it’s taken away! We are both so glad to be smiling again.


  8. Denyse, You and Tara both have bright smiles. What the surgeon(s) did and how you two met up are amazing. Thank you for sharing. #WeekendCoffeeShare

    • Thanks so much Natalie. Yes, we share the same Professor who is our head and neck surgeon but of course he has an amazing team around him. One in particular is his nurse clinical and surgical assistant, Cate. She has a story to tell in my 2021 series for Women of Courage.


  9. Denyse, what an amazing story!

  10. Cool that you and Tara could share well earned smiles together! And what great smiles they are 🙂

  11. I love your unique smile Denyse and I’m so pleased you met up with Tara, what a fabulous catch up that would have been! Meeting other likeminded bloggers is always a special treat and when you both share something as you do, it must be even more special!! I’m so happy I’m smiling too 🙂

    Loving your squares xx

  12. I got goosebumps on reading your story. It is quite a story and your meeting with Tara put a smile on my face. It made my day, thank you 🙂

  13. Beautiful story to go with the beautiful smile.