Sunday 26th June 2022

But It IS Still About Cancer. 2018.103.

But It IS Still About Cancer. 2018.103.

Since spending much of last Tuesday, 2nd October, at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse (my cancer hospital) in Sydney, I have been affected by the fact that the reason I am in need of regular visits is because I have cancer. Specifically a Head and Neck cancer that was removed from my maxilla and upper lip named:

“Hybrid squamous cell carcinoma showing features of both verrucous squamous cell carcinoma & conventional squamous cell carcinoma”

On Tuesday I got a copy of the Histopathology report from 6 July 2017 surgery. It was ‘less confronting’ to read from this distance of time but it did have words in it I found hard to read.

With no risks per se, other than age, it seems my cancer took hold. I reckon it was there for many months before it was discovered after having my bridge/teeth removed when the gums were so sore and growing over the teeth (my request to do so in January 2017 was not heeded until April 2017). Diagnosis came in mid May 2017.

Why am I writing this now?

Because after all the surgeries (4 in less than one year), and many, many visits back to Westmead for my prosthodontist to make my mouth ready to accept the upper prosthesis of teeth, I thought I was almost done.

I am not.

Cancer is and will always ‘be there’ and in fact, my Professor and lovely Cate, reminded me “It IS about cancer” and that is why I come back for check ups and need to be vigilant myself about any changes.

My day of catching up, meeting people and doing my trip to Sydney independently was wonderful and I am so grateful that all of these people care about me and helping others with cancer. But it came home, forcefully, and is affecting me today with some sadness;

Cancer is always there. I had let it hide for a while behind everything else I was doing. I appreciate you reading this far! It is important, always, once I have something impact me as this has, that I share.

My husband is a wonderful person I can chat with always and I saw my GP to update him as a de-brief.

But before I go on, I had a TREMENDOUS day on Tuesday, noteworthy too because it was the first time I had driven myself to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Asking Others For Their Thoughts.

I asked around  facebook friends who I know are through the active stage of treatments for their thoughts and some kindly replied with these words.

From S.:

“I’m past the ‘active’ part of my treatment, I’ve had surgery and radiation. Now I take a once a day tablet to prevent recurrence and I got 12 months all clear. But some days I feel just awful with fatigue and other side effects. I spend whole afternoons sleeping on the couch. I don’t feel like myself and it’s really hard when people say ‘oh you must be back to normal now’. I’m not back to normal and I don’t know if I ever will be. The weight of expectation (my own and others) feels so heavy and overwhelming sometimes. Depression, anxiety and feeling down even though you survived cancer feels inevitable and like I am lacking gratitude for my recovery. I’m not, it’s just hard”

From V.:

For me post cancer treatment is a mixed bag. I’m so grateful for my recovery but the fear and uncertainty for the future is still there. It’s a monkey on your back forever and you have to find a way to live with that monkey. The monkey is very loud and cheeky at times. Other times I give my monkey a time out and she sulks in the corner. At my recent follow up appointment I sat in a waiting room full of women ( I had early stage breast cancer).   They all had that haunted ‘how in the hell did I end up here’ look on their face and you just bravely smile at each other without any need for words.

From S.:

It’s my cancerversary on Tuesday so I’ll be blogging about it too! I don’t think the cancer shadow ever goes away but I try not to let the worry of it steal my joy of today.

From M:

 The elation of hearing the words “all clear” faded more quickly than I imagined and in its place was anxiety. Having been so closely under the microscope for so long,  I felt anxious that the cancer might return and it wouldn’t be spotted. Over time, this does ease and I look forward to my six-monthly check ups for continued reassurance that all is ok.

From M in N.Z.:

It’s normal to have a slump in mood after treatment ends. I availed myself of the Cancer Society psychologists who are trained to help us deal with the transition from treatment to the new normal.

I also went to the NSW Cancer Council website and found this article about ‘after the cancer treatment stage’.

Can cancer be a positive experience?

  • Many people find there are positive aspects to having cancer. Some even refer to the disease as a life-changing experience.
  • Cancer may cause you to re-examine your life choices, and may motivate you to travel, take up new activities or make lifestyle changes (e.g. starting exercise or quitting smoking). This shift is often gradual, as even positive change can take getting used to.
  • After treatment, some people want to help improve the cancer experience for others through advocacy or volunteer work.


New friend to me, and known to many is journalist and M.C.  Julie McCrossin, who is now 5 years down the track from her Head and Neck cancer diagnosis and she sent me here, to her podcasts for the Cancer Council, and this one of fear I listened to again.

Liverpool Hospital Head and Neck Patient Support Group listening to Dr Ben Smith, Ingham Institute on cancer recurrence anxiety. Learn more about managing anxiety. Listen to The Thing About Cancer Managing Fear podcast… @beyondfiveorg @CCNewSouthWales

Julie said “I find the fear catches me unawares, like on my recent birthday”

Thank you friends for sharing.

So, I am not unique.

Always good to know.

And I can share my worries and fears with others who ‘get it’.

Having cancer never really ends, but I am always grateful for the friendships and new experiences I am having as a result of cancer.

Thank you one and all.


Joining with Kylie for I Blog on Tuesdays here and with Sue and Leanne here on Wednesdays.




  1. I totally get how you’re feeling. I think you’re right, cancer never ends. Even though I’m healthy I know I’m only as good as my next set of test results but the flip side of that is that I appreciate every single day and try to live in the moment. Although annual appointments and check ups cause some anxiety, they’re also strangely comforting because I know I’m being constantly monitored and in good hands. That podcast is brilliant by the way. I wish it had been around when I was diagnosed.

    • Thanks for your insights and help with this. I think, I am in such a relatively ‘early’ stage of my cancer journey and being somewhat a ‘finisher’ and ‘let’s get this done’ person, the fact that in cancer, there is no “over” or “done”.

      I had been, for sometime, keeping my eye on the so-called prize of new teeth. Yes, that happened and even then they gave me new things to consider especially when I wanted to “eat all of the things I had missed….and then realised that could not keep up”.

      My professor’s comment was what brought me back to reality, and again it’s his voice in my head:
      It’s about cancer”.

      I am getting wiser each time I share because of people like you who help me.


      Denyse x

  2. It has been very inspiring to not only follow your path but watching your amazing growth.

    • Thank you. There “are” days when I think nothing has changed but then I bounce back and realise I have more skills than ‘the old days’ and am doing far better now.

      Denyse x

  3. This is so moving Denyse, I really commend you for sharing your thoughts, and those of others, with us. #mlstl

    • Thank you Debbie. I am just darned glad I blogged way before this and then decided I could write to help me. It has and does.

      In fact, I sometimes refer people from the non-blogging community to the part of my website on the header where I keep my cancer posts so that they can read and maybe get some help too.

      Denyse. x

  4. I’m a survivor of my breast cancer and I often feel guilty that so much effort and money went toward my type of cancer instead of others. Is that weird?

    • No it’s true that there is much, much more put into funding and more for breast cancer here in Australia and I guess maybe other parts of the world.

      The Head and Neck Cancer patients and carers I “know” via on-line groups speak of the fact that even though this cancer group of ours is growing, and it is around 6th on the list of most commonly diagnosed cancers, not much is said about it and there is no funding to ‘spread the word’.

      However, all that aside, it can be tempting, I have found to use comparisons when diagnosed or going through cancer with a partner and I know these are not helpful. But we are human.

      I am glad you are doing well and came here to comment. Thank you!

      Denyse x

  5. Hi, Denyse – I second Debbie’s thoughts. Your words are incredibly moving and your gratitude is inspirational! #MLSTL

    • Thank you Donna, I have to use gratitude pretty often when I become ‘bogged’ down somewhat in the negative. It really does work doesn’t it?

      Denyse x

  6. That was really interesting Denyse, I hadn’t thought about the after effects and mental impact cancer has on survivors. I guess something so huge and traumatic must have ongoing repercussions – both positive and negative – thanks for giving me an little bit of a look behind the scenes.
    MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    • Oh yes, I think in some ways I was not ‘wanting’ to know much about this until it hit me as I describe. I have no idea about anything really as I have no-one I can base my recovery on.

      Thanks for your frank statement. Yes, I am glad to have found this out even though it is hard.

      Those who have some breast cancers and other more well-known cancers may have support groups and others they know via treatment times.

      I know no-one except my professional team who I can talk about my cancer with but there are quite a few people in the Head and Neck Cancer Support groups who share their experiences….but again, I have not (yet) come across one person with the version of head and neck cancer I have.

      It is a lesson in learning how to live with what I can do something about and what I cannot.

      Denyse x

  7. Thanks for sharing and including my thoughts. As much as I hate my monkey I think you’re right, cancer can have positives. I’m more resilient now, and I know you are too.

  8. Thank you for including me lovely and it’s so reassuring to know that I’m not alone in feeling as I do at times x