Sunday 22nd May 2022

Cancer and Me Four Months On. 2017.108.

Cancer and Me Four Months On. 2017.108.

Really? It’s been four months since I found out that cancer was in my mouth….and by this Thursday coming, 11 weeks since it was removed. Oh. Then that has  gone both fast and slow!

I did say I wasn’t going to have cancer at the centre of my blogging but I cannot deny that it’s there/here/everywhere around us. My community nurse who visits each week to change and check on my leg wounds’ dressings has cancer. Hers is breast cancer. I know of on-line friends recently diagnosed too and one, very sadly, who has passed away. And the country was saddened to see the recent death to cancer of Connie Johnson from LoveYourSister.


I don’t use the ‘f’ word in front of it though. Many do with the #f…cancer. It’s just not me.

Today though  I am actually wanting to share the lessons having cancer has taught me. I am not going too ‘woo woo’ or having had a new experience from beyond. But it’s true.

Having cancer has taught me these 10 lessons:

  • I am not alone in getting a rare cancer and a most unusual one like mine …even if I did  know that someone else has had it might make a difference. The point I am making is I am not special”.
  • The surgeons know more about how to fix me than I do so I am better leaving things in their capable hands rather than trying to control where my cancer is taking me.
  • About kindness. Of strangers. Of friends. Of people I may only see a few times. So. Many. Kind. Words & Deeds. I am forever grateful.
  • When I need to be, I can be patient and wait. This is a huge life lesson for the previously still  impatient moi!
  • I have more inner strength and resilience than I have previously given myself credit for. It has made a psychological shift in me that has been noticed by those closest to me and the professionals I see more frequently such as my GP and psychologist. I am going well in so many ways, I can see & feel that now. 
  • To appreciate the little things in life. Sunshine on a day where I can go outside and soak up some vitamin D. A warm bed after an early shower (my husband still needs to help by sealing my right leg in a plastic bag. Time to talk. To my husband and to friends who call.
  • My creativity and independence give me great strength each day as I endeavour to feed myself for healing, wellness and enjoyment. It IS a challenge but now I am on my own two feet and fit to cook, I enjoy making meals for someone (moi!)  who has 8 teeth on the bottom jaw and a strong tongue. The rest…is attitude and being aware of how I can eat safely.
  • I can be calm about what is ahead because I am fortunate enough to be able to know (within a small likelihood) that my cancer is unlikely to metastasise.
  • What I face in the next 6-12 months is to get my mouth ‘fixed’ from the inside. I do trust my surgical and dental team 100% that their goal is for me to be cancer free (check!) and back to eating as I might have in the past (on the way) and to have my full smile back (it is half at the moment).
  • Every day is a gift and I need to be more in the present than I have ever been in my whole life. I am a work-in-progress in this as I often spent times in the past (regrets, sadness) and projecting into the future. I know that the only moment we have is NOW. 

What About You?

None of us have to have cancer to consider making life changes. Some of the last 2 years I had been on my way using daily meditation, creative arts and reading & doing on-line courses to better understand the various life transitions that were mine. Retirement. Ageing. Leaving Family. Selling Our House.

What do you do to help yourself?

Thank you to my readers here who have continued to be wonderful supporters and friends of mine as I continue to journey. I am buoyed by your care and words on-line whenever we connect!


Joining with Kylie Purtell (who is cruising along right now!) for I Blog on Tuesdays here and with Leanne here for Lovin’ Life Linky on Thursdays.




  1. Those are 10 very important lessons you have listed Denyse and ones I will most definitely take on board. Adversity has taught me many lessons. I have been fortunate thus far (touch wood) to have not been diagnosed with cancer in any form. I do hope it stays that way but nothing is guaranteed. I help myself by listening to ME and noticing what makes me uncomfortable, anxious or stressed and what makes me feel calm, happy, content. I try to shape my life so that I can be more of the calm, happy and content and therefore a much nicer person to be around. I’m so glad you’re doing well Denyse. You are such an inspiration to me. xoxo

    • Oh that is so lovely to read about how you are taking your feelings into consideration because, like me of the past, I am guessing everyone else got their needs met first and then you wondered why you were feeling the way you do. I am chuffed that how I am going and what I have been through to date is helpful to you and I am most appreciative of your kind words. Denyse xx

  2. Oh I’m glad to hear you are doing so well Denyse and love every one of those 10 lessons. I agree it is so important to live in the moment of now. I try to help myself by living slowly, meaningfully but it’s a work in progress and easier said than done with young kids who are always go, go, go, go. I try to remind myself that the journey is just as important as the destination. #teamIBOT

    • Very true. The days of grandchild care, part-time teaching and more took their toll on me in my early 60s. I think not doing enough to slow down and care for me (unheard of unless it was indulgences like eating lots of chocolate and cake with coffee) was a barrier to good health. Ironic then that as my physical health improved and my emotional health began to as well that I was diagnosed with cancer. There is no rhyme nor reason for my cancer as I have said. A mystery indeed but it sure has taught me these lessons which is why I decided to write about them today.
      I hope, with school hols where you are, you get some slowing down time!
      Denyse xx

  3. I can relate to so much of this, Denyse! I think all the changes you have made over the last two years, have really held you in good stead – your recovery is quite remarkable and totally inspiring! Onwards and upwards!

    • Ah yes I imagine you can indeed! Thank you too for the kick-start you gave me when I was still in my ‘shock mode’ as to hear another’s story (keeping it real) was very helpful and my confidence took a leap I am sure. Congratulations on your finalist status in BUPA awards. I keep trying to vote but the system on FB seems rubbish. I recall it being like this last year. It will be solved!! Denyse xx

  4. I love this post and thank you for sharing the things you have learnt Denyse! What a way to look at what you were landed with. I have been starting to carve some time out of my busy days just for me, sitting outside and listening to the birds and the kids play while having a cuppa is starting to become my favourite part of the day.

    • It is amazing what we see, hear, smell and feel when we actually stop. I know I became a lot more mindful in the years of caring for grandkids when I allowed myself to do things at their pace and time. It was so good not to feel as hurried or harried as a parent might have.
      Thank you for your kind words Bel. I am helped and buoyed by many in this cancer journey and you are one! Denyse x

  5. I love the beautiful photo of you and your Dad. You both seem so happy in each others company. 4 1/2 months is a long time not to see each other for.


    • Thanks Ingrid. We have had a relationship where I have never felt completely at ease with him but in recent times, he has mellowed and I have accepted what is. He was not up to seeing me as I recovered in hospital (actually at my request I only had my hub come but my daughter wanted to pop in once) and it was too far for him to travel so as soon as I knew I could drive to Sydney safely I did. He actually wrote to me to thank me for the visit and how good it was to see me. Can’t ask for more than that! Denyse x

  6. These are some important lessons to read, and live by – sick or well. Good on you. My daughter and I had the privilege of getting to know and work closely with Connie Johnson over the last few months, and if there’s one thing that we’ve taken from that experience is the importance of the Love Your Sister catchcry – #nowisawesome. Live in the moment, appreciate the now, smell the roses, be kind to yourself and others. Who knows what’s around the corner? All the best with your recovery.

    • Thank you so much for popping in here for the first time and commenting about your knowledge and experience with Connie. It really was not until my own diagnosis that I actually paid much more attention to those who had cancer and it helped give me some insight into what they are their families dealt with. Your words are most encouraging and helpful. Thank you again. Denyse x

  7. Great post Denyse and some of your points really hit home. I find – when I’m challenged by something – I’m actually more resilient and grateful and tend to play the victim less. It makes me appreciate things I guess and realise others have it far worse than me. When things are going swimmingly I tend to feel sorry for myself and only compare myself to those with ‘more’.


    • Yes. That is so true. I like a challenge more than I ever realised. I guess that is something that made me somewhat competitive in my professional role and why, despite some family members’ concern, I accepted the challenge to become principal of a school. My Dad said he ‘never went for the top jobs even though they were on offer’ as he did not want the stress. I knew that the role would be stressful but I asked myself the old question “would I regret NOT doing it on my deathbed?” The answer was yes. I also know, looking back, how much the experience that was moving on from that role to get better actually added to my resilience. Interesting time..interesting to look back and realise where growth has occurred. I actually think you are going to nail this full-time work role even though now it feels a little unsure. You will rise to the occasion for sure!! D xx

  8. Denyse, thank you for sharing the positive aspects of your journey with cancer. Your points have contained much that I can apply to my life right now.

    SSG xxx

    • Thank YOU SSG. Who knew the good that would come about? I had already started my long journey of self-discovery and self-compassion before the cancer diagnosis so maybe in some ways the pre-work helped. I do know I feel proud of how things have gone for me. Supporters such as yourself are part of my team helping me see the good too! Denyse x

  9. Lovely post. Your attitude is amazing, and thank you for sharing about your experience so honestly. You are often in my thoughts x

  10. They say the tough times build character Denyse and (as much as we’d prefer to avoid them) there is a lot of truth in this. They also build our resilience and our compassion and our gratitude for the life we’ve been given. I’m so glad you can still find the positives after all you’ve been through – it has been inspirational following your very honest journey through this rough patch.

    • Yes I know it is said. The other part I have learned is that even though we might avoid or push away what it not pleasant or pleasing to us it will always come back. I have taken many lessons from this year (even before cancer!) and know that I am stronger for using them to help me. Thank you Leanne! Denyse xx

  11. What a great post Denyse, to find so many positive aspects to cancer. So glad that you are getting your independence back, it must be liberating. Hard lessons to learn during such a tough time, you must feel proud of the way you are coping.

    • Thanks Kooky Chic I am proud of how I am managing and it is helping me with whatever is ahead. Independence can never be over-rated!! D xx

  12. It’s amazing how that inner strength rises up when we are challenged and need to get through the difficult times in our lives. These are often the times when we learn so much about ourselves & sadly we do need to go through the hard stuff sometimes to build our resilience. Thank you for sharing your cancer journey Denyse, you are an amazing woman and an inspiration to us all & your post has been a reminder to me that I need to slow things down again and make time to smell the roses everyday.

    • Thanks so much Jenni. Those words are very kind. I have had many challenges in adjusting to my ‘new life’ over the past few years and dealing with cancer, funnily enough, has been helped by what I have already experienced and overcome. I think too, knowing (as best as they can) that my cancer has gone) has helped me even though I face more surgeries and all that brings. Denyse xx

  13. Thinking of you on your journey, Denyse, and wishing you all the best for continued recovery!

  14. I can’t believe it’s been 4 months. Important lessons, but none are more important than the work you’ve been doing on yourself in the years before the diagnosis. That’s the real lesson here …

    • YEP. Nailed it. I was such a work-in-progress for most of that time, but learner me just had to find out best ways to help. My husband’s constant care, encouragement and challenging when I was at my emotional worst (before cancer!) helped me figure what I had to so to help myself. His knowledge from his personal life and counselling training and study for his degree all added to mine. However, there were times I would say “I want you to not be my counsellor” LOL.
      Thanks Jo, that is very perceptive of you and as I have written about it enough, it’s always been a good place to share my progress.
      I am actually feeling very well …more independence as the wounds no longer need dressing and I can shower independently but in just over 2 weeks time we are back to Sydney to hear ‘what’s next.’ I will be dealing with that OK. D xx

  15. As teachers we tend to control. But life doesn’t let us control it. We’re here for some bump rides at times.
    Lovely words Denyse. Yes, it’s true we need to take time/make time otherwise life tends to be too fast as we wave it good-bye.
    On Sunday, I’m seeing a friend who is having a double mastectomy Monday. My son is coming because she’d like to see him again. She’d like to have brekkie near the water. Her and her daughter have organised a spot. I’ll take photos and later we’ll write about it and iMessage it back and forth. We’ll reminisce, laugh and reminisce again. I may not be close, but technology today allows us to be close.
    You continue to take care and inspire others. Hugs Mxox

    • Oh Maria that is a lovely story and I wish your friend well. I also hope you continue to do well! Teacher me…when I was in hospital I used to chat (as much as you can with a busy nursing staff!) to each nurse as I met them and ask if this was a vocation that they had always wanted to do. Almost without exception it was. The one who told me, honestly, she would rather be doing fashion designing got well and truly off side with me. Not for that!! She decided she knew a better way to have my meds put in my drip in a way no other nurse till then had used and as a result, the line leaked the liquid food over me and the bed. She dashed off….I waited..a bit wet…and she never returned. Reluctantly I did tell the NUM what had happened the next day. The nurse at shift changeover was fab and he righted things straight away!! Warm wishes, always. Denyse x

  16. Great post. Yep – It’s our challenges that make us bigger, stronger and braver in the end.

  17. I so agree with your cancer lessons Denyse.
    I have unfortunately only just found out that my breast cancer has metastasised and I am back in treatment now. Feeling unwell as they attack it all but like you, I trust in my medical team in the way cancer makes you do. I am in great hands, as you are. X

    • Oh bugger that news. I am so sorry that cancer has found its way elsewhere. You are one heck of a fighter so along with your medical team I am right behind you! Barracking for success as you go. I have another friend on-line who is just finishing her chemo from metastatic breast cancer and whilst it has been a rough time, she too is optimistic and is in the best hands as she goes along.

      Dear Jody, I just hope and want everything to go as well as it can and for you not to suffer too much along the way. Loving and healing thoughts sent your way. Denyse xx