Wednesday 26th January 2022

Cancer: Patients, Family & Carers.#ShareYourSnaps #6. 30/51 #LifeThisWeek. 91/2021.

Cancer: Patients, Family & Carers.#ShareYourSnaps #6. 30/51 #LifeThisWeek. 91/2021.

Cancer does not have a timeline.

It can just appear.

Often times there is NO reason nor cause.

Many who have been diagnosed with a cancer with known risk factors but none apply to them, will be puzzled.

I am one of those but I have also learned to let go…because as my wise husband says “in the overall scheme of things, does that matter or help?”.

This month, on the blog I am focussing on cancer: head and neck cancer, because it is the one I know best.

I WAS excited to announce a community-held event as a fund raiser for Soup For The Soul at my local cafe but, nothing can happen so, I changed to a VIRTUAL Soup For The Soul Fundraiser and this is my POST where there is a LINK directly for donations. Thank you in advance! 

It also is the month when World Head and Neck Cancer Day is held: 27 July.

This year, because of Covid Restrictions a lot of what we took for granted in getting our messages out there to the community have changed. But my blog is still here.

Sadly not much is happening fact to face right now, and I post this image when we were very hopeful we would be able to take the head and neck cancer message to Canberra. But again, that has been postponed.

This Sharing of My Snaps is About a Number of Subjects.

See below for blog disclaimer. 

Cancer Help.

There is, in Australia, a Government website here . 

Of particular interest to me is to find and share more of the cancer I have. Try it if you need to find out more.

Head and neck cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the head or neck grow in an uncontrolled way. These cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the inside of the mouth, nose and throat.

Head and neck cancer is 1 of the 10 most common cancers in both men and women in Australia. I have heard it is rare. However now I realise it is not well-known at all. Perhaps my descriptor needs to change.

What are head and neck cancers?

Head and neck cancers occur inside the sinuses, nose, mouth and salivary glands down through the throat. Although these cancers are different, they are treated similarly, so are considered as a group.

It is estimated that there will be 4414 cases of head and neck cancers diagnosed in Australia in 2021. These figures include cancers of the tongue, gum, mouth, salivary glands, tonsils, pharynx, nasal cavity and larynx, but not cancers of the lip.

The five year survival rate is approximately 64.7%.



Cancer Council has sites throughout Australia too.  Ours in New South Wales is found here. I have booklets from my local Cancer Council shop at Erina Fair to help me and anyone else with a cancer. These books are free and I highly recommend them.

There is the second volume of which is a series of stories co-ordinated by The Swallows on Facebook : found here.

The Swallows: Booklet

Other information about head and neck cancer found here too:

Julie McCrossin AM, Australian Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia has copies. Tell me in the comments if you would like one.

Beyond Five. 2018. Now HANCA. Julie McCrossin AM holding a radiation mask. Nadia Rosin CEO & Me.

Marty Doyle, fellow Head and Neck Cancer Australia Ambassador, also wrote this book about his experience with head and neck cancer. He is going well some 17 years post his diagnosis.

I also bought a compilation of cancer stories directly from the author as I wanted to read more stories of others’ going well post-cancer. And I include some other books which have helped me.

Now…some more information can be found here at Head and Neck Cancer Australia (formerly Beyond Five) where I am an Ambassador.

I have taken part in a video series on nutrition, shared my head and neck cancer story on this site, and that of Chris O’Brien Lifehouse where I had my surgeries.

For more information about the special aspects of treatment for those with any cancer, go here to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. This is in Sydney and is a private hospital specialising in comprehensive cancer care. That is, all under one roof as was the vision of the late Professor Chris O’Brien AO. His daughter, Juliette O’Brien was a recent Woman of Courage. 

And now to this information and more from me, about cancer progress and living with the results of head and neck cancer. My posts are here. 


The book I am reviewing. Written by a Psychologist from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Review is coming soon.

This story: The Big Hug Box.

I have written about my connections with Lisa Greissl who founded the Big Hug Box in 2018. She too, was a patient at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and in recovery wanted to do something to both help cancer research (hers was a very rare cancer) and to give back something to those who saved her life. She knew, in recovery, a BIG hug was always appreciated but not everyone can give or get one in person as they recover from or go through cancer. Find the Big Hug Box here.

Lisa’s idea has moved forward and there is much happening locally in the Newcastle region of N.S.W. Companies raise funds to share Random Hugs of Kindness boxes to Cancer Centres in some states and cities. The latest news is found here. I got to know Lisa personally when I offered to make bookmarks for inclusion in the early versions of The Big Hug Box. I must have donated over 400. I also saw someone I know who received a Big Hug Box and she saw that she knew who made the bookmarks! Lisa has also shared her story as a Woman of Courage.

Whilst this is a much more wordy post for a Share Your Snaps, I wanted to give the space to what has helped me in terms of cancer so that readers and bloggers here may have better ideas and reference points.

This is an Australian based blog and all of my links are to places within Australia, other than The Swallows in the United Kingdom.

There are many places and site for help in the U.S.A. where Oral Cancer is often mentioned separately to head and neck cancer. World wide, the associations and professional bodies relating to all cancers do all they can to improve outcomes for patients.

And, I share my story learning to eat again here: from Head & Neck Cancer Australia. Made February 2020 just before Covid shut things down.

Thank you for reading and commenting.


Blog Disclaimer:

My stories and photos along with suggested links and websites must not be seen as medical advice.

I write this blog from my experience as a head and neck cancer patient.  Denyse Whelan. 2021.

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  1. Hi Denyse, I love how you’re spreading the word and education on Head and Neck Cancer and I really enjoyed watching the video of you talking about the effects of post surgery on your eating etc. You’re lovely bright smiling personality is such a joy! I hope you have a wonderful week. xo

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks so much Min. I know that when I raised Head and Neck cancer awareness I also remember those who have not done well and those like your dear friend who is no longer here.

      I am glad you found my little vid of interest. I was pleased, as you daughter would understand, to do it as a ONE take!!


  2. Look at you on TV! Great interview and I love how you found positives that had creeped into other aspects of your life as a result (and glad you got to have a go at enjoying the Christmas dinner!). I also like this idea of donating a box of hugs of kindness. Will do that. Good post. #Lifethisweek

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thank you so much.

      I was initially reluctant to be part of the videos but only because I had (still) some incorrect thinking about me and eating post HNC. Turns out I was asked to do this for a reason and yes, I am proud that I took part. I had a little help at the beginning of answering questions I was asked off camera because I came in too fast. Once we worked out, the sound guy counted 1,2 with his fingers, then I responded.

      One take too. Very pleased I did that.

      I recommend those Hug Boxes very much. Non-profit – all proceeds after costs got directly to cancer research here in Australia. A great gift to send when you are not sure “what to do or say” to someone with cancer.


  3. I can imagine how easy it would be to look for a reason, but as you say, sometimes there is no reason. Wishing you a fabulous week and keep spreading the word.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      So true Jo. Once I accepted that I was right. I don’t mind my cancer and me being “rare of rare” now!

      Thanks for your good wishes.


  4. I’m m pleased you’ve been able to move on for finding a reason Denyse. It would be difficult not to dwell on that. I watched you’re video. You spoke so well and I loved hearing your positivity

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thank you so much Jennifer. I believe now that there is no point looking back (for anything really) and to move forward I did accept I had done nothing wrong.

      It did, however, to take me a while to accept that maybe I could have asked my dentist to do something more drastic earlier than April 2017 but I was not in an emotionally good space so it all unfolded as it did.

      I am glad you enjoyed my video. On waking in ICU after my first surgery all I wanted to know was that I could speak…and as my husband would say. and I have not stopped much since.


  5. Well done sharing info on HNC and your positivity, Denyse. Wishing you a fantastic week and keep smiling.

  6. Such a fabulous ambassador for HNC, Denyse. You are tireless in your efforts to spread the word which I greatly admire. Take care, despite COVID lockdown you are strong and will get through it all. Thanks for #lifethisweek

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thank you for your kind words and care, Sue.

      You have been a great supporter from the start of this cancer thing of mine and I greatly appreciate having you here.


  7. Thanks for all this useful information Denyse, and what a great lot of photos to share for this week’s #lifethisweek
    Well done on spreading the word and for sharing your story, along with many others. I take my hat off to you 🙂

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks so much Debbie.

      Teacher me still rules, hey!

      Education is key and sharing like this helps others too, over time. I never know who or what, but maybe one day, someone will think about some of the content I share if they are noticing something of change in their head/neck area and perhaps seek out help because they learned about it here.

      I appreciate your generous and on-going support.


  8. You are fabulous Denyse. You are helping so many people with your advocacy. Well done. I did not realise that these types of cancers were so common. Scary indeed.
    I am due MRI scans soon and that is always a worry, especially since the stress of my husband passing away.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Oh Jody, I do what I can and always remembering that I have, in many ways, had a pretty good run with my cancer.

      You on the other hand, have been dealt a seriously nasty bag of outcomes. I am so sorry you have to face this MRI without your husband’s care and support.

      Tough time for you, tough time.

      Holding space for you.


  9. You’re such a great advocate for Head and Neck Cancer, Denyse. Sharing your stories and those of others inspires, helps and educates others. I especially loved the interview and finding out more about your story – you’re a natural in front of the camera!

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thank you Sammie. Remember I did start what I did on the blog modelled on your initiative when you were found to have thyroid cancer (twice for good measure). So I am indebted to you too on that one.

      I am a teacher at heart and want to share so it’s a pretty natural fit for me.

      I remember too as I do this work for Head and Neck Cancer Australia that not everyone has a good outcome. Those people are friends and I have some sad moments reflecting on their conditions because they are in palliative stage of life.


  10. Hi Denyse, I love how you’ve turned a terrible experience into something so positive and that you’re always looking to help others through the journey. Really enjoyed seeing you on the video and hearing you (and seeing you in motion!) It’s been such a big part of your life in the last few years and so wonderful to see you back and kicking it to the kerb!

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks so much Leanne for your kind and supportive words.

      Oh, yes, You not only heard me, you saw me in action..I had forgotten that bit…that is the cafe at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and I am hoping, once Covid is done..safely, that it will be a place where I can finally have a coffee again and meet the late Prof Chris O’Brien’s daughter Juliette for a chat. She was a woman of courage recently. Now, she is 24/7 on twitter using her data journo skills to map covid…

      Clever woman and one who is a lot like her Dad – even though I did not have the privilege of meeting him.

      You too, like many regulars here, have been so supportive of me since my HNC diagnosis and it’s great knowing I have that.


  11. I don’t know why but virtual soup made me giggle. Ben has a similar sized file at our local hospital too 🙂

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Messy Virtual soup hey! I hear you Vanessa.

      “That” folder” was only from one surgery…there were 3 more. Yes, hospitals still have a paper work base and I understand why.

      Hope Ben is doing OK and you too, are on your way slowly to recovery…


  12. Well done you for spreading the word and educating others, and finding the smiles. And a TV star to boot!! Always good to look for the positives. Have a great week.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks so much Christine.

      I was initially reluctant to do the video and it was my inner not so nice person telling me lies. Once I had established that, on I went and I did enjoy it.

      However, like all things media wise, it was a long day on in-between moments waiting for my turn. I also had a drive of 2 hours to and fro. So glad though we got it done before Covid restrictions stopped anything like that just 2 weeks later.


  13. I’am sure the awareness you spread will help many. It’s so nice to read your positive blog posts every Monday morning. So inspiring!

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Oh thank you kindly Shiju.

      I hope life is treating you and your family well in this nasty time of covid.


  14. We do always seem to ask the why questions don’t we; why me? why now? why did this happen? etc. but your husband is right that those questions rarely help.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks so much Joanne. Yes I have learned a lot of what it means to let go of what cannot be re-done or reasons to be found.

      Husband being right…he will love that you said that!!


  15. Hi Denyse,
    What an interesting post, as you always have. I love statistics and information. I’m glad that head and neck cancer is 64% treatable. It is such a drastic place to have cancer. I’m still sad that a friend of our opted not to have any surgery when I see how successful your was. Did you still have a palate? You talk about your teeth and lip being removed, but not having a palate would be a major handicap as well. Thanks for sharing your story. I have shared Cee Neuner and my newest photo challenge, Photographing Public Art Challenge. It’s a lot of fun and great way to showcase local art or art you see as you travel. Art is so unique to each area. So have a great week, and thanks again for the opportunity to share my snaps. 🙂

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks for sharing and so much of interest there for me to respond, Marsha.

      Oh I sometimes don’t explain the full story these days as I have shared in in posts from back then.

      However, yes, I had ALL of my upper mouth removed.

      The palate,
      all remaining teeth
      the jaw
      the gums of course
      and part of under top lip.

      Of course what happened then? They (there were two surgical teams for this huge surgery of 11 hours using two theatres…Oh and a lot of planning and prep went into this beforehand, over 7 weeks, including measurements of my smile and inside my mouth AND finding out which of my LEGS could provide my “new jaw” and palate and gums….

      The right leg was harvested. Part of the side of my right leg, with best vein possible attached to the flesh and skin and that become stitched into my mouth via access on side of my neck, and the fibula, was cut in 3 places, and abutments placed along it (drilled in) for my eventual prosthesis of teeth and some skin from the leg formed part of my new lip.

      I was so fortunate in my being sent to the best reconstructive head and neck surgeon at the best cancer hospital and all of my body did the rest. Healing and all that.

      I had 3 subsequent surgeries – 2-3 hours and day surgery, to allow the mouth the settle more to be able to attach my fake teeth that would form the upper prosthesis. That took 14 months.

      So, yes, been through a lot but for all the best outcomes I am so grateful. I am sorry about your friend.