Thursday 30th June 2022

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


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.


Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.



  1. We have a wonderful family dentist that my boys and I have been seeing for (their whole lives) but me about 20 years now and they feel like family. I was actually a PTO mom with the wife of our husband/wife team and they make us feel so at home. But I know that they are nearing retirement age and each trip (every 6 months or so) I feel just a bit sadder knowing that they won’t always be there for us. My boys used to get so excited to go to the dentist and even having had some work done they are often eager to get their teeth cleaned and checked out and I am so very thankful for that and to them both for making my boys feel so cared for.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      That is such a lovely relationship you have with your dentist and family. Yes, that is quite a thing knowing a loved and respected health practitioner will eventually retire. I loved reading your history here Joanne, thank you so much for sharing.

      The thing about being ‘older’ than all our medical and other health professionals is that they stick around longer…funny that we are now the ‘retired people’ and those caring for us are, in many cases, around our adult kids’ ages!!


  2. Denyse, I’m so glad you shared this. So great to see you on Natalie’s link. I shared right after you! Your dentist looks so young and adorable. How perfect that he was able to help you. What a difference three years made. I’m so glad you found a fix for your IBS. I can identify with that on a small basis. Both my father and his mother died of colon cancer, so I have regular check-ups. I missed my last one because my doctor retired and didn’t tell anyone, and I was unable to get a new doctor before we left California. One of the first items of business when I moved was to find a new digestive specialist for a routine check-up because I was unable to take my cancer medicines because of digestive problems. Long story short, my new doctor in Scottsdale, Dr. Harris, is amazing, and I am now able to take the required cancer-preventing medicine without the dreadful side-effects.

    • Oh phew for that outcome Marsha. We need good GPs and those who ‘get our various’ ailments and contraindications as we age.

      We are so very glad, after moving away from Sydney, to have found a group of health professionals who understand our needs and care for us well.

      My head and neck surgeries, check ups and visits to the prosthodontist all happen 2 hours away in Sydney …but I have them far less frequently now I am almost at 4 years AND I enjoy solo driving my car and listening to audio books.

      Have a great weekend,

      PS I know you are checking things out on my blog: at the top of the page there are sections to click through and there a pages for Women of Courage and Head & Neck Cancer along with my memoir Telling My Story, so you can click through to any of the posts in those sections. D x

  3. You showed so much courage as you faced your dental visits, diagnosis, and treatment. It is so good that your dentist and doctors supported you with the anxiety and IBS.

    • Deborah thank you so much for your kind words. I am now following your blog and I saw the acacia trees. I lived in Acacia Ave as a child and in Australia they are a form of wattle trees, with all that yellow ‘fluff’ and cause havoc too for allergy sufferers at the end of winter here in Australia.


  4. Denyse, It’s so wonderful that you have your husband and the health care professionals to support you. You’ve overcome many challenges. Keep smiling. I’ve had the same dentist and dental hygenist for many years because they’re so great. Thank you for sharing #WeekendCoffeeShare

    • Yes indeed Natalie, my husband is ace and we are both very grateful for the support of each other in times like these.

      I love this ‘new to me’ dentist even though I have been seeing him for 4 years because we can joke and chat and talk about his little girls. Secretly too, I think he believes I am very courageous to have come through all this as he saw me ‘at my worst’ in terms of stress and anxiety.

      Hope your weekend is a good one. Thanks for your link up.


  5. I wrote recently about a trip to the dentist so you know how I feel about them! You really are a courageous woman Denyse, going through all of those things and dealing with it all in your won way. You did have a great support team but ultimately it’s up to you and you did it. I agree telling the dentist of your anxiety is importnat and very helpful. #weekendcoffeeshare

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thank you so much Debbie. It was a such a marker of change for me to achieve this, as a result of what I had learned and whilst it was a rocky experience on the day, I got through it.

      It sure is my policy these days to let practitioners know how I am going. Far better for me to have it out there & they can demonstrate understanding.

      I had to share my IBS issues a lot of the times of my visits to Westmead and at times, would ask to stop so I could go to the loo, and my prosthodontist would always be kind even telling me he knew what it was like as he used to have it too.

      Sharing is a way of connecting us without feeling ashamed or that we have to hide…

      I hope your weekend went well. I imagine it would have been very cold though!

  6. Thank you for sharing the symptoms of head and neck cancer, and for sharing your story. I can only imagine how frightened you were, but also brave enough to act. Blessings, Michele

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thank you so much Michele, the educator in me has to share! Yes, I was frightened but with a diagnosis I was also informed and empowered. It was the before- stuff that was hard! Not knowing.