Tuesday 28th June 2022

I Have Cancer. 2017.72.

I Have Cancer. 2017.72.

Some news I need to share and it’s not great. I have cancer. I remember people telling me I had a nice smile.

It’s bye-bye smile for a while

My dentist has been treating me for some small overgrowth of the front top  teeth since January 2017.  It has grown. More than ever.

Over time it was my choice to eradicate the gum overgrowth by having  my front 6 teeth and  bridge removed, replaced by a temporary denture,  and

the hope was the gums which were irritated would settle. Some 5 weeks later they had not. When I saw him on Thursday 11 May, we agreed I needed a biopsy of the gums. Fortunately the oral surgeon, next door, could fit me in the next day. I also had CT scans and x-rays of my mouth as my GP was getting concerned. The CT scans and X-rays were fine.

On Friday 12th May I had a biopsy and  the good news from the pathology on the following Monday 15th May was unfortunately premature as on Wednesday  17th May I was called by the oral surgeon to say that the top gums where the overgrowth lies are cancerous with squamous cancer cells.

To say it was a shock was an understatement and I am still a little bit that way. I was alone at home but after a quick phone call to my husband counselling at Lifeline meant  he was home within the hour.

The oral surgeon was fantastic because she rushed a referral to the Lifehouse in Sydney, where the specialist head and neck clinic is, and that afternoon the practice manager rang to say I could see Associate Professor  Aradalan Ebrahimi at 3 p.m. in Sydney Thursday 18th May at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Camperdown Sydney. My original referral was for Professor  Jonathan Clark but as the two doctors work together I was fine with that.



It might sound weird but I have had huge issues with worrying about travelling distances in the car on the M1  because of IBS. I was stressed anyway, let alone having IBS come along at any time. But, with some kind words from our local and new GP about ‘take the valium, take the immodium, you will be ok’ I was. My lovely husband drove and stopped at any toilet where we could find one. I was one nervous lady. We got to Sydney (haven’t been for over 2 years!) within 2 hours, found a park under the Lifehouse…and waited only 10 minutes. We left home at 12.30 pm and were back by 7.30 pm. That day the Motorway played nice. Thanks M1. Back to the story. 

A/Prof Ebrahimi was incredibly kind and professional and we are all on first name terms. Mind you he is around our daughter’s age. I had a full exam of the mouth, a light on a cable went down through the nose to my throat and I had a  physical examination of the neck and lymph glands. It is hoped that the cancer is all in the one place. The top gums at the front and there is some spread inside my top lip. Sigh.

As he started to explain what would be involved in the 10-12 hours surgery,  in my mouth where they will take the tissue out and  surrounding areas. I became more and more overwhelmed. There was this too: they will be replacing the inner part of my palate, my jaw at the top and gums with skin/muscle tissue and bone from my left leg. The bone will have implants put in for future teeth to be added. As  I was told that I had quite a melt down at the thought of the hours ‘under the anaesthetic’ most of all…and that is meant this was a BIG operation.

The associate A/Professor kindly gave me a few minutes to go for a little walk with my husband and check out the view from the building’s windows overlooking Sydney Uni, then I was calmed with the help of a half valium before moving on to the details of the surgery itself. By this stage, his ‘boss’, Professor Jonathan Clark came in and together they came up with more details of the plan for the operation.

Mouth (oral cavity) My Cancer area. 

The mouth includes the lips, gums and tongue. The tongue is the largest organ in the mouth and is made of muscular tissue.
The roof of the mouth is formed by the hard palate. Behind the hard palate is the soft palate, which is an arch of muscle behind the hard palate, going into the throat. The soft palate lifts to close off the passageways to the nose so food does not go through the nose on swallowing.  Source:Lifehouse.


Prof Jonathan Clarke. http://www.mylifehouse.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Jonathan-Clark-e1461566255963.png

However, the thoughts are as of now – before I have further CT scans to rule out anything unseen by my previous clear CT of my sinuses – that there is no spread but that recovery from this will mean 10-14 days in hospital. I will have ‘two’ areas in my body to recover from: my left leg and my mouth. I may be in intensive care for a while too.

About the Head and Neck Service

The Head and Neck Service at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse brings together over 40 highly skilled medical and allied health professionals including surgeons, radiation and medical oncologists, dental specialists, speech therapists, specialist nurses and dieticians, along with research scientists and data managers.
The Service has a national and international reputation for excellence. More than 450 new patients (200 with cancer) are seen annually and the computerised database of the department is the largest in Australasia.
The Sydney Head and Neck Cancer Institute (SHNCI), founded in 2002 by the late Professor Christopher O’Brien AO to provide comprehensive, state-of-the-art treatment to patients with cancers and diseases of the head and neck, is also an important part of the Head and Neck Service providing funding for two head and neck clinical fellows each year. Source: Lifehouse

After telling our close family, I reached out to share my news with some lovely on-line and IRL friends. Their support was amazing. Now I am making it public here, on Facebook and Twitter because I need the love and support to surround me as I go into something I had not predicted. Ever. Yet, so many of us affected by cancer. I have not once thought ‘why me?’ more like ‘why not me?’

I have the best people in the profession looking after me at the Lifehouse in the Head and Neck Clinic started by the wonderful, but late, Professor Dr Chris O’Brien. He became one of the ‘stars’ of the TV  show RPA (Royal Prince Alfred Hospital).  The Lifehouse built in his name is part of RPA and accepts both public and private patients. I am being treated as a private patient. Professor Clark was trained by Chris O’Brien in this speciality of Head and  Neck Surgery. Chris O’Brien’s vision was that he always wanted cancer patients to be in one place and this is it.

Professor Dr Chris O’Brien. http://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=zJK%2btLzW&id=BC8CED97E14A6AD24D66DE0C67BD5E7B467E25AB&thid=OIP.zJK-tLzW3gePAyHJjObiDAEnEs&q=lifehouse+chris+o%27brien&simid=608053618380309990&selectedIndex=21&ajaxhist=0


My operation will be there, I stay there and have my tests and any follow-treatment there too. Mind you  we don’t live in Sydney anymore and  it’s 2 hours from here but that is the price we pay for living in regional NSW.

Tomorrow we will travel to Westmead (Sydney) Dental Clinic where the specialist in oral reconstruction will examine my mouth for the first time to come up with a ‘template’ for reconstruction. I will have a further visit to him for a final measurement, and a big series of CT scans prior to the team involved in my surgery coming together and then sending the details overseas where a software program will plan my surgery. Apparently there will be two teams working in conjunction  with me. No, we haven’t asked for a quote (yet) but we do have top private health insurance and we have asked for a discount where possible as we are on a relatively low income as part-pensioners.

All good vibes, thoughts, prayers and wishes are accepted with appreciation!

Thank you.


Joining with my friends who blog on Tuesday here with Kylie Purtell.

Already lots of  love comes from here…the Lovin’ Life linky with Leanne and friends.




  1. Much love to you Denyse. It sounds like you have amazing doctors working with you & who will take the best care of you.

    • Thank you Vanessa, my husband and I were impressed with the doctors and I am going to be treated in one of the best places. D xx

  2. Denyse, I read a while ago that oral cancers that haven’t spread have a high success rate of being treated. I feel sure this will be the case for you! The surgery sounds full-on but isn’t it amazing what they can do for us these days? Sending you all the good vibes. I imagine it’s terribly scary but I’m glad you’re getting it treated xxx

    • Thank you so much Amy. So far it does not seem to have spread so ‘fingers crossed’. It is amazing but it sure is scary about the ‘how’ when a bit of my leg is going to be part of my mouth. I was the first one to make the ‘crack’ about ‘foot in mouth’ …but not quite. Denyse xx

  3. Love and support from here too. xxx

  4. Oh Denyse! I’m so sorry you have this to face! What a terrible shock for you and your family. I am in tears. Sending you big warm loving hugs. You can do this, and so many of us in the blogging world will be with you all the way. One day at a time. BIG HUGS for you! xoxo

  5. Sending love. Looks like you are in good hands. Here’s to a swift recovery.

  6. “I have cancer” – that’s my least favourite 3 word combo. I am so sorry to hear about your diagnosis but I’m pleased you’re in such good hands. From my own experience of the big C, I can’t tell you how important it is to have a great medical team behind you, and you’re already on first name terms! It’s also important to have love, support and a cheer squad so I’m pleased you’ve shared the news here and hope you can feel the love. As my mum always says, “winter always turns to spring, it’s the law of the universe.”

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging words and love I can feel all the way through the computer. Your mum is wise….and you, my friend, know exactly how I am right now. Mwah! Denyse xx

  7. Oh gosh Denyse, this is so much for you to process. I have every faith that you will come out of this just dandy, and in the meantime I will sending calming vibes your way. Just know you have a whole virtual support crew cheering you on. xx

    • Ahh, I need those vibes Chantelle, and I will cherish your words too as knowing there are people in my on-line and IRL world sending love and support is so reassuring. I am glad your health challenges have been sorted to some extent too. My heart was in my mouth reading your blog last week.
      Hugs from me .. D xx

  8. I’m so proud of you my darling Grandma! You have such strength and bravery I know that this cancer won’t stand a chance next to you. My love and support will always be with you! Xx

  9. You’d think I would no what to say, having been through breast cancer… I’m utterly shocked and devastated for you. But I also know you will beat this. All you can do is take it one minute at a time and know that we are all thinking of you and cheering you on. I’m so sorry you have to go through this but I’m glad you have support and a treatment plan. Sending all the good vibes and thoughts.

    • Ness, I recalled the day you shared YOUR cancer news like it was yesterday. Now look at you. Things are going well. Your story helps me know that there is much hope and life does go on. Thank you for sharing here and I am loving those vibes and thoughts. Denyse xx

  10. So pleased you are in the care of the Lifehouse team, they have a reputation for being the very best. Keep us posted on your progress as you feel able x

    • Thank you Jan. It was my oral surgeon who sent me there. Of course I had heard of the Lifehouse but it was her choice as I believe she has sent others too. This is where being a regional patient is more inconvenient because of extra travel time but even if we still lived in Sydney we would have been an hour away. I will do updates on FB (maybe here too) and once I am in hospital I will ask my daughter to do FB updates. Denyse xx

  11. Oh, D. My thoughts are with you and I’m sending my love. It sounds like you’re in very good and capable hands. Xx

  12. So shocked and sorry to hear your news Denyse but it sounds like you have the best medical team possible planning your treatment. Sending you my prayers, good vibes and a huge virtual hug!


  13. You are in good hands there, but my, what a shock. I will hold you in my thoughts lovely lady x

    • Yes it was a shock but in some ways not a surprise. It was not ‘fun’ finding out when I was alone but I dealt with it. Thank you so much lovely. Your words help a lot. Denyse xx

  14. Bless you Denyse. You are so brave. What a clear explanation you were able to give. Your loving family will get you through this traumatic period and with your strength and character I feel sure you will triumph. Much love.
    Cheers Pam

    • Thanks so much Pam. I have brave moments and then scared ones but I am going OK. It is not a great feeling but I have confidence in what the team caring for me can do. Denyse x

  15. Oh Denyse. How overwhelming for you. Thank goodness for your wonderful family and friends that you can lean on as you process all this information and prepare for surgery.

    I am so glad that we have access to such dedicated doctors, surgeons and medical facilities. I wish we never needed them, but we do.

    Draw courage from every source you can. I have asked a few creative friends to create “heart shields” for me, which I am going to put up in my bedroom.

    Keep looking up, and please know that you are in so many of our thoughts xxxxxxx

    • Yes it was a shock in one way but not a surprise to find out the cancer had taken hold on these gums. I had been asking my doctor and the dentist (and even the oral surgeon when I saw her) about cancer and other conditions were mentioned. Nevertheless it “is” cancer and it definitely is going to be eradicated in a most challenging way. My hope is that there is no spread and I will be spared any other treatment. Distance from home is one of the reason. Thanks for your words and yes I am appreciative of my surgical team. I hope your health continues to improve too. Denyse x

  16. Denyse, I’m so sorry to read this but relieved to hear there is a good chance it hasn’t spread. As you know my father also had head and neck cancer (specifically laryngeal/pharyngeal cancer). He also had to see a team of specialists beforehand and had several teams working on him through the surgery (surgical & reconstructive). It will be a long surgery but the surgeons are professionals and the best in their field. If they are like the team who worked on my dad, they will be among the most caring, compassionate, understanding and amazing individuals you will ever meet. They will keep an eye on you and will also provide emotional support to you and your family too. You’ll find everyone in hospital has the best sense of humour too, much needed in times like this. You will be in good hands. Be kind to yourself and know we are all here for you x

    • Thank you Kirsty. You were one of the first people I thought of when I recalled how your Dad had cancer. Sadly things did not work out for your Dad. Sorry again for that. I am in good hands I know and it’s great to have such caring support here too. Love, Denyse xx

  17. Thanks so much for sharing Denyse and for helping us to understand not just the process, but the emotion involved. Cancer sucks. And other “uck” words. I’ll be here around the edges of cyber space holding out my virtual hand as you embark on this new journey. Xo

    • Thank you Leanne, it is a word no-one wants to hear about themselves or a loved one but it’s there..every bloody where. I am so sorry your family is going through such trials as well. Thank you for the virtual love and handholding. Much appreciated. Denyse xx

  18. Oh Denyse, I’m sorry for all the stress and worry you must be going through at the moment. It sounds like you will be in the best hands with the op and place to be taken care of. Cancer sucks and effects so many lovely people including yourself! Sending you big virtual hugs and thoughts your way xxoo

    • Yes it is very stressful and that is something I am learning to quiet a little bit with my meditation and a very calm husband. Thanks for your loving words. Denyse x

  19. Sending you bucketloads of good vibes, hugs and thoughts your way Denyse. Sounds like you have a top team of medical professionals looking after you. Wishing you all the very best for the journey ahead xx

    • Thank you very much Erika, I do feel fortunate to have a great team helping me in this. I also am very pleased to have such loving support here too from people such as you. Denyse x

  20. Lots of hugs Denyse. It sounds like you’ve got some of the best surgeons with you and I’m hoping, praying, crossing fingers, and sending all the good vibes that I can. You’re a gem and you’ll get through this.

  21. Denyse, my heart sank for you when I read your news. I’m so sorry that you have to go through all of this. My husband is being treated for colon cancer(diagnosed in January) and had major surgery 4 weeks ago, with more chemo therapy starting next month. Suddenly we are in a whole new world, doing things we never dreamed existed. We are amazed and so grateful for the skilled surgeons and oncologists who now are a big part of our lives. Sounds like you have an amazing team taking care of you. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your husband as you embark on this journey. It’s a marathon. Keep reminding yourself that it’s all going to be ok, because it will be ok. You have lots of people rooting for you – even if we’ve never met. You are stronger and braver than you think!

    • Thank you. It certainly is not a word anyone likes to hear as part of diagnosis. I am sorry about your husband’s cancer. I am glad that he is in the best hands he can be. Yes, a new world and situation for us both! Thank you so much for your words and message. Denyse x

  22. Oh Denyse, I don’t know what to say. Sorry seems too trite,. Thoughts & hugs & courage being virtually sent your way. I wish you more of whatever you need than I can possibly say.

  23. Even though you’d told me this has made me cry. But it sounds as if you are in wonderful hands and you have many people around who love you and care about you.

    If there’s anything you need, just tell us. I’m pretty sure we’d all be excellent fundraisers if that’s what you find you need.

    Huge hugs and you are in my thoughts. x

    • Thank you very much dear Deb. I made me cry too reading the lovely messages and thoughts. Your kindness means so much to me and knowing you are ‘far away’ but holding me in your thoughts is a comfort. D xx

  24. Sending you love and healing, Denyse. I know this must be a truly frightening time for you. One day at a time, my dear xxx

  25. Big hugs for you.. Big kisses for you… Big courage sending to you..

  26. Oh my goodness Denyse, when I saw the title of you post my heart sank. I am so so sorry for what you are going through, I can’t even imagine. Sending you much love and positive vibes, take care of yourself xxx

    • Yes I felt pretty strange writing it too. Thank you for your most kind words and with the support of people such as yourself it seems a little easier. D xx

  27. Denyse, sending you truckloads of good wishes and support. It sounds like you’re in good hands. Stay strong. Best xxx

  28. Take care darling lady, you are in excellent hands and many hearts too.

    • Thank you so much Trish. You’ve been down this path more than anyone should and come along with much success. I look at you and to you for knowing how well outcomes can be. D xx

  29. I’m really sorry to hear this Denyse, and sending you the best vibes for a successful operation and speedy recovery.

  30. Dianne Mikita says:

    Denise sending love and best wishes your way. Sounds like you have a rough road ahead-but also are in very good hands.
    Take care Dear Lady – I wish you a speedy recovery. xx

  31. Thinking of you Denyse. I can’t imagine how scary it must be. I do hope it all goes really well for you. xx

  32. Sending positive thoughts and love, my dear friend xxxx

  33. Oh Denyse, I’m so very sorry to hear this. I wish you all the best and hope you encounter the best case scenario at each step from here xx

  34. Sending you lots of love and it is great to see that you have so much support from fellow bloggers. I will be thinking of you.

  35. Em @ Have A Laugh On Me says:

    Oh Denyse, what a bombshell that was to receive I bet! I can’t imagine all that is swirling about. But we are here for you………love and light from me and my family. You’ve got this Kia kaha – Em xxx

    • Yes it was and still is somewhat. However, I know now what it is and how we can get rid of it. I hope it’s permanently gone for sure. I love your special message,Em. Thank you lovely. D xx

  36. I am still reeling from your news as I’m sure you must be. I guess in a way lucky it got spotted this early – who’d think to look for an SCC in their mouth?! I had one on my nose a while back, it was just a darkened patch of skin that got a bit scaly. If I hadn’t have been confronted with it every time I looked in the mirror, I would never have known it was there! Sending you healing thoughts and hugs xxx

    • I hear you but they certainly were not looking for one in my mouth ….it was what the test results showed and yes it sounds weird but that’s what cancer is! I am glad you got yours seen to and that someone in the profession found it. Thanks for your good wishes, Janet. D x

  37. Oh Denyse! I’m so very sorry to hear this. I hope the treatment goes smoothly and you recover 100%. My thoughts and payers are with you. Much love, Anne xx

    • Thank you Anne, it’s been quite the bombshell for me and my husband and family too. Your words are much appreciated. Denyse x

  38. Denyse I am so sorry that you are going through this. My thoughts love and prayers are with you. Take care sweet friend xx

  39. Pinky Poinker says:

    You are one of the most positive people I’ve met on the Interne,t Denyse. Plus you are so kind, caring and send out good vibes all the time. The universe or God (whatever you believe) will send those good positive vibes back to you. Good luck lovely lady and with those doctors around you I’m certain it will all be fine and grand. Love to you xxx

    • Thanks so much Pinky! I sometimes do better with the good vibes for everyone else…so yes I need to apply this to me more often methinks. I have wonderful support on-line and with family and friends although we see them infrequently since we moved away. I am humbled by your words. Thank you again. D xx

  40. You know #teamIBOT will be right by your side during this supporting you along the way. I’m sending every ounce of good luck and positivity in me your way. One of Dave’s work mates had cancer of his tonsils earlier this year. He had his tonsils removed, part of his tongue and part of his palate. He is very much on the mend now. They got all of the cancer. Good luck dear, Denyse. We’ll be thinking of you xx

    • Thank you Renee and of course #teamIBOT is amazing. What a positive outcome for Dave’s workmate. Hoping mine is contained to the area we think too. I am buoyed by the loving support here. D xxx

  41. Oh my, Denyse! What an overwhelming, scary journey to be on. I will be praying that each step of the way goes smoothly and that healing will be quick and complete. How blessed we are to have such a wonderful health care system. Even with all its challenges and faults, we get to have access to expert doctors and all the ancillary services we need.

    Rest well, take very good care of yourself, and take things slowly as you heal and recover.

  42. This turns my smile upside down. I am so bummed this is happening to you x 🙁

    My brother had a growth on his gums above and behind his front teeth when he was a young teen. It was quite big. His turned out to be benign, had it removed and hasn’t had any other trouble. He is a smoker though, so dancing with the devil there.

    • awwww thank you. My cancer is one where there is no reason..’just is’ so that’s all I can say. As for your brother. Some people can get away with the habits cant they! D xx

  43. Sending so much love and support, Denyse. Go gently, but fiercely. x

  44. My dearest Denyse,
    No matter what, I hope your blog stays up — on pause mode, so I can still see your happy smiley self.
    My prayers and thoughts go with a very strong and determined fellow educator.
    No matter what, your blogging friends will have you in our hearts.
    Stay strong because you belong to a flourishing and loving blogging community.

    • Yes it will Maria. I am likely to do a few posts in advance as well. Thank you for your prayers and kind words..they mean a great deal. Denyse xx

  45. I’m so sorry to read this, Denyse. I can imagine how scared and upset you felt at hearing this news. I will be holding you in love and light as you go through this procedure and recovery.

    • Thank you so much Kristin. Yes it was pretty horrible hearing the news but I am in ‘good hands’ as they say. Your care is much appreciated. Denyse x

  46. Oh Denyse I am so sorry to hear your news. It is amazing what they can do now days with surgery but you certainly have a big journey ahead of you (who’d have thought something so small could be such a huge undertaking?) You are obviously hugely loved (judging from all those comments before mine) and I want to add my thoughts and prayers for a speedy procedure and recovery time. God bless xxxx

    • So true about the small size…but it is almost the whole of the top of the inside of my mouth & jaw and that will be taken out …and replaced with the skin, tissue and bone from the leg. Too much? Yep for me too. Thank you so much for your kind and lovely comment and I appreciate your thoughts and prayers. D xx

  47. I am so so sorry to hear your news. You are being very brave, and I wish you big fat chunks of courage during this horrible ordeal. But it sounds as if you will be in very good and capable hands, and there are wonders to modern surgery. Be strong, keep the faith and here’s sending lots of love hugs and many positive thoughts – wishing you a successful procedure and speedy recovery. xxxx

    • Thanks Jo, those wishes mean a great deal. Yes I believe I am being well cared for with the professionals and just need to be a little less anxious about it all…if you know what I mean. Denyse x

  48. Hi Denyse,

    Much love and light and healing energy from me.

    SSG xxx

  49. Oh Denyse that all sounds quite scary but it sounds like you’ve got a great treatment team behind you. Sending you lots of love for a speedy recovery.

    • Yes it is scary but as my GP told me today (he is being an awesome person I can express my fears too, along with my hub) …the medical and surgical teams know what they are doing so I should concentrate on one day at a time. Sigh. Doing my best! Thank you lovely T xx

  50. Your positive attitude is inspiring, Denyse, and I know you will come through this with flying colours. I am sending all of my love, prayers & best wishes to you xxx

    • Thanks Kylie. I try to be positive but underneath I still find myself going to all the negative..and then think….no, until that time arises, put it away. I am certainly learning about this ‘staying in the moment’ business.

  51. This is not acceptable Denyse, not acceptable at all and I will be telling the “man upstairs” just how unacceptable I think it is IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS as soon as I pull
    my really big cranky pants on and give him a serve! Seriously, being told you have cancer is scary stuff, so please try not to criticise yourself for feeling all the feels or showing all the emotions. Gather your people; let them hold you tight; and stay true to you. If taking it day by day gets too much, take it minute by minute. Sending love and supportive healing hugs. Xx

    • Thank you Sandra. Your comments are soooo appreciated as I know you’ve had your many challenges to confront too. Denyse x

  52. Sorry to hear about this Denyse…my thoughts are with you and hoping for a quick recovery. Take care xx

    • Thank you so much. I think it will be a long time coming back to whatever normal is but I too am hoping I recover without incident. Denyse x

  53. Oh my darling. I am so, so sorry you have to go through this! By now you will have been through surgery – a few lovely women we both know and love are keeping me updated. I am praying for a good outcome and thinking of you and your family. Much love x

    • Bronnie, I returned to this post tonight just to catch up with what I wrote before surgery and saw your loving comment for the first time. Thank you for your kind words. Denyse x

  54. I only just found out about your surgery denyse. Thank am so sorry and sending you
    so much love. I hope your recovery is without incident. Thinking of you xxx

    • Darling Deb, that’s ok and i know life takes us on twists & turns so hope you are ok.xxx
      I have just now arrived home which is the best place to be! Surgeons are as positive as they can be until final path results in 2 weeks that it may all be contained in one place. I do face a very long haul into next year for more (not major as this first one) to get implants & have upper lip repaired. D xx