Sunday 3rd July 2022

My A-Z. Taking Stock. 5 Years. #HNC. #LifesStories. 34/2022.

My A-Z. Taking Stock. 5 Years. #HNC. #LifesStories. 34/2022.

This is my first Taking Stock post in 2022 and I am taking the chance to recount the “adventure” that has been having had oral cancer, a form of head and neck cancer, for 5 years.

Here is mine. And the new-to-me logo and the list is at the end of the post for copying if you choose, along with this image being in the side bar of the blog.


But first, a story that is funny. Well, at least “I” think so.

When I saw the kind blogger Deb from here: Debs World paying tribute to my version of Taking Stock recently I was chuffed. Deb has been doing Taking Stock, the traditional one from Pip Lincolne , found here, along with my new-to-some A-Z version. I checked my list of prompts out, and the image I had on the blog…..and counted: 1 to 22…ummm there ARE still 26 letters in the alphabet, Denyse…so, oops, I have now amended!

And as I am off to see Dad again today in Sydney, I will be back to read and comment later.

2017 to 2022. Taking Stock of my Head & Neck Cancer. 

admiring the amazing ways in which my head and neck cancer team reconstructed inside my mouth

becoming more at ease now with the idea that my five years since diagnosis and surgeries and all are coming to an end in September 2022 at my final surveillance visit to my head and neck cancer team

curious to see how my continued mouth and prosthesis checks will go each 6 months for the rest of my life I am told

delighted that, in the course of head and neck cancer journey I have made many new friends and connected with them virtually or in real life so we support each other

excited to see my Professor Jonathan Clark AM and his surgical Nurse Assistant Cate Froggatt in September but 

feeling quite emotional as it will be my last ever surveillance check with them at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse

going is a useful word to use post cancer recoveries because I always say “I am going well” …covers a myriad of possible answers but requires little response because quite honestly, HOW MUCH do I really want to tell people..not a lot. I fear it may not be 

helping me or them to be perfectly honest because in the end sometimes a polite response is the best

imploring those who follow me to get a mouth check at each 6 monthly dental visit. Please do get to your dentist every 6 months. And also, see your GP about any suspicious pain/lumps/bumps too:

See here, and at the end of this post….


joking at times is an Aussie way of dealing with some really tough times isn’t it? We tend to play down what we find the most threatening. I admit, I was told, now I realise it was a joke, four years on, that when I got my upper prosthesis (teeth attached to the jaw that was made for me from my leg), that I couldn’t leave till I bit into an apple. Seriously. Nah, it wasn’t and no I cannot even do that these days….

knowing I was in the best place for me with the best people possible for my cancer filled me with both hope and confidence. Always.

loving that I could always get my surgeon into a selfie with me at our visits…

Prof Jonathan Clark AM.

making the most of my understanding of good health nutritionally as well as enjoying the food I can actually eat by paying attention to my health professionals after the first BIG surgery because they knew more than I did.

Ready….for the video made for head and neck cancer Australia with me sharing what I had learned from the dietitian.

next is to note how very proud I am to have come through such challenging health times (they were!) and yet I know now so much more about myself as a woman of strength and courage that may not have come about as they have…

observing that there is a fine line between being grateful for life lessons (this was a major one) and also that it has been so fortunate too that my cancer is as I understand it rare of rare (thanks Prof JC) and unlikely to return

posting on the blog has been a great way in which to let me share my feelings and experiences and also for others to support and cheer me on, and it is now a bank of posts under this heading for others looking for head and neck cancer information

questioning that this cancer is so not known and yet it is very much more common than realised, and many people die of a head and neck cancer because symptoms may have been ignored or dismissed by a medical or dental professional, so it’s why I continue to share, and hopefully a person …

reading this or a tweet or a facebook update may have information that is relevant to them or someone they know

staying  vigilant about my mouth care. I need to see my regular dentist every 6 months and the prosthodontist in Sydney too

trying to be less head and neck cancer focussed in my day to day life, which is why, when I became somewhat burnt out last year doing too much physically and emotionally sharing HNC news, that my…

understanding G.P., husband and CEO of HANCA were very kind in helping me see that I could still help and have some roles but no longer in person

viewing my images. I remain pretty obsessed with my changing face, smile and mouth over the years.

2017. July Major Surgery. Nov Day Surgery

2018. Day Surgeries: Feb & May. Upper Prosthesis August.

welcoming the ways in which people who don’t know about my oral cancer story can be informed more if they show some interest

X – you choose and mostly they do, and with my education love at the heart of what I do I am always there to say,

yes what would you like to know more about

Z – you choose and if there is no interest of course, I am respectful of that person. And, I sip my double shot small latte quietly!

Love this again: coffee sitting at a cafe. 2021.

Sunday 22 May, at Porter’s Creek I made this little 13 second video of gratitude:



That’s my Take for Taking Stock.

Here is the list for anyone who would like to try it.

  • admiring
  • becoming
  • curious
  • delighted
  • excited
  • feeling
  • going
  • helping
  • imploring
  • joking
  • knowing
  • loving
  • making
  • next
  • observing
  • posting
  • questioning
  • reading
  • staying
  • trying
  • understanding
  • viewing
  • welcoming
  • X – you choose
  • yes
  • Z – you choose

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  1. Probably time I do a taking stock….I love how positive this is considering the topic of a very extreme cancer (invasive, I think is what I mean) Love the selfie with dr. Enjoy sipping that Latte!

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thank you so much.

      I am glad you saw it as a positive post too.

      I am looking forward to my next coffee already.

      Warm wishes,


  2. Great Taking Stock post Denyse. I love how you focussed it around your cancer journey (sorry I know a lot of people hate that word journey). I am impressed with how you had something purposeful and heartfelt for each letter of the alphabet! Hope you have a lovely visit with your Dad and a wonderful week ahead. xo

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks so much Min. I have no word to replace journey so that’s OK. I have sometimes used story. Just shows we can use what works for us I guess. And yes, either of those do.

      It was a good exercise in gratitude to do the A-Z this way. I found it uplifting.

      Back from visit to Dad. He always enjoys a chat. Like father, like daughter…

      Warm wishes,


  3. Hi Denyse, this was a great idea to make a theme of the A-Z prompts and it shows how creative you are. You’ve done a great job of covering all the prompts. As to missing out a letter in the ones I’ve been using, the only one I could see Q and a few others were different but I’ve now got the whole list and will use it next month for #LifesStories.
    Thanks for having us and stay well.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks Debbie for your positive spin on my list!! I think I got myself making a few variations of the words on top of a photo for Taking Stock and being clever..and left letter(s) out.

      Never mind, lesson learned indeed and back to A-Z with success for me in this post.

      I am glad you too find it a useful way to take stock too.

      Warm wishes


  4. Hi Denyse – this is a great little wrap up and taking stock of where you’ve been and where you’ve arrived at. You’ve been such an excellent ambassador for this condition and your progression of photos certainly tell the story when you look back at them – from where you started, through a very arduous journey, to where you’ve now arrived at – enjoying that coffee in the sunshine. x

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thank you so much Leanne. You have a wonderful gift for encapsulating my words and I am very grateful you see the post for what it was.

      I will, over time, re-visit head and neck cancer a little more, but I am actually looking to have a break from the topic and see where my ‘creative’ blogging mind takes me for posts.

      No sunshine for coffee today..will look out for it as soon as I can though. We have had bucketloads of rain!!

      Warm wishes,


  5. When I was in the workcover troubling times and used the EAP at work for help, there was a discussion around what and how much is helpful to share. Helpful in terms of avoiding retraumatising yourself, helpful in terms of what care people can give you if they know enough. I still don’t know if I have an opinion on it all but at least I know it’s a question to consider now.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Very good and wise points to consider Vanessa.

      Thank you for that.

      I am wary of overdoing the topic (for boredom of readers’ sakes) but also remaining someone who raises awareness.

      I am now, because it happened not that long ago and I wrote about it too, understanding that I needed to acknowledge my real trauma. To me more than anyone and as a result I am more self compassionate. Worked that way for me.

      Warm wishes,


  6. Neat reconstruction by the docs. Really amazed at the skill.

  7. Love how you used the alphabet to help you take stock of where you’ve been and where you’re headed now! Very clever.

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