Sunday 26th June 2022

My ‘Head & Neck Cancer’ Spring Story. 39/51 #LifeThisWeek. 99/2019.

My ‘Head & Neck Cancer’ Spring Story. 39/51 #LifeThisWeek. 99/2019.

Spring is here.

In Australia and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere. I am glad to have cool-ish evenings and lovely days but, I know from experience, the lengthening of days will bring more heat and then I will be complaining a bit as I can when the heat is on!

True to my word of needing AND wanting to get out and about I ventured to the local beach nearest to us on Friday only to find it closed off due to sand erosion (climate change, anyone??) so I took another way, up the hill then  down to arrive at the sand and gentle waves. Cold water but worth it for the paddle.

Head and Neck Cancer Check.

When head and neck cancer arrives in your life, you are taken into new and different worlds. Fortunately my ventures have been to improve my life’s quality, living with a rare cancer, and meeting many professionals who have contributed to my well-being since my diagnosis on 17 May 2017.

On Tuesday 17 September, a very rainy day, I drove to Westmead Oral Sciences for my 38th treatment with my prosthodontist and he could not have been more pleased with how well I am maintaining the skin (grafted) around the abutments (added implants to my ‘jaw from my leg’) and we both cheered when I told him I am for the most part pain free in the area that had been bothering me for months. Yay.

On Tuesday 24 September, this time on a sunny day, I arrived at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse carrying cards of appreciation and little cupcake packs for my professional team. These people have cared for and about me for over 2 years now and my relationship is close and warm as they are when they note my progress. I enjoyed a catch-up with Nadia from Beyond Five with a coffee as well, and then to Clinic on 2nd level for my cancer check. First seen by Cate, and then Jonathan and the consensus was I am doing so well, no return till early March 2020. As I finished up, I asked Jonathan how I was going in recovery and his words made me smile:  “Denyse, you are our poster girl in recovery”. I left feeling very well indeed. And the cupcakes and cards were appreciated.

There’s More To Life Than Cancer.

I could not be more appreciative of how well my cancer recovery is going and as a result, I am expanding my world and re-connecting where I could not before as recovery, treatments, resting, driving to and from Sydney took their toll.

On Tuesday, after being to my head and neck check up, I drove out to North Kellyville P.S. to see the granddaughter’s school’s inaugural Art Exhibition. What a joy it was to be there and I couldn’t resist this photo. It actually summed up just how well I felt that day!

Gratitude – for my connections found through having head and neck cancer.

And then this happened.

Those of you who have been reading my head and neck cancer posts (see here for access) will know I have NEVER found another person with cancer “like mine”. My professor had told me I was “rare of rare” in terms of risk factors and so I kind of learned to understand that was it. Until I was contacted, firstly by a mother, then by her son. This man is another head and neck cancer patient. They had found my story on the Beyond Five site after his diagnosis in 2018. It turned out, once I was contacted, he was not only living in Sydney but we shared the same professional surgical team, the same comprehensive cancer hospital and he also attended Westmead Oral Sciences.

This person, who is quite happy to be found on instagram here, has a more complex and serious version of head and neck cancer than mine. He and I connected via social media and then personally when we got together for a coffee at a place a bit up the coast for him, and down the coast for me.

Our talking and sharing was so good. I know for me, re-telling some of my story was good but I think, for him listening to the ways in which recovery occurred for me may have helped. Nevertheless he has a way to go right now and I am full of admiration for his attitude and his patience. We are both very keen to continue to spread the head and neck cancer message.

Thank you Fergus!

Time for change. Transitions. 

I’ve written before about the transitions in my life (retirement, leaving Sydney, family etc) before and I am now, 2 years 4 months post head and neck cancer diagnosis recognising a shift in my emotions, signalling change. Even good change has its downside. I am a little more emotional as I consider how far I have come. I am also feeling the feels about ageing…and turning 70 in 2 months. Our twosome relationship in our marriage continues to be strong as we navigate life at ‘this end’ together. Family is less connected to us now as caring is no longer required and they are all just about grown up.

It’s of great interest to me to know how quickly the changes occur. Sometimes we may blink and miss them. On the weekend, our daughter and 3 of her children came for Saturday lunch. We even managed some fun games outside. I admit “we” the oldies got tired very quickly. We also did a a bit of a nostalgic look at one’s growing up years. She will be 23 later this year Yikes! Where is that time thing going? Nevertheless, my afternoon’s phone call from my 96-next-January-Dad reminded me we are all going OK.

How is Spring going for you?

Had you heard about head and neck cancer before my diagnosis?


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  1. I love this post. Finding someone a little further down the journey than you is such a blessing – it gives you a tangible anchor that in ‘just some time’ you’ll get through it to that spot that seems so much easier or better….and as you say, you suddenly are.

    • Thank you Lydia, that is so true. It was a great way to connect and both of us learned from each others too I think. I have overcome quite a bit but Fergus has had more challenges with his version of head and neck cancer and more to come.

      Denyse x

  2. I know you were an inspiration to Fergus. Even though your recovery has included extensive treatments/grafting etc., you are recovered and looking marvelous. That has to be encouraging to your new friend.

    You need to celebrate your birthday in a grand way. Hope you are surrounded by those you love mos on your special day.

    • Yes I think it was. I know when I felt like “it would never end…this journey to teeth” it would have helped to know another who has been there. To give him credit though, this young man is going through more than I have and will continue to do so and I so admire his goals as he meets the challenges set.

      It’s been interesting contemplating the zero birthday and my only wish is for my adult children and their children to come together with us to celebrate. Once you get to a certain age/stage, it helps you to know what is most important and this is for me.

      Thanks so much for your kind words and support, Leslie.

      Denyse x

  3. Calling you the poster girl is such a compliment and a credit to you and just how far you have come. How wonderful that you could meet with Fergus, I am sure the meeting inspired you both, how good are the interwebs for making such meaningful connections?! I hope you’re going to celebrate that big “O” birthday in style – do you think we’ll finally get together for a birthday coffee and cupcake?!

    • I thought it was sensational (lol) and loved it enough to share here that I “am the poster girl” for recovery.

      I do know the professional team was pleased to know Fergus and I were meeting as well.

      My greatest wish for my 70th is to have our adult children and grandchildren come to our place for a family lunch. That’s it.

      I do think it IS timely to celebrate with a coffee and cupcake close to my zero birthday. You’re on!

      Denyse x

  4. You have come so far & the way you’ve told and shared your story will, I have no doubt, continue to be an inspiration to others going through a similar thing. x

    • Thanks so much Jo. Interestingly I “have” tried to connect with others like me but unless that person want to get together then it kind of fades away.

      I did have a couple of really interesting phone convos with a patient of my prosthodontist (he asked for my permission to share my number) because she could not master the Waterpik as I had. Once she knew it was impossible to clean at the same time as looking in a mirror (water, water splash everywhere) she was OK. It is best done, leaning over the sink and guiding the pik inside the mouth by feel (just in case you wondered!)

      Denyse x

  5. I’ve been thinking a bit about changes in the past month or so too – good and bad, things have been sneaking in and out when I least expect it. I’m in a weird, mostly good limbo but also am over change. Weirdest mix of feelings recently.

    I hope that meeting you and hearing your story has helped Fergus with his needs and future and, well, everything!

    • Interesting about changes because from memory, when you were in the throes of being diagnosed properly then facing surgery for tonsillitis which co-incided with my first surgery you had that to deal with, AND the house rental then move thing. Let alone, new car, your husband’s health…and of course “work”.

      Yep, I hear you on change of all kinds. I need some but not all at once.

      It was good to meet up with someone who had experienced some of what I had.

      Denyse x

  6. You have such an inspiring perspective on life, Denyse!

    SSG xxx

    • Why thank you SSG. It has taken quite the journey through this thing called life to reach a greater sense of appreciation for what it is all about. I do however, falter often!

      Happy Hols.

      Denyse x

  7. I love you photo with the Dream Big wings Denyse!! How special for me you to spend time at the school. I also enjoyed your meeting with someone who is also experiencing your type of rare cancer, what a great support you both have. There are lots of changes happening all the time! I’m in a bit of mood since being back and am suffering from a broken tooth of all things now so am on my way to have that looked at. But I’m happy to link up with a recent post which mentions spring and lots of changes for me too.

    • It was so fun. I knew I would want a photo when I saw it. They even had little boxes for the younger kids to stand on for their pics.

      Such a good thing to meet with another who ‘gets it’. I bet your daughter and her partner would be feeling that way in the NICU scene. It helps gain perspective.

      You are allowed to have moods and feelings. Gosh mine have been a bit down in the past two days – after the highs of a couple of weeks. Life.

      So sorry about the broken tooth but sometimes ONE thing (which you can be a bit upset about) can open the avalanche of all th=e emotions of what you are going through. The grandchildren’s news: one turning one, one born very very early, and one expected. These are HUGE life events. Be kind to yourself.

      I learned long ago, and have possible already mentioned it, but feelings take a lot longer to catch up to events. And you have experience an avalanche of events.

      Denyse x

      • Oh Denyse, you always make me feel better with your words. You know just what to say and you’re so right, feelings take a lot longer to catch up to events! I feel like I’ve been so melodramatic about it all at times – but then when I stop and think, I know it’s been VERY stressful. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and taking the time to make me feel better about it all. xx

        • Oh Deb, I am glad it helped. I learned it the hard way too. I grieved for a long time. Give yourself some space, some time for walking in your lovely place, maybe even some writing that is just for you. I know, even with the recent news I have had that I am going well with cancer I still need “de-brief” time. Go well….you will but allow it to come out with a trusted friend or just the bloke you know so well…The Mathematician. Love D xx

  8. Hi Denyse, I’m not surprised that you’re the “poster girl” for recovery, your upbeat attitude is certainly inspiring and you’re made it your mission to inform the world about this type of diagnosis and treatment and recovery. Glad that you now have a 6 month respite from travelling for check-ups and that you can widen your focus and start thinking about your next decade. Is there going to be a big 70th celebration? Or just something quiet at home?

    • Thanks so much Leanne, I admit I was chuffed with his comment but unless “we” know where we fit in recovery then we ask. It is such an individual thing to recover from. I am grateful for my wellness in recovery.

      Will be back to the proshodontist late Nov and the surgeon early March so for now, it is quite a break.

      I just want our two kids and their children to join us here for a family get together. My wish is exactly that!

      Denyse x

  9. Glad to hear your recovery is going so well, Denyse. Your positive attitude and willingness to share must be encouraging to Fergus. I hope your birthday wishes come true.

    • Thank you Natalie. Yes, Fergus said it helped him to meet me (as I found it of great interest to meet him). I am pretty sure I am going to get my very simple birthday wish come true now.

      Denyse x

  10. YOU ARE AMAZING! Even on the days when you least feel it! Your capacity to share so openly and generously in so many ways is truly inspiring to me Denyse. I love how your gratitude ‘gives back’ to so many in kind and tangible ways. Inspirational! May the splashes of joy in your life keep on coming for a long time to come.

    Love Sandra Xx

    • Yes G for gratitude lifts me up on those days of W for worry and woe. I truly had to be convinced though and learned this from my husband. It’s a good one!

      Denyse x

  11. It’s so good to see how far you’ve come. I loved the bit on transitions…I understand how daunting it might be. Changes – good or bad – are difficult. The big 7-0 is coming close! We should catch up soon x

    • Thanks …I think I am a good example of how exposure therapy helps. We “have” some time till the 70. It’s last day of Nov. Yes, coffee…always a good plan.

      Denyse x