Wednesday 18th May 2022

November Notes #2. 2018.116.

November Notes #2. 2018.116.

This month, 5 years ago, a unique and amazing event occurred.

I did not know how much this event would affect me 18 months ago.

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse: Comprehensive Cancer Hospital opened in November 2013.

I am incredibly grateful for the vision of both the late Professor Chris O’Brien OAM and his lovely wife Gail, AO.

Chris, who was to die from brain cancer in 2009 before the hospital started, had a vision based on his experience as a Head and Neck surgeon and then a patient with cancer. That there needed to be a place like a ‘one stop shop’ for cancer patients and families as there was so much to manage when someone is diagnosed with cancer without more added to the stress such as visiting as number of different places for treatment.

For Gail, on receipt of her AO said however, the award is a reflection of the community of which she feels lucky to be a part. “I could not be more proud of our independent, benevolent hospital and the care we give our patients,” she says.

Her words are a tremendous reminder to all of us of the importance of Chris O’Brien’s mission. With this award we are encouraged to strive for the best at all times, and to continue to turn your support into a positive force in the fight against cancer.

A chance meeting here I had longed for. I met the late Prof Chris O’Brien, Gail.

Even though I cannot be there for this week of Open Days and Celebration, I am there in spirit.

From my first, scared and very tense visit of over 2.5 hours on Thursday 18 May 2017, through to major surgery on 6 July 2017 and my excellent recovery in ICU and on the wards, through to check-ups and tests and then for more day surgeries on 15 November 2017, 6 February 2018 and 16 May 2018 it is always a rich and inclusive experience to be at Lifehouse. Of course, I have been back for follow-ups and to chat with people I would now call friends. Who knew that would be how I would interact with a hospital and having cancer! Not I!

This one session, held on Monday 5 November when I have to be at Westmead  to see the prosthodontist, features my Head and Neck Surgeon, Professor Jonathan Clark who was trained by Professor Chris O’Brien. How fortunate am I!

Jonathan said ‘he was stoked’ about how my teeth/mouth worked out.

Eventbrite for Organizers's photo.


Innovation and technology in cancer surgery


More here about the week of celebration, innovation, care and sharing from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
My little collage and tribute to wish Chris O’Brien Lifehouse congratulations on 5 years of helping patients like me!

Do you know of the great work done by the late Professor Chris O’Brien? He became, as his family remembers, the unexpected ‘star’ of the long-running T.V. documentary called R.P.A. That’s short for Royal Prince Alfred – the hospital opposite Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Thank you to you all at Lifehouse!


Joining with Leanne who also  knows a lot about the work at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, here for Lovin Life linky.



  1. How fabulous to have met Chris O’Brien’s wife Gail, Denyse! You have met some extraordinary people. Very talented and skilled people and of course compassionate, caring and kind. The concept of creating a hospital for cancer patients with all treatment options under the one roof was a wonderful one. What a special place it is! xo #TeamLovinLife

    • Thank you Min, I had wanted to meet Gail who is the Patient Advocate in the hospital but never had the chance. THIS was my finding her coming out of a lift and me saying I wanted to thank you for her late husband’s work…and then we chatted more and she agreed to a photo. I sent her a thank you card with this photo in it and she rang me to say “thank you”. She is a most gracious lady who has been through a lot.

      Denyse x

  2. Denyse your journey has certainly been more than just fighting the cancer hasn’t it? You have grown personally and met some wonderful people along the way. Thanks as always for an inspirational post.

    • Sue, you’ve said it perfectly.

      Thank you, Denyse, for sharing this journey with us.

      SSG xxx

    • Yes Sue it has and I feel the growth all the time. It has given me back much of what my out-going nature and social skills WERE for most of my life but I was robbed of them with my major grief reactions in 2014-early 2017.

      I still “can” go down a small slippery path to worry and anxiety but I have the tools (and the best listener and advisor in my husband) that help me STOP, and get back on track.

      The blogging community has uplifted me time and time again and I was very thankful.

      Denyse x

  3. It’s such a good concept. Well done Denyse on getting through all that!

    • Thank YOU. Some days it can be a bit harder but generally the improvement in my emotional and physical well-being since cancer and all the surgeries, set backs and recoveries mean I am “back to the person I like being” because she was lost from 2014-early 2017.

      The day yesterday with friends from HNC support group looked amazing and you my friend are a tower of physical and mental strength as I see you.

      Denyse x

  4. What a lovely – and personal – tribute to a team of inspirational medical professionals.

  5. HI Denyse, you are looking so amazing and you have done so well. What an advocate for successful recovery you have become and how wonderfull that you were introduced to such a fabulous team of inspired and skilled medical professionals. Must have been heartwarming to meet Chris O’Brien’s wife Gail too. #MLSTL

    • Thanks very much Jo. Yes it has been a highlight of my life in such a positive way I guess, this cancer of mine. Amazing people met and now known and to think of the parts they have all played in my treatment and recovery is mind-boggling.

      Denyse x

  6. I’ve watched a couple of documentaries on Chris O’Brien and think he is an absolute legend. People that give up their time to help others battle terrible diseases are Gods in my eyes. Great tribute Denyse. #TeamLovinLife

    • Thank you Kathy, as a family we watched RPA, the show where Chris O’Brien became the reluctant star as he and his family said.

      When my Mum died of cancer in 2007 – unknown primary and treated for comfort only for the 8 weeks from diagnosis to death – Dad donated, and continues to donate to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. Little knowing of course, his daughter would be treated there.

      I read Chris’ book ages ago “Never Say Die” and I had Gail’s and their daughter’s book “This is Gail” unread. I “made” myself read it before my big surgery in July. Then, this year, I found I needed to re-read Chris’ book and luckily the local library had it. In that book I read his work as a Head & Neck surgeon was learned on one of his fellowships overseas, then he brought the skills and knowledge back to Australia to the Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) Hospital and MY surgeon was trained by Chris. Two of the people I now know from my treatment also worked with Chris when he founded the Sydney Head & Neck Institute…

      The short version of my desire to meet Gail was to say “thank you for your husband’s wonderful work which helped save me”. In my stay at COBLH and on other occasions I had not seen nor met her but on this day, she popped out of a lift as I was in the corridor and I said “Hello Gail.” By telling her what I needed to say and us having some conversations about mutual people in our lives, I felt that I got to share what I needed to: my gratitude to Chris. She loved the card and photo I sent her and rang me to tell me.

      Denyse x

  7. I’d never heard of them before your involvement Denyse but it sounds like they offer a very valuable service!

    • They sure do. I had not known of the extent of the services and treatments offered at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse until I became a patient and I am still learning more as time passes.

      Denyse x

  8. Great post Denyse. It is indeed an amazing hospital.

  9. Not your point but a charming young man is stoked in you!! That’s something to celebrate! See, November is awesome 😉

  10. They sound so unbelievable and top of their game. I am still in awe of all they have done for you!

    • I know I keep thinking how amazing it has been and I know that I truly was given the best referral at first which has then morphed into having the best treatment for me that’s been possible.

      That IS why I am such a supporter of this particular cancer awareness as it is growing and not even all dentist or GPs are aware.

      Thanks Vanessa!

      Denyse x