Tuesday 28th June 2022

One Year After My Major Cancer Surgery. 2018.59.

One Year After My Major Cancer Surgery. 2018.59.

This space, Denyse Whelan Blogs, has been a life raft to the outside world and a connection from me to you, the readers and fellow bloggers. I am aware that since my first May post “I have Cancer” there have been a significant number of posts about this cancer and me.

In reaching the 1st year anniversary of the major mouth surgery on 6 July 2017 last Friday, 6th July, I decided that whilst there will be occasional updates, there will be a general easing away from the focus as I get to look forward to a broader life view.

However, I cannot predict when that will be, as a year ago I might have been given the impression that my recovery, i.e. surgeries and healing to gum and jaw readiness for implanted teeth might be 8-9 months. I am in my 13th month now. My mouth has needed a 4th surgery and a second skin graft taken to enable the lip the be more prominent and for there to be enough space for teeth to go in. THIS is why I am on a drive every.single.week until mid August so that my excellent prosthodontist can do the best first stage of teeth for me. Implants remain much further away.

I wanted to do a snapshot of how it has been for me as I have recovered and some of the ways in which I have been able to adapt and adjust to life with no teeth on top, 8 on the bottom, and a skin graft inside my mouth, along with a bone made into a jaw.

Life went on…after hospital but I needed to adjust significantly to home life as I was restricted with movement: a boot on the leg where the surgeons had removed my fibula and skin/flesh for my mouth. I also could eat with difficulty and there were some tears via trial and error. Over time I learned how to better cater for myself after sending my husband on early day missions for soft foods like jellies and mousse. I admit I still find the eating restrictions hard but do what I can to keep up nourishment as I need protein each day and some iron-rich foods. Since late last year I started cooking mini-meals and freezing them.

I am not someone to sit around for long and once I could drive, 6 weeks after surgery, I set out for small drives to be used to both managing the car, and that I was stable on my feet when I got out. I soon re-engaged with shopping. Even though I had not enjoyed shopping before the surgery (I was anxious and I was not interested in clothes or books or even browsing) I found my shopping mojo again when I knew I needed a focus for each day. Along with the enjoyment I have always had for being near the beach or finding places to photograph, going out every day became must-do for my emotional health. I dressed well, had a photo taken and went out to chat with people I met and have a coffee and do some art.

For the first part of 2018, being holidays everywhere, I waited out the time before planned third surgery in February by distraction, activity and going to the beach as well as out for coffee. I had also had a second surgery in November 2017. It was always hoped that the February one would be my last or maybe that was just me??

The February surgery saw my mouth healing well and the prosthodontists took my stent off. This was short-lived (darn it) because my surgeon wanted it back on. Alas, the reason it was needed was the area between my upper lip and jaw was very tight and in fact left no room at all for the addition of teeth. I found out, much to my disappointment that a 4th surgery, and skin graft to make the inside of the mouth even roomier would be on in mid May.

This is where I am at now, almost 8 weeks from that time. The stent is doing the job. It has been mighty sore and uncomfortable at time but my fortnightly, now weekly visits to the prosthodontist at Westmead sees this being removed, trimmed and re-fitted. It can take over 2 hours. Nevertheless I am a very co-operative patient and I want it to work too. Over the coming month and more I will be at Westmead for longer visits and with luck on our side, the first fitting of a set of false teeth for the upper gums.

Thank you if you have read this far.

I was of two minds about posting this. I said to my husband “I am sick of my posts about cancer and recovery” and his comment was “then other people might be too.” However, I also decided that it was IMPORTANT to me to keep the update and to mark this occasion of ONE YEAR since the first surgery and that’s why this post is here. So much of my recovery has been, and still is, mental. It is about attitude, some courage and a willingness to see this through. I have been, at various times angry, impatient, teary, frustrated and downright “over it”.

However, I am MUCH better at picking myself up, dusting myself off and starting all over again…



On Tuesday this posts links with Kylie here

On Wednesday this post links with Sue and Leanne here



  1. Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid says:

    I think it’s important for you to acknowledge these milestones and I hope that these posts, both the words and the pictures remind you of how far you’ve come and the physical and emotional strength you have shown getting to this point. You legend. Looking forward to seeing your new set of gnashers!

    • Thanks Sammie. I always think ‘you get it’.

      I do have to honour how far I have come and in fact only said to B last night, there is one person, in all of my appreciation posts I have forgotten. Me. Because without my attitude and knowledge, along with PATIENCE even when I don’t feel it, the healing and progress would have been different.

      Denyse x

  2. I love how you have documented your entire journey and held nothing back. Many people would have hidden away, feeling outside the ‘norm’ of society and struggled. I know you have struggled – only natural but you have been such as inspiration to so many people who are going through their own struggles. Thank you

    • Thanks Natalie, I look forward to your wise words and so appreciate your perspective today.

      Only on Sunday my husband told me he doesn’t think he knows another person who expresses herself honestly and at times critically. I took that as a compliment, but it is how I am.

      My weight story was the one where I hid away but late last year became brave enough to publish it here on the blog it was the right timing for it.

      Denyse x

  3. I always pictured the stent looking different for some reason. Makes more sense how it actually is!

    • I can understand that. I think I have maybe confused even me. This is the model on which he places the stent – the model is of my mouth.

      The stent is like clear plastic in a mould that exactly (it takes ages in the chair let me tell you) fits over the abutments (the screw-type things in my jaw) and keeps the gums away from the lip.

      This is doing its job this time round and today he took it out to clean, re-line and adjust the abutments and it is even less bulky. It DID take 4 hours. LONG time for accuracy.

      Denyse x

  4. You’ve come a long way!
    If people are tired of hearing about it, write for you. I try to view my blog as a place for me. Of course, knowing we have readers, we want to write something that appeals to them, but ONE YEAR! You deserve a grand re-cap!

    • Thank YOU Red!

      Yes in many ways documenting the story is for me and in fact I print off the posts for a folder of ‘my cancer stories’ and then I know I will have them into the future.

      I am delighted you see what I am doing with such positivity.
      Denyse x

  5. Well you’ve certainly come a long way Denyse – and it hasn’t been an easy journey. Looking at you in that last photo though I can see the old Denyse is almost back – compared to a couple of months ago you look fantastic – and once you get those teeth in place you’ll be smiling like the Cheshire Cat! I enjoyed your little trip down Memory Lane and I’m sure your other readers did too.

    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL – I’ll be sharing this on my SM xx

    • Thank you Leanne for your kind words and observations. It has been hard work at times and yes I have felt down but never as much as I feel well and full of life and hope for a better future ahead.
      I am always grateful for your support and care.

      Denyse x

  6. Watching your journey over the past year on FB has been inspiring. Your determination and positively has spoken to me again and again. Love your work!! I didn’t get time to write this week but wanted to say thank-you for this linky and referring me to others. I am actually starting to feel the blog community again. And I am loving it.

    • Oh Caz…day (and week!) made. You reached out to us…and we responded. This has been something special hasn’t It doesn’t mean ‘having to blog’ anymore it’s seems to have become “I missed this and I want to blog again”. Thank you so much. Your kind words about my cancer journey are so welcomed. You are often in my thoughts too. Take care, Denyse x

  7. You are doing so well on your journey. I admire how you have found food that works for you. I am afraid I would be going hungry a lot because of food texture. But you have managed to keep yourself fed. You are well on your road to health.

    • Thank you Victoria. There was quite a lot of trial and error in me working out what I could and would need to eat. Enjoyment was one goal but good nourishment was a harder one to achieve because of my old personal likes and dislikes.

      Once I knew I had to eat to heal then I could come up with some good protein and red meat based meals which assisted my low iron. I have two or three different red meat mince dishes I can eat. It is about adaptation. However, I sure do miss being able to grab something when I am out.

      I was amazed at how my tastes could change to manage this. It was/is a surprise.

      Denyse x

  8. What a year Denyse and although it has certainly been tough you have much to celebrate. You should write a book about your experience because you are so inspirational with the way you have handled your adversity. Thank you for being part of #MLSTL and my friend. Have a beautiful week and keep moving forward 🙂

    • Aww thank you! I am certainly well-cared for on-line and it makes a different to my quality of life and hope. You are one such friend who brings that to me.

      I may not ever write a book (gosh it took me to last year to decide to do a memoir) but having my Cancer Story blog posts here is one way I can direct anyone wanting to know more about Head and Neck cancers.

      That is my focus right now and I am using all means possible to get the message out there.

      Warm wishes,
      Denyse x

  9. Oh Denyse sometimes I don’t know what to say. I think you are brave, inspiring and so positive as you acknowledge this journey you’re on. It’s important to share your milestones and your ups and downs along the way. You make me smile with your insights and honesty. Thank so much for your posts and all the best to you as you continue recovering x

    • Oh that is so lovely. My husband tells me I am so honest about it all. I look at him and say “this is how I roll”… thank you for noticing and popping in to say hello! I have been enjoying your travels too.

      Denyse x

  10. What an amazing recap….keep sharing, you never know who you will help!

    #MLSTL visitor (shared on SM)

    • Thanks Donna. I guess that is true. This coming week will be a focus on the upcoming World Head and Neck Cancer Day – 27 July. I am holding a virtual “Soup For the Soul” via the charity in Australia which is just starting out to help Head and Neck cancer patients and families and professionals: Beyond Five.

      Denyse x