Friday 22nd October 2021

Special Anniversaries.19/51.#LifeThisWeek. 38/2020.

Special Anniversaries.19/51.#LifeThisWeek. 38/2020.

May is a month of memories for me and that is the theme for my ‘special anniversaries’.

In my life, and my family, I have tended to be the one who remembers. Dates, places, weather, occasions and more. Sometimes not perfectly well. I give my age as an excuse now, but I tend to be pretty much sensitive to time of year, weather and place. So, this is my reason for picking May….because:

May, in my instagram feed, is a time I am using memories of people, occasions and time for mark the occasion. For example, without giving years away, 3 women who are very special in my life have their birthdays in May. My 2nd granddaughter on 6th, my niece on the 22nd and my late and cherished Aunty, on 31st. It was in May 2006 we celebrated what we did not know was my mother’s last Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day was an occasion for her but as the years have passed, we (the family) do not make a fuss…because, I found it was a bit of a pressure to be honest..on me! So, that my friends is how I feel. Further on I explain more.

More about May. THIS is probably the reason I chose May for this as my post. It was in early May 2017 that the investigations began in earnest for ‘what the heck was happening in my mouth’….and yes, this has been recorded here in detail. However, just before I made the news of my cancer diagnosis public, I was honoured to have my story published in Celebrating Women. It was a great distraction too. I blogged about it here.

And then I knew what was under those teeth and the bridge that covered them…squamous cell carcinoma AND it had spread to under my top lip too. That knowledge –  shocking that it was cancer but not surprising either – given how long I had been putting up such pain, aggravation and limited ways to eat for over a year!  And I got this news via the phone call from the oral surgeon, at home, alone on Wednesday 17 May. Read more here if you would like to.

The biggest challenge though for scared me (of IBS and travelling not cancer!) was that I would have to be driven by my husband to Sydney’s Chris OBrien Lifehouse on Thursday 18 May 2017 where I would have my first (very long as it turned out) consultation re my head and neck cancer and what would happen to eradicate it. All, we hoped! I have written about the courage it took for me to test my exposure therapy is a big, big way in other place, here for example. And, we set off and became better informed – BIG time – about what was next.

What on earth did I do then? Oh, I was OK…after some time to gather myself emotionally, and my husband and I drove the long drive home in the dark with a feeling of confidence that where I was to be treated and by whom meant the confidence of knowing it was right for my cancer. Both of the head and neck cancer surgeons – the A/Prof Ebrahimi and then Prof Clark ‘felt’ then after the pretty rigorous examination that surgery only would be required but until that time, and lymph nodes’ samples etc were taken for pathology they could hope for no radiation.

But wait, there is more. Always more it seemed to test me that May!

24 May and 30 May were “back to Sydney” appointments but this time to Westmead in Sydney’s west. We knew this area well as we had lived in the region for many years. It was, however, the first visit to Oral Sciences…aka the dental hospital where I/we would meet the man and his assistant we got to know very, very well over the ensuing years. I admit I needed my husband there with me and the tears on that first visit came pretty frequently as I did not compute/understand well as all what would be happening but when chatting with my husband he was very confident of the prosthodontist’s role and skill in the area where I was to have surgery. He also accompanied us to radiography to get exacting scans done and to test blood flow in my legs. It was later that I found as I had better blood flow in my right leg, then that would be where the fibula and flesh/skin would be harvested not the left as originally planned.

Other May Memories!

In my recollections of May, I found Mother’s Day to be more of a day of obligation rather than a day to celebrate mothers. My mother in particular. I have often thought it a sad thing though because it is my father’s voice of judgement I hear re mother’s day not Mum’s. Ever.

It’s a complicated thing this life and traditions isn’t it! He (Dad, now 96) was brought up in a single parent childhood following his Dad’s untimely death in 1935 and Dad’s mother grieved her whole life after that and I am pretty sure nothing that was ever said nor done for her was appreciated wholly.

For whatever reason, then Dad made sure “we” celebrated our Mum. I have memories of breakfast in bed for her.,…and she did not enjoy that! I do recall her appreciation of cards and flowers. We, as then grown up children, might try to combine a mother’s day morning or lunch or even dinner.

To me, also a mother, it felt like “I” missed out. And I dislike that I even thought that.

So, despite my now-knowledge of where all this probably emanated…I still thought similarly in ‘shoulds’ around Mother’s day. So, I often got disappointed…and I am embarrassed about that. I vowed sometime back never to do ‘that’ to my adult kids so celebrated without any fanfare at all nor expectation until we left Sydney.

The first year I heard from no-one.

Yes, I was sad…and on subsequent Mother’s Day I may have had a card or a phone call or both from one or either of our adult offspring. In 2017 not knowing of my cancer investigations I had a visit to our place. Nice. We put on lunch. See photo above.

Then in 2019 I met my daughter and we had morning tea out together. No kids. Just us.

This year, as this is posted, we will have had our first visit in COVID-19 back to her house for a mother’s day morning tea.

Making New May Memories. 

  • Mum taught me quite a bit about cooking and often have her in my mind as I try to replicate her recipes. To that end, as I am visiting Dad this week I have made Mum’s recipe of lemon butter just for him. Food is such a powerful memory!
  • Mum also advised me about colours and planting of colourful flowers and I use this knowledge in picking and placing plants.
  • Mum’s smile was one I inherited….and a liking for brightly coloured clothes.
  • I make May a time for reminiscing but also for celebrating… far I have come, post head and neck cancer!

ONE Year ago in May I got my “end of two years” of cancer surgeries and treatment Apple Watch and it is worn with pride every day and continues to motivate me to move more!

My reward for 2 years post cancer: apple watch

TWO Years ago in May I became more resilient than I knew I could be as I faced a 4th (the last, I hope) reconstuctive surgery because my mouth and skin had not recovered well enough for the upper prosthesis to be fitted.

Post surgery #4 was a shock!

THREE Years ago in May I found how many people in my life cared for and about me and it was humbling. Many of those are reading this post now. Thank you all so much for being who you are.

That’s my special anniversary….May!

What special anniversaries are part of your life?

Did you celebrate Mother’s Day yesterday?

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  1. Hi Denyse, May certainly looks like a month of many memories for you. I’m glad you make it a time for reminiscing and celebrating. In Canada, we have Victoria Day holiday on the 3rd Monday of May so it’s a long weekend for us. Traditionally, people go to the cottage to get ready for the summer season. In my family, this May we stay home and talk on the phone due to the pandemic. I feel grateful that everyone in my family is in good health.

    • Thank you Natalie, it is a biggie…and until my cancer diagnosis it probably wasn’t highlighted as such.
      Good to know of your country’s special holiday and not so good about the traditions being changed. But we all need to stay safe and well if possible.

      Take care,

  2. Jennifer Jones says:

    Special days can cause such angst for many Denyse. Sorry to hear they have challenged you also. I felt sad to read that you had to hear your cancer diagnosis by phone and alone. That shouldn’t happen.

    • Thanks so much for your kindness and understanding and I know Mother’s Day sure can add emotional baggage not all of us want to carry.

      The messenger…the oral surgeon who had performed my biopsy actually rang me on the Monday where preliminary results showed nothing more than candida.

      However, on deeper analysis she got the news of the cancer and rather than tell me on the Tuesday evening, she rang from Wagga, Wednesday at 9.35am, as she was about to go to theatre. I have told her since she did this in the most compassionate way she could…and I did call my husband who was home within an hour.

      Then my organised mind took over and that was how, once the oral surgeon’s office up here organised a referral, I got to see the surgeons the next day.

      It was a very big two days but I came through. I will always be grateful that the oral surgeon’s nurse recommended where I be sent: to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to see Prof Jonathan Clark.

      I went back to the office of the oral surgeon the next year with cakes and a card of appreciation for the surgeon and the nurse!

      Take care,

  3. Wow – May is definitely a month for all the feels! I must admit I celebrate or maybe I should say commemorate, my cancerversaries, or at least the date that I had my surgery. I find it really therapeutic and it makes me realise how far I’ve come and how lucky I am.

    I think you have the right attitude to Mother’s Day – I know that ‘mumming’ is a full time job and such a challenging one but I think there is so much pressure on Mother’s Day – when really every day is a good day to tell your mum you love her and do something nice for her. That said it was my first fur-mother’s day and David did cook a really nice dinner which is very rare but was much appreciated.

    Our special celebrations and memories are spread throughout the year although I think July is my favourite as it’s my mum’s, my, David and Teddy’s birthday plus of course the joy that is Christmas in July!

    • Yes commemorate is a gentler word…celebrate is less me for cancer anyway…mind you we talk about the ‘wins’ don’t we?

      Thanks for your story of Mother’s Day….how sweet you got spoiled too.

      July I can see is a huge month for you! I sure remember it well too as I had my surgery on 6 July.

      Take care,

  4. May is a monumental month for you, Denyse. Thank you for sharing the good and the bad as well as how you have become wiser and more resilient each May in dealing with the more painful occasions of the month.

    SSG xxx

    • Yes, SSG, nothing like time passing and lessons learned along the way.

      The good part about being a thinking human is we can make choices and change when we see there is a good reason.

      Hope you are doing well.

      Take care,

  5. So many memories and special times in May for you Denyse – some good, some not so good. I admire your honesty in saying how Mother’s day impacted on you in the past, it’s often hard to say those thoughts out loud. Your cancer posts have always been interesting to read and something you can look back on, seeing how far you’ve come in terms of your resilience and determination.

    I had a quiet, but nice, Mother’s Day and spoke to my mum and my daughters during the day. I celebrate the fact that they are all now mothers too. May is a big month for us with two birthdays and the third in early June – don’t quite know how I managed to have all 3 birthdays within 5 weeks of each other!!

    I am sharing my post about the tragic school excursion accident which happened on 11 May 1978 – 42 years ago today!

    • Some months have more memories than others but I am pretty sure cancer became the reason why it’s now highlighted even more for me. Nothing like weather and conditions outside to remind me of the memories of that time.

      Mother’s Day was never meant to be as “Hallmark” made it apparently. That is what the founder from the US said. I recall my mum telling me that when her mum went to church the ladies were given a paper (I think) white chrysanthemum to wear. I always associate the flower with the day. And don’t the roadside stalls exploit that too.

      I often gave Mum a chrysanthemum in a pot which she could put in the garden.

      Feel for you not seeing the girls…aka the daughters and their families but…it is not a good thing with little ones to visit I guess.

      Look forward to your post, and I know it’s a sad story…..Shall I tell you I was a Kinder teacher then and had just found out we were expecting our next baby after 5 years of ‘trying’.

      Take care,

  6. I can’t believe that it was 3 years ago! Time has certainly flown. It was a strange mother’s day for us this year. Whilst we’ve been living away from both our mothers, it was the first one since the passing of Grant’s and therefore more contemplative than it usually is.

    • Yes, it goes by alright. Mind you I am glad it’s over…

      I can imagine it was hard for you and Grant. First events and days after a loved one’s death are even more sad.

      Strange is the way of life lately isn’t it? COVID’s impact has gone far.

      Take care,

  7. YOu do have a busy month of celebrations and anniversaries (good and bad). I understand your mother’s day issues – while I am neither, I am very uncomfortable with the barrage in the press and SM and how that must make both estranged and bereaved parents and children feel. So I refuse to participate in that SM frenzy. I celebrate my mum, my husband celebrates with his, and we do something for me (usually the day before or the following weekend).

    • Thanks Lydia.

      You and your husband have this sorted well.

      My post helps me ‘get it out’ there about my true feelings.

      I stopped having ‘expectations’ about Mother’s Day based on memories and ‘shoulds’ and even though I could get a bit sad about that, I realised I was making myself that way, no-one else.

      Yesterday as it turned out was a good day. We drove to our daughter’s for morning tea and I got a message from our son. Mother’s Day done!

      Take care,

  8. I admire you for writing about your cancer journey. I cannot share my battle with cancer. Mine is ongoing and I try not to think about it except when I have chemo. In fact I just ignore my cancer and just carry on. If I find images of myself when I had no hair, (twice in the last 4.5 years), I am shocked.

    Glad you had a happy Mother’s Day too. Mine was great!

    • Thank you Jody. I understand we all “do” cancer differently.

      I think I had such an unusual one that the educator in me felt sharing was the way to go. It has helped me understand more as well.

      But I totally get how you are finding it. It’s a dreadful thing and a huge imposition on life as you knew/know it. I am so sorry.

      Glad your gang made Mother’s Day memorable.

      Take care,

  9. Well May is certainly a month of highs and lows for you when you look back Denyse. I have similar issues with Mothers Day – where it’s all about my Mum and doing the right thing by her and also my MIL – presents, cards, visits…..and then receiving very little in return from my own kids. I tried for a long time not to mind, but last year I got a bit teary talking about it with my lovely DIL and she was shocked to see that I felt left out because my son had told her I didn’t mind! So now the kids have stepped up and I felt a bit more special this year – and now the zones are opening I have a visit to look forward to in a couple of weeks – YAY!!

    • Oh dear but good on you for letting the truth out. I seriously think at times those who we love need to see our very humanness and our emotions.
      Life IS tough at times.
      And expectations that feel wrong need to be spoken. Both of my kids know now, having written to them some time ago, just how some of my actions and words as a mother were not appropriate nor loving and the apology as it was, seemed to be understood and I know I felt better for doing it.

      Glad you will get granddaughter hugs again soon. We kind of did that yesterday but were careful and ours are 3 adults and one young one who is a reluctant cuddler anyway.

      Take care,

  10. You’re an inspiration to us all Denyse and it’s heart-warming that you now have new and special reasons to celebrate the month of May.

    My children all make a point of being with me if at all possible on Mother’s Day, although I have to say I’m not a ‘needy’ mother and it’s not a requisite. Admittedly I’m the one who always cooks the dinner for everyone – but a small price to pay. My birthday occasionally clashes then we do a big meetup on one or the other.

    This year the big day was my birthday a couple of weeks before Mother’s Day (ours is in March) and just prior to lockdown. We took a family photo and they had a mug printed with the photo ready for Mother’s Day, little did we know that we would then be all enforced to stay apart. Now every cup of tea brings them closer.

    • Oh thank you kindly Pam. None of us know what we can be or do until we “have to” and cancer sure kept teaching me lessons to absorb and take into my life going forward.

      When we lived in Sydney we did family meals too and I loved that but the families themselves changed for relationship reasons and teens into adults as grandchildren led changed lives.

      Personally I think it’s great to have the memories now and at our daughter’s place yesterday for a morning tea there were new memories made as she takes on that kind of role…actually has for sometime. She learned a lot of her cooking with my mum who had a very close bond with my first born for many years as a youngster.

      LOVE the event which sparked a family photo (the best!) and then a mug to remember them all in lockdown.

      STAY well…and take care,

  11. There’s a lot to remember in May for you! Both the good and the not-so-good. I can imagine the difficulty around having to share mother’s day but more so the strength it takes in admitting such thoughts crossed your mind. I don’t think it’s uncommon though – and I think special occasions like these are tough for a lot of people for different reasons.

    Special anniversaries in my life – not many actually. But I do remember the day I landed in Australia. That is a date I won’t ever forget 🙂 Hope you have a wonderful week ahead!

    • Thanks Sanch. So many ‘traditions’ get started in families and then even as families grow and change sometimes the people invested in those traditions do not enjoy changes.

      I was guilty of that about Christmas as a mother too. I “made” Christmas in the 1980s-90s our way as a family of 4 based on what I loved and what was non-negotiable (ha!) at the time re food etc…and then one year we went to another family member’s for Christmas Day and I was surprised and a little shocked that it did not feel like Christmas…

      I have had to let go of a LOT to understand how each of us needs to hold on to memories but they do not have to match actuals when there is no interested or energy to do so. Must chat more with you about this one day!

      Glad you remember your very special one. What a cultural shock too I imagine.

      Take care,

  12. Oh my goodness, Denyse. You certainly do have a lot of May memories – some good and some not-so-good. You certainly are brave, facing the cancer that was in your mouth. So glad your outcome was so good. I think we sometimes don’t really understand our parents’ motivations very well. To us, they are just Mom and Dad. We don’t think about their histories and experiences that shaped their personalities. Thanks for sharing your families’ stories with us. They made me think about my own parents and their backgrounds. Hope your Mother’s Day was wonderful!

    • Thanks so much.

      Until the cancer diagnosis May had lesser but still emotional memories.

      Meeting the cancer surgeons and doing all I could to recover well…it takes a LONG long time for skin that is grafted inside your mouth to heal….meant my patience was tested but I also learned that I could do this. Lessons, hey!

      I sometimes still talk to my Dad about the reasons ‘we did things the way we did” but he often says he cannot recall why so I think a lot evolves in families. He probably has no memory of his words to us about ‘don’t forget your Mother on Mother’s Day” and as if we would!

      Take care, and sure hope you get your long awaited family catch ups soon too.