Friday 27th May 2022

Telling My Story. Ch 26. Final. Sept-Dec 2021. 6/51 #LifeThisWeek.  8/2022.

Telling My Story. Ch 26. Final. Sept-Dec 2021. 6/51 #LifeThisWeek.  8/2022.

Telling My Story. Image #8.

The backstory first:

Nearly FIVE years ago now ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed.

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at

Chapter Twenty Six. Telling the story, Sept-December 2021 for the final time.

So, in keeping with my ethical approach to all things, I am making the chapters about MY recollections to various changes in life for me, and us, and life as we knew it. I hope I can continue sharing the story without any intentionally negative or hurtful references to others who are in my life as friends and family members. All of the stories to date found here.

And with this chapter, a photo in March 2021…taken overlooking the harbour at Dobroyd near where I grew up close to Manly N.S.W.

September 2021.

Introducing September 2021. It was the third month of lockdown for us here on N.S.W. Central Coast which was part of Greater Sydney and restrictions. No hairdressers, no shops open for browsing, keep close to home, exercise away from home within Local Govt Area is Ok….and for me, the telehealth annual cancer check.

This image here sums up my desire to ‘keep it real’ for my appearance as well as to record the various places I visited. I got great news from my head and neck cancer team, via the phone, and that is unless anything changes for me, my NEXT visit in September 2022 will be my LAST visit. I am still recovering from that news! “I will miss you” I said to them. Apparently that is very normal!

The remainder of the images that form memories as part of Telling My Story, will have information under them.

To keep us as safe as possible, during this particular lockdown we approached going outside/away from the house, following the rules.

  • Only one of us went out for whatever that purpose was (shopping, doctor, exercise) once a day.
  • And we deliberately limited our exposure to potential Covid by only visiting two local stand-alone supermarkets.
  • We (I) missed some chances to shop for crafty items and gifts to send in care packages (we did this twice in September) and for that I visited a Reject Shop.


Instagram has been problematic for me since I moved to a new Iphone. And this year, I went from two accounts to one. Made it easier to keep track too.

On this day, I stopped the car and took photo after photo of Flannel Flowers.

October 2021.

Oh my goodness, it was getting  closer and closer to “opening up” again here in our part of N.S.W. and in Greater Sydney.

  • We still could only travel inside the local government area of Central Coast.
  • However it goes from the M1 at around Mt White in the south  to Lake Munmorah in north and across to the coast at many places.
  • Even so we decided to stay close to our ‘local area’ comprising of Wyong, Norah Head, Hamlyn Terrace and Toukley…until I had enough and did a couple of solo road trips south to where we used to live.
  • To pick up some items, and to have a look around again at where we lived from January-November 2015.

On 11th October 2021, we were free again to drive to Sydney. However, my Dad suggested I come a couple of days later. My husband was fortunate to get his HAIR CUT this week, and I still had a rather agonising two more weeks’ wait as my salon needed to have all working there to be double vaxxed.

I enjoyed that experience in late October, and could actually show my face with pride when we visited our son’s family. I was too embarrassed by my LONG (for me) locks when our daughter and her youngest visited pre-hair cut. No photos….

So, here are my memories.

Head and Neck Cancer is never far from my mind…even though I am well.

  • I assisted in the promotion of the submission by Head and Neck Cancer Australia to all Federal M.P.s by sending my story with head and neck cancer (page is here) too. I heard back from several, and some invited me to meetings, along with CEO Nadia Rosin.
  • Unfortunately I was unwell for one face to face meeting but did get to the Zoom meeting with one M.P.
  • It is hoped that we will be invited to Canberra (after 3 postponements due to Covid in 2021) to share more in 2o22.
  • I will not be attending. See *further in post
  • However, there will most likely be a federal election too…so we will await not only that outcome but to see how the future government might be in terms of financial assistance to this Australian head and neck cancer charity.

And by the end of October, the best thing happened. We got to drive to outer Sydney to see our son and his four kids on the acres where he lives.


H is 14, we cared for him from 4 months a few days week till school, R is now 12, off to HS and we cared for her for a similar time. E, is 8 and we cared for her for one year & Miss M, we got to know her from visits to us. LOVE these kids

November 2021.

We are now into my birthday month…but I seriously only celebrate on ONE day. However, because of my history with anxiety and head & neck cancer I tend to look back and recognise my developments and changes. Here’s what I mean as an example:


We continued our plans to have a drive somewhere each second Friday and here’s a couple of photos from those times.

And some excursions of mine…locally to beaches, the lake and more:

Visiting Dad means frozen meals made by me for him, and morning tea I bring. He enjoys the chat and the company and I feel better for having helped him too. Sometimes I do a trip back down MY memory lane living near Manly and the Northern Beaches.

Whilst it’s been good to be out of lockdown, Covid19 risk remains and we wear masks inside any building, and the shops, and use our phones to check in, and show our vaccination status. I started having a coffee out, we enjoyed John Doyle’s book. Me via Audible, B via the book. Flowers from the garden to make into dried flowers, over time. Our serious and grown up day of signing new wills and Powers of Attorney and Legal Guardianship, and two pieces of furniture made by Bernard.

And now: love capturing nature and then making collages.

And I enjoy making collages of all the people I love too….question, where is the one with eldest Grandson?? DONE! And I enjoyed another coffee catch up with my friend, and the 3 eldest grandkids’ Granny too. They asked, “do you talk about us?” No, not much, we talk about how it is getting old(er)!

Joining in with The Big Hug Box for a packing day.

  • I last did this in 2018 and Lisa Greissl’s ambition to help others when she was recovering from a very rare cancer is an on-going project with success after success.
  • She was a recipient of a local large shopping centre grant of $10,000 enabling over 200 Big Hug Boxes to be donated to those with cancer in the Hunter region of N.S.W. Covid restrictions changing but still with rules, meant she could have around 12 people join her at the cafe she & her husband now run.
  • Info about The Big Hug Box can be found here. And Lisa’s story as a Woman of Courage here!

Lisa Greissl was a runner before her cancer surgery which compromised her left leg. Determined to be fit and well via exercise, she has become a rower and now, after completing events in NSW she is determined to be a Para-athlete and will be seen trying her best to become an Australian rep in the sport.

Happy 72nd Birthday, Denyse!

I was very grateful to spend a quiet and lovely day having morning tea out with B, and receiving texts, phone calls and a card (thank you to my bro and SIL) along with Facetime in the evening with our kids and their kids…separately! Knowing you are loved and cared for is a blessing and I am grateful for their presence in my lives. Dad always calls too, and he rang later in the day.

December 2021.

This month brought weather that felt like Autumn or Winter. Accompanied by heavy rain at times, we were OK locally but many around N.S.W. were not. Flooding, flash floods and wild storms caused a lot of havoc. At the time of writing, it is 20degC and not at all summer like! However, as I edit this in early January, we eventually got to summer weather but with added humidity and rain. Not great beach weather.

Mum’s Birthday: 6 Dec. She’d have been around late 70s here.

Christmas creeping up on us. And we don’t mind as it tells us the year we’d perhaps like to forget much about, it nearing the end.

And it’s time for school presentation days, graduations, formals, exams and farewells…each needing to be done within Covid restrictions.

  • So tiring too. I felt for teachers and principals as they had so much to do and then it could all fall in a heap if there was a case of Covid reported.
  • Despite teachers and those who work in schools required to be fully vaccinated, and masks being mandatory, it does not stop people actually getting covid and at the time of writing a new variant has been found and case numbers are rising.
  • So far, fingers crossed, no-one in our family has been affected. By January, there were some with Covid.

Keeping the memories happening for me by making photo collages….

My find for learning and Brene Brown’s latest. Loving Atlas of the Heart so much.

Head and Neck Cancer: My work, my condition and more is never far from my mind.

I had been part of the inaugural Choir: Raising Our Voices for Head and Neck Cancer Australia and whilst it is elsewhere on my blog, I am leaving the video here too.

As a result of putting some information about my story, and how I can share about Head and Neck cancer Awareness, I have my first invitation*  to speak to a Probus Group in Sydney’s west in late April 2022. If this goes well, and the news is something that helps others, I will seek more opportunities to do so. It’s free of  course but it’s a distance to travel so I will see how much I want to do this. I now have a “Speaker’s CV”.

*Since writing, I have reviewed my ‘doing’ ideas and they are being fact, I am doing to stop most if not all plans for travelling to be a speaker or participant. I have been not taking into account how much my inner health is affect, and that I cannot eat well at all unless I am at home. So, that’s it. Learning to BE. Again.

And still, even more news from Head and Neck Cancer Australia when A/Prof  Bruce Ashford, Board Member and Head & Neck Surgeon spoke on Sunrise about the rising numbers (no known cause) of young women being diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. Not HPV either.

My own cancer site was a bit sore, even though I care for it as much as possible so managed a late December appointment to see my Prosthodontist in Westmead. I was relieved all seemed well and there is no sign of any disease (as he said, but it implied cancer). Phew.

I came home on a relieved ‘high’ and with so much gratitude which was tempered within 24 hours to hear news of its return in a dear friend. I won’t name her.

Late December including Christmas. 

We got our planned boosters for Covid earlier than we thought thanks to our kind pharmacist.

We were on target for visiting our daughter’s house for Christmas Day, where we would see all of our family: kids and their kids…for the first time together at Christmas since 2014…until…

23 December, late in the day, I began to feel unwell. Like a “virus”. Lethargy, cough, aches. With a virulent strain of Covid called Omicron seeing a HUGE spike of case numbers daily in N.S.W. from the hundred to the thousands in a week, that meant a covid test. I drove from home very early to one centre on Christmas Eve, and despite it showing it was open on the website the night before, it was closed. Those of us who lined up in our cars for over an hour, had to leave and find another place.

These photos are from late December, early January experience of mine.

That time I went where I probably should have in the first place, to Wyong, and had a long-ish but not intolerable wait of over an hour, and got my test done. Still feeling so unwell, our plans for Christmas were abandoned and we stayed put.

The last week of December 2021.

It was boring, predictably, because of Covid and the need to be mindful everywhere we went (or did not in the end). I enjoyed, just on two occasions, a coffee sitting down at a cafe …after a short browse for books…until I stopped doing that because of ‘getting pinged’ by the NSW Service App. Obviously it was working but I had no symptoms therefore no need to test.

Testing…testing ….was a ridiculously awful time for many thousands of us here in N.S.W. as the pathology places buckled under the huge numbers of tests, and their drive-in and other places closed early or did not open due to lack of staff.

Whilst I detest ending the year on a pretty negative note..hey, Covid negative is a good result for anyone…I would like to hope, that in 2022 we can see ourselves coming out of it with the notion of ‘living with Covid” one that is possible. As my husband says ” we live with the flu viruses, and we have our annual shot but it doesn’t always work but we take that chance”.

Here’s the collage of my new blog photos for 2022. Changing the subject!

The posts for Telling My Story end today…..

But before finishing I want to remind myself of a few things. Where I began to feel changes happening within me that seemed strange and yet I  kept on thinking  the professionals I saw knew more than I did. Not re-telling my story but remembering the WHY and WHEN of beginning this process of sharing words and photos from my life, at age 65.

Acknowledging The Shock of My Cancer Diagnosis & Challenge of Brutal but Necessary Surgeries. 

I have taken till this post to share with you all how hard it was to both acknowledge and manage my emotions with the shock diagnosis of a rare cancer back in May 2017.

I also took me some time to learn more about the qualities of the cancer as was found, removed and sent to pathology. Nothing like having the full pathologist report but it took me some years to look at it. I just kept going because I was 100% confident of my professional team. I even called my cancer #squamouscellcarcinoma of the upper gums and under the top lip. But it was not quite like that. It took me till year 5 since diagnosis to read more, and to now share here what it was:

T4N0 verrucous carcinoma upper alveolus: is on my report. T-tumour 4 – cm area N nodes 0 none found with cancer. 

Verrucous carcinoma is a relatively uncommon, locally aggressive, clinically exophytic, low-grade, slow-growing, well-differentiated squamous cell carcinoma with minimal metastatic potential.17 Dec 2017

The alveolar ridge (/ælˈviːələr, ˌælviˈoʊlər, ˈælviələr/;[1] also known as the alveolar margin) is one of the two jaw ridges, extensions of the mandible or maxilla, either on the roof of the mouth between the upper teeth and the hard palate

I now have greater understanding of the ‘where’ the cancer was and that it has ‘cauliflower’ like appearance because I could see that under the top lip. Knowing I was female, non-smoking and non-drinking made me “rare of rare” my Prof told me once. It appears that other reasons a cancer like that could form in my mouth as that I had a bridge attached to the upper teeth and over time that could have caused severe irritation and I was often told I had candida. I prefer to take my Prof’s word that sometimes we will never know.

Doing this here makes me proud of how far I have come and how much my life as altered due to this cancer being found in the weeks after I decided to Tell My Story. And why there was a year’s gap.

Thank you dear readers and commenters. I have been delighted to see how my life story is of interest.

Yes this is the end but no not quite. Given that as a blogger I am choosing what I write about I am planning now to do a month-in-review post each end of month so, yes, in some ways life, like the stories, goes on.



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  1. What a thorough recap! I love your photo collages – very creative and I didn’t know B was such a master craftsman! Pleased you are staying safe and well and doing what you love. It’s great to see you looking and feeling so well – I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, look how far you’ve come! You must be your medical team’s star patient!

    • Thank you Sammie for your presence and support always. You have been here from the start of Telling My Story.

      Yes, Bernard was (and is) an excellent self-taught cabinet maker. He even had his own business for some years but sadly due to the nature of some of those who he worked for, his health suffered. As did our financial situation, and in some ways the effects continue today and they become meshed in the reasons why we cannot afford to buy any more. I am coming to terms with that!

      I am grateful to be able to recount my life story and to have this blog to do so.


  2. How amazing it it to see the journey you have been on with our cancer. You look amazing now!
    I love the ‘Moody’ landscape image too.
    Keep on keeping on.

    • Thanks so much Jody. I sure have become quite the selfie fanatic for my own good…to see progress I can’t always feel if you know what I mean.

      Glad you found a fave image.

      I hope you continue to do well too.

      I am grateful to be able to recount my life story and to have this blog to do so.


  3. You should be very proud of how far you’ve come Denyse and it’s your story to tell. Your updates have been very informative and full of love and honesty. I can’t imagine anyone not feeling blindsided by the diagnosis of any form of cancer and yet you’ve tried to let us inside your head to some extent with telling your story, so many thanks for those insights. You are an amazingly positive advocate for Head and Neck cancer – you really do look wonderful.
    The little things that stand out have been the preoccupation with your hair getting too long :). Isn’t it funny what annoyed us during those lockdown months! I actually took the opportunity to grow mine and am loving the change.

    • Love your hair story Deb! Awesome outcome for you. I have had long hair on and off over the decades but for me now, this short do is MY do!!

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I can’t recall if we “found” each other as bloggers in the same year I was diagnosed or into 2018. I knew of Sue and Leanne then and it took me to Mid Life Blog Link Up to find more people. None of that really matters because I value your friendship via blogging all the more.

      I am grateful to be able to recount my life story and to have this blog to do so.


  4. Hi Denyse, what a project you have undertaken but a wonderful way to document your life which many of us don’t take the time to do. You’ve come so far especially over the last few years with your HNC but always you’ve inspired others to keep going even when you are scared or feel like you’ve had enough. I think you’ve found excellent ways to cope with not just your illness but then COVID and all the stresses and restraints that has brought. Well done! Take care of yourself and thanks as always for #lifethisweek.

    • Thanks Sue, I think that you are right in terms of learning how to cope and become more resilient via HNC has helped in some ways for the past 2 years of covid life and all its disappointments.

      Your support personally and via the blog has been unwaivering since we met on-line and I always remember your kindness sourcing a healing journal with prompts for me to try.

      I am grateful to be able to recount my life story and to have this blog to do so.


  5. I love the positivity in your post Denyse even though you’ve had your struggles. As if health issues aren’t enough to deal with, then there’s been covid to make things more difficult. I love your attitude to life. You really are an inspiration. By the way Denyse you are looking fantastic.

    • Oh thank you Jennifer for those kind words and your observation.

      I am someone who used to get down more than stay up (and it can still happen but it no longer sticks!) and having the gratitude for my life now, and all that dealing with cancer has taught me has changed so much of me inside.

      I am grateful to be able to recount my life story and to have this blog to do so.


  6. You really should be proud of your activism. You have achieved so much – fiscally and in terms of greater change. I hope Canberra happens for you and you get the outcomes you are striving for. It’s a big deal.
    I love the smiley face in the sand, and you really tempt me to get to that Terrigal Broadwalk. Maybe soon.
    I think I missed your birthday. Happy birthday. And I love that you take frozen meals for you dad. So sweet.
    As for masks, I don’t mind them. I now only put eye makeup on if going to the theatre or concert, as I’ll have the mask on all night – no need to worry about foundation or anything else. HA!

    • Love your practical approach with masks and makeup! Just as I was learning to add some kind of foundation each day to my 72 yo skin, back came the masks and it all comes off. I have, on occasion, still added some lip cover (even though lips are very much affected by reconstruction) because I dislike my selfie looking washed out.

      I had a bit of a self-revelation late last year and into this year when I became unwell close to my birthday and I had to cancel catch ups where I would be driving a way and meeting people. I have ‘taken stock’ of my 72 yo self and she is no longer “doing” as much as before.

      I became quite exhausted emotionally too about “did I have covid, or not” and then we missed Christmas and my dad’s birthday. I have made the decision that for my overall health’s sake meetings etc for HNC and travel are out. I am disappointed but facing the reality for me these days is better for my future.

      I will still be doing on-line and local advocacy for HNC where and how I choose. My role as an Ambassador is one I cherish.

      I am grateful to be able to recount my life story and to have this blog to do so.


  7. Health struggles, Covid, your move, retirement, so many enormous life challenges and look how you’ve come through Denyse – with that big beautiful smile, so many friends and such a wonderful online family. Keep blogging, keep writing, and keep sharing – I really do commend you!

    • Thanks so much Jo, the great kindness in your words for me here is appreciated.

      I will keep blogging until I no longer enjoy it. The minute something feels like work or a job is, for me, an indicator I need to slow down and check my health.

      It was fun being part of your recent post. I am doing a post re ageing and my changes in a few weeks time and will link to that post as well.

      I am grateful to be able to recount my life story and to have this blog to do so.


  8. Hi Denyse – all these stories of your life will be such a valuable keepsake for your children and grandchildren. It’s also been interesting following your journey from youth, through work, marriage, family, health, and more. You’ve done well to have so many photos to include and such a diverse and interesting life to share. You should be really proud of getting it all down for posterity.

    • Thanks so much Leanne. It was a labour of love and one for the hopes of some history being kept that inspired me on days I did not want to write.

      I have been printing off the stories and this last one will be added to the album today.

      I know stories of life past appeal to some member of families more than others. I know mine will have this should they choose to check it out.

      I am grateful to be able to recount my life story and to have this blog to do so.


  9. Such a comprehensive recollection of these recent months Denyse. What strange times we’re living through and you are doing it with such grace and gratitude. Fantastic to hear you’ll be speaking on Head and Neck Cancer at Probus. I’m sure you’ll do a wonderful job of it and it will do wonders for your self confidence I’m sure. I love your appreciation for nature and wildlife – something close to my heart. Love all your collages too! All these stories and photographs will be wonderful for your children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren to come. Have a wonderful week Denyse! xo

    • Thanks Min. I am glad to have completed these stories but also glad that they will help fill in the blanks over time when B or I ask ourselves “what happened in 2021?”

      I have made some changes to my plans in 2022 and will no longer be off to here there and more to meet up with people in an ‘official’ capacity as the past few months have shown me that I overdid it for a bit and it is challenging for me when I am away from home to nourish myself well. It’s been a bit hard to say ‘no, thank you’ now but I think long term my health will benefit.

      The final post, this one has now been added in printed form and the stories are there for the reading when/if there is interest.

      I am grateful to be able to recount my life story and to have this blog to do so.


  10. Beautiful recap! You live such an inspiring life and reading your chronicles is a reminder to do course corrections in our life.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words and compliments Shiju.

      I am grateful to be able to recount my life story and to have this blog to do so.


  11. You are the queen of photo collages. What a pain Covid has been and for cancer patients the cessation of in person check ups has been unsettling. I understand the reality of not straying too far from home with eating and other challenges making it stressful. Focus on what you enjoy!

    • Thanks Maureen for your kind words and comment.

      I am slowly learning what IS helpful for me and what may cause me more stress than I need. Hence admitting going away etc is no longer something that it easy and I can understand too, I sure am not alone thanks to my HNC friends like you! You get it.

      I had my first cuppa and half a muffin out in a cafe yesterday after a long covid break and it was great.

      Take care,


  12. What a great way to wrap up your stories; I like the idea of monthly check- ins too. I’ve been doing them for a few years now and love having them to look back on! You have some really beautiful photos here. I love all those ocean views and sunny skies.

    • Thanks so much Joanne. So much has happened in these past years I am glad to have made it into blog posts.

      Yes to my following a monthly wrap now, as you do too.

      Sending you some sunny skies and ocean views!

      Take care,


  13. I’ve really enjoyed reading your story, Denyse, and hope you got as much out of writing it. I’m currently putting together something for Mum’s (belated) birthday (ssssh don’t tell her) and wish I knew more of her story. I’m sure your kids appreciate it too.

    • Thanks so much Jo. I take that as a great compliment from my friend the author!

      Oh I am pleased you are getting to celebrate your Mum’s 80th. I saw it didn’t happen as hoped and now it is. Yay.

      I have always enjoyed this kind of memory lane thing and it started back in the 80s & 90s and covered wedding anniversaries for my parents and their significant number birthdays. I guess I could do this as making the memories in kind of scrapbook form as I did meant they could be read and re-read. Dad still has all of them.

      For Mum’s 80th we knew she wanted people to tell her things that we loved and appreciated about her. She meant “before I am not here to listen to it” and that became a focus for us all. Each person sitting around the circle at pre-dinner drinks and nibblies read or shared what Mum/Noreen meant for them. I have photos too of the ways in which I did a kind of timeline with printiing of photos and then I put them in a scrapbook for her to enjoy.

      And here’s the scary part. By age 82 she had become very unwell and died…so glad we did it…and the more scary part (personally!!) I am 80 in less that 8 years. O.M.G.

      I hope your Mum enjoys all that is part of her celebration. Mums need to be celebrated!!


  14. It’s great you’ve reached this five year milestone. Hopefully you can look forward to the future with great positivity without being held back by the past.

    • Yes it has raced up to meet me, even though the 5 years cancer free isn’t quite here, and I have mixed emotions Chris!

      For the years past it has been lots of challenging times and I put so much emotional energy (I am using this term as it’s how I feel…) into recovery and managing all that the diagnosis threw at me, that I am relatively depleted.

      So for now and into the foreseeable future I am looking at better nurturing of my 72 year old self and looking at and enjoying the healing within as I move through it all.

      Great to see your words and photos doing well for you Chris.


  15. (Very late to the party this week – have had trouble linking)

    ….Ooh I do love ‘Grand Finales’ when the whole cast is there and the show come to its conclusion right in front of your eyes. This was one spectacular one – which I thoroughly enjoyed.
    Here’s hoping life runs much more smoothly without the ups and downs of all these recorded years……but then it wouldn’t be life if that happened would it?
    Take care

    • So true about LIFE…as we both know it.

      Sorry about the linking up troubles. Glad you sorted it, Cathy. These things can throw us for a bit!

      Thanks so much for your kind and generous words. Yes, wrapped and in a folder..and perhaps I will be the one to re-read once the blog is closed..and no, have not made any decisions on that for now.

      Take care,


  16. What a fascinating way to craft a memoir… a “chapter at a time”. You take so many photos, which I am sure helps you remember things. I’m not sure I’d recall things like you’ve been able to. I hope you feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment with your last chapter “in the books” or the blog!

    • Thanks so much Patricia.

      The photos are my link with the memories and so there was a LOT of searching for images that were in albums and folders and loose. I did get myself organised some years ago, and made up large plastic bags with family members names on and I “filed” photos into there that were not made up into memento albums and the like. It made it so much easier for future memory books too.

      I have been making books for over 30 years now for my parents’ anniversaries and birthdays and for each of the grandkids as they came along too. I did enjoy it but now the blog is telling MY story with as much in it as I could legally share and with privacy taken into consideration.

      GLAD it’s done now!

      Take care,