Monday 2nd August 2021

Telling My Story.Chapter Twenty Two. 2016-16 May 2017. Part 2/2. 40/2021.

Telling My Story.Chapter Twenty Two. 2016-16 May 2017. Part 2/2. 40/2021.

The backstory first:

Well over a hundred three years ago ….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 Two. And as with other posts, I am making it Parts 1 & 2. 

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, another photo…taken this year overlooking the harbour at Dobroyd near where I grew up close to Manly N.S.W.

I had a sore mouth.

It was often sore. I had to find a new dentist and did in early 2016. His initial view was that my upper bridge was causing some irritation and maybe I was drinking things too hot. He gave me some ideas over time which he thought, as he saw me regularly that year, and with issues that arose, offered possible remedies: fungalin, for candida. Guess what it did? Exacerbated gut and made I.B.S. worse.

I cannot stress enough how much “I” thought this was about me, lack of good health, mouth care and more. I felt judged and I hated that I was so often impacted by this awful anxiety and then I.B.S. that I could not plan to go anywhere.

“Looking like I was OK but I was not”. Last photos of me with original bridge at top of my mouth.

Anxiety Ramps Up.

In my journal I see entry after entry of me trying to get to appointments to my various professionals and suddenly that morning with an episode of diarrhoea it was impossible. Lucky for me they were very understanding.

I did not want anyone other than immediate family visiting us as it made me very self-conscious if I had to run to the toilet. I was not eating well. In fact, losing weight had never been easier. But it was not healthy.

I made myself meet up with a friend at a cafe but the preparation I made in advance …was there a toilet there, could I just have a biscuit with my coffee…was as I now see it over the top but I had to have reassurance.

It was the worst ever for me in very early January 2017 when, after seeing M1 awful accidents on the news, I decided I could not dare visit Dad for his birthday in Sydney just in case I had to use a toilet and I was stuck in the car. It was awful. I felt the pull of the ‘have to’ and the push of the ‘can’t’.

It worsened over time to the point I could not even drive out to the M1, which was the road to my dentist down at Ourimbah, without the feeling drowning me. I would need to make a few of those trips as it turned out in March, April and May 2017 and I had to take medication, know where the toilets were and allow time to get there.

Finally, after 4 months, and having had the teeth out (the best exposure therapy ever) I drove myself to Sydney to see Dad.

Doing What I Could To Help Myself.

On the eve of my 67th Birthday, late 2016,  I am feeling both reflective and grateful.

This image, selfie on my 67th Birthday, “trying my best to look OK” was used for my first series of Telling My Story.

Dad told me earlier tonight that my birth time was around 4.15 a.m. and that Mum put off going to the hospital until around 11p.m. Brave woman!

I’ve also made a mandala* which notes each of my decades of life and it’s been confronting and satisfying.

  1. I was so fortunate to be born to my parents who loved each other very much and were delighted to become parents.
  2. I was born into a caring extended family and always, always felt safe, secure and loved.
  3. Whilst Mum had some health issues in my early years with deafness and eye sight, these were rectified and I always knew my mum was there for me as a stay at home parent while Dad worked in his profession as an accountant.
  4. Our home was comfortable and we really wanted for nothing. My brother and I were well-fed, cared for and given many opportunities to be part of sporting and cultural groups as we grew up.
  5. When we left our Wollongong home for new adventures in Sydney at Balgowlah Heights I felt both the excitement and the nervousness but knew it would be good.
  6. It was and we moved to a great place, a new school and a whole new group of friends. Life was good!
  7. I got to play sport, learn to surf and swim, join the Guides, become a voracious reader and loved to talk.
  8. My early interest in helping little kids and enjoying playing with them started my interest in becoming a teacher.
  9. I got to be part of the school leadership team in primary school and loved organising events and social times too.
  10. My years at high school were a great and heady mix of new friendships, socialising with the boys from the local school and church groups, going to the beach and more.

  1. Learning to drive was a huge step in my independence and mum was happy to lend me her car when she could.
  2. I enjoyed great freedom to be out with friends and for them to come to our place and some of those friends parents became friends with mine.
  3. I was so fortunate to grow up as a teenager close to Manly Beach, particularly North Steyne, where I could catch a bus from home and stay on the sand or in the surf all day.
  4. Of course we met up with boys there too. It was all part of the fun in the sun.
  5. I eventually got some part time work when I was in my final school year and it continued into my 2 years at teachers college.
  6. It was good working at the jewellers on the Corso, three shops away from the beach and my employer gave me and my future husband good discounts on my engagement ring and our wedding rings.
  7. Teaching as part of my pracs in Sydney schools was great. I taught at my old primary school (even in the old classroom from Year 5) and also at Mona Vale, Neutral Bay and because I got excellent grades in prac, I went to the North Sydney Dam School too.
  8. My social life was awesome and centred on events from my then boyfriend’s Uni mates so we went to lots of parties, 21sts and Formals as well as Balls.
  9. Graduation as the first cohort to do the Higher School certificate was good too. Guinea Pigs in one way though as I am sure the NSW Dept of ed was winging it for a while there!
  10. Once I was 18 going to have a drink in the city hotels and bars was never a problem, as part of the time I was there anyway because I had to find work after HSC and the ABC was where I scored an office job.

  1. Hoping to get to teachers’s college didn’t happen on the first round, but by the second round I was ‘bye ABC, hello kids in classrooms.’
  2. I must have had the knack of teaching because as a late arrival at teacher’s college with only days before first prac, I did very well. I knew I had it in me!
  3. So pleased to have the training that BalmainTC provided but I knew I didn’t want to stay in Sydney after graduation so applied for the Bush.
  4. I was appointed to Barraba Central and independent life commenced!
  5. Shared a house with other teachers and I had to learn fast about sharing. I had been quite a ‘princess’ till then!
  6. My first class. K/1. A classic country town group but I knew what to do most of the time and loved being part of a large school staff.
  7. What fun we had on weekends and after hours with meeting at the Golf Club and Saturday Night dinners.
  8. My boyfriend from Sydney days broke up with me as he was unwell and I was free but a little sad.
  9. Not for too long though as by the time October that year arrived, I had met the LOVE of my life and fallen head over heels with a young male teacher who was a one teacher school.
  10. Our whirlwind romance was exactly that. In love (and lust) and determined to be wed as soon as we could because we were too far apart physically where we each lived.

  1. Luckily our department bosses looked after me, and after we married, I was transferred to a two teacher school just up the road from my now husband’s,
  2. But I was also pregnant. Yep. from carefree single teacher in a country town, to  married mum to be in a small community within 12 months.
  3. I won’t deny that it was hard being pregnant after some words of judgement and unkindness from my parents before we married but we went ahead with their blessing and some days those words still stung. In fact they did for some decades. Something about shame in that I think and my mum and her upbringing.
  4. Our daughter came into the world and brightened all who loved her very much. I loved little kids but was at quite a loss with a baby and being left along all day on a country property did not go well for me.
  5. I needed to salve my emotions and I began to eat for comfort and I know this has been what I do to numb myself and continues on and off now.
  6. Back to school for me was the better plan particularly when we could leave our lovely girl right next door to where I taught with my boss’ wife! She was also her godmother. Win!
  7. After two years, it was time for my hub to find a new position as a teacher in charge as his school was closing and we were keen to get teacher housing.
  8. Off to the Riverina area we went and found what we loved for the next 3 years. A great house for us, where we added a pool, a teaching position for me in the next big town and child care for our daughter.
  9. Social life was amazing, with new friends from the teaching and farming community and we were part of a drama society and entertained most weekends.
  10. Infertility was ironic after falling pregnant so easily with our daughter and for the time there and our next place, I was sad and resigned to never having another child. So sad.

Our first born with a first born Mum and fifth born Dad.

More of the stories about what happened next are found here: Telling My Story

The decades of the mandala*. I put it on social media once and found that it was far too personal to share because a follower told me how she could expand it to read. Oops. I have it somewhere here at home but it’s very personal. And mandalas helped me through all of the times before (and since) my anxiety and pre-cancer diagnosis days.

My Update: April 2016

  • We chose to move to a cheaper rental place in November last year as one of the factors in the stressors I was feeling was the place we lived in was too expensive, very uncomfortable and the community connection non-existent.
  • Happily for us, we found that the northern end of the Central Coast suits us more and the house (a home now that familiar to us from the sold Sydney house) is great.
  • A significant event occurred around this time too when I decided to end all connections with my education work places, including my consultancy. From a career commenced in 1970 to now this was another reason to grieve.
  • I still ‘struggle’ with aspects of remaining relevant! Who am I if I am not a teacher?
  • Nature continued to beckon in terms of photography, beach walks and I added growing flowers in pots to this mix. Nothing like having ‘something’ to grow.
  • The kitchen at this house is more conducive to cooking and making meals for the freezer and treats has been a good sign I am liking life again!
  • Meditation has been the one consistent event every single day. Yes. 10-15 minutes since end of March!
  • Learning more, much more about what it is to have some anxiety (I have not been diagnosed with anxiety nor depression) and sadness because of the significant effects of Life Transitions for me.
  • Reading more books, still can’t find a fiction one to satisfy, is great as is the range of newspapers I love. It is so good to have time for this!
  • Making sure I am well-nourished. I do find this hard some days as I mostly solo cook and eat because my hub has special food needs. But, looking after me shows I am caring well for me.
  • I’ve been increasing my knowledge of my reasons for anxiety and IBS and using Acceptance Commitment Therapy techniques via a number of sources including my counsellor and various authors who use this for clients.
  • This has meant a shift in my thinking and some movement towards letting my life move forward with whatever issues arise.
  • I remain a ‘wip’ a ‘work-in-progress.

My Update: April 2017.

  • My mouth continues to be bothersome: sore, and gums were beginning to grow over the teeth of the bridge.
  • My dentist tried a few ideas ….that I went along with until NO. Sorry, I need to know what is UNDER this bridge. The only way, as we both knew, was to remove (drill it out) the bridge, and the 5 teeth underneath.
  • He agreed and it meant I had the biggest physical and emotional challenge ahead. I needed all the support of my husband and my G.P. to do so.
  • Oh, and in the meantime, we were getting sick of the traipse back south to a G.P. and found one, our current one, in early April. JUST in time…for much, much more to come.

But first I had some exposure therapy in real life to manage.

This is information, after it came highly recommended by my then psychologist in 2016-17,  about what it was I needed (and still do at times) to follow to get myself to the dentist, have the extractions and recover from them

Exposure therapy is often essential if you are to overcome your anxiety disorder. The cognitive behavioural treatment of  conditions such as: panic with agoraphobia, simple phobias, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress usually entails an exposure component.That is, you must subject yourself to the situations you are worried about in order to beat anxiety.

Although this sounds frightening, your therapist will give you the tools to cope with confronting your fears (e.g. rational thinking, slow breathing and isometric relaxation).

The guidelines for exposure therapy are that the sessions must be

  • graded
  • repeated and regular
  • prolonged

Why Getting Those Teeth Removed Was The Best Way To Know What I Could Do. 

  • Early April, I met my new G.P. who not only gave me the flu shot but the advice to help I.B.S. was to take an old fashioned anti-depressant as it slowed the gut down. Four years on, I still take it and whilst it is not perfect, this medication and my changed confidence in how to deal with anxiety about I.B.S. works.
  • I prepared for the long afternoon at the dentist knowing my husband would be in the room, reading a book, and that I could take some valium and immodium to manage myself.
  • I had my iphone with the lovely William McInnes narrating a very familiar tale into my ears, and that was it…
  • I was conscious the whole time and it took quite a bit of novocaine for me to have no pain in the palate area.
  • I was given the chance to have a ‘wee break’ and took it half way.
  • It was over before I realised and the dentist, pretty worn out by it, said he broke a few diamond drill heads.
  • But it was GONE. The bridge, those teeth…..and a temporary denture made the week before, was pushed into my numbed gums.

Whilst I declined the chance to take them home (I was told the Tooth Fairy owed me big time) I took the photo instead.

I DID IT. 

  • Yes it was painful as the anaesthetic wore off, but this anxious me had with all her lessons learned over time, managed what was to be a pivotal time.
  • I’d like to say, that’s that…..but no, it wasn’t.
  • The top of my mouth where the teeth had been continued to be smelly, flappy and  nasty.
  • The dentist seemed to think it was OK and would repair itself.
  • I put up with a very painful and sore top of my mouth for the next 5 weeks because he wanted to see how things went and then he went on vacation.

11 May – 16 May 2017.

  • Last trip back to my old G.P. to say good bye and thank you, and by the way “my gums are very sore”.
  • She raised her hands in horror when I took out the denture.
  • Tests for cancer: a C.T. scan for sinuses and upper mouth. Stat. And as I was seeing the dentist the next day, she knew he would likely order a biopsy.
  • Yes he did. STAT. Oh, this was getting to be familiar.
  • He did raise cancer as an idea but felt unlikely.
  • Off to next door where I booked a biopsy at the Oral Surgeon and she said, I can do that tomorrow, Friday.
  • CT scan and biopsy done on that day.
  • My nerves were….calmed by some valium but my goodness, this was serious stuff.
  • Weekend: waiting but not saying anything to family as it was Mother’s Day on 14 May and we had visitors.
  • Monday: results. CT: all good. Initial biopsy: inconclusive: likely candida. Can probably treat you at the surgery.
  • Tuesday 16th May. Nice day.

And that is where this Chapter ends.

If you have guessed where it’s going, then you are probably right.

I will be taking over my Thursday posts with these now over the next months to enable me to get up to date.

Denyse.

Next Chapter: Twenty Three: 17th May – April 2018.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

 

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Comments

  1. I can’t believe how much you went through in the lead up to your cancer diagnosis. What a terrible time that must have been. Good on you for persisting when you knew something wasn’t right. We are our own best advocate and I’ve heard so many stories of people having to push for an answer. Have a lovely Easter Denyse, Christina

    • Thank you, Christina for your kind and caring words.

      You understand what it means to be in this kind of ‘void’ of not knowing.

      It was very stressful, which is why, getting the diagnosis was in fact a relief.

      Happy Easter to you too.

      Denyse.

  2. Denyse you are able to recall memories with such detail. And you were a beach babe 😉 That period of time sounds like a blast 🙂

    • Ah yes loved the beach and was there quite a lot as a teen. Could body surf and use a body board (did this on some our hols till only few years back) and am still drawn to the surf in particular.

      Thanks for your kind words. I have always been the one to remember. I have, however, in making these stories now been able to integrate most of my life into the series, and am now printing them out into chapters stored in folder form. Never getting it published but this is what I like to do.

      Glad you popped in to say ‘hello’ and thinking of you my friend.

      Denyse.

  3. I am really loving this series! I’m also quite impressed with your memory and all the details that you can recall.

    • Thanks Joanne, I get concerned I may be ‘boring’ everyone but comments like yours help buoy me and give me energy to complete the series…only 2 chapters to go ….

      Denyse.

  4. You’re nearly caught up. I love how you’ve done this series – and am tempted to do the same but not sure I can recall quite as well – or whether, indeed, there are some parts I choose not to recall clearly. Wishing you a fabulous Easter weekend.

    • I know! Who’d a thought.

      What a time it’s been though with the stop start of it all (thanks cancer) but it was truly when Rebecca Bowyer said ‘do it as a blog post at a time’ then it felt doable.

      Given my penchant for remembering and keeping on-line diaries and pretty busy-filled in calendars it’s helped me. But I will be glad to ‘finish’ the two chapters leading up to 2020 – which I am glad I wrote last year.

      Maybe write yours on the side….and keep it. You will be glad you have. There is much I did not, for the sake of my past working life and our family life, did not specify only to have them present in ways that added meaning to how things actually were affecting me.

      Thanks for your support Jo. Blogging is a good medium for me.

      Denyse.

  5. You’ve overcome several health challenges and have tremendous resilience. Thank you for sharing your story at #WeekendCoffeeShare. Have a great weekend!

  6. Wow…HOW do you remember so well. I love the decade mandala….I used to tell my mom that she could make up anything about my life and I’d believe it. I have a terrible memory. You have overcome so much. What a great idea to write your story.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Oh thank you so much kirstin. Glad you enjoyed reading this. Yes, I am pleased I did start writing this almost 4 years ago. Nearly done too.

      Not fun for you with your memory.

      Your kind words are appreciated.

      Denyse

  7. How interesting to read your story, Denyse! I’ve read some of your cancer story before but not so much about your problems with IBS. I can related to that very much because I have IBD and there was a time, before getting a final diagnosis, that I was stuck at home and dependent on having seconds to the bathroom. My medication is my saviour in this matter, I’m so glad you got help too.

    But other than the health stuff – I loved reading about your earlier life, and the pictures are lovely!

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks so much Susanne, I am glad I have shared. It truly is better now to let others know what is going on. I was highly embarrassed that I had some rectal collapse resulting in some incontinence but I was not up to ‘facing how to deal with it’ until mid 2020. Got all the cancer surgeries and recoveries out of the way first… and now I am 9 months post that necessary life altering surgery I cannot believe the difference in how each day proceeds for me. I am so so glad you have been helped. My eldest GD (24) was diagnosed with Crohns about 5 years ago and after some major surgery, her doctor is keeping her well (as she is herself of course) with infusions. She is now working and living independently which is awesome. Denyse.

      • Oh, Denyse, that must have been awful. You’ve been through so much. I’m glad it could be sorted, these things affect the quality of life SO much. Glad your GD (God daughter?) is doing well too.

        • Denyse Whelan says:

          Sorry, GD is for granddaughter. Yes it is good that she is well. I too am as well. We go through some things in our lives don’t we but I think sharing helps us know we are not alone.

          Thanks so much Susanne.

          Denyse

  8. Wow, what another epic entry Denyse, you are doing so well at documenting this time in your life. For someone who is scared of the dentist I am so impressed with all you went through!

  9. Your memories in such detail are such an everlasting legacy xoxo