Tuesday 28th June 2022

Three Years Ago. Head & Neck Cancer. October 2017. 83/2020.

Three Years Ago. Head & Neck Cancer. October 2017. 83/2020.

For this week and the next 2 weeks each Wednesday I am posting a ‘review’ blog post mostly to remind ME of how far I have come in terms of the changes brought about in my life thanks to the diagnosis of head and neck cancer on 17 May 2017. The whole story is here. 

Using some photos I am adding my memories from the time.

Here I go:

October 2017.


The way in which I recorded the times. My husband kindly took photos of me outside Chris O’Brien Lifehouse on the afternoon of our visit as a check-up in October 2017. It was the first time I had seen my head and neck surgeon since leaving hospital in July after the first major cancer removal and mouth reconstruction. Of course I brought cake! Cake is my appreciation gift to my medical and surgical professionals. What I see in ‘me’ is the way it was then. I had no way to smile and it was probably because of seeing photos like this that I finally went and brought properly fitted bras. Sigh. The photo of the drive back home over the Harbour Bridge is a great memory. One of relief too. However, glad I have this as we can no longer use iphones in cars without risk of huge fine.




Seriously I was gob-smacked at this image. WOW. My fibula, the shapes at the top, cut into 3 pieces and made into my new jaw by being attached with screws to under my cheekbone. The little dot-type images: one at the front, two on each side, five in all, are where the screws are embedded into my new jaw and which will, over time, hold the upper prosthesis I have now in place. This was so good to see however, as it showed just how clever my team is!




The first time I ventured down the M1 alone that October was for a very good reason. To meet up with my daughter and her two eldest daughters for morning tea at Hornsby Berkelouws. It is a favourite place to meet because it’s about an hour from our place and reasonably convenient for those who live in Sydney to meet up. I was still very new to what I might eat/drink but I managed a piccolo and a very small cake with icing. Lovely as always to see the family. I admit I was tired out. Pretty big deal only two + months since my big surgery.




Our daughter. Very proud of her. This lemon meringue pie – a firm family favourite – made ‘just for her’….to celebrate her completion of her Master of Education Teacher Librarianship. It’s pretty tough being a single mum to 4 and working generally full-time as a teacher and then teacher-librarian too. Not only that, she started a new school’s library. One book at a time. Many hundreds of times. Eventually to complete the last semester of the pretty gruelling regime to do a Masters on-line (and to keep her job) she took long service leave and “got the job done.” She and the four kids (3 are adults) joined her in the celebration of her achievement at Charles Sturt University Graduation Ceremony later in 2017.




In late October I decided I needed a ‘challenge’. A personal one. It seemed that I wanted to show off this new-to-me slimmer body and the enjoyment I was beginning to find in looking for clothes that actually fitted me. Of course, my weight loss was because 1. cancer and 2. I couldn’t eat properly but I was also not allowed to lose any more weight by my professional team. This instagram challenge took on a life of its own and over time I did this every.day. for many, many days as it helped me emotionally to see my improved look and demeanour despite the ravages of how my mouth had been reconstructed using part of my leg.


Glad to have shared this. I know long time readers may recall some of these images. Thanks for reading and commenting.



Joining Leanne and friends for Lovin Life Linky here. 

Joining here too: Esme’s Senior Salon link up.



  1. It’s so great Denyse how you’ve documented your whole ‘journey’ (I know many ppl hate that word but I can’t think of another) because as you said, it helps future you to look back and see how far you’ve come and what you’ve overcome. It also helps others who are going through something similar and inspires many. xo

    • Thanks Min. In the absence of any other word, journey does it for me!

      I like to look back too as it helps me document my progress and I picked this month to do so as next week will be October 2018, the week after October 2019.



  2. I love that hashtag – go you! That xray photo – my goodness. i don’t even get how it was taken. But what a trip! You are part Terminator, aren’t you?
    Seriously though, I hope it makes you feel a little unstoppable. Look at what you’re been thru and where you are (and what you’ve done with it. Ambassador and all.)

    • Thanks so much Lydia.

      I had that done as a CT scan in late 2017 and wow.

      Today I had a different Xray taken today at Westmead.An OPG. Very simple machine but complex too. Stand within a space, hold a wad of compressed cotton wool between the front teeth, have no earrings or necklace on, and the machine does a 360deg around you.

      It’s an amazing process. Very quick too. My prosthodontist got it done again today to ensure all is “still in place” with those wires and abutments and that there is no bone decrease. The things ‘in place’ are actually stapled/attached somehow under my eyes at the top of my cheekbones. Yay. Bit uncomfy but there they are.


  3. That x-ray certainly puts things in perspective. Gob smacked indeed xoxo

    • Yes …the first time I saw it I went “WOAH”. That was via a CT scan. I had an Xray today just as a twelve months apart thing called an OPG. There are wiry things are all attached with staples to the top of my cheek bones inside. Yep!



  4. Wow, Denyse, what powerful memories these are, and what amazing things can be done these days. I too am in awe of the xray photo. You really are fabulous!

    • Thank you, Debbie. Yes, that photo I now recall was a CT scan. There have been Xrays called OPGs taken since and I had another today as it had been 12 months + since the last one. My mouth does not look like a mouth really via those images. My team are very clever.