Tuesday 28th June 2022

Women of Courage Series. #38 Tara Flannery. 37/2020.

Women of Courage Series. #38 Tara Flannery. 37/2020.

Trigger warning: domestic abuse, cancer, psychological help.



A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

Tara Flannery, aged 48, and I have never met but we have much in common. Firstly we are teachers. Secondly we share a similar team caring for us as head and neck cancer patients. Thirdly, we want to help others  and this is why I was delighted with Tara agreed to share her story as a Woman of Courage. We are planning to meet for a coffee and a chat as soon as we can post-COVID-19. It will be a long and much needed catch up for us both. Welcome to the blog Tara and thank you again!




What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

I have had a couple of moments where I have had to dig deep.

Becoming a single mum with a 18 months old and finding studying full-time, no home, no family support

Discovering I had cancer and the treatment that followed.


How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

I learnt I could do anything I set my heart too.

I learnt that that there are a lot of generous people out there.

I learnt that there are a lot of judgmental people out there.

I learnt that it is not easy to walk away from domestic abuse. It is easy to tell someone to get out but to actually do it is another thing completely.

I learnt that the love I have with my husband is unconditional.

I learnt that others take on your cancer as their problem and can turn against you.

I learnt that I have amazing friends who still loved me even though my anxiety turned me a tad neurotic.

I learnt having a cancer diagnosis will not make family who have turned their backs come back.

I learnt that not many people have the ability to empathise or self-reflect and that is OK.

That is their personality not mine.

I learnt to appreciate every moment I have with my friends, husband and children.


Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Don’t let other peoples perception of your reality be yours.

You don’t need to be strong – if you need to cry, scream, throw something. Do it!!! Of course without hurting others 😉

Go talk to a psychologist. It is nothing to be ashamed of. You need a safe place to vent and sort through your emotions.

I didn’t realise how deeply I was depressed and filled with anxiety until I had a year of therapy.

If you are prescribed medication to keep you calm. Take it. Again – nothing to be ashamed of.

Your mind will be racing – you need sleep and rest. These medications are not forever. I took valium and antidepressants for 18 months.

I am off the valium (except for procedures where I need to be awake) and am on minimal dose of antidepressants for most likely the rest of my life.

I suffer Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

Trust your medical team. They have helped numerous people before and will continue helping people like you.

Trust their judgment and advice.

Don’t make major decisions – you may come to regret it later.

Eat well – try to evaluate your nutrition. Fresh whole foods.

Try alternative therapies – it can’t hurt (research them thoroughly before you do – there are a lot of con artists out there!)

Learn about self-reflecting. Try to be aware of how you are acting.

Try not to take other peoples behaviours personally.


Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I think I would probably handle it the same way I did.

I consider myself a resilient person. But having a cancer diagnosis is traumatic and I don’t think I would be calm if diagnosed again.

If I had to go through a divorce again. I would be mentally prepared and I know I could support myself and get through it.


Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Try to choose a reason why you need to be here – or set a goal.

My goal is to be a Grandma. My girls are only 21 and 15 but setting that goal and having that as my focus helped.

I also had a family holiday booked that I was keen to participate in.

I worked hard at rehab and was assured by my medical team I could do it.

Do not set unrealistic goals.

Accept help. Any help. Try not to be a martyr.


What an amazing and heart-felt story of courage from Tara. So grateful we ‘found’ each other on-line and thanks for sharing the ups & downs of head and neck cancer surgeries and mouth prostheses so I know I am not alone either!




For readers of this blog post: 

The following information may be helpful to you or another. These are Australian-based.

Your Family G.P. can be a helpful person to listen and make referrals.

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

Phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for 24 hour assessment, referral, advice, and hospital and community health centre contact details

Qualified Psychologists can be found by visiting https://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/

Australian Counselling Association is on 1300 784 333 to find a counsellor

Cancer Council Australia https://www.cancer.org.au/

Beyond Five. Head and Neck Cancer Organisation. https://beyondfive.org.au



Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.



  1. Hi Denyse and Tara. You certainly had to dig deep didn’t you but you have shown great courage and are an inspiration to others. Thank you Denyse for sharing Tara’s story with us at #MLSTL. It is amazing what we can do when faced with life’s challenges. xx

    • We do respond in ways which we may never have considered in life’s troubling times and gain strength and resilience as a result.

      Tara’s story cover this well!

      Thank you Sue.

    • Tara Flannery says:

      Thank you. It’s nice to not feel so alone in this journey.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story Tara. I agree with you that you have been resilient. I hope all goes well for your future and you have an easier time of it in coming years. Thanks Denyse for introducing us to another Woman of Courage #MLSTL

    • My privilege to share the courage of others via their stories.

      Tara’s is one of these indeed!

      Thank you Jennifer.


  3. I can really relate to a lot you said Tara. I was in an abusive relationship for 22 years with my sons’ father and I know how hard it is to leave that relationship. When you do finally do it you’re blamed for the whole mess and many people abandon you. But it makes you stronger, and it sounds like your second marriage is lovely just like mine. Best of luck for the future

    • Oh my, that is something that is so hard to read as it must have been so awful to endure too Christina. Thank you for your frankness. How horrible life can be…and then with what you wrote about your second marriage..how good it can be too.

      Thank you Christina,


    • Tara Flannery says:

      Thank you. I’ve learnt to not judge people for not leaving abusive situations. The victim almost always feels the blame.

      Yes. My husband is the best!!!

  4. Hi Tara – thanks for sharing some of your story with us – the good and the bad. It never ceases to amaze me how different people are and how supportive or unsupportive they become when someone they know is in a difficult or crisis situation. It teaches you who your real friends are and deepens those friendships – and it also allows you permission to let some people go from your life who are beneficial or who just don’t “get” it.
    Denyse thanks for for sharing another great interview with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM

    • Well-said Leanne. Your synthesis is spot-on. It is hard to understand the cruelty and unkindness of others during hard times.

      Your words are very encouraging and wise.

      Thank you Leanne,


  5. What a great post! Thanks Tara and Denyse for sharing this with us. I love the simple and effective advice, ‘don’t be a martyr’! It sounds like you’ve been through a lot and your resilience shines through. All the best to you. #mlstl

    • So true. It can be ‘easier’ to mope into martyrdom but how does it help? Not much at all.

      Thank you Debbie,


    • Tara Flannery says:

      The hardest thing to do was to let go of cooking, cleaning, work etc. I’ve learnt to embrace our great Aussie mantra ‘she’ll be right!’ ☺️

  6. Lovely to ‘virtually’ meet you Tara, and thank you for sharing some of your story with us. You sure have had some challenges and not easy ones either! You are amazing and should be proud of your strength and resilience. I wish you many, many happy and healthy days ahead! xo

    • That is such a loving and kind comment for Tara, Min!
      You are a beautiful person sharing from her heart.

      Thank you Min,


    • Tara Flannery says:

      Nice to meet you too Min.

      I don’t think I’ve done any more than most people would do. I feel most of us have the courage and resilience.


  7. Interesting post. There’s a lot of difficult things to think about there.

  8. Thanks Tara for sharing your story with us. You’ve had some tough challenges and your resilience shines through. I hope all goes well for your future and you’ll be the happiest grandma one day. Thanks, Denyse, for sharing Tara’s story. #MLSTL

  9. Thank you Denyse and Tara for sharing this inspirational story with us. One that reminds us that accepting help and releasing your emotions are not signs of weakness, but of strength. Wishing you health, happiness and peace of mind. #MLSTL

    • Great point made that we all need to remember in times of need and feeling vulnerable.

      Thanks so much Christie.


  10. Thanks for sharing your story Tara. I look forward to hearing all about your actual meeting with each other Denyse. What a special day that will be!