Sunday 26th June 2022

Women of Courage Series. #63. Cosette Calder. 86/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #63. Cosette Calder. 86/2021.

In July 2021 The Women of Courage posts will be connected in some way to World Head and Neck Cancer Month (July) and the #WHNCD Day on 27 July 2021. Those who have followed my blog since 2017 know I was diagnosed with a rare Head and Neck Cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip. More here.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

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

Those of us who have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer never feel quite alone when there are others we can share our stories and one such place is a special facebook group (private, but ask to join) here based in New Zealand. This is where I virtually met Cosette Calder, aged 46, and she was someone I reached out to share her story of head and neck cancer, and here she is. Thank you Cosette.



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

  • In 2015 I was diagnosed with throat cancer.
  • I had a young family, full time job and life was busy.
  • Suddenly everything stopped and I had to undergo Chemo and Radiation Treatment to beat this cancer and have a chance to live.


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

  • I had a brutal cancer treatment.
  • I couldn’t eat food and had to have a tube inserted into my stomach.
  • For two months I only drank water and was tube fed.
  • I lost 8kgs and some of my hair fell out.
  • I really had to dig deep to get through this treatment.
  • I had a plastic mask made of my head and shoulders.
  • This mask was for the radiation treatment.
  • My head had to be perfectly still on the radiation table so the mask was bolted across my face to the table for 20 minutes a day during radiation treatment.
  • It is incredibly scary and claustrophobic.
  • I somehow managed it.
  • I am proud of myself for the courage of wearing the mask when I was so ill and feeling down.
  • I fought hard whilst being so unwell. I didn’t realise I could be so strong.


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

  • Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
  • Sometimes we can’t help what happens to us.
  • Keep moving on and keep trying.
  • Acceptance too helps.
  • By accepting my cancer diagnosis I was able to focus and keep moving ahead.


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

  • I am stronger now.
  • I have been pushed to the limit and I know how lucky I am to be here.


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

  • You CAN do it!


Oh my, yes we do have brutal treatments don’t we?

However, in reading this of your experience as a head and neck cancer patient Cosette, and, now well-recovered, it is a tribute to your human qualities of strength and courage that you have recovered and now share your story. Thank you again. I am sharing the information below from the New Zealand Based Facebook Group for Head & Neck Cancers. Thanks to for all you do to share awareness!


Note About Head and Neck Cancer Support on-line.

IF a family member or someone you know does have a diagnosis of a head and neck cancer or that person is a carer, the value of a good facebook group cannot be over-done. The friendly space that IS this group for eligible people to request membership is a good one. There are people from all over the world but the group is not huge so personal connections can be made. It is mainly made up of New Zealanders, and Aussies too…along with those from the U.S. There are questions to be answered to join and it IS strictly for those with a head and neck cancer. Link is here.

This is a link to Head and Neck Cancer Australia too. This is where I found information initially after my 2017 diagnosis and where I am now an Ambassador.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 – All rights reserved.




  1. Wow, what an amazing lady. I hope she enjoys good health now and moving forward.

  2. Oh my goodness; what a courageous story!

  3. Hello Cosette and thank you for sharing your story. You’re one strong person to manage the brutal treatment, not just physically but mentally as well. Thank you, Denyse, for introducing Cosette and for linking up with #weekendcoffeeshare.

    • That is so true Natalie.

      It is a brutal and tough cancer, this one and Cosette has come through this with grace and wellness as her reward.


    • Cosette Calder says:

      Thanks Natalie I am fortunate now that I have come through the treatment well and life is back to normal again! I will never forget what I have been through and the lovely supportive people I’ve met along the way. Cosette

  4. What an amazing story Cosette! Thank you for sharing this Denyse. It puts everything in our own lives into perspective to read about such endurance. I am so glad you BOTH survived. Can you talk okay, Cosette?

    • Thank you so much Marsha.

      It is a pretty nasty cancer this one (not that I compare cancers!) and I too am glad we have survived.

      Whilst my speech is slightly different – I have a lisp, I am unsure of Cosette’s.

      Take care,


    • Cosette Calder says:

      Hi Marsha thanks for reading my story. I can speak ok now. In the beginning it was difficult and it hurt to talk for long periods of time. However now I feel like it’s back to normal again which I am thankful.

  5. Cosette Calder says:

    Hi thank you for your lovely comments! I can say that I am healthy again and have more energy nowadays. My speaking/voice is fine thank you. It was a bit raspy to begin with after treatment however over time it returned to normal! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. Cosette

  6. Cosette I really felt for you as I read of what you have had to go through. I can’t imagine coping with the head mask. You are a brave and courageous woman. Denyse thanks for introducing your readers to Cosette.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Cosette is, along with many I know who have had to use the mask, one very courageous woman alright!

      Thanks Jennifer, I would not be happy with having the mask but, as I have found from experience, you do what you have to do!


    • Cosette Calder says:

      Thank you Jennifer

  7. So hard to go through all this. I can understand how frightening the treatment was. it is great that you both came back out of it and are now doing well.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Yes, the word gratitude comes to mind, over and over again with a successful round with cancer.

      Cosette’s story reminds me that whatever we think we cannot face, when we have to, we can summon up all our courage…and do it….scared or not!

      Thanks for visiting Deborah,


    • Cosette Calder says:

      Thanks Deborah I feel really fortunate that I have had a great outcome after treatment. Cosette

  8. Thanks for sharing your story, Cosette. The treatment did sound really tough. Keeping one foot in front of the another along with acceptance certainly sounds like the most appropriate way to help with the situation despite how scary and confronting it can be.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks Sanch, I am sure Cosette, like many who have had to face the radiation part of treatment would agree whilst it was scary and uncomfortable (after effects often don’t leave) you “do what you have to do”.

      Take care,


  9. Oh. My. I can’t say anything else. I could feel the rawness in your words. Take care…

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      I am hopeful that Cosette will see your words Jo, as it is a brutal and nasty disease to have and to get fixed…

      I don’t post these stories without permission of the person who decides to share as you know.

      I reckon even some years down the track, even the person who had the radiation like this could look back and say “woah” I did that.

      I appreciate your kindness too. It’s awareness we want so that people can get themselves well again (even like this) to live their lives as best they can moving forward.

      Thank you for your comment, it’s a help truly, to see this from others.


    • Cosette Calder says:

      Thanks Joanne Cosette

  10. Cosette Calder says:

    Thank Sanch for your comment. Looking back I realise acceptance did help a lot with heading into cancer treatment. It can be a bitter pill to swallow that patients have to undergo treatment in order to be able to continue with their life journey. I am thankful I am at the other end now.

  11. Wow. Such a story! My father went through a similar treatment, but he was in his early 70s. His wife had passed and his children were grown and established. He’d met and partnered with a woman who helped him through his treatments, and his adult children were always nearby, sometimes staying with him or managing his treatments.

    But that mask. I all too well recall that mask.
    Thanks for this story and applause to Cosette.
    We will win the battle with cancer even it we still fight it one person at a time.

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Thanks so much Gary. All you said is so true. The mask..universal in its use and its reasons for use…is so disliked by some, sedatives need to be used.

      I agree, we need to keep on sharing and making others aware to eliminate or at best, reduce the brutal ways in which it can be eradicated.

      Sorry to read that about your Dad.

      Yes, Cosette and those who also have this radiation treatment deserve both applause and kindness!


  12. Wow, Cosette, you really went through the ringer, but glad to read you are through it. I agree that acceptance is the key to winning the battle of cancer. #weekendcoffeeshare

    • Denyse Whelan says:

      Didn’t she? And Cosette has also shared her story but there are many more, where it was so traumatising and the after effects pretty cruel.

      The week after next I will be showcasing all of the Women of Courage who were prepared to share their experiences relating to Head and Neck Cancer.

      Thank you Terri.