Tuesday 24th May 2022

Women of Courage Series. #74. Ness. 119/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #74. Ness. 119/2021.

Two years & five months ago… 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 conclude today: Thursday 30 September 2021.

Over a couple of weeks soon, I will publish a round-up series of posts  of the women who contributed: not all shared their names and some used initials only but all shared their story and I thank them over and over for their courage to do so. 

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


Trigger warning: Miscarriage and infant death. Breast cancer. Information may be found at the end of the post.



Welcoming Vanessa or Ness for short to this series. Interestingly we have known each other via blogging for probably around 10 years and she turned 50 this year just as my daughter did. We lived within about 8 kms of each other too for a along time, and most likely crossed paths in the local big shopping centre! But we have not yet met IRL (in real life) as they say. So, my words about Ness will likely make her blush a bit but I am not sorry. And we share a love of Downton Abbey!!

I have seen this woman’s life as she describes some of it here via her updates on social media platforms we both were part of when Australian blogging was a much bigger ‘thing’. I remember health news. Cancer news I mean. I also recall the ways in which she had to get on with what was very anxiety producing in treatment and recovery. We are both fans of the work based on Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) and there is a link at the end of the post.

May I add too, how proud I am to have seen Ness become trained in her work to be able to work in a library and even in Covid I see that she continues to make a contribution…and best of all, she has returned to blogging. Welcome back Ness. You were missed!



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

Over the years I’ve had an ongoing struggle with anxiety which eventually led to me figuring out that I’m on the autistic spectrum. I was officially diagnosed ten years ago at age 40.

In 2004 my husband was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Thankfully he is a survivor and going strong. It was a difficult period dealing with his treatment while we also had a toddler and a baby.

In 2007 I was expecting again but had a late miscarriage and had to give birth to my deceased baby which was very traumatic and devastating. Luckily I subsequently had another baby in 2008 and completed our family.

In late 2015 I was diagnosed with early stage triple negative breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy plus chemotherapy and radiation.


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

I spent many years as a stay at home parent but a year or two after my cancer treatment I began volunteer work for St. Vincent De Paul Society Service Centre .

Eventually I went back to TAFE and achieved a Diploma of Library and Information Services.

I originally worked in libraries and had always thought I’d eventually get back into it.

I got a casual job with a council library in January and also  work for a library shelf ready service.

So I guess the change was I stopped putting things off.


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

Don’t be afraid to admit it if you’re struggling and need help.

I would not have gotten through any of the above without taking medication and seeing a psychologist .


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

I must admit that I’m currently struggling again so I’m not sure how to answer the question.

I guess I can be scared and struggling yet still take action however small whereas before I avoided things.


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

Try to be kind to yourself the same way you would to a friend or family member in the same situation.

Remind yourself it’s not weakness to seek any help you may need including medication if appropriate.

Take things one day at a time and when you’re going through hell, just keep going.

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post. For example a website or help line.

The book The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris and the techniques used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy were helpful for me.



Thank you Ness, how pleased I am you have contributed to the series. And it is fitting that a fellow blogger’s story concluded not only Series 3 but Women of Courage Stories.

I so hope we can finally meet up in person too with cakies and coffee!!

Take care,




Social Media for Ness here:







Resources That May Help: 

These sites are Australian-based. 



Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14 – Crisis Support and Suicide …

Russ Harris: Acceptance Commitment Therapy Information is here. The Happiness Trap is also another resource from Russ.

Breast Cancer resources: from Veronica’s  Women of Courage post found here. 

Pink Hope – Know Your Risk, Change Your Future


Be Dense Aware (Did you know dense breast tissue can make diagnosis more challenging?)


iPrevent – Breast Cancer Prevention Through Risk Assessment


Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation – The 3 Step Breast Check


National Breast Cancer Foundation – Zero Deaths from Breast Cancer by 2030 campaign


Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.



  1. Thanks so much for including me. This is giving me all the feels. We definitely need to to make coffee and cakies happen one day xo

    • We will! That is a date.

      I am so glad you agreed to share this story of yours. And I think others may be helped too via some of the strategies you’ve mentioned and will, as I am, be pretty darned impressed by your courage.

      I began the series with a blogger friend…Sam and now concluding with one too, makes me very grateful for my connections through blogging!


  2. Ness, glad to meet you through Denyse and her important series. I am a retired elementary school librarian in the U.S. Have struggled with retirement because I loved my job so much and really wasn’t ready to retire but needed to for health reasons. In just the past month, I have begun to feel more comfortable in retirement.

    Hate that you are feeling less courageous or somehow struggling right now. Hope that is a fleeting feeling and you are soon back on top of the world. I appreciate what you both say about getting help when you need it and taking medication when you require it. We don’t frown upon people with diabetes or hypertension taking medicine to improve their health but for some reason taking medication for mental health is looked down on. Have been on Fluvoxamine for OCD for years and just wish I had gotten on it sooner.

    • Oh that is so kind of you Leslie and I am glad there were some common elements you could understand with Ness’ story.

      Interesting too, like many of us, we can be reluctant to speak of our emotions and little ways in which we “try” to manage things ourselves until we are finally ready to listen to help that is there, with medications, and take them.

      I take an anti-depressant which was to help reduce my IBS symptoms and get me a little more on an even keel and now, much better since my head and neck cancer’s gone (fingers crossed) I remain on them with my GP agreeing it is a good thing for me.

      Sharing our stories is why I love blogging. Itn terms of your adjustment to retirment it too will go up and down but, take it from me much further along the track, adjustments do happen and eventually you will love the memories of all you did and have been but will be more content to “let them be”.

      Take care,


    • Hi Leslie, thank you for reading. I imagine retiring is quite an adjustment. I’m glad it’s getting easier. And you’re right about medication. We should treat it the same as for physical conditions. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. This is a really interesting line “So I guess the change was I stopped putting things off.” I thinnk you could write a lot more detail on this, as I suspect a lot of what we dress up as other issues is simply that – putting things off (but with long detailed and distracting rationalisations).
    As for curently, you’re physically sick – don’t underestimate the impact that has on yuor whoole being,. At least now it’s diagnosed so you will be able to treat it and move forward.
    Great post! #WeekendCoffeeShare

    • This is a kind and helpful comment letting Ness know know too that you get that.

      Excellent point Lydia about how physical illness affects our mood and emotions. My GP told this too for a fact, inflammation in our bodies is a ‘downer’ and does affect us. It’s actually helped me know now when that happens that it is temporary and will shift as I get well.

      I too wish Ness wellness as she gets her debilitating dizziness sorted. It might take time but it will…hopefully help her too.


    • I had to think about how or if I had changed because sometimes it doesn’t feel like I have changed. It feels like my life is the same old rinse repeat of some stability then struggle. But that’s basically everyone. Thanks for reading and the well wishes x

  4. Thank you, Ness, for sharing your story and your good message at the end of the interview. I hope your current struggle is temporary and you’re feeling better soon. Thank you, Denyse, for linking up with #weekendcoffeeshare.

  5. Thanks Ness for this story. The line that resonated with me the most is the one about being scared and struggling, but still taking action even if it’s small action. Doing anything at all can sometimes be the hardest.

  6. Thanks Denyse and Ness for sharing this courageous story. My heart feels for you and all you’ve gone through and currently going through. I like the fact you say don’t hesitate to ask for help and treat yourself as you would someone else who was suffering, these seem to be things we forget to apply to ourselves.

    Thanks for an amazing series of Courageous Women Denyse, you are a marvel in sharing stories and getting people to open up, as I know all too well.

    Take care.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words about Ness’ post. She sure has had (and still does) lots to deal with and look after herself as well as she could/can and her family.

      The series itself has been an awesome one to develop and then share.

      During a couple of weeks on Life This Week I will ‘showcase’ the series and participants more.

      Thank YOU for being a woman of courage and a very enthusiastic and loyal supporter.


    • Thanks Debbie. I don’t know why it’s so hard to be kind to ourselves as we would others. I still have a lot of work to do with regards to self-compassion and Denyse a role model.

  7. Hi Denyse. As expected, you found a great lady to close out the series with substance and inspiration. Thank you yet again.

    Hello Ness, It was a pleasure to read how you ran into several of lives most unpleasant things and still came out able to lead others through similar challenges. I’m not had any of the challenges you describe but after reading Denyse’s series since January, and closing it out with yours, I think I’d be better armed for such things. I applaud how you met and mastered each challenge but best of all how you stepped up to inspire others who may find themselves facing such challenges.

    Blessings to you both.

    • Thank you so much Gary. Those words of appreciation are “why we blog” I think…not to be thanked as such but to connect and learn more about and from each others.

      Vanessa/Ness is a special person and I think a very fitting example of a Woman of Courage to finalise the series.


  8. Thank you so much, Gary. I appreciate such kind words. I think sometimes just knowing we are not alone in a struggles helps to keep going. Thanks again.

  9. Hi Denyse,
    Great to catch up again after awhile and thank you for introducing me to Ness. I have been through health battles myself when our kids were young and there was a lot of familiarity there.
    How are you both managing with lockdown and covid? I am probably more concerned about what coming out of lockdown is going to look like as I’m rather vulnerable. I am going to miss Gladys. I have found her quite reassuring during the pandemic.
    I hopeyou both have great week, and if you’re interested in Ethel Turner author of Seven Little Australians, I encourage you both tocheck out my new blog.
    Best wishes,

    • Thank you Rowena. Good to know you are better now. I am going well. And I refuse (!) to comment politically here!!

      I did have a look at the blog from your link.

      Thanks for sharing.


  10. So nice to read about Ness! Thanks for sharing, Ness. I’ve known you online as well pretty much the same amount of time as Denyse has and it’s been especially lovely to see your updates around studying to work in a library and then get that job. As for ACT, it’s great for so many parts of life. It’s what we use as our framework at Canteen when supporting young people and families impacted by cancer too. Hope you blog more, Ness 😉

    • It would be so good to have a blogger reunion even though we have not met physically yet I reckon.

      Thanks so much Sanch. Ness has been through a great deal and the tools she used and uses are familiar to me as well.

      I too enjoy Ness being back blogging!