Tuesday 19th October 2021

Head & Neck Cancer: Eating & Drinking Challenges. 29/51 #LifeThisWeek. 88/2021.

Head & Neck Cancer: Eating & Drinking Challenges. 29/51 #LifeThisWeek. 88/2021.

 

July: World Head and Neck Cancer Day. 27.7.2021.

As it’s July, I am publishing more posts relating to Head and Neck Cancer as 27 July is World Head and Neck Cancer Day. It only started back in 2014 I think, with Michael Douglas the actor making the speech to open the world congress for all Head and Neck Professionals. Michael has had #hnc as it’s often abbreviated.

In my role as an Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia, I will share more on-line and links about it too.

Blog Disclaimer: see end of post.

Denyse:

Those of you who have followed me before and since I was diagnosed with a head and neck cancer, know that I continue to write and share about this awful cancer which affects more people than ever. And, for me, back in 2017 I was completely ignorant of its existence.

To inform, educate and to make aware is what I like to think is something I can contribute these days on-line.

I’ve been given a new book to help cancer patients and their carers to read and review. It’s by Dr Toni Lindsay, a qualified Clinical and Health Psychologist who works in Oncology at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. This quote resonated with me, as I am guessing it would with the other people I have mentioned in this post:

Eating is one of our most social activities and often forms much of our connection and engagement with our family and friends. Feeling you are not able to engage in this way can be overwhelming and isolating. So if you are likely to be unable to eat for extended periods of time *it is perhaps worth thinking of ways in which you can continue in social activities that don’t involved food. 

*We understand this, of course, as part of our recovery but, we are also able to eat again and yet, it remains a challenge. Please read on! Thank you.

This is why I am sharing about the challenges of eating and drinking after head and neck cancer with a lot of help from my friends, and Head and Neck Cancer Australia.

This is one place you could find information:

https://www.headandneckcancer.org.au/health-and-wellbeing/diet-and-nutrition/nutrition-videos

This image from the day of filming at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Here is my blog post about that day, the ways in which I have had to adapt my eating and drinking and more.

And those of you who know me in real life, know that I can socialise but it’s helpful for me to have a coffee and something sweet to eat so I tend to choose going to a late morning tea with friends and family and they may have lunch. I cannot eat a meal outside the house unless it’s with family and I can pick & choose. Sound fussy? Not really but practical.

You see my mouth can only hold so much food at a time, and chewing only has two small areas in my mouth, towards the front and food congregates there as I try to get it right for swallowing with ease and not choking.

It’s something that you cannot tell by looking at me, right? But it is like this and I now share more frankly as a result.

I also lose fluid at the side of my mouth unless I keep up with the paper towels/tissues. My upper lip was reconstructed and it does not seal any more. However, it is all pretty good, and the more I share, the less I am embarrassed I guess.

Maureen:

Like me, Maureen is often seen on social media with a coffee in front of her. It is NOT the same double shot as mine but one she truly enjoys and can have it with friends.

Maureen is  a Woman of Courage who told her story here.

She sent me these notes about her eating & drinking challenges.

What adaptations have you had to make to daily life and eating/drinking post head and neck cancer?

  1. My case is unusual and my eating is marred by dribbling so I have to have facecloths to my lips every time I consume anything.
  2. I’ve lost teeth and my marginal mandibular nerve.
  3. I have two boxes of cloths, one on each end of the sofa and I take at least 3 wherever I go.
  4. Believe me, tissues are not enough, even big fat hospital tissues. I
  5. have to do a machine wash every day.
  6. Never had any help with this as I guess there is nothing else you can do.

What advice would you give to others as they recover and are back ‘in the real world’ post HNC?

My advice as such is that it is good to meet up with other non-social eaters and have a coffee.

Coffee is manageable – in fact I often have two cups when I’m with “normals” who are eating. Maureen’s personal blog about Head and Neck Cancer is here. 

Maureen is one of the leaders of this amazing Head and Neck Cancer Facebook Group and she is also the person who blogs about head and neck cancer here and has been instrumental with other people connected with head and neck charity in New Zealand, starting this way of helping others. Head and Neck Cancer Aotearoa Charitable Trust. https://hncsa.org.nz/

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. https://www.facebook.com/groups/HNCSupport.Aotearoa

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.

 

Yvonne:

Readers here have met Yvonne via her post as a Woman of Courage here. 

Yvonne has appeared in an on-line Soup for The Soul event for Head and Neck Cancer Australia last year when we were prevented from doing anything ‘live’ because of COVID. Yvonne’s cancer has changed so much about her life, and the link here, to her newly published book tells more.
1.What adaptations have you had to make to daily life and eating/drinking post head and neck cancer?
  • Meals and what they consist of have completely changed for me.
  • I note now I eat a lot more vegetable and pulses.
  • I do add fruit to my smoothies but sadly just biting into fruit and eating it is out of my range unless it’s mango, lychee or something of that consistency.
  • Drinking alcohol is now pretty much non existent and I was quite the drinker in that I was a party girl and loved nothing more than to sit with friends over a bottle of sparkling or 3 !

So that has also changed for me. It has had a bigger impact too I think because pretty much COVID hit when I was convalescing and of course I had already quit my job and moved countries.

Picking at food and tasting whilst cooking is non existent too these days, I miss just jamming my finger in my mouth to taste stuff, my taste buds thankfully have come back but I still surprise myself with flavour layering occasionally and find sharp and sudden flavours ( acid and sour) sometime confrontational.
What advice would you give to others as they recover and are back ‘in the real world’ post HNC?
I am also very keen to see more support around the emotional and psychological fallout of HNC treatment, I think this has a huge impact as does food in terms of how people come out the other side.

Do my program!  : )  Mind Food Body Program as part of the nofeedingtubes movement.

Yvonne introduced me to this word. Yes, I understand this well. Thank you.

Commensality – eating and drinking at the same table – is a fundamental social activity, which creates and cements relationships. It also sets boundaries, including or excluding people according to a set of criteria defined by the society.

 

Marty:

Marty is a fellow Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia. He and I chatted recently about the challenges of eating post head and neck cancer.

We met back in September 2018 and I was so excited to not only meet up but to share a photo as I had only just had my “teeth” installed.

Interestingly some of his responses were ones I have heard before from members of the Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Support Group.

Marty is more than 17 years post his cancer treatments. Radiation was one.

Marty spoke of limitations of eating rice, fried rice and spicy foods.

Food that were previously enjoyed. It seems taste and texture remains an issue.

And often because of the loss of salivary glands or damage, swallowing becomes hard.

So like others I asked, Marty finds he has to adapt his eating practices often making sure there is a liquid element to the meal such as soup – this is why the fundraiser for head and neck cancer focusses on soup – and to have a drink of water nearby.

Most of us carry out own small bottles of water.

For some of us, it’s a lack of saliva and we need to replenish our mouths to be able to talk. For others it’s about making sure some lingering food crumbs and pieces can go down.

This group photo of some member of the Central Coast Head and Neck Support group at Christmas time 2020 tells an unwritten story.

 

At this table there are 7 head and neck cancer ‘survivors’.

  • Each of us has had different treatments and each of us has been left with eating (and sometimes drinking) challenges when we go out.
  • There were some here who had to have lots of gravy (as an extra) added to their meals, others asked for their meal to be “blended”…oh that is not something some places like to do.
  • Seriously hard on the person who could have enjoyed the baked dinner that way.
  • Instead, from memory the meal became mashed potato and gravy.
  • Others had to make sure there was nothing spicy or with chillis.
  • And as for me, you already know, I chose what I knew I could eat from a mouth concern and how much my stomach could handle.
  • I enjoyed coffee and some date loaf. I have learned not to be embarrassed because the social part of the get together was for me, the important part.

And More From Denyse.

I cannot use a straw any more. My mouth does not seal.

I can have a Christmas lunch. It just needs to be adapted by me.

Here is what I ate on Christmas Day 2020 at home. We were in a covid concerning time and chose not to go to Sydney. So, I made up for my disappointment this way.

Soup for The Soul.

Sadly, due to on-going Covid19 restrictions and closures in our area of New South Wales, this event will not proceed as hoped on World Head and Neck Cancer Day. We “are” however, hopeful of having it at another time. 

Tracey and Me: Soup For the Soul.

Tammy.

In keeping with my own learning about the effects of head and neck cancer, I am adding a paragraph, written by a woman who is both carer and wife in a long term marriage and as things go, can never again have the pleasure of the simplest thing: eating a meal with her husband who has had devastating head and neck cancers taking away his ability to talk – he can communicate via Ipad, but his wife can no longer remember how he sounded…but it’s this, as she gave me permission to share, that I feel needs to be thought about and taken into consideration:

I also think of those who never eat again. For many of this group, communication/talking is not an option either. I know its a very small/rare group , but it’s one dear to me. Socialising involves talking, eating and drinking with others . Its what makes us Human Beings. For a small group of H&Ners, none of this is possible.

Thank you Tammy. I am grateful for your words.

Denyse.

My stories and photos along with suggested links and websites must not be seen as medical advice. I write this blog from my experience as a head and neck cancer patient. Words from others are accordingly from their personal experience and not to be taken as nutritional/dietary/medical advice. Seek what you might need from qualified health professional  who understand the needs of cancer patients.  Denyse Whelan. 2021.

Link Up #249

Life This Week. Link Up #249

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

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* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply. It’s a kind connection I value as a blogger! 

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

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* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: Share Your Snaps. #6. Mine Will Relate to Head & Neck Cancer Awareness. 

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World Head & Neck Cancer Day 2020. 29/51 #LifeThisWeek. 58/2020.

World Head & Neck Cancer Day 2020. 29/51 #LifeThisWeek. 58/2020.

World Head and Neck Cancer Day is coming soon. On Monday 27.7.2020.

In this week leading up to the day, I am sharing more about head and neck cancer.

From Beyond Five, this information:

There is currently NO screening test for Head and Neck Cancer.

 

What Are Some of the Symptoms?

Here is a link to the page on Beyond Five to share more on symptoms.

*sore tongue, mouth ulcer(s), red or white patches in the mouth

*neck lump

*pain in the throat

*ear pain

*hoarse voice

*painful or difficulty in swallowing

*blocked nose on one side and/or bloody discharge

IF you have any ONE symptom for THREE weeks, seek medical advice.

 

How is head and neck cancer awareness and information shared?

In a world unaffected  by COVID-19, this coming week  would have been a time for gathering together for fundraising and awareness raising in our country, and nearby neighbours, New Zealand. Sadly, this is not possible in most cases.

Last year, we were able to do this to raise awareness at Central Coast Cancer Centre, Gosford Hospital.

We are moving toward the on-line spaces more, by necessity and now design and hope you can find some help, information and support there too.

On Sunday 26 July 2020, Beyond Five, where I am a Community Ambassador, is holding a Live Event. 1 p.m. AEST. The link to join in this great initiative is here. It’s one of teaching and sharing….soups and more and is hosted by fellow Ambassador Julie McCrossin AM, featuring these people, including South Australian HNC patient Yvonne McLaren and Founder of The Food Manifesto, to help others with eating issues following HNC and those with swallowing challenges. Check this out:

 

Why July is a strong memory for me.

July IS Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month.

I did not know that nor anything about head and neck cancer till my diagnosis in May 2017. My memories are S T R O N G each July as it reminds me of what happened inside my mouth, outside on my leg and then more.

Just to recap…I share my memories of going into surgery. 6th July 2017.

 

In ICU: where I stayed for 3 nights after surgery on 6 July 2017.

  • July is my “big month” of memories….of going into Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at 6.00 a.m. on Thursday 6.7.2017 with my husband and then having been checked & readied for surgery & meeting the wonderful anaesthetist Murray who reassured Bernard he would be in contact with him throughout the long day ahead….I got to say goodbye and was eventually wheeled to theatreS!
  • Oh, your surgery I was told, requires 2 theatres because there is a team of around 24 for your very complex & long surgery. Close to 7.30 a.m. by the time I got inside..but wait, there is more..
  • Whilst getting my mind around that, and the fact that when I woke (fingers 🤞) I would have had half of my mouth removed….I recall one of the team, actually I think it was Murray bringing in the corrected surgical procedure (originally it was to be remove fibula and skin/flesh from left, but blood supply was found after CT to be better in right) for me to sign. ✔️
  • Murray & his assistant were incredibly busy readying my body for the big surgery by placing monitors and more on me and tapping into 3 parts of me to lay tubes (I don’t know the terms) in left ankle, left & right arms/hands. Why? I had to ask. “Well, Denyse, is one spot fails or we need to move to another, we are ready, we don’t have to muck around in theatre”…

Now, I have but one memory to recall….as I was wheeled into theatre, I glanced to the left where there were teams of people dressed in scrubs & I admit I was searching for a familiar face….and there he was, my prosthodontist from Westmead, looked up and across at me. This man was the one who would, as the day progressed, use all his measurements and findings from my visits in May to “take my fibula after removal” and add abutments to it and ready it for placement inside my mouth.

Well. The memories ended for me.

  • I am told my surgery needed that many people because one team was the one operation on my right leg to harvest the bone, skin and flesh to go inside my mouth.
  • My professor led the team working inside my mouth, and entering the neck area for adding the blood supply from my leg’s flesh into my mouth to form the roof of it. All of my upper mouth was removed…even the last of my natural teeth up there…all 3!
  • There were samples from my neck taken and sent to pathology during the surgery. All were OK so “only” surgery was within mouth and under the lip.
  • My husband told me he was contacted as promised through the day. The day that saw my surgeons and team work for 11 hours to give me the best chance possible to eat, drink, smile and speak again.

By around 8.30 p.m. I was in I.C.U. as I had been told would happen. My body felt different. My left leg was in something that kept moving to ensure circulation & my right was Ok but encased in bandages and drains were coming from large wound area where skin had been harvested. I had an oxygen mask on, a nasogastric tube was inserted and I was pretty sore but not in huge amounts of pain. I barely used the pain pump and by the next day they said, we will take it away. Fine. However, I remained tired. But very pleased to NOT have a tracheostomy ( told it might happen) and could utter a few words. I also was put on a nebuliser for a long time and had oxygen in my nose. The nurses checked me often for drains & radiographer with a portable X-ray machine came in to see nasogastric tube was in ok.

That was my 6 July 2017.

Blogging my Head and Neck Cancer from diagnosis onwards to help me put in down and to help others too. On my blog- denysewhelan.com.au Here is the link to all the head and neck cancer posts.

July 2018– I was about 6 weeks away from have my upper prosthesis put in. Before then, I had 3 other day surgeries to give my mouth some bulk & ability to have the prosthesis attached to the jaw made from my leg. Those surgeries were Nov 2017, Feb 2018, May 2018. Joining local Central Coast HNC support group.

July 2019– Going well. Regular check ups have been good & there is no cancer…found anywhere. May 2019 check. Helping raise awareness of Head & Neck Cancer as an Ambassador for Beyond Five.

July 2020– Continuing to do well. Before Covid restrictions I saw my Prosthodontist in February who said my prosthesis care is excellent and saw my head and neck cancer surgeon in March who said “see you in 6 months”…with a CT scan beforehand to ensure all OK…still.

This is why July means a lot to me…and I share the story of my HNC because it might be rare but there is a need to notice symptoms of HNC and the onus can often be on us, the patient. Beyond Five’s regular updates and professionally reviewed and verified information is my go-to site and that is why I recommend it and work as a volunteer.

 

From Beyond Five’s Website.

“Who Are We?”

There are many people who are part of the organisation called Beyond Five. Professionals in the field are prevalent. The professor I refer to as ‘my surgeon’ is the chairman and one of the founders. With Professor Jonathan Clark AM.

Nadia Rosin. A communications and project management professional with over 20 years of experience in health promotion. Since 2016 I have had the privilege of working with a passionate team of Head and Neck Cancer clinicians, patients, family members and carers to launch Beyond Five, the first Australian not-for-profit to provide education and support to people affected by Head and Neck Cancer.

Experienced in strategic planning and communications, stakeholder engagement, fundraising, project and operational management. I am passionate about collaborating with key stakeholders to provide evidence-based information and support to patients, carers and health care professionals, raising awareness of Head and Neck Cancer in Australia and advocating for Head and Neck Cancer to form part of the public sector funding and health policy agenda.

Julie McCrossin is a broadcaster and journalist. In 2013 she was treated for oropharyngeal cancer and is now one of Australia’s leading head and neck cancer advocates. Julie is Beyond Five’s inaugural Ambassador. Her story was featured here as a Woman of Courage recently.

Denyse Whelan is a retired K-6 NSW School Principal and has also taught English as a Second Language. Denyse was treated in Sydney for squamous cancer in her top gums in 2017 and is passionate about sharing her ‘new normal’ to help others.

Marty Doyle worked for 36 years in the media as a radio announcer and TV presenter and is now a personal and executive coach. In 2004 he was treated in Brisbane for metastatic squamous cell carcinoma with cancer of unknown primary and has been a passionate advocate for head and neck cancer ever since.

Meeting Marty Doyle – at HNC support group.

Mike George had a total laryngectomy in 2017. Mike is well known to the laryngectomy community in Victoria and is passionate about securing Heat and Moisture Exchanger (HME) funding across Australia and educating emergency services and medical professionals about how to resuscitate a laryngectomee in an emergency.

Mike shares his story here.

May you all stay well.

Denyse.

Link Up #198.

Life This Week. Link Up #198.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

* THANK you for linking up today! Next week’s optional prompt: Share Your Snaps #6. 27.7.2020.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


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