Thursday 22nd October 2020

Healthy. 39/51. #LifeThisWeek. 78/2020.

Healthy. 39/51. #LifeThisWeek. 78/2020.

When I was blogging more frequently, health and mindfulness were a category for blog posts. These days, like many, my posts are limited to twice a week.

This is good for my health in some ways as I am not feeling too much pressure to perform, aka write posts, and can enjoy the writing of the two I do more.

About Me.

  • Being healthy is a relatively new idea for me…I was raised to be healthy and was…I am talking about lifestyle & choices
  • For many years I balanced my life …in a not so good way…with eating for comfort and doing less as I was quite worn out by life
  • I knew limited ways in which to care for myself because…as many do…I was too busy caring for others: at work, and in my family life.
  • I do much much better now in the self-care and health stakes as I have learned much in my years living following head and neck cancer.

Then I Was Diagnosed With Cancer.

Those who have followed me before and since this diagnosis know that I found out I had a head and neck cancer, specifically squamous cell carcinoma of the top gums (maxilla) and under the top lip. All about that, and many more posts outlining the years of surgeries and more are here: Head and Neck Cancer.

But Before Then.

My emotional health was at an all time low from 2013 into early 2017 for a number of reasons:

  • ageing and becoming somewhat disenchanted by some of its effects
  • retirement from all of my meaningful and paid work over this time
  • my weight was the highest it had been and with encouragement from my GP and my own determination, I lost some kilos over a year with greater awareness of why I ate, and ensuring I moved more
  • finishing up grandparent care at our house and actually being glad because I was finally tiring and becoming worn out by it
  • making a move from all I knew: Sydney, our family, friends….to the Central Coast
  • this move was one I thought I wanted (and still agree it was the right move) but my emotional health brought me down into spirals of anxiety and fear along with the dreaded Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • the health professionals I saw then all said it was reactive depression and anxiety was part of the transitioning. Not a diagnosis of either. I do take a low dose anti-depressant now to help with IBS more than anything and getting off to sleep
  • I admit I am one of what is known as the “worried well”.

SO….in some ways I was not surprised that I had cancer diagnosed in May 2017 …I can see that others may have felt stress was a cause. That it is not a direct link, but from what I know about cancer, it is random.  Some people thought my immune system was down due to the appearance of my mouth. THAT,  was actually the beginning of cancer…but no-one thought that till April 2017 when I insister my dentist remove the bridge from my upper gums.

This quote sums cancer up. From an Australian surgeon:

Head and Neck Cancer Requires Frequent Checks.

From the diagnosis on May 18 2017, to the big reconstruction surgery on July 6 2017, through to further surgeries for skin grafts and checking inside my mouth, glands in neck area and many visits to the prosthodontist, I had:

  • post-surgery checks after a few days to a few weeks to see my head and neck surgeon and his surgical assistant, nurse specialist
  • three monthly checks for the first year
  • any time where I may have seen/felt an issue, such as additional skin forming, and my surgeon saw me within weeks
  • four monthly checks for the next year
  • weekly and fortnightly visits to the prosthodontist as he continued to work on the making of the upper prosthesis
  • then monthly to two monthly visits to him, until COVID. Last time I saw him was February 2020 and I am returning in mid October as he is now doing regular checks again
  • this year, the visits to Sydney’s Chris O’Brien Lifehouse were at 6 month intervals.
  • THEN, at my recent early September visit, after clear CT scans of my head, neck and chest, and after visual examination and more, I am now on:
  • a 12 month check up..so will not be back until September 2021.

“MY” Prof…as I call him, Professor Jonathan Clark AM recently became chair of a new program at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Sydney University where this grant will enable him and his team create software and 3D models for head and neck surgery on the spot. My surgery, over 3 years ago, meant a delay as my team here in Australia  and the software developers in Europe made the program for my surgery and the model for my  mouth which had to be flown in from Belgium. Here’s the announcement of the donation for the funding so this program goes ahead.

ALWAYS happy to have a photo….

How I Manage My Health Now.

Interestingly with greater ease, thanks to a limited ability to eat a lot and to a better attitude to moving more.

Photos tell that story too. It is a way of keeping myself accountable too.

However, I never feel that I am missing out either. I have a better understanding of my need to nourish this body and to also enjoy the treats when I can.

And Then I Had to Do These Things.

Have both of my eyes’ cataracts removed and lens replaced. This happened on the cusp of COVID restrictions and I was glad to be done. In Sydney, over 3 days. Then of course, I had recovery but my opthalmologist has rooms up here so visits for checks were OK. I was quite shocked that from one annual visit to the next, it was cataracts time. This turning 70 was not quite what I thought. Now 6 months on, I use readers of a lower strength and no glasses for driving. Love the clearer views everywhere.

Left Eye Cataract Done

After hiding FROM myself and my problems with rectal prolapse* and the ways in which it impacted my day to day life, in May 2020, I was forced to face the matter as I could no longer live in pretend land. I look at it this way though, in managing my recoveries – physical and emotional – from those years of head and neck cancer I could not face more investigations into what is wrong. But dear readers, there was a lot wrong. Google rectal prolapse and what it means. Let’s just say, I paid a small fortune for incontinence aids, and suffered a great deal from shame about this condition.

Grateful to be ‘out of’ another surgery.

Getting One of the Things* Above Fixed…and Added Complications. 

Again COVID changed a few things but from my GP’s referral to a colorectal surgeon who insisted on a colonoscopy “no cancer or polyps but def need rectal prolapse repair”…and then needed surgery I became resigned to what needed to be done. From early May to late July I waited for the  surgery called rectopexi. The surgeon did a great job, especially complicated by my inners where he also found (surprise) a hernia needing repair. This necessitated a horizontal incision AND, the best (not) news, a vertical incision. Meeting in an upside down T at the bottom of my abdomen. The surgery, has worked. He took the slack inner workings of my rectum and has stitched them to a bone low in my back. I have no prolapse and normal (for me) bowel movements for the….first time in perhaps a decade…and…

My recovery in hospital and at home was slow as expected but at my first post-op appointment he told me I was a star for recovering in exactly the way it was best. I liked that. Especially as I did not quite hit it off with him at my initial consult…I was scared.

Three weeks into post-surgery recovery I noticed a section of the upside T section of the wound was kind of not staying together. I showed my GP and he thought it would be OK. But take this anti-biotic and apply this cream…and let’s hope it resolves.

It did not.

Within 2 weeks of seeing my GP, I was ‘astonished to see and feel liquid forming over my nightie as I got up out of my chair. Eeek. Got an urgent appointment to the GP, who was ‘so sorry, Denyse’ but…It was called wound dehiscence and sometimes a wound will not stay together. My colorectal surgeon saw me the next day, and pronounced “can fix, back into hospital for wound debridement and we will put a VAC system on to help heal the wound over less time.”

Wound Debridement and the VAC. 

One month post first surgery for rectopexi I was back in the same hospital and cared for very well. Surgery was less than an hour. I stayed overnight so the surgeon and wound nurse could see I understood how to live with the VAC system. The best part of having paid for our private health insurance since the late 1960s it means either of us can get the best care, when and where we can. I know this is a two-part health system in Australia but I am very grateful.

Each week I was visited two days a week by the Wound Nurse. This was all covered under ‘Hospital at Home” care from our Teachers Health Program. A machine was supplied, each of the changes of dressings and the costs of visits from the Wound Nurse. This lasted just over 3 weeks.

Since then, our GP and his practice nurse is taking care of my wound dressing. The progress is amazing on the wound. I have so many photos, none of which I will add here but they give me and my husband (the photographer) updates. The medical and surgical teams appreciate my dated photo collages.

Is that IT?

I don’t know but I sure would like to be free of appointments for  the above. This is likely to occur in the next two weeks or so. At least I have no VAC on me and have full independence.

I am back to my prosthodontist in October but I am pretty sure my mouth care will be praised.

Emotionally I am getting there. I know I have gained a great deal of resilience through much of these past 3+ years but am looking forward to a some respite from health professionals for a while,

THANK you…if you got this far.

I hope you are healthy and well.

Stay that way!

Denyse.

Link Up 208

Life This Week. Link Up #208

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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Women of Courage Series. #30. Jayde.19/2020.

Women of Courage Series. #30. Jayde. 19/2020.

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.

Jayde, now 40 (she will probably hate me for that as she was 39 when she completed her information) is The Jayde Universe from Little Paper Lane I love that we have met in real life….how much fun is it catching up with someone you know on-line. However, we did not really connect even on-line until 2018 when Jayde too had done what we did in 2015, move from Sydney to the Central Coast. I knew of Little Paper Lane shop at Mona Vale and visited once from memory. Sadly, Jayde had to leave the shop and does what she can selling on-line AND amusing (or is it educating?) many of her Instagram followers. Jayde’s social media info is below. Here is more from her. Pink-haired, kindness personified and all round awesome human: Jayde.

 

 

 

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

Actually now I am presented with this question it’s quite a fair bit. As of recent, it’s probably been the closing of my shop and moving up the coast with my 2 kids and animals and going online with the business only. I have separated from my husband and we moved from our home to a completely new area. So it’s only been the last year and it’s fresh and new, but honestly with mental health issues for like 22 years and chronic pain, every day’s a party in my Universe hehe

 

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

I think I have had to learn to be an adult. That sounds funny as a 39  40 year old woman with 2 kids and 7 animals, that I haven’t been an adult my whole adult life, but when you have a partner to help with life, it’s very confronting to have to take it all on alone when you already have a bunch of other issues with your brain and body. I think the support of my family, friends and online community and talking it out always has been the thing that helped. It’s so simple, but I have been saved by the humans in my life. And normally kids would make you more intense with your feelings, but my kids seem to be a safety net for my brain. Even though it’s exhausting doing everything alone because their dad lives quire far from them and he is 100% away the entire winter, I don’t get time off, but my kids don’t make it harder for me. The work around the house is hard, but the kids themselves really help me physically and more importantly mentally without even knowing it. It’s just their happy energy that uplifts me always. For someone with social anxiety it’s super weird that people are the ones that help me so much. Well MY people do.  

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

I think just that you CAN. Even when you feel like its the end of the earth and you are hitting the bottom of the ocean, you can tread water, or you can swim?! It’s heavy in that water, its better to swim and lift yourself up on that boat and if someone has a hand to help you, take it. There is absolutely no shame in being supported. You can help them up on their boats too then you all get to have an awesome boat party together and it’s so much more fun when you are supporting and boat partying with each other. 

 

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

Absolutely. We all have to. If you don’t take leaps sometimes and be brave, you just stay still and never move.  I am right in this low at the minute where my anxiety took over in a gripping way, and the only way to fix it was to fix it. So I chatted to my dr and I changed meds, and then the withdrawal from the first antidepressant was HELL FIRE for my body and mind, and because I have been down the dark deep holes before, I knew that to help myself I had to reach out to the places of light, like my family and online community and friends, and its helping me through in HUGE ways. If I did this alone I would be a mess more than I am. So I make sure I follow my my ‘c’s. Community, chatting, courage, coca-cola and cheese. Always 😉

 

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

Sometimes courage is just breathing through each day. I think everyone mistakes courage for climbing huge mountains. It doesn’t have to be some Everest act.  Sometimes getting out of bed for me is like climbing Everest but I chose to be proud of myself for doing the hard things. They may not seem ‘hard’ to others but thats not what courage means. It’s about you and your own depths of bravery. No matter the level courage it is. Courage is Courage.

 

Thank you lovely Jayde. I know I was a bit cheeky about changing your age, but heck, we November babies can do that, right?

Denyse

 

Blog/Website: www.littlepaperlane.com.au

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LittlePaperLane

Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/LittlePaperLane/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thejaydeuniverse/

 

 

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.

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