Sunday 27th September 2020

Women Of Courage Series. #40 Anonymous. 41/2020.

Women of Courage Series.

How did it start? Read here!

Who was the first Woman of Courage to share her story? It was Sam.

Thank you all…today might be an anonymous post, as have several others been, to protect the identities of those whose stories form part of the post.

ONE YEAR ON…here we are…..in May 2020 with the fortieth person to share her story.

2020 Image For the Series.

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: Family Breakdown, Grief, Terminal Illness.

 

Women Of Courage Series. #40 Anonymous. 41/2020.

“THEY SAY WE WALKED AWAY”

When Denyse asked me to join this incredible group of women in her Women of Courage series I wondered where to focus.

How do I do my spot on your screen justice?

How should I make this worth your while?

 

Today I am going to hold my husband’s hand and tell you about the day we had to find more courage than we ever thought we’d have to find in our lifetime.

Today I’m going to talk about the day we chose to walk away.

 

The Back Story

Once upon a time two people met and fell in love. They got married with his young daughter standing beside them.

His daughter was ingrained in their marriage and became the much-loved big sister to the children born from their union.

Fast forward to when his daughter got married, fell pregnant and moved interstate.

The daughter and her husband needed financial assistance to buy a home which the two people offered as guarantors.

Then the daughter got cancer.

Her husband walked out of the family home leaving her, their child, the cancer and the debt.

The two people don’t know why he did this.

They never asked.

Instead, the two people and the extended village supported the daughter as best they could and fell deeply in love with their grandchild.

Over the next five years the daughter cried often. As she fought the cancer she was also fighting for custody of her child.

She gratefully won the second battle.  She could not beat the first.

 

The cancer was aggressive.  The husband returned.

All money, court cases and his hurtful emails were forgotten as a united front was created for peace in her final year.

The daughter passed away surrounded by love.

 

The two people reached out to the husband offering meals, cleaning, baby sitting and support for the mini-me born from their daughter’s womb.

Then one day the husband declared the two people were no longer grandparent worthy.

Despite their best efforts in trying to understand his aggression, access to their daughter’s mini-me was taken from them via a text message.

Just like her mamma who’d passed away 6 months prior, they would not see their grandchild again.

 

The Pursuit For Peace

The above story is a very quick and overly simplified look at the twenty-five years I personally had the pleasure of being a stepmother and the 6 years I got to be a step-grandmother.

Of course, we didn’t just walk away then and there.

We chose to seek peace.

This was a very weird turn of events given the unity and open-door policy we’d extended.

We waited.

 

Then we gently texted, called and visited the house of the husband awaiting the day it would be business as usual.

We assumed he was going through a phase that required distance and fewer interactions in his life.

Alas, he ignored all contact and rejected all visits.

As a peace-loving family, we’ve never been involved in this sort of animosity.

My husband and I have backgrounds which are in synch.

We don’t do drama.

Our families don’t do war.

As an extended bunch, we choose to accept people for who they are and focus on strengths.

We choose peace and we choose happiness.

We don’t know why he rejected us so firmly and completely.

The people around us suggest it was his own guilt driving the decisions rather than anything we had personally done.

Counsellors advised likewise.

 

My husband – father and maternal grandfather – he knew.

He knew the day his daughter passed away it was only a matter of time he’d lose his granddaughter.

He knew the husband well enough to predict the future. He was just waiting for whatever excuse the husband would use to “justify” it.

 

When it became clear the husband was serious about taking our grandchild away, we sought the advice of lawyers and organized mediation.

 

We sat and listened to all the things he hated about us.  I personally spent the entire session in tears. I so badly wanted to explode. I so badly wanted to speak my truth.  I so badly just wanted to remind him of his cowardly departure from our daughter five years prior. His cowardly departure from her cancer and the $500,000 mortgage he left us with in a town where industry has disappeared, and houses have halved in value.

 

Do you know how hard it was to welcome someone into our home after wiping away our daughter’s chemo tainted tears caused by her husband’s emails, texts and profanities from the other end of a phone? Words I can’t utter because they are too disgusting to repeat.

 

Do you know how hard it was to watch him spend his newly found wealth gained from her death?

But my husband and I didn’t shout.  We didn’t say the things we wanted to say.  Why? Because we choose peace.

That afternoon the husband told us if ever our granddaughter asked to see us, he would consider it.

Then he said, “but quite frankly, she’s never mentioned your names”.

Then he walked out the door.

 

When you love someone, truly love someone, all you want for them is peace.

So, for the sake of our daughter’s memory and the sake of our granddaughter, we made the ultimate decision when he left that mediation session.

As I pressed my face into my husband’s tear soaked suit, we both agreed to walk away in the belief that when she’s old enough and no longer under the influence of her father, our granddaughter will come looking for her Mamma’s other family.

 

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

In all honesty, I would never wish this heartbreak on anyone.

The feeling is so overwhelming it’s unfathomable.

Since that day in the mediator’s office we’ve had to dig deep just to go about our daily activities.

But there is always a lesson worth sharing:

 

  1. When you love something, set it free: The greatest courage comes from being selfless. To continue fighting may have put our granddaughter under stress.  While our hearts will be broken forever, her heart will mend.
  2. Nobody can take away our true selves, unless we let them: I am still a stepmother. I am still a grandmother.  I can’t see either of our girls anymore, but they are still in my heart, in my head and in my soul.  They remain ingrained in who I am as a person, who we are as a couple and who we are as a family.  I continue to talk to our daughter every day, and I write letters to our granddaughter which I keep in a box for the day she comes back to us.  Plus, I have her mother’s voice recordings to give her when she’s of age and a book her mamma half wrote for her in her final days.  I will finish that book and put it in her box of “we love you”.  Nobody can take away the person I became when I married into that father/daughter dynamic.
  3. Behind every challenge is an opportunity: Walking away that day with our hearts heavy and our souls severely damaged, gave us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and try new things. I had given myself to be available as a caregiver for several years.  I was offered long-term contracts but never took them so I could be available for our daughter and then our granddaughter.  Finding myself in a new career has been an amazing up-side. And yes, there is an upside. Nothing will replace what we had, but without it we can still thrive.  Lie in a heap in a corner or get up and bloody well get on with life.  That’s the decision we must make in these situations.

 

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

Absolutely. In this uncertain world filled with bushfires, hailstorms, floods and pandemics, my resilience is high.

My courage is at an all time high.

We have gone through stuff and experienced such loss and not only survived it but walked away from it hand in hand.

The most courageous thing we ever had to do was turn and walk away.  Everything else is a piece of cake to be honest.

 

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

Believe.

  • Believe in your ability to get through the challenges
  • Believe that while ever you are being the best version of yourself, your courage will far outshine the rubbish that surrounds you.
  • Believe in the fact this too shall pass.
  • Believe that with each new situation you are faced you will come out wiser, stronger, braver and more resilient.
  • Believe in who you are and the value you add to this world.

 

Was it hard to tell this story?

Yes, it’s hard.  It’s hard because by putting it out there I am opening the wounds.  I am also potentially opening a door for more explosive behaviour from the husband and his extended village.  But you know what? This series is about courage.  For years I tip toed around being the diplomatic corps for the sake of my stepdaughter.  Always the insurer of peace in the blended family dynamic.  My post today … these words you are reading … are coming from a place of courage.

 

Any final words?

If anybody reads my story and feels lost in a similar situation, please do reach out to Denyse.  I am a strong believer that the power within us, extends beyond us.  I am lucky that I have a hand to hold.  Not everybody has that.  I can be that hand for you if you need it.

A powerful story and one of which some has been shared with me personally. I thank this person for her literal courage to share.

While the author of this post would like to reveal herself, for the sake of her daughter’s memory and her grandchild’s privacy she has chosen to remain anonymous. 

There will be no replies from this poster.

She will, however, be reading and I will be responding to readers’ comments.

Thank you for your understanding.

Denyse.

 

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

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.

 

 

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Women of Courage Series. #36. Anonymous. 33/2020.

Women of Courage Series. #36. Anonymous. 33/2020.

Trigger warning: Marital Breakdown, Psychological Harm, Mental Illness.

Woman of Courage #36  has chosen to be anonymous.

There will be no replies from this poster.

She will, however, be reading and I will be responding as I always do to readers’ comments.

Thank you for your understanding.

 

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.

I do know the person who has chosen to be anonymous. She is in her early 40s.

I am in awe of her courage and was honoured when she decided to share this in this on-line space. Thank you. 

 

 

 

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

Late one night, when I was lying in bed beside my husband, I asked him if everything was okay.

He’d been acting strangely for a couple of days and I was becoming worried about him.

He sat up in bed and told me that no, everything was not okay.

He told me he didn’t love me and that he was having an affair.

Within 15 minutes of blindsiding me with this news, he left and never came back.

I spent the rest of that night vomiting and shaking from shock.

My parents were overseas and I didn’t want to wake my siblings.

I honestly did not know how I was going to make it through the night, act normal for the kids in the morning and drop them to school.

There had been no, I repeat, no indication that my husband was unhappy in our marriage.

All aspects of our marriage were normal.

We rarely fought.

I loved him with every inch of my being and from the words he’d told me and the cards he’d written me (even up to three months prior) made me believe he felt the same way.

We’d been together almost 20 years and I had thought we were the best of mates.

In those early days, I wouldn’t say I was courageous at all.

When I wasn’t catatonic, I was in survival mode.

I was simply going through the motions with the kids and trying to make sense of why and how my life was suddenly tipped upside down.

I leaned on my family and friends.

I sought professional help, got a lawyer and prepared to fight against someone, I realised that I didn’t even know.

Even though my husband was the one who had the affair and didn’t want to work on repairing our marriage, I was made out to be the ‘bad guy’.

It became clear that I was dealing with a narcissist and I was continually getting mentally beaten down.

My self-esteem was non-existent and I was torn apart, and still am, seeing my kids suffering.

In those moments when you feel like you just can’t go on anymore, you need to find courage.

You need to dig deep, otherwise hurt and pain and suffering will swallow you whole.

 

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

The breakdown of my marriage crushed me. I very nearly lost myself, but I have been clawing my way back.

I have become stronger than I ever thought possible – mentally and physically.

Sadly, I know my ‘fight’ is not yet over and my ex and I will have ongoing issues.

I am stronger than I was at the start though and can now stand up for myself and do what it takes to support my children.

I am more relaxed now with the kids.

As a (virtually) full-time single mother with a full-time job, I need to be kind to myself.

Who cares if they skip a shower or we have Uber Eats more than we probably should?

I’m doing what I can to get by.

I’m finding real moments of happiness again now and know that there’s more to life than my ex-husband.

 

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

Sometimes you need to find courage from others.

Find your support network and lean on them.

Let them carry you for a little while until you are strong enough.

I also found journaling incredibly helpful and I sought professional help from a psychologist.

 

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

Yes, I do feel that I’m able to be more courageous now.

I’m determined to live my life to the full and ensure my kids grow up in a happy and stable home.

I’ll be damned if I let anything get in the way of that.

 

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

Again, lean on those around you. Don’t bottle up your feelings. Let people in and let them help you.

 

 

I so appreciate the thought and decision that went into this post from Anonymous.

Thank you for sharing this.

Denyse.

 

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Changes For The Good: Head & Neck Cancer & Me: Eating. 15/2020.

Changes For The Good: Head & Neck Cancer & Me: Eating. 15/2020.

Next week, I have been asked to be a patient-participant in a video being made for Beyond Five on nutrition. As many of you know I have been a Community Ambassador for Beyond Five – the Face of Head and Neck Cancer – since late 2018.

Announcement of My Ambassador Role.

I was enthusiastic to take part in this video initially…then had a small crisis of confidence (for the want of a better expression) and began doubting my relevance. I was, and still am, firmly encouraged by both the CEO of Beyond Five and my husband that I do have that quality! Thank you.

There is a back-story to this and I am going to share it briefly before making my points about the GOOD that has come for me in terms of changes from a diagnosis of Head and Neck Cancer.

Denyse and eating…before Head and Neck Cancer. 

From early days in my teens and twenties I would self-soothe with lollies, chocolate and whilst I did not over-eat significantly, I did establish a pattern of eating for comfort. None of this was ever really a secret (certainly I did not have any kind of eating disorder, for which I am grateful) but it still was something I would not admit to doing (except me) and then over time, it probably began the life-time (decades rather than all of my life!) of eating for reasons other than hunger or to nourish myself. The bigger picture (pun intended) was first written about here and then, as I became more accountable for my past behaviours around eating, I updated here. Blogging is so good for this!

The above posts show that I acknowledged my eating and what it was doing to my appearance, general well-being and health. Yet, the ‘same amount of weight’ that would come off over a few decades (3 times at least) would also go back on.

What was I missing?

  1. Probably other ways in which to see food.
  2. Or maybe the maturity (even though I was mature in years) to see through the hard yards.
  3. But maybe none of this.
  4. I think as a serial dieter/eater/non exerciser and one who ate emotionally I just did what I did.

A Breakthrough of Sorts: Not Great Though.

From 2013 onwards, I acknowledge how serious my weight had become as a result of eating and less movement when my GP challenged me to try to reduced weight or she would be sending me for a Glucose Tolerance Test as I was becoming pre-Diabetic 2 in my test results. I managed to do as asked and my weight reduced enough to see progress. Yay.

Then from 2014, my anxiety ramped up (we were about to sell our house to pay out the mortgage as I needed to stop work at almost 65), and Irritable Bowel Syndrome re-entered my life after a few decades absence. From then I found I literally could not eat as I did before without the effects of mostly explosive diarrhoea. Yes. Unpleasant and socially restrictive.

Over the time of our move to the Central Coast, and some of my emotionally challenging times to adapt to life’s transitions, this continued to be a pattern and without ‘any real effort’ my weight slowly reduced.

I did, however, raise with my doctors, that I might have had cancer. I did look pretty gaunt. No, they said. OK. I did feel anxious almost all the time.

My Diagnosis of a Rare Oral Cancer: 17 May 2017, and How That Changed Me.

My story is told here on this page: Head and Neck Cancer.

This is a little reminder for me of what I went through back then. I was told on 18 May 2017 that where my cancer was located (upper gums and under top lip) I would require a compete removal of the top half of my mouth. THAT took a while for me to get over, in terms of the shock. Then I went home with my husband and thoughts raced in my mind. One was, if this is making me stressed, then how can I self-soothe or calm if my well-ingrained practices had been to eat something sweet, salty, crunchy or whatever. It was a rhetorical question. I had 7 weeks to wait for surgery and I was so anxious, eating was not high on my list.

Early Days And Getting Hangry! 

Following my 11 hour surgery, 3 days in ICU I was transferred to a room at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and added to the regime of drips was, via my naso-gastric tube,  some nutrition. The liquid kind. It was, for me, yucky but in one way that was my aversion to milk-type drinks. However, as each feed slowly dripped into my very, very empty stomach I had to change my attitude towards this feed. I started by telling myself “it is healing me and nourishing me” as I get well. I know I was going well as each time my professional team dropped by, they told me so. BUT…even when I finally got to try to oh so good nectar of WATER orally, I began to feel hangry (cranky when hungry!). By Day 8 I was allowed some clear fluids. Hallelujah. Broth, jelly, and then over time until my day of departure: Day 10 a few more soft food choices. No teeth, except for 8 bottom ones AND a very stitch-filled mouth!

And then I Came Home. Lots of Eating Ahead? Maybe.

Before I left hospital I was visited by the dietitian who was incredibly helpful with guidelines for me, and offers of samples of food-in-a-bottle and that she would follow up my progress at home via phone calls. I remember her words “now, you need to put on weight”. WHAT? No-one ever had told me that. It was a complete revolution in terms of instruction. I now know that yes, head and neck cancer patients need to keep weight on but no-one has ever really revealed why. Note to self: ask at next visit to my team.

My return to eating caused a great deal of distress in me because diarrhoea came back with fury as my emptied stomach  rebelled with a strong anti-biotic inside. I did not, as I thought I had to do, follow the dietitian’s advice but that of my local GP who had already seen me through diagnosis and now post-operatively. His words were “eat what you are up to and can keep you going.” Drink water as much as you can. With that, I did share the news with the dietitian when she called and I appreciated her services on offer but has to do this ‘my way.’

What I Did Then. 

My mouth did restrict my intake of food but I learned to adapt and seek foods that were both nourishing and pleasurable in texture/ taste. Mind you, my reconstructed mouth was quite a barrier to a variety of tastes but it was important for me psychologically to eat normal food. But also the words from the dietitian echoed and to “add value to food”. This meant a tiny lemon cupcake would have some dairy added to it: yoghurt, custard, ice cream. I became well-versed in the inner conversations re “fun to eat but also eat to heal”.

None of this food preparation or meal decisions came really easily and it required patience on my behalf as I was normally the meal-maker and my right leg’s giving up of its fibula, skin and flesh for my mouth, meant I could not stand for long…nor did I have much energy. But, my patient husband (and then full-time carer including grocery shopper) would help me as he could. I might not have been able to bite into some vegemite toast but I could savour the flavour and add some slices of avocado for nourishment. There are posts here, and  here about eating in those days.

Before I became affected by the anti-biotic, this was what I ‘could’ eat. Soft, slippery and full fat foods.

And Over Time, I Made Changes as My Mouth Healed. 

From July 2017 until August 2018 I had only 8 teeth in my mouth. It is amazing however, that humans can adapt! Mind you, I also add, THIS human had to become creative in her eating as boredom set in quickly and a sense of resentment about what head and neck cancer brought to my now lifestyle. I did make the effort to feel more grateful and appreciative of all that had been done for me. There were 3 more surgeries too, inside my mouth, to prepare it for an upper prosthesis of teeth.

Creativity included:

  • value adding to sweet foods like small cakes which were easy to swallow AND made me feel less deprived
  • making up some small plates of foods that would have me feeling like I was not missing out
  • inventing dishes for me: crustless pies, taco-less tacos
  • finding more and more ways with mince. Thank you to my A/Prof who advised mince would be a good food and my iron levels did slightly improve
  • allowing foods like small pieces of milk chocolate to melt on my tongue
  • iceblocks and paddlepops eaten with a spoon – my mouth did and still does love cold

Weight Was Good  Healthy…. Then I Got Teeth!

Notice my crossing out of good.

This is a judgement I have made like many over many years about eating. I now see, and have learned to see that my weight can be HEALTHY even if the numbers have increased. I was incredibly excited to get the upper prosthesis attached permanently to the abutments in my jaw. I remember fantasising about crunching food, chewing food and more. Well….that is what it was… a fantasy.

A reconstructed mouth is a blessing alright in terms of appearance and function for sure. But it does not do all that my mouth could do, so again, I have needed to adapt.

Adaptation took some tearful routes where my disappointment in not being able to eat something was palpable. I know I tried various foods including crunchy chips and they were/are a huge disappointment as they sting inside my newly re-skinned mouth and I could not swallow them. Onward to crunching into a piece of apple. Actually no. But I can eat small pieces or even better if I grate it.

I could add many more adaptations and they will form a new post in the future.

What I want to write about now is my weight, self-images and stories that can be untrue.

Changes in Me For the Good. Health and Head and Neck Cancer.

From August 2018 until February 2019 my weight from the rather steady figure of around 69kg increased by around 5 kg. I could feel it but I also LOVED feeling well and having more food choices. I was somewhat disappointed for a bit that some of my clothes were more snug…then I said to myself “that was because you could not eat much nor as well as you can now”. It was to be an on-going inner conversation (of self-judgement) for a while.

When I realised what I looked like (one aspect of me) was HEALTHY I began to accept that this was a good thing.

  • In fact, I knew it was. I did however let the old weight-centred thoughts creep back.
  • I started to believe I might get back to the much more heavy person I had been in 2013-14.
  • I was scared but the clothes and the scales did not lie. I stayed around the same.
  • For many months, and now it’s a year. It has not happened.
  • In fact, I am a little less on the scales than a year ago.
  • I use my clothes now as a measure of how I am going.
  • Very steadily and the scales are used rarely but they are telling me what I feel it true. So, no more stories!

My Appearance on the Beyond Five Video on Nutrition.

I now look forward to helping present the patient’s perspective on what I have learned personally about nutrition and how to nourish my soul as well as my stomach and mouth. I can honestly say I eat for both pleasure and health yet in a different way from any other time in my life.

This is why I am grateful for my diagnosis of head and neck cancer.

I have learned to sooth myself through meditation, talking with my husband, using my journal, art and going out for coffee. This is one important strategy in my every day self care. In fact, the more I self care, the less I even think of a need to soothe with food. How grateful I am for that.

Each time I go out, or plan a meal or snack at home I often have to re-think from the old familiar paths of pre- head and neck cancer.

  • Quantities are very different. That’s fine.
  • I make mall dishes I can freeze.
  • I carry small packs of biscuits in my bag to have with a coffee.
  • I know too that I can manage certain soft sweet foods with my coffee and will often ask for a bag to take half home.
  • I have still not ventured out for a ‘real meal’ but neither of us are that interested.
  • We had had lunch with family and entertained here.
  • I am less self-conscious of my eating these days.
  • I do always have a small bottle of water nearby.

 

I Am Going Well! 

This is my stock standard answer when I am asked how I am. It’s true. I am indeed. I am glad to have seen the good that head and neck cancer has been for me and my eating. This is me on Thursday 20 February enjoying being back near the water after attending the Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Group Meeting..and catching a treat of a small iced cupcake with a coffee on the way home.

There will be some updates after the making of this video but already, just writing out what was making me feel less than my normal confident has done me good.

Onward!

Denyse.

 

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Birth Stories. #1. An Occasional Series. 6/2020.

Birth Stories. #1. An Occasional Series. 6/2020.

Who doesn’t enjoy a birth story?

Oh, maybe that should read…would you enjoy reading some birth stories?

If YES… read on.

If NO…Thank you for reading so far. I will catch you back here soon I hope!!

Images of the most of the babies are photos from their first day/night of life. I have a framed photo collage of each of the 2 groups of 4 grandchildren. Very special memories.

The ‘last’ grandchild’s BIRTHday.

This (bad) photo taken at sunrise was when I drove to Sydney – around 90 minutes from our new place of residence on the Central Coast. I had been on “Grandma-standby” for a few days but with the birth now not expected till the following week, I got quite a shock/surprise to get the news that our son and his wife were on their way to the hospital and a neighbour was in the house while the siblings slept. That dear ‘breech’ baby wanted out of there and she was delivered naturally and both mother and baby were well. I waited at our son’s house with his sister (who had also been called to relieve the neighbour) till he arrived home with the news for us all…and with great relief, we left the family and went for a much-needed breakfast.

Here she is: 

Our daughter’s arrival. LONG time ago. 

So, this young, married, and pregnant teacher (me!) soon learned the hard way about being pregnant. I was going well. We lived outside a country town in north west N.S.W. in 1971. I saw the local G.P. for my check-ups and then… BOOM! “No, you won’t be having your baby here as you need specialist attention and that is urgent.”

Yikes. Way to scare a mother-to-be and the father too… yet he is not really scared of anything. So, chastened, worried (because I had gained a LOT of weight in a short space of time) we arrived at Tamworth, two hours from home,  to meet the Ob/Gyn. His examination ended up with me getting a diagnosis of then toxaemia, (pre-eclampsia) and taken straight to the hospital for bed rest and diuretics and keeping me and baby well. It was a LONG week I was there, confined and scared…because I knew nothing really. The treatment worked and my now Doctor let me home with the promise of returning in 2 weeks for induction AND (I never understood this, but obeyed) eat lots of lollies.

Dutifully, we returned one Wednesday evening and after admission, some induction strategies began. Pills and pessaries I think. Husband went home (2 hours away) as he had to teach at his one teacher school. No progress towards labour that night. All day Thursday still nothing much. Was transferred to labour ward that night and the Ob/Gyn visited and broke my waters. He was surprised to see some blood and explained it was likely to be a placenta previa partly covering the cervix that had been noted in a pelvic Xray (yes, of my baby and me)  but he showed no real concern. In this time nothing happened. Boring. Waiting. Boring but wait. It was Friday. Off to delivery suite. No idea why. BUT I did have some pains like periods. Nothing much given for pain other than some gas (mask). My husband called around 1 p.m. to be told “no she is not in labour don’t come down in this awful weather.”

Meanwhile, this pain which grew was in the back and more. A wonderful midwife was so kind. But still….I had no idea UNTIL around 4-4.30 I wanted to be sick (not like me ever) and I wanted to leave. Those who have given birth will know this is called transition. I did not but the pain escalated, as did my tightening of the poor midwife’s hand…and around 5-5.30 they called in the Ob/Gyn…he arrived in his whites. His squash gear! And by 6.35 p.m. I had delivered our little ray of sunshine. There were no pain meds. I was on a high. He even managed to stitch me and tell me 9/10. I thought it was my performance …later I found it was the baby’s APGAR.

The lovely Ob/Gyn then left the room but I could hear him on the phone “Mr Whelan you have a beautiful daughter”……and with that, my husband and his mate (my principal) got in the car and began the drive in the rotten winter night to meet his daughter.

But he could only see her through the glass. She was held to the glass for him to ‘meet’. Then he came to see me. “She has your fat cheeks and a dimple and my long fingers”. True. Back in those days no-one got to hold the baby except for the mother and nurses and it was not until we were discharged 6 days later that he got to hold his daughter and meet her properly.

Here she is in 1972 with “our bags” ready for me to go to school and her to daycare with my boss’ wife in the residence next door to school. So grateful for this!

Our first grandson’s arrival.

If you remember hot and stormy weather (oh yes, we have quite a bit of that lately!) then I can vouch for it early in the 2000s too. One very hot (up to 40s) Monday in mid January, our daughter was admitted to hospital for an induction for the birth of her 3rd child. She and her then husband were all for me being around  (this is the last Mum, so it’s fine if you want to be there). Once we knew that she was in her delivery suite, and the 2 siblings (then 4 and almost 2) were OK with my husband, Papa, I set off with camera(s) and ready to be there. But….I can now tell you truthfully, it was not the space for me.

Back then, despite thinking I could do this, my anxiety was quite high – because I was certainly not able to help in any way and it became confronting to be in the room where I was no help – my words. So, as my daughter laboured….and continued to resist epidural notion, I needed to be elsewhere…so went out for a walk around the wards. I passed an anaesthetist moving fast towards my daughter’s room as I had heard “get me the epidural” words….but alas, not to be. I then heard what was for me “loud noises” and tried to compose myself as I re-entered the room….and it turned out, that it was my grandson’s birth that had been the source of the sounds and there he was!!

He was so attentive I will never forget his engagement with me. The eyes! There was a bit of a kerfuffle I will call it though when her Ob/Gyn arrived, as the midwife had safely delivered B. He was asking why she hadn’t called him earlier. I remember her trying and it being constantly engaged. He was about 15 minutes drive from the hospital and it was school holidays. Before our grandson arrived and I heard the midwife trying to make these calls, we concluded it was probably not going through as back then only one phone line did the internet too. We reckoned it was his daughters!

Nevertheless the issue  settled.

But the weather did not that night. Around the time of B’s birth one of those raging southerlies arrived and with a hospital on top of a rise in Sydney’s north shore, we could feel its impact. When I left to drive home, around 8 p.m. everything outside the San at Wahroonga was dark. I wended my way through a tree-branch strewn carpark and drove slowly home via blacked out traffic lights and rain. We had tried calling my husband with the news but did not then know the phones were out too. My excited arrival home, in the dark, was chastened by “shush, I just got the girls to sleep, it’s been very scary”….and “oh” from me…then I told him of the news. I am afraid his tiredness meant a less enthusiastic response but the next day, we loaded up the brand new sisters and went to meet Mr Now Firelite DJ when he was one day old.

Here he is.

 

There are more stories to tell.

Like it says, this will be an occasional series.

I have deliberately kept all details as private as I can for those here.

Do you like to share stories like these?

I hope so but I do know that they do not appeal to all.

Denyse.

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 and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

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

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Women Of Courage Series. #25. Anonymous. 112/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #25. Anonymous. 112/2019.

Trigger warning: Domestic Violence, Family Violence, Mental Illness.

 

 

Woman of Courage #25  has chosen to be anonymous.

There will be no replies from this poster.

She will, however, be reading and I will be responding as I always do to readers’ comments.

Thank you for your understanding.

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.

I do know the person who has chosen to be anonymous.

I am in awe of her courage and was honoured when she decided to share this in this on-line space.

 

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

In the recent past, I was a victim of family violence. (Not of the intimate partner variety, but of the extended family variety – I’ve learnt a lot since it happened, and one of the things that I’ve learnt is that if you’re related in any way, it’s still classified as family violence.)

It was a single terrifying incident, although with the benefit of hindsight I can see the years of conditioning and gaslighting that preceded it. There were two perpetrators, and my children and I were the targets. I had to be courageous in the moment, even as my mind refused to believe what was happening. And I have had to be courageous since, making decisions to protect us and taking actions that I knew might lose us other family members and friends who refused to hear about what happened.

 

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

In the moment, I learnt that the fight, flight or freeze response isn’t an either/or scenario. My initial response was to freeze. My mind could not accept what my eyes, ears and skin were telling me. A scream from my children flicked the switch to fight (though not of a physical variety – I instead said what I thought the perpetrators wanted to hear) until I could create a path to my children and then onwards with them to flight.

In terms of diagnoses, this incident changed me by bringing the terms anxiety, adjustment disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) into my life. It also brought imposter syndrome back into my life. In the past, it had usually been related to career success; this time, it was feeling that my one little incident wasn’t ‘worthy’ of PTSD. How dare I compare myself and my itty-bitty incident to a returned soldier’s experiences of combat?

In terms of practicalities, well… I’m still working through it all. I went through the stages of grief, which is to be expected. But I spent so long in denial that I did not accept the truth and depth of the incident and its effect on me for months. It took me a long time to accept my experience as traumatic. It took me longer still to recognise and accept that there was no shame in the experience, and no shame in the label of traumatic.

The incident broke my trust. With the perpetrators, of course, but also with others. With everyone, at first. I’d been conditioned to doubt myself around the perpetrators, and that continued. My brain constantly told me everyone was on their side, everyone thought I was overreacting, everyone was going to set up another ambush, everyone was against me, and wasn’t that fair enough? Wasn’t I overreacting? Did I really remember everything correctly? I had to rebuild my trust in people who had never done anything to deserve losing it in the first place.

Other changes? Fundamental beliefs and truths I held – such as my belief in the inherent goodness in all people – were shattered. (I’m working toward believing it again one day. I’m just not there yet.) Meanwhile, my belief that everyone has a right to freedom and safety has been strengthened. It might be truer to say it was created: I had simply taken it for granted previously.

 

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

The things I’ve learnt are not fun, so I apologise to anyone not ready to hear these things. But here are the main things I’ve learnt (or things I knew that are now cemented):

  • ‘Family’ is not an excuse for violent behaviour. (In fact, it should be a promise for good.)
  • You don’t owe violent people anything. Your time, your regrets, mediation, compromise, placation, forgiveness. Anything.
  • There is no such thing as neutrality in violence. If someone says they want to remain neutral, or don’t want to get involved or pick sides, it’s too late. Whether consciously or not, they’ve already picked a side. And it’s not the victim’s.
  • You can’t control what people think about you. If people want to believe the worst of you without even speaking to you, based on nothing more than the lies of the perpetrators, that’s on them, not you. It still hurts, but you’re better off without such people in your life.
  • Anyone who expects you to compromise your safety for them isn’t worth it.
  • There is no excuse for violence.

These don’t sound like tips for courage, but knowing these things – not just logically knowing these things, but truly believing these things deep in my bones – are what eventually gave me the courage to take legal action.

One other thing I’ve learnt: lean on your support network. (You might have to wait until you’ve relearnt to trust your support network.) Many see the development of courage as a solo endeavour, but in my case it was a team sport. With my wonderful husband as captain and coach.

 

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

I don’t think it’s a case of being more courageous. It’s a case of knowing what otherwise dormant courage I already have, knowing what I will and won’t stand for, and recognising it sooner. Violence toward or in front of me and my children grants you an instant dismissal from our lives, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. And when I say violence, I now mean violence in all of its forms, including manipulative, controlling and coercive behaviour.

I do think I’d have the courage to take legal action sooner if something like this happened again. Courage borne from knowing that seeing the perpetrators in court a few times is preferable to not knowing if they’ll pop up anytime, anywhere and constantly living with the fear of that happening.

 

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

Courage isn’t a steely resolve. Courage isn’t determination or steadfastness. Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

I felt the fear. I felt the anxiety, the panic attacks, the self-doubt. And, eventually, with great support and understanding from the people I love and had relearnt to trust, I did it anyway.

And if I ever have to, I’ll do it again.

 

 

I so appreciate the thought and decision that went into this post from Anonymous.

Thank you for sharing this.

Please note: these numbers:

https://www.respect.gov.au/services/ Emergency: 000 or 1800 RESPECT

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

 

Denyse.

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 and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Gratitude In My 70th Birthday Month*. 43/51 #LifeThisWeek. 107/2019.

Gratitude In My 70th Birthday Month*. 43/51 #LifeThisWeek. 107/2019.

Yes, dear blogger, “this” is the optional prompt *Your Favourite Book As a Child for this week but I have gone on another direction leading up to November.

Here’s more about why!

P.S. Favourite book as a child was definitely the Folk of the Faraway Tree (and its spin offs by Enid Blyton)

Having embraced the notion of turning 70 at the end of November, I wanted to make it a special one via my Instagram feed (which also goes to Facebook and Twitter) so

G R A T I T U D E 

is my go-to for expressing appreciation for my life…to date!

It’s now something I am far, far more aware of as a healing tool for me. I used to dismiss my husband’s “wise words” about gratitude as my head was not in the right space back in 2015- early 2017 to feel anything other than a far bit of fearBut, over time, and with a cancer diagnosis, I got more into understanding the need to express gratitude and to feel grateful. Two things…not just say, but actually feel.

The photos below have helped me remember gratitude. And to express it!

Earlier this year I wrote 4 posts in a series about gratitude which were part of my linking up with Min here for Zen Tips Tuesday.

Post One. Post Two. Post Three. Post Four.

Now for my birthday month, I am celebrating with an instagram post expressing my gratitude.

 

A good idea for coming up to 70 I think!

Celebrating love..and US. Grateful for over 49 years together.

 

 

I am suggesting if you wanted to follow along, and you are on Instagram (ask for follow, @denysewhelan1 if you don’t already), then these would be the hashtags:

#30daysofgratitude

#celebratelife

I am going to list a large number of prompts (I made it to 70!) and *my husband is referring to mine (as above!) with no order nor even suggesting how they are used.

It is up to you!

  • my husband*      nature      food      creativity       skills
  • kindness       health     simplicity      out & about 
  • colours     the sea   my life    friends    water
  • thought    change   life stage   travel    movement
  • connection   community    seen   felt   hearing
  • smelled    tasted   world   spirituality    art
  • photography     weather    seasons    social media
  • birthdays    blogging    freedom   recognition 
  • books   music    fun    time    coffee   
  • contentment    cake    singing    life    shopping
  • education    career   health professionals    study  
  • curiosity    relaxation   mindfulness   painting 
  • my country of origin    language   history   games
  • grass    air conditioning   my car   family
  • our children    our grandchildren   learning 
  • socialising    enough money   shelter   cancer treatments

Just in case you would like some inspiration too: A few pertinent quotes:

“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” —Dalai Lama

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” —William Arthur Ward

We learned about gratitude and humility – that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean… and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect. – Michelle Obama

I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude. Brene Brown

source for all: Brainy Quotes.

Have you avoided, then changed your mind about celebrating a milestone birthday?

I admit I took some encouraging to get ‘with it’.

Denyse.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * 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 by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s optional prompt is: 44/51 Colours I Love 4/11/19

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My Go-To Easy Meal. 38/51#LifeThisWeek. 97/2019.

Celebration time…and I forgot!

Last week marked 3 years of this link up. Three years, on Mondays, for over 150 of them, you and I have connected and communicated here. Thank you all so very much! Onward into 2020 for sure. I “do” have some thinking to do to find the optional prompts but it’s part of what I love about our community sharing our posts, on or off prompts on Mondays! Denyse xx

 

My Go-To Easy Meal. 38/51#LifeThisWeek. 97/2019.

My go-to easy meal is: Toast.

OK, it’s cereal. Alright.

It’s neither for a ‘main meal’ which we have in the evening but there is still a bit of a chore even to decide on a meal isn’t there?

But first: we both eat well at Breakfast time:

His always includes my non-fave fruit. Mine often includes yoghurt, fruit and more.

Eating after mouth cancer and surgeries.

It is HARD even now, some 12+ months to eat anything like a real meal. Why? It’s about chewing ability (my mouth tires) and having the capacity to chew it well enough to swallow. I admit, I do love the look of some meals I see on others’ blogs and on-line but the truth is none of them are ones I can even countenance eating. In taking the time it does to eat even a small bowl of food, it often goes cold as I try to finish and that make it unappealing. But I am doing this eating thing MUCH better than before the upper prosthesis of teeth went in.

Meals made to go along with my husband’s limited capacity to eat.

His is based on stomach surgeries quite some time back and he has, at times, some swallowing troubles.

BUT…this is not a post about “How Old People Eat” per se but it may give insight into both our changing appetites and capacity to eat as we did back in our 20s to say 50s. And my Dad in his 90s, who as my Mum used to say “lived to eat, not eat to live” finds smaller meals the only ones he can manage.

Not actually go-to meals but actually go-to the freezer and take out a meal. Some of these meals USED to include rice bases and spaghetti too but for me, 14 months of eating those has required a re-think and I have done it. I will come back to some of those meals again, but not for a while.

I do batch cooking. That means less fuss everything and not having to think ‘what’s for dinner?’ It also means that each of us two has a choice of a meal that we feel like that night.

Mid-week we dine together on a freshly made meal and one that can be also eaten the next night.

What do our batch-cooked meals comprise?

At the moment:

  • Beef Casserole
  • Savoury Mince
  • Sausage and Veg Dish
  • Sweet & Sour Chicken
  • Vegetable Soup with Ham
  • Pumpkin and Carrot Soup.
  • Meat Pies: my savoury mince inside. KMart Piemaker is a good size. Not as big as Sunbeam.

Both of us need ‘easy to swallow meals’ hence all above have some kind of sauce or fluid.

Eggs.

Such a standby for many I know.

However, I can barely look at an egg that’s been poached (I scroll by everyone’s brunch/breakkie pics on IG) but I can, at times eat scrambled egg and a family heirloom dish called Egg and Cheese.

My Dad’s mum made this in 1930s and he passed it on. My daughter likes it too. In a pan, quickly add an egg and also some grated tasty cheese, with a fork keep the ingredients together (no egg white to be seen for me) and as it comes together in the pan, it will brown on the bottom making it very tasty. I can eat this on small pieces of buttered toast.

That’s the go-to-meals for me.

However, somewhere along the line “I” have to go-to the shops and buy the ingredients and bring them home. Neither of us can handle take-away foods anymore: portions and high fat. So what we eat, is in most cases, what I cook!

What’s your go-to meal(s) story?

Denyse.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * 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 by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s optional prompt is: 39/51 Spring Stories. 30/9/19

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What Is Love? 37/51 #LifeThisWeek. 95/2019.

What Is Love? 37/51 #LifeThisWeek. 95/2019.

This is about love.

Not all lovey-dovey love.

But love when it matters, how it lasts and the constant re-calibrating a long, long relationship thanks to:

L O V E

Whilst I grew up in a family which went to church on occasion, and I heard this verse a few times at weddings, I am quoting it today from the bible as I have always felt an affinity to these words:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13 (New International Version)

Here’s what love is and looks like, in more recent times in our life together. 49 years in October since we met. Been together ever since!

Keeping our love for each other bright…is quite the journey.

Fortunately we enjoy very similar senses of humour, a love of kids, teaching and a zest for learning more. Always learning.

Whilst my husband endured more than anyone’s fair share of illness and medical conditions which saw him having to medically retire young, he got on with life. Changing his work, over time, to be a kitchen and cabinet maker as well as an educational tutor. In his latter years he too studied at tertiary level and used his qualifications to counsel others. Always a fantastic support to me during my career, his wisdom helped me through some challenging years.

We have parented two children: a girl and a boy. We are so blessed (yes we are) to have eight loving grandchildren, 6 girls and 2 boys. But more than anything…we have each other.

We are loving this post working, post child-rearing, post grandchild-caring life of ours very much. It will be more enhance with a house of our own again one day but for now, we love each other’ company but also do quite a bit separately based on our interests.

Here’s to love…and what it’s been more recently: Recently is from my cancer diagnosis in May 2017 (see here for first time readers)  until now. The amount of time he has given to take me to appointments in Sydney (I now do them alone and have since April 2018) and elsewhere, to ‘find’ a chocolate paddlepop if he could when I was first home from hospital, to be as patient as he could with ‘this patient’ and then to let me know (if I hadn’t already) it was time to get outside, go out and stop whingeing…. I do/did. Mostly. But he also understands I need to get the words out.

And here’s what some recent examples of love look like for us.

And I may not have photos for these but lastly:

  • He surprised me with my new apple watch to ‘celebrate’ two years since cancer
  • He got a new banjo. Just because. Not really, he loves playing his piano and guitars and regretted selling his old banjo, so now he has one!
  • He likes Bunnings. I don’t but I understand shopping!
  • I like arts and crafts. I kind of know how to spend a little less…even though he is very understanding
  • We have date morning tea once a week
  • We watch a session of recorded tv (The Block for now) each afternoon together. We have very different tastes in viewing. He is a Netflix fan, and a sports fan but I tend to just use social media.
  • We disagree. A lot. But we accept, generally, our differences.
  • We annoy each other. A bit. But we move on.
  • We are good for each other. I reckon ‘opposites’ attract. He is tall, I am not. He is ‘big picture’ I am ‘details’. He is…a bloke. I am not.

AND… one thing we always say we remember …even at our worst…is seeing each other for the first time on 17 October 1970, sitting at the opposite ends of a table, and we

S M I L E D…and that dear readers, was that!

I am grateful to have a long-lasting loving relationship.

Denyse.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * 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 by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s optional prompt is: 38/51 Your Go-To Easy Meal. 23/9/19

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