Sunday 26th June 2022

What Am I Reading/Listening To For ‘What’s On My Bookshelf’ May 2022? 33/2022.

What Am I Reading/Listening To For ‘What’s On My Bookshelf’ May 2022? 33/2022

 “What’s On Your Bookshelf?”

Thanks to Jo, Deb, Sue and Donna who host this.

What Am I Reading/Listening To Lately?

Quite a mix but then again on careful analysis, the topics and themes of my reading/listening are quite similar.

I am curious about life and its many challenges, how we age and human behaviour generally, so this is my update.

And this time round, I have included links to podcasts that are related to the books as they have been an integral part of my experience.

My reading/listening habits:

  • every day some listening is in the car thanks to Audible and any CDs I have for a book
  • every day, usually in the time between evening meal and doing to bed, I put on a podcast as I create something art-wise
  • every night, at the end of my TV/Netflix/DVD viewing or social media, I take a page or three and read it from one the books here beside my bed.
  • Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron is SUCH a challenge but I am really softening in my acceptance and understanding. With 108 (same numbers as on a counting necklace or string in some buddhist traditions) there are 1-2 pages of tightly but well said words to challenge and take in. I first read this BEFORE my cancer diagnosis in 2017 and struggled but now, some 5 years on, coupled with my own practices, I am better attuned to the teachings.
  • Trusting the Gold by Tara Brach is a dip in and dip out little book of wisdom gleaned from her life experiences. She tells of all her perceived human failings and understanding in a self deprecating way but with self compassion. Tara’s voice is a favourite of mine from her other books which of course I have! And she is now hosting some meditations and sleep stories on Calm.

I like variety and that I can choose!

Atlas of the Heart. Brene Brown.

Atlas of the Heart.

Well..here’s the thing, I have the book, I have the Audible version and I have listened to podcasts with Brene Brown and others.

I am overwhelmed .

I thought I could tandem read and listen.

No. I thought I could just listen…not really. I think it’s partly to do with how HUGE this content is and it would be Brene herself who would admit to it.

I have become a Binge (pay tv) subscriber just to watch the series she made for US on HBO. So far, one episode in, and she is in teaching mode with an audience and I like it a lot.

I now feel over time, it will be more like a dip in and out of experience for me..and the book is freaking heavy to hold!!

Oprah’s SuperSoul:

Atlas of the Heart with Brene Brown

https://open.spotify.com/episode/0tc4spLul60Bh1eTtXOe2W?si=2L7Z7yguSiSglUlYdUIInA

Watching in Australia:

https://binge.com.au/shows/show-brene-brown-atlas-of-the-heart!14634

 

The Space Between The Stars by Indira Naidoo.

I enjoyed this book but it was not a huge new life lesson for me. The story, told eloquently by Indira, a well-known ABC Australia figure, as part love story to her sister and family, and how nature, particularly one tree in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens helped her immensely, was a light read in many ways with some great lessons for love, dying and appreciation of the green, nature and trees all around us. I admit, I saw trees differently after starting the book.

 

With The End in Mind and Listen by Dr Kathryn Mannix.

I freely admit it, I am a huge fan of Dr Mannix’s work. We have connected via social media too. Her work history as a doctor in the UK, eventually took her down the career path into palliative care and following her retirement she went onto help more people.  Now in a career helping train others and be a counsellor in CBT: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, she IS the doctor I would love caring for me or a family member.

Whilst that cannot happen, her words, so generously share on this podcast as great indicators that the world of those who are facing end of life, and death are being cared for much better as a result of this person’s work and that of many. In no way is this work done, but the conversations (Listen is an EXCELLENT book for any challenging conversation, not all about death/sickness)

I started with these books on Audible and now have the actual copies to refer to (see my ‘post its’ and book mark! Dr Kathryn Mannix is on Facebook too.

In finding her on this podcast (highly recommend it too) I have added links to both of her chats with Andrew G Marshall.

The Meaningful Life Podcast. Andrew G Marshall

Dr Kathryn Mannix with Andrew G Marshall

With the End In Mind

https://open.spotify.com/episode/1DYFG8fc9u0RgLh6n34OV7?si=cf53d51198c644f4

The Meaningful Life

Dr Kathryn Mannix with Andrew G Marshall

Listen

https://open.spotify.com/episode/29ichQxYdBvDZt4r3M1jfj?si=78fec487852240ab

 

 

The Inner Work of Age. Shifting from Role to Soul. Dr Connie Zweig.

Now, regular readers know I am doing what I can to learn more about ageing…for me to accept the inevitabilities and to enjoy some of the riches it brings and self-discovery. I first found Dr Connie Zweig’s work by accident or maybe I was meant to…and first listened to her words via Audible. It is via a podcast with Andrew G Marshall I found her work of even greater interest and have now bought the physical book.

I will be reading it over a fairly lengthy period I think as there are activities to do to delve more deeply into the ‘inner me’. Might even be a blog post one time as well.

Role to Soul: Dr Connie Zweig with Andrew G Marshall

https://open.spotify.com/episode/5U4L77vQp5RQ6fFGwux3Ye?si=dd7025da63804196

 

Ten Steps To Nanette. Hannah Gadsby.

 

Now, I am just learning more about Hannah Gadsby through listening to her book. What a listen. And a huge number of life challenges have certainly occurred for Hannah. Rather than me share more, I have included a clip from the promotion for her show “Nanette” which is still on Netflix and explains so much about “her story” and its title. I have also included one podcast where Hannah is in conversation with Glennon Doyle.

Hannah Gadsby with Glennon Doyle

We Can Do Hard Things

https://open.spotify.com/episode/6cVlrd5mRHdx5AlFJyXRAG?si=ec00322afca64866

From Netflix:

And for this month…that’s it! Photo following is of me in front of our family room bookshelf..made by my dear husband.

What have you been reading, and/or listening to in May?

Denyse.

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Grieving For My Body’s Losses from Head & Neck Cancer. 8/51. #LifeThisWeek. 10/2022.

Grieving For My Body’s Losses from Head & Neck Cancer. 8/51. #LifeThisWeek. 10/2022.

CW: images from my head and neck cancer.

This post talks about my grief and trauma before and following my cancer diagnosis.

There are images that may be confronting.

 

Links and phone contacts are here:

https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/cancer-information/advanced-cancer/grief/seeking-support/

Cancer Council: 13 11 20

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36

https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Lifeline: 13 11 14

 

Before you read on, which I hope you will,  I am  doing well.

This post, however, has been one I have needed to write, probably for some time but it was not till recently did this need become apparent.

Warm wishes, Denyse.

 

It’s a shock to the system when you are told

we will be removing all of the upper part of your mouth and replacing it with a bone, flesh and skin from your leg“.

And to be honest, it has taken me till recent months in 2021 into 2022 to understand this has been a traumatic experience and that I am, in some ways, managing a post-traumatic event.

So here goes. Blogging and sharing has always helped me.

I hope it can be seen as a way to not only get something said but for me to now divulge what a struggle it is at times to live with the ramifications of my head and neck cancer.

May 2017: following my diagnosis the day before and meeting with the men who would form my team and perform the surgery at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

My particular cancer, a verrucous carcinoma was in the upper alveolus. Explained here. And the cancer had spread to upper top lip – see left.

After the 2.5 hours of examination – lighted tube down my nose, examination of all areas where cancer might have spread and of course inside my mouth I received the news of how this cancer would be removed.

And that was too much for my emotional system to bear for then…so B and I had a walk along the short corridor to stand here and for me to take a 1/4 valium, a sip of water and to view this scene…

 

and then come back to hear more about the surgery and the ‘what comes next’. I was asked if I was fit to sign and yes I was. I had no idea of some of the words’ meaning but over time I would.

So about the grief then…..2017 into 2018 and when I got my upper prosthesis.

I actually felt relief as an emotion more because I finally had an answer to what was going on in my mouth for the past year or more. I also began to feel confident that this team of specialists was there to do the right thing by me always. My husband, my biggest supporter, agreed.

I blogged. And in June 2017, I wrote this….adding now, as it helps me recall the downright fear:

When I wrote this post I thought I was managing myself quite well. Since then, I have had some pretty horrid days (and nights) where I have become fearful, panicked, and so vulnerable I wanted to go into a corner and hide and never come out.

I am shitscared right now.

I am worried about losing what I valued: my mouth where I speak, eat, share my emotions and smile. It has been days of crying uncontrollably, being held until I calm down (thank you dear B) and taking some valium (which I don’t really want to) and letting out the fears  in words between the sobs. 

I fear: the loss of ability to use my mouth for at least 7-10 days, have a naso-gastric feeding tube down my throat for those days, having the skin/flesh/bone from my right leg inside my mouth after 3/4 (I did not know then it would be ALL) of my upper jaw/palate as been removed. Dealing with the not being in control.

I am, as I write, unable to really express what it means to be facing this loss of control of my body. I will be in ICU to start and may even have a tracheostomy to start if the mouth is too swollen. This is very scary to me, and I am admitting it now.

For me to admit how vulnerable I feel right now is to say “I cannot do this without help”.

  • I know I did some reflecting.
  • I also know it took me a while to get my paperwork done at home.
  • I also got ‘butterflies’ in my tummy each time I had the thought ‘I have cancer.’
  • I did some blogging about it too. However, I remember thinking “I don’t want to be known as a cancer blogger”.
  • I thought, and it was mostly correct, that I could write about much more than my cancer, and I did but I did not take into account some of the feelings I may have pushed away…because I wanted to look like and sound like I was managing very well indeed. Almost true but not quite. Sigh.

But I was confident, from the ways in which my professional team described their views, that my cancer was likely to be taken away and most probably not return.

I did not know in the early months, and post the big reconstruction surgery in July 2017 that I would face LONG times in recovery in hospital and at home.

Months

Into over a year.

Four surgeries in total.

Countless cancer checks and times at the prosthodontist : all requiring a 2 hour drive there and back. I did all solo from March 2018 and one with B in 2020.

I found I had more resilience and determination than I knew.

I found I had patience but it too wore thin as I was in a pretty constant state of:

hunger

for foods I could not eat…and so I had to become very creative. See posts here.

Counselling and Help For Me.

Before I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer I had been successfully managing my mental health with a wonderful psychologist in 2016 and into 2017. In fact I saw her before my first surgery and she already could tell I had the many tools needed to deal with what was ahead. I saw her some months after my surgery and we both agreed I was going so well. I was, and that continued for some time. In fact I did go back last year to check in with another psychologist and after two sessions she and I agreed, that with my working through my feelings and more, I would be OK. I was and I am. But…further on…see what can happen!

What a Time: Getting my Upper Prosthesis Fitted. August – December 2018.

Such a big day on 21 August 2018 when I left home with no upper teeth and arrived back with them fitted. I was tired but happy even though they felt weird and sore. There were days and weeks spent back and forth to Westmead for physical adjustments.

Of course I was HAPPY. And of course I SMILED a lot. And was complimented over and over.

That is so nice.

It felt like a reward from the many months of hard yards of surgeries and recoveries and very limited eating.

I don’t think I stopped smiling. It was so life-affirming…yet…

my love of smiling and my smile itself drew me many positive comments and I sometimes felt I needed to share that the smile is actually not the whole story…this IS the blog post I needed to write now. 

However, by myself, there were small disappointments.

I thought (and I had been told!) that I could eat like I used to.

However that was not true I had a limited ability to bit and even more so for chewing.

The amount of physical hardware that is in my mouth meant amounts needed changing as did how long it would take me to eat.

Oh yes, I was still having my memories of 69+ years of eating and at times it would be a very disappointed me who could no longer:

  • eat at a dinner table other than my own
  • go out for a meal
  • eat in front of others – excluding my husband and family
  • use food and socialising together
  • go away to spend a night somewhere (we did but it was incredibly challenging to take all I needed with me)
  • take it for granted that I could eat a meal/snack as I imagined.

So this was the beginning of grief.…yearning for what was and had been and could be no longer….

I dealt with it mostly privately and made excuses to people who asked me to events and outings. Coffee and cake of some kind was still OK. Some people were/are very understanding and accommodating but I still did not truly accept what LIFE was for me now until late 2021.

I realised I was unwell and it was an overload of self-expectations and an unrealistic view of what I was now, as a 72 year old, living with the effects of head and neck cancer surgeries could do.

My body told me it was time to stop. Took me a while to listen!

Admission Of How I Was Feeling. Grief and Sadness. 

With so much gratitude for my return of health, following the diagnosis and being able to accept the role of an Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia, I did get many opportunities to share the awareness, the stories and more to help others. That sure did appeal to teacher-me. I have been incredibly fortunate to have my cancer removed and doing well. In fact, I guess I even have some survivor guilt. It IS a thing.

I was going well in covid times, as I was able to adapt and work through helping others with head and neck cancer and whilst we could not hold events, I remained a participant where necessary supporting others who have head and neck cancer, and doing what I could to bring my messages of  personal experiences to federal politicians.

Then this year, I became determined to listen more to my body and take better care of my emotional health and I learned that I can say “no thank you”.

It’s been hard.

I am, by nature a people pleaser and an extrovert but I also wore myself out. A post about Being Me is coming soon…and what I have done.

But before I go:

This is the point of what I wanted to say.

  • I am managing my grief now in a better way because I know it is safe to share
  • My times in nature are helpful, as is my reading about grief and cancer, along with my daily meditations

I am also telling more of the truth about what is.

Acceptance of does not mean ” loving” or even “liking” something or situation but when there is no choice..and fighting it makes it worse…then I accept that I have had a traumatic event in my life, and I now share with greater honesty.

And that whilst I have had many, many compliments about my recovery and my smile, it has been a much harder time than even I was prepared to own up to...

till a night this week when tears overwhelmed me as I realised the brutal way in which my body had to be changed…to rid me of a nasty cancer.

This series of images and then the culmination of a graphic goes some way for me to share with the world…my readers and bloggers how it really IS to have had this cancer and the aftermath.

It’s coming up to 5 years in May, since my diagnosis and that is probably playing a part in my looking back and seeing how this has been. I will never discount it as a life trauma now.

I accept it is.

I also know I can admit how hard things are. No longer hiding it.

 

This is the graphic which I made when I was feeling less than understood about how my cancer was affecting me…because it really has been MUCH more than getting a smile back. Much, much more involved.

Life’s traumas are not always obvious until later…somehow we keep going. I did till I stopped.

There are number and links for support listed at the beginning of this post.

I do hope you are OK and that reading this frank account from me has been something that you can see why I needed to share it.

I am doing well.

Thank you,

Denyse.

And I am visiting 98 year old Dad at Dee Why today so will be back to see the post later today and comment as well.

 

 

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Women of Courage Series. #69 Bianca Hewes. 104/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #69 Bianca Hewes. 104/2021.

Two years ago… I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

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

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

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday into September 2021 when it will conclude.

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

 

Thanks to the world of school education being big as well as small in New South Wales, where I used to be employed, I am fortunate to say I have met Bianca Hewes, who is 41 on a couple of occasions at Teach Meets! In fact, one of them was in August 2015, held at where “I” attended high school in the 1960s, and also where Bianca did….much, much later!  She, was at the time of meeting, working locally at a selective High School and introducing new and exciting subjects, along with her philosophy of education I found very refreshing. She and her husband impress me greatly and education is richer for their presence. But today, it’s Bianca’s story, and I am delighted to share because saying “yes” was not initially Bianca’s response! Thank you, B.

 

 

 

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

 

I find this question very hard to answer, as I’ve never really viewed myself as a courageous person.

In fact, since I have anxiety (the diagnosed sort stemming from childhood trauma, not the trendy kind) I’d say that I’m almost the opposite of courageous.

But, after some prompting from Denyse and a bit of reflection, I think something that could be classified by others as being courageous was my decision to continue with my university studies whilst I had a newborn son.

Luckily he was born in mid-semester break so I had a few weeks to give birth and learn how to be a mum before I strapped him to my chest and headed back into the lecture hall.

 

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

 

I suppose it just made me more determined to work hard and prove everyone wrong.

I got used to people staring at me on the bus and around campus – even though I was 21 I looked like I was 15 – and this defiance of judgement is something I have cultivated as a key personality trait and a value I’ve passed onto my sons.

I learnt quickly to stand up for myself when I needed to and to assert my rights as a woman and a mother. It also made me realise that I can do anything I want to – which sounds really cliche but has proven (mostly) true.

 

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

 

I think the biggest thing is to not listen to the negative opinions of others and to embrace those who support and celebrate you for who you are and the decisions you make.

I remember that second semester with my tiny two week old son I was doing two philosophy courses.

One lecturer was so supportive of me, but the other came up to me after class once and told me he didn’t agree with me being at university with a child.

It hurt being confronted that way, but I knew my rights and I stood my ground.

 

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

 

Like I said at the start, I don’t think I’m a particularly courageous person, but having my children when I was also studying and then later working meant that I developed resilience and determination.

I definitely draw on both of those qualities a lot in life.

 

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

 

Just don’t listen to society.

Be true to yourself.

Trust your own judgement and your own capacity.

I knew I could care for a baby whilst completing my studies even if other people lacked faith in me – and I was right.

So, I suppose just trusting yourself and enjoy proving others wrong is my message.

 

Thank you Bianca, I “knew” you would share a great story of courage and that it would help others to see what can be done despite the ‘judgements’ of some. How awful was that comment from a Uni so-called professional!

Bianca has some social media sites where she shares about education and more.

She has written and co-authored many texts and other books for teachers and schools.

Denyse.

 

 

Social Media:

Blog/Website biancahewes.wordpress.com

Twitter @biancah80

Facebook Page:  Australian Project Based Learning Network

Instagram: @jimmy_reads_books

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Five Years Ago.116/2019.

Five Years Ago.116/2019.

In late 2014 so much happened to me: as an individual, a partner, mother and grandmother.

It’s timely to remember it and note parts of it.

You see, dear reader, I am an emotional person but also a very practical and organised one too. So when we decided mid 2014 that it was time for me to be able to quit all paid work as I was stressed and weary, and to finish up grandchild caring (we had been doing this lovingly since 2008) and that meant:

selling the house

paying out the mortgage

finding a place to rent on the Central Coast

buy a new vehicle each (the two we had were very much on their last legs so to speak)

and “then all would be better”.

True from one perspective: the practical but not from the emotional one for me and as regular readers know things did not go well for me. For quite some time.

Posts about the years 2015-early 2017 and how my life was affected may be found here (2015) and here (2016) and here (early 2017)

 

To give me some perspective now and to provide a photographic account of “this time 5 years ago” I offer:

 

House went on market & we accepted best offer on same day. Waiting for this sign to go up took a bit longer.

 

In the meantime, it was summer and as Papa tended the pool these grandkids made the most of what would no longer be ours in a few weeks.

 

We found a house to rent (unsuitable as we found later!) before Christmas that worked in with our settlement of mid Jan 2015 so we enlisted the family and up we travelled with some of our ‘stuff’. We had removalists on the day though.

 

 

The ‘last’ NSW Dept of Education School Spec for us (at the Entertainment Centre) made more special by our Yr 12 Drama Ensemble Member and Granddaughter playing the Nurse in a re-enactment based on the commemoration of WW1 A.N.Z.A.C. Centenary. I was in the audience watching with 2 of her siblings and her cousin.

 

And here she is, our dear GD, who was awarded top 10% in Drama for the HSC and is now, 5 years down the track, a graduate in Film Making from Australian Film Television and Radio School. She has her own film-making biz, so ask me if you want to know more!

 

 

 

I cannot leave this one out of my memories. Australian cricketer lost his life in a game when a ball hit him as he batted. In a tribute to Philip Hughes, we “put out our bats”. This is my husband’s from the 1960s. At the School Spectacular 2014 above, there was a segment added about his death as he was a public high school graduate and there was not a dry eye in the house as we sang “Come on Aussie Come on” in tribute to Philip.

 

 

I took a break from packing to drive to Mona Vale one evening and hear the funny and modest William McInnes talk about his (then) latest book Holidays. It was a joy to meet him and he is a very laidback and generous author. I used to listen to his A Man’s Got To Have a Hobby as a ‘comfort’ listen when I was stressed in those years. Lovely man with great family life stories to share.

 

It was hard, but I did it. Christmas decorating for the last time WITH the grandchildren. Practical me did not put a tree up nor did we do much inside the house but for the last time at Glenwood, the wooden decorations were up and some lights. Knowing it was last was hard but like I have said, I am still practical. This advent calendar was always filled with little chocolates for visiting grandchildren. We also had a tradition of “grandkids” only helping me do the tree sometime near the end of November. The older ones tell me they remember it well, so that makes me happy!

 

Then I was 65. Our daughter and her kids hosted us for a little afternoon tea with our son and his family. It was special of course and we took some pics to remember the occasion. We had Christmas Day together with both our kids and their kids for the last time hosted by our daughter and that was a little tinged with sadness but also knowing what was ahead was for us now.

That’s it for me.

Except for this: This photo (from instagram yesterday)  representing ‘then’ and ‘now’ of me visually but more words which helped make sense for the long and hard transition this has been for me. As transitions often are: getting married, moving from home,  becoming parents, starting new jobs, and so on. Mine happened to have three pretty big items: retirement, leaving Sydney, and moving from our family and all that was known.

 

What was life like for you 5 years ago?

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.

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