Saturday 25th June 2022

35/51 #LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Ch. 26. Part 2/3. May-August 2021.106/2021.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Six. 2021. Part 2/3. May – August.

The backstory first:

FOUR years ago now ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed.

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at Chapter Twenty Six. Telling the story as 2021 progresses in three parts. Today is Part Two. May-August 2021.

So, in keeping with my ethical approach to all things, I am making the chapters about MY recollections to various changes in life for me, and us, and life as we knew it. I hope I can continue sharing the story without any intentionally negative or hurtful references to others who are in my life as friends and family members. All of the stories to date found here.

And with this chapter, a recent photo…taken overlooking the harbour at Dobroyd near where I grew up close to Manly N.S.W.

 

May 2021.

We had pretty good weather in May. We got outside even more. The covid ‘stuff’ had settled. However, we could never be quite sure of its whereabouts so we did “wearing a mask” when asked inside, and I know I was pretty casual about signing in using the State Government QR code. No-one was really practising social distancing but living on the coast, we did not have too many concerns.

We did not travel to Sydney for Mother’s Day this year even though I could have. It just wasn’t happening.

I got to celebrate my 4 years since my Head and Neck cancer diagnosis with a much anticipated visit to Sydney’s Lyric Theatre where I saw Hamilton.

Yes it was everything I had hoped and more. Wonderful.

That week I also came back to Westmead for a 6 month mouth check with my prosthodontist. All is well.

I stopped on my way home at a cafe in a nursery where I used to meet up with friends in Sydney days. It was lovely but it had changed as had I.

June. What happened?

We were continuing to be lulled into some kind of normality, living without too many restrictions and life was pretty good.

I visited my Dad to celebrate his 10 years living in his independent retirement Unit. He is going well.

I had my 6 months check with my regular dentist and he was very pleased with how well I care for my mouth and 8 teeth now! It’s always a treat going to him because we have such a history and he is a great cheerleader too.

I was delighted to recall that my head and neck cancer nurse, Cate, was a Woman of Courage on the blog too. But….the head and neck cancer group getting to Canberra was not able to happen because of Covid restrictions in Victoria and I took a reality check. The reality check for me was about how I would be able to eat when away from home over 3 nights and it was literally something I need to accept. A future post on eating and drinking challenges post head and neck cancer was planned.

But, we were going OK. In fact we had morning tea out twice using our government’s ‘dine in’ vouchers and I was excitedly planning the Soup for the Soul event with my friends from BluJ’s in Toukley.

 

And then late June 2021, just as the school holidays began, and we got excited about seeing our son and his family to celebrate our newly minted 8 year old’s birthday it was OFF. Back to Lockdown. Because of Covid 19 and ONE person’s infection from the newly seen and very nasty delta strain….it was not a good news day or week. So much changed in a very short time. STAY home. STAY safe. And as I write this ready for 30 August publication we are STILL in same lockdown. It’s actually become much more serious. More on that as I try to recall August! OK, we live on N.S.W. Central Coast, around 2 hours from centre of Sydney the capital of N.S.W. On 27 June 2021 we were declared to be part of Greater Sydney, along with Sydney and all its suburbs, Wollongong and Shellharbour to the south and the Blue Mountains to the west. NB: the Central Coast where we live was declared a regional area mid August.

The Hawkesbury River and Bridge. From the side where I took this photo it’s Central Coast.

July 2021.

July holds many memories for me since 2017. It marks the anniversary of my first head and neck cancer major surgery and reconstruction on 6 July (4 years this year) and 27.7 each year – since 2014, is World Head and Neck Cancer Day.

I met other people who were also head and neck cancer patients, carers and professionals in July 2018 at Central Coast Cancer Centre and in 2019 was part of the group called Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Support who held a Soup for the Soul Event. And, each year the charity for whom I volunteer as an Ambassador, Head and Neck Cancer Australia, has awareness activities on line and encourages communities and individuals to host Soup for the Soul.

I was one who was going this with my friends at my local cafe but once lockdown came and they chose not to open as takeaway business was not a large amount of their trade, the event could not go ahead. So, I made it a virtual event and kind friends and professionals donated to a total of $305.

Some other memories and more from July 2021.

And August Arrived!

Of course we celebrated our daughter’s birthday. Post in detail here. We continued in lockdown which felt endless. I admit I did sometimes get very cranky on social media and then had to stop using it.

I tended then to spend more time outside, or doing something creative. I know preparing and sending off little packs of bookmarks was a positive experience.

Of course, Women of Courage continued on the blog but I was planning to bring it to a close soon. I stayed in contact on line with friends and family as much as practicable but also remembering people at work (even at home) are much busier than I am.

I had successful dental checks – of the regular kind. I am doing well after the surgeries I had in July and August 2021 and I am very grateful for that. I talk to Dad once a week. He is OK and finding the visitors restrictions within his unit complex quite frustrating. He is a sociable person. My brother and sister in law help him each week with shopping and some company. I haven’t been to see him since mid June because of “lockdown”.

I try to get out each day somewhere to notice nature – walking locally or driving somewhere near the water and that helps regulate my mood.

And to do this often:

 

What’s ahead and what other news is there?
No-one knows.

However, I know I am going well and have quite a few choices of art and creative ventures at home. B is making a new TV cabinet and has numerous small projects on the go. He is doing some on-line music lessons and I have similar ones for art. We would not be happy if the NBN stopped working!!

My dear husband has enjoyed writing his 3rd blog post, with another one to come. We are very well suited…different interests but shared common history, love of kids and education (not always the formal kind), and connecting with people. It’s the first time in our marriage of over 50 years that we have spent so much time together at home and for the most part…at least 99% …it’s going well.

Our next door neighbours have two little ones, one born just before Easter and when our family visits were curtailed and I had excess of mini cupcakes in the freezer, it’s been great to share (safely!) a couple of little boxes of treats. Their family cannot visit just as we cannot have ours come. Still, for the greater good.

We have made a promise, once new restrictions began for lockdown, to only go to two stand alone supermarkets, the doctors and chemist and (before they became more restricted in entry) Bunnings on occasions for B. On one day, only one of us goes out (for essential reasons) and we stick to that. I recently made a trip to the local Reject shop…the only place open in a large super centre to buy a stash of cards for upcoming birthdays and celebrations. I also got some fun items which have been sent to Sydney to two families for the school aged grandkids…a care package…costs more to post by express but I would rather they got them! Australia Post employees tell me they have never been busier.

Here’s  two days of contrast (weather and condition wise) at Soldiers Beach.

 

Mon 23.8.21. Warm weather

Great day but look at those clouds.

Windy & wet. Tues 24 August.

Same ‘area’ where person was snorkling on Monday!

 

 

UPDATE: In late August I heard very sad news. Two friends had both died of cancer. One of whom was a Woman of Courage. Her name is Tracey Fletcher King. Here is the link to her story:

The second person is Fergus McCulla, a young man I had the pleasure of meeting back in 2019 as he had questions to ask me about my surgeries for cancer in my mouth. Fergus’s cancer was a very nasty one, and despite “everything” he eventually left behind the pain and suffering, that as his Mum said, he never spoke about. On Tuesday, I will attend his funeral service which will be streamed on-line.

 

Sending my love to the  families and friends of both of these special people. Vale Tracey and Vale Fergus. I am honoured that our paths crossed.

 

 

 

 

And so the second of three parts of 2021 is done. I will of course, be finishing this year’s story. However, I am no longer going to update here as I have found it hard(er) than I imagined in the midst of other life stuff…meaning, I am reducing some of my ‘have to’s in 2022 and keeping Telling My Story going won’t be a blog post. I might do a summary one time, but the recall and record keeping is less appealing than when I committed to starting!

 

Thanks for reading. And maybe just skimming but looking at the pictures. That is cool too. I am grateful I have used this blog to make me accountable.

Last one will be published as the last blog post (and Link Up) for 2021. 51/51….but we have a few weeks to go to that, and I am not wishing the year away!

Denyse.

Link Up #255

Life This Week. Link Up #255

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Next week’s optional prompt: 36/51 Self Care Stories #5. 6 Sept. Link Up #256

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Women Of Courage Series. #57 Marsha Ingrao. 68/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #57 Marsha Ingrao. 68/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, 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.

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

In the world of blogging we can ‘meet’ people virtually and make a pretty instant connection. I found this to be the case in early 2021 when Marsha Ingrao who is 69 began hosting Sunday Stills while another blogging friend from the US was moving into her new home. From my on-line emails and messages with Marsha as I learned more about her and her life, I had hoped she would agree to share her story as a Woman of Courage. And I was delighted with here response of “yes, I will”. Welcome Marsha and thank you for sharing your story

 

 

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

  • I had a birth defect – bilateral cleft lip, which is still fairly rare. From birth I had several surgeries including spending my first month in the hospital. This did not require any courage on my part. But it did change me.

 

  • When I was 15 and my brother was 13, we moved with Mom from Indiana to Oregon where we didn’t know anyone. Mom didn’t have a job. I was a junior in high school, and my brother was in 7th grade. My brother and I made the choice of where to go rather than to stay behind with our father or grandparents. It was the best decision of our lives.

 

  • My first husband had major health problems. He and his sister both had rare and genetic disease. Less than six months into our marriage, he broke his hip which deteriorated until he could not sit, stand or walk without extreme pain. We had no insurance. I was petrified, but his aunt found us a surgeon. At age 27 he had his first hip replacement, and the second one at age 29. His only sister died at age 35. I was 25 at the time, married for two years and lived with the fear that my husband would probably live maybe five more years. He lived eighteen more years and passed away at age 47 with heart, kidney, liver, and lung disease caused from the same missing enzymes that caused his joints to deteriorate.

 

  • Before Mark’s second hip surgery, we had no money coming in for a while. He couldn’t work and he did not want to have surgery again. Our pastor advised that I should quit working at my less than minimum wage job and let God provide through Mark. My husband was furious about this idea, but I wasn’t making enough to make ends meet anyway and I felt a sense of relief. I quit selling magazines door to door, and God supplied us with inheritance money and back disability checks enough to keep us going for over a year.

 

  • Finishing school. Neither of us had finished our four year degree when we married. I had started right out of high school, but quit when my scholarship ran out. I finished my associates degree after we were married, and was offered another scholarship and a position at Oregon State so that I could also earn my master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Administration. Mark also wanted to go to school and get his degree in Ministerial Studies from a college in Colorado Springs.

 

  • We sold everything and moved to Colorado and I waited until we moved to California and established residency there before I was able to pick up my education again. Eventually we both achieved our goals. He became a pastor and I earned my Master’s Degree and Administrative Credential and taught school, then moved into administration.

 

  • Having breast cancer. Actually I think I sailed through that recent obstacle, so far. The three surgeries were fairly easy, medication was not even though I did not have to go through chemo and radiation. I still have at least four to six more years of medicine, but I think it’s finally manageable.

 

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

  • My name, Marsha, comes from the name Mars, the Roman god of war and courage. I expect to and usually do overcome obstacles and win my wars.

 

  • I had to develop a positive attitude from the time I was a child to overcome shyness and make friends. I am sensitive, so I have to be careful not to take myself too seriously and get over myself when my feelings get hurt.

 

  • As a result, before I retired, it was sometimes hard to get others to take me seriously.

 

  • I am friendly. Without our many friends and family, Mark and I would not have survived.

 

  • I learned to work hard and both my husband and I achieved all our career goals and were married for 20 years before he passed. My second husband is also a hard worker, and I’ve learned a lot from him about precision and pushing beyond my best efforts. We have been married for 25 years.

 

  • I have a hard time quitting – even when I should. I hang on way too long because I see quitting as losing instead of being sensible and recognizing that I could be using my time and talents in other ways.

 

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

  • I wish that you didn’t need courage. But we all do. I rely on God, my friends and family and their prayers. People have always been kind and supportive of me.

 

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

I don’t know.

  • It’s hard to believe I have lived through the difficult times that I have. I think in a way you compartmentalize your problems and live outside and above your difficulties. I don’t know many people who throw themselves into dangerous situations just to be brave.

 

  • Trials happen to us and we deal with them as they come. I thank God for the times I don’t have to be brave.

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

-Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Get help!

-Pray

-Give to others. This might be a kind word, a meal, a smile, a prayer, or a million dollars. Give what you have.

-Love and appreciate everyone, especially those who help you.

-Be positive but not phony, find someone to whom you can vent when you get hit with too much reality.

-Exercise as much as you can.

-Eat healthy food

-Don’t feel guilty about what you can’t do.

-Blog – tell your story, get involved in the stories of others.

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

  • For breast cancer I recommend my friend Abigail Johnston’s website. No Half Measures.
  • For difficulties in marriage I recommend finding a good counselor. I’ve had two secular counselors (not pastors) that helped me deal with difficult situations. I would ask friends rather than use the web.
  • Get involved with a local church. We used the internet when we moved here because we didn’t know anyone.
  • Get a doctor who cares about you. Again, word of mouth is better than a website, but I used both when we moved.

 

Marsha put in some kind words at the end of her story and I believe that they are worth sharing. I am very proud to have been able to share these stories, so generously given to me here on the blog.

Thank you so much for this honor to be called a woman of courage. What a wonderful thing you are doing by honoring women. Thank you for all you do for our Blogging community, Denyse. You are a blessing and an inspiration.

Thank you, we are all connected, and I am glad for that.

Denyse.

 

 

Social Media: for Marsha

Blog/Website:  https://www.tchistorygal.net

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarshaIngrao

 

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

 

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

This series continues over the next months.

If you have  story to share, please leave me a message in the comments.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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