Monday 2nd August 2021

Questions. 31/51. #LifeThisWeek 94/2021.

Questions. 31/51. #LifeThisWeek 94/2021.

I am a question-asker.

I tend to ask a lot.

I am also an answer giver too.

However, I remain naturally curious and so, as a result have asked a LOT of questions over my 71 years on earth.

When I was seen by my head and neck cancer surgeons on 18 May 2017 I may not have had many questions because to be honest I was in shock as I had only learned of the diagnosis,the day before.

So, in the weeks that followed I found I did have specific questions, that I did not want to try to navigate on-line and my husband and GP did not have knowledge, so one of the kind surgeons answered them for me after I sent an enquiry to my head and neck surgeon’s office. His words helped me so much and reduced my worries.

I also found out then:

Do NOT be afraid to ask questions. There are no SILLY questions.

It’s now over 4 years since I was that very worried woman in a clinic room at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, where the head and neck team met us: me the patient with B my (now) carer.

August 2017

I have, over the years, also had the help of a psychologist to get my somewhat faulty  thinking and ideas sorted. I was not a 100% emotionally well in the years 2014 into early 2017 but I am also a problem solver. However this was one problem I could not solve by thinking my way through. I needed to both accept the emotional upsets I had and why along with the BIG life transitions I was coming to terms with. I have written about some of those experiences in past posts.

Before I continue. Last year, this head and neck surgeon from Adelaide tweeted his explanation for cancer. I have always felt there is an element of ‘blame’ attached to some cancers. These words resonated. Thank you @guylrees.

 

This year I was sent a copy of a book which I said I would review. There was a throwaway line by me when I saw its title via social media when I said to the publisher, send me a copy and I will review it. Exisle Publications were serious. They did.

I have read the book by Dr Toni Lindsay and it answered even more questions for me.

  • Questions I did not know I even wanted answers for.
  • That is the thing about a cancer diagnosis, sometimes it takes a long time to determine what you need or want to know next.
  • This then is my summing up of the book: from a Head and Neck Cancer Patient At Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

I have never met Dr Toni Lindsay but I do know of the many other professional services that are offered where I had my surgeries.

 

The Cancer Companion: How to navigate your way from diagnosis to treatment and beyond by Dr Toni Lindsay.

My Views As a Cancer Patient.

  • This is a well-written and set out guide, and its name suggests it can accompany a person (cancer patient, family member, carer) throughout the cancer experience.
  • It’s easy to read, and divided into sections:

Part One: On Treatment.

  • And then it was cancer
  • Normal
  • Finding your purpose and meaning. Part 1.
  • Preparing the treatment and having a plan
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Surgery

I identified strongly with ‘hearing you have cancer’ as it still comes as a shock even though I had guessed. Of course, for me, like all, there were fears and worries. Lots of days when I know I would be doing something, and then it would hit me like a punch. “I have cancer”.

So, what I got from this part, as someone who remembers how it was, is that all is perfectly within an expectation as a newly- diagnosed patient.

Having a plan helped me but the plan often came in the form of a check list from me, to prepare for trips to Sydney where I would need to have surgeries, treatments at the prosthodontist and for the first year, my husband would need to drive me and stay somewhere close by while I was in hospital.

Even though we no longer lived in Sydney where everything I needed for my on-going treatment, we felt fine with the drive, and sometimes a stay overnight. My husband bore the brunt of times waiting…sometimes visiting our family, other times going for long drives until he heard he could pick me up.

We are also fully retired (aged over 70) and so making a plan was relatively easy as we did not have to take work and family priorities into account. There is quite a bit in this part for carers too.

Part Two: Off Treatment.

  • Finishing treatment
  • What if it comes back?
  • Finding your purpose and meaning. Part 2.
  • Why is everyone behaving like I am back to normal?

My reactions to what I read here were as if Dr Lindsay was in my head!

It did help ‘normalise’ my thinking and my progress.

For that I was grateful to have confirmation from someone professional.

I have a husband who is a trained counsellor and his help was good in that he could sometimes ‘calm my farm’ as they say when my emotions when a bit awry.

I am now, almost 100% able to do this for myself.

Ah. The advantages of time passing and experience as well as cancer free results at surveillance visits.

 

Part Three: Living With Advanced Cancer.

  • Living with advanced cancer
  • Finding your purpose and meaning. Part 3.
  • Planning and decision-making (even if you don’t need it!)

I read this section with feelings of sadness because I know of friends with head and neck cancer, and other cancers, who are living with advanced cancer.

I do know, however, that if there can be others support systems for example, psychologists and/or palliative care team with experience of helping people through, the prospect of what MAY lie ahead could feel less fear-based.

I would highly recommend not only reading this section but acting upon the help offered too. 

 

Part Four: The Psychology Part: How Can I Manage All of this.

  • Mood vs treatment
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Fatigue and exercise
  • Body Image
  • Relationships and sexuality
  • Working
  • Being present
  • Being grateful
  • Managing other people
  • Pain

I have a great G.P. He started being my G.P. about 6 weeks before my diagnosis in May 2017.

Like my husband, he has been what I call a ‘cheerleader’.

Someone in my life who helps, encourages and supports me.

In the various times when I have been worried and scared, and this was prevalent a LOT in the first year, he was a voice of reason and reassurance.

I also have a professional team in Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and at Westmead Oral Sciences who I can call or email. Their help, at the other end of the phone after I have sent a photo or text has been exemplary.

In turn, all of the above has helped me see my way through.

Having a rare cancer: both statistically and type, I often found “I” became and still am, the expert in my mouth and its care. I

have learned a lot from those who helped reconstruct my mouth, along with my local dentist, but from my 4th year of recovery (about this time in 2020) I became the ‘one who knew’ most about my cancer and my recovery.

Some Final Thoughts.

This is a section in the book…

and I will add mine.

Knowing how I felt at the beginning of my diagnosis and how hard it was to concentrate with the spectre of an 11 hour surgery ahead of me, I could not have contemplated picking this book up and reading it.

I did ask my husband though and he says it would have been ok for him to have it at that stage.

Now, as I review my reactions and responses to my cancer in over 4 years, I would have been ready by about a year in.

That was for me.

Oh, and about the red balloon on the cover. It took me a while to find out about its significance. Dr Lindsay uses the balloon the illustrate how when holding a balloon on a string, it may occasionally pop back onto you, just like the occasional anxious thinking about cancer. In other words, the thoughts do come and go but they are not there forever. Or indeed they can be batted away. No longer controlling us. 

Others may see it differently.

Thank you to Dr Lindsay and those at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse who support patients and families and carers on the psychological path of a cancer diagnosis.

Thanks too, to Exisle Publishing for the book. No payment was made to me for this review, it was the gift of the book only. I am a truth teller and this is my review.

I give my permission for Exisle Publishing and Dr Lindsay to use my words within this post.

Denyse Whelan.

Blog Disclaimer:

My stories and photos along with suggested links and websites must not be seen as medical advice.

I write this blog from my experience as a head and neck cancer patient.  Denyse Whelan. 2021.

Link Up #251

Life This Week. Link Up #251

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 32/51 Remember

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What Bugs Me About Summer! #SundayStills. 93/2021.

What Bugs Me About Summer! #SundayStills. 93/2021.

Terri here has shared the prompts for August 2021 and I will share this post soon as ‘my’ Sunday becomes Monday here. Terri is in the northern hemisphere. I do enjoy sharing and am happy to wait till Monday.

Summer Bugs.

Well, I could have found images of the nuisance blowflies, houseflies and mosquitoes along with cockroaches and Christmas beeltes and cicadas but…I don’t have many any so I did a “play on words” for today’s 1 August post.

But first: It’s the Horses’ Birthday! This could be a Southern Hemisphere thing and it’s to do with horse racing I believe. So, here’s to the locals and another one where I have an image

And now, what bugs* me about Summer….

*may be a slight exaggeration…Aussie humour.

 

The spectacle on a January Day in Summer is too much on my sensory overload.

 

Far too many people enjoying themselves in the surf.

 

It bugs me that the surf is high and people have to wade a long time to get to the waves.

 

A picture perfect Summer’s Day. Sigh. Bugs me I forgot my swimming costume.

 

hello Summer Sun, you are very hot.

 

It bugged me that this man got in my shot!

 

And sadly, in Covid restrictions time, it really BUGS me I cannot drive here to walk in the beach now in Winter.

That’s it from me. I am hopeful Terri will see my take and have a smile. I look forward to seeing REAL Summer Bugs when I catch up with her blog post.

Denyse.

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Woman Of Courage #65. Denyse Whelan & Head & Neck Cancer. 92/2021.

Woman Of Courage #65. Denyse Whelan & Head & Neck Cancer. 92/2021.

In July 2021 The Women of Courage posts will be connected in some way to World Head and Neck Cancer Month (July) and the #WHNCD Day on 27 July 2021. Those who have followed my blog since 2017 know I was diagnosed with a rare Head and Neck Cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip. More here.

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.

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

This woman of courage story is making a change because it’s about me.

The changes are because I have written many updates about my head and neck cancer story and they can all be found here.

And when I first started the series back in 2019 I did write a post about being a woman of courage (not numbered)  but did not make it about head and neck cancer, instead making it about my sudden departure from my career as a primary school principal. That took a lot of courage. The post is here.

What have you faced in your life, with head and neck cancer,  where you have had to be courageous?

  • I have needed often to remember that I have been frightened, fearful and scared before quite a few of the surgeries and…
  • afterwards I know that by calling on my skills and experiences from the past, I get through them.
  • It doesn’t mean I am fearless…not at all, but I can now, because of previous experiences, have great confidence that things for me will go OK. Not always well but OK.
  • I also had (and still do) an enormous amount of trust in my professional team.
  • Both my husband and I knew and felt that from Day 2 of diagnosis, when I met my Professor and his associate, along with visiting Chris O’Brien Lifehouse where I would have my surgery.
  • I was nervous about the upcoming surgery (the big one which would take the cancer and reconstruct my mouth with part of my leg) but I never ever wanted to do anything differently.
  • I feel exactly the same over 4 years later.

 

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

  • Interestingly getting told I had  squamous cell carcinoma found in my upper gums and under one lip actually was more of a relief than a shock.
  • Surprised by that?
  • Well, I had no answers to what was happening inside my mouth for around a year and it was not until I, along with my dentist, decided (I really really had to find courage for this!) that all the teeth attached to the upper bridge in my mouth needed removal.
  • The skills via meditation, reading and learning from both my husband ( a counsellor in training, then), my psychologist and my GP came to the fore.
  • It was never easy and it sometimes needed drugs. The OK ones. But I did it.
  • Everything that challenged my thoughts I stood up to with these words: ‘I do hard things’

 

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

  • There is something in each of us that perhaps we are not aware of on a conscious level but that we can call upon when faced with life changing news.
  • In my case it was the news I had a rare and unusual cancer in my mouth.
  • I learned that there are experts who can guide me and help me.
  • I also learned not to use Dr Google as they say.
  • For me, once I had made up my mind my team knew its thing, I was right.
  • It did not mean I was leaving everything up to them!
  • I was proactive in finding out what to expect.
  • One of the doctors was kind enough to answer my questions via email.
  • I only had to ask. Never be afraid to ask!
  • I also prepared myself physically (not in a fitness way because I am not like that by nature) by using the time before my surgery to do some cooking for the freezer once I was home, and having practical items like clothing etc I could use in hospital.
  • I am a planner and organiser by nature so I did the parts the patient could do, whilst my team of doctors, surgeons, prosthodontists, nurses and so on did theirs.

 

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

  • Yes I am and I do.
  • I have applied so much of the experience of having faced the diagnosis of head and neck cancer and what it meant for me using aspects of exposure therapy.
  • I face what I am afraid of and do things in incremental ways.
  • I learned this to face the extraction of the teeth and bridge back in April 2017 and it built my confidence in small ways.
  • I also had the chance to take some risks which previously (in the years 2015-early 2017) I was too fearful to try: including going as a passenger in the car with my husband driving, driving to Sydney, going to appointments.
  • Each of these, I did with my husband for all of 2017 – often I was physically unable to as my leg was recovering from its surgery too and into 2018 when one day, I said…
  • “I am taking myself to Westmead today”. I knew the drive, I love my car and I was ready to do this. I did. And from that time I have driven myself to Westmead Oral Sciences. for many treatments (that’s the generic name for my sessions at the prosthodontist)
  • I have, of course, been driven by my husband for all four of my surgeries. He also brought me to a cancer check last September as I was unable to drive post wound surgery.

 

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

  • You might surprise yourself.
  • Do not under estimate your human qualities and abilities.
  • I also support getting some help as well.
  • We often need some more counselling AFTER a major life event so do make sure you see someone who helps with that. I am seeing a psychologist again too.
  • Don’t think you have to do anything alone.
  • There is always someone who just might understand and there may be support services too.

 

Head and Neck Cancer Australia – formerly Beyond Five – is a huge resource for patients, families, carers, and professionals to become more informed and aware of Head and Neck Cancer. My blog posts, since my diagnosis in May 2017, were of interest to my head and neck surgeon and his nurse when I spoke about them at one of my appointments and as a result of expressing interest in helping and having an informal interview, I was offered the role of Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia. This is my 5th year of recovery from head and neck cancer and my 4th year of being on board the team at H.A.N.C.A.  with other Ambassadors. It is a privilege to give back.

In writing the stories of Women of Courage, these women, all with Head and Neck Cancer affecting them, contributed their stories here. Thank you to them all.

Maureen Jansen.

Her story is here.

Tara Flannery.

Her story is here.

Julie McCrossin AM.

Her story is here.

Yvonne McClaren.

Her story is here.

Cosette Calder.

Her story is here.

Anne Howe.

Her story is here.

Thank you too, to all those who read and comment on my blog posts. It make a difference to knowing I am supported and cared for and about.

3 Year Difference. July 2018-July 2021.

Denyse.

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

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

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Cancer: Patients, Family & Carers.#ShareYourSnaps #6. 30/51 #LifeThisWeek. 91/2021.

Cancer: Patients, Family & Carers.#ShareYourSnaps #6. 30/51 #LifeThisWeek. 91/2021.

Cancer does not have a timeline.

It can just appear.

Often times there is NO reason nor cause.

Many who have been diagnosed with a cancer with known risk factors but none apply to them, will be puzzled.

I am one of those but I have also learned to let go…because as my wise husband says “in the overall scheme of things, does that matter or help?”.

This month, on the blog I am focussing on cancer: head and neck cancer, because it is the one I know best.

I WAS excited to announce a community-held event as a fund raiser for Soup For The Soul at my local cafe but, nothing can happen so, I changed to a VIRTUAL Soup For The Soul Fundraiser and this is my POST where there is a LINK directly for donations. Thank you in advance! 

It also is the month when World Head and Neck Cancer Day is held: 27 July.

This year, because of Covid Restrictions a lot of what we took for granted in getting our messages out there to the community have changed. But my blog is still here.

Sadly not much is happening fact to face right now, and I post this image when we were very hopeful we would be able to take the head and neck cancer message to Canberra. But again, that has been postponed.

This Sharing of My Snaps is About a Number of Subjects.

See below for blog disclaimer. 

Cancer Help.

There is, in Australia, a Government website here . 

Of particular interest to me is to find and share more of the cancer I have. Try it if you need to find out more.

https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/head-neck-cancer/what-head-and-neck-cancer

Head and neck cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the head or neck grow in an uncontrolled way. These cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the inside of the mouth, nose and throat.

Head and neck cancer is 1 of the 10 most common cancers in both men and women in Australia. I have heard it is rare. However now I realise it is not well-known at all. Perhaps my descriptor needs to change.

What are head and neck cancers?

Head and neck cancers occur inside the sinuses, nose, mouth and salivary glands down through the throat. Although these cancers are different, they are treated similarly, so are considered as a group.

It is estimated that there will be 4414 cases of head and neck cancers diagnosed in Australia in 2021. These figures include cancers of the tongue, gum, mouth, salivary glands, tonsils, pharynx, nasal cavity and larynx, but not cancers of the lip.

The five year survival rate is approximately 64.7%.

source: https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/head-and-neck-cancers

 

Cancer Council has sites throughout Australia too.  Ours in New South Wales is found here. I have booklets from my local Cancer Council shop at Erina Fair to help me and anyone else with a cancer. These books are free and I highly recommend them.

There is the second volume of which is a series of stories co-ordinated by The Swallows on Facebook : found here.

The Swallows: Booklet

Other information about head and neck cancer found here too:

Julie McCrossin AM, Australian Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia has copies. Tell me in the comments if you would like one.

Beyond Five. 2018. Now HANCA. Julie McCrossin AM holding a radiation mask. Nadia Rosin CEO & Me.

Marty Doyle, fellow Head and Neck Cancer Australia Ambassador, also wrote this book about his experience with head and neck cancer. He is going well some 17 years post his diagnosis.

I also bought a compilation of cancer stories directly from the author as I wanted to read more stories of others’ going well post-cancer. And I include some other books which have helped me.

Now…some more information can be found here at Head and Neck Cancer Australia (formerly Beyond Five) where I am an Ambassador.

I have taken part in a video series on nutrition, shared my head and neck cancer story on this site, and that of Chris O’Brien Lifehouse where I had my surgeries.

For more information about the special aspects of treatment for those with any cancer, go here to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. This is in Sydney and is a private hospital specialising in comprehensive cancer care. That is, all under one roof as was the vision of the late Professor Chris O’Brien AO. His daughter, Juliette O’Brien was a recent Woman of Courage. 

And now to this information and more from me, about cancer progress and living with the results of head and neck cancer. My posts are here. 

 

The book I am reviewing. Written by a Psychologist from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Review is coming soon.

This story: The Big Hug Box.

I have written about my connections with Lisa Greissl who founded the Big Hug Box in 2018. She too, was a patient at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and in recovery wanted to do something to both help cancer research (hers was a very rare cancer) and to give back something to those who saved her life. She knew, in recovery, a BIG hug was always appreciated but not everyone can give or get one in person as they recover from or go through cancer. Find the Big Hug Box here.

Lisa’s idea has moved forward and there is much happening locally in the Newcastle region of N.S.W. Companies raise funds to share Random Hugs of Kindness boxes to Cancer Centres in some states and cities. The latest news is found here. I got to know Lisa personally when I offered to make bookmarks for inclusion in the early versions of The Big Hug Box. I must have donated over 400. I also saw someone I know who received a Big Hug Box and she saw that she knew who made the bookmarks! Lisa has also shared her story as a Woman of Courage.

Whilst this is a much more wordy post for a Share Your Snaps, I wanted to give the space to what has helped me in terms of cancer so that readers and bloggers here may have better ideas and reference points.

This is an Australian based blog and all of my links are to places within Australia, other than The Swallows in the United Kingdom.

There are many places and site for help in the U.S.A. where Oral Cancer is often mentioned separately to head and neck cancer. World wide, the associations and professional bodies relating to all cancers do all they can to improve outcomes for patients.

And, I share my story learning to eat again here: from Head & Neck Cancer Australia. Made February 2020 just before Covid shut things down.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

Denyse.

Blog Disclaimer:

My stories and photos along with suggested links and websites must not be seen as medical advice.

I write this blog from my experience as a head and neck cancer patient.  Denyse Whelan. 2021.

Link Up #250

Life This Week. Link Up #250

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 31/51 Question.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


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Finding Geometric Shapes In Nature. #SundayStills Meets #TreeSquare. 90/2021.

Finding Geometric Shapes In Nature. #SundayStills Meets #TreeSquare. 90/2021.

 

As this post farewells #TreeSquare via #SundayStills I am summing up the four weeks like this:

  • who knew if we look more closely just how much there is to see in JUST one tree
  • what I saw as I reviewed my photos of trees and shrubs was the immense detail in each
  • I noticed far more of the shapes and textures too when I was walking near the trees I selected for photos
  • I will never be bored outside while there is a tree to look at
  • I appreciate their role in our lives..literally keeping us alive more than ever.

Thank you for Becky for a month of #TreeSquare. I shall be checking out what’s happening next time round.

Thank you too, Terri, for your prompts for Sunday Stills.

Allow me to share what I saw as geometric in these images.

Lines, angles and spheres.

 

Patterns: squares on ground, curves and some trees cut into spherical shapes.

 

I see conical shapes in the conifer and angled sprouts from each branch.

 

I did not make this…but someone had fun with this pine tree making a mandala!

 

The lines in the rails of the horse training track taking the eye to the tree, as it casts shadows.

 

My deliberate use of fence palings to split this image into three separate rectangles.

 

The bamboo stretches against the railings and scaffolding of the building under construction next door to my Dad’s Unit Complex

 

The angles and lines that take the eye of the viewer to the monument, on a very bleak day when Covid has struck in 2020 and services would not be held here for A.N.Z.A.C. Day. The tree in the background lends some comfort to the stark sight.

 

I can no longer look at a tree without seeing the angles of the branches.

 

I look forward to seeing what Terri has planned for August. August?? How did we get here so fast?

Sending my best to you all.

Denyse.

 

 

 

 

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Women of Courage Series. #64. Anne Howe. 89/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #64. Anne Howe. 89/2021.

In July 2021 The Women of Courage posts will be connected in some way to World Head and Neck Cancer Month (July) and the #WHNCD Day on 27 July 2021. Those who have followed my blog since 2017 know I was diagnosed with a rare Head and Neck Cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip. More here.

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

Whilst Anne Howe, who is in her late 60s, and I have not met in real life, we have connected on-line via a very supportive facebook group for those affected by Head and Neck Cancer. The details are below. Anne’s story looks short yet it is incredibly full of courage from Anne’s words, taking the best chance you can as a human to survive a devastating diagnosis and allowing those who have your trust to do their best for you. Anne is a very determined woman, loved by her large family and often a carer to others. She has had more surgery since her post-HNC photo was taken and this has been, as best as it might happen, for her to have some teeth added inside her mouth.

Note from Anne:

 While I have had teeth made I am unable to wear them until I have had the screws implanted in my jaw and the bridging work made. Then its fingers crossed to hope my jaws don’t crumble due to the radiation. So still a way to go there.

I chose to use both images supplied by Anne as they do illustrate her words at the end of her story. I have, though, used her image before the surgeries for her Woman of Courage collage because it was then she needed to have all the courage she could muster to go through her many trials in her head and neck cancer journey.

Thank you, Anne. Let’s share your responses now.

 

 

 

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

My moment of courage kicked in when I presented for surgery to remove a SCC (squamous cell carcinoma) tumour from my nose back in 2017.

I was nervous and terrified as anyone is when facing surgery but the full impact hit when my surgeon came to see me.

His first words when explaining my surgery really tore through me.

He could NOT give me informed consent.

I would have to trust him and he promised to do the very best he could for me.

At best he would remove the tumour and do his best to repair the damage but at worst I could just wake up with a hole in my face.

With a very shaking hand I signed on  the line but while doing it a very gentle hand covered mine and a gentle voice told me he would take good care of me.

I woke up to find I had lost most of my nose, my top lip up to the nose, some of my left cheek, my central upper jaw and part of the soft palate.

 

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

After my surgery I was informed by my surgeon that I was stage 4 and he didn’t think I would survive.

He had done his best to get me this far and I made up my mind to do whatever I needed to do to get through this which is exactly what I have done.

I knew I had a long hard road ahead with a lot of work to be done.

Over the last 4 years I have endured 11 surgeries on my nose and 30 sessions of radiation.

I still have further nasal surgery to have and also surgery on my mouth due to having lost part of my jaw. (this is some of  the surgery I mentioned in my introduction)

 

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

When I woke up from surgery and first  saw my face I thought that was it.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think it could be repaired to the stage it has.

I put my faith and trust in my surgeon which was the best thing I could ever have done.

The other thing that helped get me through was the love and support of my family and friends.

 

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

I have learned from this experience that I am stronger than I ever thought I was.

I have often been told I am very brave but I disagree.

I have fears just like everyone else but to survive I just had to put on my big girl pants and do what was needed as the other option just didn’t bear thinking about.

It really was a live or die situation.

Over time my strength has just grown.

 

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

To anyone going through something that fills you with fear or concern my advice is to give everything you have because only then can you say you really tried.

Surround yourself with some people who will truly understand and accept you no matter what.

Sometimes I have needed to vent or just have a good cry to let those emotions out and that is important too.

Never give up.

 

My favourite saying through all this has been:

My face does not define me I am still the same person.

Anne, your courage and your story blow me away. What a great relationship you have with your surgeon. Trust is so much a part of it. I am so glad you are here, and looking after your family too…as you continue to recover. Thank you so much.

Denyse.

Note About Head and Neck Cancer Support on-line.

IF a family member or someone you know does have a diagnosis of a head and neck cancer or that person is a carer, the value of a good facebook group cannot be over-done. The friendly space that IS this group for eligible people to request membership is a good one. There are people from all over the world but the group is not huge so personal connections can be made. It is mainly made up of New Zealanders, and Aussies too…along with those from the U.S. There are questions to be answered to join and it IS strictly for those with a head and neck cancer. Link is here.

This is a link to Head and Neck Cancer Australia too. This is where I found information initially after my 2017 diagnosis and where I am now an Ambassador.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

 

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Soup For The Soul Fundraiser. Head&NeckCancerAustralia. #WHNCD2021 88.1/2021.

Soup For The Soul Fundraiser. Head&NeckCancerAustralia. #WHNCD2021 88.1/2021.

 

What I had planned for Soup For The Soul 2021 with My local Cafe BluJs at Toukley on #WorldHeadandNeckCancerDay 27 July 2021 Cannot Happen Because of Covid19.

Just look at the soups from the kitchen at BluJs. Thank you for sharing! Great images of soup made by Mick

With the spirit and kindness and generosity still in mind, to share the #headandneckcancer #awareness BluJ’s will help promote my #S4TS event…

a Virtual One!

My suggestion is a donation from friends, family and those who wish to support the good work of Head and Neck Cancer Australia (HANCA) which helps many through the tough times of a head and cancer diagnosis.

Donate what you might pay for a soup..or what a meal might cost for you…Perhaps take my lead and donate $10. That would be fantastic.

BluJs WILL be back for sure, but as it’s unlikely to be during this time of fundraising, they too are sharing virtual soups via social media for this cause.

 

Here is the DONATION  link for the VIRTUAL SOUP for the SOUL:

I would be very grateful if you could donate to this.

Thank you all.

Denyse.

 

 

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Two-In-One. #TreeSquare #SundayStills. Evergreen. 87/2021.

Two-In-One. #TreeSquare #SundayStills. Evergreen. 87/2021.

Re-visiting my first school. Lots of evergreen in trees in the playground. Me, not so much!

Since knowing that trees were to be the focus for BeckyB’s Squares in July AND that they would be featured on Sunday Stills too, I have been extra vigilant in my tree observations and my photo taking. To be honest, I am always finding something to photograph outside but with a theme like trees…I was IN!

Terri here has now  moved into her new abode and I will share this post soon as ‘my’ Sunday becomes Monday here. Terri is in the northern hemisphere. I do enjoy sharing and am happy to wait till Monday.

Being Square is Fun!

Join in this lovely challenge and post a photographic square daily for one month every quarter. The theme changes every quarter and is announced on this blog a few weeks, occasionally days, in advance of the challenge month. The challenge months are January, April, July and October.

Here’s all you need to know: Thanks so much to Becky.

Create your square post, and include a pingback to one of my daily square posts (not this page or the home page as otherwise I don’t know about your ping!). You can also add the link to your post in the comments on any of my square posts

  1. Include the theme’s tag (sometimes this may be the only way I can find you too); the theme for July 2021 is Treeswhich makes the tag #TreeSquare

 

My Squares in Evergreen…from Trees in Nature. Each has a small description of place underneath.

Many trees like this on the lake and coastal areas where we live.

 

Another evergreen pine-type tree right on the lake!

 

An Australian native evergreen. The banksia tree. Coastal loving tree.

 

This is evergreen alright and perhaps more of a large shrub but it is saving the beach from erosion.

 

This evergreen is a gum tree and its angle is somewhat precarious.

 

Evergreen National Park on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I grew up very close to here.

 

And this is the suburb where I grew up. Balgowlah Heights NSW. The pink arrow points to our former home. Lots of evergreen everywhere, including the colour Dad chose for the roof end.

 

This is what is left of the evergreen Dad & Mum had in their garden. House completely unrecognisable. Interestingly owners used same green for front door. Great place for us all: kids, grandkids and great grandkids 1959-2011.

 

Missenden Road Camperdown. Evergreen trees form canopy. My walk along here is to the Hospital for my check ups (still having them) and surgeries in 2017-18.

And my collage for #TreeSquare on Instagram:

I hope you have plenty of evergreen and trees around your area. They are such givers of life, literally!

Denyse.

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