Friday 27th May 2022

Telling My Story. Chapter 24. June 2018-2019. Pt 1/2. 52/2021.

Telling My Story. Chapter 24. June 2018-2019. Pt 1/2. 52/2021.

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 Four. Telling the story in two parts. Today is Part 1.

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.

THIS post is the second last in the series. Part Two is in a week’s time. Thank you to all who have been reading and commenting on my recent posts about my life since head and neck cancer. I appreciate each and every one of you and your kindness. It helps me understand my need for connection and blogging does that for me. Warmest wishes to you all. Denyse.

 

June into July 2018.

About my mouth.

This is the month after what I hoped would be the final reconstructive surgery…(still is)….and it was winter, busy and I spent even more time, alone (happily) in my red car, driving BACK and FORTH to Westmead Oral Sciences…because…. T E E T H!

Obviously healing has to take place, and the work of this next stent, the one to push my top lip out more needed lots of T I M E.

You know, that thing you have to be P A T I E N T about when you are one!

During the visits to the prosthodontist, which could vary in time ‘in the chair’ from 2 to 4 hours, I listened to audio books at the boring times of having 2 lots of hands in my mouth…and used to ‘fiddle with’ my bracelets, or even a small crystal. I was not ever nervous but my boredom could lead to anxiety and so it was best I used strategies of distraction and relaxation. I was always very tired after my day spent at Westmead and soon learned to give myself a day off afterwards.

Nevertheless, I knew that my prosthodontist was working at all he could to get my new upper prosthesis prepared for when my mouth was.

Daily Routine Helped.

As I had started with photo taking in late 2017 for a daily outfit shot, and then going somewhere for coffee, this became a given as part of my routine to see me dress well, and engage with the wider world outside home. I still do this, no longer with daily photos but it is embedded in my self-care strategies.

Life went on.

In between times, I did not sit around.

Actually I do not doing sitting around very well.

I still had my daily routine of an outfit photo and usually went out for coffee. I went to view nature and I became increasingly interested in helping with spreading the word of head and neck cancer. I also found The Big Hug Box and offered to make bookmarks and loved using my art for good. I ventured an idea to the local library – can’t recall which month but it was with a view to me running a mindful mandala making course.

I even put a ‘how to’ on the blog. Teacher me was re-emerging.

School Holidays. Visitors. 

It was a treat to see our grandchildren when their parents could arrange a visit and on one occasion we had a late birthday celebration. I made sure I had some art and craft for the four of them to do and we spent a very pleasant day in the winter sunshine.

I continued to be out and taking photos and it was good for me to re-visit places where I held special memories of seeking solace and comfort.

 

Head and Neck Cancer: Sharing The News.

As I was someone who had no idea of this rare cancer when diagnosed, I wanted to make others aware, but I also know my Professor Jonathan Clark and others had begun Beyond Five to do just that. Finally, as July approached and with it, World Head and Neck Cancer Day on 27 July I swung into action. Beyond Five sent me some ribbons and brochures and I made contact with my local federal M.P. Emma McBride and she visited us at home to find out more. Emma remains interested in sharing. I also approached our doctors and dentist with a view to sharing my “wellness” and asking them to display information. It seemed like I wanted to give back.

I did.

Thank You: No Words Are Enough.

 In the year since I had been diagnosed, after my dentist has removed the bridge in April 2017, and I had the biopsy done by the oral surgeon in May 2017, I really wanted to share with them how I was. So, I did. In two personal visits. I have done this once more to the Oral Surgeon’s since and of course I see my Dentist each 6 months.

World Head and Neck Cancer Day and Meeting The Central Coast HNC Support Group.

My M.P. had written an article about me and head and neck cancer and it was within days of that, I was contacted by Lisa Shailer, from Central Coast Cancer Centre, who looks after newly diagnosed head and neck cancer patients. She invited me to the first Soup for the Soul event at Gosford hospital’s Cancer Centre and that was where my involvement with the local group commenced. It was also the first time I had met anyone else with a head and neck cancer.

August 2018. How LONG?

On 6th August, as my patience was really, really wearing thin …to get this upper prosthesis, I celebrated our daughter’s birthday with a S M I L E.…and the race for this to be ready and in my mouth began. I was so over it. I thought this would be such a change for me when it happened, I even made up a list of what crunchy foods I would try again. (Dear reader…it was not how she thought it would be)

After more trips up and down the M1, I sensed that 21 August was to be THE day and dressed up  a little bit more. It was. The day. It felt weird and good.

I smiled for a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time.

First time I smiled….

 

After an adjustment from my prosthodontist.

September into October 2018.

I Could Not Stop SMILING.

Even though I had “teeth” screwed into my upper jaw in August, there were still quite a lot of adjustments to be made to the prosthesis by my prosthodontist at Westmead so that meant more trips to him. He was also making a bottom partial denture of a molar on each side, to clip onto my remaining 8 natural teeth to have better biting and chewing.

I sent a photo of me to my head and neck surgeon and he was amazed at the outcome too. So cool. I had my check up and he was so happy for me as were the other people who were part of my surgeries and healing times. I met with Nadia, CEO of Beyond Five as a potential Ambassador, and on the same day said hello and thank you to Gail O’Brien, wife of the late Professor Chris O’Brien, for her husband’s vision for his one-stop Cancer Care Centre, Lifehouse.

What it was not.

No way does it replicate my own teeth. However, I took some time to get used to that as well as speaking because my mouth was now more full of ‘hardware’. Eating was tricky – and still can be – as different foods required more chewing than expected and others were just too sharp or crusty for me to be able to manage. I also found (and find) I need something slippery to help the food go down.

BUT I had my SMILE back. And that was so good.

I was invited to share my story  at the Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Support Group and used my long lost power point and Uni tutor skills to do so. It was well-received.

I visited family with greater confidence. Trips to Sydney were ones where I once only had emotional capacity to deal with the treatments but now I was getting more brave and doing hard things.

I met people for a long awaited catch up. I saw Dad more. I visited places where I had grown up. It was GOOD to be out and about and not all about head and neck cancer. I went to a Look Good Feel Good self care workshop but was a little disappointed that its relevance to me was little. Understandably my cancer it rare, but the 90% effort on the day was placed with those with hair loss from chemo and in general were for breast cancer survivors. I appreciate that my cancer is not visible either.

November into December 2018.

Invited to become an Ambassador for then Beyond Five, now Head and Neck Cancer Australia. This was a huge honour and so good to know I could be helpful using my education background and my personal experience of being a head and neck cancer patient. I met with the CEO, Nadia and Inaugural Ambassador Julie McCrossin at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Back to schools!

I was invited to my granddaughter’s grandparents’ day and I went. I would not have envisaged doing this in the previous few years but handling my head and neck cancer recovery encourage me to use my new skills of confidence and greater resilience. It was great. I loved being back in a school. Then I visited my daughter at her school. Very proud to see the library she started from Day One of that new school.

Because of a blunder made in 2003 on my Service Medal, by the NSW Dept of Education at my retirement (when I had to due to work place issues and no chance for medical retirement) I tweeted about it once and my principal friend John Goh noticed and he retweeted it and the NSW Dept of Education Deputy Secretary saw it, and emailed me “we can fix this Denyse”….and the story of that is told here. So good to have my career recognised properly for me.

We hosted Christmas.

We had not had our family gather with us for Christmas for quite some years. Then for 2018 our daughter and her kids suggested coming to our place as they were mid house move. Again, bravely, I said YES and we were delighted to do so. I also had another Santa photo taken and when asked what did I want for Christmas I said “I already have it, I am cancer free and well.”

What Would 2019 Bring?

January 2019.

Birthdays!

Always birthdays first…my Dad…95

Then our son 40

And our grandson 18.

I didn’t see Dad on the day but had photos sent. Our son and his four kids came for a lunch and we made sure there was cake and candles. Our daughter had an 18th Birthday family lunch for her boy at her new place and we were delighted to attend.

We had not driven down the way – north western Sydney – since we last lived there and the changes are extreme. Former paddocks and dairy farms are cheek by jowl housing and that is the way these days I guess. Also is a reason traffic wise, why my husband was glad to be out of Sydney.

February 2019.

Busy month to begin with the first meeting in 2019 for Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Support Group where M.P. Liesl Tesch, former Paralympian addressed us, sharing her story.

I continued to have check ups at Westmead for my mouth. In January of 2019 the upper prosthesis was removed – it is attached by 5 abutments (tiny screws) that are in my reconstructed jaw, for minor adjustments. As you may imagine, it is a challenge for something to fit well (and perfectly) so it meant trips to Westmead for this. As time went on though, my physical care of the prosthesis with waterpik and micro brushes – getting debris away from the abutments and gums, it has not needed removal since then. In fact, I can barely believe how well I have been able to maintain this because it’s something quite new.

I also found out, that the pain I often have in various parts of my mouth inside is all part of the body getting used to what is in there. After all, it’s got my leg bits inside. My team and being published as a story on Beyond Five.

My husband turned 70. He is the original no fuss man. However, we had hoped for a small family lunch. His body has different plans and we could not go ahead as he was unwell. Nevertheless he received family love and best wishes and we caught up with family later.

A wee tribute to him…..HE got me through so many of those really hard days early in my diagnosis. His counselling skills were very much needed along with the loving and caring man he is. The night before my surgery on 6 July 2017, it was him sorting out where he would stay rather than the awful (for us) place where we had been recommended that helped calm me as I was concerned about his welfare while I was ‘unaware’ in I.C.U. Then when he visited me from home on the Central Coast, his very presence on the balcony of my room was so reassuring….love him, lots.

March into April 2019. 

Re-reading this post as I go, I am aware that it sounds like I was on the go, doing, doing and recovering and doing even more. In some ways I was. It felt SO good to be getting better after almost 2 years. It was though one of those situations with me where I.B.S. would return when I was feeling particularly stressed. And that its pattern would be more likely after any stress event. Even the good ones. I had to learn to pace myself better.

I had to learn to add in time outside.

In nature.

Taking walks.

Being a fun photographer…and then also using my creative senses to enjoy art of some kind to fill my visual and kinaesthetic senses.

Remembering my late Mum’s death anniversary here.

Learning where to STOP..is here. Next time, will be Part Two: April – December 2019.

Reality of my reconstructed mouth….

And in the next part of Chapter 24, “this” concept changes into a plan for a blog series.

Thank you so much if you made it this far.

I appreciate that!

Denyse.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty. 2013-2014.97/2020.

Telling My Story. 2013-2014. Chapter Twenty. 97/2020.

About a hundred three years ago ….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 (her story is here) 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.

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.

In saying that, these two years, 2013-2014  are presenting me, the memory writer and ‘rememberer’ with some internal challenges. You see, I look at my images back then and see the very overweight Denyse smiling (as she does) for the camera and sharing what she did professionally in her work well, along with caring for her family…but as I know now (and did then) I was:

  • very unhappy
  • using some foods for comfort
  • confused in some ways about what was best for me going forward
  • hiding how I felt mostly from myself I guess
  • acting out: angrily, tearily and more

In saying this, I hope to share honestly for my sake and to keep the story telling real even though to re-hash some of the memories and to see again those self-images makes me sad. I am somewhat ashamed of the me then. However, I need to let that go…over time, I guess I do. More about my weight issues here.

I have a goal to continue to present a one more of these chapters, after this one, as a snapshot of 2020…that year that was… have a break and be back in 2021.

All the posts are here if you would like to check them out.

Mixing Up The Years 2013-2014.

Changing Priorities.

By the time the end of 2014 arrived, we knew we were to become grandparents of an 8th grandchild due in 2015. This would be our son’s 4th child. He had a 3rd child with his then wife in 2013 and we cared for her and her older sister for much of 2014. In 2013 we did some care for our daughter’s 4th child along with our son’s 2nd.

We did enjoy these days very much but they were tiring as we aged.

We did this mostly together but as 2014 changed my husband’s focus to some personal and professional learning in counselling as well as becoming a trained telephone support person for Lifeline, I was left alone with one under 1 year old and I admit, I was liking that less and less. So, the compromise was made to having her 2 days a week.

The House Needed These Improvements.

My husband had a business for some years when he was 100% well and it was in kitchen cabinet making. He had to let the business go (see Chapter12 ) but his interest in maintaining our then house inside and out, grew in the years from 2012 onwards.

Whilst we never really discussed it, the house (ours since 1997), with its significant mortgage: thanks to us (ok, me) wanting to borrow to help our two adult kids get into housing, and then making more home improvements for our comfort, was going to need to be sold one day.

That day when I had a tearful conversation with my husband came around as a first discussion point in July 2014 when I was flailing at any kind of paid work pressures. They were not huge but as someone who was now quite unwell emotionally (did not realise it in reality) and longed to be free of paid work obligations this idea filled me with relief. Much to do before putting it on the market, but it all happened. See more below.

But First….there was a lot more happening! 

  • My business: Denyse Whelan Education Specialist (I dislike Expert!) and I had a newspaper article, column for a short time (local papers), a consultancy that saw me work with a local and reputable Early Childhood chain of centres in the Hills District. I helped their staff and parents navigate the world that is “after pre-school and before school”.

 

  • The blog saw me have 3 separate ones: education, schools and teachers. I had hoped, via my role as an educator/tutor for Masters of Teaching at a local University there may have been more interest on-line but my ‘at the chalkface’ role continued as a practicum supervisor and tutor at Uni (marking too!) until I asked to stop…in time for second semester 2014. I did enjoy it, but I was ready to leave the world of accountability!!

 

  • However, I continued to be an ‘as needed’ person in then NSW Institute of Teachers to visit schools as an External Observer from as far away at Cobar (went there in one day thanks to a small passenger place) to local Western Sydney schools. I enjoyed that I got to see parts of N.S.W. as a tourist and educator. Parts of my trips were paid by me if I wanted to extend the times. I did that when visiting Cobargo PS (scenes of the awful fires in 2019-2020) as I flew into and stayed at Merimbula. I did that for a Woolgoolga trip staying at Coffs Harbour and in Tamworth for my first visit to Kootingal.

 

  • The educator role also saw me invited a couple of times to appear on television in discussions and as a so-called expert. I admit “one” was enough and luckily I already knew Kerri Sackville and the appearance went well. I “needed” a new wardrobe of course, and I enjoyed being pampered in the make-up chair and saying ‘g’day to Jane Caro as she left from her segment.

Still The Grandmother AND Educator! 

In early 2014 Rick Morton (top journalist and writer) asked me some questions for a story he was writing for the Australian. He now works for The Saturday Paper. One of the images from the day is first below.

We did have lots of fun making memories, grandchildren and grandparents. Some were at times like Easter, others ‘just hanging out’ at our place where there was always paint AND playdoh! Never mix the colours, kids!

Making Memories : for Me! 

I admitted to myself there would be much I would miss about living in Sydney and being closer to the family. So, I made sure I had some special occasions to look back on. My formative years aged 10-20 were spent living near Manly and the Harbour so this was an even more special place to make memories. Mum and Dad had continued to live at Balgowlah Heights till 2011. Mum’s death in 2007 saw Dad stay for as long as he wishes but eventually, he was ready for independent retirement living at Dee Why. That’s is where I visit him now.

Few More Memorable Occasions. 2013 into 2014. 

The Changes Becoming Realities.

At the end of 2013 my organisation energies were applied to my father’s 90th Birthday luncheon. He gave me and my brother his wish list of ideas and people, and then, we, the family sorted it for him. It was held next door to his retirement place, at Dee Why R.S.L. where he hired a room and they supplied lunch for us all. We, the kids and grandkids, sorted the presentations, the decor, the name tags and more. He, was, and continues to be, overwhelmed by it. Nearly 7 years later. Anyway, it goes without saying, he enjoyed it.

Time To Make Reality Happen. Mid 2014 onwards.

In order for us to be mortgage-free the house had to be sold.

We were both keen to do that. My husband has never really been a city person and was keen to leave for the less busy areas on the Central Coast. I agreed at the time that this was the right move. It still is. However, I knew nothing about the emotional effect the changes would have on me. I will be writing about that in 2015.

What happened though was that there was a LOT of physical work to be done to ready a house for selling. We interviewed agents. Eventually we agreed on one. We half-jokingly took him up on an offer to pay him a smaller personal percentage if the house sold for over (what we though was unreachable) $800K. Late 2014, people. Western area of Sydney.

Before then, my husband finished off the outside areas, made and painted new side gates, made the pool area extra comfy and of course added fence protection to a side garden as we realised the raised grass area made the pool fence climbable. We planted a great deal and did all we could to make the outside areas of the house private as Blacktown Council had extended their community centre to our side fence.

I started detaching from the possessions that had made our space for grandchildren. We gave away a lot, sold some things and each grandchild got their own box of Christmas decorations to use in their future. Part of my tradition since becoming grandparents in 1996 was a new tree decoration for each grandchild each year. There were a LOT for our daughter’s first 3 kids!

At the same time, in late 2014,  we were trying to find somewhere to rent on the Central Coast.

We thought we would try before buying…and now, some 6 years later we are less close to buying than ever thanks to using our sum left after sale and increasing house prices here. However, we are reasonably content with renting now.

I spent a lot of time on-line and some Saturdays up and down the M1 with little success. Our wish list then was air conditioning and the southern end of the coast..closer to returning to Sydney – my idea. The house we eventually took was because of desperation. Our place had sold, we needed to be “in” somewhere around mid January 2015 so with haste, we signed up for a too expensive and too uncomfortable house with limited air conditioning.

Then It All Came To This. End of 2014. 

  • The house sold. We accepted $825,000 on the night of the first open home. We never thought it would get to that but we had a very volatile Sydney housing market and an exceptional agent.
  • The relief was palpable but there were still hurdles to overcome including the usual inspections, delays from buyers but it did all come together on 15 January 2015. We had already moved but were assured all would be fine. And it was. But it’s nail biting. And we had almost zero in our accounts!
  • We celebrated our eldest granddaughter’s 18th birthday, success in HSC thanks to first 10% of state in Drama, her solo performance at the School Spectacular with the NSW Group of Talented Drama Students.
  • We knew we had a new grandchild arriving in the following year.
  • Our daughter kindly offered (accepted!) to have our last Christmas in Sydney at her place and both of our kids and their kids attended. It began hitting home for me…these were lasts!
  • We had a few more occasions to have grandchildren over to swim and to stay…and then…that was it.

2015 Awaited Us. 

I am glad to have written this chapter. It took some doing but it’s done. I hope that you, the reader, find it of interest.

Thanks for being here.

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne and friends here for Lovin Life Linky.

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Telling My Story. Chapter Eighteen. 2008-2009. 89/2020.

Telling My Story. 2008-2009. Chapter Eighteen. 89/2020.

About a hundred three years ago ….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 (her story is here) 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 Eighteen. I admit it is getting harder in some ways to blog about the more recent times. I think it is because without particular markers (i.e. deaths, births, engagements, marriages, break ups…) then it can be hard to recall.

This couple of years actually did cover getting over Mum’s death, the joy of a first child for our son and his fiancee in the year that Mum died…and there would be a marriage planned. More of that in the next chapter!

I know it’s been a while since I last posted. All the posts are here if you would like to check them out.

School and “Work At Home”.

By the time the beginning of the school year of  2008 came around we (my husband and I) had begun to care for the dear little grandson who had been born late in the previous year. When we began his daily care, from around 8 a.m. to around 5 p.m. up to 3 days a week we knew what we were up for…of course we did! But we were older than the last time we had grandchildren in our care AND the Mum in that case worked till around 3-3.30 so we knew that her baby would be going home around then.

My husband was not well enough to do paid work outside the home so he was very good at telling stories, reading books and taking slow walks around the house with a small baby who preferred another’s arms than bed!

I was still working in a school for 2 or 3 days a week, as an English as a Second Language teacher too. So, there were only weekends off for me so to speak. But I loved the “work at home” and I do think I was probably wearying of the role at school. But, “we” needed me to keep working for income so I did.

 

Some of My Memories of 2008.

  • getting areas of the house baby-ready.
  • making the former grandkids’ room (there were already beds for them) into something that could also occupy a baby boy.
  • buying…yes buying a LOT of new toys, books and some items of spare clothing, including bibs, washers and little towels. It had been a long time since the last baby who had been at our house. That baby boy was now 7.
  • enjoying the stroller walks around the neighbourhood so that ‘he’ might get some sleep.
  • loving the daily routine and making up little reports with words for his Mum and Dad to keep.
  • continuous reams of photos being printed at the local photo service centre: I was still using film. Yet to have the iphone.
  • proudly seeing the hard work of this young baby’s parents working for them as it was our son working in retail full time, studying almost full-time while his fiancee managed a physio practice
  • watching for one of the parents’ cars by close to 5 p.m. as we were very tired by then!

No better place than with Papa listening to HUG!

From baby to toddler: 2008-2009

 

The dearest little boy! Now a teen…

 

School.

I was almost 60. I was, I admit, getting over many of the changes that were coming about in education and whilst I saw they may have been necessary, I was beginning to become ‘bored and disinterested.’ I know that I was working for an income, but over the next couple of years, we did hope I could stop work. I did try though to be as positive an influence on other teachers at the school and to mentor those who were interested in promotion and the like. I still have many of those people in my life today.

My Dad.

Dad is a resilient person. He did seek grief counselling after Mum’s death in March 2007 and his self-organised plan of writing Mum letters seemed to help him over the many years he continued this. He even drove to Queensland by himself, stopping over, to have the ‘usual’ holiday he and Mum would have around July each year. He found the journey too much in the end and decided that was the last time. But, never say never and his goal to go and visit a friend on the Gold Coast – for the last time in 2008 –  was to fly up for a few days and he asked me to accompany him. I was OK to do that (pretty sure I would have had the time off school but may be not from grandchild care!)

Dad would still drive over to see us and on a few occasions, especially around Christmas, would stay a couple of nights to catch up with the other members of our family. I admit though, it was a bit of a strain on me having him stay because we clash(ed). Much much less of that these days but back then, it could be tense. Nevertheless he got some fun out of seeing little people and he was always invited to birthdays. He has, now in 2020, lost all interest in anything like that, except with immediate to him close family. At nearly 97 he is just doing what he can to get by!

My Dad with our two grandsons. Some years back now.

2009 Notched Up The Busy Life For Me.

Just as Christmas holidays were over, and the awful fires of Black Saturday burned in Victoria that February, we received news that a new grandchild was on the way. A sibling to the little fellow who was now 1 and very active and interested in the world around him. That was great news. It meant more work for his mum as she struggled (valiantly) with all-day morning sickness and for our son, the dad, as he readied himself for more study towards his future career goals as a mature age student having graduated with his Bachelors Degree.

Such a big and busy time alright and I admit, when my husband turned 60 in the February, retirement of some kind for me was looking good. That was not really possible as we had our mortgage and I was still liking aspects of my part-time teaching role.

Other family members were at High School and Primary School and our daughter was in a relationship and keeping her part-time role in a school happening. The townhouse we had helped her purchase was sold and she and her then partner had plans for building and more. Whilst this did happen down the track, I am not including any more about that time in their lives. It is not my story. At all.

Around 3/4 of the way through 2019, Miss R arrived

She made a dramatic entrance to the world. Her Dad literally caught her! That was amazing. He sure was shocked but perhaps not as much as the midwife when she heard him shout out!! The hospital was a few minutes away and once we knew of his little sister’s arrival, we drove the big brother down to meet her! It was just the best.

And Then I Stopped. I Was 60.

In Term 4 of 2009 I would turn 60. Suddenly, it seemed, I did not want to go to school any more to work. I had felt a real pull to be back at home more and with the prospect of having two grandchildren coming to us in 2010 the time seemed right. The money would be tight, but we would try to make it work.

I had a special birthday celebration. I had a lovely weekend High Tea at a local hotel with female family and friends. It was just lovely. I was spoiled and I have many happy memories. I was also given a lunch by my Dad, husband and my kids and their partners. Miss R above, a breastfed baby was there by necessity.

And I got the retirement farewell I had not had from my time as a principal. My friend, the principal where I was about to stop teaching, organised a morning tea, I got to say a few words, our family came to listen and see, and I was re-presented with the Retirement Medal with the errors on the back. It did not matter. I felt appreciated and cared for and I was ready to be at home. Full-time it seemed!

 

Miss R with one of her cousins.

 

Some 9 years after the ‘first’ retirement, the NSW Dept of Education put on a special morning tea and presented me with the correct medal and the Deputy Secretary made a speech about my career.

What I Cannot Add and Why.

We often see the words “not my story to tell” and I even used them in this post. I could add more but choose not to as some of the times were both sad and based on ill-health issues. What I can say is that I was affected but that is because of the person I was then and that I did find aspects of life in the coming years quite stressful. I know the whys. I am much wiser now some 10 years later but we do have to go through much to learn don’t we?

That has been the case for me. I also know I could add many more photos but I choose not to try to find them…they are in albums and again, they do not necessarily add anything to this public post.

Next time: 2010 – 2012. Not sure how that will be. May be more words than photos. I shall see!

Thank you for being part of the audience who reads Telling My Story.

Denyse.

Linking up with Leanne and friends here on Thursdays.

 

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Women Of Courage Series. #54 Leanne @DeepFriedFruit. 73/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #54 Leanne @DeepFriedFruit. 73/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week and now the series concludes today with this post. Over the next two weeks there will be a look back at those who have shared their stories. Actually 56 women. The link to all of those stories is here.

Here is the introduction to the series and each woman’s story.

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.

 

Leanne, also known by her blog’s name of Deep Fried Fruit, has been blogging FOR ever..no, not really. However, I believe she started for a significant ZERO birthday and now admits to being at the next decade. Not one to hide away from her celebrations of life, she calls her birthday a festival. In real life, and yes, we have met, this person is warm, funny, generous and very caring. In fact, she stopped off on her family’s trip to Queensland two years ago so we could meet up!

 

Let’s get on with Leanne’ story…and I admit, she has written more than was asked but all good. The more we get to know about the ‘why’ of this lady!

 

Background

  • I look back and think of all the things in my life that took great courage and I guess most things do.  Every new experience requires some amount of bravery.
  • I used to be timid and shy.  As an only child I found safety in the walls of my own home with my tiny family.  Then one day my mum was told she only had two weeks to live and suddenly my safety was about to be stripped.
  • Her bravery of fighting the disease and winning, changed who I ultimately became.  Being timid in life was no longer an option. I learned if you want to achieve results you have to stand up and take responsibility for your existence. You had to find courage.
  • As a result, I’m someone whose meta programming is set high on the “challenge” meter.  Some people take the path of least resistance in life, others take the path of most challenge. I’m the latter.

 

My favourite quote is by Sarah Henderson:

“Don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel, stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.”

That’s how I live my life. I spend a great deal of time striding down great big long tunnels to turn that bloody light switch on. Which means I need a fair bit of courage I suppose.  Although I don’t necessarily recognise it at the time.

 

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

My mum’s leukaemia, backpacking overseas alone, buying my first home, completing my degrees, creating a career, marrying into a readymade family, having kids, dealing with fibromyalgia. The standard stuff.

 

I think there are some major milestones that took more courage than others though.

  1. “Retiring” from a well-established career at the age of 36 to concentrate on my family
  2. Becoming the creator/founder of several small business initiatives
  3. Deciding to self-publish my children’s book series
  4. Watching helplessly as cancer took our (my husband’s) eldest child
  5. Re-entering the workforce at the age many retire

While point number 4 is probably the one jumping out as the most challenging event anyone could possibly face, it’s still too hard to talk about.  So, I won’t be talking about the loss of a child today.

Instead, given it’s current, I’d like to chat about number 5.

 

Re-entering the workforce.

 

How did this change you?

  • For the past 15 years, skipping merrily outside the boundaries of the paid workforce as a sole trader and finder of cool projects, I’ve been striding through many tunnels turning on a shitload of Sarah Henderson-esque light switches.
  • You’d think that with all the results I’ve achieved when I was out there on my own, re-entering the workforce would be easy. I mean, I’ve done so much! I’m a force to be reckoned with, aren’t I?
  • I would have thought so too, but no.
  • Going back to work” has honestly been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.
  • Why? Because I discovered something when I went back to work in corporate Australia.  I’m old!
  • I know right.  Shocking revelation.
  • I thought I could waltz right back in there and just be amazing. But it turns out I’ve got a bit to catch up on in the corporate world and apparently my brain isn’t quite what it used to be.

 

Re-entering the workforce changed me.  My confidence, resilience and emotions hit an all time low.

According to the numbers I am fifty years old, but my heart says I’m still a vibrant, intelligent and energetic 35-year-old who knows everything there is to know about everything. Hell, there are days I’ve got the mindset, energy and frivolity of a 20-year-old and the smarts of a 70-year-old Harvard professor.  Lingo and all.   Yet despite my love of life, my readiness to be challenged and the wealth of experience under my belt, the fact is, I’ve been out of the workforce for a bloody long time.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend?

  • Every single challenge in life presents an opportunity for growth.
  • While wallowing in self-pity, I realised I’d bumbled into this job without much thought nor planning.  Somebody needed me to fill a gap, so I filled it.  Then somebody else needed me to fill another gap and I filled that one too. That was my re-entry. I didn’t create my new work life; I simply fell into it.
  • It’s hard to stride down a tunnel with purpose when you’ve fallen into the tunnel.
  • So, I downed tools, re-wrote my resume, contacted recruitment and said, “hello world, here I am, and this is what I have to offer you”.  I took back control and started striding forward on my terms again.
  • I guess I’d like to say out loud for all to hear, if you find yourself in a job you aren’t enjoying, or that doesn’t suit you, or that makes you feel less-than, then do something about it.  Don’t stay there for staying sake.
  • I’m now focussing on my strengths, adding value where I know I can and not putting so much pressure on myself to be able to do everything.

 

I have decided to create my job, rather than have my job re-create me. Or more specifically, rather than have my job deflate me.

 

 

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

  • Absolutely, 100%, without a doubt. Our challenges make us stronger.  My challenges have made me stronger.
  • Facing problems can be hard. At the time it can even feel like the end of the world.

But looking back at the times where courage has been required is a fantastic reminder that we do survive them, 100% of the time, because we’re still here!

 

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

 

  • When you’re younger you tend to put up with a lot more heartache in order to get your foot in the door, particularly when it comes to jobs and careers.  I know I did whatever it took to show my value. I worked hard from the ground up.
  • When I re-entered the workforce, I thought I’d waltz back in without that need to go back to grass roots, and it was quite a dent to my pride to discover I wasn’t as shit-hot a I thought I was; or perhaps as I used to be.
  • When I hit rock bottom, I thought “wow, does this mean I have to start again? Has my experience over the last 30 years meant nothing?”
  • No.  We don’t need to start again. Everything we’ve done previously is still part of us, only we’re even better off because we not only have that experience, we also have a proven track record of resilience, growth and acquired wisdom.
  • If like me you don’t like your job, and the light at the end of the tunnel is dimming, then just stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.

 

Anything else to add?

  • This “being back at work” thing is new, and I am still finding my feet.
  • But if there is one thing I know for sure; I still have a good 15 years of work life left in me in which to create something that suits my strengths.
  • I may well create my dream job or a whole new career, or I may just decide that my current income generating activity is simply that, an income source.
  • The bottom line is, if the world feels dim, I’m now old enough and wise enough to know where to find the light switch.

Denyse offering me this WOC interview has been a fantastic exercise in recognizing where my inner lion has been needed in life and how I can apply it to my current situation.Thanks so much Denyse for this opportunity to reflect and to remind me where to find the light.

 

Thank you Leanne, you are an amazing friend and definitely a great woman of courage and it’s my privilege to share your story as the final one in the series over the past 2 years.

Thank you to all of the Women of Courage.

Over the next two weeks, there will be a farewell and appreciation for those who shared in 2019 and in 2020.

 

Denyse.

 

Social Media:

Blog/Website:  www.deepfriedfruit.com.au

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

Instagram: @DeepFriedFruit

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends.

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