Wednesday 4th August 2021

About That Smile. Mum & Memories. 28/2021.

About That Smile. Mum & Memories. 28/2021.

Why pink?

Why not…actually because remembering Mum, who died 14 years ago this week, bright pink was one of her favourite colours. Not being too maudlin about it, this was the best photo of her in her last months, taken at my parents’ Diamond (60th) Wedding Anniversary Lunch with family, and it was the outfit we chose for her final journey. The photo which sat atop her coffin, is in Dad’s place and is one I feel privileged to have taken. It was of “just” Mum edited from this photo.

Why memories?

On 5th March 2007 Mum finally died following a relatively brief illness based on a January 2007 diagnosis of secondary brain tumours. For a couple of years before that however, things began to shift and change for Mum in her body and her demeanour but none of us, including her G.P. of many years and neurologist treating her for a parkinsonian-type condition knew what was actually going on until a CT scan followed by an MRI. More details here. It was, an awful time for her, Dad and those of us who loved her as Mum, mother-in-law, grandmother and great grandmother.

Why smile?

It’s her smile, I believe, that I have inherited from her and although we are/were totally opposite in many ways, we were both able to find something to smile about when with family, friends and especially when meeting new grandchildren!

Circa 1969.

When I Could NOT Smile.

I know I have much to smile about now and will always appreciate getting my smile back after head and neck cancer. But I know when I was anxious and sad in the years 2014-2016 I would do what I could to summon a smile…especially when I was with my grandkids, and this one in particular. Miss J. has, I say, inherited my smile and that of my mother. We say this anyway!

With Miss J late 2016. Before my cancer was found “under those fake teeth”

A visit from J always included a selfie post my cancer surgeries.

My first social outing following my 2017 cancer surgeries: to Miss J’s 21st!

And now.

SMILE is my Word of The Year. 

I wrote about why it is the word of the year for me here. I remain glad I have!

So you smile naturally or is it troublesome?

I know I was more self-conscious in earlier times when I felt my size and the way my teeth looked affected me, but I had to change that internal story somewhat or there would have been NO photos of me at all!

Thanks for the memories and the smile, Mum!

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne here for Lovin’ Life linky on Thursdays.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty One. Part 2/2. 2015. 19/2021.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty One. Part 2/2. 2015. 19/2021.

The backstory first:

Well over 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 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 One.  Part Two 2015. Part One was published here.

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.

Well, it seems I survived my first half of 2015 living at the southern end of the Central Coast but wait, there is more, much much more.

Are you ready?

Here we go:

June and July.

Emotions Are Tricky!

We had some reasons for visit Sydney: my gastroenterologist who was happy to see me and with a positive outcome from an MRI done back in May he believed my insides were OK but that I.B.S. was just a part of me that needed my management.

Neither he nor the GP had any reason to be concerned about my weight loss over time which was in fact because : I really couldn’t bring myself to eat much at all as almost always it would result in some kind of stomach reaction.

It was truly horrible for me who WANTED to be social but could not go out for lunch or entertain for a meal. I stuck to coffee and cake – if I could even do that and most people who cared about me understood that.

I on the other hand was very self-critical. And would continue to be for years. Seriously. Yes, I was blaming me for things that were probably needing compassion and kindness but “black and white” thinking Denyse had not quite given up her harsh words.

We had grandkids who we love dearly come and stay for a couple of nights and whilst I love their company I got myself overly worried about things and them and found the stress bothersome. I did not like that either.

Yes I was doing meditation. Every day. I was seeing my G.P. pretty often too. She was running out of ideas for my emotional equilibrium and on one occasion when I was at breaking down crying point, put me onto an anti-depressant. I agreed to it. My husband was sceptical but went along with it. I took it once. I had such a physical reaction to it that I declared “never again”. Suffice to say, after days of diarrhoea my G.P. wholeheartedly agreed.

I blogged. Every day. By this time, I was now joining in link ups and that helped me have some conversations on line.

I joined in a private group where we supported ourselves trying to Flourish. There were some great programs in there and from there I added to my repertoire of mindfulness by doing an on-line MOOC course from a Uni in Melbourne learning about Mindfulness and Stress. Excellent work.

I had already begun my large collection of writers, scholars, and more who I would learn more from and about and this helped me feel less alone.

My post here on Calm Days and Calm Nights has all of the titles I found useful to grow and learn.

My husband was, when he could be, an amazing support. I did however, have very few people to talk to and with and this contributed to more isolation.

Dealing with family news was hard on me. I simply did not have the emotional capacity to support as I might have now because I had no skills, and I was totally trying to deal with myself.

Sigh.

August, September and October.

Dear readers, assume that I continued with my health care and seeking answers.

  • These also included things like going for a drive,
  • watching the waves,
  • walking on the beach and near nature.
  • Whilst I did (do) enjoy going to shopping centres, I am afraid to say I felt lonelier there when I saw people with their grandkids and/or friends and chatting.
  • I wanted that. I also knew, intellectually I had had that and now it was no longer happening. Sigh. Again.

We celebrated our daughter’s birthday at our place.

She took some images of us for a TV program called Compass about married couples. Our shots were part of the promo.

Family time was always welcomed but I had become hypervigilant and that did not help my stress and I.B.S.

I had my last role in education. I was invited to be part of a Teach Meet and it was to be held at my former High School. Last visited by me in 1967! It was a thrill to present there and to get to have a tour of the school to see the many changes. Grateful and proud of doing this one last talk of my career.

We had a short stay in Parramatta while my husband attended a compulsory course for his degree and I was alone for some of that time and did catch up with our family. My level of anxiety staying there and no longer being in our home rose and I would not do that again. I did see one of my granddaughters for a play and we went to tea at our daughter’s house but I was not great. Tried to look it..but…

By this time we were certain we were not staying on…in this overpriced rental nor in the area. It was a strange place. A town like no other. We have lived in country towns but this was not friendly. Sadly. I began the search on-line and then in real time of the northern end of the Central Coast and it seemed like a place and area that would suit us more.

As luck would have it, on a drive past the house we saw on line in October, the owners (former, actually) were around and asked did we want to have a look inside. Oh, yes please. Totally not supposed to do this of course, but we did and knew, if we could, this would be the one. It was to become that indeed! But more to come…

November into December. Big Months but Better Ones! 

The House. We got the new house to rent and it would be…over $150 less than what we were paying and it was a one level ducted air con, 4 bed, 2 bathroom house…very similar to what we had sold. Suddenly things were already looking better. BUT…

As we were breaking the lease of the other place, and they could not find anyone to re-lease it too, we did DOUBLE ups till the end of December. Not great.At all. However, the emotional relief was worth it.

Now instead of being separated from each other at night, as he went upstairs to bed, study and TV and I stayed downstairs, we would both be on the same level.

The move itself was OK. I took the chance to do more culling and all that but we still had a lot. Probably still do.

Nevertheless mid November we were northern end of the Central Coast inhabitants and pleased to be there.

For my 66th Birthday I tried something challenging and whilst I did it I know it was hard for me because of …..you guessed it…I.B.S.

  • I drove to see our family at our son’s place for an afternoon tea catch up and small birthday celebration.
  • I was in heaven to be with all of the family but it was tense.
  • I now know from this many years vantage point, it was not something from anything I had done. Nevertheless I feel things. 
  • I then joined our daughter’s family in a crowded and busy household for Christmas decorating day and dinner.
  • The next day, my actual birthday they all went to work and school and I saw my son’s two little ones and their mum and then drove to my Dad’s for a morning tea with my brother, sister in law and Dad.
  • THAT was a very full on couple of days for me. But, I did it.

 

Coming up to Christmas I was determined to see Dad if I could and drove down with some goodies and we said we would not travel to anyone on Christmas Day. I think that was because I was thinking about me, traffic and….you guessed it I.B.S. Truly that IS how much it affected me.

I stayed with the same doctor I had started seeing when we lived closer, and between us we always hoped things would improve for me. I began seeing a fantastic psychologist who challenged me and my often-critical thoughts and gave me assignments to help me learn by observing. She was keen for me to continue my art which grew hugely by the time we moved to this newer and better house because I had a dedicated area for my creating. That was so good. I also had space for private meditation and listening to some of the many people who helped me, eventually, find my way.

I.B.S. would continue to challenge me. It affected all I did. I could not plan to leave home unless I was pretty sure I would be OK. I had to know of toilet locations. I carried spare clothing and clean up items with me. I hated it but I did that. I did, though, find more to help me via another book and a course. All are too much in detail to outline here but they gave me an understanding that my emotions were in my gut and it was telling me how I was.

In the next couple of chapters, 2016 and 2017 I.B.S. continues to get a lead role…even though I hate admitting that.

And into 2016 here is what I hoped would help me.

And whilst it may not have worked like a charm…this did.

I got right back into blogging getting help from my kind friend Tanya (who still does my images) and with her help and my ideas I began 2016 rocking the blog with categories, and more. I blogged daily until around September 2016. More on that next post.

Phew.

Re-living this was a challenge as I wrote but I also got to congratulate myself for coming through. Little did I know, of course, that much more was in store for 2016. No, the family issues and my health ones did not go away. And then we will come to 2017…and many readers already know about that BUT we can wait, right?

Thanks for your kindness in reading these posts…if indeed you are here, then you must have!

How was 2015 for you?

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne for Lovin’ Life Linky here.

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty One. Part 1/2. 2015. 15/2021.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty One. Part 1/2. 2015. 15/2021.

The backstory first:

Well over 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 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 One. Part One.2015.

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.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty One. Part One. 2015.

As I have noted in previous chapters, the memories from some years remain strong, and often are sad ones. However, despite this being true for me, I must push on, as they say, and share how life was for me…in 2015. Back then.

Time To Move (on) and More.

As mentioned in Chapter Twenty, we sold our house and were ready (I thought I was anyway, he was!) to make this big move in our lives.

January.

After new year, we continued our packing up AND memory-making. My husband was very keen to leave the house, the gardens, the grounds and the pool in tip top shape for the new owners as settlement loomed for mid-January.

I on the other hand was keen to enjoy what I would not be able to in my future,  and that meant some grandchildren sleepovers and swims and get-togethers. My Dad had his 91st birthday with all of his then family around him at my brother’s house. We made trips to and from the Central Coast house we were about to move into and I guess being THAT busy helped to block the emotional pulls that would eventually wound me.

And we were off…kind of. I went in my car, fully laden to the Central Coast house. My husband stayed back to oversee the removalists. This was not a great day weather-wise and the person we booked the move with was on holiday so he sent another team. Nevertheless most of everything that could be packed up and moved on that day was. The remainder was collected by my husband when he returned on settlement day to be with our agent and the new owners.

A note on the house we rented.

IT WAS UNSUITABLE in so many ways and I will admit this was chosen in haste, and in deference to me, my husband went along with it. Sigh. Everything I thought I needed to be for a change of residence was not to be.

Remember too, I am writing with the benefit of both hindsight and a much clearer state of emotional health.

  • I did not need to be closer to Sydney 
  • I did not take enough time ….knowing there was a rush before Christmas….to consider how this house’s structure would affect us
  • I was in a highly emotional state for the month preceding the move and could not really see any other options (then) than this house.
  • It was over-priced
  • Its two storey nature was awful. A spiral staircase led upstairs
  • The ‘only air-con comfort’ was in one part of the living area downstairs and a part of upstairs
  • We paid more than our budget told us…and literally over-paid till the end of the lease when we had moved out early. Story about that ahead.

And then it happened. Done. Settled. 

Originally we were selling to be debt-free and I was not able to continue working from a health perspective so it was the plan to sell up, pay out the mortgage, use some house sale funds to purchase new cars (both of ours were in a bad way by the end of 2014) and to have some savings behind us to maybe help buy a new house ONE DAY.

That was how it worked out. However it was not without its moments! After settlement we were able to go grocery shopping and yay for me getting a coffee too. However, at the checkout our card was declined. Oops. We had a few dollars on us. So, once home I was able to tell our conveyancers what had happened and because ‘funds are released into accounts over some days’ and we had a weekend without any $$, she arranged a transfer of the original deposit from the new owners. Phew.

Cars. We had already earmarked a car for my husband and it was ready once the funds had reached our account. My choice of a car however, should have been a heart one…but instead I made it a head one…and regretted it as soon as I drove it back up the coast. In a story of generosity and forgiveness…my husband determined that I could have the car I should have bought in the first place, and we traded in a car I had for less than a week. Lost money? Of course but lesson learned. Again.

Love my Nissan XTrail

Some family fun. January and February.

We were keen to live close to the water in this retirement life of ours and had chosen the Central Coast for both its proximity to water – still and ocean – and again, to Sydney for any family needs such as visiting my Dad and any connections with our adult children and their children, our beloved grandchildren.

Because we went back and forth a few times until school was back we entertained two grandchildren  twice and they had been coming to use for care since they were babies so it was great to have those connections still.

What Happened Next?

My husband got back into his studies for a degree in counselling and was doing two subjects on-line. He also offered to help his brother who lived nearby with some landscaping and renovations. He continued to do lifeline crisis support counselling by working shifts in a place on the central coast. He was active, productive and busy.

I was not. Well, in some ways I was but none of what I was doing helped me feel in any way settled into this new life of ours.

  1. I thought I would be driving back and forth to our family to help out, to be there and to catch up. I did for a while. I was happy to be on-call for our son’s family as they were expecting their fourth child in early 2015 and I could come down to help with picking up kids from school etc etc.
  2. I thought I would be continuing my education specialist role with the early childhood centres
  3. I thought I would drive to see my father on a regular basis
  4. I thought having made this move as a choice to change lifestyle, it would be fine.

No it was not for me.

March, April and May.

I was not well in an emotional sense and that affected my physical health. My I.B.S .(irritable bowel syndrome) reared its ugly head over and over. I would not be able to simply get in the car and go anywhere without having to medicate myself (which I HATED doing) or suffer the effects of having diarrhoea on a car journey.

We tried a little get away to Port Macquarie – a place we always loved – but I found the trip stressful due to I.B.S. and like I felt, nothing is the same.

I lost weight. Yay. But not for the reasons it happened. I was unhappy but trying to hide it. I continued to see my Sydney based G.P. who oversaw my handling of my I.B.S. and decided I needed to see a gastroenterologist. But before then we had a new granddaughter arrive.

Emotions were high and a bit low because of my sadness at no longer being around the little people I love so much.

We went back to Sydney to celebrate a granddaughter’s 3rd birthday and I was intensely happy to be with all of our family again, but sad once the inevitable farewells took place.

We literally weathered an awful East Coast low storm situation that had us without electricity for almost 5 days after the birthday party visit. I was very stressed during this but, my husband did what he could to make us a bit more comfortable going out in awful conditions to buy a generator and a portable gas stove. At least we could run our little fridge. All freezer food was ruined. We would go out in the car once the roads cleared to charge our phones. I managed to blog too.

I went to TedX in Sydney and thought that would be enjoyable. Usually enjoy learning. I did on some ways but now Sydney, where it was held was no longer where I lived. I felt that immensely.

I re-commenced my work as an External Observer with then Institute of Teachers doing an observation in a Sydney school. That was to be my last as the system changed.

I went back to my role as an Education Specialist, speaking at a couple of the pre-schools on different evenings and then one day, on my way back to Sydney to do this, I was overcome by the worst bout of I.B.S. diarrhoea ever. No details but suffice to say, I decided then and there, no job and the money along with the drive to and from Sydney at night was worth it and I resigned.

I was never sure where I fitted any more after that.

  • I was no longer the active and on-call Grandma
  • I was no longer employed using my NSW Education role
  • I was no longer working to help families in pre-schools
  • I could see my husband was content in all he was doing but I was not.

It was very confusing but I did my best to act as if it was OK. It was not.

Add to how it is to change where you live is “finding a hairdresser” and that was interesting. I got a few cuts from a person near where we moved but it never seemed right. Finding a dentist proved easier. He was “OK” and whilst I did not know it then, I would be getting insight into my mouth and what may have been causing some white spots on the gums. Mmmm. A story we do know more about but will leave it till 2017. I found a physiotherapist who was good for some back and arm issues I had. And, a podiatrist. He was lovely. Still, it does take some research. In 2016 I will share how I found my best hairdresser!

I was searching for answers to WHY….as I am a ‘help myself’ person and I found something which was a catalyst for change:

A Meditation Centre running a course on Anxiety and Teaching Meditation.

Then What Happened?

Into the next few months I managed a lot of change in and for my life.

It did not always go well.

In fact I face quite a few disappointments, some challenges and some days where I knew I was making progress with my health. Onward…and the months may get a bit mixed up so I will add points rather than months!

I tried a few of the so-called Retirement Activities:

  • An Art Class
  • Making Up a Mindful Colouring Class & hosting it
  • Going to Places for Coffee and Chatting
  • Training for a role as a Volunteer

They did not suit nor last the distance for me.

Meditation. 

The day at the Meditation centre taught me quite a bit and I felt less lonely as someone finding the new life quite tough. I met some people there and mostly the talk was about where do you live, etc etc. One person gave me a card about a great G.P. practice she liked and said that I would find a doctor there she was sure. You see, I was still making my way back to Sydney and it was no longer easy to do so with I.B.S. and generally ill-ease at returning.

I also decided to download a meditation app called Headspace and liked it very much. I am an early adopter too and it had only been on the market for a while.

I made a time for meditation each day, set up a space in my bedroom overlooking the water and waited, over time, for my cure from the ill-ease I felt emotionally. Reader: it never came.

Finding Medical Help Locally.

From the middle of the year this was helpful. I found the personable female G.P. at the recommended clinic. She and I ‘clicked’ and she was 100% understanding how hard it is to move from Sydney to the Central Coast..because she was living that life too but about a year before me.

The rapport and her understanding that my emotions needed time to work themselves out helped me a lot. To have a good listener and one who suggested ideas which might help me. Sadly nothing offered helped my I.B.S. but she was very supportive of me continuing to use immodium (I had been afraid to do so after being told off by my former gastro guy after a pancreatitis attack in 2014) as I needed. She offered the idea of seeing a psychologist. I was not clinically anxious nor depressed but I was finding the reactions and responses from all the changes very challenging.

I saw one. She was incredibly judgemental and I did not return. I then was referred to another one. So much more professional and I can share more of that later. Let me say this, it was from her that I learned this:

feelings take a lot longer to catch up from actions.

Part Two will follow. I have undertaken quite a bit sharing this so far.

2015 was a hugely significant year in my life so this is Part One, essentially till the middle of that year.

I do hope there is something of interest to you readers too.

Have you made big changes in your life and wondered about some of the emotions you have experienced?

Thanks for your interest.

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne for Lovin’ Life Linky here. 

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Self-Care Stories #6. 42/51. #LifeThisWeek. 84/2020.

Self-Care Stories #6. 42/51. #LifeThisWeek. 84/2020.

Last time I wrote about self-care, I was about to have some more surgery. It was a success and it was wound debridement then application of a VAC system to help health both faster and cleaner. More about this as the post goes on.

Self Care: the Mental Story.

I cannot lie. Knowing that I needed more surgery on August 24th to fix the wound from the first abdominal surgery some 5 weeks before did not make me a happy camper.

It also was a messy situation. Literally. I had no idea that a wound could ‘dehisce’. I had also never heard of the word. My GP mentioned it as I anxiously awaited the result of her examination of my very messy & leaking wound area the Wednesday before. I literally could not see it as it was at the junction underneath my tummy where the upside-down T incisions met.

To better explain: from my search:

Dehiscence is a partial or total separation of previously approximated wound edges, due to a failure of proper wound healing. This scenario typically occurs 5 to 8 days following surgery when healing is still in the early stages.

Wound dehiscence is a distressing but common occurrence among patients who have received sutures. The condition involves the wound opening up either partially or completely along the sutures – basically, the wound reopens to create a new wound.

 

Our urgent appointment to my colorectal surgeon the next day confirmed that whilst the wound (stitched internally) was opening up, it was NOT exposing the inside of my abdomen nor impacting on the surgeries I had just had. Phew. I guess.

Trust. I had to have trust in both the surgeon and his work (along with the support of the specialist wound nurse) to come through this second surgery. I had to have an additional surgery post head and neck cancer and I remembered the disappointment very strongly. I also remembered that “if it had to be done, I needed to accept that”.

Relieved patient and doctor!

This time, it was a shorter surgery where he cleaned out the wound area (debridement) as I was under a general anaesthetic, leaving an area of 8cm long x 3cm deep and 3cm wide to be covered with the VAC system dressing, tube and ‘me attached’ to the VAC machine itself. I woke with all that done and by the next day, had the lessons in how to care for it before I would have my first ‘at home’ nursing. This was new to me and I was incredibly grateful. Our private health insurance paid for the equipment (each wound change used a new section of the VAC and was approx $80 each in value). Her travel and services for 7 visits (as was needed  by me) were paid by Teachers Health who would have paid for 10 but by 7 my wound did not need the VAC system anymore.

About the VAC system: Mine was on me, next to me as I slept, 24/7 from 24 August until 17 September. No showers but I could wash myself in a limited way.

Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT), also called vacuum-assisted wound closure, refers to wound dressing systems that continuously or intermittently apply subatmospheric pressure to the system, which provides a positive pressure to the surface of a wound.Jul 22, 2020

Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) is a method of drawing out fluid and infection from a wound to help it heal. A special dressing (bandage) is sealed over the wound and a gentle vacuum pump is attached.

I Found It Quite Confronting. 

I admit all of this physical attention by professionals for a part of my body rarely shared with anyone other than my spouse, was hard on me. I knew the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of the reasons. The confrontation I guess for me was about not only the wound itself – not good with them at the best of times – but that my husband or the nurse took photos of me. My body, there, where it is fat and bits of it have weathered a lot – big surgeries for example AND child-bearing. The photos were valuable because they were the proof everything was healing. I just found it hard to ‘see myself’ from this angle. I still have the photos as do my doctors as it is an important record. I have shown a couple of progress shots to family but they are not something I can nor would share publically.

 

Self-Care: the Physical Story.

In the normal scheme of things I can say that I should have been well on my way to full recovery at about the 6-8 weeks mark post first surgery. This would not be the case with the second surgery. It put me back another 4-6 weeks. I had to learn (again!) to live with:

  • physical restrictions with a tube attached to my wound, which was then wound around the bag, which I had to wear on my shoulder. It was quite heavy too, so I could leave it on the desk while I blogged or did some art. I did have to remember to take it with me though…I did have a couple of times over the 3+ weeks where I almost forgot but the dragging of the tube on my wound soon let me know
  • pain. Not much from the wound itself as it was covered and pretty numb from 2x surgeries. The skin around the wound – and some hair in the area – got itchy and a bit painful but managed with cream. Interestingly I was warned I might have needed a very strong pain killer for dressing changes initially but fortunately panadol was enough
  • recovery from wounds from surgery #1 inside and outside made for (and still does as I write) so stinging, aching and pulling sensations from my belly button area and down and across
  • I need to get some help via an arm from my husband or nurse to easily rise from lying down (when wound was being changed) as stomach area feels like I have overdone sit ups. I haven’t. Apparently it can take another 4 months for this to be better after all the cutting and stitching that went on inside
  • less resilience for staying on my feet and walking. I turned down my Apple Watch walking goals initially and over the past 4 weeks have been increasing them slowly
  • being able to drive again took about 3 weeks post first surgery…and I had just become used to that independence when the 2nd surgery happened. By 2-3 weeks post that one I had the OK to drive again. My husband has been and continues to be the main grocery shopper now and I am loving that!
  • getting more distracted by art, some reading, magazine browsing has helped while away the time during a COVID recovery
  • still doing my best to dress with purpose each day and going out for a walk somewhere or a coffee.
  • now that I have NO MORE visits to the GP for wound care – that ended last week as the wound healed fully, I have been able to drive to Sydney to see my Dad.

Self-Care Lessons.

  • I can do this
  • I have done this before
  • I have strategies I can draw on
  • I have a loving and supportive husband
  • I know this is temporary
  • I will learn more about myself by coming through this.

That’s it. A much longer self-care post than usual, but I did think it worth sharing.

Getting over anything health-wise always brings up more than we are perhaps prepared for.

I hope you are doing well.

Denyse.

And a lovely P.S. from me!

On Saturday 17th October it was 50 years since we met. As this post goes live, we will be travelling to the north west of N.S.W. to the city of Tamworth where we met, and then to have a couple of days going to towns that were of great significance in our early single, then married lives. There WILL be a post about that you can guarantee it. I may not be on-line to comment or write on your blog until I am back home. 

 

Link Up 211

Life This Week. Link Up #211

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 and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

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*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 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: 43/51 Inside. 26.10.2020

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Healthy. 39/51. #LifeThisWeek. 78/2020.

Healthy. 39/51. #LifeThisWeek. 78/2020.

When I was blogging more frequently, health and mindfulness were a category for blog posts. These days, like many, my posts are limited to twice a week.

This is good for my health in some ways as I am not feeling too much pressure to perform, aka write posts, and can enjoy the writing of the two I do more.

About Me.

  • Being healthy is a relatively new idea for me…I was raised to be healthy and was…I am talking about lifestyle & choices
  • For many years I balanced my life …in a not so good way…with eating for comfort and doing less as I was quite worn out by life
  • I knew limited ways in which to care for myself because…as many do…I was too busy caring for others: at work, and in my family life.
  • I do much much better now in the self-care and health stakes as I have learned much in my years living following head and neck cancer.

Then I Was Diagnosed With Cancer.

Those who have followed me before and since this diagnosis know that I found out I had a head and neck cancer, specifically squamous cell carcinoma of the top gums (maxilla) and under the top lip. All about that, and many more posts outlining the years of surgeries and more are here: Head and Neck Cancer.

But Before Then.

My emotional health was at an all time low from 2013 into early 2017 for a number of reasons:

  • ageing and becoming somewhat disenchanted by some of its effects
  • retirement from all of my meaningful and paid work over this time
  • my weight was the highest it had been and with encouragement from my GP and my own determination, I lost some kilos over a year with greater awareness of why I ate, and ensuring I moved more
  • finishing up grandparent care at our house and actually being glad because I was finally tiring and becoming worn out by it
  • making a move from all I knew: Sydney, our family, friends….to the Central Coast
  • this move was one I thought I wanted (and still agree it was the right move) but my emotional health brought me down into spirals of anxiety and fear along with the dreaded Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • the health professionals I saw then all said it was reactive depression and anxiety was part of the transitioning. Not a diagnosis of either. I do take a low dose anti-depressant now to help with IBS more than anything and getting off to sleep
  • I admit I am one of what is known as the “worried well”.

SO….in some ways I was not surprised that I had cancer diagnosed in May 2017 …I can see that others may have felt stress was a cause. That it is not a direct link, but from what I know about cancer, it is random.  Some people thought my immune system was down due to the appearance of my mouth. THAT,  was actually the beginning of cancer…but no-one thought that till April 2017 when I insister my dentist remove the bridge from my upper gums.

This quote sums cancer up. From an Australian surgeon:

Head and Neck Cancer Requires Frequent Checks.

From the diagnosis on May 18 2017, to the big reconstruction surgery on July 6 2017, through to further surgeries for skin grafts and checking inside my mouth, glands in neck area and many visits to the prosthodontist, I had:

  • post-surgery checks after a few days to a few weeks to see my head and neck surgeon and his surgical assistant, nurse specialist
  • three monthly checks for the first year
  • any time where I may have seen/felt an issue, such as additional skin forming, and my surgeon saw me within weeks
  • four monthly checks for the next year
  • weekly and fortnightly visits to the prosthodontist as he continued to work on the making of the upper prosthesis
  • then monthly to two monthly visits to him, until COVID. Last time I saw him was February 2020 and I am returning in mid October as he is now doing regular checks again
  • this year, the visits to Sydney’s Chris O’Brien Lifehouse were at 6 month intervals.
  • THEN, at my recent early September visit, after clear CT scans of my head, neck and chest, and after visual examination and more, I am now on:
  • a 12 month check up..so will not be back until September 2021.

“MY” Prof…as I call him, Professor Jonathan Clark AM recently became chair of a new program at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Sydney University where this grant will enable him and his team create software and 3D models for head and neck surgery on the spot. My surgery, over 3 years ago, meant a delay as my team here in Australia  and the software developers in Europe made the program for my surgery and the model for my  mouth which had to be flown in from Belgium. Here’s the announcement of the donation for the funding so this program goes ahead.

ALWAYS happy to have a photo….

How I Manage My Health Now.

Interestingly with greater ease, thanks to a limited ability to eat a lot and to a better attitude to moving more.

Photos tell that story too. It is a way of keeping myself accountable too.

However, I never feel that I am missing out either. I have a better understanding of my need to nourish this body and to also enjoy the treats when I can.

And Then I Had to Do These Things.

Have both of my eyes’ cataracts removed and lens replaced. This happened on the cusp of COVID restrictions and I was glad to be done. In Sydney, over 3 days. Then of course, I had recovery but my opthalmologist has rooms up here so visits for checks were OK. I was quite shocked that from one annual visit to the next, it was cataracts time. This turning 70 was not quite what I thought. Now 6 months on, I use readers of a lower strength and no glasses for driving. Love the clearer views everywhere.

Left Eye Cataract Done

After hiding FROM myself and my problems with rectal prolapse* and the ways in which it impacted my day to day life, in May 2020, I was forced to face the matter as I could no longer live in pretend land. I look at it this way though, in managing my recoveries – physical and emotional – from those years of head and neck cancer I could not face more investigations into what is wrong. But dear readers, there was a lot wrong. Google rectal prolapse and what it means. Let’s just say, I paid a small fortune for incontinence aids, and suffered a great deal from shame about this condition.

Grateful to be ‘out of’ another surgery.

Getting One of the Things* Above Fixed…and Added Complications. 

Again COVID changed a few things but from my GP’s referral to a colorectal surgeon who insisted on a colonoscopy “no cancer or polyps but def need rectal prolapse repair”…and then needed surgery I became resigned to what needed to be done. From early May to late July I waited for the  surgery called rectopexi. The surgeon did a great job, especially complicated by my inners where he also found (surprise) a hernia needing repair. This necessitated a horizontal incision AND, the best (not) news, a vertical incision. Meeting in an upside down T at the bottom of my abdomen. The surgery, has worked. He took the slack inner workings of my rectum and has stitched them to a bone low in my back. I have no prolapse and normal (for me) bowel movements for the….first time in perhaps a decade…and…

My recovery in hospital and at home was slow as expected but at my first post-op appointment he told me I was a star for recovering in exactly the way it was best. I liked that. Especially as I did not quite hit it off with him at my initial consult…I was scared.

Three weeks into post-surgery recovery I noticed a section of the upside T section of the wound was kind of not staying together. I showed my GP and he thought it would be OK. But take this anti-biotic and apply this cream…and let’s hope it resolves.

It did not.

Within 2 weeks of seeing my GP, I was ‘astonished to see and feel liquid forming over my nightie as I got up out of my chair. Eeek. Got an urgent appointment to the GP, who was ‘so sorry, Denyse’ but…It was called wound dehiscence and sometimes a wound will not stay together. My colorectal surgeon saw me the next day, and pronounced “can fix, back into hospital for wound debridement and we will put a VAC system on to help heal the wound over less time.”

Wound Debridement and the VAC. 

One month post first surgery for rectopexi I was back in the same hospital and cared for very well. Surgery was less than an hour. I stayed overnight so the surgeon and wound nurse could see I understood how to live with the VAC system. The best part of having paid for our private health insurance since the late 1960s it means either of us can get the best care, when and where we can. I know this is a two-part health system in Australia but I am very grateful.

Each week I was visited two days a week by the Wound Nurse. This was all covered under ‘Hospital at Home” care from our Teachers Health Program. A machine was supplied, each of the changes of dressings and the costs of visits from the Wound Nurse. This lasted just over 3 weeks.

Since then, our GP and his practice nurse is taking care of my wound dressing. The progress is amazing on the wound. I have so many photos, none of which I will add here but they give me and my husband (the photographer) updates. The medical and surgical teams appreciate my dated photo collages.

Is that IT?

I don’t know but I sure would like to be free of appointments for  the above. This is likely to occur in the next two weeks or so. At least I have no VAC on me and have full independence.

I am back to my prosthodontist in October but I am pretty sure my mouth care will be praised.

Emotionally I am getting there. I know I have gained a great deal of resilience through much of these past 3+ years but am looking forward to a some respite from health professionals for a while,

THANK you…if you got this far.

I hope you are healthy and well.

Stay that way!

Denyse.

Link Up 208

Life This Week. Link Up #208

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 and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* 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 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: Share Your Snaps. 40/51. 5 October 2020.

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Self-Care Stories. #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 13/2020.

Self-Care Stories. #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 13/2020.

 

Welcome to the first in the series for 2020.

This optional prompt pops up every 7 weeks or so.

Today here’s mine!

Before kicking off: I have made two changes to my daily routine which is helping me:

One is to consider what I am grateful for each day. I tend to think about something or someone through the day and by even thinking that way I notice a change within. I blogged about it here. I am doing an instagram post each day here: @denysewhelan_blogs and no longer have my account private. I still have @denysewhelan going and no longer private...look at me taking a risk

Two is I am listening to Calm meditation app twice a day. One session, the Daily Calm, before I get up from bed and last thing at night a session of whatever I need at the moment. I have just listened to 10 or so day of “relationship with self.”. Calm is free initially and then you can decided to buy. I got a lifetime price as a bargain in 2018 and am never sick of it. Sleep stories are ace too on nights when I am less than sleep-ready.

What Have I Been Doing?

  1. remembering to follow my daily routine: get up, have breakfast, get dressed and go somewhere for a coffee….come home, blog, read, relax, cook, sleep…
  2. this was, for the most part, pretty well kept.
  3. however and it may have been something that affected others too, I became more anxious than usual when we had extremes of threats:
  • Bushfires
  • More fires
  • High temperatures
  • Continued fires
  • And then it rained.
  • Rainfall was excessive in some places and caused:
  • Flooding
  • Electricity to be cut
  • And NONE of this directly affected me.
  • Mmmmmm.
  • so I was most fortunate to have an in-house counsellor (aka my husband) but also that my previous years of learning how to self-care via means at my disposal actually helped..a great deal.
  • but being an avid follower of social media there were signs that my emotional health was being impacted when I stayed on news and updates for fires/disaster sites for long periods.
  • I realised even before I was “told” by my husband to stop. That was a good self-care measure in itself.

 

Why Have I Needed to Do This?

  1. I know I thrive on being informed and also caring about and for others….BUT there has to be a limit placed.
  2. I do this now by asking myself “what is it I can do that will help this person/those people etc?” If there is nothing really, I do send out a message of empathy where it’s appropriate and I might even do this.
  3. The loving kindness messages are always a way for me to feel a greater connection with others.
  4. I recalled with some hyped and stressed memories of the 5 days of the 2015 East Coast Low when we first moved to the Central Coast and I needed to talk a few of those memories through.
  5. Once I had done that I also knew I am in (and still am in) a much better headspace some 5 years later thanks to all the work I have done to achieve greater emotional health.

Loving Kindness (Metta) can be said silently for yourself, for another or for many. These words above are just one group.

How Do I Integrate This Into My Life?

  1. I continue to follow my routine as much as possible allowing for days (there were a couple!) where to go out of the house meant to be on unsafe roads in flooding rains so I stayed home
  2. I managed to fill in those particular days with little and varied projects of mine.
  3. I automatically come to my art desk when I need to zone out and concentrate on ONE thing and that worked well. In fact it has been something I have done before as well.
  4. I love the variety of activities I now have at my disposal and made use of exploring more of the media too.
  5. My husband was well-occupied with his in-house hobbies and some cabinet making in the garage so with no power lost, we really did well!

 

Afterwards. Onwards.

  1. Self-care is on-going and it can change in its focus for me, depending on how I am.
  2. This week (in fact today!) I am at Westmead seeing my prosthodontist for an update on my upper mouth. I used to get quite stressed about these visits “what will he see that I cannot” and last week I said “STOP”.
  3. I had been living in fear that had no justification.
  4. It was shifting the relaxed mood in our house (and relationship) to tense because I was experiencing some mouth pain (it IS always there, it just seemed worse)
  5. I changed how I approached the pain. I stopped focussing on it by not mentioning it. I also took panadol as instructed.
  6. Self-care is pretty well an on-going matter and recently on Bev Aisbett’s Facebook page (Living with “IT” Anxiety) she posted this, with permission to share:

Recently I took this selfie looking back to  Norah Head Lighthouse in the background, the huge seas reaching the shore…to remind me of how well I am, grateful for all in my life and how far I have come. More to come too, of course!

How is your self-care going?

What do you notice if you are not keeping up your self-care practices?

I look forward to catching up with the comments after I am back from Westmead!

Denyse.

Link Up 176.

Link Up #176. Life This Week.

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

* Please add just ONE post each week!

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

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice.

* THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 8/51 Unusual 23/2/2020

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Colours I Love. 44/51 #LifeThisWeek. 109/2019.

Colours I Love. 44/51 #LifeThisWeek. 109/2019.

So, dear readers, it would seem that “I LOVE a lot of COLOURS” and this is why my blog emblem/avatar looks as it does.

I even colour-coded my initial categories from the start of 2016.

Life      Education       Health        Stories       Photos        Creativity      More

and for this person, it really helps to have such a visual reminder.

Colours I Love.

The list is shorter if I write colours I don’t love. Brown & beige would be tops and some tones of green, orange and yellow. BUT Yellow is my friend now in art, gardening and clothes because I now understand it helps lift the colours it is near. 

I know that colour affects my mood and outlook. I learned over the past few years that making something creatively using colour was a huge game-changer for my recovery from anxiety, IBS and then head and neck cancer. In fact, only recently, I have learned to keep a large colourful sheet of art I am creating to access to I can embellish it with patterns or just add more colour as it centres my mind on just that one thing. Brilliant for a mood or feeling shift for me.

Wearing Colours.

No matter what size I have been (and there have been a few!) colours have always been part of my wardrobe. Back in the days of work and being very overweight black would often be part of my outfit, usually as pants and/or jacket. Since my body shape and weight changed after head and neck cancer it’s been fun to explore more colourful pants and shorts. I find I am more confident to do this now. It still took (and can take) time for me to adjust my thinking.

Surrounding My World With Colour.

Whilst we are renting we make do with the blank canvas we have as a house that needs to remain so, but we have added (my choice) two very colourful rugs and I display photos in colour as well as some of my art. Furnishings which are 0ne colour/dark (chairs etc) have cushions as brighteners too. My car is red. I make no apologies. I love it. No it doesn’t go faster but I sure feel confident driving it. Just need to be more careful not to hurt it again as I did in distracted moment last year.

Why Colours?

The last thing I am is science-oriented but I did feel it would be helpful to find some research and interesting facts about colour. Here we go. Yes, US spelling.

https://psych-neuro.com/2015/03/13/why-do-we-prefer-certain-colors/

Everyone has a difference preference for colors, which is interesting and unique. We choose colors when we choose clothes, a car, a notebook, and a water bottle; basically color is taken into consideration for almost everything we buy! We pick most things based on colors we like so why is this? There isn’t really a rational influence to our decisions other than the color evokes an emotional and physiological response in us. Ultimately we decide what colors we like because of what we associate them with and the meaning that accompanies them.

Interestingly for me, I actually store my pencils and markers into groups called Warm and Cool Colours! Yes there can be some overlap for instance a yellowy green or a pinky purple but the system works for me. NB: markers sorted into warm and cool. 

Planning the colours for one of the 100s of mandalas I have created

Warm Colors

Cool Colors

•Warm colors include red, orange, and yellow, and variations of those three colors.

•Red and yellow are both primary colors, with orange falling in the middle.

•Warm colors appear closer to the observer.

•Cool colors include green, blue, and purple, and variations of those three colors.

•Blue is the only primary color within the cool spectrum.

•Greens take on some of the attributes of yellow, and purple takes on some of the attributes of red.

•They are often more subdued than warm colors.

•Cool colors appear farther from the observer.

https://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/color-basics.html

https://www.colormatters.com/color-and-vision/how-the-eye-sees-color

One Favourite to Wear is:

Red is the color of extremes. It’s the color of passionate love, seduction, violence, danger, anger, and adventure. Our prehistoric ancestors saw red as the color of fire and blood – energy and primal life forces – and most of red’s symbolism today arises from its powerful associations in the past.

Red is also a magical and religious color. It symbolized super-human heroism to the Greeks and is the color of the Christian crucifixion. Red was almost as rare and as expensive as purple in ancient days – a fact that may explain its magic and power. Paradoxically, today’s intense red dyes come from crushed insects (the lac beetle and the cochineal).

https://www.colormatters.com/color-symbolism/the-meanings-of-colors

I love colours.

Simple as that.

Tell me what colours you love!

Denyse.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not. * Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do! * Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s optional prompt is: 45/51 Share Your Snaps #9 11/11/19

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Self-Care: Share Your Story #5. 34/51 #LifeThisWeek. 89/2019.

Self-Care: Share Your Story #5. 34/51 #LifeThisWeek. 89/2019.

The past few weeks have been less about self-care and more about caring what others think and say.

I “know” that is not the ideal way to live my life going forward but in some ways I think it’s connected with a major life-experience which was about to occur at this time of year in 2002. I wrote about it here. I get to this time of year and ask myself ‘what’s wrong?’ when I have nothing much happening to make me feel a little less confident and emotional. Then I look at the date. So, knowing this helps and it reminds me to accept that I still have sad feelings about how I had to walk away from my principal’s role but that I also got on with my life as best as I could once the first 12 months of being treated for the effects had helped.

I have written about this in a series of posts last September if you would like to read them.

September Stories 1. September Stories 2. September Stories 3. September Stories 4.

I also used my story for my Women of Courage post, here.

Self-Care and What It Looks Like Now For Me.

Appreciation For The Support & Love. Moving On.

 

Doing this more. Getting Outside.

 

If I do not care for my mouth and prosthesis properly then I am not self-caring for my physical health. My daily routine.

 

This was something different. Very small pizza, takeaway. Two meals! Worth it? Not really but I gave it go.

 

Using some of my me-time for creating and liking the results.

 

My daily coffee, treat and using my mini art journal. Getting out every.single.day. whether I feel like it or not IS the best self-care I have.

 

Letting others know of my appreciation for them. Self-care is shared.

 

This was important to me from a self-care and love viewpoint. Top images this year, bottom ones a year ago. I was so pleased, despite some weight gain (with teeth!) I could still wear the clothes.

So I found some examples in the end. Thank goodness. I haven’t really lost the ability to self-care, it’s just a blip in the progress I am making and I am honest enough to share the reasons as I see why.

How is your self-care going?

What’s your best tip for when you are least feeling like being self-caring?

Denyse.

 

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not. * Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do! * Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

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