Friday 22nd October 2021

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

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

I am a question-asker.

I tend to ask a lot.

I am also an answer giver too.

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

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

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

I also found out then:

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

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

August 2017

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

My Views As a Cancer Patient.

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

Part One: On Treatment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Two: Off Treatment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Part Three: Living With Advanced Cancer.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Final Thoughts.

This is a section in the book…

and I will add mine.

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

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

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

That was for me.

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

Others may see it differently.

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

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

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

Denyse Whelan.

Blog Disclaimer:

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

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

Link Up #251

Life This Week. Link Up #251

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cancer does not have a timeline.

It can just appear.

Often times there is NO reason nor cause.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See below for blog disclaimer. 

Cancer Help.

There is, in Australia, a Government website here . 

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

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

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

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

What are head and neck cancers?

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

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

The five year survival rate is approximately 64.7%.

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

 

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

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

The Swallows: Booklet

Other information about head and neck cancer found here too:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Review is coming soon.

This story: The Big Hug Box.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading and commenting.

Denyse.

Blog Disclaimer:

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

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

Link Up #250

Life This Week. Link Up #250

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Knowing.19/51. #LifeThisWeek. 58/2021.

Knowing.19/51. #LifeThisWeek. 58/2021.

From time to time, bloggers will invite a guest to write a post for their blog. I have done just that. I asked the man I married if he would  like to be the one who wrote on this optional prompt of ‘knowing’…his response was a resounding yes and so I emailed him (we do that, do you?) the questions.

Now, he is a considered and very well-read person with impeccable manners. He took his time to write this post and I said, the only thing I will do is ‘spell-check’. And that is exactly what happened.

Oh and he got to OK the photos I chose to use.

One thing before I hand over, living with and loving the man for over 50 years is a comfort and a challenge. And between us, we continue to learn about ourselves too. Not bored. Ever.

Thank you B.

 

Knowing. A blog post with Bernard responding to questions about his work, life and counselling.

 

What would you like the readers to know about you?

  • I am white, male, middle-class and therefore, harbour biases that I need to be alert to when interacting with others.
  • I am a contemporary phenomenon coming from a rare and unique background as the fifth child in a family of 13 children! Yes, that’s correct, THIRTEEN kids all sired by the same good Catholic parents! I have no doubt there are many other males who could lay claim to having fathered more than thirteen children. They probably are just not aware of many of them!
  • I have been married to the same super woman for more than fifty years and have never felt any desire to change that status; nor have I ever done anything that may threaten it.
  • The accomplishment that swells my soul with the greatest pride and joy has been to contribute to the reproduction of two excellent children and eight glorious grandchildren. These ten human beings, I am very proud to boast, are all examples of mum nature’s finest achievements. While they sometimes bring tears of despair to their humble parents/grandparents, the joy they return is incalculable!

 

How did you know that you would like to help others?

 Given my DNA, I think it may have been a pre-determined role that I was locked into from the moment I crashed to earth. Growing up with so many siblings provided very limited opportunity for putting self first. So, it was incumbent on each member to be a good listener and ‘helper’ or suffer the consequences! So, I acquired the answer to that question at a very early age.

 

What specific knowledge was required for your training?

  • Teaching: Combined College and University training. The prime value of this “time to join the real world” came from the exciting discoveries that socialising brings to the young and naïve adult. The ‘how to effectively teach and manage a school’ began the moment I first set foot in the playground of my first appointment. At the ripe old age of 18 I found myself as Teacher- in-Charge of a one-teacher school out of Narrabri. The school had an enrolment of 41, 10 of whom were secondary students. Fortunately, the kids loved music almost as much as I did!

Wow! What a steep – almost perpendicular – learning curve!!

But, I loved the challenge and managed to survive!!!

  • Cabinet-making: On-the-job training. Cabinet-making was the outcome of medical retirement from teaching as a result of chronic pain from spinal disease. It was good therapy!
  • Counselling: Combined university and Lifeline training. I found working with clients to help them become unstuck and return to greater contentment in their lives, greatly rewarding, it was marred by incompetent supervision. What a shame!

 

 Were there skills that you needed to learn?

 There was a myriad of skills that needed to be learned in all three of these pursuits.

  • Firstly, it should be said, there must be a willingness and openness to learning whatever skills are needed to fully enhance delivery of the service. Some of these already existed as a result of previous life experience and some were mutually beneficial between services. I refer to basic social skills built out of desirable human values such as kindness and compassion, empathy, tolerance, understanding, generosity of spirit, etc. Many more needed to be learned, especially manual skills relevant to building.

 

  • So, all three services rely heavily on the development of effective oracy (especially active listening) and literacy skills. Obviously, the ability to communicate effectively is a skill that is of paramount relevance to all, especially counselling and teaching. Contemporary society would also demand a desirable level of knowledge and skill in the new world of Information Technology. Fortunately, I was largely untouched by this beast!

 

  • Then, there are the many skills that are of specific relevance. For example, apart from being able to communicate well, running a cabinet-making business requires a broad range of business and management skills, to say nothing of the manual skills, that underpin the effective delivery of such a service.

 

  • All these skills I am very grateful for, as they have contributed greatly to the quality of life that I now enjoy.

 

 How has being a counsellor impacted your life?

 

Of all the above career pursuits, counselling has had the greatest impact on my life – a strange outcome when it was the pursuit that I spent least time pursuing.

  • However, counselling, through its skills, provided the opportunity to offer other human beings the love of listening and of taking them seriously – a rarity for some, especially women. It was a real honour to be permitted to engage in an intimate experience in which I was given open access to the secrets of clients’ tortured souls as we worked together to free them from the manacles that had them chained to an unpleasant time in their lives.

 

  • Relationship dysfunction demands the most attention. This might include a cry for help to improve emotional regulation that may have expressed itself as an inability to manage anger that is violently disrupting domestic equanimity or dysfunction resulting from the loss of loved ones. Complex trauma emanating from abuse or exposure to traumatic experience needs help to resolve as does the very broad problems associated with depression and anxiety.

 

  • The needs range is extensive but rarely does the dysfunction not affect relationships, especially the relationship we have with ourselves. Whatever the reason for seeking help, the initial offering of a loving ear and non-judgmental acceptance coupled with empathetic treatment are critical to effective outcomes.

 

  • I’m happy to award counselling the prize for greatest impact as the purpose and meaning it offered has contributed most to my feeling of inner peace and contentment.

If readers wanted to know more about how to help themselves to learn more about ‘life, living and all that’ what would you suggest?

 

Well, my immediate question to that question is, “how long have you got”?

But, as I think you would like something a little more practical and hopefully helpful, here are a few suggestions.

 

  • Give yourself a break! Our most severe judgy-judgy (my wife assures me that this is the contemporary version of judgmental) critics are ourselves. We’ve got that voice or voices in our heads telling us what not to do, how not to do it, what we should be doing, etc. Whatever the thought bubble, try not to empower it by reacting emotionally. Don’t resist it for whatever we resist, persists, remembering that it is very temporary and will pass. Allow it in let your mind move from inside the thought bubble to an observer position. Then thank it but suggest you’d like to proceed the way you want to. Remember, this voice is only trying to protect us. Practise offering yourself kindness and compassion rather than harsh criticism!

 

  • Be grateful and feel it. When we genuinely feel gratitude our bodies experience a chemical release that enhances feelings of well-being. Each day practise asking, “What am I grateful for?”

 

  • Live mindfully in the present. Give the right hemisphere of the brain the opportunity to be as active as the left. We human beings, especially in Western Society where we are constantly striving for materialistic gain, are very left brain oriented. This has us flat out DOING and solving related problems. We really need to give the more reserved, quietly-spoken right hemisphere a chance to become more active and JUST BE. Right brain loves us when we live in the present with curiosity and creativity. Music that we get lost in is a great BEING activity. It’s like slumping into your favourite chair after a hard day on your feet! Practise eating your next meal mindfully, i.e. with the curiosity of a scientist allowing your sense to actively engage with the process. Observe what you smell, taste, touch, hear, etc. No digital devices permitted at the dining table!

 

  • As difficult as it is, times of hardship and pain such as illness, relationship dysfunction, etc. need to be thought about as wonderful opportunities to learn about life and enhance one’s quality of it. The more difficult and/or painful the experience the more opportunity for learning about ourselves. Practise writing about these times.

 

  • Be a good listener. How many times have you heard, “you’re not listening to me!”? If you’re like most of us when having a conversation with your partner or a friend or involved in a group talk interaction, you’re probably mentally preparing what you want to say rather than listening intently. Practise being an active listener.

 

  • Be careful not to become a digital addict. This is a very real problem for some people. It impacts our sociability as we retreat further and further into the world of social media coming to see this world as the real world. While social media is a valuable asset giving people a sense of connection that they may not have otherwise had, that connection lacks a personal dimension that nourishes our souls. It’s like the unique value breast milk has for an infant. Certainly, use your device/s as tool/s or learning aids only. Practise going out without your phone – like we used to do only a few years back!

These provide just a snapshot of possibilities

 

How did you find writing these responses?

 Refreshing, heartening and stimulating. I miss all three of my life’s career choices, especially the last!

 

Thank you Bernard. I appreciate your skills,  talents and considerably well-used active listening skills… Always! Going out without your phone? Sorry, probably can’t do that. But I hear you!! My tribute in images here.

Thank you B, for your thoughtful words in response.

I know I have benefitted from your wisdom over the years and maybe there are some pieces of information shared here for readers and bloggers to find helpful.

Denyse.

Link Up #239

Life This Week. Link Up #239

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 #4. 17 May 2021

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


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Australia. School Days. 4/51. #LifeThisWeek. 7/2020.

Australia. School Days. 4/51. #LifeThisWeek. 7/2020.

In years past I may have written about Australia Day.  This link I found very helpful about reconciliation.

I now write of my love for this country and all its people. Particularly those of the first nations as I pay my respect on the home page of my blog.

Love seeing these flags fly together. Thank you NSW Public School.

School’s Back. Almost.

In Australia schools return for first term of the year around the end of the summer holidays: late January or early February. It is not a great time of year weather-wise as it is often hotter in the coming months that any other time. However, after almost 6 weeks of school holidays. parents are practically willing schools to be open…and they are! Mind you, I know that schools have been occupied in recent weeks (before school returned) getting classrooms ready, holding meetings, having open days for new families…and in some of the worst affected areas, trying to establish some school buildings where they have been destroyed by recent bushfires.

It about now that in many Australian homes, there are parents doing this:- approaching child’s bedroom. Knocking on the door. It’s the first day of school. No answer. Open the door, go to the window, draw the curtains, and say “come on, it’s time to get to school.” “nnnnnooo, do I have to?” says occupant of bed. “yes you do”. But “whyyyyy?” “Because you’re the principal and that’s why.”

Wishing this favourite school of mine…North Kellyville P.S, a great second year! #IBelongatNK What a year ahead..and this photo is from the beginning of 2019.

27th January. A day of note in my life.

On 27.1.1970 I commenced my role a permanent teacher with N.S.W. Department of Education at Barraba Central School. It was (still is) K-12 school in north-western N.S.W. My parents drove me up there with all my teaching resources and clothes and whatever else 20 year old me would have needed. After meeting the school’s Deputy, he recommended if I was looking for a place to stay, the share house with 3 other teachers was just opposite the school. That is where I was accepted and lived for my first year of teaching. More about that here in Telling My Story.

 

Where I lived as a first year teacher in Barraba, N.S.W.

Memories of Reading. At School.

I love(d) reading and cannot remember learning to read other than sitting in front of charts with the consonants and vowels listed and we had to chant them…

a (a, not the letter name) is for apple b is for boat  c is for car  d is for duck….you get the idea. I also add that some 15 years after learning from these, I had them to teach from in my 1970s classrooms.

One reading idea which took off in the 1980s was Drop Everything And Read. D.E.A.R. In the K-6 schools where I was a teacher and school executive these were allocated times in each day 0 usually straight after lunch break for EVERYONE in the school to read in silence. Kids could bring in their own books or magazines. It was about a period of sharing the love for reading and need to read..in an enjoyable and relaxed way. Some kids in my year 2 classes had ‘chapter books’ (that was such a landmark for many!) and some could use the class readers, or picture books or bring in their own.

An important part of this Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading (U.S.S.R. was another acronym) was the quiet, the time to be with the book/magazine and to be immersed. Of course not every child could do this but there were more that could. I, the teacher, also read. So did the office staff. BUT…sadly, and I cannot tell you when, this idea as a whole school program discontinued in many place.

BUT…the good news! 

Individual schools and teachers are continuing the practice individually or as a school program and it is mostly in High Schools. Big yay for that. Here’s some screen shots of twitter conversations and a poll I carried out.

This one was of special interest as I know how hard teachers are working in schools to comply with marking, testing, and so much more…sadly even their own reading for interest or enjoyment is being compromised…..

I am glad to see this practice happening in many high schools. I know it’s a challenge to find time in any school day for sustained reading. However, if you can find time at home, even better. There are of course, reluctant and non-readers and my friend and teacher-librarian Megan Daley (see her details here from when she was featured as a Woman of Courage) has many categories to help families choose titles and stories to engage all readers.

Quite a few years ago, I too wrote the topic of reading…and here’s my advice: from K-2 teacher, K-6 principal and mother and grandmother!

 

My suggestions for 10 Ways to Raise a Reader.

  1. Before you have your child(ren) enjoy reading yourself.
  2. Find a wide range of reading interests as reading does not have to be restricted to books and fiction.
  3. Think: reading is around us! Signs, newspapers, magazines, on-line, captions, instructions, comics, picture books and more.
  4. Talk about reading with your child(ren)’s other parent. Do you both have a way of viewing reading as important?
  5. Child is in utero….read to said child! It can be an instruction manual if you like, but a picture book read in your voice will be remembered by your child once he or she is born. It is true!
  6. Make a habit of reading a story from a picture book (showing the pictures too) every night at a similar time to create a habit of this ‘wonder of words and images’ in your child’s life from BIRTH.
  7. Continue above..not as an oral reading practice session  (please!) at bedtime until you and your child cannot fit together for the closeness of story time (this is part of the wonderful way to raise a reader!).
  8. Be seen to read yourself.
  9. Make reading a natural part of your child’s day by having books around, on benches, in the car, by the bedside and near the media which can be swtiched off for “silent reading time” or “D.rop E.verything A.nd R.ead” time at home.
  10. Encourage library membership, books and book vouchers as gifts and do not forget the enjoyment of being read to by an adult. Kids reading to adults can be reserved for the after-school reader practice.

From Parents To Their Child’s First Educator/Teacher.

And, finally but not last…My time-honoured message from parents to their children’s educators. Made by me and made beautiful by Kelly Exeter. You may definitely share this. I made it to be shared.

Whatever you are up to on 27 January 2020 I hope it goes well. From the website here. 

Our First Peoples are the traditional custodians of our beautiful lands and waterways and have a fundamental role in the great Australian story. 

We aspire to an Australia Day that can increasingly include a recognition and celebration by all Australians of the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to our nation.

Thank you for being part of Life This Week’s community.

I always appreciate your blog posts and comments.

Denyse.

Link Up #173

 

Link Up #173. 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: 5/51 Share Your Snaps #1. 3.2.2020.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


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My Best Birthday Cake. 23/51. #LifeThisWeek. 65/2019.

Beyond Five.

 

Denyse Whelan Head and Neck Cancer Patientnow Ambassador.

Consider a donation of $5 or more to my Virtual Event

For Head and Neck cancer patients, family and friends. This is a website and offers lots to help. It continues to grow and change but with no government funding, some donations by companies in related fields and one part-time business manager, a fund-raiser was initiated in 2018 called Soup for the Soul. Soup is often a food that patients with head and neck cancer can manage and it is comforting.

Soup for the Soul is already live and I have a Virtual Soup for the Soul page here. More about that as we get closer to World Head and Neck Cancer Day on 27 July.

 

My Best Birthday Cake. 23/51. #LifeThisWeek. 64/2019.

I cannot think of a ‘best’ birthday cake so I am going on a trip down birthday cake lane!

I think any birthday cake made for me by my Mum was a great one.

Mum might not have liked eating cake much but she sure enjoyed making them for us kids, and then her grandkids and I do think she even contributed to a great-grandchild’s birthday cake way back.

I use many of Mum’s strategies in cake making as I have her basic cake recipe in her handwriting in my recipe collection. She did not have electric beaters until the late 1950s so making by hand was even harder. Mum never had a ‘proper mixmaster’ and neither have I. We both preferred the electric hand held mixers.

My First Birthday.

Made by Mum I am sure!

My 65th Birthday.

Made by my daughter. A favourite of my late Mum’s that my daughter and I often made. Orange cake. This was a special but somewhat sad occasion as it would be the last birthday celebrated in Sydney with our children and their children. We have not celebrated any birthdays with all of the  family since. For reasons that are about distance and changes in lives of those concerned. It happens, right?

My 67th Birthday.

One little cake made by me. My husband joined me when he came home from Lifeline counselling. I remember this day well. Making an effort with my appearance because my ill-effects from IBS and anxiety (grief-like) were getting a hold. We were not to know, that within 6 months I would be diagnosed with oral cancer. And, I also did not know this would be the last time I could blow out the candle!!

And, for my 69th Birthday!

My chosen celebration was morning tea out with my lovely husband and then at home I said “we’d better have a cake and a candle”. Of course, I always have little cakes in the freezer….and here was when I found out what small limitations my mouth now had. It does not seal properly either. But no matter, the cancer is gone.

How about you?

What are your memories of birthday cakes?

I should add, I like all Mums (and possibly Dads and grandparents) got a copy of the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book. My daughter now has my original. I made the “one” for our son’s 1st birthday and he is now 40. Mum took to this book well. Over the years she made the racing car track, the number that was all lamingtons, a tennis racquet cake and later on…much later, our daughter made the Thomas the Tank for her then boyfriend’s 21st.

Denyse.

Kell also has a Monday linkup here. Join in!

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!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Next week’s optional prompt 24/51 Thank You to Me. 17/6/19

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Best Gift Ever. 3/52. #LifeThisWeek. 7/2019.

Best Gift Ever. 3/52. #LifeThisWeek. 7/2019.

The best gift ever has given me food for thought.

I have had some great gifts in my life including these:

  • parents who gave me life, shelter, education, care and loveand who were wed for over 60 years.
  • a man I met and married within 3 months who has loved me for over 48 years now as I have him. This is on our wedding day, 23 January 1971.

  • the first gift of a child: our daughter (story is here) and then much later, our son (story soon!) and even though we did not know much about parenting, both are doing well in their adult lives.
  • a career in K-6 education in New South Wales schools which took me from probationary teacher to school principal thanks to the gifts of others who saw the potential in me, degree courses I completed with loving support from my family, and the children, teachers and parents of the many schools. Latterly I enjoyed teaching and supervising pre-service Masters’ students at University. On many occasions I was glad I could help these people and share what had been shared to me as gifts in my career.
  • the gift of meeting people and socialising is one I enjoy and to this end am doing it in a new area and loving making new connections socially: on-line and in real life, as they say!
  • I love the gift I have been given as someone who notices nature, enjoys solitude from time to time, and has learned so much about herself during some times of turbulence in recent years.
  • The gift I have been given of enjoying art and especially making mandalas has also seen me make 100s of bookmarks to help a charity called The Big Hug Box.
  • How good is it to give back! My story was also in a book that was published. What a gift that was.

But what about cancer? Is THAT a gift? 

I cannot finish this post without mentioning my fairly recent brush with the big C and what a gift that has been.

  • Life is a matter of how it’s viewed by the individual.
  • I do not like having had cancer because of many of the ramifications in my life, yet I know its presence has been a present. Let me explain more!
  • I was in a major life transition which had, in its own way, strangled my confidence and demeanour because of the grief involved. Yet I had some ideas of how to help myself.
  • That series of ideas was supplemented by the gift of amazing professional support, amazing and unending personal support and many hours of time to both learn and absorb.
  • When it was found that I had cancer, up from within me, emerged what had been hidden for almost 3 years and over time, my personal qualities of determination, belief in my surgical and oral health teams and in my capacity to heal and that I could share my story with others as I have and do.

The Best Gift is:

  • A return to “Denyse”. She had been long gone and I am so glad she is back.
  • This is my best gift: I am back. It does not matter I am ageing – that’s a privilege, nor that I have some physical scars I cannot overcome – they’re part of my history now and I am so glad to be here and look at my image in the mirror to say:

Hello, looking OK for someone who’s been through so much.

Well-done, you!

 

What is your best gift?

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!

Joining Alicia here for Open Slather and Kell here for Mummy Mondays.

Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 4/51. What Is Hope? 28/1/19.


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September Stories. #3. 2018.95.

September Stories. #3. 2018.95.

This is the third story telling some aspects of what it was like for me as a K-6 School Principal in a medium-sized New South Wales public school from 1999 until the beginning of 2003.

The first story is here and the second here for those who want to understand “how I got to the day I never went back as principal in September 2002.”

What was different in the beginning of the 2002 school year?

It was my fourth year as principal. Naturally much changes within the education system and in schools themselves. Families may move on due to work changes, sometimes those families are not replaced by new ones so a school population can begin heading downwards.

School staff (teacher and executive staff) may need to take leave for reasons of: family needs, maternity and long service leave as well as sick leave.

The other change heralding 2002 was the need to upgrades of maintenance (big cost jobs) to the school as it was one that was first occupied in the 1940s. Back in 2002 it was up to the principal to make the contacts with contracted companies to get in suppliers who could quote for major works. Then the principal, with enough funds in the school account, could give a project a green light. I was trained to teach but there I was, like all principals still, being a site manager and a financial manager as well as HR manager. Sigh.

Systemic Changes.

More and more, I noted as did my principal colleagues that schools were being expected (rightly too) to ensure that Codes of Conduct for staff were not only understood and agreed upon by them but if behavioural issues arose, then the principal would be the first person to begin making an action plan when the code was violated.

There always had been the mandatory notification to the Department back then called Family and Community Services where if a child was deemed by a mandatory reporter (all school staff are) to be ‘at risk’ then a first notification was to be made by telephone. This saw me, often waiting for a person to answer, locked into a phone call because of issues which may look trivial on the outside but may be clues to more. One such event could be repeatedly coming to school with no food. Other times it could be the child letting her/his teacher know that a parent may be unwell or even violent and it was never our role to investigate but we did need to reassure the child, then make the reports. Over the years I have sat in with a child in my role as a support person (if the child requested that from me) and it is heart-aching to be witness.

Our system, the N.S.W. Department of Education, was updating its role in terms of staff compliance and behaviour. This was nothing new and in fact teachers have had annual reviews in a conversation form for decades. Since I left teaching, this has become a joint venture between the schools and the overseeing body of school governance. Returning to my principal days. IF there was a reported incident told to me by a student, parent or staff member where a staff member’s behaviour (spoken, actions or in written form) was not within the Code of Conduct (signed off annually as part of mandatory training) then the principal had to act upon it. I dealt with the Officers from the Conduct Unit first who listened to what had been reported to me and then I was given advice that it could be managed at school level (guess by whom?) or it could be escalated, with the staff member’s knowledge to a higher authority. I had to do this on one occasion and the fallout for me came later. The temporary staff member who brought along a permanent staff member as a support person as the complaint was told to her from my account given to me was aghast at the inference. In fact, there was nothing I had done wrong at all….but remember way back “your role will be to bring this school into the next century” comment by MY boss…this matter was a prime example of how staff thought they could still behave but it was not compliant with the Code of Conduct.

And, Everyone Who Was An Executive Member of the School Went on Leave.

Not at all related to the above in two instances: one was to have a baby and the other because of longevity of service took her rightful allocation of leave…both for the remainder of 2002. But wait, there was one more. Yes, this person ‘broke me’ in so many subtle then obvious ways. And whilst I cannot say much, the continued leave based on medical certificates over and over did cause alarm for the parents of that class as it did me because the year had started well but then, as it was expected of me that this Assistant Principal would perform other executive duties (as do all teaching executive) this person refused and did not return after many months. Oh, yes, one day there was a return, after hours to access my office and computer telling the only person on site, the cleaner, that “I” had given him permission. Following that, he was disciplined and placed in a different school.

How Did That Affect Me?

In some ways it was a relief but in many more, as we geared up for the mid year reports, parent-teacher interviews and then Education  Week along with concerts and fund raisers, it was the beginning of my end. Sadly I did not see it for sometime. I kept on working even harder. Yes. I was doing the roles of the appointed executive who were on leave. I know that I did have three teachers put their hands up to do the relieving roles but without the experience and knowledge beyond their classroom teaching, I was giving more and more of myself to duties that were not mine. I was even writing reports for a class teacher with little experience. I will say now that I know I was over-doing things but I could see no way out. I was under pressure to perform well for the school’s sake and also to answer to my ‘bosses.’ My lovely boss actually retired at the end of Term One (sadly) and he was replaced by someone I knew well but was nothing like the people-person my old boss was.

Schools have a culture of their own. I can now walk into a school and get a feeling of how things are. In my school, as Winter took hold I know that my mood was also one of worry and concern. That was for the school and its staffing into the next year. When school populations decrease in the NSW public system, the principal will be asked to nominate a teacher to leave. In the majority of cases, teachers are very comfortable in their current school and rarely does anyone volunteer. So then it becomes a matter of ‘asking’ and ‘hoping’. The staff were getting the idea that with the school’s drop in population, which occurred when the Special Needs unit was disbanded and there was a reduction of families moving to the area, that “I” had something to do with the reduction. I was told this by telephone on the night (4th September 2002) I heard staff were arranging a delegation to my office the next day. They were going to tell me it was my manner with parents that was the cause. This may have had one essence of truth after I was threatened by a violent father who I had to get removed from the grounds, but generally I had a suppotive P&C and was a principal who was active and even did playground duty. But people like someone to blame. Of course, and that was me.

The Night I Was Told.

Before I go on, I was feeling emotions of overwhelm from the role. I remember with clarity coming back from yet another principals’ meeting where they was MORE that we needed to take responsibility for. I wondered how I could possibly manage more. In the meantime, I became probably hyper vigilant after another meeting about my responsibilities for Work Health and Safety. The school was OLD in many parts and I knew that there was much that did not comply, so I contacted my properties’ manager (the centralised one, not a personal one!) and for a fee, he came out and condemned or ok-ed parts I was concerned about. One such area was deemed so risky I had to tape it off before demolition and in doing so, incurred the wrath of the teachers who had been there forever. I could not take a trick. I stood for what was right because that is who I am. I knew I needed to have a timeout but it happened to be an official one to attend a meeting for a day and then a personal one to accompany my husband to a vital medical appointment.

Schools: I love them. But I Could Not Return To Mine.

Two days away from school…..then I was rung the night before I was to return. Wednesday 4th September. By one of my relieving Executive who I always thought was both compassionate and brave to tell me that some staff were getting a delegation ready along with a Teachers Federation Organiser to meet with me to discuss their issues. Initially I listened with interest and then with surprise/shock at what was apparently my fault: declining numbers, meaning one of them would be asked to transfer. Once I had talked (and been upset a bit) with her, I had successive phone calls from the remaining two relieving executive and it was then I said “I will be speaking to…(my boss) in the morning and will not be returning to school until I have”. They implored me not to but I had the sense not to act upon a threat like this.

I broke. I broke down. I was ill. I couldn’t contact my boss: left a message that I would be going to my GP in the morning.

That would be the start of pretty horrible days but also some days of relief and release. Yet, nothing ever has helped me get over the fact that I loved being a principal but one day I never went back.

There was so much shame in me for that and it has almost all faded now some 16 years later.

It’s been hard to learn THIS….

Next and last story will be about, sadly, how poorly my then employer treated me, but how my own return to wellness was all because of my inner capacity aided by a loving husband, a supportive family and friends network along with..some years later, an inclusive blogging community.

Thank you for your kind words having read these stories. I have not told them in as much detail for many years but I am glad I could have the chance again.

It really helps to write our stories! That is why I blog!

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky here on Thursdays.

 

 

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