Friday 22nd October 2021

Women of Courage Series. #74. Ness. 119/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #74. Ness. 119/2021.

Two years & five months ago… I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will conclude today: Thursday 30 September 2021.

Over a couple of weeks soon, I will publish a round-up series of posts  of the women who contributed: not all shared their names and some used initials only but all shared their story and I thank them over and over for their courage to do so. 

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

 

Trigger warning: Miscarriage and infant death. Breast cancer. Information may be found at the end of the post.

 

 

Welcoming Vanessa or Ness for short to this series. Interestingly we have known each other via blogging for probably around 10 years and she turned 50 this year just as my daughter did. We lived within about 8 kms of each other too for a along time, and most likely crossed paths in the local big shopping centre! But we have not yet met IRL (in real life) as they say. So, my words about Ness will likely make her blush a bit but I am not sorry. And we share a love of Downton Abbey!!

I have seen this woman’s life as she describes some of it here via her updates on social media platforms we both were part of when Australian blogging was a much bigger ‘thing’. I remember health news. Cancer news I mean. I also recall the ways in which she had to get on with what was very anxiety producing in treatment and recovery. We are both fans of the work based on Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) and there is a link at the end of the post.

May I add too, how proud I am to have seen Ness become trained in her work to be able to work in a library and even in Covid I see that she continues to make a contribution…and best of all, she has returned to blogging. Welcome back Ness. You were missed!

 

 

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

Over the years I’ve had an ongoing struggle with anxiety which eventually led to me figuring out that I’m on the autistic spectrum. I was officially diagnosed ten years ago at age 40.

In 2004 my husband was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Thankfully he is a survivor and going strong. It was a difficult period dealing with his treatment while we also had a toddler and a baby.

In 2007 I was expecting again but had a late miscarriage and had to give birth to my deceased baby which was very traumatic and devastating. Luckily I subsequently had another baby in 2008 and completed our family.

In late 2015 I was diagnosed with early stage triple negative breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy plus chemotherapy and radiation.

 

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

I spent many years as a stay at home parent but a year or two after my cancer treatment I began volunteer work for St. Vincent De Paul Society Service Centre .

Eventually I went back to TAFE and achieved a Diploma of Library and Information Services.

I originally worked in libraries and had always thought I’d eventually get back into it.

I got a casual job with a council library in January and also  work for a library shelf ready service.

So I guess the change was I stopped putting things off.

 

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

Don’t be afraid to admit it if you’re struggling and need help.

I would not have gotten through any of the above without taking medication and seeing a psychologist .

 

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

I must admit that I’m currently struggling again so I’m not sure how to answer the question.

I guess I can be scared and struggling yet still take action however small whereas before I avoided things.

 

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

Try to be kind to yourself the same way you would to a friend or family member in the same situation.

Remind yourself it’s not weakness to seek any help you may need including medication if appropriate.

Take things one day at a time and when you’re going through hell, just keep going.

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

The book The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris and the techniques used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy were helpful for me.

 

 

Thank you Ness, how pleased I am you have contributed to the series. And it is fitting that a fellow blogger’s story concluded not only Series 3 but Women of Courage Stories.

I so hope we can finally meet up in person too with cakies and coffee!!

Take care,

Denyse.

 

 

Social Media for Ness here:

Blog/Website

https://nessiville.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Nessofnessville/

Instagram:

http://www.instagram.com/ness_nessville

 

Resources That May Help: 

These sites are Australian-based. 

https://www.panda.org.au/

https://www.sands.org.au/stillbirth-and-newborn-death

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14 – Crisis Support and Suicide …

Russ Harris: Acceptance Commitment Therapy Information is here. The Happiness Trap is also another resource from Russ.

Breast Cancer resources: from Veronica’s  Women of Courage post found here. 

Pink Hope – Know Your Risk, Change Your Future

http://pinkhope.org.au

Be Dense Aware (Did you know dense breast tissue can make diagnosis more challenging?)

https://www.bedenseaware.com/

iPrevent – Breast Cancer Prevention Through Risk Assessment

https://nbcf.org.au/19/prevention-through-precision-medicine/

Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation – The 3 Step Breast Check

https://www.sbcf.org.au/resources/

National Breast Cancer Foundation – Zero Deaths from Breast Cancer by 2030 campaign

https://nbcf.org.au/

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Women of Courage Series. #73. Gillian Coutts. 116/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #73. Gillian Coutts. 116/2021.

Two years ago… I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday into September 2021 when it will conclude.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Introducing Gillian Coutts who told me she is ‘just 50’ so I am guessing she was born in that year which was one I know well, having become a first time Mum then too. It was recommended to me by fellow educator and Woman of Courage Tracey here that I ask Gillian to do this story for us. And here she is. Mind you, we had the odd messaging conversation before the story landed. Something very familiar to many of us. On-line learning and also working on-line. From home. I am very glad she did commit her story to email, and with her images, I know the story ahead will be of interest to many. Thank you Gillian.

 

 

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

Until I was in my late 30s, I’d been relatively lucky in life.

I’d had an interesting corporate career, come from a great family, I’d married a good man and become an instant step mum.

I became a bio-mum when I was 38, and a year later was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Lots of people at that time would have said I was courageous about the treatment and balancing work and family, but to me I was just doing what you had to do.

There was no other choice.

But what I did next was – in hindsight – more courageous.

There’s something about those experiences that helps you see life is short, and there’s not much point in living the life others expect you to, but rather, taking the path that you want to.

This for me was about finding an alternative career.

I’d been a typical corporate ladder climber, and while I’d started out with a big heart for people and social justice, I’d ended up managing divisions of consumer goods companies which seemed to be more about making profit from people buying things that they didn’t really need.

My heart was definitely not in that.

So when my role was made redundant a few years later, I decided not to take another “job” for two years.

It was risky as I’m the primary bread winner for our family, but I knew there had to be another way.

So I stitched together a “portfolio” of things – consulting, becoming a partner in Potential Project here in Australia, board roles.

The only criteria was that I had to work with people I loved doing things I enjoyed.

I also had to say yes to opportunities if I felt scared (but not if I didn’t want to do them).  So that took courage.

The thing that really took courage though was when my friend and I started to join a folk rock band.  That was really pushing the boat out there!

 

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

Joining the band is a great example of the challenges I felt all the way through the last ten years, in all the things I’ve tried.

It takes courage to dream of doing something that you’re not good at… yet.

It takes more courage to book the venue, show up and play when you know you’re still not that good… yet.

The funny thing was that when I joined the band, I thought maybe I could be one of the lead singers.

It turns out that my voice wasn’t that good.  I was relegated to be one of the back-up singers and played the keyboard, while two great young singers took the lead.

Then I wasn’t that great at the piano, and the bass player decided he’d be better at keys, so I learnt to play the bass too.

Then the lead singers left, and my friend and I looked at each other and decided we had to go for it.

So we got some singing lessons and have slowly worked our way to the front.  We all take it turns to lead now, and have great harmonies too.

It’s been a lesson for me in continuing to turn up, even if you’re not perfect.

It’s taught me an enormous amount about performing in all aspects of life.

If you are content in yourself, and not too precious about how others see you, you can help other people have a really great time.

Even if you’re not the next person likely to win Australia’s Got Talent!

 

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

Letting go of the need to be perfect is so liberating!

It is also infectious.

People have loved coming to see us perform because they can feel free to sing along and just have a good time.

Many have come to tell us that they’ve also been inspired to pursue their own “not yet perfect…” kind of project and share their pride with us.

 

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

I think I’ve realised that what is most entertaining and engaging is when you as a performer are engaged, present and having fun yourself.

Sure, you need a base level of talent to not completely embarrass yourself, but fully committing to the present moment is a joyful feat in itself.

It’s rare and people appreciate it.

I’ve had to give a lot of talks and run programs for leaders all over the world now where I would have previously (and still sometimes do) have a massive imposter syndrome moment.

And then I remember that’s human, I know my stuff well enough and just commit to the moment.  And 99% of the time that’s more than enough.

 

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

When it comes to pursuing your dreams, think less about how others will see you, and more about what you want to do for others.

Compassion is an amazing catalyst for courage.

 

Thank you so much. Living life to the fullest with all its ups and downs yet finding a balance between work and family AND being yourself.

Denyse.

Social Media Connections for Gillian.

Blog/Website: www.potentialproject.com/Australia, www.vegasnerve.com.au

 Twitter: @GillianTPP

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gillian.coutts.7

LInkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gilliancoutts/

 

Book: One Second Ahead – Enhance your performance at work with mindfulness

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Women Of Courage Series. #72. Alice Leung. 113/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #72. Alice Leung. 113/2021.

 

Two years ago… I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday into September 2021 when it will conclude.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Trigger warning: miscarriage and infant death. Information may be found at the end of the post.

 

To introduce Alice Leung properly I will say she is someone I admire greatly professionally and personally. We have met, so many years back now , at a Teach Meet when I was living in Sydney. Being on twitter, as a supporter of all matters education,  I see Alice’s tweets and know how much she puts into her education thoughts, and actions. In her late 30s now, when I asked Alice to share her story, I was not surprised when I read her response. I do, like many of her friends and family remember these experiences well. Alice and I determined that we include a trigger warning for this post, and information at the end of the story. Thank you Alice.

 

 

 

 

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

There has been two times when I had to be particularly courageous. The first time was when I lost my second child due to a miscarriage and the second time was when I gave birth to my third child at home (I didn’t plan for her to be born at home; she came too quickly!).

 

The miscarriage was a very early miscarriage. As a science teacher, I am very aware of embryo growth and understood that the baby was lost a very early stage when he/she was a bundle of cells.

I didn’t expect to feel the great sense of loss that I ended up feeling for “a bundle of cells”.

It was hard to deal with the internal dialogue of what felt like logic versus emotions.

I chose not to take leave from work and pushed through it.

It was not an easy time and my first experience of living through what I felt as a tragic loss while the world just kept going and I had to eventually also just keep going.

 

The birth at home was a very different courageous experience.

I didn’t plan for my third child to be born at home.

I just couldn’t make it to the hospital in time.

An ambulance was called and paramedics came right at the moment she was born.

Birthing a child away from a hospital setting and without health professionals carries high risk and that went through my head throughout the birth.

However, I carried on remembering everything the midwives told me with my first child, the advice that was over the phone from the triple 0 operator and just do what needed to be done.

 

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

I think both experiences have made me stronger as a person.

Whenever I have to do things that make me nervous like presenting to a large audience, I often joke that I’m not nervous because this is nothing compared to birthing a child at home yourself.

If I’ve done that, I can do anything.

 

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

Courage comes in many forms.

Courage doesn’t have to be a highly visible and theatrical event.

It can be something that is very personal, private and simple like continuing to carry on when it seems to be impossible.

 

 

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

Yes, because I’ve done it before and know that I can get past challenges.

So even though the situations that require courage may now be different and will be different in the future, I have more confidence and belief that I can get through it.

 

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

One step at a time. And there will be steps back. But just keep moving forward and eventually it becomes easier.

 

Oh yes I remember the events you describe Alice and I am so sorry for your  the loss of your second baby. I do remember, like many who are your friends…and via twitter, hearing the news about your third child. It was an amazing feat for sure. Thank you so much for sharing. I like the way you compare what you did back then to when you are speaking in public, and via media. You are doing an exceedingly good job in your role supporting the NSW  Teaching Profession. Thank you for all you do there too.

 

Denyse.

 

 

 

These sites are Australian-based. 

https://www.panda.org.au/

https://www.sands.org.au/stillbirth-and-newborn-death

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14 – Crisis Support and Suicide …

 

 

Alice’s social media.

Blog/Website:  aliceleung.net

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/aliceleung

 

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Women of Courage Series. #71 Joanne. 110/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #71 Joanne. 110/2021.

Two years ago… I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday into September 2021 when it will conclude.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

 

Joanne, in her mid 40’s, is a blogger from the United States. I have not met her but as in blogging communities we tend to get to know more about each other through reading blog posts over time and connecting via our comments. Joanne has been quite a regular visitor here to Life This Week, my Monday Link Up, and after getting more interested in her words and photos (brilliant ones they are!) I asked if she would consider sharing her story as a woman of courage. And like some who have gone before her in the series, her initial “no thank you” turned into a “yes, I do have a story”. This is my introduction to Joanne and I am thankful for her change of mind.

 


 

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

I have had a generalized anxiety disorder most of my life.

When I was in grade school and even up through high school, I can remember getting sick nearly every day over school (whether at home, on the bus, or just arriving at school, sometimes something might trigger me to panic during my normal school day).

I struggled with a bunch of fears that I often couldn’t even name or pin point.

Things like field trips, assemblies, and any break from the normal routine made me anxious.

It was never formally diagnosed and I never saw anyone beyond our elementary school counsellor as these things weren’t really known about back then.

As I got older and my confidence grew my anxiety began to subside.  I knew that my upset stomach was caused by my head and began to be able to talk myself out of getting sick to where I would just feel nauseous.

It still rears up now and then but years and years of learning coping mechanisms have helped me manage it really well without the use of medication or therapy.

 

Nothing has ever made me face my fears more than parenthood though. 

Sick and injured boys have forced me to be courageous in ways I honestly didn’t think I could be.

I always knew I had to hold it together and reassure them that all was going to be OK no matter how sick or injured they were.

When my oldest son was just a toddler, we were referred to a neurologist because he had had a series of febrile seizures.

Fast forward to kindergarten when he was undergoing an MRI to find out if there were other underlying issues and weeks upon weeks of waiting for results.

Our paediatrician tried to help out because our neurologist was on vacation and all he could tell us was that there was something that showed up on the test but since that wasn’t his field of expertise, he couldn’t tell me more than that.

He felt so bad; he had been trying to relieve my fears and assumed that all would be normal with the MRI results.  Instead, I stood there in my yard on the phone with the doctor with a smile on my face and my sunglasses hiding my tears, hoping and praying that whatever this was would be no big deal.

I knew I couldn’t fall to pieces in front of my boys.

Thankfully, once we got hold of our neurologist, he explained that it was most likely scar tissue deep in the brain from something that must have happened in utero during development and he assured us that our son’s brain had compensated and that no further anything needed to be done—ever.

 

We also had our youngest son hospitalized when he was just a few months old and was suffering from RSV lung infection.

He was put on oxygen and fluids and thankfully recovered well; though we did end up in the ER at least once a winter for the next few years with him fighting off pneumonia.

There is nothing quite like watching your little babies’ lips turn blue and hearing him gasping for breath.  We had been proactive though and sought treatment out early before he had to be intubated or put into ICU.

We’ve had fractured wrists, “standard” procedures like tonsillectomy & adenoid removal (which seem like anything but when you’re waiting outside the OR to hear how the surgery went), and more than a few ER visits and ambulance rides.

 

It seemed like after all that I had endured with my boys through the years, I was more than prepared to face my own mini health crisis.

In just the past two years alone I have had several ultrasounds, an x ray, a D&C, and a hysterectomy.

Normally any kind of medical appointment or procedure would have made me so anxious but I was pretty surprised over just how calm I was through the whole ordeal.

 

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

I think we are all a lot stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

It’s not easy to think of being courageous but often when the need arises those stores of courage are there.

Even when it feels like that courage is deserting us somehow the human spirit seems to keep pushing us onward.

I find that looking to family, friends, and beyond the current moment helps remind me what I’m fighting for.

 

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

Maybe?! That’s a hard one to answer as I almost always think that there are so many things I could never handle, or do, or walk through and yet deep down I know that I probably could.

Even if I would never want to know just how courageous I could be.

I think I’m at a point in my life where I just know that I would battle anything for my family and my boys.

 

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

First and foremost—breathe.  Just breathe.

Then take that one next step.

Often, we get overwhelmed when we’re looking at the big picture or we start worry about all the what if scenarios.

I do that all the time and have never once found it to be all that helpful.

Deep, mindful, almost meditative breathing, and focusing only on that one next small step helps.

Also don’t be afraid to ask for help; even if it’s just a should to learn or cry on.

We all need help from time to time, it doesn’t make us weak; it makes us human.

 

Thank you so much Joanne for your frank and honest story where I was in awe of how you could manage your own anxieties and worries to be able to help your sons through their illnesses. And your advice to breathe…yes, and to breathe again. Little steps that keep us going and helps reduce some of inner feelings that are stirring. I remember that well from my days of anxiety and fear. Your words are very true and oh so helpful.

Denyse.

Joanne’s blog can be found here:  https://www.myslicesoflife.com/

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Women of Courage Series. #69 Bianca Hewes. 104/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #69 Bianca Hewes. 104/2021.

Two years ago… I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday into September 2021 when it will conclude.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

 

Thanks to the world of school education being big as well as small in New South Wales, where I used to be employed, I am fortunate to say I have met Bianca Hewes, who is 41 on a couple of occasions at Teach Meets! In fact, one of them was in August 2015, held at where “I” attended high school in the 1960s, and also where Bianca did….much, much later!  She, was at the time of meeting, working locally at a selective High School and introducing new and exciting subjects, along with her philosophy of education I found very refreshing. She and her husband impress me greatly and education is richer for their presence. But today, it’s Bianca’s story, and I am delighted to share because saying “yes” was not initially Bianca’s response! Thank you, B.

 

 

 

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

 

I find this question very hard to answer, as I’ve never really viewed myself as a courageous person.

In fact, since I have anxiety (the diagnosed sort stemming from childhood trauma, not the trendy kind) I’d say that I’m almost the opposite of courageous.

But, after some prompting from Denyse and a bit of reflection, I think something that could be classified by others as being courageous was my decision to continue with my university studies whilst I had a newborn son.

Luckily he was born in mid-semester break so I had a few weeks to give birth and learn how to be a mum before I strapped him to my chest and headed back into the lecture hall.

 

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

 

I suppose it just made me more determined to work hard and prove everyone wrong.

I got used to people staring at me on the bus and around campus – even though I was 21 I looked like I was 15 – and this defiance of judgement is something I have cultivated as a key personality trait and a value I’ve passed onto my sons.

I learnt quickly to stand up for myself when I needed to and to assert my rights as a woman and a mother. It also made me realise that I can do anything I want to – which sounds really cliche but has proven (mostly) true.

 

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

 

I think the biggest thing is to not listen to the negative opinions of others and to embrace those who support and celebrate you for who you are and the decisions you make.

I remember that second semester with my tiny two week old son I was doing two philosophy courses.

One lecturer was so supportive of me, but the other came up to me after class once and told me he didn’t agree with me being at university with a child.

It hurt being confronted that way, but I knew my rights and I stood my ground.

 

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

 

Like I said at the start, I don’t think I’m a particularly courageous person, but having my children when I was also studying and then later working meant that I developed resilience and determination.

I definitely draw on both of those qualities a lot in life.

 

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

 

Just don’t listen to society.

Be true to yourself.

Trust your own judgement and your own capacity.

I knew I could care for a baby whilst completing my studies even if other people lacked faith in me – and I was right.

So, I suppose just trusting yourself and enjoy proving others wrong is my message.

 

Thank you Bianca, I “knew” you would share a great story of courage and that it would help others to see what can be done despite the ‘judgements’ of some. How awful was that comment from a Uni so-called professional!

Bianca has some social media sites where she shares about education and more.

She has written and co-authored many texts and other books for teachers and schools.

Denyse.

 

 

Social Media:

Blog/Website biancahewes.wordpress.com

Twitter @biancah80

Facebook Page:  Australian Project Based Learning Network

Instagram: @jimmy_reads_books

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Women of Courage Series. #68 Gloria Hill. 101/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #68 Gloria Hill. 101/2021.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

 

I may not have (yet) met Gloria Hill, aged 48, but I already am very aware of her role and input as a parent into the very newest public school which opened in 2019. This is North Kellyville Public School, and I am a proud retired principal who continues to support public education in N.S.W. Our daughter is the teacher/librarian there, becoming foundation year staff member, and I recall seeing the many positive and amazing projects which the foundation year Parents and Citizens group (P&C) initiated. To that end, Gloria, as the 2019 P&C Secretary and later as the 2020 P&C President was nominated for the 2020 NSW P&C Federation Volunteer of the Year Award, and was one of 16 Finalists after winning the North West Sydney Electorate. Thank you Gloria for sharing your story with us. At the foot of this post is information from Gloria.

 

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

In 2012, my son Sean was diagnosed with a genetic disease at the age of 12 months.

  • The disease is called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and people born with this disease are effectively born without an immune system.
  • Most undiagnosed cases do not survive infancy.
  • I was not aware I was a carrier of this glitchy gene, nor that I had passed it on to my son.

As a first-time mum, I did not know why my little man would take weeks to get over a cold, or why a small nappy rash would leave his entire bottom a red raw open weeping wound for days on end.

That first year was spent advocating for my son with various medical professionals – we got to know our GP and our early childhood nurses very well, to the point where one medical professional noted the frequency with which we were visiting the doctors’ surgery and flippantly told us we should be earning frequent flyer points for all of our visits.

For his many ailments, Sean was prescribed every potion and lotion available from our local pharmacy, but there would still be extended periods of ill health between the bright and happy days.

After many months of bashing down the doors of various doctors, a chance meeting with an early childhood nurse fast tracked the diagnosis when she insisted that Sean be seen by a paediatrician immediately.

  • In the space of 2 hours, we went from being just a number in a queue to Patient #1 at the Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick.
  • The diagnosis came quickly, and the treatment plan followed – we would have to consent to chemotherapy and a bone marrow/stem cells transplant to save Sean’s life.
  •  He was 13 months old, my first and only child, and my husband and I sat through all the medical scenarios and diseases Sean may develop post transplant, all of the scenarios ended with “if this disease developed, then Sean may die”.
  • The bone crunching, soul destroying scenario was presented last – if we did not consent to the transplant, then Sean will die.

 

On 27 March 2012, a specialist team performed a miracle by transfusing 30mL of precious stem cells into Sean’s little body.

  • Over the next 5 weeks, we watched Sean’s condition worsen before he got better.
  • In a comparatively short period of time time, Sean’s body recovered from the treatments as the stem cells grafted in his body and he grew stronger by the day.
  • We were discharged from the hospital in May 2012 when the real fun awaited: a lengthy period of self-isolation with an inquisitive toddler quarantined in a small house while trying to manage weekly hospital check ups, the complicated medication schedule, the new diet (both liquid and solid), and the upkeep of his medical accessories (nasogastric tube and central line) tested my patience.

 

By the end of 2012, all the hard work paid off.

Sean was weaned off all medication, and all of his medical accessories were removed.  Sean’s appetite returned and he was thriving again hitting all of the growth milestones with ease.  The weekly clinics at hospital turned into monthly visits, and by the end of 2013, the visits would become an annual check up.

Today, 9 years since the transplant, Sean is a healthy 10 year old who loves to swim, ride his bike, and read, with a healthy appetite and an even brighter outlook on life.

 

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

I learned to trust my gut instincts and not back down, especially when I am advocating for my family and my loved ones.

I learned to look for silver linings, because the alternative was too sad.

I learned to show my vulnerability and accept help in all the different ways that were offered to us.

I learned to take a deep breath and push on – sometimes, it just IS what it is, and I have to get on with it, because there is no other option available.

 

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

Lean on those you trust.

Some friendships will grow and transform to the next level.

Expect to lose friends and see friendships shift – you may be surprised by who “slip away” and bow out of your life, but don’t begrudge their departure.

They are not bad people; they just don’t know how to support you.

You are not alone.

AND you don’t have to do this alone.

There is help and support available, everywhere.

Never be afraid to reach out for help.

And if help comes to you, accept it.

You are not weaker by seeking or accepting help – in fact, you are the stronger and more courageous one for seeking or accepting help.

Specifically to a medical condition: listen to the professionals – if they tell you not to Google the disease, then don’t Google the disease, especially at 3am when you can’t sleep.

 

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

I don’t think I could be more courageous now than I was then.

In 2012, just after diagnosis, we found ourselves “shedding friends” – people who called to check in on us, but then picked fights with us over trivial matters.

The drama that some of these former friends created at the time distracted us from the real focus at hand – the life and health of our critically ill little boy.

In hindsight, I came to realise that these people may not have been strong enough to support us, nor knew how to support, nor knew how to react to the news.

Whilst it was disappointing at the time, the loss of these relationships was actually to our benefit.

At the same time, our true friends stepped up and found innovative ways to support us.

Financial donations flooded in from well meaning friends who wanted to make sure my husband and I were fed during our hospital stay and we had money for petrol to get to and from the hospital.

Friends cooked us meals, took us out for quick meals (just so we would leave the hospital room and get some fresh air), and called and messaged us to get up to date news on Sean.

We still have the same loving network of family and friends who rallied around me then, so if I had to face the situation now, I know I have the support and love to get through it.

 

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

You are not alone.

You don’t have to do this alone.

And asking for help is not a failure.

To ask for help is a sign of strength, so reach out to family and friends, and lean on them.

 

Thank you Gloria. I feel it is such an hnour for people like, and all the women who decide to share their stories, that this is a place here on my blog to do so. I am in awe of your strength as you were learning to be a mum too. I do hope all continues to go well for you and your family.

Denyse.

 

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Oh_Glorious_One

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

Information supplied by Gloria which I am very pleased to be able to share…awareness is always an important factor in any health conditions. Thank you.

Since Sean’s diagnosis, I have discovered the Immune Deficiency Foundation Australia’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ImmuneDeficiencyFoundationAustralia/) and their private group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/217875418231666).  IDFA have provided a fantastic platform for people with Primary Immune Diseases to share knowledge and information and to provide support to each other.
As a point of interest – if anyone is keen to find out more about our involvement with Inner Wheel Australia.  The treatment plan devised by our Oncology and Immunology teams at the Sydney Children’s Hospital involved a stem cell transplant.  Sean received the transplant using stem cells extracted from cord blood, and in the ensuing years, we have been involved with Inner Wheel Australia as Ambassadors for their National Project in Cord Blood Research (https://www.innerwheelaustralia.org.au/national-project).  I have been a keynote speaker at various conferences, and Sean is the face of their national fundraising campaign called “Sean’s Two For Ten”.  The annual campaign was launched this year, and we have agreed to be the face of the campaign for the next 6 years (until Sean is 16).

 

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

 

 

 

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Women of Courage Series. #66 Jacqui. 95/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #66 Jacqui. 95/2021.

 

Content/Trigger Warning: I have been requested to add this. Information for readers is at the end of this post. Thank you.

 

Two years ago….I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Welcome to Jacqui’s story as a woman of courage. Jacqui and I have similar career background and have met via twitter..often! I was so pleased when she put her hand up pretty fast to say “yes” and got her story back to me. We have chatted about her story more, and in keeping with others’ privacy have kept some identifiers deliberately hidden.

Thanks so much Jacqui. Oh, and Jacqui has included some great links for us at the end of her story.

 

Introduction from Jacqui.

It’s taken me a while to think about the times when I’ve most needed courage and decide which story to focus on.

Throughout my career or 20+ years of teaching I have pushed myself to show courage- to stand up for what’s right, challenge pedagogy, take on new experiences and chase promotion.

There was even a time where I was so broken I thought I would quit teaching altogether.

I had to work very hard to find my passion again.

As it turns out I have shown  enormous amounts of courage in my professional life.

So, instead, I am going to focus on courage in my personal life. And, it’s happening now.

 

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

6 months ago my life stood still for a moment.

  • My 11yr old daughter was having suicidal thoughts.
  • How can this be possible? She’s only 11.
  • I can’t ever remember being aware of death/suicide at that age, let alone thinking that I didn’t fit in this world.

My heart was breaking.

Her psychologist urgently needed to meet with me and of course I went.

She was tangled in a web of depression and anxiety.

To move forward, I need to go back a bit.

This is my third child, my husband’s sixth. Our last.

She had complications after delivery and spent the first 3 weeks in the neonatal clinic.

At 5-6 years old she was showing signs of puberty.

I insisted on investigations and at about 7yrs we found out that she has a genetic condition known as non-classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia (NCCAH).

This was a whole bundle of changes including 3x daily medication and an emergency action plan for the rest of her life.

You would think that was enough to deal with, but there’s more.

  • It was around about this time that I discovered I was no longer in love with my husband.
  • After lots of fighting, tears and deep discussions we agreed to stay together without being intimate.
  • We thought this was the best option as our eldest was sitting the HSC.
  • Little did we know that our astute little girl picked up on all of this, causing her great confusion and a deep worry about me.
  • She pushed her father away and became extremely clingy and attached to me.
  • It was suffocating but I was unaware of the damage it was causing her.
  • She could not work out the ‘reality’ of our family or where she fit in (her closest sibling is 8 years older). So it was at this psychologist appointment that I found the courage to do what I needed to do for me. For her. I went home and told my husband that I needed to move out.

 

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

I released all of the pain anger hurt and disappointment from the last 4 years and slipped into my own silent world of depression.

I needed to find the deepest courage to be vulnerable, be honest, be real.

I needed to be strong enough to share this with my daughter to a certain extent so she can see that  it is possible to make changes and heal ourselves (with support).

I started seeing a psychologist of my own.

I spoke up and stood up to my husband for the first time – I bought a house and moved in with my 2 daughters.

I also started to discover myself. I’d lost so much of who I was throughout my almost 30yrs relationship.

 

 

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

That the comfortable or easiest pathway isn’t always the one we are meant to travel.

That sometimes even the best intentions cause the most pain to ourselves and to others.

That it’s ok to ask others for help.

That it’s ok to put yourself first.

 

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

Absolutely.

I have had 6mths of ongoing courage.

It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Courage has got me through all the other parts that come with separation- financial separation, setting up a new house, co-parenting plans and decision making.

It’s still hard.

The grief and sorrow is enormous.

Making my own decisions is a strange novelty.

The regret and guilt of the impact on my daughter is always there.

But, I know that I have the skills, the strength, the determination, the love and the courage to get through it all and to help my daughter find her courage.

 

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

Even the highest mountain can be climbed if you take that first step.

We are stronger than we think.

And Brene Brown’s book Dare to Lead and her TED talks were very helpful for me. I was reading it for professional purposes but I found it was helpful in my personal life also.
Thank you so much for your story Jacqui. Courage requires vulnerability and more and you have, in the sharing, as well as the living of this, demonstrated the qualities you have in so many areas. One day, it would be good to finally catch up. As always, we wait for those times and areas around N.S.W.  to open once we are declared “covid-safe”…if there is such a declaration!
Denyse.
For those who may need to reach out to organisations based on this story’s content these are Australian-based sources for help.
Your Family G.P. can be a helpful person to listen and make referrals.

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

Phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for 24 hour assessment, referral, advice, and hospital and community health centre contact details

Qualified Psychologists can be found by visiting https://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/

Australian Counselling Association is on 1300 784 333 to find a counsellor

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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Telling My Story. Chapter Seventeen. 2007. Part Two. 81/2020.

Telling My Story. 2007. Part Two. Chapter Seventeen. 81/2020.

2007 was a very full year of significant events which is why I have made it a two-parter! 

So, about a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed. Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at…drum roll… Chapter Seventeen. Part One from last week is here.

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

My Mum Has Died. 

Whilst her life in the last 2 or so years were not great, Mum did have a story to tell which I, along with my father and brother were happy to write as part of her soon-to-happen funeral.I admit, some of the days prior were a bit tense but when a family comes together and they wish to do what the remaining partner (Dad) wishes, then so be it. With help and support from extended family, a private funeral service and a wake back at (Mum) and Dad’s house family set about getting organised. Mum and Dad’s early years together are part of this Telling My Story Chapter here:

My daughter – Mum’s first grandchild – and I put together the small orders of service and we reminisced about a lot. My brother and his wife were helping Dad – they lived a lot closer and things like Mum’s clothes and the food and drink back at the wake were organised. Our contingent, travelled in a couple of cars from our area of Sydney and we met at the family home. I had an idea that if each of the women and girls wanted to wear something of Mum’s jewellery to her service, that would be nice. Everyone did and kept that.

I know my reaction to the event was both sad and also of relief. I actually wanted to give the eulogy but Dad refused. He gave that job to the minister who had never met Mum and only knew Dad from arranging the service at a church that he felt Mum would have wanted. Nevertheless he did a reasonable job and there were smiles and tears at the words. Dad, again, his idea, decided that no-one would accompany Mum’s body to the crematorium. Sadly she left alone. Our son, called out to her in farewell as her casket was taken.

Back to Dad’s house – not Mum’s anymore and we all mingled, with some of the close  friends Dad invited and gave her a farewell with champers and food. Sigh. Dad collected Mum’s ashes some weeks later, offered some to his family, and we said “no, thanks, keep Mum together!”. Dad planted 3 new favourite plants of hers (pretty sure, they are in this background) and added her ashes. When he sold the house and went to the independent living unit, he took one remaining pot with him.

Dad, Me & His (then) 3 Great Grandkids: front garden.

How Did I Manage?

Given that I had to start at a new school and a new job at a college just as we received the news that Mum had brain tumours, my mind was in overdrive. However, the income was needed but over the 2 weeks or so as she was hospitalised in palliative care, my wise GP told me I was far better acknowledging the grief and distraction and to take time off now and into the time following Mum’s death. I agreed and it helped greatly to know that I could get over to see her and help Dad as needed.

Never think a job is more important than these very significant times in family life.

There Will Be A New Grandchild In Our Lives in 2007.

This news was unexpected, welcomed and a big surprise. The mother-to-be and her partner, our son, were expecting. This gave me a very different and welcomed focus. I sure love being Grandma…and had 3 gorgeous grandkids already, but it had been 6 years since any were babies. I admit I went into Grandma-Must-Get “this for them and this for our house” and more….because having passed the grandbaby part of our lives, I had given quite a bit away. I was told that I needed to pull back a bit from this and I admit I needed this big time…looking at it now, I did, ahem over do it and yes, it was probably a great way to overcome the sadness of Mum’s death.

School. Work. Back To It. Grief.

It’s always hard to return to a job after a significant event like this one, my mother’s grave illness then death, but routine and work can help. I admit to some overwhelm and sadness and I think this was more about me trying to keep it all together. I have mentioned before that Mum and I were never that close yet it did surprise me that I felt the  tears prick at times, and as Mother’s Day 2007 beckoned, I recall thinking “no need for a card any more” and that sure did cement the finality. As the years have gone on, I have had some regrets about my relationship with Mum and have, in some ways, made some peace with her in the ways in which I bring up her name in family conversations and talk to Dad about her. He saw a grief counsellor after Mum died and the idea put to him that he write letters to Mum gelled. He filled folders and folders of these, only finishing a few years back. Every family event, anything of significance, Dad wrote to Mum about it. He would say it was very helpful.

Yes, back to work. I maintained the face of not minding where I was teaching but when an offer came that I could return to my former and preferred school I jumped at it. Sure it wasn’t as it used to be there as a new teacher had been appointed but I knew the school, the kids and the staff…and was 10 minutes from home. 3 days a week. Done. Did not go back to the College once the first term was over. Yay.

Moments, Days And Times To Enjoy.

Dad is a very practical person and he had run the house he and Mum lived in for at least 2 years before she died. Mum, who was incredibly energetic and liked to socialise had changed greatly over the years and this had taken a toll on Dad but he also needed to get stuff done. He stayed in their large family home for the next few years. More on that in chapters to come. He was the one who, on Mum’s death, disposed of her clothing and more once any of of us had a chance to speak up for what we might like. I took some scarves (never was my Mum’s small size anyway) and I was given all of her jewellery after others had a chance to select something for themselves. I have these in safe keeping now. Dad had a good set of friends and one part of his  family were not too far away. He got on with some days well, and at other times he craved company and went next door or to his local club to catch up.

I was busy back at the school I loved, and wrote the school’s English as a Second Language policy. The person who replaced me (ha!) got the job based on seniority on a waiting list. Her skills in administration were not, ahem, those of a former school principal. Fortunately for me, I was able to choose my work path and we only needed to connect from time to time. I was also getting closer to becoming Grandma to a little one again. Joyous times awaited.

HE is here.

The first son (and child for his parents) arrived…not as his mother had hoped…on a different day to her birthday but, yes, ON her birthday. Ah well, they will never forget each other’s birthdays! This young baby boy was a bit big. OK. A lot big..in the head. We do have big heads in our family. And, whilst his birth was a trauma for him, as he had to be delivered by forceps, his Mum and his Dad – along with their Obstetrician were champions. We got to meet this second grandson for us a little while after his arrival. Because of his rocky entry to the world, he could not be held by anyone other than his Mum (and Dad, I think) whilst in hospital.

My tradition has been to secure some tiny wee cloth/soft toy for the baby and I managed to get him a little bear for inside his hospital bed. His parents had a double bed in the room, and our son stayed too, in between I think Uni and work. I do know that I kept up snack and drinks supplies to the new parents.

And then they came home. I was invited to take photos of their arrival home. Luckily it was school holidays but knowing me, I would have taken the day off.

Firsts.

In 2007 we remembered these firsts:

  • first Mother’s Day without Mum
  • first time I worked in an adult English as a Second Language setting
  • first time I learned our son and his then partner were having a child
  • first time Dad spent Christmas with us, and without Mum
  • first car I owned which would be the one I helped with being a regular carer of  grandchildren because: 7 seater. Lots of room for carseats to fit “all” sizes.
  • first time our family spent time together at my parents’ house but without Mum’s presence
  • first time I held a baby boy who is the son of my son
  • first time I knew that I wanted to have time to teach for only 2-3 days a week…because:
  • in 2008 I would, for the first time, be caring for a young grandson when his Mum went back to work, and Dad too, along with Uni for up to 3 days a week.

That’s a wrap for a big year. So big it was written in two parts.

Thank you for reading…and commenting too.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne and friends on Thursdays.

 

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