Monday 30th November 2020

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

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

About a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed.

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at…Chapter Eighteen. I admit it is getting harder in some ways to blog about the more recent times. I think it is because without particular markers (i.e. deaths, births, engagements, marriages, break ups…) then it can be hard to recall.

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

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

School and “Work At Home”.

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

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

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

 

Some of My Memories of 2008.

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

No better place than with Papa listening to HUG!

From baby to toddler: 2008-2009

 

The dearest little boy! Now a teen…

 

School.

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

My Dad.

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

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

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

2009 Notched Up The Busy Life For Me.

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

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

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

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

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

And Then I Stopped. I Was 60.

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

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

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

 

Miss R with one of her cousins.

 

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

What I Cannot Add and Why.

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

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

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

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

Denyse.

Linking up with Leanne and friends here on Thursdays.

 

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Two Years Ago. Head & Neck Cancer. October 2018. 85/2020.

Two Years Ago. Head & Neck Cancer.  October 2018. 85/2020.

For this week, one week ago, and the next week on Wednesday I am posting a ‘review’ blog post mostly to remind ME of how far I have come in terms of the changes brought about in my life thanks to the diagnosis of head and neck cancer on 17 May 2017. The whole story is here. 

Using some photos I am adding my memories from the time.

Here I go:

October 2018.

 

Early October 2018 and I was off to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse with a LOT to smile about. I received the long-anticipated upper prosthesis of teeth on 21 August 2018 – some 14 months after surgery.

  • It was a cancer check day but also a chance to meet with Nadia from then Beyond Five – now Head & Neck Australia to discuss my prospective Ambassadorship as a volunteer.
  • Photo – top left. Then briefly caught up with then then Specialist Head and Neck Cancer Nurse (top right)  who had last seen me as a very raw new-to-head and neck cancer patient in July 2017. She was stoked! My cancer check went very well indeed (bottom left) with smiles and congratulations all-round.
  • How good it must be for the Professor (Jonathan Clark AM) and his Nurse Surgical Assistant and Consultant (Cate) to see a patient post surgeries…yes, all 4 they were part of…and my much anticipated S M I L E.
  • Last photo is me with Gail O’Brien, the late Professor Chris O’Brien’s wife whose vision it was to have this wonderful comprehensive cancer centre built and to tell her how much I appreciated the work and vision of her late husband…he was a head and neck surgeon too and my surgeon trained with him.

 

 

School holidays in October 2018 saw two visits from our Sydney-based family.

  • Much appreciated as always.
  • We entertain casually for lunch with their favourite snacks and foods and much chatter is heard.
  • Often we go outside for a play even though our yard is very small.
  • On this occasion the four younger kids (left pic) took home a special pot with some items planted and some crystals along with a few old fave toys from our Sydney house…and their younger days.
  • With the older group there is often some reminiscing and music too, particularly as the older grandson is a DJ.
  • I felt so much more at ease now I had the teeth in my mouth. It still took quite a bit of getting used to for eating but it was much better than before!

 

 

I was interested in attending a Look Good Feel Better Cancer Patient Workshop and once my ‘teeth’ were in I happily took part in a local event.

  • I did get some good advice and took away a swag of amazing free products.
  • What left me feeling somewhat disappointed was the fact that my cancer is so rare and not known.
  • These workshops were pitched at breast cancer patients more than anyone.
  • Some needed help with using wigs and scarves, others with how chemotherapy had changed their skin/hair.
  • I guess I need(ed) to be more grateful because I was/am doing well.
  • I wonder as I write this if these activities have now been stopped because of COVID and that is a shame because it was psychologically very helpful to us to be ‘seen as a woman, not a patient.’

 

 

It was, and still is, important for my mental health to have something creative to do most days.

  • I liked the idea of holding a mindfulness colouring class at the local library. I did get to have it, but it took so much box-ticking, I left it as a one-off.
  • However, I know I enjoyed being ‘teacher’ again.
  • My months of making bookmarks for the charity The Big Hug Box were always enjoyable and I must have contributed well over 500.
  • They were individually constructed by me and sent in batches to Lisa for adding to the boxes.
  • In November 2018 I took part in a packing boxes day at her house and met other cancer patients.
  • One got me to design some mandalas for a colouring-card idea she had. I was pleased to share my creations.

 

 

 

About eating. And drinking. I remember pre-upper prosthesis having all kinds of thoughts about what foods I might try with teeth in my top gums.

  1. I admit now, 2 years on, that some of those foods were just not a success.
  2. You see, as it was explained to me by my lovely Nurse, Cate, my mouth has more inside it than a ‘normal mouth’ and it cannot do all that it did.
  3. My prosthodontist had added a partial denture of a tooth on each side to hook into my remaining natural teeth on the bottom and this helps hugely.
  4. Some meals I tried and could eat (and still do) are  above, even though the hot meals are likely to be over 2 nights.

 

 

Keeping up appearances…was very important.

  • This trend went right into 2019.
  • In 2020 I do this occasionally.
  • But in between treatments, visits to Sydney for cancer checks and more, dressing well and with purpose was/is very important.
  • More important than everything was I was finally able to (and definitely wanting to) meet up with friends again. Yay.

There it is. Snapshots to help me remember what life as a head and neck cancer patient was like in October 2018.

Denyse.

Linking up with Leanne (whose image appears in this post!)  here for Lovin Life Linky.

 

 

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Three Years Ago. Head & Neck Cancer. October 2017. 83/2020.

Three Years Ago. Head & Neck Cancer. October 2017. 83/2020.

For this week and the next 2 weeks each Wednesday I am posting a ‘review’ blog post mostly to remind ME of how far I have come in terms of the changes brought about in my life thanks to the diagnosis of head and neck cancer on 17 May 2017. The whole story is here. 

Using some photos I am adding my memories from the time.

Here I go:

October 2017.

 

The way in which I recorded the times. My husband kindly took photos of me outside Chris O’Brien Lifehouse on the afternoon of our visit as a check-up in October 2017. It was the first time I had seen my head and neck surgeon since leaving hospital in July after the first major cancer removal and mouth reconstruction. Of course I brought cake! Cake is my appreciation gift to my medical and surgical professionals. What I see in ‘me’ is the way it was then. I had no way to smile and it was probably because of seeing photos like this that I finally went and brought properly fitted bras. Sigh. The photo of the drive back home over the Harbour Bridge is a great memory. One of relief too. However, glad I have this as we can no longer use iphones in cars without risk of huge fine.

 

 

 

Seriously I was gob-smacked at this image. WOW. My fibula, the shapes at the top, cut into 3 pieces and made into my new jaw by being attached with screws to under my cheekbone. The little dot-type images: one at the front, two on each side, five in all, are where the screws are embedded into my new jaw and which will, over time, hold the upper prosthesis I have now in place. This was so good to see however, as it showed just how clever my team is!

 

 

 

The first time I ventured down the M1 alone that October was for a very good reason. To meet up with my daughter and her two eldest daughters for morning tea at Hornsby Berkelouws. It is a favourite place to meet because it’s about an hour from our place and reasonably convenient for those who live in Sydney to meet up. I was still very new to what I might eat/drink but I managed a piccolo and a very small cake with icing. Lovely as always to see the family. I admit I was tired out. Pretty big deal only two + months since my big surgery.

 

 

 

Our daughter. Very proud of her. This lemon meringue pie – a firm family favourite – made ‘just for her’….to celebrate her completion of her Master of Education Teacher Librarianship. It’s pretty tough being a single mum to 4 and working generally full-time as a teacher and then teacher-librarian too. Not only that, she started a new school’s library. One book at a time. Many hundreds of times. Eventually to complete the last semester of the pretty gruelling regime to do a Masters on-line (and to keep her job) she took long service leave and “got the job done.” She and the four kids (3 are adults) joined her in the celebration of her achievement at Charles Sturt University Graduation Ceremony later in 2017.

 

 

 

In late October I decided I needed a ‘challenge’. A personal one. It seemed that I wanted to show off this new-to-me slimmer body and the enjoyment I was beginning to find in looking for clothes that actually fitted me. Of course, my weight loss was because 1. cancer and 2. I couldn’t eat properly but I was also not allowed to lose any more weight by my professional team. This instagram challenge took on a life of its own and over time I did this every.day. for many, many days as it helped me emotionally to see my improved look and demeanour despite the ravages of how my mouth had been reconstructed using part of my leg.

 

Glad to have shared this. I know long time readers may recall some of these images. Thanks for reading and commenting.

 

Denyse.

Joining Leanne and friends for Lovin Life Linky here. 

Joining here too: Esme’s Senior Salon link up.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Background

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

 

My favourite quote is by Sarah Henderson:

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Re-entering the workforce.

 

How did this change you?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Anything else to add?

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

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

 

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

Thank you to all of the Women of Courage.

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

 

Denyse.

 

Social Media:

Blog/Website:  www.deepfriedfruit.com.au

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

Instagram: @DeepFriedFruit

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

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Women Of Courage Series. #53. Yvonne McClaren. 71/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #53. Yvonne McClaren. 71/2020. 

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

Whilst I have not ‘met’ today’s Woman of Courage in real life, as they say, we have most certainly connected by the common (and not ever-welcomed) diagnosis of Head and Neck Cancer. Yvonne, who is 54, has shared her story below via the responses to the questions but to know even more about her and how she is facing life full-on these days, check out her links! Recently she appeared  too as part of the Beyond Five live video segment relating to food preparation and eating for those affected by head and neck cancer, particularly as in Yvonne’s case and others, relating to swallowing.

Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty in swallowing. This includes problems with sucking, swallowing, drinking, chewing, eating, dribbling saliva, closing lips, or when food or drink goes down the wrong way.

The link to the video is at the end of this post.

Thank you Yvonne for sharing.

 

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

There are a few times in my life where I have had to reinvent myself both professionally and personally. I think my latest challenge with finding a large tumour on my left tonsil has been my greatest challenge.

There have been other life-threatening situations – involving motorbikes, but this was really out of my control. Once diagnosed I responded with ‘silence’ – I went into myself I realise now.

It was a difficult time as I had relocated countries, left my full time job to start a new life and career and had my heart broken all in the space of 8 weeks, then a cancer diagnosis.

Suffice to say, I had little time to grieve anything, it was get on with it and start the treatment. Everything was put on hold in terms of dealing with loss of income, loss of love and in some respects the loss of my beloved father a year earlier.

It’s only now, 18 months after diagnosis, that I am starting to mentally deal with some of the other issues going on in my life at that time.

 

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

I had no time to consider anyone or anything else really.

I was on my own and thankfully had my mum still in her own home where I could live whilst going through the treatment.

I had had a sore throat for many, many months and jokingly said to a friend “I think it’s cancer” not really believing it, turns out 6 months later I was right.

How has it changed me?

I listen to my body really closely now, I use to before, but this has made me very aware of what thoughts I have running through my head, what niggle is going on and why… it also made me realise that every second you spend worrying about some insignificant thing is wasted time.

Get on and do it and do it now. Whatever it takes.

I lost the last five kilos I couldn’t budge and then some, so that was great for me, not an ideal weight loss programme but it started me back on my fitness journey 15 kilos lighter.

I now have to learn how to eat again and for a foodie I have found this the most distressing, depressing and difficult side effect.

Food was/ is my world and I have had to retrain and rethink what that looks like now. It also made my fledgling idea about teaching culinary pursuits in a foreign country come to fruition.

 

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

 

You always have choices, for me, I sat with it and the implications and thought about the worst-case scenario.

I was also told by a well meaning nurse that my cancer treatment had not worked and there was nothing more they could do for me. That sort of puts things in a very stark perspective, it’s humbling and it’s frightening.

It’s also incredibly motivating when I discovered that was not the case.

Learning to manage emotions is something you also can practise and become the master.

I then figured well if that’s as bad as it gets (death / inability to function normally/ disability) then make the most of what you have now.

I also discovered that you lose “friends” along the way, whether they can’t handle the new you, or who you have become or are becoming is too hard for them I don’t know.

I have had to make an entirely new circle of friends and have reacquainted myself with ones I have not had much to do with for years.

What I can say is, you are innately very strong you just don’t know it yet.

 

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

Yes, I am doing things now that are very much out of my comfort zone, although some would say riding through Vietnam and Laos on the back of a motorbike during a typhoon is getting out of my comfort zone too, but this disease and its side affects have made me realise that everyone has a message and a story.

In many ways this disease has focused my life’s purpose, I had all the scaffolding ready but now I have the ‘reason’ to hoist the flag on top of the scaffolding.

 

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

Don’t spend time worrying about things that might happen, focus on the now and take it one step at a time.

There is literally  someone else worse off than you, I’d hate to be that person by the way whoever they are, I guess it’s all relative.

 

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post. 

 

My job as I see it now is to spend my time doing what I love, what I love is cooking and if I can help others with eating difficulties as a result of HNC and its treatment then that’s what I am going to do.

I come from a family of teachers so it is not surprising to me that ultimately, I want to use my skills to help others.

I have set up The Food Manifesto and Soup hug as a way to bring a community together that suffer from this debilitating side effect.

I like to think of myself as the food curator for dysphagia, the link between your dietitian and your kitchen.

 

What a story of resurgence here. I can say that because I did not know Yvonne until she found the friendly facebook group for Head and Neck Cancer Patients, Carers, Professionals and Families. It is here, too, where I ‘met’ another Woman of Courage Maureen whose story is here.   There is another Woman of Courage called Tara Flannery who shared about her head and neck cancer here.

And this Woman of Courage shared her story. She is Julie McCrossin AM, who is also a Community Ambassador for Beyond Five and is part of the webinar Yvonne appeared in below.

 

Thank you again Yvonne. I am so pleased you are doing all you can to be well and help others too.

This is the penultimate post in the Women of Courage series.

Denyse.

Beyond Five, where I am a Community Ambassador released this video live just before World Head and Neck Cancer Day 2020.

Please take some time to view…and see what Yvonne shares from her kitchen and share with others who may benefit.

Thank you.

Social Media Links for Yvonne:

Blog/Website:  www.thefoodmanifesto.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/McclarenYvonne

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_food_manifesto/?hl=en

 

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

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women Of Courage Series. #52. Stella. 67/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #52. Stella. 67/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

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 welcome Stella, who is 70 years old, to share her story as a woman of courage. However, I also need to share that ‘we’ have known each other for decades. In fact we grew up in a similar area of the Northern Beaches in Sydney and ended up being in the same classes from time to time at Manly Girls’ High. We are both in this photo. Can you find us? This was an image I shared in N.S.W. Education Week a few weeks ago. Stella and I ‘found’ each other again via facebook and another friend from that time, who has shared her story too. Ann Thanks for the nostalgic trip!

Stella Shares Her Story In Her Words, Here. 

  • This year is the 20th anniversary of the scariest time in my life. I was 50, really healthy, working full time and bringing up my two teenagers. Life was good and I had no worries.

 

  • One afternoon after work, I lay down to read, and saw in the wardrobe mirror that I had a very swollen abdomen. It was big enough to make me head straight off the bed and to go down to the doctor.  He was very off-handed, and said “So you’ve gained weight – what do you expect ME to do about that ?”

 

  • Until that point I’d always been a very shy and diffident person, and his words would normally have made me apologise for wasting his time  – and gone home feeling stupid.  Which could have been a death sentence for me.

 

  • For once in my life, I knew that I had to be courageous and speak up, advocate for myself and demand that he  pay some attention.  He did that , and sent me for an ultrasound which revealed a very large malignant ovarian cancer.

 

  • Within 24 hours I was in the hospital and had had a very long and serious operation. A week later I started having chemotherapy.  I faced all of that alone, since I had downplayed the situation to my family. My Dad had recently died, and I couldn’t bear to tell Mum and my kids that I might be going on the same path.

 

  • I plucked up all my courage, and did the whole thing solo. Every day I would meditate, and go for walks around the hospital, thinking positive thoughts and just enjoying little things like a new flower growing in the ward garden. I read good poetry , words to give me courage to face another day. The staff remarked on how calm I was, but it was really courage which was keeping me in that serene frame of mind.

 

  • One night my doctor popped his head around my door and told me had news. All the results had come back and as far as he could see, my cancer was in remission. It was great news, and I was able to go home  and back to work without too much stress.  The courage which I’d found within myself on that first day, stayed with me and gave me a very positive outlook.

 

  • Since that experience, I’ve become a spokesperson for women with ovarian cancer. I also trained as a phone counsellor, talking to women who’d just been diagnosed with the disease. I think that the courage I found on that first day, gives me a good inspiration when I talk to women – encouraging them to dig deep to find their courage, to demand good treatment and good communication with their doctors.

 

  • Ovarian cancer used to be called “The Silent Killer” because women didn’t know they had it until it was too late. 80% of them used to die. I’m one of the fortunate 20% , and with some courage in my back pocket I can speak for those 80% of sisters who didn’t survive to tell the tale.

 

Stella Burnell 2020 .

 

https://www.ovariancancer.net.au/

https://www.facebook.com/OvarianCancerAustralia/

 

 

 

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

  • I’ve had many experiences where courage was needed – in my work as a nurse I’ve often had to pull up my “big girl pants” and tough it out, but it was really my own experience with cancer which used my courage to heal myself.

 

 

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

  • I’d say that since the day that I first got the diagnosis, I’ve never again been the shy and retiring person that I used to be. It was a defining moment and I often use it when talking to other women, to illustrate how courage can help you to assert yourself in health situations. I am no longer the “invisible older woman” but have found my voice and I help other women to find theirs.

 

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

  • I learned that you don’t always need other people to support you, when the going gets tough. In the particular instance that I mention, I had to “fly solo” and in fact I found that it was easier because I didn’t have to be around other people. Solitude was a great healing factor !

 

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

  • Yes, I am. I found my courage at that time, and it stands me in good stead every day now.

 

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

  • In a health situation like mine, I’d say that education is a great thing. If you find out everything you can – as scary as that can be – you will be able to face up to any eventuality with courage.

 

Thank you so much Stella, education is so important in keeping our health under some person control and if not, then to know who to go to for more help. You did this is so many ways and as I know, via the links above, have most likely helped many women who have faced a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Denyse.

 

 

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

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

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Women Of Courage Series.#51. Anna. 65/2020.

Women Of Courage Series.#51. Anna. 65/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

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’ve been following Anna on twitter for quite some time. She is an author of a number of books, see below, and is aged in her late 30s. I have learned a lot about Anna’s resilience and her vulnerabilities via her tweets because she tells things as they are. For her. Yet, she always has something kind to say about many. When I asked Anna to be part of the series, COVID19 was in its early stages of infiltration in Australia. Now, at the time of publication, Anna’s hometown of Melbourne, Victoria is doing this hard lock down for several weeks. Anna tweets about that and more and she is admired and cared for by many. 

Thank you Anna, let’s catch up with your responses now. 

 

 

 

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

As someone who lives with significant mental health issues, I find it hard to understand myself in the context of this word ‘courageous’. I have had to find fulfilment in the small things, and be satisfied with minute progress day to day, and I suppose that manifests as a kind of courage – a will to carry on and to always find new reserves.

 

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

This has always been the way.

I do think the challenge of chronic illness has given me skills to better deal with acute crises; when a situation calls for it, I can draw on the decades I’ve spent understanding myself, my feelings, my actions, and hopefully present more courageously!

 

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

Go to therapy, if you can!

It helps with so many facets of being a human.

 

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

Yes, as above – years of trying to undo what my brain believes has taught me to push back on fears.

I’m still wildly anxious, but I’m much better at rationalizing it now.

 

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

It’s within you, I suppose.

There’s a good chance you’re stronger than you think.

 

The responses may be brief here but there is a lot of wisdom and experience evident in Anna’s reflections on the questions. Thank you again, for sharing your views based on experience and truth. I always appreciate catching up with you on twitter. 

Denyse. 

Anna Spargo-Ryan
Copywriter, essayist, novelist

@annaspargoryan
Twitter: http://twitter.com/annaspargoryan
The Gulf & The Paper House
“Extraordinary” – The Saturday Paper
“Anna Spargo-Ryan is a writer to watch.” – The Monthly

 

 

 

The following information may be helpful to you or another. These are Australian-based.

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 each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

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

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Women of Courage Series. #50. Anon. 63/2020.

Women of Courage Series. #50. Anon. 63/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

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.

 

Anon, who is 60, and I first met via social media and then, totally uplanned, in person. Just a quick catch up but it was good. When I asked Anon sometime later if she wished to share her story as a Woman of Courage she replied “yes”. That said, this story may not be ‘as in the five questions’ but it is ONE woman’s story and done her way! Thank you Anon.

As with others who have shared their stories anonymously, there will be no replies from this Woman of Courage, but I know she will be reading with appreciation.

The Story Commences Here: 
At age 23 & pregnant with my 3rd child, I left my then, very self-destructive husband, taking the children to a refuge where we spent a month before receiving emergency public housing in Sydney’s Far Western Suburbs, having left a waterfront home in a Sydney beach suburb.
Unbeknownst to me, my husband had developed an extreme gambling problem & had stopped paying the mortgage amongst other things & our home was sold from under us. I had nothing.
What Happened Next: 
  • It changed me in many ways. Prior to this happening, I probably thought I was somewhat entitled to a particular lifestyle but what could have been a very negative situation, proved to be a huge turning point in my life.
  •  I learned just how strong, capable & self-sufficient I was. I was friendly with the neighbours but didn’t typically socialise with them, as we mostly had different values.
  • When my youngest child was 2yrs old, I attended the family law court to obtain a divorce & the following day commenced my first day in the very first intake of college based (now university) Nursing education.
  • I excelled in this environment, especially  on practical placements/6wk blocks within various hospitals around Sydney’s West.
  • At the end of year 2, the college asked me to consider returning there as a lecturer once I had attained my degree.
More To The Story:
  • Through-out these years my ex-husband, had maintained a close relationship with our children & me, whilst working on getting himself together.
  • As I was to learn 20yrs later, he had quite a few demons from his childhood, none of which were of his making but which are things we now know a lot more about. That was over 30yrs ago now.
  • We managed to get back together, many people we met in later years have no idea we’re actually divorced.

 

  • Unfortunately I never finished my 3rd year of nursing, I had a major seizure, which was never explained but I think I was simply trying to do too much.

 

  • I did however, go on to a very exciting career, in which I travelled the world for many years.
  • My ex-husband & I seem to have a somewhat envied relationship which makes me think to myself… if you only knew.
  • I do say to people, we’ve had our fair share of bad times, we were just lucky to get ourselves back on track but I doubt they’d ever imagine just how bad things once were.
And Continuing The Story:
  • There have been many bumps on the road in my journey, the worst of which concerned my children.
  • These things  really rocked me, not to mention them.
  • Things that I thought might initially break me but in reality they only made me tougher, stronger and more resilient

 

There is nothing that frightens me these days.

 

In Conclusion: 
The other thing that I think is really important to remember, is that regardless of who you are, no ones life is perfect.
It’s easy to get you get sucked into social media, (pre COVID_19) thinking everyone else has these amazing lives and perfect children & grandchildren (okay the grandkids are pretty perfect) and that they’ve found something you haven’t.
Trust me, they have their flaws and are still finding their way like the rest of us.
I recall my mother coming to me a few months after the upheaval I’d gone  through at 23 and saying that standing back to watch while I dealt with everything, rather than jumping in to ‘save’ me, was the hardest thing she’d ever done.
There was a part of me back then that did wonder why she hadn’t come to my rescue at the time but thank God she didn’t because it was the making of me.
As women, it can be easy to underestimate just how courageous we can be but when the time comes to put it to the test, we can be proud of the  courageous stuff we’re made of. As women we should always be each other’s champions.
There’s actually a song that has been my mantra since I first discovered it 20yrs ago, Strength, Courage & Wisdom by Indie Arie.

Thank you Anon. I do hope that sharing has helped you as readers will see what happened over time.

Denyse.

The following information may be helpful to you or another. These are Australian-based.

Your Family G.P. can be a helpful person to listen and make referrals.

Gambling help NSW. Here.

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 each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

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

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