Monday 18th October 2021

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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35/51 #LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Ch. 26. Part 2/3. May-August 2021.106/2021.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Six. 2021. Part 2/3. May – August.

The backstory first:

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

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at Chapter Twenty Six. Telling the story as 2021 progresses in three parts. Today is Part Two. May-August 2021.

So, in keeping with my ethical approach to all things, I am making the chapters about MY recollections to various changes in life for me, and us, and life as we knew it. I hope I can continue sharing the story without any intentionally negative or hurtful references to others who are in my life as friends and family members. All of the stories to date found here.

And with this chapter, a recent photo…taken overlooking the harbour at Dobroyd near where I grew up close to Manly N.S.W.

 

May 2021.

We had pretty good weather in May. We got outside even more. The covid ‘stuff’ had settled. However, we could never be quite sure of its whereabouts so we did “wearing a mask” when asked inside, and I know I was pretty casual about signing in using the State Government QR code. No-one was really practising social distancing but living on the coast, we did not have too many concerns.

We did not travel to Sydney for Mother’s Day this year even though I could have. It just wasn’t happening.

I got to celebrate my 4 years since my Head and Neck cancer diagnosis with a much anticipated visit to Sydney’s Lyric Theatre where I saw Hamilton.

Yes it was everything I had hoped and more. Wonderful.

That week I also came back to Westmead for a 6 month mouth check with my prosthodontist. All is well.

I stopped on my way home at a cafe in a nursery where I used to meet up with friends in Sydney days. It was lovely but it had changed as had I.

June. What happened?

We were continuing to be lulled into some kind of normality, living without too many restrictions and life was pretty good.

I visited my Dad to celebrate his 10 years living in his independent retirement Unit. He is going well.

I had my 6 months check with my regular dentist and he was very pleased with how well I care for my mouth and 8 teeth now! It’s always a treat going to him because we have such a history and he is a great cheerleader too.

I was delighted to recall that my head and neck cancer nurse, Cate, was a Woman of Courage on the blog too. But….the head and neck cancer group getting to Canberra was not able to happen because of Covid restrictions in Victoria and I took a reality check. The reality check for me was about how I would be able to eat when away from home over 3 nights and it was literally something I need to accept. A future post on eating and drinking challenges post head and neck cancer was planned.

But, we were going OK. In fact we had morning tea out twice using our government’s ‘dine in’ vouchers and I was excitedly planning the Soup for the Soul event with my friends from BluJ’s in Toukley.

 

And then late June 2021, just as the school holidays began, and we got excited about seeing our son and his family to celebrate our newly minted 8 year old’s birthday it was OFF. Back to Lockdown. Because of Covid 19 and ONE person’s infection from the newly seen and very nasty delta strain….it was not a good news day or week. So much changed in a very short time. STAY home. STAY safe. And as I write this ready for 30 August publication we are STILL in same lockdown. It’s actually become much more serious. More on that as I try to recall August! OK, we live on N.S.W. Central Coast, around 2 hours from centre of Sydney the capital of N.S.W. On 27 June 2021 we were declared to be part of Greater Sydney, along with Sydney and all its suburbs, Wollongong and Shellharbour to the south and the Blue Mountains to the west. NB: the Central Coast where we live was declared a regional area mid August.

The Hawkesbury River and Bridge. From the side where I took this photo it’s Central Coast.

July 2021.

July holds many memories for me since 2017. It marks the anniversary of my first head and neck cancer major surgery and reconstruction on 6 July (4 years this year) and 27.7 each year – since 2014, is World Head and Neck Cancer Day.

I met other people who were also head and neck cancer patients, carers and professionals in July 2018 at Central Coast Cancer Centre and in 2019 was part of the group called Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Support who held a Soup for the Soul Event. And, each year the charity for whom I volunteer as an Ambassador, Head and Neck Cancer Australia, has awareness activities on line and encourages communities and individuals to host Soup for the Soul.

I was one who was going this with my friends at my local cafe but once lockdown came and they chose not to open as takeaway business was not a large amount of their trade, the event could not go ahead. So, I made it a virtual event and kind friends and professionals donated to a total of $305.

Some other memories and more from July 2021.

And August Arrived!

Of course we celebrated our daughter’s birthday. Post in detail here. We continued in lockdown which felt endless. I admit I did sometimes get very cranky on social media and then had to stop using it.

I tended then to spend more time outside, or doing something creative. I know preparing and sending off little packs of bookmarks was a positive experience.

Of course, Women of Courage continued on the blog but I was planning to bring it to a close soon. I stayed in contact on line with friends and family as much as practicable but also remembering people at work (even at home) are much busier than I am.

I had successful dental checks – of the regular kind. I am doing well after the surgeries I had in July and August 2021 and I am very grateful for that. I talk to Dad once a week. He is OK and finding the visitors restrictions within his unit complex quite frustrating. He is a sociable person. My brother and sister in law help him each week with shopping and some company. I haven’t been to see him since mid June because of “lockdown”.

I try to get out each day somewhere to notice nature – walking locally or driving somewhere near the water and that helps regulate my mood.

And to do this often:

 

What’s ahead and what other news is there?
No-one knows.

However, I know I am going well and have quite a few choices of art and creative ventures at home. B is making a new TV cabinet and has numerous small projects on the go. He is doing some on-line music lessons and I have similar ones for art. We would not be happy if the NBN stopped working!!

My dear husband has enjoyed writing his 3rd blog post, with another one to come. We are very well suited…different interests but shared common history, love of kids and education (not always the formal kind), and connecting with people. It’s the first time in our marriage of over 50 years that we have spent so much time together at home and for the most part…at least 99% …it’s going well.

Our next door neighbours have two little ones, one born just before Easter and when our family visits were curtailed and I had excess of mini cupcakes in the freezer, it’s been great to share (safely!) a couple of little boxes of treats. Their family cannot visit just as we cannot have ours come. Still, for the greater good.

We have made a promise, once new restrictions began for lockdown, to only go to two stand alone supermarkets, the doctors and chemist and (before they became more restricted in entry) Bunnings on occasions for B. On one day, only one of us goes out (for essential reasons) and we stick to that. I recently made a trip to the local Reject shop…the only place open in a large super centre to buy a stash of cards for upcoming birthdays and celebrations. I also got some fun items which have been sent to Sydney to two families for the school aged grandkids…a care package…costs more to post by express but I would rather they got them! Australia Post employees tell me they have never been busier.

Here’s  two days of contrast (weather and condition wise) at Soldiers Beach.

 

Mon 23.8.21. Warm weather

Great day but look at those clouds.

Windy & wet. Tues 24 August.

Same ‘area’ where person was snorkling on Monday!

 

 

UPDATE: In late August I heard very sad news. Two friends had both died of cancer. One of whom was a Woman of Courage. Her name is Tracey Fletcher King. Here is the link to her story:

The second person is Fergus McCulla, a young man I had the pleasure of meeting back in 2019 as he had questions to ask me about my surgeries for cancer in my mouth. Fergus’s cancer was a very nasty one, and despite “everything” he eventually left behind the pain and suffering, that as his Mum said, he never spoke about. On Tuesday, I will attend his funeral service which will be streamed on-line.

 

Sending my love to the  families and friends of both of these special people. Vale Tracey and Vale Fergus. I am honoured that our paths crossed.

 

 

 

 

And so the second of three parts of 2021 is done. I will of course, be finishing this year’s story. However, I am no longer going to update here as I have found it hard(er) than I imagined in the midst of other life stuff…meaning, I am reducing some of my ‘have to’s in 2022 and keeping Telling My Story going won’t be a blog post. I might do a summary one time, but the recall and record keeping is less appealing than when I committed to starting!

 

Thanks for reading. And maybe just skimming but looking at the pictures. That is cool too. I am grateful I have used this blog to make me accountable.

Last one will be published as the last blog post (and Link Up) for 2021. 51/51….but we have a few weeks to go to that, and I am not wishing the year away!

Denyse.

Link Up #255

Life This Week. Link Up #255

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week’s optional prompt: 36/51 Self Care Stories #5. 6 Sept. Link Up #256

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Remember. 32/51. #LifeThisWeek. 97/2021.

Remember. 32/51. #LifeThisWeek. 97/2021.

Remember? Oh yes, that’s right. We had our daughter 50 years ago last week.

“50” years …wow. Indeed.

We became parents at 21. Mind, you back then 21 meant we were already working and in permanent employment with the N.S.W. Department of Education. My husband was in his 4th year as a teacher, I was in my 2nd. Now, I look at our granddaughters who are older (just) than 21 and in different employment and life-style situations than us. Not a judgement at all. It shows the ‘gap’. Our daughter was around 25 when she became a Mum and did not get permanent employment in teaching until some years after that.

 

Our daughter does not like the spotlight nor this amount of attention but I sense given it’s her 50th we are celebrating, and it’s lockdown, then all on-line I get some leeway! On the day, she was teaching remotely, supervising her grade (she is a relieving Asst Principal at the moment) and making sure her youngest stayed on task for home-learning

During the weeks before her birthday I posted a care pack of favourite biscuits to savour at home, and some presents and a card for the day. I also sent later on the two blog posts relating to her birth year and some memories in photo collages.

 

More times to remember…

We celebrated with a family zoom….can’t can share the  one image &  we did have fun.

She LOVED her birthday that was at home…with her whole school staff, arranging a staff meeting (all on zoom) to sing her Happy Birthday and they delivered little cakes and a huge bunch of flowers. I made her smile…with a beautiful message via instagram from our fave author Trent Dalton. He mentioned how much he values teachers too. Aww.

A few more photos to remember her stories before 50th Birthday.

1991. K at 20, with Mum & Me.

 

With her brother’s family and hers, our daughter managed this magical photo shoot. Always remember the sweet surprise when I got the big photo on canvas and book for my 70th birthday.

 

18th Birthday for only son. We enjoyed being back celebrating too. With the fam!

 

Thank you for our Anniversary Cake, K.

My Birthday cake made by my daughter.

 

Glad I got this shot! Thanks KT, I know it’s not your fave thing to do. Brunch by ourselves in Jan 2021. A rarer than rare occasion in covid.

 

Our first born with a first born Mum and fifth born Dad.

We love you and always remember how it was to become YOUR parents back in 1971!

Mum and Dad.

Link Up #252

Life This Week. Link Up #252

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Women of Courage Series. #64. Anne Howe. 89/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #64. Anne Howe. 89/2021.

In July 2021 The Women of Courage posts will be connected in some way to World Head and Neck Cancer Month (July) and the #WHNCD Day on 27 July 2021. Those who have followed my blog since 2017 know I was diagnosed with a rare Head and Neck Cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip. More here.

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

Whilst Anne Howe, who is in her late 60s, and I have not met in real life, we have connected on-line via a very supportive facebook group for those affected by Head and Neck Cancer. The details are below. Anne’s story looks short yet it is incredibly full of courage from Anne’s words, taking the best chance you can as a human to survive a devastating diagnosis and allowing those who have your trust to do their best for you. Anne is a very determined woman, loved by her large family and often a carer to others. She has had more surgery since her post-HNC photo was taken and this has been, as best as it might happen, for her to have some teeth added inside her mouth.

Note from Anne:

 While I have had teeth made I am unable to wear them until I have had the screws implanted in my jaw and the bridging work made. Then its fingers crossed to hope my jaws don’t crumble due to the radiation. So still a way to go there.

I chose to use both images supplied by Anne as they do illustrate her words at the end of her story. I have, though, used her image before the surgeries for her Woman of Courage collage because it was then she needed to have all the courage she could muster to go through her many trials in her head and neck cancer journey.

Thank you, Anne. Let’s share your responses now.

 

 

 

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

My moment of courage kicked in when I presented for surgery to remove a SCC (squamous cell carcinoma) tumour from my nose back in 2017.

I was nervous and terrified as anyone is when facing surgery but the full impact hit when my surgeon came to see me.

His first words when explaining my surgery really tore through me.

He could NOT give me informed consent.

I would have to trust him and he promised to do the very best he could for me.

At best he would remove the tumour and do his best to repair the damage but at worst I could just wake up with a hole in my face.

With a very shaking hand I signed on  the line but while doing it a very gentle hand covered mine and a gentle voice told me he would take good care of me.

I woke up to find I had lost most of my nose, my top lip up to the nose, some of my left cheek, my central upper jaw and part of the soft palate.

 

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

After my surgery I was informed by my surgeon that I was stage 4 and he didn’t think I would survive.

He had done his best to get me this far and I made up my mind to do whatever I needed to do to get through this which is exactly what I have done.

I knew I had a long hard road ahead with a lot of work to be done.

Over the last 4 years I have endured 11 surgeries on my nose and 30 sessions of radiation.

I still have further nasal surgery to have and also surgery on my mouth due to having lost part of my jaw. (this is some of  the surgery I mentioned in my introduction)

 

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

When I woke up from surgery and first  saw my face I thought that was it.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think it could be repaired to the stage it has.

I put my faith and trust in my surgeon which was the best thing I could ever have done.

The other thing that helped get me through was the love and support of my family and friends.

 

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

I have learned from this experience that I am stronger than I ever thought I was.

I have often been told I am very brave but I disagree.

I have fears just like everyone else but to survive I just had to put on my big girl pants and do what was needed as the other option just didn’t bear thinking about.

It really was a live or die situation.

Over time my strength has just grown.

 

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

To anyone going through something that fills you with fear or concern my advice is to give everything you have because only then can you say you really tried.

Surround yourself with some people who will truly understand and accept you no matter what.

Sometimes I have needed to vent or just have a good cry to let those emotions out and that is important too.

Never give up.

 

My favourite saying through all this has been:

My face does not define me I am still the same person.

Anne, your courage and your story blow me away. What a great relationship you have with your surgeon. Trust is so much a part of it. I am so glad you are here, and looking after your family too…as you continue to recover. Thank you so much.

Denyse.

Note About Head and Neck Cancer Support on-line.

IF a family member or someone you know does have a diagnosis of a head and neck cancer or that person is a carer, the value of a good facebook group cannot be over-done. The friendly space that IS this group for eligible people to request membership is a good one. There are people from all over the world but the group is not huge so personal connections can be made. It is mainly made up of New Zealanders, and Aussies too…along with those from the U.S. There are questions to be answered to join and it IS strictly for those with a head and neck cancer. Link is here.

This is a link to Head and Neck Cancer Australia too. This is where I found information initially after my 2017 diagnosis and where I am now an Ambassador.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

 

 

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Women of Courage Series. #63. Cosette Calder. 86/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #63. Cosette Calder. 86/2021.

In July 2021 The Women of Courage posts will be connected in some way to World Head and Neck Cancer Month (July) and the #WHNCD Day on 27 July 2021. Those who have followed my blog since 2017 know I was diagnosed with a rare Head and Neck Cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip. More here.

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

Those of us who have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer never feel quite alone when there are others we can share our stories and one such place is a special facebook group (private, but ask to join) here based in New Zealand. This is where I virtually met Cosette Calder, aged 46, and she was someone I reached out to share her story of head and neck cancer, and here she is. Thank you Cosette.

 

 

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

  • In 2015 I was diagnosed with throat cancer.
  • I had a young family, full time job and life was busy.
  • Suddenly everything stopped and I had to undergo Chemo and Radiation Treatment to beat this cancer and have a chance to live.

 

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

  • I had a brutal cancer treatment.
  • I couldn’t eat food and had to have a tube inserted into my stomach.
  • For two months I only drank water and was tube fed.
  • I lost 8kgs and some of my hair fell out.
  • I really had to dig deep to get through this treatment.
  • I had a plastic mask made of my head and shoulders.
  • This mask was for the radiation treatment.
  • My head had to be perfectly still on the radiation table so the mask was bolted across my face to the table for 20 minutes a day during radiation treatment.
  • It is incredibly scary and claustrophobic.
  • I somehow managed it.
  • I am proud of myself for the courage of wearing the mask when I was so ill and feeling down.
  • I fought hard whilst being so unwell. I didn’t realise I could be so strong.

 

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

  • Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
  • Sometimes we can’t help what happens to us.
  • Keep moving on and keep trying.
  • Acceptance too helps.
  • By accepting my cancer diagnosis I was able to focus and keep moving ahead.

 

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

  • I am stronger now.
  • I have been pushed to the limit and I know how lucky I am to be here.

 

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

  • You CAN do it!

 

Oh my, yes we do have brutal treatments don’t we?

However, in reading this of your experience as a head and neck cancer patient Cosette, and, now well-recovered, it is a tribute to your human qualities of strength and courage that you have recovered and now share your story. Thank you again. I am sharing the information below from the New Zealand Based Facebook Group for Head & Neck Cancers. Thanks to for all you do to share awareness!

Denyse.

Note About Head and Neck Cancer Support on-line.

IF a family member or someone you know does have a diagnosis of a head and neck cancer or that person is a carer, the value of a good facebook group cannot be over-done. The friendly space that IS this group for eligible people to request membership is a good one. There are people from all over the world but the group is not huge so personal connections can be made. It is mainly made up of New Zealanders, and Aussies too…along with those from the U.S. There are questions to be answered to join and it IS strictly for those with a head and neck cancer. Link is here.

This is a link to Head and Neck Cancer Australia too. This is where I found information initially after my 2017 diagnosis and where I am now an Ambassador.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

 

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Gratitude. A Word & A Feeling. #Head&NeckCancer #Recovery. 82.1/2021.

Gratitude. A Word & A Feeling. #Head&NeckCancer #Recovery. 82.1/2021.

I occasionally add a post in between planned ones as I am doing today, 6th July 2021.

The reason is how grateful I am feeling and wanted to express this on the blog as I have already shared via my social media updates.

Today is a special day in my life.

6th July 2021.

It marks the 4th Anniversary of the first, and very complex, surgery for the cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip to be removed, along with ALL of my upper jaw and palate.

Yes, what an occasion. Oh, and in case you did not know, I also had a reconstruction in that same 11 hour surgery which harvested my right fibula, flesh and skin from my right leg and added those to make me an upper mouth. Much more to it than that, but I am here to tell the story that it did, for me go well.

I had no idea really how I would go in recovery but the fact that I had complete trust in my team and their planning and their work, and could see that I was in the best place possible for this to happen all helped. Greatly. I am a worrier by nature but over time, learned that with that my job was to keep the healing going, taking care of my emotional health and doing all I could physically to recover. There are many blog posts and they are all here.

Today though is a sharing of my updates from yesterday and today.

5th July Memories.

The day of pre-admission to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for my head & neck cancer surgery & reconstruction the next day. Never forget how it was. A relief in many ways. It had been 7 weeks of waiting. For planning, software & 3D model for my mouth. Not much sleep that night. 4 years ago. I already felt I was going to the best place for what was to happen. That instilled so much confidence in me and my husband having been here for the discussion of my surgery with my Professor and team.

Before AND After Images: 4 years apart.

One very special place I have visited over the 5 years we have lived here is the Bridge over Budgewoi Creek at MacKenzie Reserve.

The first image of of the hair-prepped for long time between haircuts, late June as I contemplated and considered what was ahead. Yes, I was scared but I also knew there was nothing else but to be putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward!

The second image, is from today (I do go here quite often but made a special trip today) to give my thanks for how my recovery and wellness is. I did not smile deliberately as I wanted to show my top lip for how it really is. Smiling of course is better…but I acknowledge that cancer took quite a bit of under that lip and 2x skin grafts have helped.

Today I shared this collage first.

It’s made up of four progress images from July 2017, July 2018, July 2019 and July 2020. Don’t my surgeons do an amazing job? And of course, my prosthodontist and my own body in recovery. Very, very grateful.

Selfies are great for monitoring progress for a visual person like me who needs evidence, as I waited… learning that TIME does indeed heal but patience is also necessary!

This impatient person learned, mostly to be a patient patient over the many months, trips back & forth to Sydney: Westmead Oral Sciences & Chris O’Brien Lifehouse

The person who helped me through these trying times… to learn patience is my husband!

 

Thank you Bernard for your patience & time given to me for “selfies”💙

 

Today we marked my 4th anniversary with some pics & a gratitude letter to my HNC surgeon & nurse… then I drove to Budgewoi to “exercise” but to mostly give thanks. This bridge at Mackenzie Reserve is a special place for me.❤️

 

About gratitude. Again!

I have posted many times about gratitude. I have found it a practice that when I use it, I am helped greatly by finding at least one thing to be grateful for in a not-so-good situation. Today though I feel full. In a good way. Emotionally. I feel well, and I really could not ask for me. It’s a feeling for me. My husband knows I remember days and dates and he wanted to know where today stood in terms of day, birthdays, Christmas etc and I said…after some thought:

Today is on top.

It is the best.

I am so grateful and I am sharing this gratitude in my way here by blogging, telling people I love and sharing as best as I can. From my post back in early 2020.

 

My 2020 Word of the Year. I Still Have It in 2021!

Thank you dear blog readers and commenters too, you all make a contribution to my healing and wellness.

Denyse.

 

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24/51 #LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Ch.26. 2021. Pt 1/3. Jan-April. 73/2021.

Nourish 24/51 #LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Ch.26. 2021. Pt 1/3. Jan-April. 73/2021.

News Update:

  • I might have been driving to Canberra today getting ready to attend a Parliamentary Breakfast about Head and Neck Cancer on Tuesday 15 June, but this was not to be. Covid19 in Victoria prevented many of the attendees from coming, so now we “wait” until another date!
  • On Saturday, our time, Blogging Friend Marsha from AlwaysWrite Blog published a post after interviewing me and taking a great deal of time (and energy) to research this blog and find out more. The photo and the link is is now on the side of this blog  and for convenience, should you like to read it, I have it here too. I am very grateful for the way in which this was done AND I am very proud to say how much it means to me that #lifethisweek continues.
  • Taking the liberty today of not posting using the optional prompt, Nourish, but sharing the first third of 2021 in Telling My Story. Chapter 26, here it is.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Six. 2021. Part 1/3. Jan-April.

The backstory first:

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

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at Chapter Twenty Six. Telling the story as 2021 progresses in three parts. Today is Part One. January to April 2021.

So, in keeping with my ethical approach to all things, I am making the chapters about MY recollections to various changes in life for me, and us, and life as we knew it. I hope I can continue sharing the story without any intentionally negative or hurtful references to others who are in my life as friends and family members. All of the stories to date found here.

And with this chapter, a recent photo…taken overlooking the harbour at Dobroyd near where I grew up close to Manly N.S.W.

January 2021.

The new year here was quiet. I adopted the word “smile” as my word of the year. We got into planning and organising mode for our upcoming 5o years of marriage celebration.

It was to be “just our kids and their kids” at our place on Saturday 23 January 2021 – the actual day but NO.

Could not be done.

Why? The Covid Restrictions from December 2020 continued into January. There would only be a maximum of 5 people visit a house. So…with disappointment but resignation, we had the celebration over 2 days…and it also continued the following Saturday. Posts are here and here and here!

January is a boys’ birthday month in the family,

My Dad first, turning 97.

Then our son, 41 and his nephew, our grandson turning 20.

I visited Dad on the day.

The weather was pretty mild in January and we did not get any power outages…always a worry when temps rise in Summer. In fact, it was an excellent and pleasant summer month.

Here’s some highlights in photos:

February 2021.

It becomes a bit like back to school, even though we are retired. Back to some regular routines and some necessary health matters. It was me who got to have a gastroscopy (to rule out any bleeding, it did) and then an iron infusion in hospital It sure worked. Levels went from 11 to 225. I kind of noticed and I could go for more walks and sustain them too.

I continued walking pretty consistently most days, visiting the shops but rarely now having a coffee and something to eat. It has become too expensive to do this now as well. Still, I enjoy getting out and about and just window shopping..most of the time! I still keep an eye on clothing bargains and they come and go. I cannot buy on line much at all. I need to try clothes on.

I did like walking when I saw these.

Lots of the eastern states ended up having awful floods and torrential rain. We are in a pretty new & modern  suburban area but lots of roads were affected. I stayed away from places until it is safe and then I ventured out to take photos. Sure were high levels even after a break in the rain.

I got back to the first Head and Neck Cancer Support Group Meeting in a year. It was excellent being back together. The isolation of covid did not help with connection did it?

I went to my first in-person entertainment event (and a first for everyone involved post-Covid) at Newcastle for the Newcastle Writers Festival where Julie Gillard was interviewed by Rosemarie Milsom.

 

Covid restrictions were lifted for visiting at home, so I asked our son if we could all gather together at his place on the day for his Dad’s 72nd and we had fun with all the kids coming, and some play, chatting and eating Grandma’s cakes and snacks. And we got a much longer for FAMILY photo.

March 2021.

My memory is not telling me any moments are standouts really. However, I do recall Easter was here somewhere in the mix. I also drove down to see my Dad in early March 2021 and went back to where he and Mum lived for many years (I did for 10) and had quite a spiritual experience. I became brave enough (it’s been from years of fear about having to use a toilet on way home on the M1) to go to St Ives shopping centre on the way home and treat myself to a wonderful coffee and a slice of carrot cake. Really proud of myself when I make those small shifts.

Felt Mum’s presence here…very close to where she lived…and also where she died, just across that part of the Harbour.

61. The same address as this house…but NOT this house that has replaced our home.

Mum and Butterfly sign…I loved that.

No-one visits us here for Easter – or on long weekends – at our request. The traffic on the M1 to and from Sydney is crazy. We had a drive over to see the water -sparkling – near Norah Head on Good Friday. And later that day, we got to meet the second son of our neighbours…who at less than a week old enjoyed nestling in my husband’s arms.

We just ticked along here at home, with some regular medical appointments and check ups and then….it was announced we could apply for our first dose of a Covid Vaccine. We enrolled at a doctors’ nearby as our GPs were not involved and it was a seamless, and painless and reaction-less experience.

April 2021.

School holidays happened and we were glad to host our son and his family. Great fun day with them, and the girls filled my art heart with joy when they got stuck into the activities they found in my study. The eldest and middle one had all started learning with me waaaay back at Glenwood to use media and materials. Fun.

Our daughter’s youngest was turning 9 and having a picnic birthday lunch. When I asked could I help, I was assigned “take home” bags and can you make them “non-gendered”. OK. I did my best and let me tell you, changing my thoughts about not for a boy or a girl but either was a challenge but I heard they were winners.

Here’s how it ended up. The event was held at Fagan Park and the kids brought scooters and had free rein to play, and then they all got a package of their own picnic. I have a very organised and thoughtful daughter.

Out and About In Nature.

Weather conditions.

Change of seasons.

Beaches.

Rivers.

Creeks.

Trees.

Flowers.

I love it all and try to capture it with my iphone. Here’s what happened in Autumn.

Special Event: Sunrise on A.N.Z.A.C. Day.

It had been about 5 years since I had risen earlier enough to capture sunrise, so when A.N.Z.A.C. Day was on a Sunday, I rose at 5.00 a.m. and drove to Soldiers Beach Carpark (2o minutes away) and found a rock to sit on & watch, wait and give thanks for a year that has not been great but we got through. I figured too I was honouring the original A.N.Z.A.C.s It was an amazing privilege. 25 April 2021.

As I drove back home, I stopped and photographed the cenotaph at Toukley R.S.L. My collage is from 2020 and then 2021.

A Special Day To Visit My Dad.

“I’ll be down to see you next on your Mother’s Birthday.” I said to Dad. So it was on 26th April, I drove to Dee Why where Dad lives in retirement comfort to share some morning tea and memories with him. His mother, Gran to me, came to Australia as a war bride in 1920 and her life was ‘T for tough’ for a number of reasons. So, 26th April, I tried to get 97 year old Dad to have some gratitude and compassion for this woman he remembers as sad and cranky.  I said it would be helpful if he could, to try to see the challenges she faced after leaving her home country. I think it made a difference to his thoughts.

My memories from the day of my visit.

From my stop at Pymble: lovely camellia.

Dad agreed to a photo this time…and we even stood for it. He “is” however, holding onto me. On the right of him, the photo on the wall is of his mother and father on their Wedding Day, 1920.

I always try to do a life selfie on my way home.

And as I leave Dad’s I often drive to where I can see the beaches I remember so well from living nearby as a teen. How fortunate I was for those years to be near Manly, and to go to Manly Girls High School…which, funnily enough was/is in Brookvale and now known as Northern Beaches Senior Campus. This is from Freshwater looking back to Manly, North Steyne and around that cliff is Queenscliff Beach.

And that, is it for now. The first third of 2021. It was made easier with the photos to help me remember ‘what, who, when’.

Thanks for reading this latest Telling My Story.

The whole series is here.

Denyse.

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

Link Up #244

Life This Week. Link Up #244

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 25/51 Share Your Snaps#5.

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Click here to enter


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Women Of Courage Series. #58 Tracey Lee. 71/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #58 Tracey Lee. 71/2021.

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

In counting back the years, I realised that I met Tracey Lee, aged 55 via twitter first…back in what we affectionately call ‘the good old days of twitter: 2010-2012’. Then I also got to meet her in real life at a mutual friend’s book launch. Over the next few years we chatted and caught up, in that social media way, on both facebook and twitter. When we moved from Sydney to the Central Coast of N.S.W. I knew that I had a friend I could meet up with again, and we did and have for coffee and chat. Love those connections. But in recent times, I was also delighted to be both an encourager and cheerleader in Tracey Lee’s ventures which she writes of here. I will let her share the story. Thank you!

 

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

Is there anything more terrifying than your “baby” starting high school? Is there anything more potent to ring the alarm bells of what will you “do” for the rest of your life!

  • Let’s take it back a decade, to when I was made redundant from my permanent part-time graphic design job, secretly 8 weeks pregnant with my second child and knowing I had no chance of finding another position that would fit me and my childcare needs.
  • With support from also-redundant colleagues and bereft clients, I set up a computer and dial-up modem in my dining room, establishing my freelance business.
  • While I never “made a living”, it was enough to keep our nose above water and pay for family holidays.
  • It gave me flexibility to be at school: helping in the classroom, canteen, P&C, and cobbling together costumes for the dreaded Book Week.
  • And extra time to spend with my Mum, who lived alone since we lost Dad, and who was showing early signs of dementia.

I had fallen into graphic design when I dropped out of law school (a terrible choice!) because I had always been “good at art”.

  • I enjoyed design, and it certainly honed my skills as a communicator, and I loved working in publishing (because books!), but it was never a goal that set me alight.
  • Into the presumption of stability known as “mid life”, little ideas crept into my head, of how I would resurrect my creative practice beyond on a computer, to find that part of me that the responsibilities of adult life and parenthood had driven out.

Enter Twitter! 

At the (since lamented) suggestion of my husband, I started an account.

As a SAHM/WFH (Stay At Home Mum/Working from Home) freelancer, I was thrilled to expand what had become a narrow social circle. I started with old friends from publishing, then followed the bread crumbs, gathering a group of individuals whose interests mirrored mine.

It did not occur to me until later that I had created a virtual curriculum vitae for future ambitions.

I followed parents and teachers, artisans and creatives … and a cluster of allied health professionals working in mental health.

I remembered the psychology I enjoyed as a part of my abandoned law studies, and the kindling started to smoulder.

If only I could resurrect my art practice and, through the joy I knew it could invoke, help people heal from self-doubt and hardships in their lives: art … and, therapy? That’s a job!

Putting aside qualms from my flawed experiences, I spent the rest of that year secretly searching qualifications and university degrees. I discovered mature-aged admissions pathways. I applied. I was accepted. Dear God!

 

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

I was used to work schedules and deadlines, but now I needed to factor in the unexpected, to learn how to drop the ball and catch it on the bounce when a child became ill or a paid freelance job turned up without warning.

I learned to focus my research and to “kill my darlings”, the factual nuggets or personal theories that just would not fit in under the word limit. (My worst effort was the 6000 word “draft” for the 1500 word assignment).

And then there was the dreaded Group Assignment: how to get my work done and learn to trust everyone else to do their own work … or to let go when it was obvious it was never going to happen.

I needed to allow myself to hand in work that I was not 100% happy with for the sake of getting it out of the way, ready to start on the next project.

Being the anxious type, that did not sit well with me!

And then there were the results that were disappointing, especially on assignments I felt I had “nailed”, to learn that there is more than one way to interpret an assignment, and that I would not always be “right”.

 

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

But the hardest thing to learn was to be self-centred, not in a selfish way, but in a way that allowed me to believe what I was doing, my aims and ambitions, were important.

  • Even more so than parenting demands, reasonable when my children were younger, which I had let persist because what I was previously doing was “not so important”.
  • I would like to say we blossomed graciously as a family, but it was a lot bumpier than that.
  • My new priorities were resented, and I had days when I struggled with guilt.

Yet, oddly, no one died. No one got injured or even particularly hungry, although a few dirty uniforms might have been shaken out at 8am and quickly sprayed with deodorant.

I learned that when I centred myself, others would fall in around me.

As a primary caregiver it can be confronting to be the instigator of one’s own obsolescence. It can be frightening to peel off the cocoon of parenting to see if what emerges will have beautiful wings, or be incomplete and damaged, unable to fly.

 

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

While this is about my year of Open Foundation, the next chapter was the four years of ups and downs it took to complete my three-year Bachelor’s degree (with Distinction!), with Mum leaving us in my final year.

By then I knew I was not cut out for the post-graduate Master’s as I had planned, so I looked for smaller certificate courses, finding one I could mostly complete online. And then …

And then COVID-19 spat its contagion, hungrily eating its way through freedoms I took so for granted.

I was used to WFH, but now my husband was WFH, my oldest had TAFE shut down and my youngest was studying “FH” as well. I was happy we could be safe and not suffer financially, but as someone who requires a quiet space, I shelved my plans for the year.

Sometimes courage means knowing your limits and when to say no.

Sometimes courage is an understanding that life will throw sharp sticks, and you need to protect yourself and regather for when it is safe to start again.

 

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

If years as a mature-aged student — forging a pathway to my first ever burning passion — taught me anything, it is that by creating a clear image of who you are, you can hold steady.

If who you wish to be is not possible right now, do not believe it can never happen or that your efforts have been wasted.

Such intrinsic courage does not fail at the first, or even fifth, hurdle.

I once read that direction, not speed, is pivotal when finding your way through life.

With a few pressing family issues and my youngest attempting the HSC in 2021, I’m still not quite ready to spring ahead, but I know my pathway when I am.

And hey, 60 is the new 40, am I right?

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

From UON / Open Foundation:

“Open Foundation is a free pathway program offered at the University of Newcastle for people who do not have the qualifications required for direct entry into an undergraduate degree program.’

https://www.newcastle.edu.au/study/pathways/open-foundation

 

Gosh I loved reading this from Tracey Lee because I remember a lot of what was happening as she plunged in…and see the top photo? A proud artist. Lately I have been loving her instagram pics where she includes art and art via nature. I was incredibly pleased to know of her graduation. However, like everything in 2020, the graduation could not happen in person. The photo here is from her graduation from the pathways’ program. Lots to be proud of here and perhaps for others to find encouragement in their tertiary study ventures.

Thank you!

Denyse.

Tracey Lee’s  Social Media:

Business Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/LPFdesign

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tracey_ArtTx

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

This series continues over the next months.

If you have  story to share, please leave me a message in the comments.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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