Tuesday 24th May 2022

Taking Stock.#5. 48/51. #LifeThisWeek. 128/2021.

Taking Stock.#5. 48/51. #LifeThisWeek. 128/2021.

This is the last taking stock  in 2021 and may not be another when in 2022.

So, as this could be the “last one” I am going to share here about my life as it is on the eve of my 72nd birthday.

And as Pema Chodron says here…..

I am grateful for all who have made a difference in my life. Not all people are represented here because I may not have had an image. So, here goes, using images to ‘match’ a word. And using my alphabetical list.

 

Admiring: those people who are the trained professionals in all allied health, surgery and more, and have cared for my health.

Becoming: a part of a family, grateful for the love, care and kindness of parents and grandparents since 1949!

Curious: about life and learning….always! 

Delighted: to meet up with on-line friends when I can.

Excited: that we will get to celebrate my birthday…..out for morning tea! It suits us both to do this…here’s a memory from 2018. If the rain stays away we will be going here again: a local nursery.

 

Feeling: that time is moving way too fast….that seems to happen after 70!

Goingto my Dad’s sometime in December to share some meals and treats. He’s certainly been the constant in my life…known me for more than 72 years!! This from my 71st birthday when I am not sure who was helping who stay on their feet. 

Helping: Head and Neck Cancer Australia as an Ambassador. I have held this volunteer role for 3 years and as I said to the CEO recently, “you got me for life“.

Imploring: people to keep an eye on anything (related to Head and Neck cancer* symptoms)  that might be not healing or increasing in pain. size and so on…and ensuring if a GP or dentist, doesn’t take it seriously, to seek out another option. *all cancers of course,  but these ones have no diagnostic tools.

Joking: No idea what was funny at Oxley lookout last year but this bloke is quite the joker….and this wife, is not always ready for his sense of humour! 

Keeping: this blog going into its 12th year is testament to my commitment but to the engagement of this blogging community even more! 

Loving: the freedom of days’ activities choice when retired. Sure, there is a routine of sorts, and yes, we get up by a certain time (not tellin’) …but no bosses!

Making: memories for me and others! By cards, photos and little albums. I love doing it too.

Next: I am too easily wanting to plan what is next yet, at the same time trying to stay in the present. The one thing for me is knowing where we will be living next year, and so far, the owners have agreed to us staying on. HOWEVER, the way real estate prices have risen here, houses in our street up by $200-300K in less than 4 years, we suspect we will get a rent rise. Sigh.

Observing: the places where I lived as a teen and older and having a deep appreciation for that time. 

 

Pleasing: to notice that I can continue to change some health habits slightly to be more health-aware in my ageing years.

Reading: the many and varied posts that YOU, my blogging friends, share here for Life This Week. We are, today, at #268 of the link up. And how I met some of my blogging friends two years ago.

Staying: on track with meditation. It will be 2 years without missing a session by end of 2021. I now do Daily Calm in the morning and another track in the evening. It still counts as one day! 

Trying: to remember all I am grateful for more than ever…not everyone gets the chance to continue living as I have post-cancer.

 

Understanding: that life is not static. Der. But sometimes when I don’t want things to change, I then remember that they change anyway so grasping to keep things are they are is not on. I have learned much about this thanks to meditation, and listening to a range of CDs from teachers of Buddhism and more. Very wise people..and we are all human. 

Viewing: old photos for this post and feeling the warmth of nostalgia but also heeding the point above! 

Welcoming: changes to Covid restrictions here in N.S.W. soon, with reduction of places where you need to sign in with QR code, and having the choice to wear a mask. We think, for now, we will continue to mask up if in a crowded shop or doctors’ surgery. Definitely needed recently at a Big Hug Box packing day. NB: hope with new strain variant, we will remain vigilent.

X- “X-tra grateful” to all of the women who shared their stories of courage. In the 3 years, more than 72 women shared their stories. Wow. I have included images of all who continue to blog and link up here fairly regularly. I “hope” I have you all in this group. Let me know, if I have missed you. 

Yes: to more plans to do ‘less’….and that sounds like a contradiction. In the meantime, here I am over decades of my life ‘doing’ what I most enjoy: connecting with those I care for and who love me. Perhaps a bit of a stretch re Former PM Julia Gillard, but she did thank me for my education roles. 

Z – Is there anyone else I need to show my gratitude and admiration for their part of my life? Yes, it’s an old image but the LOVE from this Papa to his only grandchildren cannot be surpassed. And the love we had for him is exemplified in my brother now being Papa to his 2 grandkids and that B became Papa when his eldest granddaughter couldn’t get her mouth around Grandpa, and out came “Pa-Pa” and it sure stuck.

Thank you all for reading, commenting and sharing your blog post today.

Take care,

Denyse.

 

Started Life This Week Link Up. Sept 2016.

Life This Week. #268

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.

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

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

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

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

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest

Woman Of Courage #65. Denyse Whelan & Head & Neck Cancer. 92/2021.

Woman Of Courage #65. Denyse Whelan & Head & Neck Cancer. 92/2021.

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… 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

This woman of courage story is making a change because it’s about me.

The changes are because I have written many updates about my head and neck cancer story and they can all be found here.

And when I first started the series back in 2019 I did write a post about being a woman of courage (not numbered)  but did not make it about head and neck cancer, instead making it about my sudden departure from my career as a primary school principal. That took a lot of courage. The post is here.

What have you faced in your life, with head and neck cancer,  where you have had to be courageous?

  • I have needed often to remember that I have been frightened, fearful and scared before quite a few of the surgeries and…
  • afterwards I know that by calling on my skills and experiences from the past, I get through them.
  • It doesn’t mean I am fearless…not at all, but I can now, because of previous experiences, have great confidence that things for me will go OK. Not always well but OK.
  • I also had (and still do) an enormous amount of trust in my professional team.
  • Both my husband and I knew and felt that from Day 2 of diagnosis, when I met my Professor and his associate, along with visiting Chris O’Brien Lifehouse where I would have my surgery.
  • I was nervous about the upcoming surgery (the big one which would take the cancer and reconstruct my mouth with part of my leg) but I never ever wanted to do anything differently.
  • I feel exactly the same over 4 years later.

 

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

  • Interestingly getting told I had  squamous cell carcinoma found in my upper gums and under one lip actually was more of a relief than a shock.
  • Surprised by that?
  • Well, I had no answers to what was happening inside my mouth for around a year and it was not until I, along with my dentist, decided (I really really had to find courage for this!) that all the teeth attached to the upper bridge in my mouth needed removal.
  • The skills via meditation, reading and learning from both my husband ( a counsellor in training, then), my psychologist and my GP came to the fore.
  • It was never easy and it sometimes needed drugs. The OK ones. But I did it.
  • Everything that challenged my thoughts I stood up to with these words: ‘I do hard things’

 

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

  • There is something in each of us that perhaps we are not aware of on a conscious level but that we can call upon when faced with life changing news.
  • In my case it was the news I had a rare and unusual cancer in my mouth.
  • I learned that there are experts who can guide me and help me.
  • I also learned not to use Dr Google as they say.
  • For me, once I had made up my mind my team knew its thing, I was right.
  • It did not mean I was leaving everything up to them!
  • I was proactive in finding out what to expect.
  • One of the doctors was kind enough to answer my questions via email.
  • I only had to ask. Never be afraid to ask!
  • I also prepared myself physically (not in a fitness way because I am not like that by nature) by using the time before my surgery to do some cooking for the freezer once I was home, and having practical items like clothing etc I could use in hospital.
  • I am a planner and organiser by nature so I did the parts the patient could do, whilst my team of doctors, surgeons, prosthodontists, nurses and so on did theirs.

 

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

  • Yes I am and I do.
  • I have applied so much of the experience of having faced the diagnosis of head and neck cancer and what it meant for me using aspects of exposure therapy.
  • I face what I am afraid of and do things in incremental ways.
  • I learned this to face the extraction of the teeth and bridge back in April 2017 and it built my confidence in small ways.
  • I also had the chance to take some risks which previously (in the years 2015-early 2017) I was too fearful to try: including going as a passenger in the car with my husband driving, driving to Sydney, going to appointments.
  • Each of these, I did with my husband for all of 2017 – often I was physically unable to as my leg was recovering from its surgery too and into 2018 when one day, I said…
  • “I am taking myself to Westmead today”. I knew the drive, I love my car and I was ready to do this. I did. And from that time I have driven myself to Westmead Oral Sciences. for many treatments (that’s the generic name for my sessions at the prosthodontist)
  • I have, of course, been driven by my husband for all four of my surgeries. He also brought me to a cancer check last September as I was unable to drive post wound surgery.

 

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

  • You might surprise yourself.
  • Do not under estimate your human qualities and abilities.
  • I also support getting some help as well.
  • We often need some more counselling AFTER a major life event so do make sure you see someone who helps with that. I am seeing a psychologist again too.
  • Don’t think you have to do anything alone.
  • There is always someone who just might understand and there may be support services too.

 

Head and Neck Cancer Australia – formerly Beyond Five – is a huge resource for patients, families, carers, and professionals to become more informed and aware of Head and Neck Cancer. My blog posts, since my diagnosis in May 2017, were of interest to my head and neck surgeon and his nurse when I spoke about them at one of my appointments and as a result of expressing interest in helping and having an informal interview, I was offered the role of Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia. This is my 5th year of recovery from head and neck cancer and my 4th year of being on board the team at H.A.N.C.A.  with other Ambassadors. It is a privilege to give back.

In writing the stories of Women of Courage, these women, all with Head and Neck Cancer affecting them, contributed their stories here. Thank you to them all.

Maureen Jansen.

Her story is here.

Tara Flannery.

Her story is here.

Julie McCrossin AM.

Her story is here.

Yvonne McClaren.

Her story is here.

Cosette Calder.

Her story is here.

Anne Howe.

Her story is here.

Thank you too, to all those who read and comment on my blog posts. It make a difference to knowing I am supported and cared for and about.

3 Year Difference. July 2018-July 2021.

Denyse.

My stories and photos along with suggested links and websites must not be seen as medical advice. I write this blog from my experience as a head and neck cancer patient. Words from others are accordingly from their personal experience and not to be taken as nutritional advice. Seek what you might need from qualified health professionals  who understand the needs of cancer patients.  Denyse Whelan. 2021.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

 

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest

Women Of Courage Series.#56 Cate Froggatt. 65/2021

Women Of Courage Series. #56 Cate Froggatt. 65/2021.

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

There are people who come into our lives for a reason, as the saying goes. This woman of courage came into MY life because of my head and neck cancer diagnosis! She is Cate Froggatt, aged 52, Clinical Nurse Consultant for Prof. J Clark AM who is my Head and Neck Cancer Surgeon.

This woman and I have clicked…as they say…over chats, shared experiences as parents and with hugs and smiles at my regular visits to have cancer checks. However she is much more than that for me. Cate tells me I met her at or after my first surgery in July 2017 but like all things where an anaesthetic is involved, a verrrryy long one, I can’t recall.

She has, along with my Professor, her boss and friend, has been inside my mouth on a few occasions. When I go for a check at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse (last one was in September 2020) I know (pre Covid anyway) I can get a hug and we share smiles and laughs too.

But she also is one of the people who knows a great deal about the surgeries I have had because she is part of the team that does many. A couple of memories of Cate from me. One is her blowing me a kiss after seeing me in the anaesthetic bay and wishing me well “see you sweetcheeks”…very comforting and another is the kind voice at the end of the phone when I was (very) concerned about the skin graft weeping after surgery #4…She said, I will show Jonathan the photos and get back to you. Within minutes, reassurance, get into the bath, take off the dressing and Bernard will have something there I am pretty sure, to cover it for you. He did. I was better after that.

And in receiving Cate’s story, she said “use any photo because I know you have plenty”. She is right. Here’s Cate’s story.

In Sept. 2020. “See you in a year”

Hug with Cate: early 2020

 

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

In a way I feel as if I have had to be courageous for most of my life.

Not in a ‘life and death’ kind of way, more like an ‘out of my comfort zone’ kind of a way.

It’s not the exciting kind of courage that gets written about in novels but rather the courage required by those who are innately shy and filled with anxiety about the possible disasters awaiting in the unknown and the unfamiliar.

I had to leave home when I was 12 to go to boarding school.

This was a situation which certainly required me to muster up some courage. Leaving the safety and security of parents and home was quite hard initially.

Following school I moved to Sydney to an apartment with two friends.

The sheer size of the city and the hustle and bustle was so far removed from all that was previously familiar to the three of us.

Just to go to the shops for groceries was an undertaking that required courage.

Let alone navigating public transport, working for the first time, attending university and meeting grown up responsibilities like rent and bills – all without Mum and Dad being close enough to call upon for help.

Being a parent requires courage although I think naivety saves the majority of us there – we have no clue what we are in for as we gaze lovingly down at our firstborns!

More recently my career has demanded significant courage.

Every day I feel like an imposter in a world where I am surrounded by the most amazing minds.

I stand beside my boss in awe of his intellect, his organisational skills and his ability to literally change the world.

The incredible opportunity I have been afforded by him to be able to contribute in a small way to the great things that are being achieved calls upon courage each day.

Finally as healthcare professionals we have all recently had to gather all our courage together in a rapidly changing world where each day of early 2020 brought with it new fears, new parameters and new demands on physically and emotionally exhausted bodies and minds.

 

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

All of these things have not so much changed me but shaped me into the person I am.

 

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

I have learned to ‘just do it’.

If you think you can, you probably can.

Have faith in those who have faith in you and never, ever underestimate the power of commitment and dedication.

Finally, if you can’t beat fear, do it scared!

 

 

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

Certainly. It becomes inherent.

 

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

 

Believe in yourself. As C.S. Lewis famously said ‘We are what we believe we are.’

The quickest way to acquire self-confidence is to do exactly what you are afraid of.

 

Ah Cate, those words about doing it scared. I know that too.

What a great way to own your courage and the examples just tell me and readers too, that courage IS a muscle we can work. Love your work…and you …I have been very fortunate to have been your patient as part of my head and neck cancer surgeries and recoveries.

I also thank you too for sharing my blog more widely with your colleagues and how this helped me become offered a role as an Ambassador for (then Beyond Five) which is now Head and Neck Cancer Australia!

Thank you Cate!

Do you have special health professional who has cared for you?

Share in the comments.

Thank you

Denyse.

 

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.

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest

My Head & Neck Cancer Patient Update. Been A While! 51.1/2021.

My Head & Neck Cancer Patient Update. Been A While! 51.1/2021.

I am coming up to four years since my head and neck cancer diagnosis on 17.5.2017.

I wrote a great deal over the years about my head and neck cancer to both help myself process it all, over the many times I faced challenges including surgeries and long recovery times and I wrote for others. This is why my blog has a head and neck page to be found here.

Then in late November I wrote this.…and was very pleased to put my head and neck cancer posts away. Even though, I have included parts of this in various posts such as Life This Week and Telling My Story since, today is the first time I am writing an update.

What Happened When I Was Issued With My Upper Prosthesis.

  • I smiled A LOT.
  • I had an expectation to be able to eat foods I had missed.
  • I was told, I now know was a feeble attempt at a joke, by one of the prosthodontists, that I had to bite into an apple before I could leave the day I got those teeth.
  • I am so annoyed  disappointed, even over two years later, that I was misled with some kind of joke because life WITH an upper prosthesis is nothing like having my own teeth or even an upper denture.
  • I have no feeling in my upper lip as it too had cancer and was partially reconstructed.
  • I could eat some foods I had missed initially: missing crunchy foods….but I have to guide whatever I am eating towards my mouth and use my tongue to sense what is coming, and then the food is put in my mouth by me
  • I still have challenges.
  • I still, after all this time, cannot always guess the right amounts of a food and suffer with mouth spillage at the sides.
  • I often put too much on a fork or spoon…because I am hungry…because the food is warm…because that is life time habit

These are lessons I am continuing to learn each day…and it’s my third year of living with the reconstruction in my mouth.

My inner mouth – gums at the front and behind the upper prosthesis are skin that was harvested from my thigh. My palate is the same. My wonderfully kind and knowledgable prosthodontist (not the ‘joker’) tells me skin from the leg was never meant to be in our mouths so it will always be a challenge in terms of my management to keep it healthy as I can and for me to put up with the level of daily discomfort.

What Life Is Like For Me Now As a Recovered and Well Head & Neck Cancer Patient.

  • There is no sign of cancer within me. My head and neck surgeon does not need to see me until September 2021 – a full year since last visit
  • I am seeing my prosthodontist in mid May to have a 6 month check and CT scan for bone changes.
  • I am self-caring well for the upkeep of cleanliness inside my mouth using a water pik daily, a micro brush around the abutments I can reach and cleaning my upper prosthesis, partial denture and remaining 8 teeth with care.
  • There has been no addition gum overgrowth and for that I am incredibly grateful.
  • I keep smiling.
  • I love to share my story.
  • I continue to be an Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia
  • I will reduce my local head and neck cancer group attendance
  • I will help raise funds in the Soup for the Soul event locally where I have sourced some great help from a cafe.
  • I will share the stories of others along with my updates on social media.

BUT…here is some more:

  • I continue to learn that I have to live with restrictions.
  • I can no longer eat anywhere other than home unless it’s a manageable ‘cake’ and ‘coffee’ somewhere.
  • It makes travelling overnight anywhere a bit challenging. Mostly I can take my own foods and utensils.
  • I cannot go to someone’s place for a meal and I think…even though I do not make any fuss of it…most people really do not even think to perhaps ask what may be suitable. To offend no-one, I have to say, it’s a morning tea or afternoon tea or very light lunch that I can probably eat.
  • I feel, even though I look normal, that to understand what is happening for me inside my mouth it is better that I admit to what are my limits and stick to them as I do not want to offend….
  • It is messy when I eat.
  • I often have food spill from the sides of my mouth (particularly if I have put a bit much in) and I constantly wipe the sides of my mouth needing paper towels and tissues nearby.
  • I always have water close to me.
  • I often eat alone…not because I want to but because I take so long and I can no longer really eat and talk…my husband has kindly told me, of the ‘look’ of food at the front of my mouth.

Why Update Now?

  • I was sore eating yesterday. Stinging sore inside my mouth.
  • I know I have to expect a certain level of this.
  • My mouth is much smaller inside than I remember …because of the hardware that’s been placed inside.
  • I knew I had to change somethings about my eating habits to help.
  • I did this initially by using a large teaspoon for cereal instead of a dessert spoon. It was better.
  • I have now cut up foods into small pieces and resist putting larger (as I was) amounts inside.

I am admitting my self-care and knowledge of how to help myself needed to be written and spoken about. For too long, I have looked and sounded right…and that is good…but for many of us (and now I include me) we are never the same post- head and neck cancer.

I am forever grateful for my professional team who have ensured my wellness to this day!

I used to think I couldn’t admit to having some issues because I have had such an awesome and great recovery. I now know that in being human…and a vulnerable one at that, I had to ‘out myself’.

This is why I posted today.

Update: got some largeish teaspoons. And, have cut up food into smaller pieces. Winning at changing habits!

Take care everyone,

Denyse.

 

 

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest