Saturday 10th April 2021

About That Smile. Mum & Memories. 28/2021.

About That Smile. Mum & Memories. 28/2021.

Why pink?

Why not…actually because remembering Mum, who died 14 years ago this week, bright pink was one of her favourite colours. Not being too maudlin about it, this was the best photo of her in her last months, taken at my parents’ Diamond (60th) Wedding Anniversary Lunch with family, and it was the outfit we chose for her final journey. The photo which sat atop her coffin, is in Dad’s place and is one I feel privileged to have taken. It was of “just” Mum edited from this photo.

Why memories?

On 5th March 2007 Mum finally died following a relatively brief illness based on a January 2007 diagnosis of secondary brain tumours. For a couple of years before that however, things began to shift and change for Mum in her body and her demeanour but none of us, including her G.P. of many years and neurologist treating her for a parkinsonian-type condition knew what was actually going on until a CT scan followed by an MRI. More details here. It was, an awful time for her, Dad and those of us who loved her as Mum, mother-in-law, grandmother and great grandmother.

Why smile?

It’s her smile, I believe, that I have inherited from her and although we are/were totally opposite in many ways, we were both able to find something to smile about when with family, friends and especially when meeting new grandchildren!

Circa 1969.

When I Could NOT Smile.

I know I have much to smile about now and will always appreciate getting my smile back after head and neck cancer. But I know when I was anxious and sad in the years 2014-2016 I would do what I could to summon a smile…especially when I was with my grandkids, and this one in particular. Miss J. has, I say, inherited my smile and that of my mother. We say this anyway!

With Miss J late 2016. Before my cancer was found “under those fake teeth”

A visit from J always included a selfie post my cancer surgeries.

My first social outing following my 2017 cancer surgeries: to Miss J’s 21st!

And now.

SMILE is my Word of The Year. 

I wrote about why it is the word of the year for me here. I remain glad I have!

So you smile naturally or is it troublesome?

I know I was more self-conscious in earlier times when I felt my size and the way my teeth looked affected me, but I had to change that internal story somewhat or there would have been NO photos of me at all!

Thanks for the memories and the smile, Mum!

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne here for Lovin’ Life linky on Thursdays.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Word Of The Year. 1/51 #LifeThisWeek. 1/2021.

Word Of The Year. 1/51 #LifeThisWeek. 1/2021.

W  E  L  C  O  M     E    V   E   R   Y   O   N  E    2   0   2   1

Welcome to Life This Week in 2021. I am so glad you are joining us. Every Monday for 51 weeks this is the place to connect, to share, to add, to comment and to meet-up virtually with many! Love this community. Thank you for being one very important part. If you are new here, extra big welcome. The optional prompts for the weeks ahead are found on the home page. Denyse.

 

For the past three years I set a word of the year for me to live by. I admit I found this both a blessing and a curse. Ha! It was more the former than the latter. I did say to myself in November:I think I will leave trying to live with a word of the year in 2021′

Then on 30th November for my 71st Birthday my dear husband wrote this to me on the card’s envelope:

There it was. A word to live with and by, and as many who read here know I do love having my smile. So now you know!

 

Why “SMILE”?

  • A smile is a valuable form of communication and connection.
  • I know for some people smiles can be hard to manage depending on the time and circumstances and not everyone is a ‘smiler’. That is what makes the world go round, we are all different.
  • I too do not like being told “smile!!”. Umm. No, unless I have the emotions that warrant a smile, I may be able to slightly fake it but truly I prefer the genuine smile.
  • I know there are many more muscles used in the face to frown and far fewer to smile and that can be a suggestion as a mood lifter.
  • In fact, the old adage of ‘fake it till you make it’ can work as a psychological tool at times. Try it.

Some Thoughts on Smiling.

“A simple smile. That’s the start of opening your heart and being compassionate to others.”

– Dalai Lama

– Thich Nhat Hanh

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

– Dr. Seuss

“The greatest self is a peaceful smile, that always sees the world smiling back.” – Bryant H. McGill

“https://www.keepinspiring.me/quotes-about-smiling/ecause of your smile, you make life more beautiful.”

My Friends Shared Here About Smiles and Smiling After This Request From Me.

  • Reading random acts of kindness
  • My dog Lucky makes me smile all the time
  • You make me smile. Especially now with your beautiful new smile x
  • At this moment in time, seeing (and hearing) the delight as my 2 year old granddaughter experiences the beach. It starts as we prepare, then as she sees the water in the distance and then peaks as she plays in the water. Her pure happiness and joy at life in general makes me smile.
  • My adult kids, watching them live their lives makes me smile x
  • Snowflakes Music Ice cream Love Energy
  • Babies laughing
  • My garden

 

The Story of My Smile.

It’s said we often don’t know how much we appreciate something until it’s gone. I agree.

Regular readers here will know that I was diagnosed with a form of head and neck cancer in the top area of my mouth and this page tells the whole story.

The loss of what I counted on as something unique to me and special, oh so special, my smile was something that I came to terms with over time. I had to.

However, the length of time it took for me to get my smile back was fourteen long, arduous, surgery and treatment filled months.

The day I got to see what  my new  smile would look like nearly brought me to tears. It was like being reunited with an old but changed new friend.

Under each of the photos here I have added some commentary connecting the word S M I L E to:

  • why I smile(d)
  • the story behind the smile
  • what can make me smile
  • appreciation for my team who gave me back my smile

 

That’s the story of my smile and why I chose the word for 2021. Actually I now think the word chose me. In a way, it was from my husband’s compliment and then this. I found a letter he never sent but he sure did proudly share with me and I have permission to share now here.

From B about my smile: written in 2018.

ABC Recording Studio, William St., SYDNEY.

I would dearly love to record a song for my wife of 48 years. I first encountered her at the Tamworth RSL Club where we were attending a Teacher’s Conference. Seated at the same table that evening, I was immediately struck by her smile. Since then, we have combined to produce two great children and eight adorable grandchildren.

Two years ago that smile was seriously threatened by a most unusually rare squamous cell cancer in her mouth. However, thanks to the brilliant intervention of an unusually rare surgeon at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Camperdown, Prof Jonathan Clark, she now has a new palate hewn from leg flesh and bone. Now that unusually rare smile has returned even more vibrant than before.

So, the song I would like, with your wonderful help, to dedicate to her is the Carpenters’ “Sweet Sweet Smile”!

 

Of course, smiling is contagious and I do this as much as I can when I am out and about to show my appreciation for others.

It is made harder by the addition of the mask thanks (no thanks) to COVID19 but I will still smile with my eyes and use words of appreciation where I can.

I hope your year has begun well.

Do you choose a word for the year?

I will review the word I had for 2020 in a future post.

Thanks for being here!

Denyse.

Link Up 221.

Life This Week. Link Up #221

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.

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* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt is Announcement. 11/1/2021

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt.3/3. 103/2020.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt.3/3. 103/2020.

Well over 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 Twenty Five*. Part Three of Three.

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.

To read the earlier two parts of this Chapter go here for Part One (January, February, March & April) and here for Part Two (May, June, July & August).

 

WHAT A YEAR! 

Let’s get on with the final part of Telling My Story….2020.

SEPTEMBER.

But first, here’s to the Dads in my life:

Father’s Day Collage

I did not expect to be continuing to be recovering from surgery but yes, that is so. I was treated at home for 3 weeks by a Wound Nurse who took care of checking the wound, changing the VAC machine that helped heal me and then, as I did so well, signed off so I could visit my GP’s Nurse three times a week. Gosh people. Life is good…hey!

I could not drive (again) because of the machine and its attachment to me, so my dear husband (yet again!) drove me to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for my 6 month head and neck cancer check with my surgeon.

It was the first time my husband had been back with me here since early 2018. Certainly COVID had made some differences in protocol but not to the great ambience we both felt with my head and neck surgeon Jonathan and his surgical assistant, Cate.

Here’s the story of that visit!

It’s always good to see my team. I love them! And the best part of that visit was when Jonathan said “See you in a year!” WHAT? Blown away. I am doing well!!

Mind you they had some fun at my expense with the VAC system I was carrying! Thanks to social media Cate knew about my surgeries. I was advised that my CT scan of chest and neck was fine and to go see my prosthodontist when I could. I did.

 

With My Prosthodontist: I was back in a few days with mouth pain, but with some anti-biotic treatment it went away!

SPRING WEATHER & MEMORIES!

OCTOBER.
What a special month!

October is special because we have a grandson’s birthday and my husband and I celebrate the anniversary of our meeting each October. Just sneaking into October, I was able to say “bye bye” to all wound care. On 6th October I was F R E E. The body, the doctors and  nurses, the VAC system and I had healed me. Hallelujah!

We had a school holiday trip to our son’s place on the outskirts of Sydney to celebrate an early birthday with H and listen to the stories and share much with R, E and M. We loved it.

OUR HOLIDAY!

On 17th October 2020 we celebrated our fiftieth anniversary of meeting. Now, for the first time in over 5 years we planned a short trip to the north western city of Tamworth where we met. We set off on the Monday, venturing into the country roads we remembered so well and with shared driving the trip was most enjoyable.

The next day we went to the top of Oxley Lookout to take in the view of Tamworth and then drove the hour or so to my first school at Barraba. We had morning tea and did a small tour of the spots important to me. They were the house where I lived in 1970 and to the school where I taught.

The town itself was less active and we could understand that. Both of us were worn out too by some of the emotional memories that flooded back.

One was of where I gave birth to our daughter in 1971 and we realised that we had seen and done enough of the memory lane and came back to our most comfy house. Glad to have done this trip.

And back into our retired lives here on the Central Coast of NSW.

PHOTOS, FLOWERS, RIVER & MORE.

OCTOBER into NOVEMBER. 

My improved physical health, fewer restrictions in NSW thanks to good COVID numbers meant I could be out and about more and enjoying what IS retirement now, post my head and neck cancer surgeries and treatments. But first, Beyond Five changed their name to Head and Neck Cancer Australia. Congratulations to them and I remain a very committed volunteer Ambassador into 2021.

 

I was also delighted to have these kind words written about me by Nadia Rosin CEO of Head and Neck Cancer Australia on the occasion of my great outcome at my September visit to my surgeon, Professor Jonathan Clark AM who is the Chair of Head and Neck Cancer Australia.

SNIPPETS & MEMORIES

Time To Renew My Photo Collage for the Blog and On Facebook.

NOVEMBER

  • I remembered my parents’ wedding anniversary: they last celebrated together in 2006 for their Diamond (60th) Wedding Anniversary
  • It got me thinking about “our” up coming Golden (50th) Wedding Anniversary in January 2021.
  • So, then my thinking got me…interested in lots of Etsy, convincing my husband to go along with my plans (he said yes!) and then lots of in-person visits to so-called cheap shops – buying up golden type decorations as there was a bit about for Christmas…
  • And finding places on Etsy which made amazing posters. I am going to save sharing these till the actual anniversary but let me tell you, there are clever people out there and how well they can make items for display for a special occasion
  • My husband and I had fun too ‘getting the info’ we wanted to share: how many places we had lived in, how many cars…and the like.
  • I also started getting more memories out that could prove useful for my version of the day when we celebrate.
  • We settled on a family lunch here because the actual date IS  Saturday 23rd January and we will welcome our two adult kids, their kids and one partner of a grandchild. We will be a lunch party of 13. Our daughter is making the cake (to her dad’s likes) and we will put on a pretty easy cold lunch.
  • Dad lent me the Golden Wedding Anniversary Scrapbook I made for him and Mum for 1996 to read over too. And the 60th one as well.
  • After seeing Dad one time this month, I visited Uberkate Jewels and left my precious Ubercircles chain to have a very small circle added. I have it now and it is very special.
  • Our 2 eldest granddaughters visited for a photo shoot of us for our 50th. What fun we had.
  • I recalled the lovely day a year ago when I met my blogging friends to celebrate my 70th.
  • On my birthday this year, my husband drove us both to see my Dad as he had not done so for a while, and we had a lovely morning tea for me. I brought it but that is fine!

The two of us.

Sometimes something surprising happens when you look outside. This was that! From our glass kitchen splashback one morning.

 

DECEMBER

Could we believe that we might be able to celebrate Christmas “with” COVID still hanging around? Yes, we could.#perhaps not. See below.

Along with:

  • remembering social distancing: 1.5 metres between people
  • limits of numbers at gatherings (mind you, this keeps shifting like the proverbial goal posts!)
  • use of masks where social distancing cannot be practised…except basically no-one but a handful at my local shops are doing this..and that includes me.

However….that said, Australia is grateful to be an island surrounded by sea as is our next-door neighbour New Zealand as it’s because of that, and the closing of our respective countries’ borders early that we have done reasonably well. But even that sounds crass and not empathetic and many people lost their lives in COVID times, with the state of Victoria having the most. I truly send my condolences to all here and around the world where you have been personally affected.

At the time of writing, the first vaccines are being administered in the hardest hit country (to date, my thinking) U.S.A.

It is also the place where the current President whose names rhymes with rump will not accept he lost the November 2020 election to Joe Biden. Mr Biden will be sworn in on 20 January 2021.

FAMILY. 

When I was at Dad’s place on 30 November, I did a walk around the walls where he has many of the family photos and some of them are large collages made by me for him to have memories on his walls. It was interesting for me to re-visit them to regain a renewed sense of gratitude for my life, the lives of those who went before me and to my parents. In fact my very first post for Telling My Story is this one: About Mum (Noreen) and Dad (Andrew).

L:Mum’s parents. Dad & Mum. 1946. R: Dad’s parents.

CHRISTMAS MEMORIES & MORE.

As I write it is mid December with just under 10 days till Christmas Day. This year we are driving to Sydney to enjoy Christmas lunch with our daughter and son and some of our grandchildren. Back in our days living closer we often entertained on Christmas Day and I was pleased to do so. Before I took over the reins for our side of the family Mum and Dad hosted. This is how it works for us. Not doing too much (although I used to..of course) and it really IS about getting together.

UPDATE: Covid…..

If anything was going to change our year, it was “this” quiet and unseen danger.

 

The trouble with COVID19 is that it is:

#invisible

#most places

#highly contagious

#can be asymptomatic

In the time I want to  publish this on Wednesday 23 December, 2020, it could be that life with COVID in Australia, particularly NSW where I live, could have changed what our plans might be…again.

I also got to see some of the family who live in Sydney when I visited my prosthodontist for a sore mouth check on 22 December. My mouth’s skin is sometimes irritated by a tooth of the prosthesis but I can see why more and know, as he said my management inside my mouth is great. Phew.

What I will do, however is UPDATE this post over the days till the end of 2020 if needed.

I do wish you all the very best time ahead. It IS meant to be fun, festive and family and friends time and I hope that works out for you too.

And be kind…..to yourselves first.

Denyse.

To my twitter friends: this was lovely to make. The first circle apparently people I tweet with most and so on to the outer circle. I love my twitter friends.

 

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt.2/3. 51/51. #LifeThisWeek.102/2020.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt.2/3. 51/51. #LifeThisWeek.102/2020.

Well over 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 Twenty Five*. Part Two of Three.

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.

 

*Rightio…how DID I jump from my last chapter..Telling My Story which was Chapter Twenty to here?

No, I did not secretly write the posts and then not publish them.

But I did have a brainwave…do 2020’s chapter while it is fresh in my mind.

So, here I am with the second four months of “THAT” year we won’t forget in a hurry: 2020. Last Wednesday I published the first four months here.

This is the last post of #LifeThisWeek I will publish the final one of Telling My Story 2020 on Wednesday 23rd December.

Then, over time in the first months of 2021 I will write:

Chapter Twenty One (2015),

Chapter Twenty Two (2016- mid May 2017),

Chapter Twenty Three (later in May 2017 – 2018),

Chapter Twenty Four (2019)

In this, the last post for Life This Week, I want to thank each of you who has linked up, read and commented this year. You are very much valued as a part of this community. I am posting again this Wednesday to conclude this series (the Chapter for 2020 I mean!) and will be back on board for:

MONDAY 4 January 2021. 1/51 Word of The Year. Optional Prompt.

 

Part Two of Three. Chapter 25. 2020.

Now, on with the months of May, June, July and August of 2020.

I have to warn you whilst there are no gory photos there may be some details of the ailments I had that are not pleasant to read. Nor, of course, were they pleasant to have!

MAY 2020.

Family.

Our second granddaughter turned 21 in the early days of May. On the same weekend when the Premier of NSW announced, during a COVID update,  that families could visit each other in their houses, S had her ‘lockdown ISO’ party which she shared with us,  around 2 hours away, via facetime. Her Mum, boyfriend and siblings made it a special night and I am told, she got the cake cooked by her mum as was requested! Congratulations, S!

We actually saw her and the family the very next weekend as it was Mother’s Day and my daughter invited us to her house for Morning Tea. That was the first time we had ventured to Sydney since March. It felt strange being on the M1 and it was not too crowded. Delighted of course to see our family. It was lovely.

On the Tuesday afterwards I drove back down again, in a different direction, to see my Dad on the northern beaches. I had not seen him for at least 3 months as we were being very cautious in making contact with such an older person in an independent retirement place. I took all precautions and they had strict protocols for me and paperwork. I admit, I did give Dad a few hugs. He had missed human  contact other than generally on the phone.

 

My Self Care In May.

My emotional health took a bit of a battering as COVID struck with all its limitations, rules, changes and moving of goal posts. I am not great with change but do accept it’s needed and so I offer myself more kindness, easier inner talk and times out (if possible) by myself in the car and to possibly enjoy a coffee. I was delighted to find a takeaway stall on one of my Sunday drives, and then over time, with limitations some of my fave coffee places which had stayed open, could have a small number of people sit for coffee.

I kept up my art and craft practices and set myself small goals and got immersed in fulfilling those. With the Index Card a Day Challenge starting in June I was ready for that. I did some treat cooking for me and for my local GP practice as the doctors and front office staff went through a LOT in terms of dealing with the regulations and patients!

I continued with drives over to the water once COVID regulations about exercise meant you could walk where you went. I did. Sort of. To take photos. Noticing things in nature always helps me and I really needed it because I had health matters to deal with that were significant.

I also acknowledged that it was 3 years on 17 May 2020 since my oral cancer diagnosis. Important to remember, reflect and be grateful.

Health Matters. May, June, July and August.

I will do my best to use short and helpful sentences..and as my husband suggested: dot points.

MAY:

  • I needed to finally, and actually rather urgently see my female G.P. about the bothersome rectal issues. When I saw her, it was “do this, go here, see him” and “YOU have your whole life ahead of you” Get this sorted. She “IS” that kind of doctor and I love her for it but that day I got a bit scared.
  • She sent me to the Colo Rectal Surgeon and to my embarrassment (not his) I was very reluctant to go through with what he suggested first. A colonoscopy. Why? Rectal bleeding and obvious (he saw, not me, I just knew) rectal prolapse.
  • THIS was a condition I had lived with, tried to anyway for well over 2+ years, and I KNEW it was not good. I blamed IBS for my sometimes incontinence and ageing..but as I have found out no, it was the rectum being very lax and ‘falling out’. Sorry to write that.
  • Off home with the news, and the Colonoscopy pack. It was mid COVID restrictions at private hospitals and I opted for mine at the place 5 minutes up the road. No can do. Till June.
  • Waaahh. That is me who does not like to wait.

JUNE:

  • OK, people, with me it was nerves and more that put me off the colonoscopy but I also knew that without doing that nothing would change.
  • Facing up to it, hating the preparation and the aftermath at home, my dear husband took me to the private hospital up the road and left me.
  • The nurses were kind, the prep sure had done its work and….
  • The outcome, as told to me by the surgeon, was no cancer..but a pretty awful rectal prolapse which he strongly suggested needed repair and to come see him very soon.
  • We did, it was very helpful to have my husband there. The surgeon explained how he would perform an abdominal rectopexi. He would go in via my very old hysterectomy scar, pull up the rectum and sew it onto bone low on my spine near the coccyx.
  • Recovery would be in hospital for at least 4 nights and he predicted success. I was ready to trust him.

JULY:

This post tells something of what was to come for me.

  • Testing, testing. Bloods needing for the major abdominal surgery coming up.
  • Then to the private hospital in COVID times for booking in. In actual fact, it was a phone pre-op consultation but I needed to attend the hospital some 45 minutes away for ECG and pick up pre-operation info and prep. No not the awful prep. Phew.
  • I admit the nerves did play up a bit but I have dealt with 4 cancer surgeries AND I trusted this doctor and his goal for me and my GP too.
  • On a freezing late July morning my husband drove me – bag packed with nighties, all I needed for entertainment i.e. phone & ipad, and loose pants – because coming home my abdomen would be swollen & tender.
  • I was literally dropped off because of COVID.
  • Interestingly the prep I had to take at home before surgery was a drink of electrolytes and I had to have an all over shower body wash with their particular sterilising skin liquid.
  • The worst part for me …is always the waiting before going into theatre but this time was made worse as my surgeon insisted on a series of enemas. OMG. Not happy, in fact I got teary with the kindly nurse. She understood but the back and forth in a gown to the loo…made little better by being on a bed close to it. Sigh.
  • Anaesthetist was very thorough with his questions and also had to give me a spinal. Not impressed by the anaesthetic nurse who was very stressed about my veins. Shout out to him: not good to show frustration in front of patient who is already nervous.
  • Then I was GONE. Out like the proverbial.
  • Recovery: very aware of the pressure boots keeping my legs active, the fact that I could not feel from my waist down, catheter in and to be honest, felt well because “it’s over”.
  • Hiccup in communication between staff in recovery – it was busy – COVID restrictions were easing for capacity – meant I stayed in recovery about 2 hours longer than needed…grrr. Could have been in my room.
  • Something unexpected as my surgeon told me the morning after: he did the horizontal cut as planned but when opening me up, there was a hernia which would need repairing. It required a vertical cut to access it, from the first cut to my bellybutton. All stitching was internal with tape holding the outside wounds. I literally had an upside down T wound area.
  • Fast forwarding: I had an OK time recovering but not comfortable at all. My eating was hampered by my mouth and whilst I could have anything to eat, I was worried about …diarrheoa. Trust me, it didn’t happen but I needed reassurance and my surgeon was prepared to let me go home a day early even before bowel movement because I was needing home. He was lovely. Still is!
  • Saw him at a check up about a week or so later and he told me I was a star patient. Oh, I needed to hear that.
  • No driving, but that was OK. I was just so relieved that all was well  and miracle of miracles, no incontinence. Yay. Unreal.

AUGUST:

  • But. It was not to continue as a star recovery.
  • Around 2 to 3 weeks post-recovery, and I was still not able to drive, there was some redness appearing on the surface near my bellybutton. Husband took me to GP who advised ‘could be a ‘haematoma’ …we’ll keep an eye on it. I did, with photos. BUT….the area of the upside down T was needing greater cleaning by me. At shower time. Sigh. OK.
  • Whilst I am not great with complications, I also understand they occur. Even with ‘me’ doing everything right. I wrote here about what happened.
  • Then I wrote in detail here of the timeline, the circumstances and why it took me till October 2020 to be fully recovered!

 

What a Four Months That Was! 

But wait, there is MORE.

Daily Life with COVID19.

No, we did not have it..phew and all that. But we had to, like everyone, live around its restrictions and rules, and to be safe. For us, who are pretty conservative and intelligent people in their every day lives, it was fine. Really. You see, due to our health matters and not much income, it was never on our agenda to have overseas holidays, or even interstate ones so, unlike many, being home-bound in some ways did not bother us.

I made it work for me, the person who enjoyed her daily outings, by varying what I did at home and combined with my cooking/baking mojo returning, I found I could enjoy a coffee and treat at home some days. I also re-discovered reading the women’s mags. I did! Some got ditched soon after buying, but I have been reasonably surprised by the quality reading in the Australian Women’s Weekly so I buy that now. We gave up our physical paper delivery ages ago and get the Sydney Morning Herald as a digital subscription. All the local newspapers, which I used to love, are gone to digital land…except for one free community paper each week. I still enjoy something physical to read.

I continue my audible subscription each month and listen to some books in the car, and others at night in bed. I have taken to reading along in some cases with the physical book when accents become too hard for me to fathom which character is who!

My art is always here for me. I have, as many know, a dedicated area near my computer for all things creative. Making designs and mindful mandalas is the g0-to for me when I need to ‘concentrate’ or be mindful on just one thing!

Cooking now has a rhythm for a meals each week and we tend to use our batch-cooked meals a couple of times a week, and eat meals made from scratch on others. My dad is the recipient of some of the frozen home cooked meals.

Head and Neck Cancer Awareness and Support.

In the weirdest year ever…. COVID …to date…all things meeting-wise and catch ups were off the table. Therefore the organisation for which I volunteer had to re-think what it did to get messages and support out there for patients, families, carers and professionals.

The June Patient forum at which I was to speak was cancelled and morphed into an on-line program over many days and weeks. My part, on line as recorded by me here, was to respond to my psychological reactions to and management of having head and neck cancer.

The usual fundraising event for Beyond Five was Soup for the Soul and the physical events were not happening, nor were there any of our local Central Coast meet ups. Nevertheless, we worked on getting messages out there via You Tube, and of course, Zoom Meetings. I was not great at zoom so not that involved but as mentioned last time, my interview was on line about nutrition.

More from COVID Year 2020 for Me To Remember!

Apart from hospital homecomings… THIS was a big day and much needed..our son and his four kids came for lunch. Ahhh that’s better!

Grateful for Family Visits.

Thank you for reading..if you got this far. I am incredibly grateful to my readers and commenters.

Denyse.

Link Up 220

Life This Week. Link Up #220

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

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

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

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

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* 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.

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* THANK you for linking up today! Have a great break from now till the New Year. May You Be Well! 
The next link up will be Monday 4th January 2021. Optional Prompt: Word of The Year.

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Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt.1/3. 101/2020.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Five*. 2020. Pt. 1/3. 101/2020.

Well over 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 Twenty Five*. Part One of Three.

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.

My 7th image for Telling My Story.

 

*Rightio…how DID I jump from my last chapter..Telling My Story which was Chapter Twenty to here?

No, I did not secretly write the posts and then not publish them.

But I did have a brainwave…do 2020’s chapter while it is fresh in my mind.

So, here I am with the first four months of “THAT” year we won’t forget in a hurry: 2020.

Posts to date are here.

Next Monday for the last post of #LifeThisWeek I will publish the next part & then probably the final one on Wednesday 23rd December.

Then, over time in the first months of 2021 I will write:

Chapter Twenty One (2015),

Chapter Twenty Two (2016- mid May 2017),

Chapter Twenty Three (later in May 2017 – 2018),

Chapter Twenty Four (2019)

JANUARY 2020.

On the gratitude path. I chose ‘gratitude’ as my word of the year. I love the idea and have a small bracelet I wear, glancing at it most days where is said ‘gratitude’ on one side, and ‘for life’ on another. I do follow through with what I say and writing this now in mid December I can tell you some days it was harder to find and feel gratitude but I managed it.

The Weather.

From October 2019 most of Australia was already in Bushfire Season. So much of the Eastern side, where we live, was as they say, tinder-dry and ready to start a bush fire. Over the time from then well into January 2020, we (Australians) lived with the actual or almost threat of fire taking property nearby or being affected in some ways. The temperatures outside were high. It was very unpleasant to go outside due to smoke which had arrived thanks to the winds also bringing black, fire-damaged leaves.

We did not see clear skies for many weeks. Fortunately, the amazing work of rural fire services, and of those who live in the communities affected went OK for those of us locally. Other places, including rural & coastal South Coast NSW and parts of Victoria did not with massive evacuations of crowds of holiday makers needing to get safely out of there. Some went literally into the water, others stayed to fight fires and some, in long carparks on single lane highways made their way home. It was awful.

Late January. No blue skies to be seen.

Family.

We have 3 January birthdays in the family. All male from my father who turned 96 on the 11th to our son and his nephew our grandson on the same days later in the month. We did not catch up to celebrate but as is usual sent greetings. I know I would have visited Dad sometime that month for sure. We had a grandson start high school, and other grandchildren go back to school or work as applicable.

Dad is 96. OLD…he agrees

Health.

It was time for my annual eye examination and that occurred pretty early at the local OPSM where the ‘on the ball’ optometrist picked up changes that were likely cataract-based and that his recommendation was to see my opthalmologist I see annually as well. This visit to Castle Hill, where we used to see her, also took me in Castle Towers shops some 5 years after my last visit, and like any stranger in town, I was gobsmacked at the changes, many made because of the light rail. Met my daughter and two granddaughters for lunch before the opthalmologist.

Well. That was a bit of news. Yes, I needed the surgery for cataract removal. Both eyes. Yes my husband was right, health stuff happens more after turning 70…And, yes, she would kindly bulk bill us but we would need to come to Parramatta Day Surgery. Check. Booked. Early March 2020.

Finances.

Without going into details, finances are always tricky in January for us and it is not related to spending from Christmas nor birthdays…it’s CARS! When we sold the house in Sydney in January 2015, we immediately bought new vehicles…the other ones were literally falling apart…and so, that means now annually the cost of CTP insurances x 2. Still, we are safe in our two vehicles and we are both independent having two.

Love my Nissan XTrail

And as always when January draws to a close this happens:

1. We celebrate our Wedding Anniversary. 49 years in 2020.
2. Australia Day happens.
3. Teachers and Kids in the family return to school & one grandson started high school.

The end of January is ALWAYS like this and I often feel it should be me too! Old habits and all that.

FEBRUARY 2020. 

This of course, made 2020 different!

After the awfulness of the fires and the altered ways in which families were forced to find housing, let alone anything they owned, there was on the news something about a virus from China called then CoronaVirus. There were half-hearted jokes relating the beer brand and to be honest, not much attention was paid other than..”oh, that seems pretty awful”…and “hope it stays away from us”. Of course, we hoped that.

The Weather Changed.

After the drought…comes the flooding. Of course. Massive rain fronts and more saved some of the land and its inhabitants from the awful threat of the fires. Still, it did not help the many, many animal casualties and deaths. So much was lost. There is a lot of bush regeneration happening. And we saw blue skies again, eventually, after the rain.

Birthdays.

A most important person has his birthday this month and he is my husband. He does not go all out to celebrate so I do that for us both! He did not do anything at all for his 70th last year so this year, we had a small family get together and his wish for a chiming clock came true.

 

Head and Neck Cancer Support Group Meeting.

2020 is my third year of being part of this group of head and neck cancer patients, their carers and sometime guest speakers. I attend in a dual capacity. I am a patient and the Ambassador for Beyond Five. More about ‘that role’ further on in my memoir.

It’s always good to gather with this crew. We are located here on the Central Coast and our commonality is having a head and neck cancer or being a carer/family member. It’s an open type of meeting and all sure are welcome. We usually share our stories and health updates and at times we have a guest speaker as we did at the first meeting for year in February.

Self-Care Rules. 

My routine for self-care has been mentioned in my regular posts via the Life This Week link up, and I note here what continued into 2020.

Most days I dress with purpose and go somewhere for a coffee. I do this too after I have been to the meetings in Erina, often taking time to drive around the Terrigal area as we now live much further up the coast. I was glad I did this on that February afternoon, and stopped for a coffee and cake at Long Jetty because none of us knew what was coming.

Getting Confident Again.

The persona that was Denyse some years back…way back into say the early 2000s to around 2013…loved to get out and about. To go to the theatre, the movies, meet up with friends. Have lunch, have a coffee. Getting together with friends and family was really important to me. BUT, over time, in this memoir of mine you will see the start of how my mood and other issues affected me. It started here. There will be more to come about the not-great-years-for-me of 2015, into 2016 and the early parts of 2017 in 2021. However, this is me recounting 2020 and I became more inclined to say YES to ideas like this…instead of usually NO, thank you.

Tickets to a Show and Driving to Newcastle and Back – Evening Time.

I have found that with my declining confidence what I needed to do was to challenge myself. In fact, that IS the essence of the theory called Exposure Therapy which I reluctantly took on board in 2016. More about that in posts here and here. Yes, some of it was related to potential IBS and some to ‘I cannot eat outside the home’ because of my mouth’s limitations but more than anything I HAD to give things a go.

I did.

I drove to Newcastle, about 45 minutes away, late afternoon in February, found a secure park in the street near the Civic Theatre (I already knew the place from 2019 attendance at Newcastle Writers Festival) and wandered over, then inside to be part of the audience for Chat 10 Looks 3 with Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales. It was great. I talked to people next to me. I found the car safely in the night time streets, and drove home the coast road way in the rain. So pleased with myself too!

 

Head & Neck Cancer News.

I had an excellent visit to my prosthodontist in February and he declared all was well with my upper prosthesis and that was it. See you in May he said. Sure thing said I. Neither of us know of course..what was to come! OK..we know it was COVID but let’s  not get ahead of ourselves.

Ambassador Role.

As a patient of Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and of Professor Jonathan Clark AM, Head and Neck Surgeon, it is always a privilege to ‘give back’ in a way to help others. I was invited to be part of a new video series that would be made at “my hospital” as I call it, and I would be interviewed about nutrition following head and neck cancer diagnosis and surgeries. I was initially reluctant but when encouraged by the CEO of then Beyond Five, I said yes. It meant a day at Chris O’Brien, and lots of waiting around for film segments to be completed. However, I got to meet some special people, including two other head and neck patients, and dietitians too. My interview went well after an initial  false start. It can now be found here.

MARCH. 2020. A huge month!

The very next week I was back at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for my then 6 month check up with my surgeon. I took the chance to do quite a tour of the place as I was not in a rush. In fact, it was the first time, in a formal setting, I saw pamphlets about COVID 19 and restrictions of entry into the hospital and of course, that made sense. Those signs had not been there the WEEK before. Things were moving faster. There were sanitisers at the door as well.

My visit was awesome. See you in 6 months! I got to say good bye to Deb who was leaving the art program I had supported, and I drove home. I did not know I would be back in 6 months but under far stricter protocols….that needs to wait till part 3/3.!

Remember the Confidence Growth?

I was invited to be the guest speaker at a fund raiser for head and neck cancer, hosted by young doctors in training on the Central Coast. One doctor, Caity, knew of me from my Beyond Five story and she too had a story there. Her father, only in his 40s, had died from a head and neck cancer. Knowing the importance of awareness raising and the importance of sharing the messages via the Beyond Five site, there was an evening function – a charity ball they called it- on a delightful, balmy evening at Avoca Beach. I was happy to share my story and to help share my information at my little table where I was talking to various attendees about head and neck cancer.

Little did any of us know, on this first weekend in March, that this would be the end of events such as these, thanks no thanks COVID. Feel really fortunate this went ahead and they raised some thousands of dollars. I remain in touch with Caity and colleagues too.

It was a big boost for my confidence. I used to speak off the cuff as a principal many times, and once I had that mic in my hand it was fine. I did have to find something suitable to wear and I did…and to drive myself from one end of the coast to the other. I did.

Eating remains an issue. But I am OK with that.

What I couldn’t do…was actually eat anything there. I did not pay to attend. I could drink water and that was it. You see, despite my normal appearance eating anything other than some cake with coffee, eating anywhere other than home is problematic.

And Now…Cataract Surgeries. Yes, x two in 3 days!

As a couple we had a rhythm for driving together to Sydney for my cancer treatments initially and then I became Ms Independent and as kids say “I can do it myself.” But not for this.

Monday 9 March 2020.

My dear husband drove us to Parramatta for my midday arrival at the Day Surgery. We were booked to stay just down the road at a new to us Meriton apartment. Fortunately he could access the room, and bring up our food supplies and clothes. Meanwhile I had a LONG wait as many people were there for similar types of eye surgeries. On this day it was my right eye. There were some COVID type precautions including questions about where I had been. No restrictions on other people being with waiting patients.

It is a LONG wait with weird stuff in your eyes but eventually I was ushered in to the next room, given a shower cap, no change of clothes, and onto a trolley. Saw the anaesthetist and his nurse. All checked out OK. His wife is my opthalmologist. I don’t know what he gave me but I have no memory of seeing her or the surgery but waking up, cover over my eye and for some reason I took a lot of selfies. Husband collected me, back into the apartment. Rested up and finally ate something and slept until the next morning when we needed to go back to the Day Surgery for check and drops. Then off home! Yay. Thank goodness for sunglasses (as recommended) because EVERYTHING was bright.

Wednesday 11 March 2020.

Despite having a successful outcome on Monday, for this day trip I was anxious. Maybe my mind is remembering what surgeries are about. Nevertheless with a confidence boost chat to my GP and a wee bit of valium on board, we went. This time the only place my husband could ‘hang out’ was at Westfield Parramatta as I was going home the same day. On arrival, only 2 days post the first surgery, the protocol was already ramped up thanks to COVID. More questions on arrival and a temperature check. Settled down to wait “after the drops in the eyes” and then BOOM..OK, what is that? Oh. A Fire Alarm and no it’s not a practice. Evacuate the building.

Down some 3 flights of stairs, in single file, I admit I started to remember what 9/11 people had done only SO much worse. Outside on the street, we were guided away from the building and waited. The firies came. In an engine and we waited. I was pre-op and whilst the anaesthetists was already there, his wife, my surgeon, arrived just as we were all coming onto the driveway near the Ferry Terminal. So, all we could do was wait. Eventually, thanks to my phone I texted my husband from a concrete set of steps where I sat and we waited. Probably about 45 minutes. Then, all clear. A faulty something or other and we traipsed up the stairs again. Lift was out for a time. The wait was not too bad and I was called in, and this time, saw my surgeon and even “saw some of the coloured lights” as she was inserting the lens. Wow I said. She said “no talking”. So I didn’t. No silly selfies, husband got me and off back up the M1 we went. The next day checks were at rooms closer to our house.

Updates on my eyes. As of December 2020. I see very well for distance and no longer need glasses for driving. Yay. I use a much weaker script in glasses for reading. At the shops I use a $2 plastic pair with 2 vision. I have had a recent check and despite some issues that annoyed me as I already have itchy eyes at times my opthalmologist says all is looking good and these should last me 10 to 15 years. Grateful too that she bulkbilled for these surgeries.

COVID19  GETS SERIOUS. 

On the weekend after my two surgeries above, there were a number of changes to how we here in Australia, and in our state, would now lead our lives. The Prime Minister, used Sunday 15th March to announce a raft of new rules on how we would live and interact day to day and why. He was often flanked with the then Federal Health Person,  and in our state, Premier with her Health head honco, Minister for Health and Police.

It began very seriously from Monday 16 March.

I am using some calendar reminders here!

  • I know that I needed to have both food supplies in for us and I admit it, toilet paper was a high priority.
  • I think I went, as carefully as I could, probably wearing a mask and gloves – whatever we had here at the time – to local supermarkets
  • I could not always get what I sought nor what we wanted
  • I remember feelings of insecurity in me that I may not be able to cook all the meals – for us and the freezer – to have on hand.
  • I know I felt the weight of responsibility

Meanwhile my husband was negotiating seeing his GP and going through medication changes and it was not easy. In fact, it was tough. Even though he could talk to the GP on the phone, some things are far better managed in person.

Our eldest granddaughter has come to stay indefinitely with her other grandparents who also live on the Coast as she has an autoimmune condition so did not want to be at her Mum’s. Mum is a teacher and going to school at that point each day was a risk that she, and her youngest had to take. It got a bit worrying. She popped up to see us…and for a much needed hug…just because she needed to as did we to see her.

Of course, we know now that schools did an amazing job of being flexible and eventually on-line learning worked..hard as it was…and teachers need congratulating along with their leaders.

So we did OK really I guess. I found it hard initially that my practice of going out each day for a coffee was curtailed but I found alternative solutions at home with a strong coffee and my ISObaking  took off!!

Dear Miss Five. 

Our youngest granddaughter, born five years ago at almost the end of March spent her fifth birthday….having her broken arm re-set. It was one of those small accidents but when it’s a little person it is always hard. Staying with her Dad, along with her siblings, when it happened, she was driven to the local public hospital where, as our son said, they could not have been kinder. Her Mum met up with them there. They stabilised her arm, she came back to her Dad’s to open the presents from us and share a facetime even though it was pretty hard…and then next morning, her actual birthday, she went back in to find the nurses had remembered her birthday and she was treated very well indeed. She was fine, and is fine. And as her Dad told her, you just wanted to be the same as me when I was four. True!

April 2020.

We became accustomed to daily updates on COVID numbers of cases in our state and country. NSW was not doing well. Sadly it was where older people lived such as in Nursing Homes that things went downhill rapidly. Each day seemed to bring worse news and added restrictions. Already we knew there would be no Royal Easter Show. Definitely no-one going anywhere on the roads except for essential reasons: work, medical or supermarket.

I find change hard but did my best with this one because we had to do the right thing. Even going for a casual drive to nowhere..or the beach was BANNED and police could pull you up to ask where you were going.

I did immerse myself in busy stuff for my mind, like blogging, art, craft and cooking. I had my cooking/baking mojo back. In general too I was able to source ingredients and do my best to cook for us to have a meal stash in the freezer. Toilet paper was OK. We celebrated Miss 8’s birthday via facetime. I was able to attend some ancillary medical appointments in person. That was a relief…my feet needed it.

Eventually too, my hairdresser was back in a very limited way when they got the OK to do so and my usual 4 weekly hair cut had blown out to 8 weeks but I lasted and I was very relieved to have my back to normal look.

And then on a Friday at the end of the month…oh, there were no ANZAC days services or ceremonies anywhere either…I got slight sore throat and a mild temperature so rang the COVID hotline and my GP and both said, report to local COVID test centre. It was in local hospital grounds 5 minutes away. Not much of a wait. Test was OK. Mask on from the get go….and back home to self isolate. I got my test Friday afternoon and result in wee hours of Sunday morning.

COVID COLLAGE.

And that is that.

2020. Part One of Three.

Denyse.

Did you read it all? Wow. Thank you.

Joining here with Leanne and friends for what I guess will be the last Lovin Life Linky in 2020.

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My Head & Neck Cancer Story* Wrapped Up!** 95/2020.

My Head & Neck Cancer Story* Wrapped Up!** 95/2020.

Why the * and the ** Denyse?

Well, yes it’s a story* alright, this head and neck cancer of mine.

Mine was a version of Squamous Cell Carcinoma found in my upper gums and under top lip. However my head and neck surgeons were never quite sure of my SCC definitions as it was “very unusual” and “could have been…something …something”. Nevertheless, for ease of writing and for others who may read these posts, I refer to it as SCC of the upper gums and under the top lip or Oral Cancer. I keep it consistent for me and for readers who may have found me following a head and neck cancer diagnosis for them or a family member. This is why I keep a page here devoted to all the posts.

Now, about the wrapped up**

Considering that my head and neck surgeon said in September 2020, “see you in a year” and my prosthodontist said in October 2020, “see you in 6 months” there is not a lot I need to consider at all treatment and care wise.

I am in my 4th year since diagnosis and recoveries have been fine…even with a few setbacks so here I am.

In Collage Form: My Head & Neck Story Wrapped Up. As of November 2020.

First: Time span: July 2017 (first & major surgery) including 3 other surgeries and many, many visits to the prosthodontist to May 2018.

Second: Time span: June 2018 – December 2018. I had my upper prosthesis added on 21 August 2018. Smiling and eating felt so good!

Third: Using my upper prosthesis to eat took FAR longer than I expected. Nevertheless I remain very grateful and my smile tells the story.

Four: In early 2020 (the famous year of COVID!) my cataracts were removed from both eyes, no more glasses other than reading. I also had major bowel surgery. So happy to be WELL…after all that and to have found a hairdresser whose cutting of my hair is consistent and amazing.

That is it. For now. This year and beyond.

To all who have continued to cheer me on when I have been down and help me see how well I am doing….

             T H A N K    Y O U

and I am off to:

Denyse.

Joining here with Leanne and friends for Lovin’ Life linky on Thursdays.

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One Year Ago. Head & Neck Cancer. October 2019. 87/2020.

One Year Ago. Head & Neck Cancer. October 2019. 87/2020.

For the past two weeks, and now concluding this week, on a  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 2019.

 

 

I was very well by this time one year ago. I did have a cancer check in September 2019 and all was good and I was told, see you in 6 months. That brought me to the early March 2020 appointment which was held in “just before COVID times locked down”.

 

 

I was getting myself ready to celebrate my 70th Birthday at the end of November 2019, and had a little look at young Denyse who began loving cake…waaaay back. Mum would have made this. She did not really enjoy eating sweet things but she knew how to bake them for the rest of us.

 

 

 

Just before October 2019 I found out about two other patients with head and neck cancers who also had the privilege of sharing the care and treatment of “my” Professor too. These people found me via formerly Beyond Five..now Head and Neck Cancer Australia, and then read my blog posts here. They reached out to me. One I got to meet in person. The other, another teacher, and I will catch up once we are on some kind of holidays at the same time. Head and Neck Cancer, is as I read recently a lonely disease. It is always good though to meet up with others who understand. The health professionals too as they get to see progress within us.

 

 

 

 

I did have a special and kind friend from my world of art die in early October 2019 and on the day of her funeral, I went to a favourite place of mine that she also loved me sharing, the ocean and thought of her and her family.

 

 

 

 

My gratitude for having an open space by the ocean is well-known. I have, since moving nearer the coast, found solace and a great sense of peace walking on the beach and in the water. The beach I loved doing this has, thanks to the ways of the ocean, become almost inaccessible to people who are older and with a compromised right leg (fibula-less) I won’t go there unless I can access it with ease.

 

I drove to Sydney’s Dee Why to visit Dad in his independent retirement unit in October. He must not have wanted a photo that day. Here I am before leaving home.

 

Later, I drove as I often do, past South Curl Curl beach and stopped to have a little walk. It was a magnificent day. And when I did see Dad in October 2020 he agreed to this photo! He turns 97 early next year.

 

What have I learned in doing this series?

That for me, things got better and better.

They also were very hard on some days to tolerate. Many of those days were long, boring, painful and challenging as so much depends on T I M E to heal.

Yes, that old adage is true…time heals all wounds.

So, as of NOW: October 2020, I am a very well person. Go me.

Actually, also ‘go my husband’ who has had to listen to ALLLL  of the stories from me.

On Saturday 17th October it was 50 years since we met. As this post goes live, we will have travelled to the north west of N.S.W. to the city of Tamworth where we met. We plan to have a couple of days going to towns that were of great significance in our early single, then married lives. There WILL be a post about that you can guarantee it. 

 

I have had a very challenging year in some respects in 2020 with – as for everyone:  COVID 19 and its various means of changing our lives….

  • specifically for me it has been a year of ‘getting more medical and surgical things’ done. I had to concentrate on head and neck cancer until late 2019 so in 2020 there are no more excuses.

 

  • In March 2020 I had both eyes cataracts removed and no longer need glasses for distance or driving. Still for reading but at a lower prescription and I need sunglasses out in the sun.

 

  • In July, and then into August 2020 I had a rectal prolapse surgery (planned) and hernia repair (unplanned). There was a wound healing complication after 5 weeks and I needed further surgery to debride the wound and then  T I M E and a VAC machine and wound changes till all finally healed by October 6. BEST news ever!

 

  • Well, there was more too! Early September, when I was still attached the the VAC machine, my husband drove me to my Cancer Check with my surgeon and nurse, and all was so darned good, I got the news that floored me…”see you in a year.” And….

 

  • On 15 October my prosthodontist checked out my upper prosthesis and declared I am maintaining the area very well indeed! I don’t need to return to see him till April 2021.

I love these images…me with my health professionals. I love that they agree to having their photos taken too.

Check Up with ColoRectal Surgeon

Head and Neck Cancer Surgeon & Me.

With My Prosthodontist

This is why I blog. It is so helpful to share with others and it is a great record for me and my progress.

Thank you for your interest, I appreciate it.

Denyse.

Joining Leanne and friends for Lovin Life Linky here. 

 

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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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