Sunday 9th May 2021

Telling My Story. Chapter 24. June 2018 – 2019. Part 2/2. 56/2021.

Telling My Story. Chapter 24. June 2018 – 2019. Part 2/2. 56/2021.

The backstory first:

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

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at Chapter Twenty Four. Telling the story in two parts. Today is Part 2.

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

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

Tah Dah! This Chapter’s 2nd Part IS the last….for now…and into 2021 of Telling My Story. Only took 4 years!! 

The overriding memory I have of this period in my life is change. Change for the good. Change in my outlook as I moved further away from cancer surgeries and recoveries towards L I F E as I wanted to have lived it in retirement but far too many things were in the way. The series year of 2015 and 2015 tell more.

So, as best as I can, this rounding up of Part 2, thus ending my publication is going to have more photos and memories along with, fewer words.

Are you ready to come along?

Early April 2019.

As my confidence shot up and I was prepared  drive to places and see things I wanted to see and experience, Newcastle Writers Festival headed the list. A conversation (longish on twitter) with author Trent Dalton ended up with me LOVING Boy Swallows Universe and he would be there on the Sunday I was. However, I had booked to hear my long time friend & author Rick Morton speak on his first book One Hundred Years of Dirt and have a catch up if I could. I met my blogging friend Lisa for early/late lunch and we went to Rick’s session. I had also booked to see Jane Caro speak on her ground  breaking book Accidental Feminists which I had devoured. I hadn’t see Jane in real life but we were well known to each other from social media.

What a day!

The upshot.

This.

But wait there was more…I was stoked for this resurgence of my social life. Admittedly I was very tired and it was a challenge to find something to eat because of my mouth…but I was out there again. Yay. I also needed more than ever to calm and find peace within and I turned always to my art desk to find or create a new project.

Late April, Mother’s Day and into  May.

During the April school holidays, which coincided with Easter and one granddaughter’s birthday, so we entertained with great delight..always love seeing our family.

My daughter and I met at Berkelouw’s for Mother’s Day brunch morning tea and we rarely get ‘two of is catch ups. So that was awesome. My 2 year anniversary of head and neck cancer diagnosis was coming and my husband and I celebrated at one of our favourite places for morning tea. Then he said “time for your apple watch isn’t it?” YES. Please. Thank you. I had just joined a moving/walking challenge with the Department of Education so that was going to motivate me too.

About An Idea: Women of Courage.

Having read Jane’s book (listened via Audible too) and then seeing her interviewed about the findings and that women, are/were in general and in life, doing so much unsaid, unpaid work that it was women who suffered more in latter years because of separation/divorce settlements all favouring men. Her concern which is serious and major, and verified over time is that women, in Australia, over 55 are becoming the highest number and fastest growing cohort of the homeless.

Now, whilst I would like to have fixed all the issues Jane raised, and of course I could not, I did have this idea. It seemed to me that we women might feel empowered somewhat if there was a way to share some of our stories…as I saw them, of courage. That was it.

Women of Courage.

I knew many of there people, but would they be prepared to share something about themselves along this line. I set no targets, I asked politely, and received no for an answer with respect. I kept a list of those I approached on line with my proposal and by the time my launch time arrived I was ready with a great set of responses.

The first post, was mine, via introduction, and then it was time for Sam to share her story,

Ready steady….Women of Courage

In the weeks, then months that followed I pressed publish on  24 personally named posts and  one anonymous post in 2019.

I decided to stop sharing before December as I knew there would be fewer readers and then was ready to kick off again with Jane’s post

and onto 25 from named sources and 4 anonymous ones until it closed as series in September 2020.

This year, I am re-launching soon. 2021 series. From mid May…I like that time of year! Here is where all of the Women of Courage posts are.

June, July, August…..2019.

  • I can remember we had visitors for school holidays, my husband was unwell for some weeks with the flu even though the diagnosis took a while, I continued with my trips back and forth to Sydney to see the Prosthodontist less regularly but still needing reassurance and care…

 

  • I drove to Sydney in June and stayed overnight to see Vivid Light Festival from the harbour and to go to an event to celebrate the great work of the late Professor Chris O’Brien at the cancer care centre named for him. It was on this occasion I realised how hard it is for a post-surgery me to find food to eat unless I bring my own. I still grapple with this today.

 

  • I also made a quick trip to near where we used to live after a Westmead appointment and had an impromptu catch up with my daughter and granddaughter and a ride on the new-t0-me light rail.

 

  • I did quite a bit of cooking – as usual – because I need to cook for my needs. I also joined in the Soup for Soul Fundraising for then Beyond Five with my local Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer group with batches of small cupcakes. We did not know of course, that Covid, the following year would shut down all such gatherings, even restricting visitors to hospital to one for a patient or even no-one could accompany an adult.
  • I met with my local federal M.P. Emma McBride to get her support for World Head and Neck Cancer Day on 27 July. That is the date for it world-wide. I also shared more each week leading up to the date via my blog and social media in my role as an Ambassador.

Braver and braver and being prepared to say YES first rather than no continued to increase my ability to not only do hard things but to see them as small accomplishments building upon each other which is at the heart of exposure therapy.

Some Highlights: June to November 2019.

  1. Staying solo overnight in Sydney: to attend Vivid and then a conference the next day just as a supporter
  2. Driving to Hunter Valley Gardens to view what I had read much about
  3. Deciding that I really wanted to celebrate being 70 later in the year
  4. Getting great cancer checks with all GOOD news and not being as fearful of cancer’s return
  5. Becoming more interested in sharing what I could with the wider community: resources I made to The Big Hug Box and to Arterie at Lifehouse but also stopping when it became a little more of an overload
  6. Planning that I would like to invite blogging and social media friends to a morning tea to for me…turning 70 and being vulnerable enough to send invitations…Everyone actually said YES but on the day for a range of reasons sadly 3 could not come.
  7. Dealing with disappointment in a less personal way.
  8. Learning that living with I.B.S. and some incontinence might be a package* that came with ageing…and making allowances for myself with that. *In May – August 2020 I found a solution via surgery I was too scared to ponder in 2019 and I am well.

On Turning 70. 

Before my 70th Birthday, I drove to my granddaughter’s school (and daughter’s school)  to attend their Open Day. Loved celebrating gratitude for my life here:

  • Rather than dreading another zero birthday I celebrated with gratitude.
  • I visited my father a few days after my birthday to have cake and coffee with him and my brother
  • My actual birthday was the Saturday when our family came for lunch. Our daughter and her adult offspring, one with partner and her youngster and our son with his four.
  • My husband and I did the catering and our daughter made a cake.
  • It truly was a celebration of LIFE and to have this with those who loved me (vice versa) made it so special
  • A few days before I met with my social media/blogging friends too.
  • I received, unexpectedly, cards, flowers and kind gifts.

Loved this big surprise.

Lovely portraits of our 8 grandkids

 

Christmas 2019 Was Different.

After the loveliness of my birthday I was well-satisfied but getting more brave in my continued intentions to push myself further. This was when I agreed that we (husband and I) would drive to Sydney on Christmas Day – something I had always vowed would be too stressful) and enjoy a family lunch. Our son said to drop in on the way down as he would have his kids on Christmas morning. All good.

Unfortunately to his disappointment most of all, my husband had over-exerted himself the day before finishing off some outdoor work and was exhausted and completely unwell so I made the trip solo.

I remained determined to do this though on behalf of us both and to see the family. I even managed to  eat some Christmas lunch. Yay for being careful but also being adventurous.

Onward into 2020 with Gratitude.

I accepted this would be word for 2020.

I had already done a 30 days of gratitude challenge leading to my 70th Birthday.

I knew finding something to be grateful for each day was a good thing to do for my health.

Of course I did not know ahead of this just how much challenge 2020 would bring!

 

I actually blogged 2020 in 3 parts last year  for Telling My Story because I wanted to remember it well.

Here is the link to each post.

Part One 2020

Part Two 2020

Part Three 2020

Thank you for following my story. See how my avatar has changed in that time.

 

This is the ‘last one’ for quite some time.

The weekend before this post went live, I finally had all the printed copies of each post put in order, in two folders. They are evidence of My Life…as told via Telling My Story 1949 —-> and even if no-one else other than The Author reads them, I am so glad to have persisted!
They are located in the bookshelf along with other life records: my career in education, my cancer story and updates and family tree info.

Warm wishes,

Denyse.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

 

 

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Telling My Story. Chapter 24. June 2018-2019. Pt 1/2. 52/2021.

Telling My Story. Chapter 24. June 2018-2019. Pt 1/2. 52/2021.

The backstory first:

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

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at Chapter Twenty Four. Telling the story in two parts. Today is Part 1.

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

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

THIS post is the second last in the series. Part Two is in a week’s time. Thank you to all who have been reading and commenting on my recent posts about my life since head and neck cancer. I appreciate each and every one of you and your kindness. It helps me understand my need for connection and blogging does that for me. Warmest wishes to you all. Denyse.

 

June into July 2018.

About my mouth.

This is the month after what I hoped would be the final reconstructive surgery…(still is)….and it was winter, busy and I spent even more time, alone (happily) in my red car, driving BACK and FORTH to Westmead Oral Sciences…because…. T E E T H!

Obviously healing has to take place, and the work of this next stent, the one to push my top lip out more needed lots of T I M E.

You know, that thing you have to be P A T I E N T about when you are one!

During the visits to the prosthodontist, which could vary in time ‘in the chair’ from 2 to 4 hours, I listened to audio books at the boring times of having 2 lots of hands in my mouth…and used to ‘fiddle with’ my bracelets, or even a small crystal. I was not ever nervous but my boredom could lead to anxiety and so it was best I used strategies of distraction and relaxation. I was always very tired after my day spent at Westmead and soon learned to give myself a day off afterwards.

Nevertheless, I knew that my prosthodontist was working at all he could to get my new upper prosthesis prepared for when my mouth was.

Daily Routine Helped.

As I had started with photo taking in late 2017 for a daily outfit shot, and then going somewhere for coffee, this became a given as part of my routine to see me dress well, and engage with the wider world outside home. I still do this, no longer with daily photos but it is embedded in my self-care strategies.

Life went on.

In between times, I did not sit around.

Actually I do not doing sitting around very well.

I still had my daily routine of an outfit photo and usually went out for coffee. I went to view nature and I became increasingly interested in helping with spreading the word of head and neck cancer. I also found The Big Hug Box and offered to make bookmarks and loved using my art for good. I ventured an idea to the local library – can’t recall which month but it was with a view to me running a mindful mandala making course.

I even put a ‘how to’ on the blog. Teacher me was re-emerging.

School Holidays. Visitors. 

It was a treat to see our grandchildren when their parents could arrange a visit and on one occasion we had a late birthday celebration. I made sure I had some art and craft for the four of them to do and we spent a very pleasant day in the winter sunshine.

I continued to be out and taking photos and it was good for me to re-visit places where I held special memories of seeking solace and comfort.

 

Head and Neck Cancer: Sharing The News.

As I was someone who had no idea of this rare cancer when diagnosed, I wanted to make others aware, but I also know my Professor Jonathan Clark and others had begun Beyond Five to do just that. Finally, as July approached and with it, World Head and Neck Cancer Day on 27 July I swung into action. Beyond Five sent me some ribbons and brochures and I made contact with my local federal M.P. Emma McBride and she visited us at home to find out more. Emma remains interested in sharing. I also approached our doctors and dentist with a view to sharing my “wellness” and asking them to display information. It seemed like I wanted to give back.

I did.

Thank You: No Words Are Enough.

 In the year since I had been diagnosed, after my dentist has removed the bridge in April 2017, and I had the biopsy done by the oral surgeon in May 2017, I really wanted to share with them how I was. So, I did. In two personal visits. I have done this once more to the Oral Surgeon’s since and of course I see my Dentist each 6 months.

World Head and Neck Cancer Day and Meeting The Central Coast HNC Support Group.

My M.P. had written an article about me and head and neck cancer and it was within days of that, I was contacted by Lisa Shailer, from Central Coast Cancer Centre, who looks after newly diagnosed head and neck cancer patients. She invited me to the first Soup for the Soul event at Gosford hospital’s Cancer Centre and that was where my involvement with the local group commenced. It was also the first time I had met anyone else with a head and neck cancer.

August 2018. How LONG?

On 6th August, as my patience was really, really wearing thin …to get this upper prosthesis, I celebrated our daughter’s birthday with a S M I L E.…and the race for this to be ready and in my mouth began. I was so over it. I thought this would be such a change for me when it happened, I even made up a list of what crunchy foods I would try again. (Dear reader…it was not how she thought it would be)

After more trips up and down the M1, I sensed that 21 August was to be THE day and dressed up  a little bit more. It was. The day. It felt weird and good.

I smiled for a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time.

First time I smiled….

 

After an adjustment from my prosthodontist.

September into October 2018.

I Could Not Stop SMILING.

Even though I had “teeth” screwed into my upper jaw in August, there were still quite a lot of adjustments to be made to the prosthesis by my prosthodontist at Westmead so that meant more trips to him. He was also making a bottom partial denture of a molar on each side, to clip onto my remaining 8 natural teeth to have better biting and chewing.

I sent a photo of me to my head and neck surgeon and he was amazed at the outcome too. So cool. I had my check up and he was so happy for me as were the other people who were part of my surgeries and healing times. I met with Nadia, CEO of Beyond Five as a potential Ambassador, and on the same day said hello and thank you to Gail O’Brien, wife of the late Professor Chris O’Brien, for her husband’s vision for his one-stop Cancer Care Centre, Lifehouse.

What it was not.

No way does it replicate my own teeth. However, I took some time to get used to that as well as speaking because my mouth was now more full of ‘hardware’. Eating was tricky – and still can be – as different foods required more chewing than expected and others were just too sharp or crusty for me to be able to manage. I also found (and find) I need something slippery to help the food go down.

BUT I had my SMILE back. And that was so good.

I was invited to share my story  at the Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Support Group and used my long lost power point and Uni tutor skills to do so. It was well-received.

I visited family with greater confidence. Trips to Sydney were ones where I once only had emotional capacity to deal with the treatments but now I was getting more brave and doing hard things.

I met people for a long awaited catch up. I saw Dad more. I visited places where I had grown up. It was GOOD to be out and about and not all about head and neck cancer. I went to a Look Good Feel Good self care workshop but was a little disappointed that its relevance to me was little. Understandably my cancer it rare, but the 90% effort on the day was placed with those with hair loss from chemo and in general were for breast cancer survivors. I appreciate that my cancer is not visible either.

November into December 2018.

Invited to become an Ambassador for then Beyond Five, now Head and Neck Cancer Australia. This was a huge honour and so good to know I could be helpful using my education background and my personal experience of being a head and neck cancer patient. I met with the CEO, Nadia and Inaugural Ambassador Julie McCrossin at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Back to schools!

I was invited to my granddaughter’s grandparents’ day and I went. I would not have envisaged doing this in the previous few years but handling my head and neck cancer recovery encourage me to use my new skills of confidence and greater resilience. It was great. I loved being back in a school. Then I visited my daughter at her school. Very proud to see the library she started from Day One of that new school.

Because of a blunder made in 2003 on my Service Medal, by the NSW Dept of Education at my retirement (when I had to due to work place issues and no chance for medical retirement) I tweeted about it once and my principal friend John Goh noticed and he retweeted it and the NSW Dept of Education Deputy Secretary saw it, and emailed me “we can fix this Denyse”….and the story of that is told here. So good to have my career recognised properly for me.

We hosted Christmas.

We had not had our family gather with us for Christmas for quite some years. Then for 2018 our daughter and her kids suggested coming to our place as they were mid house move. Again, bravely, I said YES and we were delighted to do so. I also had another Santa photo taken and when asked what did I want for Christmas I said “I already have it, I am cancer free and well.”

What Would 2019 Bring?

January 2019.

Birthdays!

Always birthdays first…my Dad…95

Then our son 40

And our grandson 18.

I didn’t see Dad on the day but had photos sent. Our son and his four kids came for a lunch and we made sure there was cake and candles. Our daughter had an 18th Birthday family lunch for her boy at her new place and we were delighted to attend.

We had not driven down the way – north western Sydney – since we last lived there and the changes are extreme. Former paddocks and dairy farms are cheek by jowl housing and that is the way these days I guess. Also is a reason traffic wise, why my husband was glad to be out of Sydney.

February 2019.

Busy month to begin with the first meeting in 2019 for Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Support Group where M.P. Liesl Tesch, former Paralympian addressed us, sharing her story.

I continued to have check ups at Westmead for my mouth. In January of 2019 the upper prosthesis was removed – it is attached by 5 abutments (tiny screws) that are in my reconstructed jaw, for minor adjustments. As you may imagine, it is a challenge for something to fit well (and perfectly) so it meant trips to Westmead for this. As time went on though, my physical care of the prosthesis with waterpik and micro brushes – getting debris away from the abutments and gums, it has not needed removal since then. In fact, I can barely believe how well I have been able to maintain this because it’s something quite new.

I also found out, that the pain I often have in various parts of my mouth inside is all part of the body getting used to what is in there. After all, it’s got my leg bits inside. My team and being published as a story on Beyond Five.

My husband turned 70. He is the original no fuss man. However, we had hoped for a small family lunch. His body has different plans and we could not go ahead as he was unwell. Nevertheless he received family love and best wishes and we caught up with family later.

A wee tribute to him…..HE got me through so many of those really hard days early in my diagnosis. His counselling skills were very much needed along with the loving and caring man he is. The night before my surgery on 6 July 2017, it was him sorting out where he would stay rather than the awful (for us) place where we had been recommended that helped calm me as I was concerned about his welfare while I was ‘unaware’ in I.C.U. Then when he visited me from home on the Central Coast, his very presence on the balcony of my room was so reassuring….love him, lots.

March into April 2019. 

Re-reading this post as I go, I am aware that it sounds like I was on the go, doing, doing and recovering and doing even more. In some ways I was. It felt SO good to be getting better after almost 2 years. It was though one of those situations with me where I.B.S. would return when I was feeling particularly stressed. And that its pattern would be more likely after any stress event. Even the good ones. I had to learn to pace myself better.

I had to learn to add in time outside.

In nature.

Taking walks.

Being a fun photographer…and then also using my creative senses to enjoy art of some kind to fill my visual and kinaesthetic senses.

Remembering my late Mum’s death anniversary here.

Learning where to STOP..is here. Next time, will be Part Two: April – December 2019.

Reality of my reconstructed mouth….

And in the next part of Chapter 24, “this” concept changes into a plan for a blog series.

Thank you so much if you made it this far.

I appreciate that!

Denyse.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Joyful. 17/51. #LifeThisWeek. 51/2021.

Joyful. 17/51. #LifeThisWeek. 51/2021.

The last Aussie-based link up is HERE!

I started this 5 years ago this coming September picking up Mondays when my friend Kirsty stopped blogging. There was a link up on Wednesdays until last year with Sue and Leanne called MidLife Share The Love and one on Thursdays for a long time called Lovin Life with Leanne.

Now, it’s me. This one. I remain committed to keeping the link up happening FOR sure until the end of 2021. After all, I have done the 51 optional prompts!

But for me this link up is MORE than a place for bloggers to share their posts. It’s a space for connecting with others. The one reason I began blogging in late 2010 was the same. So, I appreciate you:

who link up, and

those who also read,

and comment because that  is the way to connect.

The link up is not too much hard work at all for me. I thrive on it. I am hopeful that bloggers from Australia, the U.S.A. and Canada along with further flung places will continue to find a place which care about them, their posts and how they are going.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Thank you all. Denyse.

Today’s post is about fewer words and more photos.

It’s the date of my late grandmother’s birthday. She was a war bride  from World War 1, leaving her home in England to sail to Australia to marry her Andy. My Dad’s dad. It’s a sad tale. I have shared it here. However I like to think she was joyful in her early years of love for him and their first two children. Pity I cannot find the image. In the meantime, maybe she was a little bit joyful at my Christening in 1950.

Off to see Dad at Dee Why today, so will be commenting later when I am home

Gran is on the left

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

So pleased I have my smile back and it’s a joy to help others.

I believe as I am ageing, now 71, that I take more time to notice what makes me feel joyful. Sometimes I do not seek it, but there it is and I will say WOW. Julia Baird’s book Phosphoresence talks of finding moments of awe and wonder. I see these for me as joyful moments too. I remember them and I smile as I recall.

The look of joy on my face on receiving this amazing gift for my 70th

I cannot ever forget the joy I felt when I saw the image I captured….

This too is what I see when I am out: joy in nature, shapes, colours and more.

I was very joyful to get my smile back on 21 August 2018 after my cancer surgeries and reconstruction. I never take that joyful feeling for granted.

The Before and After of “Teeth Day” 21 Aug

I am also joyful that the Women of Courage series is making a comeback with some very interested & interesting women volunteering to share their stories. If you did not get a chance to do that in 2019 and 2020, let me know in the comments and I will share the information with you.

And the man who tells me his life is filled with one joyful moment after another…this is why he is my hero and star. He has taught me all I need to know about living in the moment. I call him my husband.

The man who said “Smile” is your word

Where do you find joy?

What or who makes you feel joyful?

Denyse.

Link Up #237

Life This Week. Link Up #237

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!

* 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.

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: Taking Stock. #2 3 May 2021.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


 

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Telling My Story. Chapter 23. 17 May 2017- May 2018. Part 2/2. 49/2021.

Telling My Story. Chapter 23. 17 May 2017- May 2018. Part 2/2. 49/2021.

Dear Readers, thank you for reading my posts. Bloggers who are also readers and link up Mondays, thank you too. Always appreciate you doing this. Nearly 4 years ago, this project of mine started actually getting posts done. It took some time. I wasn’t sure how to do this but eventually found a rhythm. Now, I am relieved and delighted to be finishing the series …..until of course I have to do posts for 2021. But they can wait. These posts here as part of Telling My Story are forming a memoir. I have each post printed and in a folder (thanks teacher me). If you find these overly long I get that. But without me telling the details, I would have lost just how this particular time in my life was.

So, I am saying, should you find it too wordy, stick with the photos…and look at the captions if that is the case….and thanks again. Only “two more” to come: Tuesday 27 April and Thursday 6 May.

You are awesome. All of you…sticking with me! Denyse.

The backstory first:

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

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at Chapter Twenty Three & It’s One Post.  Two Parts. Part One is here.

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

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

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Three. Part Two of Two. May 2017 – May 2018.

Why I thought I could  tell this part of my story in just one post it’s not possible….

There was more I wanted to add to Telling My Story even though I posted a great deal about the topics contained within this post I am adding links back to those posts as I see applicable.

December 2017.

Always a month of some excitement and anticipation, this one was as well but with added events. Our eldest granddaughter was having her 21st Birthday as a family & friends picnic lunch in a lovely park and I was determined to attend. It would be my first big function for at least 2-3 years.

But before that, there was a trip back to my surgeon for another check post the 2nd surgery in November, and more. I finished my teaching connections(already had in reality) with end of membership of N.S.W. Teachers Federation.

Our daughter graduated from her Master of Education course at CSU and attended with her offspring and wore the same cloak I did for my Masters of Education.

I visited my father before Christmas to catch up and knowing me, left him some frozen meals and treats.

I became more creative with my eating…remember no upper teeth and just 8 on the bottom…but see the summer lunch picture, I could get it all down over time. The secret still for me (and many with head and neck cancer) is to have slippery, wet items to help foods mix better to swallow and to have water on hand.

Dressing with purpose each day continued and gave me a focus on looking good and feeling better within myself. I always went somewhere for a coffee. Sometimes I had something to eat that I could manage in tiny pieces. Two of these cafes I still visit now and they were so kind to me back then.

Going Out Each Day Was (still is!) So Important.

Finishing 2017 and Welcoming 2018.

We had a quiet Christmas but we had visits from family. Very grateful. My husband had to take quite a few photos of the inside of my mouth to share via email with my surgeon over the January break. He was great and it was reassuring. You see, I had no idea really of how these surgeries would work out for me. I trusted my professional teams. I knew I had a 3rd surgery in early February but there was always more happening than my recovery!

February Surgery. March Recovery. 

I would love to write how this time went so well and with no problems but it did not. Even though we had planned it would. This pre-surgery time, we came down the day before, and my husband went to help our daughter at her place and I enjoyed re-visiting Sydney. I missed much of the sights and was determined to enjoy what I could. However, Sydney was changed. Like me. Streets were torn up for light rail. Sigh. Anyway for distraction’s sake I did this:

Before I knew it we (husband my ever present companion) were walking up Missenden Road Camperdown from our accommodation, to take me to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for reconstructive surgery #3.

Yes, I did have foam holding those stitches inside my nose down to my flap which was inside my mouth. It was awkward, and I had to wait a while for them to come out. But I still managed coffee. AND I went out.

Back to Sydney for removal of stitches, check of the stent (it’s a clear mouth guard screwed into the abutments in my jaw created by the fibula) and then orders to continue to see my prosthodontist for check. Honestly it was pretty horrible and stinky for me wearing that stent but it was all for the good. To stretch out my man-made lip (well, woman made really from my own (leg)skin.

Time for my first photo request of my surgeon and his clinical nurse. So grateful for them. They also got cakes..of course they did (and still do)

But wait, we also needed to move house. At Gorokan where we rented since November 2015, the owners wanted to return. OK. That meant we had to find another place. Our rental agency was so good (still is) and found us a somewhat more expensive house but also more comfortable but it also meant…packing up and moving again, and this was planned for by early days of April.

One Step Forward. Four Steps Back.

My prosthodontist team at Westmead was now seeing me every week or so and checking on the stent, taking it out, cleaning it and returning it. It was no pleasant and my husband was a very kind and compassionate driver and carer. But I was elated in late February when these two men reckoned the healing was fine and the stent could be removed. WOW.

For about a day or so.

 

You see, my skin in the space that was being created did not want to stay where it was supposed to and it jumped right back meaning…sadly not only did the stent have to go back in BUT I would, even though it was no confirmed till May, have to have a 4th reconstructive surgery. My anxiety and I.B.S. worries were high. Surgery likely, house move and just dealing with travel and my inner expectations. On March 1 I had what I would call something like a panic attack but it was caused by high levels of gut spasming because I had taken too many ibubrufen in my fear of having an episode of diarrhoea. Eventually I settled enough for my team to work inside my mouth, and then we came home.

After that, my self-confidence had to grow and I began doing my own trips back and forth to Westmead.

And in March 2018, this Telling My Story Chapter Two was published here.

March into April 2018.

House needed packing up.

My husband did a great deal of boxing up items. Very efficient. Then we realised in the new house we needed more details of contents rather than room destination.

I continued with regular visits back and forth to Westmead. Sometimes these were up to 4 hours in the chair. The prosthodontist needed to do a lot of measuring and checking since we both knew a fourth surgery would be happening and this one needed to be right.

I sure had my patience tested but I was always in the kindest and gentlest of hands and could call a break from the chair when I needed it. My emotional levels went up and down a bit as I was always waiting to know if something wasn’t going well. I sought constant reassurance and by speaking up about that need frankly my prosthodontist understood and was very generous with my maintenance of my mouth. Three years on, he still is. I am going well. But where were we?

Moving.

As I compiled this post, I sit here happily in this same rental property which we have just re-leased until April 2022. It is in a lovely neighbourhood, lots of shops nearby and only 20 minutes to the beach and 10 minutes to the M1 back to Sydney. Our medical services are here and at over 70 now, we appreciate that very much.

What May 2018 Brought.

A visit to my head and neck surgeon who confirmed there would be a fourth surgery and that this time the stent would stay on for months not week. I will admit I was a bit teary (and angry) on the way home as it felt like all that February’s work was undone. However…I got over myself. I always do.

How Did I Manage My Emotional Health?

I became better over time I guess but anxiety about “does this mean cancer is back” for any type of symptom or little thing going wrong in my mouth was always present. Yet, I would seek reassurance and move on. My G.P. was/is terrific at that. And I continued to take the anti-depressant.

Our family was in some ways changing and growing away from us as they edged to adulthood, and family settings changed. We usually got a visit to our place once each school holidays.

I became a meditator via Calm after finishing with Headspace as my paid app, and this continues to be my preferred meditation to this day.

With some distraction therapy i.e. my art was/is a great way to be mindful about just one thing.

My blog. Always. It was and continues to be a great way to remember the world is not just about my cancer recovery…

Being sociable on line. In fact I was already that way but my interests grew and this was about when I took more interest in becoming involved with giving back to those who help others.

I follow Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and over time in 2018 they wrote part of my story on their website.

Beyond Five – as Head and Neck Cancer Australia is now known – was an account I not only followed but in 2018 felt that I could perhaps make a contribution someway in terms of education. That site also has my original story.

In the next Telling My Story, I will share more about my reach out to politicians and about joining head and neck cancer groups but for now…I was focussed on ONE thing…

the May Surgery

Off we went to Sydney, repeating the place to stay and then we both did the visiting Sydney as tourist again. A return Ferry trip to the Zoo is brilliant to see the Harbour at its best.

The next morning, up at 5.45 a.m. for the silent walk in the dark turning to light to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse knowing I would be first again. How much do I love my surgeon who can do that for me. Up to day surgery, off with the day clothes, on with the gowns, husband farewelled back to Unit where we stayed and then…after a brief chat to some of my team in the anaesthetic bay, I remember getting onto the table for this one…and then…not much till I was up and dressed in recovery. And the big shock I got when I looked in the mirror.

How Did The Rest Of May Proceed?

I already knew what recovery looked and felt like. Yes, it was/is painful and yes I had to adapt again to eating differently but I also got a bit ambitious. You see, I had my second skin graft taken from my thigh and it was packed with special seaweed dressing and firmly bandaged (this was a repeat of what happened at November 2017 surgery) and I knew that in 2 weeks I would have a bath and it would soak off.

Until I decided to do some driving..to Sydney to see my Dad and to Gosford to get some cakes from Kyla and I felt something wet and sticky down my leg one evening not even a week post surgery. I admit I panic. But I also have a calm husband, an iphone and a direct line to my HNC nurse. Cate was reassuring, bandage it up a bit more, see how it goes. Nope. No good. I was teary. However, she in her professional way, showed Jonathan the pics and he said, in the bath now. Take it off over time. My husband had bandages and coverings from my 2017 leg wound recovery and that is what we did. Phew.

But still, things were a little more tricky/worrying when on last days in May, I woke feeling something  hard coming through the top of my lip. YIKES. I texted my surgeon. Not something I did lightly and within a few minutes, he rang. He told me it was an area he had put a small stitch in and hoped it would stay. The hard thing I could feel was the stent, not as I initially thought the ‘jaw’ and he said he would let my prosthodontist know and he would get back to me.

He did. I went to Sydney that day and was somewhat reassured that I could watch it, apply some anti biotic cream I think, and the prosthodontist said maybe another surgery (!) or it might close up by itself. Over time it did. Phew. Skin! Very grateful it grew.

Oh gosh. What’s next?

June 2018 into 2019 that’s what!

Thank you for sticking with my story. It’s been a good way to remember how far I have come, and I have greater appreciation for my courage and fortitude at the time even more, three years after this happened.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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#LifeThisWeek. 16/51. Telling My Story. Ch. 23. 17 May 2017 – May 2018. Part 1/2. 48/2021.

#LifeThisWeek. 16/51. Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Three. 17 May 2017 – May 2018. 48/2021.

The backstory first:

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

Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at Chapter Twenty Three & It’s One Post.  Two Parts. 

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

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

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Three. Part One of Two. 17 May 2017 – May 2018.

Why I thought I could  tell this part of my story in just one post it’s not possible….

There was more I wanted to add to Telling My Story even though I posted a great deal about the topics contained within this post I am adding links back to those posts as I see applicable.

Last time, I ended with these sentences:

And that is where this Chapter ends.

If you have guessed where it’s going, then you are probably right.

Wednesday 17th May 2017. The Day.

I was quite relieved after the harrowing processes explained in the last Telling My Story.

On the morning of Wednesday 17th May 2017, my husband drove to his lifeline counselling volunteer role and I sat finishing off a late breakfast when my phone rang. As soon as it did, and I knew the voice, I sensed the words that would change my life:

Denyse, you have squamous cell carcinoma in those gums. Late last night the lab rang me and I left it till today to let you know. I am so sorry.

There was a part of me that was sad and shocked but not surprised and then there was the part of me that could kick into organisational mode after a very tiny cry with the lovely Dr Stef. She told me of the organisation from the Oral Surgeon’s and how I would be referred to a “Dr Clark” in Sydney….and to make contact with them. I hung up, then practical me called my husband’s workplace, and asked them to get him to call me. He did, soon enough, and came straight home (40 minute drive) as soon as he knew. This gave me (organised me) time to:

  • ring my G.P. for an appointment that afternoon. I needed to share and also plan some kind of support to get me to Sydney.
  • ring the rooms of the (Dr) now I know Professor Jonathan Clark, to make an appointment and I was offered one the very next day with his colleague.  I took it.
  • I did some research of where the place was we would be going to and…awaited my husband’s arrival.

Yes I had a long hug with my husband and a cry but, in so many ways THIS news answered so many questions that no-one considered a possibility.

We told no-one, saw our G.P. who was shocked but very supportive and helpful, and that night prepared myself as best I could to navigate 3 things I had become fearful about:

  1. drive in the car as a passenger
  2. go on the M1 and into Sydney
  3. finding toilet stops along the way

What Happened After That News.

It’s all in my first post about my cancer is here.

I was surprised in some ways about my attitude to the diagnosis and what came next. My husband reminds me though, that I had gone from the unknown to the known – a very long time it took too – and that is always better to deal with.

We told no-one other than our G.P. my former G.P. and my dentist. We wanted more information before sharing with our family: my father and our two adult children. Once we did that, there was for the sake of family re-connection a softening of what had been some difficulties within our extended family. Our son made the trip to see us and sharing time with my grandchildren was heartening and gave me great support for what lay ahead. And our daughter came once I was back home.

How to Wait.

Not good at this much but over time, I have learned some strategies which help me.

  • One is to go outside or drive somewhere pleasant to view nature and I did this.
  • Another is art or creating a mandala and I sure did these.
  • I did not, even after a brief look, trawl the internet. I had already worked out my cancer was rare.
  • I cooked. I knew I would have no upper teeth when I got home.
  • I prepared as best I could, clothing and other times for hospital
  • Completing the hospital admission forms. Oh my. They take FOREVER. But over time I did them.
  • Left all my  personal details such as passwords and so on to my husband and put them in writing, and signed my daughter into my facebook account so she could update people.
  • Go for a drive while I could.
  • Walk on the beach.
  • Take photos to remind me.
  • Send emails to the Ass/Professor with the questions I came up with. He returned with great answers. He also referred me to then, the new site called Beyond Five but my brain was not up to searching much at all in June 2017.
  • Ask a few times as the possible date drew closer, if the surgery was going ahead
  • Get a very short hair cut.
  • Pack a bag of things to do such as an art book, some half done mandalas and markers and leads for my iphone
  • Buy a new ipad. Well, my old one needed replacing!

Will I Blog About Cancer?

I thought long and hard on this one and perhaps it was a protective thing at the time. I did not want to be only a cancer blogger as I wanted to keep writing and sharing other parts of my life. This post before I had my surgery in 2017 is here.  I decided this may help others who have a cancer diagnosis like mine so over time, I began leaving them in this part of my home page. But let’s not get too far ahead of me!

How Will My Life Change?

I think it already had.

Life had been very challenging and with the cancer diagnosis there was a small surge of resilience in amongst the awful worries and fears and this in its own way buoyed me for the surgery which would be brutal, disfiguring, long and…having unknowns in  the outcome because “until all the biopsies etc come back” we do not know whether you will also need radiation.

I did however, stick with my tried and true helping mechanisms. They were walking outside, noticing nature, writing non-cancer blog posts, sharing on line, chatting in person or on the phone and seeing our son and daughter and their kids was a tremendous boon. I got the sweetest care package from my Aussie friend who lives in San Francisco so I felt very cared for and loved.

These Posts Tell The Update and Post-Surgery Stories Here.

First update after surgery is here.

Second update after surgery is here.

Third Update: now home and how things are going is here

What I Learned About Me and Cancer -4 months on is here

But What Else Happened?

The time of recovery at home was long, slow and methodical as it needed to be for someone who had part of her leg put into her mouth. OK, I can say that!

The good news at the 3 week post-surgery check back in Sydney’s Chris O’Brien Lifehouse was that there was no cancer found in my lymph glands and that whilst there was some in the (jaw) bone, the team would not recommend radiation as it might improve things for me to 96% whereas with ‘just the surgery’ I was at 95%. We agreed wholeheartedly and to be honest, I am terrified that IF my cancer came back radiation may be the answer. Too many complications to live with as I now know from my friends in a facebook group so I try not to go down that path of what if.

What changed for us as a couple is that over time, my husband wound down some of the study and volunteer activities he was doing. He was needed at home more but I was also pretty determined to be independent once I could be so we reached a good arrangement. As I became more mobile, even though my leg was still getting treatments by the community nurse, I could go to the shops.

I admit it was hard at first because I did not have much physical strength and I worried about people bumping my leg, but over time it settled. I even managed to drive to Dee Why to see my Dad after 5 months and he was so relieved to see me. I arranged to meet up with my daughter and granddaughters for a morning tea at Hornsby and we were delighted to accept the invitation to attend our eldest granddaughter’s 21st in Sydney.

But wait, there is more.

I had lost a LOT of weight before my cancer was finally diagnosed and I needed NOT to lose any weight once home in July as keeping weight on, helps a person with head and neck cancer to recover. I had nothing much that fitted me any more and finally, F I N A L L Y I admitted to myself it was time, around the end of October to take an interest in my appearance AND to go somewhere each day. Later in 2017 I wrote about my weight story    here

Dressing With Purpose, Having a Photo Taken and Going For Coffee.

This improved my emotional health big time, had me socialising again in person and on-line and even though I had no teeth up top and my smile was non-existent, I was back. Connecting and loving it.

Being a Part of Celebrating Women.

Before I knew I had cancer, I bravely offered to share my story with Dr Kirstin Ferguson for a project she began (it grew x 200) on social media. I sent in my responses to her questions, with some photos and a week before it was to be live, she let me know and I had only just found out I had cancer. She said, pull out if you wish and I thought…nah, tell the story. It went ahead, and later on in the book she and Catherine Fox co-wrote, my story is there too!

 

In a book! Me. Wonderful

More Surgery. More Recovery Time. 

When I was in I.C.U. after the first and big surgery, I was told by one of the registrars’ with my head and neck surgeon’s team that I would be having more surgeries. I was devastated. I said nothing at the time, but when I got the chance, and I was well on my way to recovery and in a room of my own at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, I spoke to her about how that was, for me, not the best timing for her comment. She said she would think on that. Perhaps I had never considered that more surgeries were to come…or had not wanted to know back in May 2017 at my diagnosis time, but yes…more surgeries.

November 2017.

Day Surgery. On the day when we heard Australia had voted for same sex marriage. The day itself started very early with a drive from Gorokan to Camperdown in peak hour traffic to arrive by 10.30. I disliked the pressure of the concern about arriving on time and for the future surgeries we (I asked!) decided to stay the night before in Sydney. Reconstruction surgery again. Inside my mouth again. Pain and more as I never quite understood the work these marvellous people did. However, new pain too. On my right thigh from a skin graft taken to go inside my mouth. I do know that after my check up visit in December, my husband had to take photos of the inside of my mouth to send to my Professor on a regular basis. We did. Things looked OK to him. I never knew really because in a very small space there had been a lot added inside me!

Happy 68th Birthday and Congratulations to Our Daughter. 

Our daughter finally completed her Masters of Education (Teacher Librarian) this year and we were so pleased for her. She did it tough over the time, raising kids solo, house moves and a new school in the mix, but she did it. We couldn’t attend her graduation so we did the next best thing…celebration with lemon meringue pie.

Turing 68 felt 1000% different to turning 67 (last post) where anxiety plagued me and a sore mouth. I celebrated out with a cuppa with my husband and donned a dress for the first time in years. Then our eldest granddaughter came up to share the celebrations, and I found out, that I could no longer blow out the candle on a cake! That night I had the amazing (hah) experience of sitting in a bath for 30 minutes and allowing the seaweed based dressing on my thigh to come off gently. It did. Over time. Good to be able to shower again too.

And I will be back with Part 2 of this post in a bit. Starting from December 2017 and finishing in May 2018.

Thank you for your interest, comments and support.

Denyse.

Link Up #236

Life This Week. Link Up #236

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

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How This Trip To The Dentist Changed Me. 43/2021.

How This Trip To The Dentist Changed Me. 43/2021.

ABOUT Head and Neck Cancer Australia First! 

Before I proceed, I ended up, after a long time. finding out I had cancer in my gums and under one lip. No dentist nor G.P. had even thought of this as being the case. This was not, in many ways, a fault or failing of them and their knowledge and skill set.

I have a “rare of rare” cancer as my Professor told me. I am now an Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia and continue to share the ways in which this rare cancer can manifest itself. This link, to Head and Neck Cancer Australia, formerly Beyond Five, will take you to the page about diagnosis. This is a highly reputable and facts-based and checked website. Its content undergoes regular and thorough reviews by professionals in the field.

One of whom is Professor Jonathan Clark AM – my head and neck surgeon who is also Chair & Founder of Head and Neck Cancer Australia.

Visual inspection by Jonathan  as Surgical Assistant and HNC Nurse Cate records my visit.

Back to my post.

Going to the dentist had been a regular thing for me from the age of 3.

I am now 71.

Going every 6 months as suggested.

Going in between when issues arising in my mouth needed fixing.

In some of my blog posts about head and neck cancer, I have outlined the role played by my now (and he was then) dentist in the discovery of oral cancer in my gums.

Before My Upper Prosthesis Went In: July 2018. My Dentist and My Dental Nurse.

I also wrote with detail last week for Part 2 of 2 about the time 2016 to 16 May 2017.

Allow me, here though, to outline exactly how that one trip, on 6 April 2017 changed me FOR the BETTER.

When I was learning about how to deal with areas of my life where I felt fearful…travelling and getting to see people were distinctly challenging because my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (I.B.S) was so unpredictable I just stayed anchored to home. Safe. My then Psychologist who knew I really wanted to overcome this suggested I learn about Exposure Therapy and over time, she taught me that it could be done in stages.

Yet: I still couldn’t see HOW I could do the hard things like drive to the dentist, and see other professionals when I needed to…etc.

Until I literally HAD to!

Message to me before my first surgery

Backstory.

Reading through my blog posts, as some of you have, you will note that my anxiety about I.B.S. and being anxious about travel in particular escalated. This was NOT me being the me I knew and wanted to be …..until I had enough.

Enough of trying to find out what the heck was going on in my very sore mouth

Enough of thinking I was the cause of all the issues because that was how sometimes I was made to feel

Enough of waiting for things to get better

ENOUGH….but first, this is what had to happen.

  • A scaffolding of how I might get to the dentist to have the all the teeth that were part of my bridge removed
  • A new G.P. who offered me a drug (endep) to help slow my gut and prevent some I.B.S. issues
  • A determination within me to get this done…

No Matter What! Self-care helped!

 

On Wed 5 April 2017 I was nervous about the upcoming dentist trip I did go out & do things but the “enormity” of what was ahead overwhelmed me

  • I broke down & just couldn’t see how I could deal with it
  • B was good at listening but I knew that despite the dread & worry & fear IF I didn’t go through with it it would be :
  1. Avoiding
  2. Would make it worse
  3. I’d not get my mouth fixed

So I took steps to make sure I got there:

  1. 1/4 Valium in arvo & then at night helped reduce the internal rumblings
  2. I told myself it was a positive to be getting it done as it’s troubled me for so long I couldn’t let it go on & on
  3. I needed to tell myself the outcome & process had to happen. I stopped thinking there was doubt or other I needed to own this
  4. I ate small because I was scared of IBS but that’s not
  5. I knew I could take imodium if there was a reason
  6. I used the hypnosis from audible in a big way
  7. I had B taking me & he agreed to do it anything to make it work

Straight after the removal of the bridge, I had this denture put in. It was a very painful time and over time, did not improve…

 

How Did It All Work Out?

I did it.

Together with my dear husband, and the team above in the first photo.

I recovered slowly as it was quite a shock to my system, physically and emotionally

I learned that my determination was a quality I had and could call on again (again and again as it panned out!)

I knew too, that I OWNED my actions and thoughts and that I could, over time, even with fears and reservations deal with anything else that was to come.

And I have and do.

On 6 April 2021 I posted this…with pride and gratitude for all I could do…and need to do now when faced with challenges. 

Always Grateful For My Courage.

And, some three and a half years later, getting a check up of how my upper prosthesis was going (great) as in covid times I couldn’t see my prosthodontist and my dentist also looks after my 8 actual and remaining teeth with a regular check and clean every six months. And I am no longer scared about going to the dentist and thanks to my rectopexy surgery and meds, I have not had (touch wood) I.B.S. for over 6 months.

 

How do you feel about going to the dentist?

I admit, that before I had the bridge extracted my dentist already know how anxious I was about all that was going on in my mouth and between him and his lovely nurse I was very well cared for. Now, he and I have a lot of laughs more than anything and he is as grateful as I am that my cancer was found and has been treated as well and my care for my upper prosthesis is excellent.

Do go to the dentist…and do tell him/her if you are worried or anxious. It is always better to do rather than avoid.

And please, check the symptom list at the beginning of the story….and come back to it anytime.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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Self Care Stories #2. 14/51 #LifeThisWeek. 42/2021.

Self Care Stories #2. 14/51 #LifeThisWeek. 42/2021.

Every 7th Week on Mondays.

Who is the 71 year old woman behind this smile?

She is Denyse.

She is ageing.

She is also a thinker, a doer and someone who likes to learn.

She is seeking answers to her age-old question about HER. Her relationship with herself. Her belief in herself. In fact, yes, it’s about Denyse exploring what she is learning via self care and more.

Why the third person?

In learning to place some distance between me and my thoughts, I now know using my own name draws my attention to what I want to do but doesn’t suck me in as much as using the personal pronoun. I learned this, and have put it into action recently, via the book I highlight below called Chatter.

https://www.ethankross.com/chatter/

In Chatter, acclaimed psychologist Ethan Kross explores the silent conversations we have with ourselves. Interweaving groundbreaking behavioral and brain research from his own lab with real-world case studies—from a pitcher who forgets how to pitch, to a Harvard undergrad negotiating her double life as a spy—Kross explains how these conversations shape our lives, work, and relationships. He warns that giving in to negative and disorienting self-talk—what he calls “chatter”—can tank our health, sink our moods, strain our social connections, and cause us to fold under pressure.

Loss of Confidence in Myself. Recently.

Life is not linear although that might appear to be the case. I have found since late January 2021 that some of my usual confidence has waned. I could feel it and as yet another medical test came up, I began to identify with it as

fear of something else going wrong for me

What Happened?

I needed a gastroscopy and iron infusion in early February. They went well. Iron levels from 11 to 225! Who knew.

But any little twinge, ache or whatever had me seeking medical advice. Always assured and re-assured.

Still not that convinced.

Body Image And  What I Saw Not Being True.

Long time readers here would know that way before my cancer was diagnosed, I was on a long journey to losing weight but in a not healthy way. It was via anxiety and I.B.S. However, one by-product was that I was over 30kg less in weight than my heaviest back in 2013. I tried to convince myself that right now, I seemed to look OK but of course I remain overweight but….

I

am

healthy.

I listened to this book, website below, in some parts and found it of interest. I stopped hating my body (and me) as much because I could acknowledge what it had done for me and that being overweight (technically I am) was not a sin, nor something I needed to be ashamed of…and actually for me , it meant I was healthier post cancer than most times of my life.

https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/

The Body Is Not An Apology is an international movement committed to cultivating global Radical Self Love and Body Empowerment. We believe that discrimination, social inequality, and injustice are manifestations of our inability to make peace with the body, our own and others. Through information dissemination, personal and social transformation projects and and community building, The Body is Not An Apology fosters global, radical, unapologetic self love which translates to radical human love and action in service toward a more just, equitable and compassionate world.

The Evidence Was In. Need to Believe.

Just recently I spoke to my main G.P. and my other one, along with my husband, about how I was viewing myself. I had begun to worry about the numbers on the scales. I saw this as a pattern from my past and felt helpless to let it go. I needed and asked for confirmation from others that I was OK, at this weight, and doing well. I had to see myself as a well person. I was to stop weighing myself.

I am on my way to better self-belief and acceptance of this is both who I am now and how well I am.

In fact my female G.P. stressed just a week ago “Denyse, you are WELL, enjoy yourself”.

Truth in that. I think, given that I overcame my head and neck cancer, and then endured a pretty stressful and traumatic series of tests & surgeries in 2020 too, I have only just now, realised this too.

Thankful, indeed!

More Help For Handling Emotions. 

I remain dedicated to my Daily Calm: meditation both day and night.

I go outside every day.

I seek to interact with others somewhere in my day.

I am seeing a psychologist for a few sessions just to re-calibrate!

I saw one, last week who asked, amongst her listening to my stories, “when do you rest?”. Umm. Not much at all. Made me think.

I have a loving husband.

I am well physically.

I know how to care for my eating via nutrition and food enjoyment.

This: Written at my most “difficult & searching for peace within” time of my recent life:

Early February 2017 TRYING to show confidence.

What Do I Really want My Life to Look like Now?

  1. I act with ease & no trouble at all
  2. I smile, I exude joy & peace
  3. People want to be around me
  4. I want to be around them
  5. I want old barriers of ‘excessive & always there’ fear to be reduced so it only surfaces for “real” reasons
  6. I will be comfortable in my skin
  7. I will be happy to be the age & stage I am in
  8. My contentment & ease will continue to bring me closer to my husband & family
  9. I will seek new & other social networks & people when I want to connect
  10. I will be energised & confident to go anywhere & with anyone

I see so much of the above is how I am living my best life now. Who’d a thought that’s what cancer would bring.

Four Years Later. Confidence is there…believing it a challenge at times

 

Emotional Agility.

https://www.susandavid.com/

Psychologist Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility. A talk to share.

Susan David’s Ted Talk: Emotional Agility

What does your self-care consist of?

Do you get enough rest?

Can you think of yourself with kindness?

Share how things are for you.

Denyse.

Link Up #234

Life This Week. Link Up #234

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!

* 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.

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 15/51 Share Your Snaps #3. 12 Apr.

 

 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


 

 

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Telling My Story.Chapter Twenty Two. 2016-16 May 2017. Part 2/2. 40/2021.

Telling My Story.Chapter Twenty Two. 2016-16 May 2017. Part 2/2. 40/2021.

The backstory first:

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 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 Two. And as with other posts, I am making it Parts 1 & 2. 

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

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

I had a sore mouth.

It was often sore. I had to find a new dentist and did in early 2016. His initial view was that my upper bridge was causing some irritation and maybe I was drinking things too hot. He gave me some ideas over time which he thought, as he saw me regularly that year, and with issues that arose, offered possible remedies: fungalin, for candida. Guess what it did? Exacerbated gut and made I.B.S. worse.

I cannot stress enough how much “I” thought this was about me, lack of good health, mouth care and more. I felt judged and I hated that I was so often impacted by this awful anxiety and then I.B.S. that I could not plan to go anywhere.

“Looking like I was OK but I was not”. Last photos of me with original bridge at top of my mouth.

Anxiety Ramps Up.

In my journal I see entry after entry of me trying to get to appointments to my various professionals and suddenly that morning with an episode of diarrhoea it was impossible. Lucky for me they were very understanding.

I did not want anyone other than immediate family visiting us as it made me very self-conscious if I had to run to the toilet. I was not eating well. In fact, losing weight had never been easier. But it was not healthy.

I made myself meet up with a friend at a cafe but the preparation I made in advance …was there a toilet there, could I just have a biscuit with my coffee…was as I now see it over the top but I had to have reassurance.

It was the worst ever for me in very early January 2017 when, after seeing M1 awful accidents on the news, I decided I could not dare visit Dad for his birthday in Sydney just in case I had to use a toilet and I was stuck in the car. It was awful. I felt the pull of the ‘have to’ and the push of the ‘can’t’.

It worsened over time to the point I could not even drive out to the M1, which was the road to my dentist down at Ourimbah, without the feeling drowning me. I would need to make a few of those trips as it turned out in March, April and May 2017 and I had to take medication, know where the toilets were and allow time to get there.

Finally, after 4 months, and having had the teeth out (the best exposure therapy ever) I drove myself to Sydney to see Dad.

Doing What I Could To Help Myself.

On the eve of my 67th Birthday, late 2016,  I am feeling both reflective and grateful.

This image, selfie on my 67th Birthday, “trying my best to look OK” was used for my first series of Telling My Story.

Dad told me earlier tonight that my birth time was around 4.15 a.m. and that Mum put off going to the hospital until around 11p.m. Brave woman!

I’ve also made a mandala* which notes each of my decades of life and it’s been confronting and satisfying.

  1. I was so fortunate to be born to my parents who loved each other very much and were delighted to become parents.
  2. I was born into a caring extended family and always, always felt safe, secure and loved.
  3. Whilst Mum had some health issues in my early years with deafness and eye sight, these were rectified and I always knew my mum was there for me as a stay at home parent while Dad worked in his profession as an accountant.
  4. Our home was comfortable and we really wanted for nothing. My brother and I were well-fed, cared for and given many opportunities to be part of sporting and cultural groups as we grew up.
  5. When we left our Wollongong home for new adventures in Sydney at Balgowlah Heights I felt both the excitement and the nervousness but knew it would be good.
  6. It was and we moved to a great place, a new school and a whole new group of friends. Life was good!
  7. I got to play sport, learn to surf and swim, join the Guides, become a voracious reader and loved to talk.
  8. My early interest in helping little kids and enjoying playing with them started my interest in becoming a teacher.
  9. I got to be part of the school leadership team in primary school and loved organising events and social times too.
  10. My years at high school were a great and heady mix of new friendships, socialising with the boys from the local school and church groups, going to the beach and more.

  1. Learning to drive was a huge step in my independence and mum was happy to lend me her car when she could.
  2. I enjoyed great freedom to be out with friends and for them to come to our place and some of those friends parents became friends with mine.
  3. I was so fortunate to grow up as a teenager close to Manly Beach, particularly North Steyne, where I could catch a bus from home and stay on the sand or in the surf all day.
  4. Of course we met up with boys there too. It was all part of the fun in the sun.
  5. I eventually got some part time work when I was in my final school year and it continued into my 2 years at teachers college.
  6. It was good working at the jewellers on the Corso, three shops away from the beach and my employer gave me and my future husband good discounts on my engagement ring and our wedding rings.
  7. Teaching as part of my pracs in Sydney schools was great. I taught at my old primary school (even in the old classroom from Year 5) and also at Mona Vale, Neutral Bay and because I got excellent grades in prac, I went to the North Sydney Dam School too.
  8. My social life was awesome and centred on events from my then boyfriend’s Uni mates so we went to lots of parties, 21sts and Formals as well as Balls.
  9. Graduation as the first cohort to do the Higher School certificate was good too. Guinea Pigs in one way though as I am sure the NSW Dept of ed was winging it for a while there!
  10. Once I was 18 going to have a drink in the city hotels and bars was never a problem, as part of the time I was there anyway because I had to find work after HSC and the ABC was where I scored an office job.

  1. Hoping to get to teachers’s college didn’t happen on the first round, but by the second round I was ‘bye ABC, hello kids in classrooms.’
  2. I must have had the knack of teaching because as a late arrival at teacher’s college with only days before first prac, I did very well. I knew I had it in me!
  3. So pleased to have the training that BalmainTC provided but I knew I didn’t want to stay in Sydney after graduation so applied for the Bush.
  4. I was appointed to Barraba Central and independent life commenced!
  5. Shared a house with other teachers and I had to learn fast about sharing. I had been quite a ‘princess’ till then!
  6. My first class. K/1. A classic country town group but I knew what to do most of the time and loved being part of a large school staff.
  7. What fun we had on weekends and after hours with meeting at the Golf Club and Saturday Night dinners.
  8. My boyfriend from Sydney days broke up with me as he was unwell and I was free but a little sad.
  9. Not for too long though as by the time October that year arrived, I had met the LOVE of my life and fallen head over heels with a young male teacher who was a one teacher school.
  10. Our whirlwind romance was exactly that. In love (and lust) and determined to be wed as soon as we could because we were too far apart physically where we each lived.

  1. Luckily our department bosses looked after me, and after we married, I was transferred to a two teacher school just up the road from my now husband’s,
  2. But I was also pregnant. Yep. from carefree single teacher in a country town, to  married mum to be in a small community within 12 months.
  3. I won’t deny that it was hard being pregnant after some words of judgement and unkindness from my parents before we married but we went ahead with their blessing and some days those words still stung. In fact they did for some decades. Something about shame in that I think and my mum and her upbringing.
  4. Our daughter came into the world and brightened all who loved her very much. I loved little kids but was at quite a loss with a baby and being left along all day on a country property did not go well for me.
  5. I needed to salve my emotions and I began to eat for comfort and I know this has been what I do to numb myself and continues on and off now.
  6. Back to school for me was the better plan particularly when we could leave our lovely girl right next door to where I taught with my boss’ wife! She was also her godmother. Win!
  7. After two years, it was time for my hub to find a new position as a teacher in charge as his school was closing and we were keen to get teacher housing.
  8. Off to the Riverina area we went and found what we loved for the next 3 years. A great house for us, where we added a pool, a teaching position for me in the next big town and child care for our daughter.
  9. Social life was amazing, with new friends from the teaching and farming community and we were part of a drama society and entertained most weekends.
  10. Infertility was ironic after falling pregnant so easily with our daughter and for the time there and our next place, I was sad and resigned to never having another child. So sad.

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

More of the stories about what happened next are found here: Telling My Story

The decades of the mandala*. I put it on social media once and found that it was far too personal to share because a follower told me how she could expand it to read. Oops. I have it somewhere here at home but it’s very personal. And mandalas helped me through all of the times before (and since) my anxiety and pre-cancer diagnosis days.

My Update: April 2016

  • We chose to move to a cheaper rental place in November last year as one of the factors in the stressors I was feeling was the place we lived in was too expensive, very uncomfortable and the community connection non-existent.
  • Happily for us, we found that the northern end of the Central Coast suits us more and the house (a home now that familiar to us from the sold Sydney house) is great.
  • A significant event occurred around this time too when I decided to end all connections with my education work places, including my consultancy. From a career commenced in 1970 to now this was another reason to grieve.
  • I still ‘struggle’ with aspects of remaining relevant! Who am I if I am not a teacher?
  • Nature continued to beckon in terms of photography, beach walks and I added growing flowers in pots to this mix. Nothing like having ‘something’ to grow.
  • The kitchen at this house is more conducive to cooking and making meals for the freezer and treats has been a good sign I am liking life again!
  • Meditation has been the one consistent event every single day. Yes. 10-15 minutes since end of March!
  • Learning more, much more about what it is to have some anxiety (I have not been diagnosed with anxiety nor depression) and sadness because of the significant effects of Life Transitions for me.
  • Reading more books, still can’t find a fiction one to satisfy, is great as is the range of newspapers I love. It is so good to have time for this!
  • Making sure I am well-nourished. I do find this hard some days as I mostly solo cook and eat because my hub has special food needs. But, looking after me shows I am caring well for me.
  • I’ve been increasing my knowledge of my reasons for anxiety and IBS and using Acceptance Commitment Therapy techniques via a number of sources including my counsellor and various authors who use this for clients.
  • This has meant a shift in my thinking and some movement towards letting my life move forward with whatever issues arise.
  • I remain a ‘wip’ a ‘work-in-progress.

My Update: April 2017.

  • My mouth continues to be bothersome: sore, and gums were beginning to grow over the teeth of the bridge.
  • My dentist tried a few ideas ….that I went along with until NO. Sorry, I need to know what is UNDER this bridge. The only way, as we both knew, was to remove (drill it out) the bridge, and the 5 teeth underneath.
  • He agreed and it meant I had the biggest physical and emotional challenge ahead. I needed all the support of my husband and my G.P. to do so.
  • Oh, and in the meantime, we were getting sick of the traipse back south to a G.P. and found one, our current one, in early April. JUST in time…for much, much more to come.

But first I had some exposure therapy in real life to manage.

This is information, after it came highly recommended by my then psychologist in 2016-17,  about what it was I needed (and still do at times) to follow to get myself to the dentist, have the extractions and recover from them

Exposure therapy is often essential if you are to overcome your anxiety disorder. The cognitive behavioural treatment of  conditions such as: panic with agoraphobia, simple phobias, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress usually entails an exposure component.That is, you must subject yourself to the situations you are worried about in order to beat anxiety.

Although this sounds frightening, your therapist will give you the tools to cope with confronting your fears (e.g. rational thinking, slow breathing and isometric relaxation).

The guidelines for exposure therapy are that the sessions must be

  • graded
  • repeated and regular
  • prolonged

Why Getting Those Teeth Removed Was The Best Way To Know What I Could Do. 

  • Early April, I met my new G.P. who not only gave me the flu shot but the advice to help I.B.S. was to take an old fashioned anti-depressant as it slowed the gut down. Four years on, I still take it and whilst it is not perfect, this medication and my changed confidence in how to deal with anxiety about I.B.S. works.
  • I prepared for the long afternoon at the dentist knowing my husband would be in the room, reading a book, and that I could take some valium and immodium to manage myself.
  • I had my iphone with the lovely William McInnes narrating a very familiar tale into my ears, and that was it…
  • I was conscious the whole time and it took quite a bit of novocaine for me to have no pain in the palate area.
  • I was given the chance to have a ‘wee break’ and took it half way.
  • It was over before I realised and the dentist, pretty worn out by it, said he broke a few diamond drill heads.
  • But it was GONE. The bridge, those teeth…..and a temporary denture made the week before, was pushed into my numbed gums.

Whilst I declined the chance to take them home (I was told the Tooth Fairy owed me big time) I took the photo instead.

I DID IT. 

  • Yes it was painful as the anaesthetic wore off, but this anxious me had with all her lessons learned over time, managed what was to be a pivotal time.
  • I’d like to say, that’s that…..but no, it wasn’t.
  • The top of my mouth where the teeth had been continued to be smelly, flappy and  nasty.
  • The dentist seemed to think it was OK and would repair itself.
  • I put up with a very painful and sore top of my mouth for the next 5 weeks because he wanted to see how things went and then he went on vacation.

11 May – 16 May 2017.

  • Last trip back to my old G.P. to say good bye and thank you, and by the way “my gums are very sore”.
  • She raised her hands in horror when I took out the denture.
  • Tests for cancer: a C.T. scan for sinuses and upper mouth. Stat. And as I was seeing the dentist the next day, she knew he would likely order a biopsy.
  • Yes he did. STAT. Oh, this was getting to be familiar.
  • He did raise cancer as an idea but felt unlikely.
  • Off to next door where I booked a biopsy at the Oral Surgeon and she said, I can do that tomorrow, Friday.
  • CT scan and biopsy done on that day.
  • My nerves were….calmed by some valium but my goodness, this was serious stuff.
  • Weekend: waiting but not saying anything to family as it was Mother’s Day on 14 May and we had visitors.
  • Monday: results. CT: all good. Initial biopsy: inconclusive: likely candida. Can probably treat you at the surgery.
  • Tuesday 16th May. Nice day.

And that is where this Chapter ends.

If you have guessed where it’s going, then you are probably right.

I will be taking over my Thursday posts with these now over the next months to enable me to get up to date.

Denyse.

Next Chapter: Twenty Three: 17th May – April 2018.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

 

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