Sunday 22nd May 2022

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

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

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

 

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

Stella Shares Her Story In Her Words, Here. 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Stella Burnell 2020 .

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Denyse.

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

This has always been the way.

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

 

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

Go to therapy, if you can!

It helps with so many facets of being a human.

 

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

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

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

 

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

It’s within you, I suppose.

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

 

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

Denyse. 

Anna Spargo-Ryan
Copywriter, essayist, novelist

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

 

 

 

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

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

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

Phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for 24 hour assessment, referral, advice, and hospital and community health centre contact details

Qualified Psychologists can be found by visiting https://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/

Australian Counselling Association is on 1300 784 333 to find a counsellor

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

There is nothing that frightens me these days.

 

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

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

Denyse.

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

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

Gambling help NSW. Here.

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

Phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for 24 hour assessment, referral, advice, and hospital and community health centre contact details

Qualified Psychologists can be found by visiting https://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/

Australian Counselling Association is on 1300 784 333 to find a counsellor

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

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

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest
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Women Of Courage Series. #49. Rosemarie. 61/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #49. Rosemarie. 61/2020.

Trigger: miscarriage and infant death.

 

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

 

I have yet to meet Rosemarie, who is in her late 40s. However, we have connected! It was at Newcastle Writers Festival, where Rosemarie is the founding director  and that is where I heard Jane Caro speak  in 2019 and which was the beginning of the series of posts called Women of Courage. When 2020 Newcastle Writers Festival was cancelled due to COVID 19, I was saddened but of course that was the case for everyone to do with the much anticipated Festival. Yet, Rosemarie rallied and organised a series of on-line and web-based events which were a great way to remain connected to the great love shared between authors, and their words…their books. I was chuffed that Rosemarie agreed to share her story of courage. And thank her for the way in which she has done so. We will meet up I am sure!

 

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

The loss of two babies in the second trimester and the decision to try and have another baby afterwards required enormous courage.

In both instances, I went into premature labour and was forced to give birth knowing my baby would not survive.

The first time, when I lost my son Joe, medicos described it as an unfortunate but not uncommon occurrence.

The circumstances were particularly traumatic and the timing – a week before our wedding – meant that it took us almost a year before we were ready to take the risk again.

I then had a healthy baby boy and we didn’t look back.

My biological clock was ticking so we decided to try again quite quickly for another baby, buoyed by the trouble-free pregnancy and birth of our second son.

When I was 18 weeks along with my daughter, I was woken by the familiar onset of labour.

Contractions are not easily mistaken.

I remember going to the bathroom at the back of the house to phone the hospital.

The midwife said they had a room for me and to come in as soon as possible.

I wept, and waited for as long as possible before waking my husband.

I don’t think we – or anyone else – thought we would ever have another baby.

I remember holding my tiny, perfectly formed daughter, who we named Alice, and realising that I could not bear for her to be my only daughter.

So, with the support of a brilliant obstetrician and the guidance of another specialist whose area of expertise was miscarriage, we tried again.

My second daughter will be 10 in September and she represents the courage I managed to draw on a decade ago.

 

 

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

It may sound strange, but I remember feeling that a lot of my ‘every day’ fears were unnecessary.

I had faced arguably one of the worst things a woman could experience – enduring giving birth to two babies I knew could not survive – and worrying about the appearance of a wrinkle, or being attacked by a shark while swimming at the beach, suddenly seemed so silly.

I let go of a lot.

I didn’t feel naively invincible, but I felt like I had the ability to face whatever life threw at me.

 

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

The whole experience demonstrated to me that there are few things more soul-destroying than the loss of hope.

When you’re in the midst of a crisis, it can be hard to hold on to the idea of a future, but if you can put one foot in front of the other, more often than not, you will make it through.

 

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

See above.

 

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

I was lucky to have the support of my partner, family and friends, but ultimately you have to rummage up the courage from within.

As an avid reader, it helped me to turn to books by other women who had endured challenges.

While everyone’s circumstances are different, reassurance can be contagious.

 

Thank you for sharing what happened during this time, Rosemarie. There is a sadness that never quite lifts, of course, but I found comfort in the ways in which you not only named your children but included them in your family life. I have learned from you too that there is indeed comfort in the stories of others and thank you for your generosity and frankness in sharing your story of courage.

Denyse.

Social Media:

Blog/Website:  https://www.newcastlewritersfestival.org.au/

Twitter: @RosemarieMilsom

Instagram: @rosemariemilsom

 

https://www.panda.org.au/

https://www.sands.org.au/stillbirth-and-newborn-death

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14 – Crisis Support and Suicide …

 

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

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

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