Thursday 5th August 2021

Questions. 31/51. #LifeThisWeek 94/2021.

Questions. 31/51. #LifeThisWeek 94/2021.

I am a question-asker.

I tend to ask a lot.

I am also an answer giver too.

However, I remain naturally curious and so, as a result have asked a LOT of questions over my 71 years on earth.

When I was seen by my head and neck cancer surgeons on 18 May 2017 I may not have had many questions because to be honest I was in shock as I had only learned of the diagnosis,the day before.

So, in the weeks that followed I found I did have specific questions, that I did not want to try to navigate on-line and my husband and GP did not have knowledge, so one of the kind surgeons answered them for me after I sent an enquiry to my head and neck surgeon’s office. His words helped me so much and reduced my worries.

I also found out then:

Do NOT be afraid to ask questions. There are no SILLY questions.

It’s now over 4 years since I was that very worried woman in a clinic room at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, where the head and neck team met us: me the patient with B my (now) carer.

August 2017

I have, over the years, also had the help of a psychologist to get my somewhat faulty  thinking and ideas sorted. I was not a 100% emotionally well in the years 2014 into early 2017 but I am also a problem solver. However this was one problem I could not solve by thinking my way through. I needed to both accept the emotional upsets I had and why along with the BIG life transitions I was coming to terms with. I have written about some of those experiences in past posts.

Before I continue. Last year, this head and neck surgeon from Adelaide tweeted his explanation for cancer. I have always felt there is an element of ‘blame’ attached to some cancers. These words resonated. Thank you @guylrees.

 

This year I was sent a copy of a book which I said I would review. There was a throwaway line by me when I saw its title via social media when I said to the publisher, send me a copy and I will review it. Exisle Publications were serious. They did.

I have read the book by Dr Toni Lindsay and it answered even more questions for me.

  • Questions I did not know I even wanted answers for.
  • That is the thing about a cancer diagnosis, sometimes it takes a long time to determine what you need or want to know next.
  • This then is my summing up of the book: from a Head and Neck Cancer Patient At Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

I have never met Dr Toni Lindsay but I do know of the many other professional services that are offered where I had my surgeries.

 

The Cancer Companion: How to navigate your way from diagnosis to treatment and beyond by Dr Toni Lindsay.

My Views As a Cancer Patient.

  • This is a well-written and set out guide, and its name suggests it can accompany a person (cancer patient, family member, carer) throughout the cancer experience.
  • It’s easy to read, and divided into sections:

Part One: On Treatment.

  • And then it was cancer
  • Normal
  • Finding your purpose and meaning. Part 1.
  • Preparing the treatment and having a plan
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Surgery

I identified strongly with ‘hearing you have cancer’ as it still comes as a shock even though I had guessed. Of course, for me, like all, there were fears and worries. Lots of days when I know I would be doing something, and then it would hit me like a punch. “I have cancer”.

So, what I got from this part, as someone who remembers how it was, is that all is perfectly within an expectation as a newly- diagnosed patient.

Having a plan helped me but the plan often came in the form of a check list from me, to prepare for trips to Sydney where I would need to have surgeries, treatments at the prosthodontist and for the first year, my husband would need to drive me and stay somewhere close by while I was in hospital.

Even though we no longer lived in Sydney where everything I needed for my on-going treatment, we felt fine with the drive, and sometimes a stay overnight. My husband bore the brunt of times waiting…sometimes visiting our family, other times going for long drives until he heard he could pick me up.

We are also fully retired (aged over 70) and so making a plan was relatively easy as we did not have to take work and family priorities into account. There is quite a bit in this part for carers too.

Part Two: Off Treatment.

  • Finishing treatment
  • What if it comes back?
  • Finding your purpose and meaning. Part 2.
  • Why is everyone behaving like I am back to normal?

My reactions to what I read here were as if Dr Lindsay was in my head!

It did help ‘normalise’ my thinking and my progress.

For that I was grateful to have confirmation from someone professional.

I have a husband who is a trained counsellor and his help was good in that he could sometimes ‘calm my farm’ as they say when my emotions when a bit awry.

I am now, almost 100% able to do this for myself.

Ah. The advantages of time passing and experience as well as cancer free results at surveillance visits.

 

Part Three: Living With Advanced Cancer.

  • Living with advanced cancer
  • Finding your purpose and meaning. Part 3.
  • Planning and decision-making (even if you don’t need it!)

I read this section with feelings of sadness because I know of friends with head and neck cancer, and other cancers, who are living with advanced cancer.

I do know, however, that if there can be others support systems for example, psychologists and/or palliative care team with experience of helping people through, the prospect of what MAY lie ahead could feel less fear-based.

I would highly recommend not only reading this section but acting upon the help offered too. 

 

Part Four: The Psychology Part: How Can I Manage All of this.

  • Mood vs treatment
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Fatigue and exercise
  • Body Image
  • Relationships and sexuality
  • Working
  • Being present
  • Being grateful
  • Managing other people
  • Pain

I have a great G.P. He started being my G.P. about 6 weeks before my diagnosis in May 2017.

Like my husband, he has been what I call a ‘cheerleader’.

Someone in my life who helps, encourages and supports me.

In the various times when I have been worried and scared, and this was prevalent a LOT in the first year, he was a voice of reason and reassurance.

I also have a professional team in Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and at Westmead Oral Sciences who I can call or email. Their help, at the other end of the phone after I have sent a photo or text has been exemplary.

In turn, all of the above has helped me see my way through.

Having a rare cancer: both statistically and type, I often found “I” became and still am, the expert in my mouth and its care. I

have learned a lot from those who helped reconstruct my mouth, along with my local dentist, but from my 4th year of recovery (about this time in 2020) I became the ‘one who knew’ most about my cancer and my recovery.

Some Final Thoughts.

This is a section in the book…

and I will add mine.

Knowing how I felt at the beginning of my diagnosis and how hard it was to concentrate with the spectre of an 11 hour surgery ahead of me, I could not have contemplated picking this book up and reading it.

I did ask my husband though and he says it would have been ok for him to have it at that stage.

Now, as I review my reactions and responses to my cancer in over 4 years, I would have been ready by about a year in.

That was for me.

Oh, and about the red balloon on the cover. It took me a while to find out about its significance. Dr Lindsay uses the balloon the illustrate how when holding a balloon on a string, it may occasionally pop back onto you, just like the occasional anxious thinking about cancer. In other words, the thoughts do come and go but they are not there forever. Or indeed they can be batted away. No longer controlling us. 

Others may see it differently.

Thank you to Dr Lindsay and those at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse who support patients and families and carers on the psychological path of a cancer diagnosis.

Thanks too, to Exisle Publishing for the book. No payment was made to me for this review, it was the gift of the book only. I am a truth teller and this is my review.

I give my permission for Exisle Publishing and Dr Lindsay to use my words within this post.

Denyse Whelan.

Blog Disclaimer:

My stories and photos along with suggested links and websites must not be seen as medical advice.

I write this blog from my experience as a head and neck cancer patient.  Denyse Whelan. 2021.

Link Up #251

Life This Week. Link Up #251

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 32/51 Remember

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Cancer: Patients, Family & Carers.#ShareYourSnaps #6. 30/51 #LifeThisWeek. 91/2021.

Cancer: Patients, Family & Carers.#ShareYourSnaps #6. 30/51 #LifeThisWeek. 91/2021.

Cancer does not have a timeline.

It can just appear.

Often times there is NO reason nor cause.

Many who have been diagnosed with a cancer with known risk factors but none apply to them, will be puzzled.

I am one of those but I have also learned to let go…because as my wise husband says “in the overall scheme of things, does that matter or help?”.

This month, on the blog I am focussing on cancer: head and neck cancer, because it is the one I know best.

I WAS excited to announce a community-held event as a fund raiser for Soup For The Soul at my local cafe but, nothing can happen so, I changed to a VIRTUAL Soup For The Soul Fundraiser and this is my POST where there is a LINK directly for donations. Thank you in advance! 

It also is the month when World Head and Neck Cancer Day is held: 27 July.

This year, because of Covid Restrictions a lot of what we took for granted in getting our messages out there to the community have changed. But my blog is still here.

Sadly not much is happening fact to face right now, and I post this image when we were very hopeful we would be able to take the head and neck cancer message to Canberra. But again, that has been postponed.

This Sharing of My Snaps is About a Number of Subjects.

See below for blog disclaimer. 

Cancer Help.

There is, in Australia, a Government website here . 

Of particular interest to me is to find and share more of the cancer I have. Try it if you need to find out more.

https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/head-neck-cancer/what-head-and-neck-cancer

Head and neck cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the head or neck grow in an uncontrolled way. These cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the inside of the mouth, nose and throat.

Head and neck cancer is 1 of the 10 most common cancers in both men and women in Australia. I have heard it is rare. However now I realise it is not well-known at all. Perhaps my descriptor needs to change.

What are head and neck cancers?

Head and neck cancers occur inside the sinuses, nose, mouth and salivary glands down through the throat. Although these cancers are different, they are treated similarly, so are considered as a group.

It is estimated that there will be 4414 cases of head and neck cancers diagnosed in Australia in 2021. These figures include cancers of the tongue, gum, mouth, salivary glands, tonsils, pharynx, nasal cavity and larynx, but not cancers of the lip.

The five year survival rate is approximately 64.7%.

source: https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/head-and-neck-cancers

 

Cancer Council has sites throughout Australia too.  Ours in New South Wales is found here. I have booklets from my local Cancer Council shop at Erina Fair to help me and anyone else with a cancer. These books are free and I highly recommend them.

There is the second volume of which is a series of stories co-ordinated by The Swallows on Facebook : found here.

The Swallows: Booklet

Other information about head and neck cancer found here too:

Julie McCrossin AM, Australian Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia has copies. Tell me in the comments if you would like one.

Beyond Five. 2018. Now HANCA. Julie McCrossin AM holding a radiation mask. Nadia Rosin CEO & Me.

Marty Doyle, fellow Head and Neck Cancer Australia Ambassador, also wrote this book about his experience with head and neck cancer. He is going well some 17 years post his diagnosis.

I also bought a compilation of cancer stories directly from the author as I wanted to read more stories of others’ going well post-cancer. And I include some other books which have helped me.

Now…some more information can be found here at Head and Neck Cancer Australia (formerly Beyond Five) where I am an Ambassador.

I have taken part in a video series on nutrition, shared my head and neck cancer story on this site, and that of Chris O’Brien Lifehouse where I had my surgeries.

For more information about the special aspects of treatment for those with any cancer, go here to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. This is in Sydney and is a private hospital specialising in comprehensive cancer care. That is, all under one roof as was the vision of the late Professor Chris O’Brien AO. His daughter, Juliette O’Brien was a recent Woman of Courage. 

And now to this information and more from me, about cancer progress and living with the results of head and neck cancer. My posts are here. 

 

The book I am reviewing. Written by a Psychologist from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Review is coming soon.

This story: The Big Hug Box.

I have written about my connections with Lisa Greissl who founded the Big Hug Box in 2018. She too, was a patient at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and in recovery wanted to do something to both help cancer research (hers was a very rare cancer) and to give back something to those who saved her life. She knew, in recovery, a BIG hug was always appreciated but not everyone can give or get one in person as they recover from or go through cancer. Find the Big Hug Box here.

Lisa’s idea has moved forward and there is much happening locally in the Newcastle region of N.S.W. Companies raise funds to share Random Hugs of Kindness boxes to Cancer Centres in some states and cities. The latest news is found here. I got to know Lisa personally when I offered to make bookmarks for inclusion in the early versions of The Big Hug Box. I must have donated over 400. I also saw someone I know who received a Big Hug Box and she saw that she knew who made the bookmarks! Lisa has also shared her story as a Woman of Courage.

Whilst this is a much more wordy post for a Share Your Snaps, I wanted to give the space to what has helped me in terms of cancer so that readers and bloggers here may have better ideas and reference points.

This is an Australian based blog and all of my links are to places within Australia, other than The Swallows in the United Kingdom.

There are many places and site for help in the U.S.A. where Oral Cancer is often mentioned separately to head and neck cancer. World wide, the associations and professional bodies relating to all cancers do all they can to improve outcomes for patients.

And, I share my story learning to eat again here: from Head & Neck Cancer Australia. Made February 2020 just before Covid shut things down.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

Denyse.

Blog Disclaimer:

My stories and photos along with suggested links and websites must not be seen as medical advice.

I write this blog from my experience as a head and neck cancer patient.  Denyse Whelan. 2021.

Link Up #250

Life This Week. Link Up #250

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 31/51 Question.

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Optimism. 26/51. #LifeThisWeek. 79/2021.

Optimism. 26/51. #LifeThisWeek. 79/2021. 

Bernard, my husband,  has offered to share some thoughts on this week’s optional prompt of optimism. One reason for asking is that I, like many, tend to be more on the pessimistic side and I know his help for me to turn this around at times has been invaluable.

Thank you Bernard.

 

 

What is optimism?

 The prime minister of Great Britain during WW2, Winston Churchill presented as a highly optimistic personality and is notably quoted as saying, “a pessimist sees only difficulty in every opportunity while an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”  The great effect for the nation was the hope that his optimism generated during that tragic conflict.

Most definitions of optimism share common components such as hope and confidence about future positive outcomes. Optimistic philosophers believe that optimism is about good prevailing over evil while the world of psychology is split into two main bands. For some, optimism may be attributed to a belief that experiences will generally have positive outcomes. The second band attributes optimism as having more to do with the way we explain event causes. This is called our explanatory style and its established in early childhood.

Studies tell us that our DNA is more likely to be hardwired as optimistic rather than pessimistic despite the negative bias we also carry around from birth thanks to our cave-dwelling ancestors. Their world abounded with negative experiences and, so, their very survival depended on being prepared for the worst. Decision-making was a little more cut and dried in those days – “Kill the f***king beast before it kills you!!!”

It is fair to say that our levels of optimism are a combination of nature and nurture. Being transmutable, the environment into which we are born and grow up enables optimism to either flourish or flounder. Exposure to risk in childhood encourages the development of a more optimistic mindset as well as creativity.

 

What Does It Mean to Be Optimistic?

Optimists are likely to see the causes of failure or negative experiences as:

  • temporary rather than permanent – “It’s just a minor setback. All will be well tomorrow.”
  • specific rather than global – “It’s just that particular group of people. We won’t be involved.”
  • external rather than internal – “What just occurred wasn’t my fault. It was the extreme heat of the day.”

Such a perspective enables optimists to more easily see the possibility of change.

So long as the optimism isn’t cockeyed as a result of engaging in fanciful thinking, realistic optimism is a worldview that gives its owner a greater sense of influencing their well-being. This flows from optimism being generally accompanied by a healthier outlook in relation to the consequences of any actions. Optimists encourage the growth of resilience as they display a tendency to look for meaning in difficulties.

What are some of the benefits of being realistically optimistic?

An optimist can also expect to:

  • live longer;
  • feel the hope that is necessary to ameliorate doubt and despair;
  • be less susceptible the negative effects of illness, fatigue and depression
  • be able to manage pain more effectively;
  • have improved immunity;
  • have better heart-lung function; and,
  • be fitter.

Can optimism affect relationships?

 You bet, if it’s unrealistic! Where both partners are optimists there is a danger that their positivity about their future can lead to expectations that become too high for anyone to fulfil, especially as such a mindset can discourage the growth of problem-solving skills required during difficult. Being overly sure of a rosy future tends to ignore the very real fact that our journeys through life are littered with difficult times. This is an effective way to lower relational quality.

What’s the key to all this?

So, if there is a question mark over being optimistic, maybe we should just resort to playing it safe all the time and be pessimistic. That way, you wouldn’t have your hopes dashed. It is not advisable that you adopt that strategy.

Pessimism is driven by fear of failure. Living one’s life being afraid to take any risk and assigning reasons why not against any and all plans is quite dysfunctional. You miss out on the thrill of chasing your dreams.

Decision-making that has a good probability of having a positive outcome is cognisant of the evidence that informs that decision-making. Research suggests incorporating some Realism into the conversation is the best way to the try line.

Both optimism and pessimism are judgemental biases that on their own don’t make for effective decision-making. Realism seeks the evidence that short-circuits the psychologically painful consequence and encourages the outcome that is most helpful. In the well-being stakes, realists come out trumps. Talking of Trump – he was not a realist!

We currently are endeavouring to deal with the hot topic of the COVID 19 pandemic. As I’ve already said, both optimism and pessimism are judgemental biases and, therefore, shifting sands upon which to base decisions. Either approach can lead to a failure to take appropriate precautions to a potential threat – “Oh, I don’t need to have the vaccine as I never get the flu!” OR “Having that vaccine is a sure way to make you sick!” A Realist will take measured risks and look at the available evidence before making a decision in relation to treatment. The available evidence suggests that observing suggested protocols such as social distancing and taking advantage of the vaccine is currently the most sensible approach to adopt.

Realistic Optimism has been the key to my well-being.

Through not allowing optimism – nor pessimism for that matter – to escape the realms of realism I have minimised the risk of my hopes being dashed upon the rocks of disappointment. As a result, I have enhanced my level of contented living.

Can my child learn to be realistically optimistic?

Absolutely! As you may know, children see the world quite strictly – it’s either black or white, little or big, fast or slow, good or bad, etc. As they grow older and learn the skills of contrasting and comparing, their perception of the world allows for the integration of degrees in their rules. The black becomes grey. So, a child may be likely to be optimistic or pessimistic. The result of an event will be either good or bad. At this time they are also sponges rabidly attempting to soak up the way the world works so that it makes sense to them. Parents are the greatest authorities and what mum or dad sees is indubitably what will occur.

This, therefore, provides you as a parent with an ideal time to temper their hopes by inculcating their perceptions of event outcomes with Realism.

And in my case, as a grandfather to this youngster way back, where I imagined this conversation.

So, Papa…..

“Papa, I’m ‘cited ‘cos the toof fairy is coming and she will leave me free fousand and firty dollars, won’t she Papa?”

“Well, sweetheart, I’m sure the toof fairy will come but I don’t fink she will leave you wif quite that much. That’s a lot of money! Perhaps, $2 is more like what she will leave.”

 

Recommended Reading

Martin Seligman has spent a great deal of time studying optimism and related topics and has written a number of books that you may be interested in. They include,

  • Flourish
  • The Hope Circuit
  • Learned Optimism
  • The Optimistic Child

Thanks so much Bernard, I have learned more about the ways in which we can develop and change our negative biases as a result of incorporating knowledge rather than accept the ‘Oh I am a pessimist’ self-judgement.

Denyse.

Link Up #246.

Life This Week. Link Up #246.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 28/51 Taking Stock #3. 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


 

 

 

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

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

News Update:

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

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

The backstory first:

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

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

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

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

January 2021.

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

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

Could not be done.

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

January is a boys’ birthday month in the family,

My Dad first, turning 97.

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

I visited Dad on the day.

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

Here’s some highlights in photos:

February 2021.

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

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

I did like walking when I saw these.

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

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

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

 

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

March 2021.

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

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

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

Mum and Butterfly sign…I loved that.

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

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

April 2021.

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

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

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

Out and About In Nature.

Weather conditions.

Change of seasons.

Beaches.

Rivers.

Creeks.

Trees.

Flowers.

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

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

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

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

A Special Day To Visit My Dad.

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

My memories from the day of my visit.

From my stop at Pymble: lovely camellia.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading this latest Telling My Story.

The whole series is here.

Denyse.

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

Link Up #244

Life This Week. Link Up #244

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Motivate. 23/51. #LifeThisWeek. 70/2021.

Motivate. 23/51. #LifeThisWeek. 70/2021.

When I first returned to this optional prompt I drew a blank.

What was I thinking?

And then as I reviewed the categories under which I write my blog posts, I saw these:

  • Gratitude
  • Health & Mindfulness
  • Life This Week Link Up
  • Self Care Stories
  • Stories About Ageing
  • What I Wore: Self Care & Confidence
  • Word of the Year.

Right.

I asked my husband about motivation and the fact that, in my opinion, motivation comes from within. His response was that there are, for example, at times others who may be motivated after a positive, uplifting and genuine comment from someone they respect. More on motivation and quotes about it are here:

I can see now how I use each of those above to motivate myself every single day.

However, I will add that when I was anxious and not willing to give anything new a go, at my worst emotional health times in 2015-May 2017, I could not motivate myself much at all, except to “get up, get dressed and do something creative and then try to see a bigger world around me.

THIS improved for me…and it might be helpful, to know more, by reading these two posts:

But first. I wrote two blog posts here and here about Doing the Hard Things back in late 2018.

I learned for myself that putting off doing anything because of fear, worry or concerns was actually a backward step. I learned, over time, to motivate myself when, if I got a bit scared or worried, I would say….Mmm This is a sign you actually need to do that. It still works for me, every time.

I used my choice of clothing every day once I was able to get out and about after the first head and neck cancer surgery in 2017. I have written about that here.

It truly IS a motivator for me even now. What I wore: Self Care and Confidence. 

On any day where I might feel I can’t be bothered, I shake that attitude away and realised being bothered is what makes me feel better…and motivated to live life as I can now.

And let me add some photos from days I remember than motivation was harder but I still managed to get out …”of my head and into the bigger world”. Health & Mindfulness…. I remember where I can go, and it always helps.

And I cannot lie, doing 10 minutes of Calm: morning with Daily Calm and evening with Daily Trip is as necessary to my well-being as eating and drinking. Contrary to the myth that you need to clear your brain/mind to meditate, that is impossible. What you are practising is to pay less attention to those thoughts, daydreams and distractions and even if you do, no worries just come back to the breath. No recriminations. No blame. In fact the teachers I follow have been doing this for over 20 years and that they too have this happen. All we need to do, is stay. Like a puppy in training. Stay…with the breath and listen to the person who is helping you.

These are some of the visuals that pop up after my sessions. I keep those which resonate with me.

About that word called Gratitude. I can attest to its magical powers…I can be feeling pretty down, maybe even sad and worried and then, somewhere out of the back of my mind, comes that reminder, based on the 12+ months I practised it. It works. A sense of gratitude takes me from the trivial and not great with a reminder.

Getting ready for Monday’s Life This Week is a great motivator and rarely a chore. I am always grateful to have a wonderful and loyal community of other blogging friends who visit to link up and comment. My Mondays are better for Life This Week!

A few years ago, via suggestions from others, I decided that self care could be a stand alone category and optional prompt. People agreed that they wanted it and would, it seemed, be motivated to share what they see and do as self care. It made me accountable too. It is a great motivator, isn’t it? That we need to ‘account’ for ourselves. Optional of course. But I tend to need the discipline.

Then there is this. Stories About Ageing. What’s good or motivating about this? The fact that, when I can, I see the good in the ageing process. I have better perspective on some of life’s big challenge. Even changed from say 5 years ago. I am more motivated now to get interested in some new to me things, take a risk and do something new and always remember that this will be the youngest I will be today!!

Last but never least is this: My word of the year. 

It’s said that we use far more muscles to frown that to smile and that is helps release feel good hormones. I know that I love to smile these days as much as possible because there was a long time when I could not. And I will admit my smile now is the best one I have ever had. Thank you for my team!

 

Are you a self-movitator?

Do you do better with motivation from someone else?

Denyse.

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

Link Up #243

Life This Week. Link Up #243

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 24/51 Nourish. 14 June. My post will be Telling My Story. Part 1/3 2021.

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Leaving 22/51 #LifeThisWeek. 67/2021.

Leaving 22/51 #LifeThisWeek. 67/2021.

When I saw this optional prompt, my mind went to writing more about “leaving my role as a school principal” and then I thought, I have already written about that here and here.

Sometimes we can leave without knowing it will be the last time we do that.
I find that a challenge in some ways. Sad, but true.

This is my late mother on Dad’s 83rd birthday making sure there was a cake for celebration. She could no longer make one but a store bought one sufficed and my daughter and her kids, along with my niece were there…11 January 2007.

We did not know how unwell Mum actually was until the following couple of weeks which were a quick succession of trips to ED, back home, admission to private hospital, MRIs & more and then….a diagnosis. My mother had secondary brain tumours with within 2 months of this photo she died. She, along with Dad and her family and her treating doctors agreed ‘no surgery nor treatment’. We never did know the primary source.

Whilst we, her family, did expect that her health would deteriorate rather rapidly, it was always her wish to “stay at home” but she admitted to Dad, that she knew this was all too much for him as she became bed ridden  and incontinent and she agreed with his decision, made with her long-time G.P. that some kind of palliative care at a local private hospital would be the best for her.

So, Mum left, in an ambulance that Friday morning and was admitted. Dad and I agree NOW  that the Friday was a poor choice – no proper staff who could make decisions about her room and her care until Monday – but he too was exhausted.

She left here:

Then when she died it was from a room here: I can actually guess which one, but I won’t point it out. She died in the latter hours of Monday 5th March and Dad had been told to go home. She waited till then.

 

Leaving to meet a new sibling! As grandparents, back when we lived close to our family and were caring for the grandchildren we had no more privileged role on a special day in 2013 than to collect a grandson (from school) and granddaughter (from pre-school) to take them to meet their parents…and their new sibling…

 

And preparing to leave Sydney took a lot of doing.

The house we lived in had been ours brand new from 1998 onwards. It did though date itself over time, and as we had decorated and changed room configurations. Because my husband is one very talented renovator, he began the process in 2013 even though we were yet to firm up that decision…which in its own way had to be made at the right time…and it was in 2014..more on that here.

 

I wish I had known just how much leaving our home of many years,  our family, friends, my career ….and so on, would affect me emotionally. But…I know now that leaving as we did, affected me later, as my psychologist in 2016 told me ” emotions/feelings take longer than the events and decisions” to catch up with us. More about that in this post. and here too.

Fast forward to leaving hospital after my BIG cancer removal and mouth reconstruction in July 2017. What a happy day to be leaving…surgery done, lots of recovery to come and time….but LEAVING!!

And I cannot finish a post for 31 May with leaving a small tribute of love to my Aunty as it was her birthday. She would be 98 today.

Known as Poppy. Much loved aunt and great aunt. She gave us “the world”…even though she did not have much, it was always with love.

Have you found leaving is hard or is it a pleasure?

Denyse.

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

Link Up #242

Life This Week. Link Up #242

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 23/51 Motivate. 7 June.

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Self Care Stories #3. 21/51 #LifeThisWeek. Gratitude, Meditation & Ageing. 64/2021.

Self Care Stories #3. 21/51 #LifeThisWeek. Gratitude, Meditation & Ageing. 64/2021.

 

I am grateful.

This was made a year or so ago…

  • I thought to make this list of gratitude
  • I can see why I need to change my mindset to accept gratitude works
  • I sense that feelings this week have been oldies which tend to resurface when threatened
  • That by noticing this I can detach from the old ways better
  • I am loved
  • I am, generally, very well
  • I have a very kind, loving and caring husband
  • When I offer him my love and care and it is accepted with grace
  • I am almost 70 and truly going well
  • My life is enriched by my memories
  • My career was an amazing one
  • I am grateful to have contributed to education in NSW over 40 yrs
  • I love that I share teaching as a passion with many
  • I am grateful that teaching led me to my now husband
  • I like that I am well-respected within teaching circles and am always glad to help
  • I am pleased though that I no longer have to work in schools and education as it is so much more accountable and different
  • I love that I got to have 2 children.
  • I am grateful to have a daughter and a son
  • In the end I am glad of their age differences
  • I am grateful that it was found in 1978 that there was a physical reason for not having him earlier
  • I like that I have now made peace with my children in terms of how I mothered
  • I am grateful both of them accept the ways in which I know I faltered in being Mum as I told them in letters 3 years ago
  • I am always grateful to have been born into my family
  • I am more grateful now of the ways in which my forebears lived their lives so I had the more broad and cushy life I did
  • I am forever grateful my father championed me getting an academic education

At my teacher’s college graduation.

Try Making Your Own Gratitude List.

No-one else needs to see it.

Start small and let it grow

I made this in notes on my phone and added to it.

I did get to 100 but I did not want to bore my readers 

What started as a daily list in 2020 has continued into a more integrated way of seeing things. “Feeling” the gratitude helps me change things.

Why I Can’t Stop Meditating.

I learn something new most days about myself and being human

I listen to Daily Calm via Calm App with Tamara Levitt each morning before getting out of bed. Yes, I meditate in bed. There is no rule you need to be uncomfortable. Just awake. And to absorb the messages.

I now do the daily written reflections after the Calm meditation and have kept those private.

I often share the daily calm photo with a quote. Really enjoy adding my views to those words.

Now, I listen to Calm at night with this man talking Jeff Warren and it’s called The Daily Trip (I didn’t like the ‘trip’ initially as it had old-connotations for me about tripping on drugs but now I see how it works. Really good having different people guide me.

I am quite a record keeper and like that but I wouldn’t want to stop calm at all now.

It is part of my day (and night)

Self Care Socially.

I missed social interaction when I retired and I know I tend to do more of this on-line now

But, I still have my goal of getting out somewhere every single day. I may no longer have a coffee out (it was getting expensive!) but I chat to people and walk in areas that are nature-centred too. Going out to take photos is a wonderful way to enjoy myself.

And, in a way of celebrating greater inner confidence I am continuing to meet up with people for morning tea. On Thursday, I am meeting a journalist for that very reason. Socialising. She has followed my on instagram and we live relatively close. Excited to be doing this.

I met another friend from social media too. She works in the area. Great to finally meet.

And I recently drove myself to Sydney – no problems with that – and saw the musical Hamilton at the Lyric Theatre. Booked in Covid times we could not be sure it would go ahead, but it did. I wore a mask. Not a problem to enjoy the performance!

 

How I Manage Aspects of Ageing.

I ignore them…not really.

It is far better that I notice them.

Some include the nuisance of not being able to recall names and events whereas I used to be so GOOD at that. It’s not anything nasty but another developmental thing about being in my 8th decade (group of 10 years). Notice I am 71 but when our first decade is 0-9, that IS our first decade. So, if you are 61 you are in your 7th decade.

I am very pleased my cataract surgeries have left me with great distance vision and still, after my 12 months check, the same good reading vision – with glasses.

It sure has been a time of catching up on regular and planned (with the GP) checks.

I have recently had:

bone density scan: next in 2 years

  • mammogram & ultrasound: screening mammogram was due in November 2021 (I use my even numbered birthdays to remember) but some symptoms I had recently prompted this being brought forward (result: all fine) 
  • I have had a shingles vaccine. If you are an Australian aged between 70 and 79 you are eligible for a free vaccine. My husband got his at 70. I paid for mine in my late 60s as I never ever wanted to have the debilitating pain again.
  • We have had our first doses of Astra Zeneca – 2nd one due in June. No issues for either of us.
  • We have also have our flu vax and no side effects.
  • Haven’t needed another Covid test since late last year. All negative for all tests in 2020.
  • I have had a 12 month skin check with just some small cancers burned off my cheek. Not so happy with the skin doctor and may seek another referral.
  • I am going very well since my rectopexy and subsequent 2nd surgery for wound issues and happy to say, I have not (fingers crossed) had any I.B.S. since then. Yay!! Life changing. 
  • I remain emotionally pretty well but having a couple of sessions with a psychologist as I have noted some post-retirement (2002 from school principal role) and other events (transition to retirement and cancer) are rising up as traumatic memories so it’s better to deal with those than hide behind pretending I am OK. Getting help is important.
  • My left index finger – am left handed- has two areas of arthritis and GP sent me to cortisone injection in near each joint. One done, one next week. Still sore from process but hoping over time it helps.
  • Each time I smile, I remind myself of how grateful I am that I can smile properly!

Head and Neck Cancer Update.

Over four years ago I received the news of the rare cancer inside my upper gums and under top lip. The story is here. As this post goes out one week after that anniversary I wrote this good news update on Wednesday 19th May on Facebook. I had been for my 6 month prosthodontist check. Last September my head and neck surgeon told me he didn’t want to see me for a year.

Just over 4 years ago I was told I had a rare cancer in my gums & under my top lip. I came here, as I had at other times, some days later in May 2017 to reflect & to wonder as well as to try to lessen my anxiety about what would come.
Over those years of 4 surgeries, many trips to the prosthodontist & lots of TIME to heal in between this place remained a favourite to reflect. Mackenzie Reserve Budgewoi.
This week I am immensely grateful to be well. Entering my 5th year. On Tuesday my 6 month mouth/upper prosthesis check at Westmead along with CT scan indicate all is well. My care of my mouth needs a small upgrade! Twice a day with waterpik, micro brushes & piksters to help my 8 remaining teeth stay OK.
Having this news, I wanted to share here how good it is to be this well, living with the after effects of my reconstruction as well as I can.
Thanks to my husband, family & friends along with my health professionals who buoyed me along the way.
With My Prosthodontist on Tuesday. I said to him, I remember crying through some of my first appointment with you (May 2017) and he said “I do too”. Now, look at us!!
That’s my rather significant wrap for Self Care this time round.
How are you going?
Denyse.
Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

Link Up #241

Life This Week. Link Up #241

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, sales and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive in nature.

* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: 22/51 Leaving. 31 May.

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Knowing.19/51. #LifeThisWeek. 58/2021.

Knowing.19/51. #LifeThisWeek. 58/2021.

From time to time, bloggers will invite a guest to write a post for their blog. I have done just that. I asked the man I married if he would  like to be the one who wrote on this optional prompt of ‘knowing’…his response was a resounding yes and so I emailed him (we do that, do you?) the questions.

Now, he is a considered and very well-read person with impeccable manners. He took his time to write this post and I said, the only thing I will do is ‘spell-check’. And that is exactly what happened.

Oh and he got to OK the photos I chose to use.

One thing before I hand over, living with and loving the man for over 50 years is a comfort and a challenge. And between us, we continue to learn about ourselves too. Not bored. Ever.

Thank you B.

 

Knowing. A blog post with Bernard responding to questions about his work, life and counselling.

 

What would you like the readers to know about you?

  • I am white, male, middle-class and therefore, harbour biases that I need to be alert to when interacting with others.
  • I am a contemporary phenomenon coming from a rare and unique background as the fifth child in a family of 13 children! Yes, that’s correct, THIRTEEN kids all sired by the same good Catholic parents! I have no doubt there are many other males who could lay claim to having fathered more than thirteen children. They probably are just not aware of many of them!
  • I have been married to the same super woman for more than fifty years and have never felt any desire to change that status; nor have I ever done anything that may threaten it.
  • The accomplishment that swells my soul with the greatest pride and joy has been to contribute to the reproduction of two excellent children and eight glorious grandchildren. These ten human beings, I am very proud to boast, are all examples of mum nature’s finest achievements. While they sometimes bring tears of despair to their humble parents/grandparents, the joy they return is incalculable!

 

How did you know that you would like to help others?

 Given my DNA, I think it may have been a pre-determined role that I was locked into from the moment I crashed to earth. Growing up with so many siblings provided very limited opportunity for putting self first. So, it was incumbent on each member to be a good listener and ‘helper’ or suffer the consequences! So, I acquired the answer to that question at a very early age.

 

What specific knowledge was required for your training?

  • Teaching: Combined College and University training. The prime value of this “time to join the real world” came from the exciting discoveries that socialising brings to the young and naïve adult. The ‘how to effectively teach and manage a school’ began the moment I first set foot in the playground of my first appointment. At the ripe old age of 18 I found myself as Teacher- in-Charge of a one-teacher school out of Narrabri. The school had an enrolment of 41, 10 of whom were secondary students. Fortunately, the kids loved music almost as much as I did!

Wow! What a steep – almost perpendicular – learning curve!!

But, I loved the challenge and managed to survive!!!

  • Cabinet-making: On-the-job training. Cabinet-making was the outcome of medical retirement from teaching as a result of chronic pain from spinal disease. It was good therapy!
  • Counselling: Combined university and Lifeline training. I found working with clients to help them become unstuck and return to greater contentment in their lives, greatly rewarding, it was marred by incompetent supervision. What a shame!

 

 Were there skills that you needed to learn?

 There was a myriad of skills that needed to be learned in all three of these pursuits.

  • Firstly, it should be said, there must be a willingness and openness to learning whatever skills are needed to fully enhance delivery of the service. Some of these already existed as a result of previous life experience and some were mutually beneficial between services. I refer to basic social skills built out of desirable human values such as kindness and compassion, empathy, tolerance, understanding, generosity of spirit, etc. Many more needed to be learned, especially manual skills relevant to building.

 

  • So, all three services rely heavily on the development of effective oracy (especially active listening) and literacy skills. Obviously, the ability to communicate effectively is a skill that is of paramount relevance to all, especially counselling and teaching. Contemporary society would also demand a desirable level of knowledge and skill in the new world of Information Technology. Fortunately, I was largely untouched by this beast!

 

  • Then, there are the many skills that are of specific relevance. For example, apart from being able to communicate well, running a cabinet-making business requires a broad range of business and management skills, to say nothing of the manual skills, that underpin the effective delivery of such a service.

 

  • All these skills I am very grateful for, as they have contributed greatly to the quality of life that I now enjoy.

 

 How has being a counsellor impacted your life?

 

Of all the above career pursuits, counselling has had the greatest impact on my life – a strange outcome when it was the pursuit that I spent least time pursuing.

  • However, counselling, through its skills, provided the opportunity to offer other human beings the love of listening and of taking them seriously – a rarity for some, especially women. It was a real honour to be permitted to engage in an intimate experience in which I was given open access to the secrets of clients’ tortured souls as we worked together to free them from the manacles that had them chained to an unpleasant time in their lives.

 

  • Relationship dysfunction demands the most attention. This might include a cry for help to improve emotional regulation that may have expressed itself as an inability to manage anger that is violently disrupting domestic equanimity or dysfunction resulting from the loss of loved ones. Complex trauma emanating from abuse or exposure to traumatic experience needs help to resolve as does the very broad problems associated with depression and anxiety.

 

  • The needs range is extensive but rarely does the dysfunction not affect relationships, especially the relationship we have with ourselves. Whatever the reason for seeking help, the initial offering of a loving ear and non-judgmental acceptance coupled with empathetic treatment are critical to effective outcomes.

 

  • I’m happy to award counselling the prize for greatest impact as the purpose and meaning it offered has contributed most to my feeling of inner peace and contentment.

If readers wanted to know more about how to help themselves to learn more about ‘life, living and all that’ what would you suggest?

 

Well, my immediate question to that question is, “how long have you got”?

But, as I think you would like something a little more practical and hopefully helpful, here are a few suggestions.

 

  • Give yourself a break! Our most severe judgy-judgy (my wife assures me that this is the contemporary version of judgmental) critics are ourselves. We’ve got that voice or voices in our heads telling us what not to do, how not to do it, what we should be doing, etc. Whatever the thought bubble, try not to empower it by reacting emotionally. Don’t resist it for whatever we resist, persists, remembering that it is very temporary and will pass. Allow it in let your mind move from inside the thought bubble to an observer position. Then thank it but suggest you’d like to proceed the way you want to. Remember, this voice is only trying to protect us. Practise offering yourself kindness and compassion rather than harsh criticism!

 

  • Be grateful and feel it. When we genuinely feel gratitude our bodies experience a chemical release that enhances feelings of well-being. Each day practise asking, “What am I grateful for?”

 

  • Live mindfully in the present. Give the right hemisphere of the brain the opportunity to be as active as the left. We human beings, especially in Western Society where we are constantly striving for materialistic gain, are very left brain oriented. This has us flat out DOING and solving related problems. We really need to give the more reserved, quietly-spoken right hemisphere a chance to become more active and JUST BE. Right brain loves us when we live in the present with curiosity and creativity. Music that we get lost in is a great BEING activity. It’s like slumping into your favourite chair after a hard day on your feet! Practise eating your next meal mindfully, i.e. with the curiosity of a scientist allowing your sense to actively engage with the process. Observe what you smell, taste, touch, hear, etc. No digital devices permitted at the dining table!

 

  • As difficult as it is, times of hardship and pain such as illness, relationship dysfunction, etc. need to be thought about as wonderful opportunities to learn about life and enhance one’s quality of it. The more difficult and/or painful the experience the more opportunity for learning about ourselves. Practise writing about these times.

 

  • Be a good listener. How many times have you heard, “you’re not listening to me!”? If you’re like most of us when having a conversation with your partner or a friend or involved in a group talk interaction, you’re probably mentally preparing what you want to say rather than listening intently. Practise being an active listener.

 

  • Be careful not to become a digital addict. This is a very real problem for some people. It impacts our sociability as we retreat further and further into the world of social media coming to see this world as the real world. While social media is a valuable asset giving people a sense of connection that they may not have otherwise had, that connection lacks a personal dimension that nourishes our souls. It’s like the unique value breast milk has for an infant. Certainly, use your device/s as tool/s or learning aids only. Practise going out without your phone – like we used to do only a few years back!

These provide just a snapshot of possibilities

 

How did you find writing these responses?

 Refreshing, heartening and stimulating. I miss all three of my life’s career choices, especially the last!

 

Thank you Bernard. I appreciate your skills,  talents and considerably well-used active listening skills… Always! Going out without your phone? Sorry, probably can’t do that. But I hear you!! My tribute in images here.

Thank you B, for your thoughtful words in response.

I know I have benefitted from your wisdom over the years and maybe there are some pieces of information shared here for readers and bloggers to find helpful.

Denyse.

Link Up #239

Life This Week. Link Up #239

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* THANK you for linking up today! Next Week’s Optional Prompt: Share Your Snaps #4. 17 May 2021

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