Sunday 22nd May 2022

2 Years Of Change & Uncertainty In Covid 19 Times. Pt. 1/2. March 2020-2021.16/2022.

2 Years Of Change & Uncertainty In  Covid 19 Times. Pt. 1/2. March 2020-2021.16/2022.

I’m composing this post getting close to the 16 March 2022 which marks the 2nd anniversary of “covid bringing change to the way we would be living our lives”…as announced by the Prime Minister of Australia.

There was already much happening in the media as we watched what was happening in other countries….and from where it all seemed to start in Wuhan, China in the latter days of 2019.

My post is about how it affected me, and our family and in some indirect ways, many of those who read here too because of the state-based restrictions and federally based ones.

Dear readers, we are a complicated country for rules and governance and it all goes back to 1901 when we became a Federation of States & Territories: Australia.

The short story is money comes from the Federal or Commonwealth governments (Australia) and is filtered to the States via government of the day policy AND State decisions are made for Health and Education.

Look, sorry, it’s hard to get a handle on this at times….I know. I lived with it as a school principal. Nevertheless, here’s my post, mostly with photos, marking the two years of:

CHANGE

and

UNCERTAINTY

2020- continuing into its third year…2022.

March 2020 onwards….

I was so fortunate to have had both my eyes surgically operated on for cataracts in the week before EVERYTHING changed. Phew. I was also able to get to have an in-person head and neck cancer surveillance check, attend a head & neck cancer  charity ball as the speaker, and to be WELL!

 

And then, over time, we knew we had to stay at home as much as we could. Necessary outings were to:

  • the supermarket
  • the pharmacy
  • the doctors

I could no longer follow this: going out each day to have a coffee and browse at the shops. 

On occasion, when safe, we used “click and collect” for stores such as Big W, Target and Bunnings. We did not do click and collect groceries as it became unreliable, and expensive. I was prepared to take the risks. I shopped quickly, with plastic gloves on, and a mask. However, many food and other items became rare or not found.

Yes, there was such a thing as a toilet paper blitz (I confess, we got in plenty) and not many choices, if any, in fresh meat etc.

So much changed because of panic buying, employment changing as people got covid and…the whole supply chain was affected: truck drivers, distributors too. Anything that might come by plane was not easy to come by because flights changed significantly, and ships were also not allowed to dock if anyone on board had covid.

We all watched the updates on T.V. with the N.S.W. Premier, the N.S.W. Minister for Health, and the Chief Health Officer….for a while, then in our case, we stopped.

It was far too worry-inducing.

It was, for some people, a compulsion to watch and then tweet about it but in my case, I decided better to stay away from those kinds of updates.

Of course we did as requested, and at the doctors’ we had to comply with questionnaires about symptoms (still do) before being seen OR as they preferred then, via telehealth.

April into May 2020.

We were surrounded by neighbours not normally seen as everyone worked from home, and schooling was remote learning.

Every day we saw many people strolling around the neighbourhood. Gyms were shut.

We got through a very quiet Easter.

And as one way to remember “A.N.Z.A.C.” Day 2020, people around Australia held their own driveway Dawn Ceremonies.

Our granddaughter turned 21 early May and there was still travel restrictions from where we lived to Sydney and vice versa…but by Mother’s Day 2020 we got to see family.

We did a socially distanced photo!

Close for this one: Mother’s Day 2020

June, July and August 2020.

I needed surgery (and had probably put it off for too long) so that consumed the next months for me. Even though I had had 4 surgeries for head and neck cancer, this particular surgery: repair rectal prolapse was not a great prospect. I know, however, it WAS a great one to have but I was a scared woman before it, and not because of covid. I admit though that with doctors and hospitals I did it mostly alone because of Covid. My husband was allowed to visit me in July but not for the wound debridement in August.

Covid Meant Rules Changed A LOT.

September to December 2020.

It was not like the world we knew before Covid.

Doctors and other health professionals took a lot of care to see that no-one with any cough/temperature etc came to their rooms.

I still got my September 2020 Cancer Check at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse…lots of safety measures and most of the place were the public would normally be present were closed. Patients with cancer have low immunity and that was the reason such strict measures were in place.

There was talk of vaccines being developed.

Economically, we were OK. We are retirees, and receive a part pension. Many others I know had to ask for supplemented income and in the first year of Covid, it was pretty stable, getting people paid, able to stay at home to work. Remote schooling continued on and off. It was very hard socially on many.

Kids really missed their friends. As did most people who enjoyed socialising. Some though, I know, loved being at home working and would like that to continue! We managed our trip back to Tamworth in October 2020 and that was a special one.

Sadly, we did not get to have Christmas as planned with our daughter and her family as Covid ramped up just before Christmas, on Sydney’s northern beaches. Although she does not live there, I had seen Dad who lives at Dee Why AND visited Manly, so I had to have a test, which proved negative and I had to come to Sydney for a mouth check so rather than both of us risk a Christmas Day travelling…I dropped off the goodies and gifts on my way.

Little did we know that the NEXT year’s Christmas would also be affected. Sigh. Next post!

January 2021 – March 2021.

I like to plan and have good things come together well.

So, I did get to see my father for his 97th Birthday. I did not get to see some family for their birthdays just because nothing was planned and we would see them soon.  The restrictions into January were very tough on visitors to the home.

We could only have 5 and that meant our PLANNED Golden Wedding Anniversary on 23 January 2021 for 13 had to change. We held a lunch for our son and his 4 on one day and then on the actual day, for our daughter and her family. It was a lovely time….and I have written more here.

By February things were less restricted and we were able to have ALL the family together for a morning tea celebrating my husband’s birthday.

And then school was back…I think…in a very restricted way over time. Our youngest granddaughter started school and then, later in the year, was part of remote learning for what seemed forever…more next post.

That was the twelve months…March to March …about Covid in particular.

 

I dealt with the uncertainty by keeping as many of my daily routines as I could.

  • I always got dressed each day before having breakfast.
  • I made sure my exposure to social media was less over time as I knew it affected me.
  • I gave myself little inner talks most days about what I COULD control and what I could not…I admit, I do this most of the time.
  • I also had faith in how the country was being cared for at this most unusual and uncertain time.
  • This slowly changed, but not in the first year.
  • I learned that I can get over things I have planned that cannot work out.
  • I also knew that gratitude found on the hardest of days was a help.
  • I know getting somewhere most days into nature was important and we have such a range of places here….and I know I needed to record photos and videos to share.

And the BEST part: March 2021, we received our first Covid Vaccinations: Astra Zeneca. 17 March 2021, the day booked once they opened.

I also wrote posts here here and here for 2020, as part of Telling My Story:

Telling My Story. Image #8.

How was March 2020 to March 2021 for you, Covid wise?

Take care,

Denyse.

Joining in with Natalie for Weekend Coffee Share today

Thank you Natalie.

https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

 

 

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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.

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

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Women of Courage Series. #64. Anne Howe. 89/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #64. Anne Howe. 89/2021.

In July 2021 The Women of Courage posts will be connected in some way to World Head and Neck Cancer Month (July) and the #WHNCD Day on 27 July 2021. Those who have followed my blog since 2017 know I was diagnosed with a rare Head and Neck Cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip. More here.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

Whilst Anne Howe, who is in her late 60s, and I have not met in real life, we have connected on-line via a very supportive facebook group for those affected by Head and Neck Cancer. The details are below. Anne’s story looks short yet it is incredibly full of courage from Anne’s words, taking the best chance you can as a human to survive a devastating diagnosis and allowing those who have your trust to do their best for you. Anne is a very determined woman, loved by her large family and often a carer to others. She has had more surgery since her post-HNC photo was taken and this has been, as best as it might happen, for her to have some teeth added inside her mouth.

Note from Anne:

 While I have had teeth made I am unable to wear them until I have had the screws implanted in my jaw and the bridging work made. Then its fingers crossed to hope my jaws don’t crumble due to the radiation. So still a way to go there.

I chose to use both images supplied by Anne as they do illustrate her words at the end of her story. I have, though, used her image before the surgeries for her Woman of Courage collage because it was then she needed to have all the courage she could muster to go through her many trials in her head and neck cancer journey.

Thank you, Anne. Let’s share your responses now.

 

 

 

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

My moment of courage kicked in when I presented for surgery to remove a SCC (squamous cell carcinoma) tumour from my nose back in 2017.

I was nervous and terrified as anyone is when facing surgery but the full impact hit when my surgeon came to see me.

His first words when explaining my surgery really tore through me.

He could NOT give me informed consent.

I would have to trust him and he promised to do the very best he could for me.

At best he would remove the tumour and do his best to repair the damage but at worst I could just wake up with a hole in my face.

With a very shaking hand I signed on  the line but while doing it a very gentle hand covered mine and a gentle voice told me he would take good care of me.

I woke up to find I had lost most of my nose, my top lip up to the nose, some of my left cheek, my central upper jaw and part of the soft palate.

 

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

After my surgery I was informed by my surgeon that I was stage 4 and he didn’t think I would survive.

He had done his best to get me this far and I made up my mind to do whatever I needed to do to get through this which is exactly what I have done.

I knew I had a long hard road ahead with a lot of work to be done.

Over the last 4 years I have endured 11 surgeries on my nose and 30 sessions of radiation.

I still have further nasal surgery to have and also surgery on my mouth due to having lost part of my jaw. (this is some of  the surgery I mentioned in my introduction)

 

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

When I woke up from surgery and first  saw my face I thought that was it.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think it could be repaired to the stage it has.

I put my faith and trust in my surgeon which was the best thing I could ever have done.

The other thing that helped get me through was the love and support of my family and friends.

 

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

I have learned from this experience that I am stronger than I ever thought I was.

I have often been told I am very brave but I disagree.

I have fears just like everyone else but to survive I just had to put on my big girl pants and do what was needed as the other option just didn’t bear thinking about.

It really was a live or die situation.

Over time my strength has just grown.

 

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

To anyone going through something that fills you with fear or concern my advice is to give everything you have because only then can you say you really tried.

Surround yourself with some people who will truly understand and accept you no matter what.

Sometimes I have needed to vent or just have a good cry to let those emotions out and that is important too.

Never give up.

 

My favourite saying through all this has been:

My face does not define me I am still the same person.

Anne, your courage and your story blow me away. What a great relationship you have with your surgeon. Trust is so much a part of it. I am so glad you are here, and looking after your family too…as you continue to recover. Thank you so much.

Denyse.

Note About Head and Neck Cancer Support on-line.

IF a family member or someone you know does have a diagnosis of a head and neck cancer or that person is a carer, the value of a good facebook group cannot be over-done. The friendly space that IS this group for eligible people to request membership is a good one. There are people from all over the world but the group is not huge so personal connections can be made. It is mainly made up of New Zealanders, and Aussies too…along with those from the U.S. There are questions to be answered to join and it IS strictly for those with a head and neck cancer. Link is here.

This is a link to Head and Neck Cancer Australia too. This is where I found information initially after my 2017 diagnosis and where I am now an Ambassador.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

 

 

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Women of Courage Series. #63. Cosette Calder. 86/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #63. Cosette Calder. 86/2021.

In July 2021 The Women of Courage posts will be connected in some way to World Head and Neck Cancer Month (July) and the #WHNCD Day on 27 July 2021. Those who have followed my blog since 2017 know I was diagnosed with a rare Head and Neck Cancer in my upper gums and under the top lip. More here.

Two years ago….around this time of year, I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday.

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

Those of us who have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer never feel quite alone when there are others we can share our stories and one such place is a special facebook group (private, but ask to join) here based in New Zealand. This is where I virtually met Cosette Calder, aged 46, and she was someone I reached out to share her story of head and neck cancer, and here she is. Thank you Cosette.

 

 

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

  • In 2015 I was diagnosed with throat cancer.
  • I had a young family, full time job and life was busy.
  • Suddenly everything stopped and I had to undergo Chemo and Radiation Treatment to beat this cancer and have a chance to live.

 

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

  • I had a brutal cancer treatment.
  • I couldn’t eat food and had to have a tube inserted into my stomach.
  • For two months I only drank water and was tube fed.
  • I lost 8kgs and some of my hair fell out.
  • I really had to dig deep to get through this treatment.
  • I had a plastic mask made of my head and shoulders.
  • This mask was for the radiation treatment.
  • My head had to be perfectly still on the radiation table so the mask was bolted across my face to the table for 20 minutes a day during radiation treatment.
  • It is incredibly scary and claustrophobic.
  • I somehow managed it.
  • I am proud of myself for the courage of wearing the mask when I was so ill and feeling down.
  • I fought hard whilst being so unwell. I didn’t realise I could be so strong.

 

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

  • Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
  • Sometimes we can’t help what happens to us.
  • Keep moving on and keep trying.
  • Acceptance too helps.
  • By accepting my cancer diagnosis I was able to focus and keep moving ahead.

 

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

  • I am stronger now.
  • I have been pushed to the limit and I know how lucky I am to be here.

 

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

  • You CAN do it!

 

Oh my, yes we do have brutal treatments don’t we?

However, in reading this of your experience as a head and neck cancer patient Cosette, and, now well-recovered, it is a tribute to your human qualities of strength and courage that you have recovered and now share your story. Thank you again. I am sharing the information below from the New Zealand Based Facebook Group for Head & Neck Cancers. Thanks to for all you do to share awareness!

Denyse.

Note About Head and Neck Cancer Support on-line.

IF a family member or someone you know does have a diagnosis of a head and neck cancer or that person is a carer, the value of a good facebook group cannot be over-done. The friendly space that IS this group for eligible people to request membership is a good one. There are people from all over the world but the group is not huge so personal connections can be made. It is mainly made up of New Zealanders, and Aussies too…along with those from the U.S. There are questions to be answered to join and it IS strictly for those with a head and neck cancer. Link is here.

This is a link to Head and Neck Cancer Australia too. This is where I found information initially after my 2017 diagnosis and where I am now an Ambassador.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

 

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