Wednesday 8th July 2020

Women of Courage Series. #38 Tara Flannery. 37/2020.

Women of Courage Series. #38 Tara Flannery. 37/2020.

Trigger warning: domestic abuse, cancer, psychological help.

 

 

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

Here is the introduction to the series.

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

Tara Flannery, aged 48, and I have never met but we have much in common. Firstly we are teachers. Secondly we share a similar team caring for us as head and neck cancer patients. Thirdly, we want to help others  and this is why I was delighted with Tara agreed to share her story as a Woman of Courage. We are planning to meet for a coffee and a chat as soon as we can post-COVID-19. It will be a long and much needed catch up for us both. Welcome to the blog Tara and thank you again!

 

 

 

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

I have had a couple of moments where I have had to dig deep.

Becoming a single mum with a 18 months old and finding studying full-time, no home, no family support

Discovering I had cancer and the treatment that followed.

 

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

I learnt I could do anything I set my heart too.

I learnt that that there are a lot of generous people out there.

I learnt that there are a lot of judgmental people out there.

I learnt that it is not easy to walk away from domestic abuse. It is easy to tell someone to get out but to actually do it is another thing completely.

I learnt that the love I have with my husband is unconditional.

I learnt that others take on your cancer as their problem and can turn against you.

I learnt that I have amazing friends who still loved me even though my anxiety turned me a tad neurotic.

I learnt having a cancer diagnosis will not make family who have turned their backs come back.

I learnt that not many people have the ability to empathise or self-reflect and that is OK.

That is their personality not mine.

I learnt to appreciate every moment I have with my friends, husband and children.

 

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

Don’t let other peoples perception of your reality be yours.

You don’t need to be strong – if you need to cry, scream, throw something. Do it!!! Of course without hurting others 😉

Go talk to a psychologist. It is nothing to be ashamed of. You need a safe place to vent and sort through your emotions.

I didn’t realise how deeply I was depressed and filled with anxiety until I had a year of therapy.

If you are prescribed medication to keep you calm. Take it. Again – nothing to be ashamed of.

Your mind will be racing – you need sleep and rest. These medications are not forever. I took valium and antidepressants for 18 months.

I am off the valium (except for procedures where I need to be awake) and am on minimal dose of antidepressants for most likely the rest of my life.

I suffer Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

Trust your medical team. They have helped numerous people before and will continue helping people like you.

Trust their judgment and advice.

Don’t make major decisions – you may come to regret it later.

Eat well – try to evaluate your nutrition. Fresh whole foods.

Try alternative therapies – it can’t hurt (research them thoroughly before you do – there are a lot of con artists out there!)

Learn about self-reflecting. Try to be aware of how you are acting.

Try not to take other peoples behaviours personally.

 

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

I think I would probably handle it the same way I did.

I consider myself a resilient person. But having a cancer diagnosis is traumatic and I don’t think I would be calm if diagnosed again.

If I had to go through a divorce again. I would be mentally prepared and I know I could support myself and get through it.

 

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

Try to choose a reason why you need to be here – or set a goal.

My goal is to be a Grandma. My girls are only 21 and 15 but setting that goal and having that as my focus helped.

I also had a family holiday booked that I was keen to participate in.

I worked hard at rehab and was assured by my medical team I could do it.

Do not set unrealistic goals.

Accept help. Any help. Try not to be a martyr.

 

What an amazing and heart-felt story of courage from Tara. So grateful we ‘found’ each other on-line and thanks for sharing the ups & downs of head and neck cancer surgeries and mouth prostheses so I know I am not alone either!

Denyse.

 

 

For readers of this blog post: 

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

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

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

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

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

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

Cancer Council Australia https://www.cancer.org.au/

Beyond Five. Head and Neck Cancer Organisation. https://beyondfive.org.au

 

 

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

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

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

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Two Years Ago: Before My Cancer Was Diagnosed. Pt 4. 46/2019.

Two Years Ago: Before My Cancer Was Diagnosed. Pt 4. 46/2019.

I am heading for ‘crunch time’ now. It is almost the 2 years since I heard the words over the telephone:

“Denyse, squamous cell carcinoma was found in your gums after further investigation by the pathologist”

In the last week of April 2017 I did something very courageous…for the Denyse I was back then.

I drove to Sydney to see my father.

My anxiety and fear of IBS episodes had so built up in my mind, that I could not even fathom this trip from the Central Coast, down the M1 to Dee Why. It bothered me big time that I could not but it made me so scared just thinking about it.

“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.”  Brene Brown.

 

Then as readers from earlier posts know, I HAD to find the courage and it was via this: exposure therapy which over time, has become my way of managing the hard things. This is discussed in a post here. And here in part two.

Remember this is not an advice post, merely my story. Wikipedia has also provided a quote.

Exposure therapy is a technique in behaviour therapy thought to help treat anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy involves exposing the target patient to the anxiety source or its context without the intention to cause any danger. Doing so is thought to help them overcome their anxiety or distress.

From my post here:

My psychologist brought up exposure therapy as part of her helping me learn what I had to do next after getting myself more confident about some social things I had previously resisted. These included driving to Sydney and going to the Dentist. However, I was resistant to learning how it could help me conquer my fear about IBS and getting ‘caught’ short.

She outlined a list of 1 -10 and then asked me to tell her hardest (the 10 end) and easiest (the 1 end) activities I would be prepared to try and then to do them before the next session and report back. Exposure therapy continued to be resisted by me even though I had the knowledge, and a counselling-trained husband encouraging me. What to do? Nothing was improving, so I did some of the challenges at the easier end:

  • go out in the car about 15 minutes and not go to the toilet just to check I am ok,
  • go out again and not take an immodium in my bag just in case
  • go out for a longer time and not race home because it is too hard not to be sure about my IBS.

What does any of this have to do with my remembering the time two years ago?

It is a reminder for me, via the words and pictures, of how long it took for me to get my cancer diagnosis AND how hard it was for me emotionally to manage much of my day-to-day life BEFORE cancer came along.

What I see now, is how I did garner the strength and the courage, over time, via the help of so many:

  • People who had been through their own life challenges and as a result trained in psychology and mindfulness – these people are part of my “inner team” now as I did so much work with them on-line, via CD and streaming their podcasts and videos. I mention them here.
  • My husband, on-site caring and most knowledgeable person, who was not only training in counselling via a degree prior to me becoming very unwell but already had managed his own health issues over decades to the point of self-responsibility for his well-being and care.
  • My GPs and a psychologist who enabled me to see I “had this within me” but also gave me guidance and some appropriate medication to make my path a smoother one.
  • My friends on-line via blogging and other social media who supported my blog and the link ups, made connections via following and keeping me engaged at times I may not have wanted to but did anyway
  • Family and friends who understood this was a big transition I was going through – probably more than I would admit to – from 2014 to early 2017 and with added worries/issues I could not discuss, that worsened my reactions and ill-health for some time.

Thank you for your interest as I have found compiling this helpful for me to judge how far I have come!

There will be a final one in this series…sometime in early May 2019.

Denyse.

Joining  With Leanne on Thursday for Lovin Life link up here

AND with Alicia on Fridays for Open Slather here.

Thank you all for your link ups.

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Self Care. Share Your Story.#2.14/51. #LifeThisWeek. 36/2019.

Self Care. Share Your Story.#2.14/51. #LifeThisWeek. 36/2019.

In the past seven weeks what has been my self care routine?

Pretty much the same each week.

I know though that I need to remember self care before I notice I NEED to do something.

It can be so easy to forget what helps me remain as well as I can emotionally because I can get caught up with achievements, busy-ness and striving.

  • Striving.
  • Achievements
  • Being Busy.

These are words I am deleting as part of my past vocabulary.

I have been a striver, an achiever and a busy person since… 1970!

Just noticing the difference in me has been interesting to say the least!

Here’s what I notice:

  • I am walking more slowly
  • I am noticing more around me
  • I am prepared to actually sit and just enjoy being relaxed
  • I give myself permission to go on social media for a while but to be careful to notice when social media changes me emotionally…then I get off
  • I can actually waste time. Some would be horrified at this but I now know I can!
  • I like to read books and articles I enjoy and sometimes learn more but I can also just ‘chill’ like this
  • I can go outside and notice what is happening in the garden

I am still enjoying my dress with purpose and having a photo taken.

I love going out for a solo coffee still

I do like catching up with people this way too.

 

What does your self care look like these days?

Are there changes you are making?

Tell us more!

Denyse.

Linking here on Mondays with Kell for Mummy Mondays.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in. * Please add just ONE post each week! * 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 by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right! * Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere. I don’t have a ‘button’ so a link in text is fine! *Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. * THANK you for linking up today!

Next week’s optional prompt: 15/51 Share Your Snaps. 15/4/19

 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

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What Is The Hard* Thing? Part Two. 2018.94.

What Is The Hard* Thing? Part Two. 2018.94.

Last week I began this topic here and had a number of commenters who added their own hard things to the discussion.

What was common to many was the fact that even though they did not want to really do “their hard thing” they were prepared to give it a go and in most cases were pleased to have done so.

That mirrors my own experiences.

Thank you for sharing, everyone.

I found a couple of websites here for those who want to learn more, here and here.

Remember this is not an advice post, merely my story. Wikipedia has also provided a quote.

Exposure therapy is a technique in behaviour therapy thought to help treat anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy involves exposing the target patient to the anxiety source or its context without the intention to cause any danger. Doing so is thought to help them overcome their anxiety or distress.

About (My) Exposure Therapy.

I am not a trained psychologist nor therapist but I am someone who has been taught what exposure therapy is and whilst I did not like its title (I called it my challenges!) I can outline how it was explained for me.

My psychologist brought up exposure therapy as part of her helping me learn what I had to do next after getting myself more confident about some social things I had previously resisted. These included driving to Sydney and going to the Dentist. However, I was resistant to learning how it could help me conquer my fear about IBS and getting ‘caught’ short.

She outlined a list of 1 -10 and then asked me to tell her hardest (the 10 end) and easiest (the 1 end) activities I would be prepared to try and then to do them before the next session and report back. Exposure therapy continued to be resisted by me even though I had the knowledge, and a counselling-trained husband encouraging me. What to do? Nothing was improving, so I did some of the challenges at the easier end:

  • go out in the car about 15 minutes and not go to the toilet just to check I am ok,
  • go out again and not take an immodium in my bag just in case
  • go out for a longer time and not race home because it is too hard not to be sure about my IBS.

And then I HAD to face my worst fear and do a trip to Sydney to Lifehouse, see surgeons about my newly (24 hours previously) diagnosed cancer and be a passenger in the car. Three things! My G.P. said “take the valium, take the immodium” and my husband stopped at any loo along the way. I DID it all. Yes, with some drug help but no IBS.

That changed things a LOT. It did not happen just from that ONE experience…I had many more drives like that to face and surgeries but it was the beginning of getting better acquainted with of what I COULD manage by my thinking and doing.

In fact by early March 2018 I decided I could now drive myself to Sydney for the many treatments at Westmead Hospital. Yes, I still do get some IBS in the days leading up but I manage it. No, I do not scold myself any more nor cry about it. I get on with it. It will never be easy-peasy but I will continue to have my mind “do the hard things” and not be beaten by the anxiety of having IBS. By the way, this photo below is me having finished my 23rd session of measuring, treating and fitting at Westmead Oral Sciences. I drove myself to 18 of these!

Monday 10 September with my prosthodontist and nurse. No more visits for 4 weeks!

My Added Story.

Way before cancer and me learning about exposure therapy but when IBS was robbing me of experiences such as visitign the family in Sydney or going there for a social reason, I used to push myself to do some to these as it was “too hard” not to do them if that makes sense. One was (and still is) a family-duty visit to see my elderly father. I say duty because I really do not enjoy these visits much yet I also want to ensure he is OK and leave some meals and snacks I make for him. A long time ago, he tried to understand my IBS and made adjustments to my visits so we just stay in his apartment and talk. The times he insisted on going out for a meal or snack…well, they ended badly for me so he compromised.

With Dad – early 2018.

When I drove back home up to the Central Coast from the Northern Beaches  in the years preceding my cancer diagnosis I always stopped here. Sometimes I still do. In this space of nature, just off the busy and noisy M1, I get a sense of calm and success at having met that challenge of the journey and the reason. When I was there last week, I made this little video.

That’s not quite it from me in terms of the hard things.

What I have realised since even thinking about this post, is how much I do need to continue to encourage myself to take part in life’s changes. You see, I thought getting my teeth would be awesome and it is, but it added another layer of thinking to my concerns…so, if I can eat what I want to eat after so long, what will it be like if I become very overweight again and cannot fit into the clothes I bought in the last 12 months? I tells ya, it never goes away does it…this hard thing!

Comfort Zones.

No such thing really. Well, in my opinion, sitting or staying in your comfort zone helps you stay stuck.  was in mine for a while when I would go nowhere but when I think more of it is was a DIScomfort zone. I did not like the me that could not get herself motivated* to go again.

*I have not been diagnosed with clinical depression nor anxiety. I have been affected by reactive depression (sadness and tears) but that often resolves within a day. My ‘anxiety’ is more of a worry thing and has been part of me since I was a teen. My doctors and psychologists believe I am managing well. The very low dose, old fashioned anti-depressant I am on each evening is to help me sleep and it s l o w s  down my inner gut workings. If you have been diagnosed with either or both: depression and anxiety, then you should speak to your health professional about the types of things related to exposure therapy.

Moving On. My Next Challenge!! 

I am going to be OK as long as I eat well and mindfully because when I was very overweight I ate mindlessly most of the time and to stuff down feelings. See here, if you have not read my story. So, I AM different to the Denyse I was then and I have new and better skills to manage my emotions and life since cancer.

Wish me luck!

Hope you are all doing well too.

Denyse.

Joining with Kylie here for I Blog On Tuesdays and with Sue and Leanne here for Midlife Share The Love link up.

 

 

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