Wednesday 21st October 2020

Two Years Ago. Head & Neck Cancer. October 2018. 85/2020.

Two Years Ago. Head & Neck Cancer.  October 2018. 85/2020.

For this week, one week ago, and the next week on Wednesday I am posting a ‘review’ blog post mostly to remind ME of how far I have come in terms of the changes brought about in my life thanks to the diagnosis of head and neck cancer on 17 May 2017. The whole story is here. 

Using some photos I am adding my memories from the time.

Here I go:

October 2018.

 

Early October 2018 and I was off to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse with a LOT to smile about. I received the long-anticipated upper prosthesis of teeth on 21 August 2018 – some 14 months after surgery.

  • It was a cancer check day but also a chance to meet with Nadia from then Beyond Five – now Head & Neck Australia to discuss my prospective Ambassadorship as a volunteer.
  • Photo – top left. Then briefly caught up with then then Specialist Head and Neck Cancer Nurse (top right)  who had last seen me as a very raw new-to-head and neck cancer patient in July 2017. She was stoked! My cancer check went very well indeed (bottom left) with smiles and congratulations all-round.
  • How good it must be for the Professor (Jonathan Clark AM) and his Nurse Surgical Assistant and Consultant (Cate) to see a patient post surgeries…yes, all 4 they were part of…and my much anticipated S M I L E.
  • Last photo is me with Gail O’Brien, the late Professor Chris O’Brien’s wife whose vision it was to have this wonderful comprehensive cancer centre built and to tell her how much I appreciated the work and vision of her late husband…he was a head and neck surgeon too and my surgeon trained with him.

 

 

School holidays in October 2018 saw two visits from our Sydney-based family.

  • Much appreciated as always.
  • We entertain casually for lunch with their favourite snacks and foods and much chatter is heard.
  • Often we go outside for a play even though our yard is very small.
  • On this occasion the four younger kids (left pic) took home a special pot with some items planted and some crystals along with a few old fave toys from our Sydney house…and their younger days.
  • With the older group there is often some reminiscing and music too, particularly as the older grandson is a DJ.
  • I felt so much more at ease now I had the teeth in my mouth. It still took quite a bit of getting used to for eating but it was much better than before!

 

 

I was interested in attending a Look Good Feel Better Cancer Patient Workshop and once my ‘teeth’ were in I happily took part in a local event.

  • I did get some good advice and took away a swag of amazing free products.
  • What left me feeling somewhat disappointed was the fact that my cancer is so rare and not known.
  • These workshops were pitched at breast cancer patients more than anyone.
  • Some needed help with using wigs and scarves, others with how chemotherapy had changed their skin/hair.
  • I guess I need(ed) to be more grateful because I was/am doing well.
  • I wonder as I write this if these activities have now been stopped because of COVID and that is a shame because it was psychologically very helpful to us to be ‘seen as a woman, not a patient.’

 

 

It was, and still is, important for my mental health to have something creative to do most days.

  • I liked the idea of holding a mindfulness colouring class at the local library. I did get to have it, but it took so much box-ticking, I left it as a one-off.
  • However, I know I enjoyed being ‘teacher’ again.
  • My months of making bookmarks for the charity The Big Hug Box were always enjoyable and I must have contributed well over 500.
  • They were individually constructed by me and sent in batches to Lisa for adding to the boxes.
  • In November 2018 I took part in a packing boxes day at her house and met other cancer patients.
  • One got me to design some mandalas for a colouring-card idea she had. I was pleased to share my creations.

 

 

 

About eating. And drinking. I remember pre-upper prosthesis having all kinds of thoughts about what foods I might try with teeth in my top gums.

  1. I admit now, 2 years on, that some of those foods were just not a success.
  2. You see, as it was explained to me by my lovely Nurse, Cate, my mouth has more inside it than a ‘normal mouth’ and it cannot do all that it did.
  3. My prosthodontist had added a partial denture of a tooth on each side to hook into my remaining natural teeth on the bottom and this helps hugely.
  4. Some meals I tried and could eat (and still do) are  above, even though the hot meals are likely to be over 2 nights.

 

 

Keeping up appearances…was very important.

  • This trend went right into 2019.
  • In 2020 I do this occasionally.
  • But in between treatments, visits to Sydney for cancer checks and more, dressing well and with purpose was/is very important.
  • More important than everything was I was finally able to (and definitely wanting to) meet up with friends again. Yay.

There it is. Snapshots to help me remember what life as a head and neck cancer patient was like in October 2018.

Denyse.

Linking up with Leanne (whose image appears in this post!)  here for Lovin Life Linky.

Joining here too: Esme’s Senior Salon link up.

 

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Three Years Ago. Head & Neck Cancer. October 2017. 83/2020.

Three Years Ago. Head & Neck Cancer. October 2017. 83/2020.

For this week and the next 2 weeks each Wednesday I am posting a ‘review’ blog post mostly to remind ME of how far I have come in terms of the changes brought about in my life thanks to the diagnosis of head and neck cancer on 17 May 2017. The whole story is here. 

Using some photos I am adding my memories from the time.

Here I go:

October 2017.

 

The way in which I recorded the times. My husband kindly took photos of me outside Chris O’Brien Lifehouse on the afternoon of our visit as a check-up in October 2017. It was the first time I had seen my head and neck surgeon since leaving hospital in July after the first major cancer removal and mouth reconstruction. Of course I brought cake! Cake is my appreciation gift to my medical and surgical professionals. What I see in ‘me’ is the way it was then. I had no way to smile and it was probably because of seeing photos like this that I finally went and brought properly fitted bras. Sigh. The photo of the drive back home over the Harbour Bridge is a great memory. One of relief too. However, glad I have this as we can no longer use iphones in cars without risk of huge fine.

 

 

 

Seriously I was gob-smacked at this image. WOW. My fibula, the shapes at the top, cut into 3 pieces and made into my new jaw by being attached with screws to under my cheekbone. The little dot-type images: one at the front, two on each side, five in all, are where the screws are embedded into my new jaw and which will, over time, hold the upper prosthesis I have now in place. This was so good to see however, as it showed just how clever my team is!

 

 

 

The first time I ventured down the M1 alone that October was for a very good reason. To meet up with my daughter and her two eldest daughters for morning tea at Hornsby Berkelouws. It is a favourite place to meet because it’s about an hour from our place and reasonably convenient for those who live in Sydney to meet up. I was still very new to what I might eat/drink but I managed a piccolo and a very small cake with icing. Lovely as always to see the family. I admit I was tired out. Pretty big deal only two + months since my big surgery.

 

 

 

Our daughter. Very proud of her. This lemon meringue pie – a firm family favourite – made ‘just for her’….to celebrate her completion of her Master of Education Teacher Librarianship. It’s pretty tough being a single mum to 4 and working generally full-time as a teacher and then teacher-librarian too. Not only that, she started a new school’s library. One book at a time. Many hundreds of times. Eventually to complete the last semester of the pretty gruelling regime to do a Masters on-line (and to keep her job) she took long service leave and “got the job done.” She and the four kids (3 are adults) joined her in the celebration of her achievement at Charles Sturt University Graduation Ceremony later in 2017.

 

 

 

In late October I decided I needed a ‘challenge’. A personal one. It seemed that I wanted to show off this new-to-me slimmer body and the enjoyment I was beginning to find in looking for clothes that actually fitted me. Of course, my weight loss was because 1. cancer and 2. I couldn’t eat properly but I was also not allowed to lose any more weight by my professional team. This instagram challenge took on a life of its own and over time I did this every.day. for many, many days as it helped me emotionally to see my improved look and demeanour despite the ravages of how my mouth had been reconstructed using part of my leg.

 

Glad to have shared this. I know long time readers may recall some of these images. Thanks for reading and commenting.

 

Denyse.

Joining Leanne and friends for Lovin Life Linky here. 

Joining here too: Esme’s Senior Salon link up.

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