Tuesday 24th November 2020

Healthy. 39/51. #LifeThisWeek. 78/2020.

Healthy. 39/51. #LifeThisWeek. 78/2020.

When I was blogging more frequently, health and mindfulness were a category for blog posts. These days, like many, my posts are limited to twice a week.

This is good for my health in some ways as I am not feeling too much pressure to perform, aka write posts, and can enjoy the writing of the two I do more.

About Me.

  • Being healthy is a relatively new idea for me…I was raised to be healthy and was…I am talking about lifestyle & choices
  • For many years I balanced my life …in a not so good way…with eating for comfort and doing less as I was quite worn out by life
  • I knew limited ways in which to care for myself because…as many do…I was too busy caring for others: at work, and in my family life.
  • I do much much better now in the self-care and health stakes as I have learned much in my years living following head and neck cancer.

Then I Was Diagnosed With Cancer.

Those who have followed me before and since this diagnosis know that I found out I had a head and neck cancer, specifically squamous cell carcinoma of the top gums (maxilla) and under the top lip. All about that, and many more posts outlining the years of surgeries and more are here: Head and Neck Cancer.

But Before Then.

My emotional health was at an all time low from 2013 into early 2017 for a number of reasons:

  • ageing and becoming somewhat disenchanted by some of its effects
  • retirement from all of my meaningful and paid work over this time
  • my weight was the highest it had been and with encouragement from my GP and my own determination, I lost some kilos over a year with greater awareness of why I ate, and ensuring I moved more
  • finishing up grandparent care at our house and actually being glad because I was finally tiring and becoming worn out by it
  • making a move from all I knew: Sydney, our family, friends….to the Central Coast
  • this move was one I thought I wanted (and still agree it was the right move) but my emotional health brought me down into spirals of anxiety and fear along with the dreaded Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • the health professionals I saw then all said it was reactive depression and anxiety was part of the transitioning. Not a diagnosis of either. I do take a low dose anti-depressant now to help with IBS more than anything and getting off to sleep
  • I admit I am one of what is known as the “worried well”.

SO….in some ways I was not surprised that I had cancer diagnosed in May 2017 …I can see that others may have felt stress was a cause. That it is not a direct link, but from what I know about cancer, it is random.  Some people thought my immune system was down due to the appearance of my mouth. THAT,  was actually the beginning of cancer…but no-one thought that till April 2017 when I insister my dentist remove the bridge from my upper gums.

This quote sums cancer up. From an Australian surgeon:

Head and Neck Cancer Requires Frequent Checks.

From the diagnosis on May 18 2017, to the big reconstruction surgery on July 6 2017, through to further surgeries for skin grafts and checking inside my mouth, glands in neck area and many visits to the prosthodontist, I had:

  • post-surgery checks after a few days to a few weeks to see my head and neck surgeon and his surgical assistant, nurse specialist
  • three monthly checks for the first year
  • any time where I may have seen/felt an issue, such as additional skin forming, and my surgeon saw me within weeks
  • four monthly checks for the next year
  • weekly and fortnightly visits to the prosthodontist as he continued to work on the making of the upper prosthesis
  • then monthly to two monthly visits to him, until COVID. Last time I saw him was February 2020 and I am returning in mid October as he is now doing regular checks again
  • this year, the visits to Sydney’s Chris O’Brien Lifehouse were at 6 month intervals.
  • THEN, at my recent early September visit, after clear CT scans of my head, neck and chest, and after visual examination and more, I am now on:
  • a 12 month check up..so will not be back until September 2021.

“MY” Prof…as I call him, Professor Jonathan Clark AM recently became chair of a new program at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Sydney University where this grant will enable him and his team create software and 3D models for head and neck surgery on the spot. My surgery, over 3 years ago, meant a delay as my team here in Australia  and the software developers in Europe made the program for my surgery and the model for my  mouth which had to be flown in from Belgium. Here’s the announcement of the donation for the funding so this program goes ahead.

ALWAYS happy to have a photo….

How I Manage My Health Now.

Interestingly with greater ease, thanks to a limited ability to eat a lot and to a better attitude to moving more.

Photos tell that story too. It is a way of keeping myself accountable too.

However, I never feel that I am missing out either. I have a better understanding of my need to nourish this body and to also enjoy the treats when I can.

And Then I Had to Do These Things.

Have both of my eyes’ cataracts removed and lens replaced. This happened on the cusp of COVID restrictions and I was glad to be done. In Sydney, over 3 days. Then of course, I had recovery but my opthalmologist has rooms up here so visits for checks were OK. I was quite shocked that from one annual visit to the next, it was cataracts time. This turning 70 was not quite what I thought. Now 6 months on, I use readers of a lower strength and no glasses for driving. Love the clearer views everywhere.

Left Eye Cataract Done

After hiding FROM myself and my problems with rectal prolapse* and the ways in which it impacted my day to day life, in May 2020, I was forced to face the matter as I could no longer live in pretend land. I look at it this way though, in managing my recoveries – physical and emotional – from those years of head and neck cancer I could not face more investigations into what is wrong. But dear readers, there was a lot wrong. Google rectal prolapse and what it means. Let’s just say, I paid a small fortune for incontinence aids, and suffered a great deal from shame about this condition.

Grateful to be ‘out of’ another surgery.

Getting One of the Things* Above Fixed…and Added Complications. 

Again COVID changed a few things but from my GP’s referral to a colorectal surgeon who insisted on a colonoscopy “no cancer or polyps but def need rectal prolapse repair”…and then needed surgery I became resigned to what needed to be done. From early May to late July I waited for the  surgery called rectopexi. The surgeon did a great job, especially complicated by my inners where he also found (surprise) a hernia needing repair. This necessitated a horizontal incision AND, the best (not) news, a vertical incision. Meeting in an upside down T at the bottom of my abdomen. The surgery, has worked. He took the slack inner workings of my rectum and has stitched them to a bone low in my back. I have no prolapse and normal (for me) bowel movements for the….first time in perhaps a decade…and…

My recovery in hospital and at home was slow as expected but at my first post-op appointment he told me I was a star for recovering in exactly the way it was best. I liked that. Especially as I did not quite hit it off with him at my initial consult…I was scared.

Three weeks into post-surgery recovery I noticed a section of the upside T section of the wound was kind of not staying together. I showed my GP and he thought it would be OK. But take this anti-biotic and apply this cream…and let’s hope it resolves.

It did not.

Within 2 weeks of seeing my GP, I was ‘astonished to see and feel liquid forming over my nightie as I got up out of my chair. Eeek. Got an urgent appointment to the GP, who was ‘so sorry, Denyse’ but…It was called wound dehiscence and sometimes a wound will not stay together. My colorectal surgeon saw me the next day, and pronounced “can fix, back into hospital for wound debridement and we will put a VAC system on to help heal the wound over less time.”

Wound Debridement and the VAC. 

One month post first surgery for rectopexi I was back in the same hospital and cared for very well. Surgery was less than an hour. I stayed overnight so the surgeon and wound nurse could see I understood how to live with the VAC system. The best part of having paid for our private health insurance since the late 1960s it means either of us can get the best care, when and where we can. I know this is a two-part health system in Australia but I am very grateful.

Each week I was visited two days a week by the Wound Nurse. This was all covered under ‘Hospital at Home” care from our Teachers Health Program. A machine was supplied, each of the changes of dressings and the costs of visits from the Wound Nurse. This lasted just over 3 weeks.

Since then, our GP and his practice nurse is taking care of my wound dressing. The progress is amazing on the wound. I have so many photos, none of which I will add here but they give me and my husband (the photographer) updates. The medical and surgical teams appreciate my dated photo collages.

Is that IT?

I don’t know but I sure would like to be free of appointments for  the above. This is likely to occur in the next two weeks or so. At least I have no VAC on me and have full independence.

I am back to my prosthodontist in October but I am pretty sure my mouth care will be praised.

Emotionally I am getting there. I know I have gained a great deal of resilience through much of these past 3+ years but am looking forward to a some respite from health professionals for a while,

THANK you…if you got this far.

I hope you are healthy and well.

Stay that way!

Denyse.

Link Up 208

Life This Week. Link Up #208

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 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: Share Your Snaps. 40/51. 5 October 2020.

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Observations in October #1. 2018.101.

Observations in October #1. 2018.101.

Observations on Going Back and Memories.

I realised one day recently when I had finished at the prosthodontist that I was ready to go back to re-visit the houses where we had lived in Sydney from 1978 until 2015.

This may not seem much for many readers but for me, I was not able to face doing this for some time.

I was still attached in some ways to the good (and not so good) memories held within those areas where we lived and the three houses which we called “home”.

First One: 1978-1993.

The one we cobbled together as much money as two teachers could, to purchase our first house in Sydney. It was home to three until our son was born the following year. We added rooms, converted the garage to an office and made an oasis out the back with a lovely in-ground pool.

Our daughter had her family 21st birthday there, and left home (the first time) there. I did two degrees via distance in that house from 1985 – 1992, on a typewriter until we got our first computer!

Our son started school from this house and his Dad was medically retired at a too-young age.

We had great friends and neighbours and the reason we sold, we were advised, is that to do more to it we would be over-capitalising.

Second One: 1994-1998.

Oh the way in which banks lent money was too easy. I am not saying they were wrong but it was ‘easy’ for us to borrow given my job and by now my husband has built a sole business in education coaching and cabinet-making. On paper, all good.

Our son was in his teens and we all thought some more space for us all was a winner. We engaged a builder my husband did work for, and with a block of land selected built this architect-designed home.

It was, and still is, a one-off. It was not built out at the back as it overlooked the Village Green and the street was a cul-de-sac of sorts.

Our daughter was married from this home. Our first grandchild was brought here by her parents. Our son left school and worked with his Dad some of the time. I stayed home for some part-time leave and cared for our granddaughter here whilst her mum returned to teaching.

But all was not well and sole business can be a hard way to earn a living and when ill-health struck my husband and we needed the business to cease, then we also needed to take a deep breath and work out what was next…for the following year.

We sold the house to pay out the various loans and it had always been a house more than a home. It looks amazing here but we also remember it held not great time for us and there were 23 steps from the ground level to our bedroom at the top.

Third One: 1998-2015.

In some ways I was not ready to start again but it meant a house for us, and something more affordable and on one level. With a deposit that was not substantial, we managed to afford a house and land package in an area I agree was not where I saw myself living then but it was where we could afford.

This for me, was made better, with distractions of a huge kind like getting my first (and only!) role as a principal and helping with our growing family – grandchildren 2 and 3 joined number 1.

We did put in a pool eventually and we celebrated our son’s 21st here. Our life had changed for the better in many ways but I admit I took some time to adapt.

My husband returned to some teaching roles and unfortunately it was here in 2002 that my career went pear-shaped (which I wrote about here). Families change and grow and ours did too. We made family Christmas memories here and celebrated birthdays too.  The grandchildren, our son’s kids this time, continued to be cared for by us before they started school. All of the grandchildren (then 7) had special pillows, blankies and more for them all “at Grandma’s and Papa’s house”. It was awesome.

I returned to teaching part-time from this place, however, I admit, in 2013-2014 my health took a downturn with a restlessness, and an anxiety-growing over the need to keep working as this house had a mortgage. I was turning 65 and had tired of the relentlessness of working in an environment that I felt  was changing.

We made the joint decision to sell in 2014, but had been leading up to it as my husband was slowly renovating the house inside and out over the years.

The family wanted us to have no more worries about a mortgage as we did too. Our grandkids were sad when we left and have told us since how much that house meant to them. Beautiful kids they are!

We moved on.

As I drove around these three areas I felt quite claustrophobic with the growth of the housing, the trees and the addition  of the NorWest Rail link and even more cars on the road.

Here on the N.S.W. Central Coast, and we are renting. We do not know where or when we will buy but we both know, we need to be within around 2 hours travel back to Sydney, but never to live there again.

Have you moved or moved on and found it challenging, or the best thing you ever did…or something in between?

Tell us more.

Denyse.

Joining my friends here for Leanne’s linky called Lovin Life.

 

 

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