Wednesday 18th May 2022

The Month That Was : March 2022. #LifesStories #LinkUp. 21/2022.

And look what’s back! A Link Up HERE.

New(ish) Name: Life’s Stories.

Publishing Every Second Monday, from today with Link Up.

 

The Month That Was : March 2022. 21/2022.

As I am now doing an end of month catch up for my word of the year, posts for end of month will focus on  images and some experiences that have been part of this month.

 

Let’s go: March 2022.

Early March is the anniversary of Mum’s death. I paid tribute here to her life, fifteen years since her passing. Gosh.

Mum would have loved this camellia. Grown by dear B. Autumn time is ace.

You started out with a lot of rain and that was NOT fun in many, many places. Severe flooding and more. It did not directly affect us. We also stayed off the roads around here which can be severely affected by water and run off from paddocks and streets. Yes we still have paddocks!

I managed to visit places to check the Wyong River and it was both amazing and terrifying. When I saw its speed and force coming down from the hills, to the lake and then eventually into the ocean, I saw its power. No-one could survive in that water…and I saw debris and even a whole tree!

I went back to Soldiers Beach where I always find some grounding and this was no exception. Whilst it is a shame to see the beach erosion and rocks exposed, it “is” what nature does over time. And an east coast low is one that caused much havoc and heartache further north and west of us and I cannot fathom the awfulness of having the levels of water which inundated homes, schools, public buildings, churches and shops. And it is still threatening more. AND people are no longer in their homes…it’s tragic.

My Dad went to hospital after a cut on his leg turned nasty and an infection developed. At 98 he DID not find hospital comfortable event though his treatment was excellent and he was home after 2 days. I visited him 10 days later and whilst he was recovered from the infection, the experience left him shaken. He shared lots with me. And I did not take any photos.

Dad has decided against that, and he hates seeing himself (limited anyway these days with macular degeneration) as he looks so old. He does. It was too dangerous on the roads for me to come immediately he was home. My ‘pit’ stop here at St. Ives.

I also had another trip back down home town Manly memory lane, enjoying some beach shots after the awful rains and heavy seas. I ventured to North Head for a scenic lookout but it was closed! I managed a couple of shots from the side of the road. I slowly wended my way back down steep hills where I did my driver’s licence test in 1967, to land at Little Manly Cove. A lovely spot that is still special and in my memory from the 1960s.

 

Schools are doing it tough with Covid being the main reason.

In our family, adults and kids have been affected with doses of Covid (despite being fully vaccinated) and the virus has affected all in different ways. The places for gathering of crowds are doing a “great job” of spreading covid it seems, and the public officials and governments are doing little in year 3 to care or cater for changes. 

Yes there is a Federal election coming and we shall see ‘the promises’ of the parties unfurled. In N.S.W. we have another year to wait thanks to fixed terms.

Meanwhile, we as over 65s will be getting a 4th vaccine, along with our flu immunisations. Neither of us want/needs to be sick as we have underlying health conditions. Fingers crossed we stay OK.

This shot, from harmony day at school, delighted Grandma to see her 2nd youngest & youngest granddaughters.

Our youngest granddaughter celebrates her 7th birthday and I think with great fondness and excitement of the pre-dawn drive from the Central Coast to her parents’ then home, where her siblings awaited with their Aunt, on the homecoming of their father to catch us all up.

A very early morning…driving back to be Grandma on a baby’s BIRTH day

And I have had some health procedures…as they say, not related to my head and neck cancer, but to parts of me where there is skin…I cannot say anymore. However, what I did find out OUCHIE is how much local anaesthetics hurt. I thought the one in my cheek was awful but that paled into comparison by the one(s) in a place I cannot say. And the gynaecologist told me “I have never had to put so much local in….” sorry, I didn’t say because “OUCHIE x 10”. Biopsies for face/arm seem OK as have no news (as in the good news part). Second procedure I will hear more about soon to confirm what I have. I may decide to share privately because I had never known of it. Sigh. Being a woman..of older year, not fun…NO photos!

And we had a bit of a cull of books, texts and more. Some people are coming to pick up quite a few and it is pleasing to share these as we no longer work nor volunteer in the places.

 

Some fun with messages to and from my fave Aussie author: Trent Dalton. I bought my tickets to the Newcastle Writers Festival on line and had to share the news with him. We met there 3 years ago after Boy Swallows Universe’s publication. This time, he is there to talk about Love Stories (which I AM trying to finish by next Saturday) and in the book he mentions the Dalai Lama…hence our chat!

 

I have spent some time reflecting as March ends and I am reminded of what I like to do most:

  • stay connected with others, including via social media and blogging
  • have a cup of coffee somewhere most days
  • chat with my husband, especially at our night time catch up around 9 p.m.
  • enjoy being in nature which is pretty easy to do where we live right now
  • make something art/design wise that is just for me and the process
  • reduce my attention (hyper vigilance) on health matters…a tough assignment but I know I need to do this, as my G.P. and I talked about it recently.

And during the weekend before this post goes live, we attended a one year old’s birthday morning tea. His family lives next door and it was cool to catch up with them. During the one year of his life, as the family was in lockdown as we were, this family got some of the packs of little cakes that our grandkids couldn’t enjoy. It was special to be able to connect and share the joy of a little’s one birthday!

And some more from nature. Love the chance to get out into nature that is relatively close by…and before it rained some more!

The two of us never have a reason to dress up much at all these days in retirement with a social and work-type life non-existent (it’s fine!) so we did for the birthday party and I just had to capture these…

And even thought it is not quite over, March, you can march on.

Bring on April where I will be sharing more about my goal to be more self compassionate.

So pleased to have found “the middle ground” for my link up and hosting.

Yay for changes of mind, kind blogging friends and a patient Tanya who helps make my blog images. Thank you!

Denyse.

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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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Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty One. Part 2/2. 2015. 19/2021.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty One. Part 2/2. 2015. 19/2021.

The backstory first:

Well over a hundred three years ago ….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 One.  Part Two 2015. Part One was published here.

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.

Well, it seems I survived my first half of 2015 living at the southern end of the Central Coast but wait, there is more, much much more.

Are you ready?

Here we go:

June and July.

Emotions Are Tricky!

We had some reasons for visit Sydney: my gastroenterologist who was happy to see me and with a positive outcome from an MRI done back in May he believed my insides were OK but that I.B.S. was just a part of me that needed my management.

Neither he nor the GP had any reason to be concerned about my weight loss over time which was in fact because : I really couldn’t bring myself to eat much at all as almost always it would result in some kind of stomach reaction.

It was truly horrible for me who WANTED to be social but could not go out for lunch or entertain for a meal. I stuck to coffee and cake – if I could even do that and most people who cared about me understood that.

I on the other hand was very self-critical. And would continue to be for years. Seriously. Yes, I was blaming me for things that were probably needing compassion and kindness but “black and white” thinking Denyse had not quite given up her harsh words.

We had grandkids who we love dearly come and stay for a couple of nights and whilst I love their company I got myself overly worried about things and them and found the stress bothersome. I did not like that either.

Yes I was doing meditation. Every day. I was seeing my G.P. pretty often too. She was running out of ideas for my emotional equilibrium and on one occasion when I was at breaking down crying point, put me onto an anti-depressant. I agreed to it. My husband was sceptical but went along with it. I took it once. I had such a physical reaction to it that I declared “never again”. Suffice to say, after days of diarrhoea my G.P. wholeheartedly agreed.

I blogged. Every day. By this time, I was now joining in link ups and that helped me have some conversations on line.

I joined in a private group where we supported ourselves trying to Flourish. There were some great programs in there and from there I added to my repertoire of mindfulness by doing an on-line MOOC course from a Uni in Melbourne learning about Mindfulness and Stress. Excellent work.

I had already begun my large collection of writers, scholars, and more who I would learn more from and about and this helped me feel less alone.

My post here on Calm Days and Calm Nights has all of the titles I found useful to grow and learn.

My husband was, when he could be, an amazing support. I did however, have very few people to talk to and with and this contributed to more isolation.

Dealing with family news was hard on me. I simply did not have the emotional capacity to support as I might have now because I had no skills, and I was totally trying to deal with myself.

Sigh.

August, September and October.

Dear readers, assume that I continued with my health care and seeking answers.

  • These also included things like going for a drive,
  • watching the waves,
  • walking on the beach and near nature.
  • Whilst I did (do) enjoy going to shopping centres, I am afraid to say I felt lonelier there when I saw people with their grandkids and/or friends and chatting.
  • I wanted that. I also knew, intellectually I had had that and now it was no longer happening. Sigh. Again.

We celebrated our daughter’s birthday at our place.

She took some images of us for a TV program called Compass about married couples. Our shots were part of the promo.

Family time was always welcomed but I had become hypervigilant and that did not help my stress and I.B.S.

I had my last role in education. I was invited to be part of a Teach Meet and it was to be held at my former High School. Last visited by me in 1967! It was a thrill to present there and to get to have a tour of the school to see the many changes. Grateful and proud of doing this one last talk of my career.

We had a short stay in Parramatta while my husband attended a compulsory course for his degree and I was alone for some of that time and did catch up with our family. My level of anxiety staying there and no longer being in our home rose and I would not do that again. I did see one of my granddaughters for a play and we went to tea at our daughter’s house but I was not great. Tried to look it..but…

By this time we were certain we were not staying on…in this overpriced rental nor in the area. It was a strange place. A town like no other. We have lived in country towns but this was not friendly. Sadly. I began the search on-line and then in real time of the northern end of the Central Coast and it seemed like a place and area that would suit us more.

As luck would have it, on a drive past the house we saw on line in October, the owners (former, actually) were around and asked did we want to have a look inside. Oh, yes please. Totally not supposed to do this of course, but we did and knew, if we could, this would be the one. It was to become that indeed! But more to come…

November into December. Big Months but Better Ones! 

The House. We got the new house to rent and it would be…over $150 less than what we were paying and it was a one level ducted air con, 4 bed, 2 bathroom house…very similar to what we had sold. Suddenly things were already looking better. BUT…

As we were breaking the lease of the other place, and they could not find anyone to re-lease it too, we did DOUBLE ups till the end of December. Not great.At all. However, the emotional relief was worth it.

Now instead of being separated from each other at night, as he went upstairs to bed, study and TV and I stayed downstairs, we would both be on the same level.

The move itself was OK. I took the chance to do more culling and all that but we still had a lot. Probably still do.

Nevertheless mid November we were northern end of the Central Coast inhabitants and pleased to be there.

For my 66th Birthday I tried something challenging and whilst I did it I know it was hard for me because of …..you guessed it…I.B.S.

  • I drove to see our family at our son’s place for an afternoon tea catch up and small birthday celebration.
  • I was in heaven to be with all of the family but it was tense.
  • I now know from this many years vantage point, it was not something from anything I had done. Nevertheless I feel things. 
  • I then joined our daughter’s family in a crowded and busy household for Christmas decorating day and dinner.
  • The next day, my actual birthday they all went to work and school and I saw my son’s two little ones and their mum and then drove to my Dad’s for a morning tea with my brother, sister in law and Dad.
  • THAT was a very full on couple of days for me. But, I did it.

 

Coming up to Christmas I was determined to see Dad if I could and drove down with some goodies and we said we would not travel to anyone on Christmas Day. I think that was because I was thinking about me, traffic and….you guessed it I.B.S. Truly that IS how much it affected me.

I stayed with the same doctor I had started seeing when we lived closer, and between us we always hoped things would improve for me. I began seeing a fantastic psychologist who challenged me and my often-critical thoughts and gave me assignments to help me learn by observing. She was keen for me to continue my art which grew hugely by the time we moved to this newer and better house because I had a dedicated area for my creating. That was so good. I also had space for private meditation and listening to some of the many people who helped me, eventually, find my way.

I.B.S. would continue to challenge me. It affected all I did. I could not plan to leave home unless I was pretty sure I would be OK. I had to know of toilet locations. I carried spare clothing and clean up items with me. I hated it but I did that. I did, though, find more to help me via another book and a course. All are too much in detail to outline here but they gave me an understanding that my emotions were in my gut and it was telling me how I was.

In the next couple of chapters, 2016 and 2017 I.B.S. continues to get a lead role…even though I hate admitting that.

And into 2016 here is what I hoped would help me.

And whilst it may not have worked like a charm…this did.

I got right back into blogging getting help from my kind friend Tanya (who still does my images) and with her help and my ideas I began 2016 rocking the blog with categories, and more. I blogged daily until around September 2016. More on that next post.

Phew.

Re-living this was a challenge as I wrote but I also got to congratulate myself for coming through. Little did I know, of course, that much more was in store for 2016. No, the family issues and my health ones did not go away. And then we will come to 2017…and many readers already know about that BUT we can wait, right?

Thanks for your kindness in reading these posts…if indeed you are here, then you must have!

How was 2015 for you?

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne for Lovin’ Life Linky here.

 

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