Sunday 26th June 2022

Remembering & Moving On With Gratitude. 23/2022.

Remembering & Moving On With Gratitude. 23/2022.

It’s April 2022 and I am remembering, with some vivid emotions, how I was feeling in April 2017.

Back then, I had just had my upper bridge and teeth removed….and although neither my dentist nor I admitted it out loud, we both suspected I had cancer. Yes, this was found.

Image from late March 2017 into April:

However, to get to April 2017 I had been through a LOT of emotional stressors….

and pain.

For a feeling person like me, I am prone to re-living emotions that are negative. Sigh. Humans are like this.

And because a CANCER was growing in my mouth, and I had been through ENORMOUS life transitions it was:

S T R E S S F U L.

Yet, despite that I know I tried my best to continue my daily life, managed via a background internal noise…you have cancer, I.B.S. is awful, my family is away from us and I miss them, my husband is busy learning and helping others….and I am WORRIED.

Why Write This Post?

I had some stressors re-emerge this week.

Health related ones. By the way, I am OK….but still hard going for more tests/biopsies, follow ups….

I asked myself “what is going on?”  and then I realised:

A LOT has happened to me in the past 5 years…and it kind felt like a burned out system I was operating.

I asked myself a few questions, as I am always looking for a solution and here’s what I found:

  • Yes, on top of Cancer in 2017 and 4 surgeries…
  • Two major abdominal surgeries in 2020
  • Cataract surgeries too
  • Oh, and a colonoscopy and endoscopy (both OK)
  • and a MILLION (ok about 45) drives back and forth to Westmead for checks of my upper prosthesis
  • I am tired…and yet more health suff comes up, and I get weary and wary until….
  • I remember GRATITUDE & I:

OFFER myself kindness and self-compassion

ALLOW a few tears to fall

CHAT with my dear husband

CONTINUE my daily & nightly meditation practices

ENJOY a coffee & treat by myself

FIND some ART to do

ENJOY nature each time I can

AND allow time to pass.

Nature reminds us of this EVERY day & night

And I said this to myself:

“I am no longer 5 years ago Denyse. I have made so much progress in my emotional strength building and resilience from 2017, and even though I have small concerns and worries, I CAN manage these by acknowledging them…and using some of my skills from the “Denyse Emotional Health  Toolkit” *

Re-reading a post from Telling My Story, I found this. Always good to have a reminder.

This List Was Something I Kept for Me in 2016.

Here are 20 things you can control:

1. Talking to yourself positively

2. The way you talk to those around you

3. The amount of physical exercise you give your body

4. The food you nourish your body with

5. Your level of honesty

6. Whether you are a listener or a talker

7. How often you smile every day

8. The time you spend worrying about irrelevant things

9. The amount of love you give your children

10. Whether you see the glass half empty or half full

11. How mindful you want to be

12. How you make other people feel about themselves

13. Having a generous heart

14. Allowing yourself to ask for help

15. Offering help in return

16. Whether you judge people or accept people

17. Having an open heart to receive true love

18. Whether you believe in yourself

19. Your words

20. Your thoughts

 

And in the months ahead I am seeing my psychologist again for a chat about this and how, even though we think we are getting through a major life event, it is still, in its way unique to us: a trauma.

  • No such toolkit exists in reality but it sure helps me to know and recall the skills I have within my experience. 

I use an image to remind me of the confidence I have and can find when I may forget! This image is from last week’s visit to Newcastle.

Just after this post was published a favourite doctor and author of mine Dr Kathryn Mannix, (link to her facebook page is here  )wrote a post and it resonated with this that I have been outlining so much I commented.

Oh Kathryn…how do you “know” that this is exactly what I needed to read today. It’s occurred to me that having successfully come through from a nasty rare oral cancer dx in 2017 I have been, in many ways, traumatised by it, and that unless I “own” up to the feelings that were/are scary and continue to post “just the smiles” and good news, I am doing myself a disservice by not acknowledging its impact. I wrote a post on my blog just tonight about it. Your words, as always, resonate! Thank you.

Denyse that must have been such a tough ordeal, and a life- changing experience. It has shown you how fragile we are, yet it’s also shown you how resilient you are. Life afterwards is different: that ‘both-and’ thing of having been afraid, distressed and uncomfortable shows us so much about ourselves, both fragile and strong, both afraid and committed to persevering, both relieved and anxious about the future when treatment is over. Let’s be our whole selves. Because we’re pretty amazing, troubles and all!

Kathryn’s two books. I also listen to her books via Audible:

 

How is your resilience and courage?

Do you too practise gratitude regularly?

Denyse.

Joining in with Natalie for Weekend Coffee Share today

Thank you Natalie.

https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

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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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Women Of Courage Series. #54 Leanne @DeepFriedFruit. 73/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #54 Leanne @DeepFriedFruit. 73/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week and now the series concludes today with this post. Over the next two weeks there will be a look back at those who have shared their stories. Actually 56 women. The link to all of those stories is here.

Here is the introduction to the series and each woman’s story.

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.

 

Leanne, also known by her blog’s name of Deep Fried Fruit, has been blogging FOR ever..no, not really. However, I believe she started for a significant ZERO birthday and now admits to being at the next decade. Not one to hide away from her celebrations of life, she calls her birthday a festival. In real life, and yes, we have met, this person is warm, funny, generous and very caring. In fact, she stopped off on her family’s trip to Queensland two years ago so we could meet up!

 

Let’s get on with Leanne’ story…and I admit, she has written more than was asked but all good. The more we get to know about the ‘why’ of this lady!

 

Background

  • I look back and think of all the things in my life that took great courage and I guess most things do.  Every new experience requires some amount of bravery.
  • I used to be timid and shy.  As an only child I found safety in the walls of my own home with my tiny family.  Then one day my mum was told she only had two weeks to live and suddenly my safety was about to be stripped.
  • Her bravery of fighting the disease and winning, changed who I ultimately became.  Being timid in life was no longer an option. I learned if you want to achieve results you have to stand up and take responsibility for your existence. You had to find courage.
  • As a result, I’m someone whose meta programming is set high on the “challenge” meter.  Some people take the path of least resistance in life, others take the path of most challenge. I’m the latter.

 

My favourite quote is by Sarah Henderson:

“Don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel, stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.”

That’s how I live my life. I spend a great deal of time striding down great big long tunnels to turn that bloody light switch on. Which means I need a fair bit of courage I suppose.  Although I don’t necessarily recognise it at the time.

 

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

My mum’s leukaemia, backpacking overseas alone, buying my first home, completing my degrees, creating a career, marrying into a readymade family, having kids, dealing with fibromyalgia. The standard stuff.

 

I think there are some major milestones that took more courage than others though.

  1. “Retiring” from a well-established career at the age of 36 to concentrate on my family
  2. Becoming the creator/founder of several small business initiatives
  3. Deciding to self-publish my children’s book series
  4. Watching helplessly as cancer took our (my husband’s) eldest child
  5. Re-entering the workforce at the age many retire

While point number 4 is probably the one jumping out as the most challenging event anyone could possibly face, it’s still too hard to talk about.  So, I won’t be talking about the loss of a child today.

Instead, given it’s current, I’d like to chat about number 5.

 

Re-entering the workforce.

 

How did this change you?

  • For the past 15 years, skipping merrily outside the boundaries of the paid workforce as a sole trader and finder of cool projects, I’ve been striding through many tunnels turning on a shitload of Sarah Henderson-esque light switches.
  • You’d think that with all the results I’ve achieved when I was out there on my own, re-entering the workforce would be easy. I mean, I’ve done so much! I’m a force to be reckoned with, aren’t I?
  • I would have thought so too, but no.
  • Going back to work” has honestly been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.
  • Why? Because I discovered something when I went back to work in corporate Australia.  I’m old!
  • I know right.  Shocking revelation.
  • I thought I could waltz right back in there and just be amazing. But it turns out I’ve got a bit to catch up on in the corporate world and apparently my brain isn’t quite what it used to be.

 

Re-entering the workforce changed me.  My confidence, resilience and emotions hit an all time low.

According to the numbers I am fifty years old, but my heart says I’m still a vibrant, intelligent and energetic 35-year-old who knows everything there is to know about everything. Hell, there are days I’ve got the mindset, energy and frivolity of a 20-year-old and the smarts of a 70-year-old Harvard professor.  Lingo and all.   Yet despite my love of life, my readiness to be challenged and the wealth of experience under my belt, the fact is, I’ve been out of the workforce for a bloody long time.

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend?

  • Every single challenge in life presents an opportunity for growth.
  • While wallowing in self-pity, I realised I’d bumbled into this job without much thought nor planning.  Somebody needed me to fill a gap, so I filled it.  Then somebody else needed me to fill another gap and I filled that one too. That was my re-entry. I didn’t create my new work life; I simply fell into it.
  • It’s hard to stride down a tunnel with purpose when you’ve fallen into the tunnel.
  • So, I downed tools, re-wrote my resume, contacted recruitment and said, “hello world, here I am, and this is what I have to offer you”.  I took back control and started striding forward on my terms again.
  • I guess I’d like to say out loud for all to hear, if you find yourself in a job you aren’t enjoying, or that doesn’t suit you, or that makes you feel less-than, then do something about it.  Don’t stay there for staying sake.
  • I’m now focussing on my strengths, adding value where I know I can and not putting so much pressure on myself to be able to do everything.

 

I have decided to create my job, rather than have my job re-create me. Or more specifically, rather than have my job deflate me.

 

 

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

  • Absolutely, 100%, without a doubt. Our challenges make us stronger.  My challenges have made me stronger.
  • Facing problems can be hard. At the time it can even feel like the end of the world.

But looking back at the times where courage has been required is a fantastic reminder that we do survive them, 100% of the time, because we’re still here!

 

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

 

  • When you’re younger you tend to put up with a lot more heartache in order to get your foot in the door, particularly when it comes to jobs and careers.  I know I did whatever it took to show my value. I worked hard from the ground up.
  • When I re-entered the workforce, I thought I’d waltz back in without that need to go back to grass roots, and it was quite a dent to my pride to discover I wasn’t as shit-hot a I thought I was; or perhaps as I used to be.
  • When I hit rock bottom, I thought “wow, does this mean I have to start again? Has my experience over the last 30 years meant nothing?”
  • No.  We don’t need to start again. Everything we’ve done previously is still part of us, only we’re even better off because we not only have that experience, we also have a proven track record of resilience, growth and acquired wisdom.
  • If like me you don’t like your job, and the light at the end of the tunnel is dimming, then just stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.

 

Anything else to add?

  • This “being back at work” thing is new, and I am still finding my feet.
  • But if there is one thing I know for sure; I still have a good 15 years of work life left in me in which to create something that suits my strengths.
  • I may well create my dream job or a whole new career, or I may just decide that my current income generating activity is simply that, an income source.
  • The bottom line is, if the world feels dim, I’m now old enough and wise enough to know where to find the light switch.

Denyse offering me this WOC interview has been a fantastic exercise in recognizing where my inner lion has been needed in life and how I can apply it to my current situation.Thanks so much Denyse for this opportunity to reflect and to remind me where to find the light.

 

Thank you Leanne, you are an amazing friend and definitely a great woman of courage and it’s my privilege to share your story as the final one in the series over the past 2 years.

Thank you to all of the Women of Courage.

Over the next two weeks, there will be a farewell and appreciation for those who shared in 2019 and in 2020.

 

Denyse.

 

Social Media:

Blog/Website:  www.deepfriedfruit.com.au

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DeepFriedFruit

Instagram: @DeepFriedFruit

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

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