Saturday 23rd October 2021

35/51 #LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Ch. 26. Part 2/3. May-August 2021.106/2021.

Telling My Story. Chapter Twenty Six. 2021. Part 2/3. May – August.

The backstory first:

FOUR years ago now ….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 Six. Telling the story as 2021 progresses in three parts. Today is Part Two. May-August 2021.

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.

And with this chapter, a recent photo…taken overlooking the harbour at Dobroyd near where I grew up close to Manly N.S.W.

 

May 2021.

We had pretty good weather in May. We got outside even more. The covid ‘stuff’ had settled. However, we could never be quite sure of its whereabouts so we did “wearing a mask” when asked inside, and I know I was pretty casual about signing in using the State Government QR code. No-one was really practising social distancing but living on the coast, we did not have too many concerns.

We did not travel to Sydney for Mother’s Day this year even though I could have. It just wasn’t happening.

I got to celebrate my 4 years since my Head and Neck cancer diagnosis with a much anticipated visit to Sydney’s Lyric Theatre where I saw Hamilton.

Yes it was everything I had hoped and more. Wonderful.

That week I also came back to Westmead for a 6 month mouth check with my prosthodontist. All is well.

I stopped on my way home at a cafe in a nursery where I used to meet up with friends in Sydney days. It was lovely but it had changed as had I.

June. What happened?

We were continuing to be lulled into some kind of normality, living without too many restrictions and life was pretty good.

I visited my Dad to celebrate his 10 years living in his independent retirement Unit. He is going well.

I had my 6 months check with my regular dentist and he was very pleased with how well I care for my mouth and 8 teeth now! It’s always a treat going to him because we have such a history and he is a great cheerleader too.

I was delighted to recall that my head and neck cancer nurse, Cate, was a Woman of Courage on the blog too. But….the head and neck cancer group getting to Canberra was not able to happen because of Covid restrictions in Victoria and I took a reality check. The reality check for me was about how I would be able to eat when away from home over 3 nights and it was literally something I need to accept. A future post on eating and drinking challenges post head and neck cancer was planned.

But, we were going OK. In fact we had morning tea out twice using our government’s ‘dine in’ vouchers and I was excitedly planning the Soup for the Soul event with my friends from BluJ’s in Toukley.

 

And then late June 2021, just as the school holidays began, and we got excited about seeing our son and his family to celebrate our newly minted 8 year old’s birthday it was OFF. Back to Lockdown. Because of Covid 19 and ONE person’s infection from the newly seen and very nasty delta strain….it was not a good news day or week. So much changed in a very short time. STAY home. STAY safe. And as I write this ready for 30 August publication we are STILL in same lockdown. It’s actually become much more serious. More on that as I try to recall August! OK, we live on N.S.W. Central Coast, around 2 hours from centre of Sydney the capital of N.S.W. On 27 June 2021 we were declared to be part of Greater Sydney, along with Sydney and all its suburbs, Wollongong and Shellharbour to the south and the Blue Mountains to the west. NB: the Central Coast where we live was declared a regional area mid August.

The Hawkesbury River and Bridge. From the side where I took this photo it’s Central Coast.

July 2021.

July holds many memories for me since 2017. It marks the anniversary of my first head and neck cancer major surgery and reconstruction on 6 July (4 years this year) and 27.7 each year – since 2014, is World Head and Neck Cancer Day.

I met other people who were also head and neck cancer patients, carers and professionals in July 2018 at Central Coast Cancer Centre and in 2019 was part of the group called Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Support who held a Soup for the Soul Event. And, each year the charity for whom I volunteer as an Ambassador, Head and Neck Cancer Australia, has awareness activities on line and encourages communities and individuals to host Soup for the Soul.

I was one who was going this with my friends at my local cafe but once lockdown came and they chose not to open as takeaway business was not a large amount of their trade, the event could not go ahead. So, I made it a virtual event and kind friends and professionals donated to a total of $305.

Some other memories and more from July 2021.

And August Arrived!

Of course we celebrated our daughter’s birthday. Post in detail here. We continued in lockdown which felt endless. I admit I did sometimes get very cranky on social media and then had to stop using it.

I tended then to spend more time outside, or doing something creative. I know preparing and sending off little packs of bookmarks was a positive experience.

Of course, Women of Courage continued on the blog but I was planning to bring it to a close soon. I stayed in contact on line with friends and family as much as practicable but also remembering people at work (even at home) are much busier than I am.

I had successful dental checks – of the regular kind. I am doing well after the surgeries I had in July and August 2021 and I am very grateful for that. I talk to Dad once a week. He is OK and finding the visitors restrictions within his unit complex quite frustrating. He is a sociable person. My brother and sister in law help him each week with shopping and some company. I haven’t been to see him since mid June because of “lockdown”.

I try to get out each day somewhere to notice nature – walking locally or driving somewhere near the water and that helps regulate my mood.

And to do this often:

 

What’s ahead and what other news is there?
No-one knows.

However, I know I am going well and have quite a few choices of art and creative ventures at home. B is making a new TV cabinet and has numerous small projects on the go. He is doing some on-line music lessons and I have similar ones for art. We would not be happy if the NBN stopped working!!

My dear husband has enjoyed writing his 3rd blog post, with another one to come. We are very well suited…different interests but shared common history, love of kids and education (not always the formal kind), and connecting with people. It’s the first time in our marriage of over 50 years that we have spent so much time together at home and for the most part…at least 99% …it’s going well.

Our next door neighbours have two little ones, one born just before Easter and when our family visits were curtailed and I had excess of mini cupcakes in the freezer, it’s been great to share (safely!) a couple of little boxes of treats. Their family cannot visit just as we cannot have ours come. Still, for the greater good.

We have made a promise, once new restrictions began for lockdown, to only go to two stand alone supermarkets, the doctors and chemist and (before they became more restricted in entry) Bunnings on occasions for B. On one day, only one of us goes out (for essential reasons) and we stick to that. I recently made a trip to the local Reject shop…the only place open in a large super centre to buy a stash of cards for upcoming birthdays and celebrations. I also got some fun items which have been sent to Sydney to two families for the school aged grandkids…a care package…costs more to post by express but I would rather they got them! Australia Post employees tell me they have never been busier.

Here’s  two days of contrast (weather and condition wise) at Soldiers Beach.

 

Mon 23.8.21. Warm weather

Great day but look at those clouds.

Windy & wet. Tues 24 August.

Same ‘area’ where person was snorkling on Monday!

 

 

UPDATE: In late August I heard very sad news. Two friends had both died of cancer. One of whom was a Woman of Courage. Her name is Tracey Fletcher King. Here is the link to her story:

The second person is Fergus McCulla, a young man I had the pleasure of meeting back in 2019 as he had questions to ask me about my surgeries for cancer in my mouth. Fergus’s cancer was a very nasty one, and despite “everything” he eventually left behind the pain and suffering, that as his Mum said, he never spoke about. On Tuesday, I will attend his funeral service which will be streamed on-line.

 

Sending my love to the  families and friends of both of these special people. Vale Tracey and Vale Fergus. I am honoured that our paths crossed.

 

 

 

 

And so the second of three parts of 2021 is done. I will of course, be finishing this year’s story. However, I am no longer going to update here as I have found it hard(er) than I imagined in the midst of other life stuff…meaning, I am reducing some of my ‘have to’s in 2022 and keeping Telling My Story going won’t be a blog post. I might do a summary one time, but the recall and record keeping is less appealing than when I committed to starting!

 

Thanks for reading. And maybe just skimming but looking at the pictures. That is cool too. I am grateful I have used this blog to make me accountable.

Last one will be published as the last blog post (and Link Up) for 2021. 51/51….but we have a few weeks to go to that, and I am not wishing the year away!

Denyse.

Link Up #255

Life This Week. Link Up #255

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Women Of Courage Series. #58 Tracey Lee. 71/2021.

Women Of Courage Series. #58 Tracey Lee. 71/2021.

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

In counting back the years, I realised that I met Tracey Lee, aged 55 via twitter first…back in what we affectionately call ‘the good old days of twitter: 2010-2012’. Then I also got to meet her in real life at a mutual friend’s book launch. Over the next few years we chatted and caught up, in that social media way, on both facebook and twitter. When we moved from Sydney to the Central Coast of N.S.W. I knew that I had a friend I could meet up with again, and we did and have for coffee and chat. Love those connections. But in recent times, I was also delighted to be both an encourager and cheerleader in Tracey Lee’s ventures which she writes of here. I will let her share the story. Thank you!

 

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

Is there anything more terrifying than your “baby” starting high school? Is there anything more potent to ring the alarm bells of what will you “do” for the rest of your life!

  • Let’s take it back a decade, to when I was made redundant from my permanent part-time graphic design job, secretly 8 weeks pregnant with my second child and knowing I had no chance of finding another position that would fit me and my childcare needs.
  • With support from also-redundant colleagues and bereft clients, I set up a computer and dial-up modem in my dining room, establishing my freelance business.
  • While I never “made a living”, it was enough to keep our nose above water and pay for family holidays.
  • It gave me flexibility to be at school: helping in the classroom, canteen, P&C, and cobbling together costumes for the dreaded Book Week.
  • And extra time to spend with my Mum, who lived alone since we lost Dad, and who was showing early signs of dementia.

I had fallen into graphic design when I dropped out of law school (a terrible choice!) because I had always been “good at art”.

  • I enjoyed design, and it certainly honed my skills as a communicator, and I loved working in publishing (because books!), but it was never a goal that set me alight.
  • Into the presumption of stability known as “mid life”, little ideas crept into my head, of how I would resurrect my creative practice beyond on a computer, to find that part of me that the responsibilities of adult life and parenthood had driven out.

Enter Twitter! 

At the (since lamented) suggestion of my husband, I started an account.

As a SAHM/WFH (Stay At Home Mum/Working from Home) freelancer, I was thrilled to expand what had become a narrow social circle. I started with old friends from publishing, then followed the bread crumbs, gathering a group of individuals whose interests mirrored mine.

It did not occur to me until later that I had created a virtual curriculum vitae for future ambitions.

I followed parents and teachers, artisans and creatives … and a cluster of allied health professionals working in mental health.

I remembered the psychology I enjoyed as a part of my abandoned law studies, and the kindling started to smoulder.

If only I could resurrect my art practice and, through the joy I knew it could invoke, help people heal from self-doubt and hardships in their lives: art … and, therapy? That’s a job!

Putting aside qualms from my flawed experiences, I spent the rest of that year secretly searching qualifications and university degrees. I discovered mature-aged admissions pathways. I applied. I was accepted. Dear God!

 

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

I was used to work schedules and deadlines, but now I needed to factor in the unexpected, to learn how to drop the ball and catch it on the bounce when a child became ill or a paid freelance job turned up without warning.

I learned to focus my research and to “kill my darlings”, the factual nuggets or personal theories that just would not fit in under the word limit. (My worst effort was the 6000 word “draft” for the 1500 word assignment).

And then there was the dreaded Group Assignment: how to get my work done and learn to trust everyone else to do their own work … or to let go when it was obvious it was never going to happen.

I needed to allow myself to hand in work that I was not 100% happy with for the sake of getting it out of the way, ready to start on the next project.

Being the anxious type, that did not sit well with me!

And then there were the results that were disappointing, especially on assignments I felt I had “nailed”, to learn that there is more than one way to interpret an assignment, and that I would not always be “right”.

 

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

But the hardest thing to learn was to be self-centred, not in a selfish way, but in a way that allowed me to believe what I was doing, my aims and ambitions, were important.

  • Even more so than parenting demands, reasonable when my children were younger, which I had let persist because what I was previously doing was “not so important”.
  • I would like to say we blossomed graciously as a family, but it was a lot bumpier than that.
  • My new priorities were resented, and I had days when I struggled with guilt.

Yet, oddly, no one died. No one got injured or even particularly hungry, although a few dirty uniforms might have been shaken out at 8am and quickly sprayed with deodorant.

I learned that when I centred myself, others would fall in around me.

As a primary caregiver it can be confronting to be the instigator of one’s own obsolescence. It can be frightening to peel off the cocoon of parenting to see if what emerges will have beautiful wings, or be incomplete and damaged, unable to fly.

 

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

While this is about my year of Open Foundation, the next chapter was the four years of ups and downs it took to complete my three-year Bachelor’s degree (with Distinction!), with Mum leaving us in my final year.

By then I knew I was not cut out for the post-graduate Master’s as I had planned, so I looked for smaller certificate courses, finding one I could mostly complete online. And then …

And then COVID-19 spat its contagion, hungrily eating its way through freedoms I took so for granted.

I was used to WFH, but now my husband was WFH, my oldest had TAFE shut down and my youngest was studying “FH” as well. I was happy we could be safe and not suffer financially, but as someone who requires a quiet space, I shelved my plans for the year.

Sometimes courage means knowing your limits and when to say no.

Sometimes courage is an understanding that life will throw sharp sticks, and you need to protect yourself and regather for when it is safe to start again.

 

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

If years as a mature-aged student — forging a pathway to my first ever burning passion — taught me anything, it is that by creating a clear image of who you are, you can hold steady.

If who you wish to be is not possible right now, do not believe it can never happen or that your efforts have been wasted.

Such intrinsic courage does not fail at the first, or even fifth, hurdle.

I once read that direction, not speed, is pivotal when finding your way through life.

With a few pressing family issues and my youngest attempting the HSC in 2021, I’m still not quite ready to spring ahead, but I know my pathway when I am.

And hey, 60 is the new 40, am I right?

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post. For example a website or help line.

From UON / Open Foundation:

“Open Foundation is a free pathway program offered at the University of Newcastle for people who do not have the qualifications required for direct entry into an undergraduate degree program.’

https://www.newcastle.edu.au/study/pathways/open-foundation

 

Gosh I loved reading this from Tracey Lee because I remember a lot of what was happening as she plunged in…and see the top photo? A proud artist. Lately I have been loving her instagram pics where she includes art and art via nature. I was incredibly pleased to know of her graduation. However, like everything in 2020, the graduation could not happen in person. The photo here is from her graduation from the pathways’ program. Lots to be proud of here and perhaps for others to find encouragement in their tertiary study ventures.

Thank you!

Denyse.

Tracey Lee’s  Social Media:

Business Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/LPFdesign

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tracey_ArtTx

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tracey_arttx/

This series continues over the next months.

If you have  story to share, please leave me a message in the comments.

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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One Year Ago: So Much Change Happened. July- December. 2020. 31/2021.

One Year Ago: So Much Change Happened. July- December. 2020. 31/2021.

Recently I wrote here about the changes for me, and many of us, in the first half of 2020 in my life, my local area and wider community during Covid 19 conditions in Australia.

From memory, I think we started to deal with the restrictions of Covid 19 here in our local area quite well:

Central Coast (located on map below – right side -Eastern Australia between Sydney and Newcastle)

It’s in the state of New South Wales Australia.

There were many who would say differently and that is because of these Covid 19  impacts:

  • Borders between states and territories closed/opened/required permits/required quarantine….with changes occurring immediately or overnight. Often without warning.

 

  • Those who were trying to get back home to Australia from overseas were met with cancellations by airlines at the last minute, changes in Australia’s capacity to manage quarantine situations if and when people returned

 

  • As I write, late February 2021, this is still quite an issue. The Australian (Federal) Government and its various Departments are doing what they can (they say) but as we are also State-based, those leaders have to agree/acknowledge their limitations for taking people into quarantine. I know little about it but keep an eye on facebook friends who I know are in this situation and understand it is not great.

 

  • Then there is this. The quarantine comes at a personal cost to returning travellers/citizens and whilst initially it was free, it is now $3000 per first person in family and less for subsequent members. A friend is almost finished her quarantine with her 18 year old daughter and has shown updates from their room, food supplied and more. She is Australian, with her daughter, also Australian, returning to the capital city where they used to live for her to start University. They still live as expats in Singapore for her husband’s work.

 

  • There is also this example. Another friend cannot travel across Australia to see her family (a new & first grandchild born before Covid hit) because of the states’ laws between her state (New South Wales) and that where her grandson and family live (Western Australia). Quarantine costs time AND money and as she is the sole income earner in her family, she cannot afford to do this. We know why, it is just hard!

 

  • For those reading from countries other than Australia, our country, is also a continent and is roughly close in physical size to North America.

Health (again!)

June and it brought my first colonoscopy in over 10 years. It was something I needed but oh my, I hate the prep. I would have to say, it is probably worse than any surgical procedure!! Anyway, because I know I could be having some surgery in my future, I did take the chance once some of the Covid rules for travel and visiting were reduced, to go see my father who had been automatically socially isolating because of his age and where he lives. As always he was pleased to see me and I carried some frozen meals and treats for him. It’s roughly a two hour drive to him from us and similarly on the way back. I listen to audiobooks most times! As the walking on beaches was less restrictive over time, I could visit again.

Our 7th grandchild turned 7. There was no family party but she knew we were thinking of her. We always send a card, which I add lots of photos inside as a memento of the grandchild and us…and often some money is put in the parent’s bank account for the child to spend later on something needed or wanted or even both. Schooling continued to be a mix of home and at school from memory and like everything and everyone, adaptations happened.

My colonoscopy result was good (no cancer ) but also, yes, you need rectal prolapse surgery so I began preparation for the date allocated in July. School holidays were in this month but we had no visitors nor did we visit. Being winter, everyone was pretty cautious around going anywhere and restrictions for visitors to the home were still in place. There was no outdoor concerts, nor even indoor ones at this point. On-line shopping and event gathering happened via Zoom. My pre-hospital admission ended up being over the phone for the late July surgery.

I admit, that pre-major surgery I do get concerned/worried/stressed and much of it, in this case, related to the procedure, what it would be like before I went into theatre – an enema would be carried out – and the preparation whilst thorough and necessary for the type of surgery just added to my load.

I tried to get myself into some nature, locally as it was fine to visit, and to making some meals so that I would have plenty of variety for me to eat. You see, since head and neck cancer surgery, eating anywhere other than home, and in small and suitable quantities is how I have to keep well-nourished.

I did it. Well, the surgeon did, and I am, as always  a model patient and excellent recoverer so I got to come home a night early. I was so stressed because…couldn’t eat much, very uncomfy and my colo rectal surgeon kindly OK-ed me to go home. Best place ever!

World Head and Neck Cancer Day: 27 July 2020. Suddenly when COVID hit, all aspects of fundraising in person went by the by, and in came virtual events, cooking demonstrations and Soup For the Soul via individuals where groups might gather. My surgery was within the same week as this but I did what I could prior to the Day in my role as an Ambassador….and jumping ahead to September, Beyond Five had a name change to Head and Neck Cancer Australia. I remain honoured to be continuing this important work of awareness sharing and telling my story.

August arrived with some wonderful people we had not seen since late the previous year…at least I had but my husband had not. Grandchildren and our son, their Dad. I was still very gingerly post-op with a sore tummy that had an upside down T incision from belly button to pelvis because of the finding of a hernia on top of doing the repair. Sigh. Thank goodness I was wise enough to get some very loose fitting pants and slip on slipper/shoes because getting up and bending was not part of my repertoire then. Nevertheless I had the wonderful feeling of wellness and happiness because...family!

The wellness continued until it did not.

My wound, which had an area of where the opening had been a challenge for my surgeons, opened up slightly but enough to be scary. Fluid leaked constantly and fortunately my G.P. got me straight back to my surgeon, who arranged for wound debridement surgery the following Monday. The hospital stays were about 3 weeks apart. The surgery meant I wore a bag called a VAC attached to the wound and I had home visits from a nurse for almost 3 weeks, then visits to my local GP Nurse. I was not finally well…i.e. the wound closed and good till October 6th! 

More Than “just” Health…Life Goes On!!

Head and Neck Cancer Check in early September 2020 went so well my head and neck surgeon said “see you in a year”. I was in shock. Many of us with cancers who have on-going checks which indicate no changes (for the bad or cancer returning) tell me that hearing that from the doctors can be like that. We are so used to someone keeping an eye on us!

Father’s Day: no get togethers but I remembered the Dads in my life…and that of our children and their children.

6/9/2020: the Fathers & Grandfathers

Together For Fifty Years!

In October we celebrated our meeting as young teachers at a NSW Teachers Federation Conference Dinner at Tamworth in 1970 by going back. It was a great trip down memory lane and some of these snaps capture it. I wrote about it more for Telling My Story here too.

November. Staying In Touch.

Our two eldest granddaughters visited for a mission…taking photos (memories) of their grandparents to celebrate their 50 years together. It was so good to see them again too. What fun we had. Lots of smiles and laughter!

Time for another visit to see my Dad. Important for me (and him) having these more frequent visits as he has kept himself more isolated socially due to Covid and his restricted physical mobility.

I also have almost no other reasons to be driving back and forth to Sydney so can factor in seeing Dad once a month now.

He has had some tricky (for him) health scares including potential melanoma (not) and a serious balance issue (sorted in 2018 along with the permanent loss of vision in one eye (only about 20% OK) so he relies on this better eye. An avid reader, and writer, he is very restricted for both now. He does however, remain very active in one social group where he lives and relies on his TV news and more including sport and other interests.

My husband joined me on my 30 November catch up morning tea because it was my 71st Birthday!

The two of us.

Suddenly it’s THAT month: December.

I spent quite a bit of time on-line and out and about at the local ‘cheap shops’ as I call them finding memorabilia and items for our Golden Wedding Anniversary coming up in mid January 2021. I admit it was fun and very distracting and I enjoyed both the research and the rewards.

I had a little niggle of pain in the area of my upper prosthesis and had a hastily arranged appointment in Westmead with my prosthodontist where he felt it would be OK once I took a dose of anti-biotics and took care with some ‘sharp foods’…ok, chips.

Happily back in the car to see Dad as a pre-Christmas visit. We had plans to go to our daughter’s in North Western Sydney to join most of our family, and Dad was going to my brother’s for Christmas Day….and whilst I did get to see Dad on 17 December, on 18 December everywhere on Sydney’s Northern Beaches – where Dad and brother live – was declared a Covid Hot Spot. Oh Great. NOT.

COVID really interrupted many plans for Christmas and BEYOND. Big time.

By close to Christmas Day, we made the decision not to travel to our daughter’s house.

My Dad would be going to my brother’s as his house, whilst in the Northern Beaches, was OK to have visitors from within the same area.

I ended up with some more pain in my gum and my prosthodontist was able to fit me in 3 days before Christmas (all was OK but he left me with an anti-biotic script just in case) and I took the chance to swing by my daughter’s beforehand to drop off our presents and biscuits I had made to her and see two of my granddaughters.

 Time to Reflect.

Gratitude was my word for 2020. I needed it. I remembered it and I am glad I chose it.

Our extended family stayed well, despite some visits to emergency departments for chronic conditions and accidents. No covid.

Those in our family had shelter, an income and care of each other. Money coming in did reduce and some were helped by the Australian government Covid payments.

We felt generally well, and very safe in the house we call home (even though it is not ours) and we know we are here until April 2022.

We could not fault those in the medical and hospital and ancillary health services who cared for us, as older citizens.

I was glad to be a supporter of all that was happening in schooling and schools things changed…because I am a “cheerleader” but not to have to manage a family and work anymore.

We were grateful we had plenty of practice living as a retired couple and 2020 did not challenge us too much at all. We have separate spaces for our hobbies and interests and that is a good thing.

We had each other.

We remained focussed as much as we could on the good the year had brought, particularly to me as I ticked health boxes and recovered so well.

Summing it up:

How was the second half of 2020 for you and your family?

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

 

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One Year Ago: So Much Change Happened. Jan-June. 2020. 25/2021.

One Year Ago: So Much Change Happened. Jan-June 2020. 25/2021.

Yes it did. So what? Isn’t everything constantly changing anyway?

The only thing that is permanent is impermanence.

2020 was to be my year of Gratitude…and here I was in my first instagram post of 2020.

And I can tell you that I DID keep to that routine of finding gratitude every day and wrote a post here last week.

Things were still pretty grim on the east coast of Australia where bushfires had been wreaking havoc, causing death, property loss, and much much more from late Spring. Here we were in January 2020 and things were still every grim. Hot. Unrelenting. Smokey skies…but where possible,  LIFE for us/me, and as this is my version of the changes, had to go on.

First for me, and that had knock on changes for my on-going eye health was a visit for a regular check in early January 2020 where the optician was sufficiently concerned for the cataracts he could see appearing, I brought my specialist appointment forward and attended her rooms in Sydney.

Right, she said “time for cataract x 2 surgeries” and we can do them 2 days apart in Parramatta. The big changes occurred instantly early March but took a while for my vision to be ready to adapt to simpler reading glasses. The best part? Lining up at the local NSW Service Centre to have “glasses for driving” taken off my licence.

In February there was the most welcome relief of all from the unrelenting heat, smoke and fires…in the form of pouring rain, flooding roads and more but the fact is most of the fires were now put out thanks to this change. However, changes of all kinds ARE indeed mixed in their blessings!

And from January onwards we heard from time to time about something called Coronavirus that had been found in Wuhan China. We saw news items with many people covered from head to toe in what we now know as PPE. Personal Protective Equipment: masks, boots, face covers, and scrubs…

But in February and March, for my experiences as a patient visiting my head and neck surgeon for a post-cancer check, attending a charity fundraising function and for being part of a head and neck cancer video, there was just one mention at the entrance to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in early March…and none at all in February. I had a prosthodontist check at Westmead where there were no restrictions. Glad I had that because it suddenly had to stop all bar emergencies and did not come back until the latter half of 2020. Fortunately I remained OK and my regular dentist was able to see me for a check in May.

We had our first Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer Support Group Meeting in February 2020 and then…we had to cease all meetings. We were not alone. Hospitals and other organisations were affected. We were not to meet again until close to Christmas for a luncheon and then last week, February 2021 we got together like this:

 

February saw me take a solo drive to Newcastle and attend an event at the Civic Theatre. It was Chat 10 Looks 3 with Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales and neither they, nor the audience knew it would be a last gathering in large crowds….and as I write, in February 2021, there is a return to concerts, theatre and live events but with some Covid-based restrictions.


I also took part in a video being made for head and neck cancer patients and families at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. We were, as they say, so lucky to get that kind of event before the greater restrictions were announced.


Already though, on-line and in person there were warnings that we should not visit under any circumstances if we were unwell or had travelled from certain countries.

At my day surgery for my eyes in early March (9 & 11 March) some restrictions commenced on the first visit – some questions were asked on arrival. By the day after that, I had to have a temperture check, answer a series of questions and have no-one accompany me. I didn’t anyway. I could feel the tension levels rising.

By the next day after that when my husband drove me to Morisset for post-cataract check, even more restrictions were put in place. I spoke to my Opthalmologist a few months back when she finally started seeing patients again and she said to manage “the many changes, and the ways in which services had to be offered, they were in a constant state of readiness for change and being flexible. Every day brought some new measure”.

And Then More Changed. Where We Could Travel. What We Could Do.

16 March onwards.

Our eldest granddaughter, already immuno-compromised, “left home” where she may have been exposed to any part of this very scary and unknown virus because her mum and young sister attended schools. Still schools remained open..but then they too had to adapt. BIG time.  Ms J. came to the Central Coast to stay with her paternal grandparents and in those months I think the generations made it work well for them. She did have a sneaky day trip to see us and we agreed: HUGS were happening. She said “I so miss hugs”.

About Schools. Teachers, Principals and The Students. Parents Too.

When announcements were made by our N.S.W. Premier, the Health Minister, The Police Minister and the Chief Health Officer,(and sometimes others)  those announcements were many fold.

Every state and territory managed the matters of education, transport, health and so on and there were/are continuing conflicts about Aged Care and Quarantine/Border Matters being state or federal. It truly has been very trying all-round. Schools, because of the close contact via their very nature of operation, had to make swift, educationally-sound and major changes of day to day operation.

It was non-negotiable for public schools. They had to stay open for vulnerable kids and those too of workers in essential industries. They also had to provide quality and consistent work at school for students and for those who could stay at home. I only read about this and viewed how it was via my teaching contacts. Our daughter, a teacher-librarian then at her school found it huge as a shift but like all, they got on with it. It would have been a logistical issue of huge proportions for all schools. I was a very understanding and empathetic cheerleader where I could.

Life As We Knew It…Mostly Changed! 

We here in N.S.W. learned to live with:

  • daily updates of covid cases, diagnoses, tests, and sadly deaths. This happened most mornings at 11.00. a.m. I kept up via updates in social media.
  • sad stories of what was happening in aged care facilities. So many stories that have had to be managed via (I think) a Royal Commission
  • mixed messages from different levels of government. By mixed I meant it was inconsistent because of our way of being governed.
  • shortages…in supermarkets. The first time I visited a supermarket post our levels of restriction in those early months: only leave home for essential shopping, health reasons, exercise and essential work, it blew me away. I wondered what had happened….

“this” item most likely to have been bought AND to have run out!

  • I missed my daily drives and had to re-invent how to take care of my emotional health and form some routines that worked for me at home.
  • I did still do shopping, but was in & out as soon as possible.
  • Our GP practice offered telehealth appointments and we knew they were early days for them too, my husband in particular found a challenging medical issue very difficult to manage via phone. The doctors at that stage were saying no-one over 70 attend the surgery.

Getting Accustomed To The Changes.

  • It was all about being safe. We recognised that. We could not (and would not) disobey the then rules around being out of the house. We saw many more people in our neighbourhood walking past as part of their day.
  • We could not just go out for fun at all in March into early May.
  • I was incredibly relieved when, following the strict rules, my hairdresser was able to re-open and I got a much needed psychological boost of a haircut and a connection with my caring hairdresser
  • Over time, of course, we saw the emergence of Covid Test centres and I had a temperature and a bit of cough so went through the then procedures to got to my local hospital test centre. It felt weird but knowing i had to do the right thing because of this invisible virus, I self-isolated at home and was glad to get my results within a day and a half. Negative.

Changes Happened Regularly.

April – June. My commentary related to New South Wales, and what I recall specifically affected me/us.

  • Covid rules went up and down in severity depending on where clusters of cases had been found and so on
  • Where we live, is an hour’s drive to Sydney and then another 45 minutes to either my Dad’s on the Northern Beaches or our Kids’ in the North West.
  • For quite a few weeks, into months, we could not travel at all, other than locally.
  • It meant no visits for celebrations or care. We did not know how long this would last but fortunately in time for Mother’s Day – May – we could drive to Sydney to see our family and later in that month to visit dad.
  • We also could see via media reports from around Australia that where we lived, we were doing OK relatively. It did not stop our feelings of sadness and concern for many who did lose their lives and the fact that families could not be with loved ones as they were dying.

 

My Health Also Needed Better Solutions.

I have written about this here before but will just summarise, I needed to have a colonoscopy once my G.P. determined how severe my rectal prolapse was in earliesh May. I did get to the colo-rectal surgeon and he very quickly sorted out my thinking do I have to….with yes, how else might we know what’s going on “up there”.

  • Meant to happen late May. Local Private Hospital where he worked one day a week for these procedures accepted my forms for procedures …psyching myself up was the hard part…and then promptly cancelled/postponed because of Covid restrictions on surgeries. They were now a quater of what was before Covid.
  • Waiting not my best thing, but had to. Had my flu injection…sitting outside G.P. surgery while he came out to give me the jab.
  • Finally late June “had the dreaded” colonoscopy. Findings: you need rectal prolapse surgery. Stat. No cancer though.
  • Stat: in Covid times, meant when larger regional private hospital could book me in and I could have relevant pre-op checks. I did. My surgery date was late July.

 

Regular Health Checks Continued.

  • We still saw our podiatrist
  • I had a physio session for my shoulder
  • We eventually went back to choice of face to face at G.P. with mask and social distancing.
  • Saw screens go up at all facilities over time.

Getting Out and About.

I missed my going out for coffee but even when I could return, there were very strict rules for being seated. Over time, and now, I have stopped having a coffee anywhere unless it’s outside. It’s not somewhere I want to linger any more. Perhaps that need has shifted. We do not miss going anywhere as a couple as we stopped that way before this anywhere. Even our get together for a morning tea out has stopped.

I could get back to driving to the beach and walking. There were, in winter, loud hailers and even a police helicopter above the sands, telling us to keep moving, no sitting…it felt big brother ish.

I did do some shopping on-line, like many, but missed actual shops. Sad to say, many of those I enjoyed frequenting for clothes have closed some local shops and the value is no longer there.

That’s it for now.

I will be back soon with July to December.

How was your first half of 2020?

Stay safe, everyone…we are almost at Covid jab time here. Phew.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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On Healing and Trust. 2017.118.

On Healing and Trust. 2017.118.

I preface today’s post with the news that I have not been physically well since late last week (I wrote about it here) and when I am like this my inner world becomes unsure, scared and less  confident than I like to appear and feel. This has been exacerbated about 1000times since I found I had cancer. Even the recent trip back to see the specialist has not left me feeling wonderful because I am scared again knowing I face many more visits and more invasions in my mouth. YET. I cannot stand the way it is now, as I literally cannot eat much at all and I am getting more and more frustrated by my predicament.

YOU might think, as I do in my punitive self-talk that I should be grateful the cancer has gone and be appreciative. Well, right now, I am not.

The psychologal effects of this cancer thing are overpowering when I ‘let them’ so in an effort to feel a bit less aggro and more present-moment centred I am changing some of the thought patterns.

I talked to my husband about and I think it is a grieving process but it is very uncomfortable and makes me sound unappreciative and spoiled.

But hey, I am human.

Enough from me or this will be a 100% whingefest…..and I even deplore those too.

Good news update: Since feeling wretched with a bad virus or flu from last Wednesday on I was a little bit relieved to feel a bit better yesterday physically and today the result from the doctor for flu is ‘normal’. Yay. But as I found out yesterday, Wednesday 25 Oct, this is still a ‘flu’ and the various bugs and nasties which fly around the body will leave me exhausted and unwell for about another 4-6 days. Today, Thursday 26 Oct I have woken with no temperature, continued lethargy and but an increased interested in eating again. Even though eating IS restrictive, it’s better to be hungry than not.

This is a piece from the writer Jeff Foster in his book: The Way of Rest.

Healing: Trust The Process.

Sometimes you have to commit to feeling worse in order to feel better. Sometimes you have to lose the hope of every getting better, then you start to get better. Sometimes healing involves staying very present as powerful waves of energy move in the body. Sometimes the body shakes, convulses, aches, sweats, burns as it rids itself of toxins, releases of bound-up tension.

The mind says, “I’m getting worse”. The heart knows you’re OK.

True healing is not the removal of surface symptoms, but courage and trust of the body and connection with the breath, and knowing that the symptoms may intensify before they disappear. And they may never disappear. Yet you may fall in love with yourself as you are, despite the future, and you may drop to your knees in gratitude, for you have been given another day on this precious earth.

Maybe getting worse was the best thing that ever happened to you. Because you’ve never sensed the presence of love so clearly, and your path has never been more obvious, and you have never felt so alive.

All I can say is I am hoping to shake off some of these feelings but also to accept them as being part of what is…as I have done this year, when told I had cancer.

 

It felt helpful for me to try to explain what was going on in some kind of written form here!

Denyse.

Joining with Kylie for I Blog On Tuesdays and with Leanne for Lovin’ Life Linky on Thursdays.

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