Sunday 26th June 2022

Word of Year Revisited. 49/51. #LifeThisWeek. 129/2021.

Word of Year Revisited. 49/51. #LifeThisWeek. 129/2021.

Before going on, it was my husband’s words, on a birthday card envelope that reminded me to smile.

I then considered he was right …(I should tell him as he thinks I rarely admit he is right)….I also know that my upper prosthesis makes my smile the nicest one I have ever had. For those who may be new here, I had all of my upper mouth and part of my top lip removed in July 2017 when cancer was found. The whole story is here.

From my post in January 2021 about the word of the year.

Why “SMILE”?

  • A smile is a valuable form of communication and connection.
  • I know for some people smiles can be hard to manage depending on the time and circumstances and not everyone is a ‘smiler’. That is what makes the world go round, we are all different.
  • I too do not like being told “smile!!”. Umm. No, unless I have the emotions that warrant a smile, I may be able to slightly fake it but truly I prefer the genuine smile.
  • I know there are many more muscles used in the face to frown and far fewer to smile and that can be a suggestion as a mood lifter.
  • In fact, the old adage of ‘fake it till you make it’ can work as a psychological tool at times. Try it.

How Did Smile ‘as a word of the year’ Help Me?

  • I know it made me ‘smile’ when I thought about the word, and knowing I needed to act it. And as it says above, it works!
  • Nevertheless, there were non-smiling times in 2021 because things turned tough, and lockdown was not something I enjoyed 100% every day!
  • However, not smiling did not help at all, so it was within my best interests not only to FIND reasons to smile but for my health’s sake…and that of the man I live with…it was better to smile, than frown…most of the time!
  • It made me find small things to be grateful for and to reminisce about happier and fun times with grandkids to bring that smile back
  • I know getting out into nature, and doing a selfie or 4 reminded me to smile and be grateful to be vaccinated for Covid19 and well.

My Mouth Looks Better with a Smile.

  • It really does.
  • At rest, my mouth shows the rigours and remains of the loss of so much of my top lip and that the area has receded.
  • However, it can hurt a bit to smile because it is stretching the mouth that was reconstructed over the years 2017 into 2018.

 

Did I Always Smile? 

Mostly, but there are, for reasons of me not liking how I looked then, fewer photos. What a shame, because now I realise I was trying to hide what I felt ashamed of…my size and my smile. My teeth, before the bridge was added were uneven. Now, I say to myself that “I” need to let go of those old stories. I did what I could as I lived a very challenging and full life of work, career, study, care and commitment.

How Did My Smile Come Back?

Surgeries x 4, T I M E in between, careful work by my prosthodontist (right) over many, many long hours for me ‘in the chair’ at Westmead Oral Sciences…and an upper prosthesis of teeth that IS my smile now, some 14 months post first big surgery aged 67.

And My Smile Is From Mum! 

It’s the saying in our family that Mum could turn on a smile. And she did. However, she was not always happy but looked like it when the cameras where out. Seriously though, Mum had all her teeth (as does Dad still)…I got the rotten teeth gene there. And she smiled. Here’s a compilation from the photo collage I made for Dad that he has in his Unit.

Mum’s smile for me….72 years ago.

Some Familiar Smiles

…and yes, some are more like my Mum’s but ALL are smiles from those I love….

Happy Birthday Mum…born 6 December 1924. You’d have joined Dad as a 97 year old today…the day I post this but you are not, and to be honest, you’d have found very old age…hard yards. Love this photo- from a family dinner celebration. 

Noreen’s Smile

 

 

Did you have a word of the year too?

I am not sure about next year.

As per usual I will wait….

Thanks for reading and commenting today.

Denyse.

Link Up #269.

Life This Week. #269.

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After Head & Neck Cancer…. Bright Smiles. 46/2021.

After Head & Neck Cancer…. Bright Smiles. 46/2021.

Recently I joined in the Be Square challenge over at Becky’s blog – see below, with this post. It  was BRIGHT and it certainly won some attention!

Becky’s square theme for April is Bright – it’s a challenge where she posts a photo every day. She invites others to join her in sharing their square photos, either every day or as they feel the urge: Debbie from DebsWorld.

Becky also  encouraged me to do this too, and it didn’t have to be every day…so here I am.

https://beckybofwinchester.com/2021/04/01/bright-square/

Being Square is Fun!

Join in this lovely challenge and post a photographic square daily for one month every quarter. The theme changes every quarter and is announced on this blog a few weeks, occasionally days, in advance of the challenge month. The challenge months are January, April, July and October.

Taking a Look at Bright Smiles.

Those who have followed me for the past few years, know I was diagnosed with a rare cancer in my gums. Full posts are here.

One thing I missed the most for fourteen months from the removal of cancer and through the reconstruction surgeries was my ability to

S

M

I

L

E

I got mine back and to be honest, it’s probably the best smile in my whole 70+ years. But wait, there is more to the story.

My smile was created from parts of my leg. The fibula was harvested for the new jaw to hold the abutments which would eventually hold an upper prosthesis of teeth…..the skin, and muscle and blood vessels from part of my leg were sacrificed for the best reason. They make up my upper palate. However, I still needed some more skin from my thigh to help flesh out the top lip where some cancer had also been removed.

And though this head and neck cancer journey of mine I was alone. I mean that I could find no-one else in Australia or beyond who shared my experience of July 2017 onwards and so I became resigned to that, until one day in 2019 I got a message.

From another woman, who had undergone a similar procedure in the same hospital and with the same fantastic surgical and prosthodontic teams, and she too is a teacher and it turned out we knew of people in education…and so much more.

This is Tara and last year she shared her story as a Woman of Courage here.

We chatted on line, followed each other on social media, swapped stories with our team too.

Then last week, we MET, face to face for the best connection and what did we do most of that time, when not talking….

we S M I L E D.

Here we are

And a square collage of us, with photos from where we were treated and one with our head and neck surgeon.

Thank you so much to Tara for our get together which I am pretty sure won’t be our last.

Thanks always to our team who made sure we got our smiles back!

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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

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

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

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

Here I go:

October 2018.

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

Keeping up appearances…was very important.

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

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

Denyse.

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

 

 

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