Saturday 21st May 2022

About Mother’s Day. 30/2022.

About Mother’s Day. 30/2022.

 

I am writing about Mother’s Day. If you believe you might be triggered by the content please proceed carefully. This is just one woman’s story. Mine.

Today as I write, tomorrow, Sunday 8 May 2022, will be Mother’s Day here in Australia and other countries which celebrate this in May too.

It’s a day that can be fraught with sadness, dosed with some anger and maybe even some fear, and using the words from those who sell flowers, chocolates and cards, perhaps some manufactured affection.

And for some it can be full of love, appreciation and gratitude to show the mother in your life something of the way you feel about her.

In my case, Mum died over 15 years ago, and it has taken me around the past two years or so to really understand and appreciate the love and care she had for me ….because I was far too busy being concerned about external pressures (Hello Dad) to make Mother’s Day what I was told from a very early age what it was about. And I miss being able to share my thoughts with her now as a result. Tell people what you want to share before they die!

We Didn’t Know This Would Be Mum’s Last Mother’s Day…..2006.

Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves can be not only damaging but untrue. I know!

In my now much, ahem, wiser years, I wanted to write about what has changed for me.

My Mother.

She lived a very challenging life as a young woman in a two generation household with her own Mum caring for her three as well as her brother’s two after their Mum died. Mum married Dad in 1946 and faced many difficult times but conquered a lot. She always was a mother who was present and after school it was great to come home to a home cooked afternoon tea. I wrote about Mum (Noreen) and her mother (Vera), and my Aunty (Poppy) as well as my Dad’s Mum (Etta) here as part of Women of Courage. 

Since chatting to Dad (who has an amazing memory) in the past year or so, I learned a lot about Mum’s courage. She was also deaf for most of her adult life. She used to be the most caring grandmother and enjoyed seeing 3 of her great grandchildren arrive. Mum was impeccable in her dress and her ability to make people feel at ease when entertaining. This from an anxious woman was remarkable. I am learning, and have already, to soften any negativity about Mum and my memories as I realise she was expressing some fears and concerns she had for me, from a position of LOVE.

About Me Being a Mother.

Truly, I won’t make this long. I have written about it here: Telling My Story about our daughter’s arrival in our lives, and then here, in Telling My Story about our son and his longed for arrival. I admit it was hard becoming a mother so quickly in my first year of marriage and I was not built to stay at home. Fortunately I could always secure great child care for both the kids. To have our son was a battle for fertility which was won.

Our daughter on my shoulders…

Our son’s early days.

How I View Myself as a Mother.

I am a hard judge brought up by one. Dad. So, I do give myself somewhat of a hard time about some aspects of my relationship with our children growing up. And once they were grown and had left home. I admit I was, by dint of personality and my life, someone who tried to help far too much when not asked and in fact, could be bossy and I know, NOW, how that was for my kids and for that I am sorry. They already know this. I do know that I love them and want the best for them.

We live away from them and their families and see them infrequently but they are always in my thoughts and I wish them well, every single day as they make their lives work for them and their children…

Becoming a Grandmother.

Over 25 years ago, this event changed my life and the way I love another human who is related to me forever. I was so fortunate to have days and nights helping care for almost all of our now eight grandchildren and this is memorable.

I remember meeting each on on the days/nights of their births. Such a joy and privilege to be “Grandma”.

So, why write this today?

To ease the burden I have held for far too long of expectations around “Mother’s Day”…

it can be such a great and casual time or it can be a mishmash of other emotions. Right now, before I press publish, I am hoping to have a phone call or face time with each of our kids on Mother’s Day but if it doesn’t happen it’s OK too. Their lives are FULL of responsibilities. They know I love them and I know they love me.

My tribute to Mum, and Being a Mum and Grandma is this collage:

Middle shot is Mum, holding my hand in around 1952, with her Mum (Nanny to me) admonishing someone in the background.

Left collage is of our son, right collage our daughter, and bottom is the wonderful family photo I got for my 70th Birthday.

Bottom left, is Mum holding our son in 1979 and Bottom right is Mum with our daughter’s first child.

Happy Mother’s Day to Me….and all the Mums I know who wish to celebrate and commemorate being a Mother.

On Monday my post is about a Mother’s Day in 2017 where I was one very worried woman.

Take care,

Denyse.

 

 

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Confidence & Why I Need It. 29/2022.

Confidence & Why I Need It. 29/2022.

Quite some time ago, in late 2017 and into 2018,  I was recovering from a very invasive and nasty cancer which resulted in all of my upper mouth being removed (to make sure the cancer in both the jaw, gums and under top lip was gone…and it is!) and I needed to make myself a routine of sorts once I was back into more independent living.

From May 2017 until around late October that year I was fully present …in learning how to eat, drink and speak following my oral cancer diagnosis and treatments of surgeries, AND to be able to ensure I was OK to be well and truly independent outside the house.

I was so ready for this but in October, after seeing some posts relating to Outfit of the Day and Dressing With Purpose, I decided to adopt those plans and incorporate them into my day:

  • Get Up, Make Bed & Have Breakfast
  • Take some time to enjoy social media and blog and chat with my husband
  • Plan to go out somewhere for a coffee each day
  • Use this to Dress With Purpose
  • And show my self to the world via Instagram…..

I admit, it was so helpful for my mental health, and as the skinniest* I had been since early 20s, I did enjoy finally being confident enough to buy good fitting underwear and clothes for this new-to-me body.

The very first outfit shot. Off to hairdresser’s.

I use this term* with slight reluctance as I hate being defined by weight..life history is part of this. My need to show my body to the world had two motivations back then…1. I was going OK and 2. I could dress with some confidence again and took pride to be able to do so.

Now, as I write in May 2022, I see I looked ok but also getting well was a hard lot of work that I needed to let my body do.

What Happened Next.

Into 2019 I decided to stop the regular posts.

I think it was about not flooding the instagram account with same old same old…but now I think about it, I also was having some negative thoughts coming back into my inner life. 

Ones like:

  • Oh you can tell you have put on some weight
  • Are you sure you look OK…
  • I wouldn’t be sharing these as much as you will be noticed for negative reasons….

The Why and The What of 2020 into 2021.

Covid happened.

I got to have some surgeries…not cancer related and they had some challenges for me personally as recovery from the major abdominal one was complicated. I had some negative feelings about my appearance. That I was getting too fat and I became hooked on this negative thought.

Sigh.

I found my view was skewed. I had certainly added kilograms to my face and frame from those very early post cancer surgery days. Not eating much because you can’t will do that…. But I also knew that with some covid times, I ate more for comfort.

What did I do? I actually cut back some of the amounts of food without sacrificing nutrition or treats because I do not do deprivation! And over a few months a few extra covid kilos were shed and I was back to my days of 2018-19 weight wise. So, go me. And I am not scale dependent any more on how I feel about myself.

It was hard though to have reasons to dress with purpose during lockdown and then afterwards but just recently, with more confidence mustered I wrote this on facebook and instagram and received kind and positive responses.

My Facebook & Instagram Post. 1 May 2022.

Amazing what some confidence returning will do for a person.

I’ve been less than confident about my ‘appearance’ most of my life. But when my oral cancer diagnosis happened, and then surgeries x 4, I made myself #dresswithpurpose #takedailyphoto and get out into the ‘world’ for a walk, a catch up, a coffee and it didn’t matter that I had no upper teeth till August 2018.

I lost some confidence to continue this practice consistently thinking it had served its purpose for me: – letting people know I was doing OK – getting out and about – enjoying wearing ‘new for me’ clothes and styles.

Then came 2020 and into 2021 and now, we are one third of way into 2022. I needed to remember how confident it helped me feel in my “less than wonderful” days following surgeries and treatments, to dress well…and have a photo and go out.

Now, I have re-started it. Coming up to 5 years since my diagnosis on 17 May 2022 and I am using this month to celebrate my life, my changes and my health.

I am very grateful. Always.

Now I am putting me, the 72 year old version, out there again. And quite enjoying it. Even for a morning doing mundane things, it helps for me anyway, to look OK. Thanks for your support too friends and family. Always appreciated. The photographer is B who is not on FB. When I smile, it’s at him! That is LOVE!!

Why I Need Confidence Now.

I won’t be believing those intrusive and untrue thoughts any more

As an older woman I will continue to champion myself as I age.

I will, from time to time, add posts of my daily outfits on social media.

My budget may be tiny but I have a sense of colour and style so I will do well at making some good combinations.

I will remember this time in my life and appreciate that I can make changes for good.

Now, do you have confidence about your appearance?

Do you like to dress with purpose?

I am very interested in your comments!

Denyse.

Joining in with Natalie for Weekend Coffee Share later this week.

Thank you Natalie.

https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

 

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Self Compassion: My Healthy Life Challenge: April 2022. 19/2022.

We Missed Mondays…..

I had some nostalgia last Monday, wondering “what do I do on Monday mornings now?”

I thought I was caring for my health by stopping the weekly link up at 280 for Life This Week, and that stands….

But for me, and it seems a few/most of my blogging friends, the ‘once a month’ thing wasn’t feeling all that friendly. So, as I said, we I can change my mind…and with that…Mondays, every 2nd week, will be blog link up time again. A slight name change so it’s a bit different. Life’s Stories and the link up will be open this Monday at 5.00 a.m AEDST. Denyse.

 

Self Compassion: My Healthy Life Challenge: April 2022. 19/2022.

In my post for Word of The Year March 2022 I will be writing more about how hard it has been in some ways to:

BE   ME

This got me looking back to my Self Compassion course done via an app in January 2022 (see this post for more) and continuing my progress to become more self compassionate.

I have had some emotional and mental turmoil take over parts of my being and I need(ed) to challenge and ask what was going on.

More about that in the post that is coming.

For now, and into the 30 days of April, I offer to others a  Healthy Life Challenge about being:

Self Compassionate.

An example from recent weeks and my self compassion (inner talk, self kindness, care, criticism and so on):

Left: been to skin doctor & had biopsies taken. I felt somewhat sorry for myself…..and took myself out for a coffee and consider how that had unnerved me a bit.

Right: an ordinary every day selfie. Pointing to where the skin was biopsied. What IS it about me and selfies, my husband recently asked…I said

“I have never felt confident at all about my appearance, especially my face, until post-head and neck cancer surgeries, and I like to get reminders, in the selfies that my outside is looking good, even if, at times, my inside tells me different stories”

Having completed the January 2022 course, I was pleased with my growth in self compassion, but it takes so much reminding and practice to learn!

Link to course is here.

Some words from within the course.

“our human compassion binds us to one another – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future” Nelson Madala.

What IS Compassion?

  1. We have a brain and body that has been built FOR is, not by us – our brain and body evolved with emotions (such as fear and anger) and behaviours (such as fighting, avoiding and running away) to help us survice. But these can cause us a lot of pain.
  2. We grow older and eventually our lives come to an end – not writing this to make us sad, just that this is a reality of life. But for many of us, knowing this will happen can cause a lot of distress.
  3. We’re shaped by life experiences, which are not always in our control – those experienced shape the minds we have, and the people we become. For example, if you were raised by your next door neighbours rather than your family, it’s likely you’d be quite a different person, with different interests, lifestyle and even political and religious beliefs.

 

 

Over the years, via this link to Kristen Neff’s Self Compassion quiz, I KNOW I am doing well.

Yet, because of the habits of life till recent times, I have forgotten or remembered too late about

Self Compassion

So, as I make big shifts in my life, changing from doing (less)  me to being  (more) me

I made a challenge:

(and I always seem to like one of those!)

Changing from less doing to more being.

  • 30 Days
  • Instagram (@denyse.whelan -ask for follow)
  • Facebook (@denysewhelanblogs)
  • and Twitter (@denysewhelan1)
  • What does my self compassion look like, feel like today
  • Share with an image or representation of self compassion done your way
  • Share a quote or image that sums up how you are helping yourself be more self compassionate

Do you know that we are far more likely to be self compassionate to friends and family than to ourselves?

I would highly recommend some books that you can read, borrow or listen to, that have helped me in many ways:

I’ll use these hashtags

#selfcompassion

#selfcare

#timeforme

#takingcare

#healthinageing

#lifetransitions

The RULES….for this challenge…there are no rules.….

other than to learn to be more self compassionate, and to forgive yourself on each occasion you forget.

and, 30 days is arbitrary.

Posting is as well.

Make this something that works for you, with self compassion at its core.

I will be continuing to review my days via the app, using gratitude as the base and to write to help me heal and grow. All within the app, and private for me. It’s a discipline to remember as I have another diary app but I am enjoying the value of both, along with the writing reflections I do after each Calm meditation.

How about it?

Are you thinking you could be helping yourself with some self compassion?

Let me know your thoughts,

with love, AND compassion,

Denyse.

Joining in with Natalie for Weekend Coffee Share today

Thank you Natalie.

https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

 

 

 

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Grieving For My Body’s Losses from Head & Neck Cancer. 8/51. #LifeThisWeek. 10/2022.

Grieving For My Body’s Losses from Head & Neck Cancer. 8/51. #LifeThisWeek. 10/2022.

CW: images from my head and neck cancer.

This post talks about my grief and trauma before and following my cancer diagnosis.

There are images that may be confronting.

 

Links and phone contacts are here:

https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/cancer-information/advanced-cancer/grief/seeking-support/

Cancer Council: 13 11 20

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36

https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Lifeline: 13 11 14

 

Before you read on, which I hope you will,  I am  doing well.

This post, however, has been one I have needed to write, probably for some time but it was not till recently did this need become apparent.

Warm wishes, Denyse.

 

It’s a shock to the system when you are told

we will be removing all of the upper part of your mouth and replacing it with a bone, flesh and skin from your leg“.

And to be honest, it has taken me till recent months in 2021 into 2022 to understand this has been a traumatic experience and that I am, in some ways, managing a post-traumatic event.

So here goes. Blogging and sharing has always helped me.

I hope it can be seen as a way to not only get something said but for me to now divulge what a struggle it is at times to live with the ramifications of my head and neck cancer.

May 2017: following my diagnosis the day before and meeting with the men who would form my team and perform the surgery at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

My particular cancer, a verrucous carcinoma was in the upper alveolus. Explained here. And the cancer had spread to upper top lip – see left.

After the 2.5 hours of examination – lighted tube down my nose, examination of all areas where cancer might have spread and of course inside my mouth I received the news of how this cancer would be removed.

And that was too much for my emotional system to bear for then…so B and I had a walk along the short corridor to stand here and for me to take a 1/4 valium, a sip of water and to view this scene…

 

and then come back to hear more about the surgery and the ‘what comes next’. I was asked if I was fit to sign and yes I was. I had no idea of some of the words’ meaning but over time I would.

So about the grief then…..2017 into 2018 and when I got my upper prosthesis.

I actually felt relief as an emotion more because I finally had an answer to what was going on in my mouth for the past year or more. I also began to feel confident that this team of specialists was there to do the right thing by me always. My husband, my biggest supporter, agreed.

I blogged. And in June 2017, I wrote this….adding now, as it helps me recall the downright fear:

When I wrote this post I thought I was managing myself quite well. Since then, I have had some pretty horrid days (and nights) where I have become fearful, panicked, and so vulnerable I wanted to go into a corner and hide and never come out.

I am shitscared right now.

I am worried about losing what I valued: my mouth where I speak, eat, share my emotions and smile. It has been days of crying uncontrollably, being held until I calm down (thank you dear B) and taking some valium (which I don’t really want to) and letting out the fears  in words between the sobs. 

I fear: the loss of ability to use my mouth for at least 7-10 days, have a naso-gastric feeding tube down my throat for those days, having the skin/flesh/bone from my right leg inside my mouth after 3/4 (I did not know then it would be ALL) of my upper jaw/palate as been removed. Dealing with the not being in control.

I am, as I write, unable to really express what it means to be facing this loss of control of my body. I will be in ICU to start and may even have a tracheostomy to start if the mouth is too swollen. This is very scary to me, and I am admitting it now.

For me to admit how vulnerable I feel right now is to say “I cannot do this without help”.

  • I know I did some reflecting.
  • I also know it took me a while to get my paperwork done at home.
  • I also got ‘butterflies’ in my tummy each time I had the thought ‘I have cancer.’
  • I did some blogging about it too. However, I remember thinking “I don’t want to be known as a cancer blogger”.
  • I thought, and it was mostly correct, that I could write about much more than my cancer, and I did but I did not take into account some of the feelings I may have pushed away…because I wanted to look like and sound like I was managing very well indeed. Almost true but not quite. Sigh.

But I was confident, from the ways in which my professional team described their views, that my cancer was likely to be taken away and most probably not return.

I did not know in the early months, and post the big reconstruction surgery in July 2017 that I would face LONG times in recovery in hospital and at home.

Months

Into over a year.

Four surgeries in total.

Countless cancer checks and times at the prosthodontist : all requiring a 2 hour drive there and back. I did all solo from March 2018 and one with B in 2020.

I found I had more resilience and determination than I knew.

I found I had patience but it too wore thin as I was in a pretty constant state of:

hunger

for foods I could not eat…and so I had to become very creative. See posts here.

Counselling and Help For Me.

Before I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer I had been successfully managing my mental health with a wonderful psychologist in 2016 and into 2017. In fact I saw her before my first surgery and she already could tell I had the many tools needed to deal with what was ahead. I saw her some months after my surgery and we both agreed I was going so well. I was, and that continued for some time. In fact I did go back last year to check in with another psychologist and after two sessions she and I agreed, that with my working through my feelings and more, I would be OK. I was and I am. But…further on…see what can happen!

What a Time: Getting my Upper Prosthesis Fitted. August – December 2018.

Such a big day on 21 August 2018 when I left home with no upper teeth and arrived back with them fitted. I was tired but happy even though they felt weird and sore. There were days and weeks spent back and forth to Westmead for physical adjustments.

Of course I was HAPPY. And of course I SMILED a lot. And was complimented over and over.

That is so nice.

It felt like a reward from the many months of hard yards of surgeries and recoveries and very limited eating.

I don’t think I stopped smiling. It was so life-affirming…yet…

my love of smiling and my smile itself drew me many positive comments and I sometimes felt I needed to share that the smile is actually not the whole story…this IS the blog post I needed to write now. 

However, by myself, there were small disappointments.

I thought (and I had been told!) that I could eat like I used to.

However that was not true I had a limited ability to bit and even more so for chewing.

The amount of physical hardware that is in my mouth meant amounts needed changing as did how long it would take me to eat.

Oh yes, I was still having my memories of 69+ years of eating and at times it would be a very disappointed me who could no longer:

  • eat at a dinner table other than my own
  • go out for a meal
  • eat in front of others – excluding my husband and family
  • use food and socialising together
  • go away to spend a night somewhere (we did but it was incredibly challenging to take all I needed with me)
  • take it for granted that I could eat a meal/snack as I imagined.

So this was the beginning of grief.…yearning for what was and had been and could be no longer….

I dealt with it mostly privately and made excuses to people who asked me to events and outings. Coffee and cake of some kind was still OK. Some people were/are very understanding and accommodating but I still did not truly accept what LIFE was for me now until late 2021.

I realised I was unwell and it was an overload of self-expectations and an unrealistic view of what I was now, as a 72 year old, living with the effects of head and neck cancer surgeries could do.

My body told me it was time to stop. Took me a while to listen!

Admission Of How I Was Feeling. Grief and Sadness. 

With so much gratitude for my return of health, following the diagnosis and being able to accept the role of an Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia, I did get many opportunities to share the awareness, the stories and more to help others. That sure did appeal to teacher-me. I have been incredibly fortunate to have my cancer removed and doing well. In fact, I guess I even have some survivor guilt. It IS a thing.

I was going well in covid times, as I was able to adapt and work through helping others with head and neck cancer and whilst we could not hold events, I remained a participant where necessary supporting others who have head and neck cancer, and doing what I could to bring my messages of  personal experiences to federal politicians.

Then this year, I became determined to listen more to my body and take better care of my emotional health and I learned that I can say “no thank you”.

It’s been hard.

I am, by nature a people pleaser and an extrovert but I also wore myself out. A post about Being Me is coming soon…and what I have done.

But before I go:

This is the point of what I wanted to say.

  • I am managing my grief now in a better way because I know it is safe to share
  • My times in nature are helpful, as is my reading about grief and cancer, along with my daily meditations

I am also telling more of the truth about what is.

Acceptance of does not mean ” loving” or even “liking” something or situation but when there is no choice..and fighting it makes it worse…then I accept that I have had a traumatic event in my life, and I now share with greater honesty.

And that whilst I have had many, many compliments about my recovery and my smile, it has been a much harder time than even I was prepared to own up to...

till a night this week when tears overwhelmed me as I realised the brutal way in which my body had to be changed…to rid me of a nasty cancer.

This series of images and then the culmination of a graphic goes some way for me to share with the world…my readers and bloggers how it really IS to have had this cancer and the aftermath.

It’s coming up to 5 years in May, since my diagnosis and that is probably playing a part in my looking back and seeing how this has been. I will never discount it as a life trauma now.

I accept it is.

I also know I can admit how hard things are. No longer hiding it.

 

This is the graphic which I made when I was feeling less than understood about how my cancer was affecting me…because it really has been MUCH more than getting a smile back. Much, much more involved.

Life’s traumas are not always obvious until later…somehow we keep going. I did till I stopped.

There are number and links for support listed at the beginning of this post.

I do hope you are OK and that reading this frank account from me has been something that you can see why I needed to share it.

I am doing well.

Thank you,

Denyse.

And I am visiting 98 year old Dad at Dee Why today so will be back to see the post later today and comment as well.

 

 

Life This Week. 21.2.2022.

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