Tuesday 28th June 2022

Is It REALLY Time for #WhatOnMyBookshelf In June? Yes! 39/2022.

Is It REALLY Time for #WhatOnMyBookshelf In June? Yes! 39/2022.

I asked the question because “I” couldn’t believe it and had to ask Deb when it was…and yes, it’s Friday 17 June 2022…and thanks for the link up!

 “What’s On Your Bookshelf?”

Thanks to Jo, Deb, Sue and Donna who host this.

Bookmarks.

In 2018 I made 100s of bookmarks for my friend’s charity for people with cancer,  The Big Hug Box. It was great therapy for me as I recovered from my surgeries and giving back always felt good. I stopped in 2019 but continued from time to time making them for friends, putting them in the mail as a surprise, and sharing them if I met up with a friend.

So, do take a “virtual” book mark from me and enjoy this eclectic post!

 

I’ve become quite the listener and reader recently.

I am using time in the car, and at night when nothing is of interest on a screen, and also to complement my practices of mindfulness…and to remind myself of what is important, what I need to learn more about and what I need to remember.

 

And about my first book on Mindfulness….and Meditation.

Quiet The Mind. Matthew Johnstone. 

In 2012 I was on the south coast of N.S.W. on an observation day for N.S.W. Institute of Teachers. I already knew that I needed some inside help for the growing stress I was feeling and to be able to help myself.

I saw this book,  as I browsed a bookshop on the day before I went to the school, and thought, that’s it! I bought it, read it (very easy contents) and was R E A D Y for mindfulness.

It never arrived dear reader….

in fact not for about another 3 to 4 years! Oh how we fool ourselves if we think one “book” can change the life we have been leading till then. I admit, I look at this book now, and it is good.

But I had SO much life and learning and practising to do and it’s taken me ten years to really put it into action!!

 

About a School Library.

The bookshelves that will often hold treasures to turn a young person into a reader! I loved being a library monitor at primary school. And now, a little bit about a school library..and hopefully schools will continue to have libraries and with BOOKS on the shelves… sadly, some no longer do. But for now a story about a school library…

Did you know that to start a new school’s library requires not only book and other resources to be bought…but also to be accessioned.

In other words, covered and marked for their place on the shelves, AND as a school resource accountable to the financial part of the school’s operation. And then, the students will have their information loaded onto the schools’ files, and they will then form the borrowing systems.

There is something very special as a teacher and a teacher librarian, to see the youngest members of the school doing their first “borrowing” from the library..with their special library bag. 

How do I know this?

Firstly as a school principal, but more than that as…

my daughter, is a trained teacher librarian and with her masters in librarianship can operate in an educational setting like a school and a public or private library. She has started TWO new school libraries in the past 6 years…and once every month or so, volunteers in the library at Sydney Jewish Museum.

Schools Go Back….this was in the first month of the brand new school’s library in 2019.

School Readers and Others In Groups: on the bookshelf…and the letters? Donation of many from me! First school library started: 2015.

Into the spirit of all things reading for Book Week 2020.

A New Book For Beginning Teachers.

On Teaching : For New Graduates. Bianca Hewes.

A friend and colleague put a call out last year for some of us to help her with sections of brand new book that she’d been commissioned to write, and I said “yes”. My chapter was about “the first days” where as a newbie to schools there is so much to observe, listen and learn to check out how that school ticks. And it’s on my bookshelf before giving it to my daughter’s school as a resource.

Highly recommended if you know of anyone starting out in teaching. Available from the publisher: Small Caps Publishing. Great work Bianca Hewes…and co. Bianca was also a Woman of Courage! Here’s her story.

I am interested in so much of what makes us humans tick.

I tend to enjoy other people’s memoirs and what their life story has taught them. The learning and teaching part of my DNA remains keen and very curious.

I am someone very interested in how we humans manage many of life’s challenges, and probably because I am the age I am, and have had cancer, I am somewhat drawn to learning more about serious life issues which include death, dying and grief.

I don’t tend to read to escape these days. I do like to get engrossed in both fiction and non fiction but fiction that I love these days is less than it was for me back in my 40s. But now, if something from the fiction realm engrosses me and then I will likely return to it….

I returned to this listen...and I am loving getting reacquainted with the unusual storyline, the flowers and flora of the Australian bush and more. I am not good at reviews but if you look it up, I am sure you will find out more. I also LOVE that the narrator here really can do the characters’ voices.

NB: I cannot bear listening to a narrator whose skills are not up to speed. I once had to return a book because I could hear every intake of breath. Fussy, moi? Yes!

From Audible: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland. And in bookstores.

Lisa by Lisa Curry. From Audible. The book is out in most book stockists.

Just finished this:  Lisa a raw and true memoir from Australian swimmer, Lisa Curry.

She has written from the heart, and I suggest it needs some tissues nearby to listen to Lisa share the part of her life, particularly when describing the impossible but true death of her eldest child, Jaimie.

I wasn’t sure if I would find this book a bit light on, and some parts were I guess for me, but the true pull is the fact that no-one can change another person’s fate (my word) where mental illness, an eating disorder and more are part of a human’s load.

I hope Lisa has some professional guidance for her grief that can complement all of the other loving support in her world now.

Which brings me to these books:

Every Family Has a A Story: How We Inherit Love and Loss. Julia Samuel.

Julia Samuel is a psychotherapist in the UK. I have the actual book but am listening, one chapter at a time, to her at times raw and painful recounting of others’ stories shared with her in the therapy space. What attracted me to her book was “Every Family Has a Story” and whilst we may not know them all, nor even want to know, there will be something in each of our family and forebears which has an effect on us and if we have them, our kids and grandchildren. It is a dense and intense listen and I am doing it one story at a time. In the car.

The Choice. Dr Edith Eger.

This book was recommended to me by my daughter. The one mentioned above. She is into life history, family histories, and  the history of those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis in World War Two. It’s a reason she gets so much out of her regular volunteer work ( I don’t know how she does it as a full time now Relieving Assistant Principal, and Mum to one under 12) because of her respect for the member of the Jewish Community who survived and many made their homes in Australia.

This book is written by an Auschwitz survivor and her work and what she found out about herself and others is compared with the work of Dr Victor Frankl. I haven’t finished Dr Eger’s book but I am going to as I recently heard her on Brene Brown’s podcast here. Worth the listen!

Grief.

It affects us all and it is not always related to death. It can be a loss, a trauma, a serious illness. I know I have written about the surprise of grief during my years of transition ….grieving the life and type of life we had led to go into a retirement mode. I also grieved for lost friendships when we moved to the coast, and for the loss of connection.

I know I grieved the changes of relationships I witnessed in our close and extended family and at times it would all seem too much to bear. But knowing now, that the mention of the word “grief” means that you are less likely to be “shhhed” or asked, “aren’t you over that now?” but as humans we will want to be out of the discomfort of grief as fast as we can.

And that doesn’t work.

In fact, it probably worsens it.

I am not an expert at all but I believe in self-education and learning from others and Megan Devine is one such person.

It’s OK that You’re Not OK. Megan Devine.

She also now has a podcast. I follow her on twitter and have listened to her book on-line and have this copy here:

I know my friend Sandra finds Megan’s words helpful &  is in a space that is both challenging and hard, with sprinkles of good times after the sudden death of her husband over a year ago. Sandra’s  story from Women of Courage is here. 

And folks, that’s it for now.

I am writing this post Wednesday evening to be ready for Friday. Thursday I will be driving to and from Sydney to see the prosthodontist and to have lunch with my two oldest granddaughters. I am not sure which book I will listen to but I often do one book I have in my Audible collection for the journey down and another for coming home.

It also depends on how I am feeling.

NB: it was Every Family Has a Story on the way down, and The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart coming home. 

Take care!

Thanks for reading here!

And small shout out for bloggers. The last link up from my blog is on Monday 20 June. Do join in if you have a post old or new.

Denyse.

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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.

 

 

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26/51#LifeThisWeek.Telling My Story. Chapter Sixteen. 2004-06.52/2020.

26/51#LifeThisWeek.Telling My Story.2004-2006.Chapter Sixteen.52/2020.

So, about a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) 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…drum roll… Chapter Sixteen.

With yet another photo of me because I keep changing my appearance…thanks to head and neck cancer, then cataract surgeries.

The most recent chapter, finalised how my first and significant career in New South Wales Department of Education ended. Sadly but there was a need for my health to improve and that it did.

L: NSW Teachers’ Federation Badge. R: N.S.W. Primary Principals Ass. Membership Badge.

Why was 2004 memorable?

I went back to school! As a teacher. But first, there is MORE!

I spent quite a bit of summer 2004 recovering from the broken right leg and receiving physiotherapy to get me walking again. We were a two-person household as our adult son had moved in with a friend. I had S P A C E to call mine, and claimed his old room for an art-craft one for me. It also doubled as a grandchild-sleepover space where we installed double bunks and these were in regular use.

My husband, whilst not in the best of health, started to enjoy his music and had a space in the house for that and part  all of the garage eventually morphed into a workshop. We had two vehicles but we were soon to add some home improvements but wait, I am getting ahead of myself.

Around the middle of what would be Term One in schools, I started to feel a restlessness within and to be honest a NEED to do something related to teaching. Having over a year away from schools to try my hand at volunteering and to get better health-wise, the thoughts grew that I probably needed to get my casual teaching availability sorted and out there to my principal friends.

“Would You Like Two Days a Week From Next Term?”

We lived in Glenwood, a suburb on former dairy land in Sydney’s northwest. My friend, D, and I had been colleagues for many years and I heard that the brand new school at a brand new suburb just 10 minutes drive away was where she was the foundation principal. I rang and she said ” come over and have a look at it, love to see you”. I did, with a version of a casual teacher resume in my bag.

After a tour in a modern, private/public built school we sat in her office and I began speaking about wanting to come back to teaching. She knew of what had happened to me at R.P.S. and in fact was one who stayed in touch initially. Before I could say much more, I received an offer, to start Term 2, doing 2 days a week Release From Face To Face Teaching for all of the SEVEN classes (K-6) the school then comprised. By the time I left the school in 2010 the student population had exploded from our original 156 to around 700…and since went close to 1000…if you know the now-densely populated North West area of Sydney, this will not surprise you.

Yes, thank you…that would be great. I asked what I should teach in that time. Her reply was ‘up to me’ and in a complete switch for me, I chose Creative Arts: art, drama and music.

Back to School. As a teacher.

On the first day of Term Two 2004,  the day after our second granddaughter turned 5 (huge party with jumping castle and I did face painting) I presented myself to the school…and the first group I would be teaching. Year 6. Now, this was still a very small school and the teachers were incredibly welcoming and friendly. I remain friends with many today. However, Year 6, first up took some courage but I did it. The thing about a brand new school is that the kids in the upper grades have come from different schools with different expectations. I did have some kids who tried me (behavioural and attitude) but we managed. After that baptism, I had the rest of the day…and I think I returned on the Tuesday as my 2nd day. I do recall being on Cross Country duty too as the kids ran around the then spacious grounds.

When a new school opens in a new neighbourhood there are children presenting to enrol every week and over time, this position grew to 3 days a week. By the end of that year however, I got a different role and loved this one even more.

Before I move on. The school had its official opening and that was a privilege to be part of. Some of the work I had done as the R.F.F. teacher in Art and Craft also involved Aboriginal Education (I had some expertise from my previous schools) and the Year 6 group performed at the opening using clapping sticks made by my husband.

The principal now had someone on her staff who she could confide in and even offload on but she did not do this much at all. However from time to time she would ask me “how come you are always so happy?” My answer was, she had seen my need to be back teaching and I was loving it as well as being a mentor of sorts to some …but I no longer had the full responsibility which weighed heavily when I was a principal.

The English as A Second Language Teacher. Me! 2005 & 2006.

I was always a teacher of literacy at heart, and loved working with children at the entry level of school. It made sense then for me to turn what I loved to do into a role I could deepen for myself and the school when there was growing student population of students whose second language was English.

I was able to set up the program, a space for the students and to develop the school’s programs. This was an important part of my role and being a former principal something I knew a lot about. What I did need to learn more about was the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of teaching English to a range of learners. Some were literally just stepping ‘off the plane’ as we used to say, and others had been in Australia speaking and learning English at previous schools.

The ‘language’ of teaching in this field has changed in the past 5+ years so I will use what I remember. The students were assessed, if needed, by me upon enrolment in whichever year they were entering. For example a student coming into Kindergarten and one coming into Year 5 might still be classed as ‘new arrivals’ if they had no understanding of English and would need, at separate times to being in class, some one-on-one or very small group learning.

To that end, I enrolled in a Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Charles Sturt University. Part-time and on-line with lots of practical work I could do with the students. This was a great way for me to add to my qualifications and hopefully, as time passed, get appointed to the school in 2007 as the substantive E.S.L. teacher. In the next chapter, I will share what happened.

Flexibility and a program that helped teachers integrate the students into their classes was important and I did all I could on the 3 days allocated to the program – always by student numbers – that year. The school’s population grew and grew, in 2006 there was a need to employ another person like me on a temporary basis. I was not permanently appointed, even though, over time, I hoped that might occur. More on that in the next chapter. 2007 was a big year for me. In many ways.

Family Times, House with ‘New’Mortgage & My First Trip O.S.

Despite the fact that we were now mortgage-free, see chapter fifteen, we became tempted to use the house as collateral for home improvements. Yes, people, we not only were tempted, we went ahead. The house benefitted with the enclosure of the outdoor room and adding air conditioning to it so it was a useable space, a carport, added driveways and landscaping out the front and back. This all helped at the time for our enjoyment. Much later in terms of selling, we had added value but the outstanding mortgage was paid out at the time of sale in 2015, bought new cars (much needed, old ones were literally ‘dying’)  but we did not have enough after that to buy a house on the Central Coast. This has, as it turns out, not been too bad as we have found a couple of options where we may wish, one day, to buy a house. For now, we are, like many, more comfortable as renters in the lovely, modern house we are in now.

Family times in those years became busier in some ways as the first group of grandchildren were changing in terms of ‘growing up’ and starting school. We attended Open Days, School Assemblies, Musicals and other events when possible. We took our two eldest granddaughters on a family holiday to Ballina which was fun and they got to meet some of their extended family and see where Papa grew up and went to school.

We welcomed partners into the family and life continued getting to know extended family members, and share in occasions, as well as support new ventures such as a return to study for one of our kids, with eventually University degree completed and more to come. One adult child continued in teaching part-time and we offered weekend/evening/afternoon respite for the kids in her busy times of responsibilities at school and beyond.

For some time I guess I did consider travelling overseas but never really got the chance. Then my plan was hatched and by crikey, I love a plan. To organise, the research and to find out more..blah blah. It was always going to be a solo trip. The plane ride for my husband of just on 3 hours in 2003 was the deal breaker for him as I wrote last chapter. He couldn’t accompany me. However, I was actually OK to give solo travel a go in a bigger way. I had already done some shorter trips and small breaks away within Australia so I looked at what I thought I could manage flight time wise, and where I was interested in visiting. It was to the U.S.of A.’s west coast but mainly the state of Hawaii I wanted to see. Dad and Mum had been there many times following Dad’s first visit when he was part of Harvard Business Summer School for 6 weeks in 1966.

With meticulous care and with the help of Flight Centre I booked 15 days away from 1 January 2006 to 15 January. Flights on Hawaiian Air, were marvellous and I joined their Premier Club to get preferential seating, extra luggage allowance and use of Lounges at LAX and Oahu. Brilliant. But, I almost went home from Mascot (our airport) before I left.

New Year’s Day in Sydney 2006 the temperature was 45deg. There was no air con working at the airport. My flight was not leaving till 10 pm. I was dropped off at the airport by my daughter…allowing plenty of time and it was actually ‘too much’ time. I was SO hot and over it..but stayed until check in could start…and when as a priority boarder I got to my window seat (then the aeroplane was 2,3,2 in economy)and sat, the aloha music and air con working….I sighed with relief. I probably need to expand this story separately but it went like this: Syd:Oahu, 3 nights. Oahu to Kona 2 nights. Kona to Oahu & onto LAX 2 nights, LAX to Las Vegas 2 nights, LV to SanFran 2 nights. SF to LAX back to Oahu 3 nights…and H O M E.

My Parents. 

In the latter part of 2006 my parents celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary (60 years wed) with a couple of small at-home celebrations with friends, and a family lunch in a local restaurant with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the following weekend.

I went to their house on the actual day with 60 yellow roses from the local Dural Rose Growers, and Dad already had the cards I had organised from Queen Elizabeth II, the Governor-General, the Premier of N.S.W. and…for Mum especially, my brother organised a ‘congratulations to long time listeners, N & A,’ message on 2GB from Alan Jones. Mum loved it. And he was kind.

Mum had not been well for a couple of years and with an aversion to doctors and investigations, Dad did the best he could to keep her health under check. Mum had some symptoms that appeared to be Parkinson’s related and also a lot of pain in some areas that was put down to be ‘post shingles’ neuralgia.

Mum had a great smile. And she made a lot of effort to do the best she could to look well and co-ordinated, with hairdresser appointments weekly and a pretty regular wardrobe updates. She started to not want to go out much in a lot of 2006 and it became harder to convince her to do so.

Previously Mum had been quite social, independent with her own car and social groups and interests including tennis and cards. But no more. Even their much enjoyed June-July winter stays on the Gold Coast stopped in 2005. But, there were reasons which would not be evident until next chapter: a big one. 2007.

Mum and Dad, taken by me, at the family celebrations for their 60th Wedding Anniversary. November 2006.

 

That is all…that I remember and CAN write about…with confidence of telling my story without giving away too much. It does get tricky with privacy but I have permissions and try to stay within boundaries set by myself and what is reasonable.

For all of the stories to date, please visit this part of the blog. Telling My Story.

I print each post out and have it stored in a folder for family if they wish to read it.

Thanks for reading.

Denyse.

List of Optional Prompts: July & August 2020. On home page too.

27/51 Taking Stock #3 6.7.2020

28/51 Self-Care Stories. #4. 13.7.2020

29/51 Your Choice. Mine is: World Head & Neck Cancer Day. 20.7.2020

30/51 Share Your Snaps #6 27.7.2020

31/51 Food. 3.8.2020

32/51 Why Did I? 10.8.2020

33/51 I Want. 17.8.2020

34/51 Self-Care Stories. #5. 24.8.2020

35/51 Share Your Snaps #7 31.8.2020

Link Up #195.

Life This Week. Link Up #195.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

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* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

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* THANK you for linking up today! Next week’s optional prompt.27/51 Taking Stock #3 6.7.2020

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21/51.#LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Chapter Fifteen. 2003. 42/2020.

21/51.#LifeThisWeek. Telling My Story. Chapter Fifteen. 2003. 42/2020.

 

Background…from Telling My Story: Chapter Fourteen published in February 2020.

The story behind Telling My Story is this: I began in May 2017 and then was diagnosed with cancer. I had a lengthy break and returned to the plan to keep on documenting my life, one blog post at a time. Here is the link to the page where they all are now. I also shared this as My Woman of Courage story here.

Where was I?

OK. I know. I was a K-6  school principal.

It was in September 2002 when I could not return to my school.

I was sad, ashamed and very tired as there were different outcomes for me personally and us financially.

But I also had some good things happening in my personal life. I will get to them too.

Life is LIKE that!

Cancer. Leaving My Role as a Principal.

Doctors, Psychologists, WorkCover, Staff Welfare, Dept of Education, Psychiatrists…..

When the school principal is told by her G.P. “you are not to return to that school, nor to be in that role again”, it felt both comforting and helpful.

I had been a patient of my G.P. for decades and she had been doctor to our growing family including my husband and me so knew what else had probably impacted my life as well as school and its responsibilities.

But even before that…the night before, I was left to try to tell my acting boss – who was known then as a District Superintendent, that I would not be going into school the next day…and for sometime after that but he did not understand.

Eventually I must have made inroads into his understanding, after seeing my G.P. who immediately saw this as a work overload matter making me both depressed and anxious. The employer had not taken steps to see me better supported in my school. I told that story in the last chapter.

 

Days into Weeks into Months.

What started as ‘sick leave’ did become workers compensation leave over the next month as I took myself to appointments and interviews.

I had to share my story (see the recent two chapters here & here) and my employer’s representative agreed that yes, there was a case for me to be compensated under Work Cover. In other words, I was paid via that scheme and did not lose sick leave.

But….

I could not and would not attend a school.

It was suggested at meetings that I could transition back to schools but did nothing to improve my mental wellbeing. In fact they made me even more anxious. Then I was offered, later in the year, the chance to ‘work in district office.’ Noooo. I felt such shame and was so anxious about seeing any of my colleagues that I could not envisage any kind of “return to work.”

And…it did not let up.

My mental illness, as it was defined later by a treating psychiatrist, was a reactionary one based on my personality and my role in the school.

It would, over time, resolve but there was medical agreement with my G.P., the employer’s rep and that of work cover, that I could return to “a school” for some days a week but never in the role of a school executive.

In 2003 all that felt like for me was:

F A I L U R E.

 

How I Was Affected By Schools.

Before I continue.

I lived about (then) 40 minutes from the school. I love schools! It had been my life…as a kid and then becoming a teacher and of course, having our children and grandchildren attend schools.

But, I was so scared, worried, ashamed and threatened by “schools” I could not even drive on the road (Windsor Road) that would have been my way to my school without feeling ill.

I was a proud (still am) Grandma but my first foray into the grounds of the school where our daughter was a teacher and our granddaughter in an Infants’ class made me highly alert.

I still felt I was the principal within that school, watching children running everywhere and wanting to tell them to stop. It was not fun. At all.

But, I was also not a victim….and I refuse to play that role any time.

I did know though that I was ill from the stress of my role in a school and so I took the chance to get the help of professionals and did a lot of work for myself. This involved seeing a friend each week for a coffee and over time, driving on the road that went to my school…and one holiday time, I went back and drove around the perimeter. I was sad and it felt wrong that I had to leave it as I did but I also know my health was paramount.

3 amazing grandkids who love me unconditionally and their presence in my lives helped me in this awful time.

 

Giving Up The Role For the Greater Good. 

Despite the urging of my bosses, the meetings with the work cover people and my professionals who agreed I would choose to do what I had to, I could not return to school. Or any school.

What then?

To ensure the school was able to progress into 2003 from my day of departure in September 2002 I relinquished my role.

It could then be advertised for a replacement principal. I was visited at home sometime after that by my then school office assistant who had brought me any personal items from my office and some cards and I recall getting flowers.

I was a sad but relieved person that not everyone ‘hated me’ there.

Photos remind me of my literal ups and downs re weight. Far right, 2003,I was ‘looking good’ but feeling awful inside.

 

But, How Will We Survive Financially?

At this stage of our lives as a couple, we had a mortgage on the house, my husband was in part-time work and I brought in a good salary as a school principal. Work cover continued to pay that but over time, as I stood my ground about not returning to the Department of Education  because of my health things got tricky for us financially.

 

Don’t Give Up Your Superannuation People!

I married my husband (teacher in NSW Dept of Education) in 1971 and in 1972, as I returned to work after maternity leave we made a short-term financial decision that would (still does!) affect us negatively. Back then as both of us was paying into the then BEST ever Super Fund “I” could opt out and save us some much needed dollars. We spoke to my accountant father about this who, it seems, saw this as a win….and over time, agrees “NOT right”.

The reason is this. None of us knew then that  by 1980 my husband’s health would deteriorate to the point that he was medically retired and was placed on a pension from the Super Fund. I was working then and continued to do so, but still had no super. At all.

It was in around 1985 again, my father who advised I try to get back into superannuation. Made sense but nope, I could not.

Once opted out, I was not allowed in….but wait “we have a new fund and you can join that”.

I did. The new fund was different but I did pay into it. I had a sizeable lump sum there in 2003 when I was making up my mind how to access it. Aged 52.

 

Getting Paid Out. Not Easy. At All.

By the beginning of 2003 and into the first few months, I was being harrassed strongly encouraged by my employer and work cover to ‘get back to work’.

Let me tell you now, it was worse in some ways than how I had to leave my job.

Phone calls, meetings…doctors’ appointments, psychological testing…so, with the agreement of my G.P. I decided to “medically retire”.

Um. No. There is no such thing now.

The new and subsequent super funds that took the money from  NSW Dept of Education teaching staff only ever paid out a lump sum IF you were declared NOT FIT TO WORK and you have to RESIGN first.

No pension…and YOU need to prove you are not fit for work.

  1. For someone like me, a dedicated and loyal employee from 27.1.1970 to HAVE to resign was C for crazy but we were P for poor when my salary was being slowly stopped
  2. I filled out the form. It was awful. I also added, though, that I wanted “approval to teach”. I did not want any issues in case I wanted to ever have a day as a casual teacher. I would be pleased I did.
  3. It was accepted. Leave paid out.
  4. I was now free of the dreaded work cover requirements
  5. Got all the forms from the State Super People and completed them…along with the documentation from my G.P. and others.
  6. Attended one of the most stressful appointments ever with a psychologist from State Super and was obliged to complete a 500 question survey to assess my mental health and ability to work.
  7. Found out my application to access my funds  was “Rejected” after that horrid experience.
  8. You are still fit to work according to our rules.
  9. “Dejected” and now time, finally, for me to get some legal help.
  10. My union, N.S.W. Teachers Federation, were wonderful once I got to outline to a welfare officer what had happened.
  11. She arranged a meeting (free) with their lawyers and they heard the rejection story and saw the documentation from the State Super Board.
  12. The lawyer took my information, along with the State Super letters and my reports and so on and sent off the missives that….eventually allowed me to:
  13. Access all of the funds as a lump sum
  14. And retain my right to return to part-time teaching work if I chose.

We paid off this house….

 

Relieved. Getting Better. Breaking My Ankle. Retirement Means This. 

From paying out the mortgage there was a big sigh of relief.

There was also a relatively good amount of money from leave entitlements and by June we decided to “splurge” on a Far North Queensland holiday for 2. We even got a car to drive us to the airport. That was cool. But I must say, for my poor husband whose spine is very damaged from surgeries and more, the flight in economy for over 3 hours was not a good one at all. I was OK but he was not. We picked up the hire car and I drove via the Captain Cook Highway on that most beautiful trip: from Cairns to Port Douglass. Disappointingly though the apartment was accessed by a series of flights of stairs and by the time we got inside, my husband admitted “I cannot fly back like that”. My pain is too much. I agreed. So, the luxury of a return trip by business class meant comfort but took a huge amount of money to obtain so the holiday’s effect was negated! His health was worsening from the load of high school teaching which he took on after the business was liquidated in 1996 so, retirement was his plan too.

We were OK financially without a mortgage but by the time I had a few months at home I sought an art class (it was great) and became a volunteer with the Smith Family. It was around November after I had been answering the phones for them for people requesting Christmas Hampers that I had an accident. At home.

It was a rainy afternoon, I parked on the sloping driveway and as I got out of the car, one foot slipped, and the rest of me came with it, twisting my right ankle badly. I tried to call to my husband – from the letterbox…on the driveway and he did not hear, so I crawled up and made it inside.

Not wanting to over-dramatise it..but I should have actually…I waited for my husband to have a cuppa and we drove to the local medical centre.

Rooky error. I literally had to hop from the car with my good foot as the very sore foot could not weight bear. Oh. The G.P. agreed that X-rays were needed and they had that facility there. After the X-ray showed broken bones, it was “off to local private hospital” because this needs specialist attention.

Long story short: back slab applied, in-hospital stay, saw preferred orthopaedic specialist, “we will operate tomorrow and pin the fibula and tibia”. He did. I came home needing a wheelchair around the house as I couldn’t use crutches (hands needed surgeries for carpal tunnel etc) and I was stuck. The best part was shortly before Christmas at a check up I got a fibreglass cast and then could shower and even get in our pool but getting out was too hard.

Oh, and about that fibula of mine…I did get the screws out sometime in 2004 and in 2017…guess where that fibula went….HERE: The upside down U shape. My fibula cut into 3 with abutments added.

New Jaw is seen here

This sure was a year, 2003.

We did have a lot on our plate between us. But we also had a great family supporting us with care and love and three grandchildren to bring joy. The next year 2004 would prove to be significant too but with some great stories that helped re-build me in many ways.

Grandkids helping me, newly without plaster, to stand up!

Just after my cast came off, a celebration for my Dad’s 80th birthday.

Let’s see what Chapter Sixteen will bring!

Thank you for reading my story started over 3 years ago.

I do print the blog pages out and have them in a folder for future readers.

What were you doing in 2003?

It seems not that long ago, but of course it is 17 years ago!

Denyse.

 

Link Up #190.

Life This Week. Link Up #190.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog & the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice. These may include promotions, advertorials and any that are overly religious or political or in any way offensive  in nature.

* THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 22/51 I Saw 1.6.2020

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