Saturday 25th June 2022

2 Years Of Change & Uncertainty In Covid 19 Times. Pt. 2/2. March 2021-2022. 18/2022.

2 Years Of Change & Uncertainty In Covid 19 Times. Pt. 2/2. March 2021-2022. 18/2022.

Recently we clicked over to the third year of having Covid 19 affect so much of our lives as we knew them…from any days, months and years before.

It was a gradual process in some ways and I wrote about some of it here.

Messy writing…from calendars: 2020. 2021 & 2022

However as time went on, and into 2021 we here, in our part of Australia, New South Wales, we lulled into a type of life that resembled one we remembered well.

March to June 2021.

I drove to Newcastle for the first “in-person” event in Covid safe conditions for the Newcastle Writers’ Festival and heard Julia Gillard interviewed by Rosemarie Milsom, who is one of the women of courage, here.

We had high hopes that the 2021 Festival would happen. Sadly, it did not but was an on-line one. All fingers crossed for 2022 as I already have my tickets to see and hear Jane Caro AM,a woman of courage who started my series, here,  Trent Dalton and Kate McClymont.

In our case we did this:

  • I visited my father in Sydney and left him set with more meals and treats.
  • We had school holiday visits (April 2021) from our son and his family.
  • School had been going pretty normally for many and there was a good atmosphere seeing children back at school.
  • Parents often chose to work from home and that did help when there may have been some reported cases of Covid in schools and in workplaces.
  • We had the daily updates from NSW Health and the Premier.
  • Many people did find these stressful. I learned to check the summary rather than watch.
  • We wore masks, we were careful about where we went, but we generally felt safe.

Our granddaughter celebrated her 9th Birthday in April 2021 with a family and friends picnic in a large regional park and it was clear how everyone relished being out again, and meeting with others as well as enjoying the outdoors.

A.N.Z.A.C. Day came, on a Sunday, and there were small and large ceremonies in N.S.W. I chose to go to Norah Head and watch the sun rise on this very big day.

I went to see my father again, and he was staying well. Life seemed good.

I had already returned to meetings of the head and neck cancer group on the Central Coast, and after the May meeting took the chance to walk around the Boardwalk at Terrigal.

 

 

Mid May 2021 I celebrated four years since my head and neck cancer diagnosis with a trip to Sydney to see Hamilton on a Sunday afternoon. I had not been back to the harbour area for some time and I enjoyed a joy-filled walk around Pyrmont before the 1 pm. show. The Lyric Theatre was well-organised for social distancing, we had to wear masks and obey the Covid Safety instructions.

I met up with friends when we could, as social distancing was fine in the shopping centres. It felt so good to do that again.

I also go to Sydney’s Westmead to have mouth check by my prosthodontist in May. So glad I could.

As part of my role as an Ambassador for Head and Neck Cancer Australia, I met with N.S.W. Senator, Deborah O’Neill in her Central Coast office and when we parted said we would see each other at the Parliamentary Breakfast, being hosted by Sen O’Neill and Dr Katie Allen, in Canberra in June 2021.

I made plans excitedly to meet up with blogging friends when I was to come to Canberra, and booked accommodation.

Sadly, over three separate periods, until the end of 2021, the Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Parliamentary Breakfast was postponed….and there is no plan for a 2022 one..because….well, there is likely to be an election soon….

I needed to continue some kind of regular daily routine and the blog helped greatly here.

I also decided to invite more women to share their Stories of Courage on the blog. I had a few women who kept promising me their stories, but the weight of covid restrictions on them in the latter part of the year saw them drop out. They were under a great deal of stress…just managing living alone and working too.

In this household we got excited in June.

We got our second Astra Zeneca vaccinations.

The latter part meant our second youngest granddaughter was turning 8 and we had fun ideas celebrating here with her dad and siblings and were ready. Until.

This.

Lockdown.

It was announced on the last weekend of June.

June – October 2021.

The Premier called on us all to manage with the strictest of conditions to date. It was OK for us, as we were already used to being at home as retirees.

It was not good for:

  • travelling
  • visiting
  • going to another person’s house
  • working other than at home, or in a health facility or a school/childcare where kids of essential workers could attend with minimal staff, and careful supervision.
  • having surgeries that were non-urgent
  • visiting ANYONE in a care or hospital-like place as well as hospitals
  • connecting
  • giving birth with a partner
  • getting married
  • having a funeral

so much just had to

S

T

O

P

and it felt the right thing to do at the time.

But it crippled so much business, and affected people’s health.

I can only write about our N.S.W. and Central Coast experience. 

Other places were either not affected (other than no-one could come and go) or had already been in lockdown before.

I found myself at a bit of a loose end on that first day. A Sunday. I went for a drive into Wyong, and walked about a bit taking some photos. I would not be back for months.

How We Managed This Lockdown.

  • Once my husband and I knew what we could and couldn’t do, we set ourselves up as only going out once a day in the car (and that was legal, once a day) and for essentials.
  • He could go to Bunnings but rarely did.
  •  He visited the chemist and did a weekly grocery shop at one Woolies only.
  • I went out once on a day he had not been anywhere and usually to a stand alone Coles, using the QR codes, wearing a mask and getting in and out fast.
  • I made a daily photo record. It helped give me something to do.
  • Blogging still happened but I needed more focus to get me out of boredom.
  • I could still visit some areas of nature within a certain boundary of home.
  • Later, I realised I could have gone further but I waited till September/October.

I was able to see my dentist, but not my prosthodontist at Westmead because they were deployed for other health services. My dentist did a great favour for me and my progress by taking photos inside my mouth and they were used by my head and neck cancer surgical team to determine how I was going via a telehealth call in September. We had in-person visits to GP and telehealth with some other doctors.

Honestly sometimes it is better not to know how long something will go for….

 

School kids did not see each other, except via zoom.

Families were separated for a long time.

Teachers and schools had to continue remote learning systems and programs for a VERY long time

Mental health professionals were concerned for many people in different settings and professions. Telehealth services for psychologists expanded.

No travel between state or territories unless for approved reasons. Many were not approved.

Very few could travel overseas, even for urgent and humanitarian reasons.

Our daughter turned 50 and she had a lockdown zoom birthday. She was given some special gifts including a cameo to her from Trent Dalton.

The lockdown went for 106 days.

In that time my hair grew more than I had ever known since I was about 20 years younger and I hated it…so occasionally B would cut some off. I returned the favour.

The Premier of N.S.W. resigned…and yeah, OK, we all said. Next?

Seriously, we (us) were over it and longed for more guidance and commonsense.

I’d like to say that happened but it didn’t.

We got our haircuts eventually. B before me as my hairdressers had to wait till the staff were fully vaccinated.

Our daughter and her youngest drove up to see us. Happy times! No photos. I look shocking…lol.

I got back to see Dad. He found it so lonely but remained well and was double vaxxed. Took him usual food packages. At least I could still cook and I did.

I was saddened to know a friend of mine died from an awful cancer. I attended his funeral via a link.

We got down to see our son and his crew and that was special too.

Mid- October – December 2021.

I also found that I was determined to get out and about once I could and that proved to be not as good for my emotional health as I may have thought.

We did do our morning tea thing on my 72nd Birthday and that was fun. Heard from our family and made feel very special on social media too.

THIS matters the most: Love.

It was in the period late November 2021 to February 2022 that I became aware of doing too much. And with Covid around, there was/is all the more to be concerned…is it Covid??

I had a virus of sorts..not covid and my health affected my confidence and my ability to meet others or travel to Sydney because I felt drained. I had covid tests. All OK. But in having to have covid tests (P.C.R. ones) and await results this took FAR too long for return of results. That is why we missed Christmas Day with all our family in Sydney….and then, as I felt worse again in January, my father’s turning 98. I did eventually get to see him. Our family all came here in January but Covid sure does make planning challenging impossible.

One friend, and her husband and kids drove to  Canberra from Sydney to see their family but on their way, got a covid positive notification and boom holiday cancelled, presents left with family, and a turn around back to Sydney. In the end, only that ONE family member got Covid.

New Year’s Day I drove to West Gosford – about 45 minutes from our place – to pick up a click and collect parcel and then to Coles to get bananas and see if the rarity (then) of RATs tests were on sale. They were. I grabbed a pack of 5 for $50. Used two of them on me during January and still had one PCR rest as well. Negative.

There are stories like my friend’s  in our family too. Some get Covid, others not. No rhyme nor reason. RAT is negative, PCR confirms, then later its positive.

January into February and March 2022. 

We had almost all of the family here late January for lunch and the most important getting our daughter’s and son’s signatures on our updated legal papers.

and 6 of the 8 grandkids came too…what fun!

By February 2022 the Australian Government and State Governments were able to get in sufficient Rapid Antigen Tests for pharmacists to stock them and eventually for those like us, on a pension, to receive them for free. There are far fewer line ups for PCR testing at local clinics but they are still operating at time of writing. We celebrated B’s birthday with morning tea out…and no photo but a week later, his older brother visited and that was very special. I made this collage…B is from a very large family, and these two are less than 2 years apart.

At present, we are still choosing to mask up at the shops and inside shopping centres. The doctors’ rooms insist on it. The QR checkins have gone. There is travel between states and territories and overseas too…not as much as before, but it is growing.

Then at the end of February into March 2022, the eastern states of Australia fell victim to an enormous rain event, leaving people homeless, and with no work prospects. Australia’s response to this “never before event” was not great. And those of us watching on felt helpless. We were not directly affected. However, it was unprecedented and many places had waters come in where they never had before. Once it was safe, I did venture locally.

Lakes Beach erosion

Wyong River at Milk Factory.

Keeping as healthy as I can.

I have already mentioned I was not 100% well for a few months and so did the right thing, for me, and have cut down rather than cut out what is important to me: connecting with others. The blog has been quite a lifeline to others, along with social media connections. I never felt too lonely when I could ‘chat’ or ‘comment’ to friends on-line. I have taken stock of my health, and still mid some check ups but going more slowly to help me first.

I admit that Covid 19 took its toll emotionally with its uncertainty, and constant change.

Along with the second year being so much more political it made me decide that arguing back on social media was hurting me, not anyone else.

What now?

I have no idea. Most of our family who are in daily contact with the wider world are fully vaccinated but have also had covid. Go figure.

I am doing my best to live as peaceful a life as I can, with my greatest responsibility to keeping well, mentally and physically.

My day consists of great interactions with my husband, a visit to a local area and/or shops. I start with meditation and gratitude practice and finish the day similarly. I am actually reading a book of fiction right now…The Mother by Jane Caro. It’s a thriller of sorts. I am making my way slowly through Brene Brown’s Atlas, and listening to a variety of books on audible, the one I am finding the most fascinating is The Body Keeps The Score.

Take care, friends and readers.

I hope this missive has not been too onerous to plough through.

I blog to connect…and also to keep the stories alive!

Thank you all,

Denyse

Joining in with Natalie for Weekend Coffee Share today

Thank you Natalie.

https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

 

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2 Years Of Change & Uncertainty In Covid 19 Times. Pt. 1/2. March 2020-2021.16/2022.

2 Years Of Change & Uncertainty In  Covid 19 Times. Pt. 1/2. March 2020-2021.16/2022.

I’m composing this post getting close to the 16 March 2022 which marks the 2nd anniversary of “covid bringing change to the way we would be living our lives”…as announced by the Prime Minister of Australia.

There was already much happening in the media as we watched what was happening in other countries….and from where it all seemed to start in Wuhan, China in the latter days of 2019.

My post is about how it affected me, and our family and in some indirect ways, many of those who read here too because of the state-based restrictions and federally based ones.

Dear readers, we are a complicated country for rules and governance and it all goes back to 1901 when we became a Federation of States & Territories: Australia.

The short story is money comes from the Federal or Commonwealth governments (Australia) and is filtered to the States via government of the day policy AND State decisions are made for Health and Education.

Look, sorry, it’s hard to get a handle on this at times….I know. I lived with it as a school principal. Nevertheless, here’s my post, mostly with photos, marking the two years of:

CHANGE

and

UNCERTAINTY

2020- continuing into its third year…2022.

March 2020 onwards….

I was so fortunate to have had both my eyes surgically operated on for cataracts in the week before EVERYTHING changed. Phew. I was also able to get to have an in-person head and neck cancer surveillance check, attend a head & neck cancer  charity ball as the speaker, and to be WELL!

 

And then, over time, we knew we had to stay at home as much as we could. Necessary outings were to:

  • the supermarket
  • the pharmacy
  • the doctors

I could no longer follow this: going out each day to have a coffee and browse at the shops. 

On occasion, when safe, we used “click and collect” for stores such as Big W, Target and Bunnings. We did not do click and collect groceries as it became unreliable, and expensive. I was prepared to take the risks. I shopped quickly, with plastic gloves on, and a mask. However, many food and other items became rare or not found.

Yes, there was such a thing as a toilet paper blitz (I confess, we got in plenty) and not many choices, if any, in fresh meat etc.

So much changed because of panic buying, employment changing as people got covid and…the whole supply chain was affected: truck drivers, distributors too. Anything that might come by plane was not easy to come by because flights changed significantly, and ships were also not allowed to dock if anyone on board had covid.

We all watched the updates on T.V. with the N.S.W. Premier, the N.S.W. Minister for Health, and the Chief Health Officer….for a while, then in our case, we stopped.

It was far too worry-inducing.

It was, for some people, a compulsion to watch and then tweet about it but in my case, I decided better to stay away from those kinds of updates.

Of course we did as requested, and at the doctors’ we had to comply with questionnaires about symptoms (still do) before being seen OR as they preferred then, via telehealth.

April into May 2020.

We were surrounded by neighbours not normally seen as everyone worked from home, and schooling was remote learning.

Every day we saw many people strolling around the neighbourhood. Gyms were shut.

We got through a very quiet Easter.

And as one way to remember “A.N.Z.A.C.” Day 2020, people around Australia held their own driveway Dawn Ceremonies.

Our granddaughter turned 21 early May and there was still travel restrictions from where we lived to Sydney and vice versa…but by Mother’s Day 2020 we got to see family.

We did a socially distanced photo!

Close for this one: Mother’s Day 2020

June, July and August 2020.

I needed surgery (and had probably put it off for too long) so that consumed the next months for me. Even though I had had 4 surgeries for head and neck cancer, this particular surgery: repair rectal prolapse was not a great prospect. I know, however, it WAS a great one to have but I was a scared woman before it, and not because of covid. I admit though that with doctors and hospitals I did it mostly alone because of Covid. My husband was allowed to visit me in July but not for the wound debridement in August.

Covid Meant Rules Changed A LOT.

September to December 2020.

It was not like the world we knew before Covid.

Doctors and other health professionals took a lot of care to see that no-one with any cough/temperature etc came to their rooms.

I still got my September 2020 Cancer Check at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse…lots of safety measures and most of the place were the public would normally be present were closed. Patients with cancer have low immunity and that was the reason such strict measures were in place.

There was talk of vaccines being developed.

Economically, we were OK. We are retirees, and receive a part pension. Many others I know had to ask for supplemented income and in the first year of Covid, it was pretty stable, getting people paid, able to stay at home to work. Remote schooling continued on and off. It was very hard socially on many.

Kids really missed their friends. As did most people who enjoyed socialising. Some though, I know, loved being at home working and would like that to continue! We managed our trip back to Tamworth in October 2020 and that was a special one.

Sadly, we did not get to have Christmas as planned with our daughter and her family as Covid ramped up just before Christmas, on Sydney’s northern beaches. Although she does not live there, I had seen Dad who lives at Dee Why AND visited Manly, so I had to have a test, which proved negative and I had to come to Sydney for a mouth check so rather than both of us risk a Christmas Day travelling…I dropped off the goodies and gifts on my way.

Little did we know that the NEXT year’s Christmas would also be affected. Sigh. Next post!

January 2021 – March 2021.

I like to plan and have good things come together well.

So, I did get to see my father for his 97th Birthday. I did not get to see some family for their birthdays just because nothing was planned and we would see them soon.  The restrictions into January were very tough on visitors to the home.

We could only have 5 and that meant our PLANNED Golden Wedding Anniversary on 23 January 2021 for 13 had to change. We held a lunch for our son and his 4 on one day and then on the actual day, for our daughter and her family. It was a lovely time….and I have written more here.

By February things were less restricted and we were able to have ALL the family together for a morning tea celebrating my husband’s birthday.

And then school was back…I think…in a very restricted way over time. Our youngest granddaughter started school and then, later in the year, was part of remote learning for what seemed forever…more next post.

That was the twelve months…March to March …about Covid in particular.

 

I dealt with the uncertainty by keeping as many of my daily routines as I could.

  • I always got dressed each day before having breakfast.
  • I made sure my exposure to social media was less over time as I knew it affected me.
  • I gave myself little inner talks most days about what I COULD control and what I could not…I admit, I do this most of the time.
  • I also had faith in how the country was being cared for at this most unusual and uncertain time.
  • This slowly changed, but not in the first year.
  • I learned that I can get over things I have planned that cannot work out.
  • I also knew that gratitude found on the hardest of days was a help.
  • I know getting somewhere most days into nature was important and we have such a range of places here….and I know I needed to record photos and videos to share.

And the BEST part: March 2021, we received our first Covid Vaccinations: Astra Zeneca. 17 March 2021, the day booked once they opened.

I also wrote posts here here and here for 2020, as part of Telling My Story:

Telling My Story. Image #8.

How was March 2020 to March 2021 for you, Covid wise?

Take care,

Denyse.

Joining in with Natalie for Weekend Coffee Share today

Thank you Natalie.

https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

 

 

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Learning To Deal With Uncertainty Via Cancer. 2018.28.

Learning to Deal With Uncertainty Via Cancer . 2018.28.

In the past four years I have been on such a long and hard learning experience.

Perhaps I am short-changing that time frame.

Possibly it has been since 2003 when I had to resign, for medical reasons, from my substantive role as a K-6 Principal.

However, in May 2004  I was deemed well enough to return to teaching duties only and that was fine by me because I actually missed schools!

In my working life in N.S.W. public schools from 1970 until 2010 I liked the certainty:

  • of the school day,
  • the rhythm of schools
  • and the fact that my work life was timetabled
  • and I could work knowing I had familiarity and knowledge.

I now modify the above by adding: no school day was ever the same and of course there were many uncertain times and experiences but they were all familiar and I understood them well.

In the years following my retirement from teaching in 2010 up to 2014 I decided that helping families learn more about transitioning to school would be good and set up a solo education consultancy. There was some certainty in this once I found a group of early childhood centres who were not only interested in my work, but would pay me a fee too. Win!

In 2013 I was fortunate to meet then Prime Minister Julia Gillard who thanked me for my work in education.

What changed for me and how did I HAVE to learn to deal with uncertainty?

Three major triggers during 2014 and into 2015.

  1. Deciding to sell our Sydney home of over 18 years, pay off the mortgage and other debts and move to rent a place on the Central Coast.
  2. Resign or down-grading my employment status in education: teaching at Uni, having my business and remaining as an observer for (then) NSW Teachers’ Institute.
  3. Leaving the families of our adult children and their children with whom we have loved and connected from 1996 to the present including daily child-care before they started school.

I have written about them before, but the memories of those times appear in my ‘on this day’ in Facebook and in ‘time hop’ so I see and recall them usually with a sickening thud to my gut. But then because it is NOW in 2018 and I am learning much more about how to manage uncertainty I am able to counter it!

Sign Above Where I Blog. B.Be Brave O.Optimistic L.Learning & Loving. D. Determined Denyse.

Where were we?

The rational and thinking brain does not  know why because it was logical back in 2014 and KNEW the decisions we were making to commence what felt like a proper retirement for us both were right. We needed to have no more debt. We wanted to live away from Sydney. We had been told my our family that childcare was no longer required.

The thing is, I found out in many hard ways that I had created a situation (or actually more than one) where my inner soul and feelings were in conflict with my brain choices. I spent all of 2015 trying to make sense of it and until a psychologist told me: Denyse, feelings take a lot longer to catch up with decisions and change, I felt I was doing it all wrong!

And in some ways I was.

I was ignorant of so much. I finally accepted the sadness and grief that enveloped me for that year. I actually thought things would improve for me when we moved house at the end of 2015 but it was short-lived. My brain was now on super alert setting and affected my decisions and my life. I tried medications (no, none helped) and meditation (a little bit helped) and walking and art too.

But it was not until I started learning more about the Buddhist way of living in the now, as it is all the certainty we know from teachers Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, and Anne Lamott  more that I clicked:

OH. I cannot control anything really.

At all. I can control my responses.

A big gap was closing in my learning. My husband had been doing his level best to enlighten me but I was not ready. Or, I was obstinate and wanted proof!

So for all of 2016 I continued to ‘try’ to accept things but then I would revert to the default in my brain and work on all the ways “I” could control life. This did not make a happy Denyse even though I felt I needed to look like I had things under control. Ha! My Irritable Bowel Syndrome told me in its very special way “no you do not!”.

Into 2017 we (my brain and my feelings) went… and matters worsened. And I hated how reclusive I became. I rejected ideas of trying exposure therapy because ….no control!  It was a to and fro between head and heart (with the gut in the chorus) until matters changed dramatically.

Late March – early April 2017.

I HAD to follow through with using graded exposure therapy to get my awfully sore gums and teeth sorted. I did.

It felt a bit better and when my new local GP met me and suggested a small dose of an evening anti-depressant from the ‘old school’ which would help ‘firm up’ my IBS issues, I trusted him and gave things a go.

THEN. May 2017.

I had a biopsy, I thought something serious was wrong in my mouth post teeth/bridge extraction and I was right. Squamous Cell Carcinoma in my upper gums and away I went on the cancer journey.

WHAT DOES HAVING CANCER HAVE TO DO WITH UNCERTAINTY?

Everything for me. I had to change so much in terms of my ill-founded beliefs that I could control my life.

Nope. That was a BIG lesson.

What I did learn, and have  learned every.single.day. since May 2017 is that I need to trust those who care for me and provide their services as they know more about this cancer of mine than I ever will.

This does not mean I surrender because no-one does that without thinking. What I learned about myself is that I can get through some very tough times (I did and have) because I can let time pass, let my body heal in its way and take the advice of those who are experts in the field where I am not.

Of course I ask questions! In fact, I sent off about 20 before my huge initial surgery in July 2017 but I had a much greater sense of security in having met the Professor and Associate Professor, the Prosthodontist and the Practice Manager. No-one seemed to mind my questions and it was clear to me, that by asking I was helping myself be better prepared for not only cancer surgery but for the relative uncertainty in the life ahead.

On Thursday last…waiting for the next part of the treatment. Selfies rule, right?

And now, into almost the fourth month of 2018 I am now driving myself to the prosthodontist appointments in Westmead and managing my physical and emotional health whilst doing so…and in between visits and surgeries I am doing the best I can to stay well and do as is required for my continued health.

I am letting uncertainty into my life as a gift for what it teaches me:

patience

courage

confidence

trust

I have said, more than a few times, that this cancer diagnosis (and subsequent surgeries and treatments) has helped me get back a Denyse I really like being and a person who is more out-going (as I used to be many years ago) and one who is more loving and giving to others.

What lesson(s) in life have you learned about yourself?

Do you have any issues with surrendering control?

Tell me more in the comments if you are prepared to share!

Denyse.

Joining with three generous and sharing bloggers who host link ups:

Kylie Purtell here for the I Blog On Tuesdays link up.

Sue L and Leanne L  here who host the Midlife Share the Love Linky Party on Wednesdays.

Leanne who is the sweetest hostess here on Thursdays for Lovin’ Life.

 

 

 

 

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