Cancer is a word that strikes fear into most of us when we hear it. My next guest, Denyse Whelan has spent the last 18 months taking on this battle and coming through the other side stronger and more determined. I’ve known Denyse, for quite a while now. Another Aussie blogger and former teacher who is a constant source of inspiration to me and many others. I look forward to her Instagram daily fashion photos and she is produces beautiful mandela creations. I never knew what a mandela was until I met Denyse! Through it all Denyse always had a smile.
I’m delighted to have Denyse as part of my Over 50 & Thriving series as she writes about her experience and how she is now thriving after cancer. You can also connect with this amazing woman through her website and social media links at the end of her post.
Can People Thrive After Cancer
Being on the receiving end of a cancer diagnosis is a shock and it brings uncertainty, concern and a lot of questions that do not always have answers. I know this because that is how I reacted to the news, over the phone, on Wednesday 17 May 2017 at 9.35 a.m.
I can never say for certain that my cancer is gone. In fact, I have a few years left for regular checks with my Head and Neck cancer surgeon and my specialist prosthodontist. They were both part of the team who re-constructed my upper mouth after squamous cell carcinoma was found.
However, what I do know now, 17 months down the track, is that having cancer is helping me thrive in a way I never knew was possible. Even as I was going through 4 surgical procedures and over 25 visits for treatment to my mouth, I felt a growing surge of confidence and strength within that told me “I am going well!”
Whilst I cannot write of anyone else’s experience of thriving after cancer I offer this.
The ten signs that I am thriving.
- I wake ready to face each day with no anxiety and I am ready to have breakfast, chat to my husband and settle down with the morning paper with ease. I love this formerly ‘lost’ routine’s return in my life.
- As part of my daily self-care, I then dress with purpose. Yes, there IS a hashtag: #dresswithpurpose. I started this late October 2017 – 5 months into recovery from the first major surgery – and I have not stopped.
- Once I have my outfit sorted, some make-up applied, hair looking good, and some jewellery added, my husband takes a few photos of me and I add one to my Instagram feed. I get positive feedback and each month has seen me thrive and welcome the chance to “show my outfit of the day”.
- This photo-taking keeps me grounded and ‘mindful’ as I have had many years of not wanting my photo taken due to being very overweight and I can see ‘old’ me at times. I now override the critical voice in my head.
- I go out somewhere for a coffee. I do not stay at home for a whole day as I did before cancer due to anxiety and IBS. I am so pleased that anxiety about IBS has reduced so much that I can confidently leave home and enjoy myself.
- My engagement with other people is returning. When I was unwell (before cancer) I was so tied to the house because of the anxiety/IBS, that I could only really connect on-line. My mind kept me there. It did have to change but it took courage! I am driving to meet people, even an hour away. It is great to have my independence return to fill my need to connect and socialise.
- Even before cancer diagnosis I knew there was something going on with my upper teeth attached to a bridge, so I took steps via exposure therapy to enable me to visit my local dentist and eventually have him remove the teeth to see what ‘was growing underneath.’ This helped me very much in terms of being able to manage the cancer diagnosis news and what came after. Exposure therapy is about ‘stepping out of the comfort zone’ and being prepared, step by step, to give what has kept a person ‘stuck’ to move forward. I use this every day now.
- Once I began to recover from the first major surgery I gained confidence in myself that had been pushed down by anxiety for years. I recovered in minimum time and my recoveries from the next surgeries over many months had the same positive outcome.
- At my side, cheering me on and being there to hold me when I need it, is my husband of over 47 years. He is my rock and via his love, care and knowledge of human behaviour via his counselling work, he has helped cement the many learnings I have had myself via reading, seeing my G.P. and psychologist whose services I no longer need.
- Blogging about my cancer story was initially for me to have a record. However, I now see that it can help others know more about the signs of Head and Neck cancer, so I continue to help spread the awareness via social media and having articles published on cancer websites and Starts at Sixty.
I know that as we age, health challenges of all sorts can confront us. So, this is just one story. It’s mine. I do not claim to have any special skills, but I do know that my attitude, combined with some very wise counsel and a brilliant professional team has helped me thrive.
Thank you, Sue, for this invitation to share in your series.
Let’s Keep Sizzling!