A Very Special Birthday Celebration

A Very Special Birthday Celebration

Celebrating a long life with joy

My father-in-law turned 90 years old last week. I would like to share with you how we celebrated this special event in this post. It was a very special birthday celebration which almost didn’t happen because of sudden changes in travel restrictions. We were so lucky that the weekend strict lockdown in Brisbane didn’t affect us.

Happy 90th birthday Cec
Happy 90th birthday Cec – cheers to a long life

A Positive Outcome From 2020

One of the most positive things about 2020 was nurturing relationships that are important to me.  Normally my life is extremely busy and I feel continually jetlagged from unrelenting shift work as a nurse.  Many of you know that I have been off work since May because of complications during surgery.  Having time on my hands has been a blessing in that I have been able to spend a lot of time with my in-laws. 

I have had time to visit for a chat and a cup of tea, and not stress about needing to be somewhere or do something on my brief days off.  I also have been able to attend all the family gatherings, whereas most of the time I work on public holidays and other special occasions.  This is something I don’t take this for granted.  I feel like I have been blessed with this time.  

Stronger Family Relationships

My relationship with my parents-in-law and my sister-in-law have been the most improved by this.  My sister-in-law and I have been able to plan some lovely family gatherings such as my mother-in-law’s High Tea surprise birthday party.  I could also help with my sister-in-law’s 50th birthday Alice In Wonderland party.  Just in general we have become closer this year, bonded by being married to two lovely men who are definitely the product of their equally lovely parents.

My sister-in-law and I share another thing in common. Both our mothers passed away when we were newlyweds in our early 20s.  I think that it is why we know that we need to create lovely memories during the latter years of our parents-in-laws’ lives.  Every birthday and special occasion has taken on new meaning as we are aware that time with them is limited.

My husband and I with Gwen and Cec, my parents-in-law
My husband and I with Gwen and Cec, my parents-in-law

My Father-in-law’s Special Birthday Celebration

My father-in-law’s 90th birthday is the latest milestone for our family. We celebrated the occasion with a lovely lunch.  The family let me organise the event which I felt very privileged to do – they needed to put some trust in my organisational skills!  I don’t have the same creative, event planning abilities as my sister-in-law (just look at what she did for my mother-in-law’s High Tea and you will see what I mean!).  But I am pretty good at organising things.

The day was a success, and the smiles on everyone’s faces were my reward.  We had the lunch at a club nearby which we have used previously for events.  

My father-in-law celebrating his 90th birthday with his sister and dear friend
My father-in-law celebrating his 90th birthday with his sister Shirley and dear friend June

Celebrating a Long Life

At 90 years old, my father-in-law has been through a lot, including serving in the Australian Army in the Korean conflict when he was a young man.  He has chronic pain from injuries sustained in a fall through a roof, and suffers from COPD.  His mind is still sharp and he and my mother-in-law still drive and live independently in their own home.  Cec is one of the kindest men you will ever meet.  To be able to organise this special birthday for him was an honour.

I was brought to tears when the whole club sang Happy Birthday to him.  I created a collage of photos of him from babyhood until now and he was “tickled pink!”.  He talked about each photo and shared his memories with us.  His sister aged 92 was able to come from Northern New South Wales. A close family friend who has been like an Auntie to my husband and his brother was also able to come.

A collage for a 90th birthday - celebrating the life of my father-in-law Cec
A collage of photos depicting the life of my 90 year old Father-in-law Cec

The Special Birthday Celebration Almost Didn’t Happen

We have been holding our breath leading up to this event. No-one knows whether the border to New South Wales will close again or we’ll be sent back into lockdown.  There was a weekend lockdown as close as Brisbane and Logan because of two new strains of the more contagious UK variant of Covid-19 being detected in Brisbane.  We have been extremely lucky here to avoid it.

Treasure your loved ones as you never know when they will be taken from you.  This year marks 30 years since my mother passed away, and 10 years since my sister died suddenly from an epileptic fit.  It’s hard for me to fathom that so much time has passed.  Many of you know that my mother-in-law is in the final stages of lung cancer so we value any time we have left with her.

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My Word of the Year 2021 is Resilience

Word of the Year 2021

Why I Am Choosing A Word of The Year

Choosing a word of the year can be more effective than setting New Years’ Resolutions.  New Years’ Resolutions can fall by the wayside, whereas a Word of the Year embodies a positive quality that you wish to strive for throughout the year. In this post I will explain the reason my Word of The Year 2021 is Resilience. 

I have read articles from my favourite bloggers throughout 2020 that mention their Word of the Year.  Debbie Harris’ word for 2020 was Jump, while Elisabeth McKnight says that “A word of the year sets to your goals and direction in the new year.  By tying all of your goals back to your overarching word, it is easy to keep them front-of-mind.”  I like that the word becomes a common theme in their blog posts throughout the year, reminding us that they are keeping on track with their overall goal for the year.

Why I Chose Resilience as My Word Of The Year 2021

A running theme through many of my posts in 2020 was my prolonged recovery from several surgeries. I have had many setbacks in my journey towards recovery, therefore the need for resilience in my life has been in focus.  I have been inspired by other people who have overcome health issues, especially my parents-in-law.  Their resilience to aging and failing health has been admirable.

Resilience to my health challenges and the change in my lifestyle has been difficult to achieve.  I have really struggled during this time.  I am not good at adapting to change, so this enormous change in my life (going from a fully functional, healthy, productive member of society to being someone who can’t work because of ill health) has been really difficult.

Why I Want to Be Resilient

I want to become more resilient which means adapting to change better.  It also means persevering even when lack of progress tempts me to just give up.  It means finding inspiration in other people’s triumph over adversity.  Lastly, it means not being hard on myself when I have setbacks or am slow to improve.

Resilience collage - 8 images.  Slogans: You got this; A little progress each day adds up to big results; Be positive, patient and persistent; The best view comes after the hardest climb; Stay positive.
Resilience: Don’t Give Up

Inspiration from Businesses Who Are Resilient

Resilience was chosen as the Word of the Year 2020 by Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global in this article.  Huffington says that  she chose this word because resilience is a quality that will carry over from the challenges of 2020 into the New Year as we recover from the pandemic.  Resilience is the ability to get through challenges, but it also means using adversity as a catalyst to get better and become stronger.

Small businesses that were able to pivot during the pandemic were able to thrive.  For example, when lockdowns and restrictions forced the closure of cafes and restaurants, many of them turned to home delivery.  The closure of cafes and restaurants reduced the need for fresh produce.  One local company who previously supplied wholesale produce, offered home delivery and the demand soared.  Local manufacturers of bath and body products and even breweries started producing hand sanitiser to meet the demand.

What Being More Resilient Means To Me

I want more resilience so that I can overcome the health challenges I have faced in 2020, and become stronger and healthier both mentally and physically.  I want to strive for improved health and strength so that I can return to work this year.  And if that goal ends up not being achievable I want to be more resilient to my change in lifestyle.  I want to adapt to my new normal better, and become more accepting of it.  I want to learn more skills and broaden my knowledge so that I can change direction if necessary.  That will require me to be more resilient.

How I Will Achieve Resilience In 2021

I have taken steps already to build my resilience.  My fate is in my own hands so I took the first steps towards improved wellbeing.  My mental health was suffering so I started seeing a psychologist.  Being able to talk about my struggles and develop skills to deal with issues has been very worthwhile.  

I was not content with being held back from working due to my health so I sought help from my GP.  I am now seeing an Exercise Physiologist weekly and building my strength back.  It takes dedication and hard work but I am determined to do it.  My goal is to be back at work this year,to a job that requires both physical and mental fortitude.

My motto will be “Don’t Give Up”.  No matter how long it takes, I am determined to overcome the health struggles of 2020 and reach my goal.  I may need to pivot like successful businesses have done, but I will face that possibility if the need arises.  I am starting a course that will open up other career opportunities for me as a nurse.  That is my “Plan B” just in case.

Have you chosen a Word of the Year for 2021?  If not, you may find some inspiration in these articles:

This post was shared on Life This Week Linkup and Word of the Year Linkup

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A Positive Attitude Can Improve Your Quality of Life

A Positive Attitude Can Improve Your Quality of Life

A positive attitude can improve your quality of life and contribute to longevity and improved health as you age.  A positive attitude to life has been shown by studies to increase your lifespan by 11 to 15%, and increase your odds of living to 85 years or more.  Other benefits of optimism include stress reduction, improved immunity and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.  It improves resilience to illness and contributes to happiness, leading to a richer, more fulfilled life  (Source VeryWellMind.com).

My Observations of Elderly Patients

 As a nurse I have developed the opinion over many years, that if you make it to your 80s and 90s, you are often healthier than the 50 or 60 year old in the next bed.  That generation was made of steel and their inner strength comes from having to survive and thrive during so many hardships.  In their eight or nine decades they have seen wars and hardships like no other.

The Strongest Woman I Know Is 85 Years Old

The strongest woman I know is my 85 year old mother-in-law.  Strength can be measured in physical terms, but in this case the strength is her inner strength and fortitude. Over three years ago she was diagnosed with lung cancer.  She was offered treatment but she declined as it wouldn’t have cured her.  While her family fell to pieces she declared “I feel fine!  What are you all upset about?”

She got on with life and it was easy to forget she had incurable cancer and other health issues.  She has always been very active and sociable and cancer didn’t slow her down.  Off she went to bingo and lunch with her friends, carrying on life as usual.

Gwen has not only survived, but thrived.  She refused to change her lifestyle and continued to live life to the fullest.  She’s the type of person that cleans up and moves all the furniture before the cleaner comes.  We offered to help her and my father-in-law but they push on, staying as independent as they can in their own home.

A Positive Attitude Can Improve Your Quality of Life

We often complained about our aches and pains and other physical ailments.  Gwen would sit and listen to us all moan, then would pipe up with “You’re all falling apart!  I feel great!”  She put us all to shame because she never complained, and rarely has had a day in bed.  If she goes to bed during the day we know she’s really sick. Her positive attitude and stoicism has helped her maintain her health.

A positive attitude can improve your quality of life and contribute to longevity and improved health as you age.
A positive attitude can improve your quality of life and contribute to longevity and improved health as you age.

The Cancer Has Progressed

This year we’ve all noticed her slowing down, becoming more short of breath and looking pale and gaunt (under the makeup of course!).  One day she coughed up blood, which gave us all a fright.  My sister-in-law persuaded her to go to hospital to be checked.  Remarkably she’s never been in hospital other than that time, and another time when I called the ambulance because she was having chest pain.

The scans revealed that the cancer has grown and now 90% occludes her bronchus – the main airway to her left lung.  It spread from the initial tumour on her left chest wall to surround all the major blood vessels and organs beneath her sternum.  It’s finally catching up with her and she only has a limited amount of time left.  Mind you, she was given 9 months to live over three years ago so she’s far surpassed anyone’s expectations.

Staying Active Keeps You Healthy

Her positive attitude and get-up-and-go is the reason she is still here with us.  If she had decided to slow down, sit around and accept our help, I have no doubt she wouldn’t have still been here.  Just by being more active (she even still does her exercises) she has kept her physical strength up, and not allowed her body to degenerate.  

If she had lain around, she would have been at higher risk of developing pneumonia because her lower lungs would collapse and trap mucous in their bases.  Just by keeping active she has prevented this common cause of death in the elderly.  Both my parents-in-law have had influenza and other upper respiratory infections during the last few years, and miraculously have pulled through every time.  

Just seeing how the two of them have not only survived, but thrived, is so inspirational.  My own father lost most of his mobility over the last two decades of his life because he enjoyed being waited on hand and foot.  I remember encouraging him not to sit around when he was only in his 60s.  Use it or lose it.

Strong Family Connections Are Important

My husband’s family have always lived within 10 minutes of each other which is in contrast to my own.  I had no family around when I was bringing up my sons as a single mother, so it was a shock to the system to suddenly have so much connection with family.  That connection has contributed to my parents-in-law living such fulfilled lives.  My nieces and nephew don’t know how lucky they are to have so much contact with their grandparents in their 20s.

Keeping Mentally Active Improves Quality of Life as You Age

Keeping mentally active has also played a part in their quality of life.  My mother-in-law does puzzles and crosswords, while my father-in-law has a keen interest in documentaries.  He tinkers with the boat and has always been a keen gardener.  We always get great advice on gardening and home improvements from my father-in-law.

Living Life Without Regrets

The one thing I’ve seen in common with my father and my parents-in-law is that they don’t fear death.  They have lived long productive lives and don’t live with regret.  They have strong connections with their families and look forward to being reunited with their loved ones that have gone before them.  My dad was incredibly peaceful and serene when he was on his death bed despite severe pain.

We can’t choose the day we die (unless we commit suicide) but we can live our lives in such a way that the quality of life is maximised.  Keeping physically active and emotionally connected to our families – having a purpose in life – is vital if we want to live life to the fullest like my mother-in-law.

Our Family’s Loss Will Be Acutely Painful

We will all be devastated when we lose her.  The heart of the family will be gone.  We’re all dreading the day.  My sister-in-law and I lost our mothers when we were newlyweds so we know what it’s like.  30 years later and I still miss her.  Our husbands don’t know what being without your mother is like.  I just hope I can be strong enough to help my husband through the grieving process as he has helped me.  I lost my sister suddenly and my father after a long battle with prostate and pancreatic cancer, and Phil has supported me through both those losses.

We’re planning a surprise high tea garden party for my mother-in-law’s 86th birthday in three weeks.  If she can make it through her birthday, then Christmas, then my father-in-law’s 90th in January, we will be relieved.  We’ve had her for borrowed time already but that would be a bonus.

Stay Positive – It Will Improve Your Quality of Life

Elderly people who maintain their quality of life have much to teach us.  A positive attitude and a sense of optimism will not only improve your quality of life, but it will help you live longer.  Embrace all that life has to offer.  Keep strong ties with your family and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Your health will be enhanced if you stay active and continue to exercise your mind. Above all, a positive attitude can improve your quality of life as you age.

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Revitalise By Attending a Health and Wellness Retreat

Revitalise by Attending a Health and Wellness Retreat

Attending a Retreat Reminds Us to Value Ourselves

Revitalise yourself by attending a health and wellness retreat. Spending time in a retreat allows us to spend quality time in self care activities such as yoga, meditation and self reflection. Using this time to dedicate our attention on our own needs reminds us to value ourselves. We recognise that we are valuable enough to take time out of our busy schedules to refresh and revitalise ourselves. We can’t care for others if our own cup is empty.

I thought I was getting enough time for self care this year.  It feels like the whole year has been devoted to self care.  But I didn’t realise that I still had room for improvement in this area.  Having spent the morning at the health and wellness retreat, I have discovered that there are some areas of my life that I need to concentrate on.

The Health and Wellness Retreat

The Health and Wellness Retreat was a yoga and self care retreat organised by Carol Wedenberg of Harmony and Healthy Yoga, and Sue Loncaric of Women Living Well After 50.  It was a wonderful way to spend a morning.  I finally got to meet Sue who I’ve known through blogging for the last year or so.  Sue took the self care component of the retreat and it was very worthwhile.  

Numala is a blissfully serene studio in the middle of the Gold Coast rainforest with only the sound of birds and a wind-chime to break the silence.  All the equipment was good quality and clean.  It was easy to feel relaxed and calm in this beautiful setting.

The group of ladies who were there were all on a similar path – trying to carve time out in their busy schedules for self care.  We really felt supported to participate in the group sessions and we could relate to what the other ladies were saying.  It is a testimony to Sue and Carol that they could inspire such warm connections within a group of people who were mostly strangers, in such a short period of time.

The peace and serenity of the rainforest allows you to revitalise.  Photo of a rainforest, representing the rainforest retreat Numala which was the location of the Health and Wellness Retreat
Peace and Serenity Allows You to Revitalise

Creating a Self Care Plan

Sue’s Self Care session helped me to revisit those activities I once loved, that I no longer take time to do.  Using those activities we then could create a self care plan to revitalise those activities in our daily schedule.  There was an emphasis on creating a self care plan because we need to schedule time for ourselves just like all the other tasks we need to complete in a day.

One glaringly obvious area I have been neglecting is my creative side.  That may seem strange when I spend much of my day writing my blog and creating infographics and images for it.  But even though that is creative in a way, I’ve focused much of my blog on raising awareness of medical issues like breast cancer.  Because of what I’ve gone through this year with my own health, I’ve begun to lose the joy of just writing, not with a mission in mind, but just for the creative release.

My Self Care Plan is About Revitalising My Creative Side

When we were children, mum encouraged our creative side through drawing, cartooning, writing and music.  We were lucky to have such a creative and art-filled life.  I’ve always loved being creative and expressing myself through writing.  I feel that I need to return to my roots and write for pleasure again.  I’ve signed up to a creative writing challenge during November to get those juices flowing again.  I feel that if I start being creative again then my other writing will be more enjoyable as well.

Using the activities provided by Sue, I have created a self care plan that incorporates time to be creative. The insight and inspiration that I gained at the retreat helped me to focus on this area of myself that I have been neglecting. Making time in my schedule to be creative will now be a priority.

Mindfulness and Meditation are activities that relax and revitalise us.  Image of a woman in a child's pose (yoga)
Mindfulness and Meditation are activities that relax and revitalise us.

Yoga For Our Health and Wellness

My surgeon wants me to prepare my body for work again.  My recovery from bilateral mastectomies has been very slow, but I’m now at the tail end of the recovery phase.  One of the best things to happen this week was that my surgeon finally approved yoga.  I’ve really missed it and I know that yoga will help strengthen my upper body again.  His approval to recommence yoga practice came just in time.

Carol led us in two wonderful yoga sessions and a daily altar session at the health and wellness retreat.  The yoga was challenging but she was very supportive of those of us who weren’t up to doing all the poses, while incorporating enough for the experienced yogis.  It feels amazing to be able to do yoga again. Yoga is holistic and not only strengthens our bodies, it also strengthens our minds as it requires some concentration.

I normally do my yoga at home using a YouTube subscription as I find that works well for me.  Knowing how out of shape I am I started right back at the beginning with beginners’ yoga.  I’m waking up muscles that haven’t been used in a long time. My body is really feeling it – sore shoulders and neck, increased swelling in my chest and pain in my chest muscles.  I know it will help and I’ve got to take it slowly and gradually work up my strength and stamina.  Attending the retreat has inspired me to continue to build up my strength using yoga.  

Take time to pause.  It is important to includes self care activities such as yoga, into our busy schedule, as it revitalises us.  We can't care for everyone else if our cup is empty.
Image of a yoga position, legs crossed, hands on knees with the thumb and forefinger touching and other fingers outstretched.
Take time to pause. It is important to includes self care activities such as yoga, into our busy schedule, as it revitalises us. We can’t care for everyone else if our cup is empty

The Daily Altar

The daily altar was new to me and reminded me of being mindful – connecting to the natural environment and really seeing things we usually take for granted like leaves, coal, flowers and stones.  I created my mandala with yellow leaves, black coal and purple flowers.  They reminded me of how my year has been – like rising out of the ashes phoenix-like, and buds blooming into flowers.

My Daily Altar Mandala at the Health and Wellness Retreat was made up of coal, yellow leaves and purple flower buds.  These are laid out on a cleared area of the ground in a mandala shape.  They represent myself rising out of the ashes like a phoenix.
My Daily Altar Mandala at the Health and Wellness Retreat was made up of coal, yellow leaves and purple flower buds. These are laid out on a cleared area of the ground in a mandala shape. They represent myself rising out of the ashes like a phoenix.

Carol led us on a guided meditation to conclude the retreat. With only the sound of birds in the trees and the occasional soft sound from the wind-chime, we were lulled into a restful state. The meditation was blissful and the atmosphere was definitely enhanced by the setting.

Future Health and Wellness Retreats

I will definitely be signing up for any further retreats as I gained so much out of this one.  It just goes to show you, we all could do with a reminder to spend time in self care activity.  I received a lovely journal because I signed up as an early bird.  I love it!  The prompts are great and will really help me to get back into journaling again.  When you write a lot for business (my blog) you don’t write for pleasure and I feel I need to do that again as I really miss it.

Sue and Carol plan to continue organising retreats, including online sessions for those who don’t live near the Gold Coast of Australia.  Their websites are:

Harmony and Healthy Yoga – Carol Wedenberg.  There are on-line yoga classes available.

Women Living Well After 50 – Sue Loncaric.  There are many resources for living a healthy lifestyle, including podcasts and YouTube videos.


The Retreat information is at this link

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Midlifestylist Is One Year Old

My Blog Midlifestylist Turns One

My Blog Celebrated its First Birthday

My blog Midlifestylist is one year old.  Midlifestylist celebrated its first birthday on 24 October.  It has been a year of many challenges for myself personally, as well as a huge learning curve for my blog. I started Midlifestylist because I wanted to promote a healthy lifestyle to midlifers.  Along the way it’s developed into much more than that.  Many of my readers are outside of that age range. 

I started off thinking my blog would mainly focus on weight-loss and midlife interests.  Because of my health issues this year, the direction of Midlifestylist changed to promoting health and raising awareness of cancer and other hereditary illnesses.

I had minimal technical experience prior to starting my blog and have had to learn everything from the beginning.  I’m proud of how far I’ve come.  I started my blog on WordPress.com not realising that using that platform would limit me unless I paid for a business plan which is way above my budget. Changing over to a self hosted platform was extremely challenging.   I’m glad I did it but I’ve had to learn everything from scratch and through trial and error.  My website is almost the way I want it now, after a lot of work.  

The Best and Worst Aspects of Blogging

The most rewarding part of blogging has been all the wonderful people I’ve “met” online.  The blogging community is so supportive and I’m proud to be part of it.  I didn’t realise that there was this community before I started.

The aspect of blogging that has been the least enjoyable is the constant self promotion that is required.  I’d really rather be writing than promoting my blog on social media.  It’s a necessary evil though, if I want people to actually read my blog.

I’ve had some very positive feedback over the past year.  If I can improve just one person’s life in some way then it’s all been worth it.  My family are very supportive even if they don’t read it!

Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle Through My Blog

Having my blog has been a Godsend this year while I’ve been stuck at home recovering from my surgeries.  It has helped me to channel my need for helping people while I haven’t been able to work as a nurse. I have been able to promote a healthy lifestyle and keep my mind active while doing something worthwhile.

Thankyou to my regular readers and to the people who have supported me over the last year.  Thanks to other bloggers who have shared my articles, commented on my posts, and allowed me to be a guest on their blog.  Your support has been valued very highly.

Shared at Life This Week Linkup

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Guide to The Regular Health Checks You Should Be Having

Guide to the Regular Health Checks You Should Be Having

Health Checks Ensure You Stay Healthy

Introduction

Regular health checks ensure you stay fit and healthy.  Many health problems are not apparent without health checks.  Regular checks you do yourself keep you in tune with your body.  A medical practitioner must also perform some checks.  This article will explain why it is important to have regular health checks, including several you can do yourself.  It also includes a recommended schedule for health checks that your doctor will do.

The advantages of a regular health check-up

The most important reason to have regular health check-ups is the early detection of diseases such as heart disease and cancer.  Treatment is much more successful if caught at an early stage, before complications have set in.  Many life threatening diseases have little to no symptoms.  For example, kidney failure.  Other health issues may have symptoms that are vague or mistaken for other conditions.  Symptoms such as fatigue can relate to many different causes. Vague symptoms are often explained by lifestyle factors such as being busy. Without regular checkups a health issue can be overlooked until you develop a serious illness.

My Back Pain Masked a Serious Health Condition

I have a chronic degenerative spinal condition which is very common in nurses.  CT scans and bone scans show degeneration in the fascia joints in my spine.  When my back pain intensified, my doctor prescribed a cortisone injection under CT guidance.  This successfully treated the pain, so I had them regularly with improvement in my pain.

When I developed severe back pain on the opposite side of the degeneration my GP prescribed stronger pain killers.  I suffered for over two years, believing the pain was caused by degeneration. I did not really understanding why my pain was on the opposite side.  It wasn’t until I developed complications after surgery this year that it was found that I had hydronephrosis.  The back pain was actually caused by a blockage which caused the urine to reflux back into my kidney.  

This would have led to serious kidney problems if it hadn’t been detected as an incidental finding.  I’m a Registered Nurse and I hadn’t even suspected my back pain was kidney related.  This is one example of how serious health issues can be overlooked, especially if they can be tied in with existing, known health issues.

The Regular Health Checks You Should Be Having - infographic
The Regular Health Checks You Should Be Having

The health checks you can do yourself

You can do many health checks yourself.  If you find anything concerning, you can then see a doctor.  Get to know your own body by doing these regular health checks:

Skin – Regularly check your skin, taking note of any moles, freckles and skin blemishes.  A doctor, preferably at a specialised skin cancer clinic, should assess any changes.  The doctors at skin cancer clinics are experienced in assessing skin. They use specialised equipment designed to detect early skin changes. Early changes that might indicate skin cancer can be treated before they develop further.

Weight – check once per week.  It is a good idea to keep an eye on your waist circumference as well.  Any waist measurement over 88cm (35 inches) for women and 102cm (40 inches) for men may mean you are at high risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  See my article Why Your Waist Measurement Matters for more information.

Dental – Dentists should examine any lesions and bleeding that don’t resolve in a week.  Clean teeth at least daily and use floss as your oral health is vital for overall well-being.  Have a regular checkup and clean by a dentist at least yearly.

Mental and emotional health – seek medical help if you have symptoms of anxiety, intense sadness, fatigue, insomnia or changes in appetite that don’t resolve after a month or two.

In addition to the above, women need to do monthly breast self examinations.  See my article How to Perform a Breast Self Examination (and Why) for a complete guide.   Men need to perform a testicular self examination monthly from puberty onwards.  See your doctor if there is any unusual thickening or lumps.

The health checks your doctor will do

Have a regular check-up with your doctor every two years.  Be aware of your family health history as it may mean you need screening more often – see my article Know Your Personal and Family Health History for more information.  Your doctor should be able to tell you if you are at high risk for certain diseases.  Additional screening to the following may be recommended.

The recommended health checks for both men and women:

Skin checks:  Yearly

Heart health – blood pressure every two years from age 40, more often if you have a family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart disease.  You should also have your blood tested to check for high cholesterol and triglycerides every 5 years from age 45, more often if high risk.  If you are high risk you may also have an ECG (electrocardiogram) or cardiac echo, which are both non-invasive checks.  A one-off test is offered at age 45-49 to screen for high risk of heart disease.

Bowel screening every two years from age 50. (A bowel screen kit will be sent to your home if you are an Australian resident)

Sexual health – yearly if sexually active.  See your doctor immediately if you have pain, discharge, lesions or if you have unprotected sex.

Eye tests for glaucoma and macular degeneration – every two years after age 40s if you have a family history.  From age 65 if you notice vision deterioration.

Bone density from the age of 45 (women) or 50 (men) if at risk for example, a family history of osteoporosis.

Diabetes – A fasting blood sugar test.  A one-off test is offered at age 45-49 to screen for high risk of type 2 diabetes.  Those at high risk of Type 2 Diabetes should be checked 1-3 yearly. 3 yearly for people not at risk, from the age of 40.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders should start 3 yearly checks from age 18.  

Hearing Impairment – a hearing assessment yearly after age 65.

Kidney disease – every 1-2 years if at high risk.

Immunity – Flu shots (Influenza vaccinations) yearly after age 65.  If you are high risk or work in the health care industry you should also have Influenza and Hepatitis B vaccinations.

Health Checks for Women

In addition to the above health checks, women should have:

Cervical screening every 5 years from the time you are sexually active.  The cervical screening Test has replaced the Pap Smear. It should be started at age 25 or two years after your last Pap Smear.

Breast screening every 2 years from age 50-74.  If you are high risk you will be offered screening from a younger age and more frequently.  For example, I have been having yearly mammograms and ultrasounds plus MRIs every 2 years because of my high risk.  Some women have them more frequently than that, depending on your doctor’s preference.

Health Checks for Men

In addition to the above health checks, men should have:

Prostate – Annual prostate checks from age 50, earlier if you have a family history.  This involves a blood test (PSA), and may include a digital rectal examination.  See your doctor if you have trouble urinating, pain, blood in your urine, night-time urination frequently, or incontinence.

Women's Health Checks - The recommendations for Breast checks, and cervical screening.  Men's Health Checks - The recommendations for  Testicular and Prostate checks
Women’s and Men’s Health Checks

Be an Advocate for your own Health

You are the best advocate for your own health.  If you suspect you have a health issue, see your doctor.  If you are unhappy with the outcome, seek another opinion.  You know your own body.  Keep track of the symptoms, write them down, and identify any patterns.  If you are unsure of whether you should see a doctor, refer to my article Signs You Need to See a Doctor.  

Let your doctor know of any family history of disease.  Keep track of your personal and family health history – see this article for more information.  Most important, keep up with your health screening and the regular health checks you should be having.

Please note:  I am a Registered Nurse of 30 years but I am unable to give specific medical advice.  If you are concerned please see your GP.  Screening schedules may differ depending on where you live.  The schedule recommended here is for guidance only.  This post is for general informational and educational purposes only.  Please refer to the disclaimer.

Further reading: While researching this article, I found the most thorough information at the following websites:

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How to Perform a Breast Self Examination (and why)

How to Perform a Breast Self Examination (And Why)

The statistics on breast cancer are troubling. Even with all the research and new treatments available, there are still 55 new breast cancer diagnoses daily. The most important detection for early breast cancer is regular breast self examination. This post will inform you of how to perform a breast self examination correctly, and other important facts to be aware of.

Early Detection of Breast Cancer Leads to Higher Survival Rates

If breast (and other cancers) are detected early, they have a much higher survival rate. Options for treatment are numerous. At present the five year survival rate for breast cancer is 91% in Australia, and 96% if the cancer is caught early. That is an excellent outcome, but there are still over 5000 deaths yearly. A free breast screening program is available in Australia, but performing breast self examination is still the best way to detect early cancer. It is important to note that males can get breast cancer too, albeit at a much lower percentage than women.

Breast Cancer Statistics in Australia.  Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, affecting 1 in 7 women and 1 in 675 men.  Source:  National Breast Cancer Foundation
Australian Breast Cancer Statistics. Credit: National Breast Cancer Foundation

How to Perform a Breast Self Examination

If breast cancer is caught early there is a very high chance of survival. A monthly breast self examination is the best way to detect early breast cancer because every woman’s breasts are different. If you know how your breasts usually look and feel, you will be in the best position to identify early changes and seek medical attention. Some breast changes are very subtle so it is important to know what to look for. The most important thing is to check your breasts monthly. Some guides say to do it on the first of every month, and some say after your monthly period ends. Post menopausal women should do theirs on the first of the month.

I have seen a number of ways to perform breast self examination. I have always done mine in the shower with soapy, slippery skin. Some women prefer to do theirs lying down. What matters the most is that you check all parts of your breast including up to your collar bone and under the armpit. Here is an excellent video which shows very clearly the correct procedure:

Breast Self Examination. Credit Madras Institute of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, India

Signs and Symptoms to Watch For During Your

Breast Self Examination

The signs and symptoms to watch for are:

  • Changes in the size or shape of your breast
  • Dimpling or a ‘pulling’ of skin on your breast
  • Any new lumps in the breast or under your arm
  • Breast pain or swelling (pain is rare)
  • Discharge of fluid (except breast milk) from the nipple, including blood
  • Dry, flaky red skin around the nipple area

If any of these symptoms are found, make an appointment to see your General Practitioner as soon as possible. Some women have no symptoms and the cancer is found during a routine mammogram or physical examination by a doctor. Mammograms should be done two yearly between the ages of 50 to 74. Breast Screen Australia provides a free screening service for women aged 50 to 74. Free screening is also available for women aged 40 to 49 and over 74, if requested. It is recommended that women with a strong history of breast or ovarian cancer are screened from an earlier age.

If symptoms are found, further testing may be required including ultrasound, biopsy and other scans such as a CT Scan or MRI. Treatments depend on the size and type of tumour, whether it has spread, and your general health.

Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer:  changes in the size or shape of your breast, dimpling or pulling of skin on your breast, any new lumps in the breast or under your arm, breast pain or swelling, discharge of fluid (except breast milk) from the nipple, including blood and dry, flaky red skin around the nipple area.  Source: ICON Cancer Centre
Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer. Credit: ICON Cancer Centre

Preventing Breast Cancer

Some factors that increase your risk of breast cancer include:

  • increasing age,
  • family history,
  • inheritance of mutations in the genes BRCA1, BRCA2 and CHEK2
  • Exposure to female hormones (natural and administered)
  • a previous breast cancer diagnosis
  • a past history of certain non-cancerous breast conditions

While you can’t do much about your genetic history, there are lifestyle factors that can impact your chances of getting breast cancer. These include:

  • being overweight
  • not enough physical activity
  • drinking alcohol
  • exposure to radiation

Know Your Breast Cancer Risk

I have written about my own diagnosis of BRCA2 gene mutation, which lead to my bilateral prophylactic mastectomies. It is important to know your risk because the presence of a gene mutation or family history of breast and ovarian cancers, could dramatically increase your risk. My risk before surgery was 60-80% as opposed to the general female population of around 13%. The only effective way I could guarantee that I would not get breast cancer was to have my breast tissue removed. It was a “no brainer” for me – the type of cancer that people with BRCA2 get is often the worst type with a very low survival rate. I did not even want to take that risk.

It has been a life changing decision for me because I had complications – I haemorrhaged post operatively. I’m still recovering 5 months later and have not been able to return to work. It may seem strange to say that I still don’t regret that decision.

I found out this past weekend that my brother has Stage 4 Prostate Cancer, undoubtedly from BRCA2. My mother-in-law has terminal lung cancer and only has a few weeks to live. The high incidence of cancer in my family gives me a lot of anxiety around it. Mum passed away at my age from cancer, and dad died from pancreatic and prostate cancer (BRCA2). My son had a melanoma at 24, and two of my siblings also had melanomas. Some families seem to cop a large burden, and ours is one of them.

Don’t Ignore Symptoms

One of the messages I want to convey is never to ignore symptoms. I have written about this previously in Signs You Need to See a Doctor. Be an advocate for your own health because without it daily life is so much harder.

Please share this article – it may help someone you care for. If you enjoyed this you may like my previous post October is For Breast Cancer Awareness which lists my previous posts about my BRCA2 diagnosis and surgeries.

Note: This post is for general informational and education purposes only. Please refer to my disclaimer.

Shared on Denyse Whelan Blogs Life This Week Linkup

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is for Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  I will be featuring breast cancer awareness in my blogs, as well as hereditary cancer.  My focus on cancer awareness this month is due to a passion for health promotion.  I can speak from experience because I have been a Registered Nurse for 30 years as well as having diagnostic tests and multiple surgeries.  

If you have been following Midlifestylist.com you may be aware that I have BRCA2 gene mutation which increases my risk of breast and other cancers.  Both my parents died of cancer – mum was my age, 54.  My father had BRCA2 as well.  He had prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer, and passed away when he was 84.  His father also died of prostate cancer and his sister died of ovarian cancer.  My son and two siblings had melanoma.   Cancer has therefore impacted my life dramatically. 

This year I had prophylactic surgeries to remove my ovaries and breasts.  That is because my chance of getting cancer was so high.  Unfortunately I had complications from both operations and required 3 extra operations.   I’m still recovering and have not been able to return to work since May.

Raising awareness of breast cancer and BRCA2

I can use my blog as an avenue of passing on my knowledge and experience of the impact of cancer and hereditary cancer risk.  Raising awareness will hopefully spare other families from seeing one of their loved ones suffer from cancer.

My previous blog posts about BRCA2 and cancer are:

The first of every month is the day women should perform a breast self examination.  My next post in this series will show you the correct way to perform the breast self examination, and what symptoms to look for.  

Shared on Life This Week Linkup by Denyse Whelan

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Reduce Your Kitchen Waste – Save Money & Lower Your Carbon Footprint

Reduce Your Kitchen Waste

Easy ways to be less wasteful in the kitchen 

It makes sense to reduce your kitchen waste as it saves money and is better for the environment.   This article will discuss some easy ways that you can be less wasteful in your kitchen, and ways you can lower your carbon footprint using eco-friendly alternatives.

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure.

Eco-Friendly Materials

Just by swapping to eco-friendly products you can effectively reduce kitchen waste. Look for items made from the following materials:

  • Hemp
  • Jute
  • Organic Cotton
  • Recycled Glass
  • Bamboo
  • Bioplastic compostable products made from Sugar cane, corn or potato starch 
  • Wood especially teak, or recycled wood
  • Stainless steel or aluminium
  • Recycled rubber
  • Clay
  • Recycled paper
  • Coconut husks/fibre
  • Linen made from flax
  • Cork
  • Soybean fabric
  • Recycled Polyester Plastic (PET)
  • Wool felt, or reclaimed wool

For further information, read this article from Household Wonders.

Reduce Your Kitchen Waste – Only buy what you need

I discussed this in my article How to Eat a Healthy Diet On a Budget.   By only buying what you need, you can reduce food waste.  Use a list when you shop, only bulk buy if you know you will consume it by the expiry date, and shop at wholefood stores where you can buy ingredients by weight. Avoid products with a lot of packaging, for example fruit or vegetables with plastic wrapping and trays. I cringe every time I see the unnecessary packaging in supermarkets. Buying from markets can be far better for the environment and the produce will be much fresher.

Compost your food waste 

You can reduce your carbon footprint by composting your food waste at home.  Home composting saves your waste ending up in landfill.   Landfills are responsible for much of the methane gas, a byproduct of composting organic material.  Landfill gas, a combination of methane and carbon dioxide, is responsible for much of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Food scraps can be composted and used to fertilise your garden and pot plants.For further information about home composting, read my Complete Guide to Composting and Worm Farms.   

Use alternatives to plastic bags and food wraps in the kitchen

By swapping plastic with eco-friendly alternatives you will drastically reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.   Choose compostable bags and food wraps, silicone lids for containers, beeswax wraps, muslin bags, and storage containers made from glass or stainless steel.

I have a set of silicone lids which are a great way to avoid using plastic wrap. They come in different sizes and can stretch over bowls or to save cut fruit. They may be hand washed or put in the top rack of the dishwasher. My set has lasted at least two years.

Silicone Lids.  These may be stretched over bowls, or used as fruit and vegetable savers.  Hand wash or put in the top rack of the dishwasher to clean.  Reuse again and again.  May be placed in the microwave
Silicone Lids. These may be stretched over bowls, or used as fruit and vegetable savers. Hand wash or put in the top rack of the dishwasher to clean. Reuse again and again. May be placed in the microwave

Reusing and re-purposing plastic

A common question among people trying to reduce kitchen waste is:  should I throw out all my plastic bags and containers?  The answer is, absolutely not!  That will only add to the landfill.  Instead, try to reuse them as much as possible before you discard them.  Re-purpose them elsewhere. 

Plastic containers could be used for storage.  Even ones that have lost their lids could be used as dividers in your sock drawer or bathroom.  Reuse plastic until it’s completely unsuitable for further use, and only buy sustainable products from now on.

Use stainless steel, silicone or ceramic alternatives to disposable or plastic

Reusable items include drinking straws, coffee mugs, drink containers with lids, coffee pods and lunch boxes.  You will save money as well as reduce plastic use.

Swap paper towel and cleaning implements to eco-friendly alternatives 

I love the fact that there are now reusable alternatives to so many products.  Everything from cotton or cellulose dishcloths to coconut pot scrubbers are now available. Look for products made from sustainable materials, including the packaging they come in.  The bonus is that they look great, especially the bamboo ones.  

As someone who has multiple allergies and very sensitive skin, it is vital for me to avoid strong chemicals.  Eco-friendly cleaning products made from natural ingredients are better for the environment and less allergenic to my skin.  Look for pure Castile soap products.

Clever Ways to Reduce Kitchen Waste.  Save Money and Lower Your Carbon Footprint.  Alternatives to plastic wrap, cleaning implements made from environmentally friendly materials, produce bags, reusable drinking straws and coffee mugs
Clever Ways to Reduce Kitchen Waste. Save Money and Lower Your Carbon Footprint. Alternatives to plastic wrap, cleaning implements made from environmentally friendly materials, produce bags, reusable drinking straws and coffee mugs

Where to find stockists of eco-friendly goods

We are lucky to be able to purchase a huge range of eco-friendly products in Australia.  Our supermarkets and department stores have increased their range over the years and there are specialty stores as well.  You can find a lot of eco-friendly products online.  The Well Store sells not only environmentally friendly  homeware, but also food and health supplements.  

Because of my allergies I am always on the search for products that are hypo-allergenic and made ethically from natural ingredients.   The Well Store has an extensive range for personal and home use.  I recommend this company to anyone trying to reduce waste in their kitchen, and lower their carbon footprint. 

Reduce your kitchen waste

To sum up, reducing waste in your kitchen is as easy as swapping plastic and disposable products with reusable or compostable products.  You will not only reduce your carbon footprint, ultimately you will save money.  You may purchase many of the products from supermarkets or specialty stores such as The Well Store.

Can you suggest other ways to reduce your kitchen waste? I’d love to hear what ways you are environmentally friendly at home. Leave a comment below.

Before Starting Your Workout at Home

This equipment is enough to get you started on your home gym.  Remember the most important aspect of exercising is to choose one you enjoy and stick to it.  Get into a good routine where you exercise regularly, whether that be cardio and strength three times a week or second daily yoga.  Any regular exercise is essential for your mental and emotional health. If you are new to regular exercise or have significant health problems, see your doctor prior to starting a new exercise regime (see my disclaimer – this post is intended for general informational purposes only).

Workout Planner - use a planner like this to keep motivated.  You can set your goal for the week and track your progress.  Image source: Canva.  Data"- pin - nopin = "true"
Workout Planner – use a planner like this to keep motivated. You can set your goal for the week and track your progress.
Image source: Canva

You may enjoy other articles such as What You Need to Know Before You Start Walking for your Health.

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