Meet The Maker: Denyse - Head and Neck Cancer Survivor

 At Big Hug Box we're a community. We're interested in the people receiving the boxes, the friends and family gifting them and the team behind the scenes making it come to life. The goal of "Meet the Maker" is to introduce to you the people behind the brands we use in our boxes and to encourage an interest in and understanding of the care and passion that goes into every part of the boxes we send out. After all this is all about people their hopes, dreams and zeal for life. 

Through our endeavours to make a positive difference in the lives of cancer patients based on our own experiences Denyse and I were fortunate to cross paths.

Densye shares in her Blog that there is much more to her than just cancer. Denyse is a blogger, a creative artist and also I would like to call her (and I hope I don't embarrass you Denyse!) a fashionista!

As a Head and Neck Survivor, Denyse is still undergoing recovery with reconstructive surgery, it has been amazing to see her smile evolve. Even though I did not know her before her diagnosis I have always seem her smile shine from inside out with her positivity and energy.

Denyse is brightening the day of patients receiving one of our Big Hug Boxes one box at a time by donating her time and creativity in crafting bookmarks that are included in each and every Big Hug Box.

On behalf of the Big Hug Box team, Thankyou Denyse for your generosity and helping us to brighten the days of many cancer patients around Australia! 

Denyse Whelan Meet the Maker

How did you get started?

As a retired teacher who enjoys creative activities including painting and design to achieve mindfulness, I saw that bookmarks could be made from my work.

I love fashioning one-off bookmarks from large art pieces. Friends who received them told me how they loved them they got one made by me. I made many for my teacher-librarian daughter to give the children for library awards last year. I receive no income from making these. I do them for the love of creating and to share with others.

Three words to describe your product?

Colourful, joyful and fun.

Why did you choose to get involved with The Big Hug Box?

I am sure the name attracted me along with the knowledge that it was founded by a cancer patient who wanted to give back to cancer research to help others.

It appealed too as a venture with associations with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse – comprehensive cancer hospital – where I see my professional team and have had four surgeries.

I enjoy connecting with people, on or off line, so when I saw  Lisa’s vision and purpose for The Big Hug Box it  made me want to reach out and make an offer of what I could do.

Has cancer affected your life?

In May 2017 I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in my upper gums. I did not even know you could get SCC inside your mouth!

In early July 2017 the cancer in my upper gums, palate, part of my lip along with remaining teeth was taken and the wonderful Head and Neck surgeons led by Professor Jonathan Clark used my right leg’s fibula, some skin and flesh to re-construct my upper mouth.

This diagnosis certainly changed the life my husband and I were leading in our retirement years as it focussed us both on my surgeries, trips to Sydney (we live on NSW Central Coast) and recovery times.

It continues to affect my life in some positive ways: I have met, in real life and on-line, so many different people with cancer and those whose families are affected by many cancers.

I am grateful to have had relatively new re-constructive surgery by teams of surgeons and dental prosthetists. I am visiting my Prosthodontist early this week (21st time!) to have my first set of upper teeth fitted. I have not been able to bite or chew any food since my surgeries so this is pretty exciting.

Your favourite small business?

I have a few including The Big Hug Box of course! Small businesses, often run by women I see, are ones I try to support in small ways.

One is Little Blue Wren where I bought some of the lip salves I saw in The Big Hug Box.

Another is Skin Boss Australia, started by a blogging friend and her husband when she needed a particular product for her face and skin developed when she had an illness.

Styling You is my blogging friend Nikki Parkinson’s site which is now 10 years old and Nikki has inspired me, and thousands of others, to dress with purpose in every day style. I have been sharing an Instagram photo of me every day since last October. It is very helpful for my health as I dress well and go out most days for a coffee. Cancer does not stop me living the best life I can at all.

What song lifts you when you've had a tough day?

I have a few! But mine tend to be ones to put me in a good frame of mind for driving myself back and forth to Westmead for my prosthodontist visits. I tend to SING in the car to many, many show tunes!!

Any tips for your product?

Not really, it is made from a creative perspective and with love so I hope it is received that way.

Who gives the best hugs in your life?

There are two types of hugs: full on ones by my husband and adult kids & adult grandkids….and then the wrap around the leg ones by the smallest of the grandkids .

Art for Therapy, Cancer Patient, Head and Neck