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Benefits of Getting Counseling

Like many people, I thought fighting cancer was a physical battle and that recovering from surgery was the victory. Looking back now, seven years later, I see that the battle had two fronts: the physical and the emotional. I neglected the latter.

For those who have received a cancer diagnosis, I strongly recommend looking for support groups to find referrals from other survivors for a counselor/therapist. Counseling will help you to learn ways to cope with your cancer diagnosis and feel less overwhelmed and more in control. It should also help you learn to manage depression and anxiety.

I advise looking for a counselor who is experienced with cancer survivorship issues. (Yes, surviving cancer is not unlike surviving an accident or other tragedy where others did not make it. There are questions, strong emotions, and even guilt.)

It's okay to interview a few counselors before you choose one. You really have to be able to trust and open up to the person you end up choosing as your counselor. You can also address relationship issues with family and friends and discuss your concerns about what comes after your treatment. A counselor can help you discuss issues around intimacy and sexuality.

Some people prefer individual counseling, which I recommend, especially in the beginning. For some people it's also helpful to try couples, family, or group counseling. There are cancer organizations, hospitals, or oncologists that may be able to provide useful information and referrals.

Every person’s diagnosis is unique and new to them when it happens. It’s unexpected, even if there were early signs. In my case, my first hint was a diagnosis of HPV (human papillomavirus), which can lead to cancer, shortly after my son was born.

As new parents, my husband and I were thrilled with our new role and hoped to grow our family. Once we received this information, our plans were on hold as I was scheduled for checkups every three months for the next year. This caused me tremendous anxiety and led to mini panic attacks. I even ended up in the hospital for a week undergoing tests for the source of these attacks, but there was no definitive diagnosis.

Months later, my life changed with less than 24-hours’ notice as I underwent a radical hysterectomy when doctors discovered I had Stage II cervical cancer. Physically, I would slowly recover. Emotionally, I could not.

Despite following all medical advice for testing, I now knew I would never have more children. I had difficulty trusting doctors and their advice in addition to managing the loss, the grief, and the feeling of being incomplete as a woman. It was overwhelming.

I made the mistake of thinking I was strong enough to handle the emotional side on my own. Once I finally began counseling and truly began to comprehend and heal from all aspects of my diagnosis and the results of my surgery, I was able to find a new kind of strength. It allowed me to find more courage than I thought I had.

This was especially beneficial as my life was going through other major changes, like moving from Germany to Florida with my husband and son soon after my surgery. Then starting my own cleaning business, Custom Cleanups, and partnering with a non-profit called “Cleaning for a Reason”. They connect with cleaning companies across the country to offer free house cleaning services to cancer patients while they receive treatment.

Finally, I was able to give back to people who were in a similar situation to what I experienced. My business gave me purpose and an outlet to stay busy by helping others. I even wrote and published my biography, “How Far I Have Risen: Coming Clean about Cancer, God and my American Dream”, detailing my cancer journey and life after cancer.

Counseling and support made all this possible. I can’t wait to see what else the future holds!

 

This blog was contributed by Jacky Costello – Cancer Survivor, Author and Entrepreneur.

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