I was diagnosed with cervical cancer the week of my 29th birthday. It was sudden and completely out of the blue. I was young, healthy, and completely asymptomatic.
Everyone I knew was shocked (especially my doctor), so how was this able to happen to me?
It’s highly treatable with early detection, but for some women (myself included) there are no signs or symptoms until it has progressed.
This shocking diagnosed completely rocked my world and tested the trait that I hold most dear to my heart- my ability to care for my mental health.
As a holistic psychotherapist, I was the person people turn to when something traumatic happens to them.
Cancer left me feeling broken and empty. No one can ever prepare you for the feeling of not knowing- what may have been the worst part for me out of everything.
Not knowing is undeniably brutal, and it took two months from the earliest detection to actual diagnosis. Each time the phone would ring, I’d feel a pit in my stomach (a telltale sign that my fight or flight response was switched on) in anticipation that it might be more bad news.
Now I am eight months cancer-free and grateful for these lessons I learned from my experience (seriously!):
Lesson #1: Always go to regularly scheduled doctors appointments
Early detection was key in my case, and going for yearly gynecology appointments saved my life. If you’ve been delaying a check-up, this is your reminder to schedule!
Lesson #2: Your health can be treated by more than just doctors
Some holistic health practices that I engage in are floating, acupuncture, reiki, therapy, nutrition, and meditation. If you receive a diagnosis, put together a care team for yourself and get help from every angle possible!
Lesson #3: Take care of yourself every single day
I build self-care into my routine on a daily basis, even though I have a business, two children, a husband, and I’m a professor at a large college.
Meditation, journaling, yoga, and taking care of my body are all daily activities that I engage in, and will always be a priority. If I don’t take care of me, no one else will!
Lesson #4: Have a therapist when you’re well, that way you don’t have to start from scratch when you’re in a crisis
Having to explain who I am and where I come from would have been unbearable in the early days after my cancer was detected.
I’m glad that I didn’t have to go through that! And as a therapist, I note that many people come in during a crisis and feel frustrated that the first session or two is a lot of information gathering.
Lesson #5: Feel your feelings, no matter how dark they may be
A lot of well-meaning people encouraged me to ignore my feelings and distract myself, but I know that that wasn’t what I needed.
My body and soul needed to feel every bit of the sadness and depression that comes with trauma. I needed to honor those feelings so that when the time was ready, I could let them go.
Having cancer opened me up to a deeper understanding of myself and how to help the clients that I treat in my practice. It even caused me to leave the private practice I started seven years ago and create a brand new one- The Wellness Collective, a holistic psychotherapy and healing practice that strives to follow all of the points I listed above.
It is my mission to ensure that those who are struggling with Cervical Cancer in any way find an approach to treatment that helps them become healed and whole.
1. Cervical Cancer—Patient Version