When Your World is Turned Upside Down

I’ll never forget the day I was told I had abnormal, cancerous cells in my body and I needed to have a biopsy done immediately. The C word.

I was 26, living by myself in a city I’d just moved to and it felt like my world had just tilted on an axis. I’ll never forget that day and as I sat in my car on the way home, I remember wondering if anyone could tell that I was different. I FELT different so surely everyone could tell that I was dying (this is what I thought anyways)!

Obviously, my diagnosis turned out okay but it left wounds that took time to heal. I wish I had known then, what I know now, because it would’ve helped me navigate those uncertain, terrifying days I faced.

Has this happened to you? Have you been handed news that knocked your heart into your stomach and your life flashed in front of your eyes? Considering this is the annual Survivors Issue I have to imagine that many readers can relate. Of course I’m hoping this never happens to you but if it does, here are some tips which would’ve helped me.

Take a deep breath and realize you probably won’t remember most of what is thrown at you initially. When our bodies are reeling from a shock, our brains don’t absorb small details as it is preparing to protect you from further injury. Have someone with you if you can, who will remember some of the details or have the doctor put things in writing for you.

Be patient with yourself as you will need time to move through this frightening period. Count on being dazed, overwhelmed, unable to focus, having difficulty sleeping and eating and having unpredictable bouts of tears. These are all NORMAL! Allow yourself time to process your feelings and get your feet back under you. If you have trusted friends or family, rely on them right now to keep you centered and remind you what you are fighting for and why.

Be proactive. Decide you’re going to fight and how. Work with your doctor to devise a treatment plan and with your family/friends to garner support while you’re in the midst of your fight.

Stay positive! Nothing affects our health more than our thoughts and beliefs: staying positive, focusing on what you want to live for and why, is a great way to curb the needless worry and stress that will be a close companion during these first days.

Lastly, finding a mental health therapist soon after a serious health diagnosis, could come in handy… no one else can be as unbiased and supportive without feeling emotionally destroyed by your diagnosis. Having a counselor in your tribe is a great resource and one that I wish I had thought to seek after my own diagnosis. Most therapists are trained to help you manage devastating news, process your feelings, help with coping mechanisms and keep you centered on what is important. I encourage you to take advantage of this as it can make a huge difference in your recovery and getting through a devastating diagnosis in a healthy way.

Our family of women therapist’s at Empowered Connections are here for you if you need that support; we believe that your story is OUR story and that women need connection to heal. Let us show you how awesome therapy can be! Check us out and self-schedule easily online at www.empoweredconnections.net

DEBORAH DULEY is a licensed social worker in the state of Maryland. She has a BS in social work from Bowie State University and a Masters of Social Work from Howard University, Washington DC, as well as thousands of clinical hours and continuing education. She is a certified Stepfamily Foundation Counselor and is ASIST trained in suicide intervention. In addition Deborah is trained in divorce and custody mediation. Deborah is the founder and owner of the counseling practice Empowered Connections LLC, located in the heart of Leonardtown Maryland and the facilitator of her new therapy program “10 Sessions to Better Self-Esteem.” Deborah has over 25 years of experience working with women in many capacities such as activist, domestic violence counselor, and crisis interventionist. As the “women’s therapist,” she is passionate about working with women and teen girls. She integrates her knowledge of mental health issues and her life experiences to assist them in increasing their self-esteem, decrease anxiety & depression symptoms and tackle a whole host of personal issues that women struggle with.