2016-10-26 / Features

Human Faces Behind Cancer Statistics: Inside Counseling

BY MERRYL REICHBACH, LCSW
Program Manager, SHAREing & CAREing

According to the ACS Cancer Burden Profile, 192 individuals will be diagnosed with cancer each week in Queens. 64 individuals will die. Female breast cancer accounts for 11.3% of all cancer cases and 9% of all cancer deaths.

One important service SHAREing & CAREing provides is free counseling in person and over the phone. We talk with individuals on a regular basis in an ongoing way. Each number behind the statistics never ceases to be a unique, actual human being. Some people with cancer have a great support system of friends and family, but not everyone does. We assist the people we serve by helping them develop support systems and providing help along the way.

What is also true is that people with cancer often share feelings with counselors that they hesitate to share with loved ones. Many people with breast cancer are used to having a caretaking role with their loved ones. When they become the one who needs care, this role reversal can be very difficult to adjust to.

So you may be familiar with the statistics, but you are probably less aware of the faces and voices behind them. Here is a sampling of voices you may not hear, but who most definitely exist and are struggling. The following are a few of the stories of people we have listened to in the past 6 months.

We have provided ongoing counseling to a young recent immigrant facing ovarian cancer in a new country, who is also coping with clinical depression. “You have brought sunshine into my life and generous care and support when I needed it most.”

We are offering support to a woman whose breast cancer has recurred after a decade in remission. “Thanks for helping me deal with my anxiety enough to figure out what I needed to do for myself and my family. You have reduced my stress, and I believe that will help me get better. It’s so important to know you are there.”

Another we have supported by phone: “I feel so alone. I could not reach out because I could not speak this out loud. I prayed this morning for an angel to help me. And you called today. I believe you might be that angel.”

We love our work and the privilege of being useful to people when they need it most. We have created a safe space for each cancer survivor, caretaker and family member to express their feelings and gather practical and emotional resources to cope with diagnosis, treatment and beyond.

Given the statistics, one of our clients could be someone you know. It may well be someone you love.

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