We all need to feel connected, valued and supported in life. As counselors, fostering this is an important part of our work. Sometimes, I can become so focused on helping others to build connections that I forget to encourage my own. Recently, I attended a fashion show-fundraiser for a program that I managed for 8 years – The Looking Forward Program. This program provides cancer support, education and wellness services to those living with cancer and the people who support them. It was founded by a breast cancer survivor in 1994 whose philosophy once diagnosed with cancer has been to always look forward. The fashion show is an annual fundraising event to support the “extra” services that people going through cancer treatment often need but cannot afford. I hadn’t been to a fashion show since 2008 after leaving to take another position; I am so glad I attended.
It was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with many old friends, to laugh and to celebrate the survivorship of many of the models. I have always been amazed at the courage of the many cancer survivors I have worked with and never more so last evening, when a woman undergoing treatment removed her wig revealing her bald head in celebration. Each person who modeled had a personal reason for doing so – honoring a loved one, celebrating their survivorship or simply supporting the good works of Looking Forward. Being in the presence of their spirits has re-energized me.
It also brought an ending to that time in my life, which I didn’t know I needed. Life is interesting that way, we find what we need along the way without realizing either the need or solution was there all the time. I first came to work with cancer patients after the deaths of my 21-year-old niece, Michele and my best friend Lee. Their journeys touched me at the core of my being; their losses as well as their lives continue to guide me.
Working for the Looking Forward Program allowed me to honor their lives while making meaning of their losses. I was honored to meet many wonderful people whom, through their survival restored my hope in a world that seemed to have betrayed me. Reconnecting last night helped to further heal the pain of their losses through celebration and connection. It has brought forth overwhelming gratitude for my time with Looking Forward, for the people who supported, trusted and mentored me whereby fostering my growth as a person and as a counselor.
To learn more about the Looking Forward Program, http://www.srhs.org/looking-forward
Deb Del Vecchio-Scully is a counselor and writer who focuses on healing the mind, body and spirit. She specializes in PTSD, Chronic pain and mood disorders. For more information: www.anschealthandwellness.com