Those who read this blog regularly know that Helen is one of the mascots here at Community Counseling of Central CT. Inc. and at our partially open (still under construction) Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm. Helen is about 2 years old now, was born deaf and was found terribly abused, neglected and wandering the streets until some great folks risked life and limb to rescue her from a rock outcropping. You likely remember that once rescued she was nourished physically and mentally by some great folks at the Terryville CT. Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF to the locals). ARF even sent her out to expert trainers to help her learn to work and trust humans. I then met Helen accidentally, fell in love and she adopted me and the office as her family. There were little adjustment issues and all love her for the most part. When Helen is not in a session on her own, it is not uncommon that clients ask to have her join them. As I write this she is in the waiting room spending quality time with clients who have come very early, most likely to spend more time with her. Yes, she is the superstar of our place and we would not have it another way. That is not to say there are no scars from her days as a possible bait dog…
Several weeks ago Helen’s face started to swell, her growth on her left side was growing, her energy was lessening and we became very worried. We brought her to the vet and learned that what we thought was a recurrence of the infection she had in the past was actually related to tumor like growths that were under the scar tissue. Thanks to a great doctor and available credit we scheduled the surgery for the next available time. They set out to remove the growths on her face and on her side.
Helen walked into surgery like a trooper; she was shaved as needed, sedated and underwent two surgeries which were a success. After surgery we learned that the growth on her side was cancer and the growths on her face were not typical tumors; instead they were most likely caused by the object with which she has beaten, having broken off as a result of the force in which she was struck. The hits were hard enough to tear into her flesh and lodge in the muscle. Left untreated the wounds festered but did heal enough so that by the time she was rescued the wounds had healed enough so that they were impossible to clean completely. Thanks to the hard work of the vet, they are now surgically repaired.
As a survivor Helen was back in session the very next day (we tried to keep her in bed but she refused. When we made an area in the receptionists office she walked into my office and though too medicated and weak from surgery to climb on the couch herself, made it clear where she wanted to be). She greeted her clients in a weakened but determined state.
Weeks have passed since her surgery. Her hair is growing back and her stitches and cone have been removed. Her face is less scared, her energy has returned and the vet feels that the cancer was successfully removed. Just as important, Helen is again the survivor: a mindset that will suit her very well; one that suits our clients very well indeed as well.
When working with clients it can be very helpful to use examples that are outside of their situations. Because of this lack of intimacy they may see things more clearly; unobstructed by personal feelings and emotions. Growth can come to us all if we take a minute and let it happen.
If Helen can overcome severe abuse, malnutrition, cancer and multiple surgeries but still great the world with the eyes and attitude of an optimist, surely we can all try just a bit harder not to yell the next time they put an extra sugar in our coffee, or overcharge for the Danish at the bakery. As for me, I prefer mountain spring water anyway. Can you get anything better than nature? We can all overcome our personal issues and abuse if only we allow ourselves to. Helen is a true survivor; are you?
"Doc Warren" Corson III is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org).