Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pulse Magazine March 2012

Lucy’s story

by Dr Eva Stamou

A few months ago, Lucy, a 44 year old lawyer, partner in a well known Athenian firm, was referred to me by a fellow psychologist. Lucy believed that she suffered from a terrible disease but according to my colleague her fears were not realistic. During our first meeting Lucy was so upset that it took me a while to help her relax and open up. She finally managed to explain that she was advised by her gynecologist to seek psychological support in order to deal more successfully with a recent health scare.

Just a few weeks back Lucy had agreed to participate in a medical research conducted at a large private hospital in Athens concerning breast cancer. For the first time Lucy has had a mammogram and was obliged to wait a few days for the results. She pointed out that had no real reason to worry about it, no woman in her family had ever suffered from breast cancer and that was the reason why Lucy, contrary to her gynecologist's advice for the last four years, had not decided to have a breast examination until now.

Lucy took the mammogram feeling confident that she had nothing to worry about. However, when three days later she visited the medical center a young female doctor advised her to take also an ultrasound in order to make sure that everything was perfectly fine. “There is something that needs clarifying” said the doctor. At that point, Lucy, deeply upset and persuaded that the outcome was not going to be a good one, visited my practice. We talked about many things such as, possible ways of dealing with negative developments, how to announce it to her husband, relatives and colleagues, whether to stay professionally active or not. We also talked about her best friend, 42 year old Hellen.

Earlier this year Hellen was diagnosed with breast cancer and was currently in therapy. ‘Although Hellen and I are really close and I have in a few occasions accompany my friend to the hospital, it did not cross my mind to have myself examined. I never believed that breast cancer is something that could happen to me!’ As she went on to explain, Hellen’s mother had also been treated for breast cancer many years back and Hellen was having regular tests every six months since she was 36, a fact that eventually saved her life, since early detection enabled doctors to help her deal with cancer successfully using a combination of drugs and radiation.

Lucy was now blaming herself. She felt guilty for not having a mammogram earlier due to her fear of doctors and the fact that she wanted to avoid the pain and discomfort involved in the medical examination. She also felt guilty about postponing having a child for so long in order to promote her career and for disappointing her husband who wanted to start a family more than anything. She was now afraid that cancer would become an obstacle to their plans and put an end to her marriage, if not her life. During the session, Lucy expressed also fears about losing her looks in case she would have to go through radiation sessions or even surgery. ‘I never had a positive body image’, she mentioned ‘I am constantly thinking of having a breast enlargement operation, but now this is the last thing that matters to me. I just want to be healthy.’

A week later Lucy returned to my office. She now looked relieved and relaxed since the ultrasound results were clear. She felt however the need to have a few more counselling sessions in order to talk about her plans of having a child and her insecurity of becoming a good mother at the age of 44. She had promised herself to have a mammogram annually. ‘It is an uncomfortable process’, Lucy admitted ‘but it only lasts a few minutes and gives you peace of mind for the rest of the time’.

1 comment:

stefanos androulidakis said...