Every year, hundreds of South Australians turn to Counsellors Helen and Cris to support them and their loved ones through a cancer diagnosis. Kathryn De Angelis is just one of those South Australians who turned to Cancer Council SA when she needed it most. This is her story.
In August 2019, my husband Tom was diagnosed with cancer. It came completely out the blue—he was fit and healthy, with a cough and shortness of breath his only symptoms. A visit to the doctor confirmed that he not only had cancer in his kidney, but that it had also spread to one of his lungs. It was such a huge shock to both of us.
He began immunotherapy treatment immediately, however in September we found out that the cancer had grown in size. It was another blow, and it was during that time that I first made contact with Cancer Council SA. Having lost my father to cancer and watched my mother battle cancer, I was already a huge supporter of what they do and had been donating for a number of years, so I knew where to turn for support.
I connected with a Cancer Council 13 11 20 nurse who was wonderful and suggested that we make an appointment with a Cancer Council SA Counsellor. Tom and I made an appointment with Counsellor Cris and she was just marvellous. We did our appointments over the phone and she was such a fantastic support. She gave us practical tips as well as some links to websites we could visit and meditations we could try together. She encouraged us to do activities when Tom was feeling up for it, like go for walks, and helped us enjoy each other’s company.
Tom was really worried about becoming a burden on me and Cris was there to help him work through those emotions. She helped Tom understand how much we wanted to help him and be there for him during his treatment. Sadly, Tom passed away in December 2019, just four months after his diagnosis. It really was a huge shock to all of us, especially because it happened so quickly. The January after Tom’s passing I reached out to Cris and she suggested we continued our regular phone sessions together.
Just a couple of months later, COVID broke out, which compounded my grief further. I started having sessions with Cris once a fortnight and then the timeframe between appointments got longer as the grief stopped being such an enormous blanket around me. Tom and I did not have children, so it was really important for Cris and I to continue to have our sessions, especially during COVID when I was isolated from family and friends. She was aware that I was by myself and really helped me talk through my grief and how to cope with it during an incredibly stressful time. She listened to me and helped me with practical strategies when I needed it. She really helped me get through.
Now, more than a year on from Tom’s passing, I can’t thank Cris enough for how she supported me. It was so wonderful to have someone with the skills and experience to support me who wasn’t intimately involved in Tom’s diagnosis and treatment. She was able to listen and provide advice, and I didn’t feel like I was burdening family and friends who were going through their own grief. Her objectivity, skills and empathy were just wonderful and the experience has motivated me to leave a gift in my Will to the Counsellors as a thank you for all that they did for me and my family.
My message to anyone impacted by cancer is to reach out to Cancer Council SA and ask for help and support. The Counsellors really are fantastic, and I can’t thank them enough for what they did for us.
Cancer Council SA offers free face to face, online or over the phone counselling sessions to South Australians and their loved ones impacted by cancer. For more information or to organise an appointment contact Cancer Council on 13 11 20 or visit our website at cancersa.org.au/support/support-services/counselling.