Veterinary Chris Hong
Client Connect & Administration
Veterinary Chris HongVeterinary Chris Hong
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The evidence is clear, I am not a Bloke, but I am so immensely proud of every person who walks into the Blokes Psychology clinic reaching out for support. I genuinely love working as a Client Connect Administrator and feel honoured to have this role. I am now able to give back when I have, up until quite recently, been the one needing the support during my own personal journey. You might like to know a little about one of us who sits at the desk of Blokes and how I came to be here. Here is my story…

I grew up in Aspendale and married a Cheltenham boy 30 years ago this year. We have a wonderfully large family, including four children aged from 14 to 23, and two dogs. Our eldest children have lovely partners who we very much consider part of our family. We are a delightfully neurodivergent family which I could write another blog about but today I am focusing on me and the big C - not Covid but Cancer!

In Jan 2021, three weeks after my 50th birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had found a lump, and this resulted in a whirlwind of medical appointments. I have now undergone fifteen months of chemotherapy, five surgeries and six weeks of radiation. Radiation was the hardest physical part of my treatment resulting in significant burns and two broken ribs that still have not healed. I was relieved and exhausted by the end of active treatment and in May 2022 I rang the bell to announce I was in remission.

So, what did I learn during the cancer and Covid years? I endured my treatment during the height of Covid phase 2 (no visitors in hospital and no support people for the majority of my chemotherapy sessions). I learnt so much about myself during this intense period. I learnt to be far more accepting of myself and my limitations; to be forgiving of myself and others and that it was okay to say no if I was not up to something. That I could ask for help, and, to this point, I discovered that people genuinely felt appreciated and thankful if I gratefully accepted their kindness when offering help.

Helping or support looked like many different things including a meal dropped at the front door, a beautiful blanket knitted with love, care packages of sensitive skin creams (a godsend during chemo), a cake slice delivered by post, but so much more that didn’t cost money like dropping in for a cuppa, a beautiful bunch of home grown flowers, a mate checking in on my husband, driving and accompanying me to chemo (when allowed), offering to take the kids to appointments or to hang out with them, or sending a text message to check in to say hi. I had a phenomenal support team, and they are all still there too; they have not left my side.

Self-care, self-love, and a good sense of humour were critical to getting through the toughest of times. My journey was made more complicated by my husband having treatment for prostate cancer at the same time. We could not take a trick, but we would just laugh and say, “what’s next?” Our ability to laugh really helped get us both through. I also took great comfort in the learnings I had received from the book “The Resilience Project” by Hugh Van Cuylenburg. I had first heard Hugh speak at our children’s primary school in 2017. His message was that to build resilience and happiness, one must focus on gratitude, empathy and mindfulness. I have lived by these principles over the past few years, and it has helped me enormously. Hugh teaches that being kind and empathetic releases oxytocin that makes us feel good – this is what I was talking about earlier where helping others makes us feel good. Finally, I really try to live in the moment and not focus on the what ifs of the future as we are not there yet.

During chemotherapy smells were my friends when taste was not. I loved my candles, essential oils and having a shower at the end of each day with my favourite body wash. Such a simple thing I know, but I looked forward to the routine of it – to taking time for myself and the delightfully smelling reward. During treatment I also discovered the power of visualisation when I was undergoing tests (I am claustrophobic making MRIs tricky). I would imagine myself on a walk on the beach at Lorne from the caravan park where we holiday every year. It is my happy place, and I could quickly calm myself down by taking slow and steady steps in my mind until I could “feel” the sand in between my toes.

As I progressed through treatment it took me a while to realise that although I was managing the physical aspect of my journey, my mind was struggling. I was scared of dying, of being hooked up to a drip (I had 40+ cannulas during my treatment) and of simply forgetting things but I did not want to show this to my four beautiful children and husband. So, after trying to manage the challenges of cancer and Covid on my own, I started to see a psychologist. The value of having them in my care team was enormous as I was able to express all my fears, be heard, supported, and leave each session with some ideas for how to manage the stressors of where life was at that point. They continue to be an extremely important support to me.

Once in remission I had to find myself again albeit very slowly; the new me, a slightly battered version of my old self but stronger and more resilient. I took time to let my mind heal and was delighted when I started being able to focus and read books again. Brain fog is a real thing and I had struggled with it. Now I am an avid reader and love to take myself away into another world. To read a book is such a gift for me and something I will never take for granted again.

In 2023 I had the privilege of travelling overseas for three weeks with my 20-year-old daughter. We created the most wonderful memories and on returning home bursting with happiness, energy and drive I realised I was finally ready to work again. I wanted and needed to be doing something special. I had previously worked in Human Resources in the corporate world, but I knew I could not manage the stress of that role again. Then I saw an advertisement to join the team at Blokes Psychology and I just knew that I would love the role – and I do. I am so grateful to be able to support blokes in their mental health journey and having been on the other side of the reception desk; I know how important a gentle smile can sometimes be.

Recently in 2024, I had my annual scans and let me tell you that scanxiety is an actual thing! This year was no exception, and the fear was made all the more real when I had to have a follow up biopsy due to the test showing something small but “moderately suspicious”. The relief was palpable when ten days later I walked into my surgeon’s rooms to be told it was good news. The cancer path is a tricky one as you just never know what is around the corner. I had to pull out every self-care trick in the book to get through this last worrying time and the support I got from my loved ones was unbelievable.

So, no, I am not a bloke and no, I am not a psychologist, but do know that I have experienced lots of ups and downs. I consider myself a work-in-progress, and I am getting there. My journey thus far has taught me the value of focusing on the here and now and to continue taking fairy steps towards self-improvement. I will never take my physical or mental health for granted and I encourage everyone to reach out to your GP if something does not feel right. I am so grateful for my family and friends, and I truly value all the connections I get to make through my personal and professional life.
Finally, I feel incredibly lucky that my life experience has brought me to Blokes Psychology and please know that if you feel like a chat and I ask how you are that I really do want to know the honest answer.

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