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Engineering to Counseling: The Big ‘C’ Switch

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A great passion for designing electronic chips and a deep curiosity for human communication over long distances were the motivation behind my pursuing Bachelor of Engineering in electronics and telecommunication. I was a sincere, diligent, and high-performing student all through my school days, and it was no different during my undergraduate days. I graduated with a GPA of 3. 91 and was all set to start my career in an electronics firm. When Life Happens! Unfortunately, in 2010, my life took a dramatic turn after graduation when I was diagnosed with third stage cancer in the nasopharynx. After undergoing a grueling treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for nine months, I finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel deeply grateful to my family, friends, doctors, nursing staff, and mentors for having fought the battle alongside me and helping me see through the traumatic phase of treatment.

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The Joy of Giving After a two-year hiatus due to treatment and rehabilitation, my body wasn’t ready for a stressful corporate life. I tried my hand at teaching. I taught electronics and physics to engineering and high school students at my alma mater. The entire process of teaching, learning, and interacting with adolescents was a very enriching experience. Post-cancer I had a strong urge to make a difference to the cancer community and to contribute to the world of cancer care. I volunteered at the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA), a renowned Mumbai based cancer care NGO. I also worked as a community coordinator at Uncancer India, a Mumbai based startup, that had a vision of providing holistic services to patients with cancer and survivors of cancer all over India. I actively engaged in awareness campaigns to address the myths and stigma attached to the ‘Big C’. My personal experience with cancer helped me cognitively and emotionally empathize with fellow patients and survivors.

The process of empowering, mentoring, imparting psychoeducation, and providing resources and emotional support to patients, survivors, and caregivers through their journey of cancer was very gratifying and fulfilling. My encounter with life’s challenges, experience as an educator, and my work with CPAA and ‘Uncancer India’ helped me develop a strong inclination towards the field of psychosocial-oncology, counseling psychology and psychotherapy. I switched fields from engineering to counseling and completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in counseling from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, to gain subject expertise and to hone my counseling skills. I moved to the US to pursue a master’s degree to get an exposure in health psychology and multicultural counseling and to realize my goal of becoming a psychotherapist. High on Music Music is my first love and I have been very passionate about it since childhood. I trained formally for thirteen years and got a bachelor’s degree in Hindustani classical vocals. Performing in band events and musical concerts was a transcendental experience. Music was an effective analgesic and a soothing companion during my treatment days too. I plan to explore the effects of Raga-therapy on pain management and mental health of patients with cancer in the future.

CONCLUSION

My battle against cancer and journey thereafter enlightened me to explore a new meaning and purpose of life. I have come a long way from designing and wiring electronic circuits during my engineering days to presently studying the nuances of how human minds are wired. I look forward to applying my analytical skills coupled with creative and musical skills to bring the right blend of science and art to the field of counseling and to continue my work in the field of cancer care in India.

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