Cookie's Story
A Story of Hope and Healing 
© 2001 by Nancy Kurth Bustani M.S.

Cookie was my first client – ever. I met her through my friends Bill and Carol Harper who founded the Hope for Children Center in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1986

Bill and Carol were holding a series of meetings in schools and churches in South Florida with the intention of educating people regarding the horrors of child abuse.

They were my houseguests that year. We had known them since 1970. Often we stayed up late at night discussing the many critical issues they faced as they pushed their way into our dysfunctional world attempting to shed light on a despicable, dark subject.

One night I shared my story with Carol about the time my uncle molested me. I was ten years old, and for most of my life I had minimized the incident. “It was no big deal.”

My uncle was an enormous Hispanic in his late 50’s. He rarely said much to me, until the night he was drunk out of his mind. He didn’t know he was touching me. I don’t know who he thought I was; he was calling me by someone else’s name.

When my mother told me he died a few years ago, I registered no emotion at all. I secretly hoped he was burning in hell.

Carol listened attentively as I spoke, and then she said, “Now I know why you are always cleaning. It’s called a compulsion. You’re a compulsive cleaner. Somehow if you can clean enough, clean everything around you, it might make all the dirtiness of what happened to you disappear.”

That conversation took place ten years before I completed my graduate degree in psychology. At that time I wasn’t familiar with that concept.

I’m an extrovert; I’ve always had good people skills. I like solving problems, and in 1986 I was a volunteer counselor working at a local non-profit organization. When Carol asked me if I would be willing to counsel with an adult survivor of child abuse, someone they had met at one of their recent events, I didn’t even hesitate. “Of course I will!” I responded.

Several nights later at the conclusion of the Harper’s program on child abuse prevention, Carol called me aside and said, “Nancy, I have someone I want you to meet. This is Cookie.” She introduced us and then she walked away.

I noticed Cookie before we spoke. She had been standing off to one side of the main group of people. She looked about my age – mid-thirties. She had been crying after listening to the Harpers’ presentation on child abuse prevention. Her face was slightly swollen, and her eyes were red. She had cried off all of her makeup.

We awkwardly said hello. “Carol said you might want to counsel with me?”

“Yes, I can do that.” I answered softly without hesitation.

“You’ll have to drive to my home because I don’t drive.”

“I’ll do that,” I replied.

“I live in Boynton Beach.”

“It’s okay. I don’t mind.”

“You look a little Hispanic?” she smiled weakly.

“I am. My father was German, but my mother is Mexican and Indian,” I said.

“Are you sure you don’t mind driving to my home?”

“I don’t mind at all. Really. I can come on Wednesday before I teach my art classes, if that works for you.”

“That works for me,” she said shyly as she glanced at my young son standing a short distance from me. “Who is that?” she asked.

“That’s my son Joey. Come here Joey, I want you to meet someone.”

Cookie began to cry very hard.

That first Wednesday I drove to Cookie’s home in Boynton Beach. As we sat at her dining table sipping strong Spanish coffee, she recounted one of the most incredible horror stories I had ever heard. She had experienced a seven-year period of trauma-induced amnesia. In addition, she had almost zero memories to age fourteen. Her defense mechanisms had blocked a huge portion of her life in Colombia. Most of her earliest recollections began when she came to the United States as a sixteen-year-old.

She told me that she and her three sisters had been sexually abused over a period of ten years in Colombia by their stepfather and their mother’s boyfriends. Some of her blocked memories were returning, with a vengeance, and her sisters were validating them.

This was devastating Cookie and she needed to be healed so that she could, once again, give her attention and love to her husband and four children. At the start of our first meeting she said, “I told God that I would be willing to see a counselor if He would guarantee my healing. To prove this, I asked God to grant three requests: 1) my counselor had to be about my age and from a Hispanic background, 2) she had to be willing to drive to my home because I don’t drive, and 3) she had to have a son named Joey because my youngest child is a boy named Joey.”

We both cried. We had an awesome sense of the supernatural. God had answered all three of Cookie’s requests.

Before I left her home that morning we held hands and prayed. God gave me another miracle at that moment, and the same astonishing sign has never happened since then.

God spoke to me and said, “In six weeks she will be completely healed.”

Each Wednesday morning for six weeks I arrived at Cookie’s home precisely at 10:00 a.m. and left at 11:30 in order to teach art classes at noon. For six weeks Cookie recounted soul-wrenching stories of terror and unmitigated selfish pursuit of sexual gratification by male relatives and other men.

The first three sessions were the most difficult I’ve ever experienced, and I cried often with her, something I don’t normally do in counseling sessions today. But, I sensed deep in my spirit that God was reconstructing a life, and I was immensely humbled to be a part of the miracle He was performing.

By the fourth session a transformation had begun to show. Cookie met me at the front door and her beautiful face was glowing. She was wearing makeup. We laughed and hugged as I told her how stunning she looked. She is uncommonly pretty, but that morning she was exquisite.

At the fifth session I told Cookie how I had heard God’s voice telling me that she would be completely healed in six weeks. She laughed; yes, she was genuinely laughing, and she said she knew our time together was nearing an end.

During the sixth session Cookie said that she knew it was going to take time to work through all the issues she had with her mother. Her desire was for complete reconciliation for herself, her sisters and their mother. She had a lot of memories, now, that she would have to work on, but she was committed to the task.

I drove away from Boynton Beach that morning in 1986 knowing that I had been privileged to participate in an incredible restoration. It was a phenomenon.

My relationship with Cookie was the beginning of my career as a counselor. I went to graduate school and completed a degree in psychology. Today, I am still humbled and awed by the countless healings that I am honored to witness and participate in. Although I don’t often cry with clients, I am still deeply touched by their human suffering.

Today, Cookie leads a wonderfully normal life. She has a great husband and four grown children who are married, and she is the grandmother of four. Her life has turned around. She is fulfilled and happy.

I am also grateful that I belong to a growing population of mental health professionals who have an indelible desire for the healing of broken lives.

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