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A Survivor’s “W.O.W. Effect”
CORTINA PETERS
After surviving lymphoma twice, therapist and motivational strategist Cortina Peters decided to channel her experiences to help people everywhere.

Cortina Peters always knew she wanted to help people, but it wasn’t until she went through two lymphoma diagnoses that she fully began to understand the power she could wield—for herself and for others.

“I think my power comes from the pain I’ve endured,” Peters says.

In 2005, while sitting inside Macy’s with her mom putting together a bridal registry, Peters was informed by her doctor over the phone that she had lymphoma. “I was just in shock,” she recalls. “Like, ‘This isn’t real. I’m getting married. I just got a job offer. What is going on?’”

Three years later, Peters received a second diagnosis of lymphoma. In total, she received four bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy and radiation for her diagnoses. While cancer was a new experience for her, toughing it out in hard situations was not.

“I’ve gone through some tough things in my life,” says Peters, sharing that she also has autoimmune disease lupus, experienced assault in college and has generally felt like a “black sheep” for a large part of her life. “So, I always felt like whatever did not kill me made me stronger.”

Peters draws from that strength in her professional career, in which she pushes individuals, groups and communities to find their inner winner. Describing herself as an open book, she doesn’t shy away from sharing her story or the struggles she has faced and how she’s found meaning in it all. These experiences are a part of who she is, and she’s proud of her perseverance.

Just one year after her second lymphoma diagnosis, Peters received certification to offer professional counseling services which she still provides over 10 years later under the moniker “The Girlfriend Therapist” at her private practice. With her undergraduate degree in psychology and master’s in mental health counseling alongside her optimistic outlook, Peters felt it was “the perfect marriage” to become a therapist and life coach.

The licensed mental health counselor also serves as what she calls a “motivational strategist.” Rather than simply speaking about her own experiences to motivate others to persevere, she opts to tailor her work to meet specific needs of the people or communities she’s working with.

“People are motivated by different things,” Peters says. “I can’t motivate everybody the same way, so I try to meet them where they are and motivate them to continue doing whatever it is for whatever purpose they’re trying to achieve.”

An important proponent of Peters’ work as a therapist and motivator is implementing what she calls the W.O.W. Effect, or “Winning Over Whining.” Explored in her recent book, “The W. O. W. Effect, Winning Over Whining: A Step by Step Guide to Discovering the Winner in You,” this attitude is one she adopted throughout her cancer diagnoses and is a tool she believes others will find useful, especially warriors and thrivers going through their own journeys. W.O.W. is a mindset shift, a reframing of hardships and roadblocks to fuel a positive outlook. It also is a reminder to stay proactive in your life’s story.

“[W.O.W.] is a step-by-step guide to help you take possession of the ball of your life,” Peters says. “Like, we’re in the game of life and you can’t sit on the bench. You have to get up, do the things you need to do to make sure you succeed.”

For many warriors and thrivers, a diagnosis may spark a sense of loss of control in life. Peters has been there, too. Having walked that road more than once, she finds the opportunity in W.O.W. that much more powerful.

“Know that every day, you win. You win every day you wake up and open your eyes,” says Peters. “Winning for everybody looks different. Sometimes, when I was going through my cancer journey, even if I was able to even eat soup one day, that was my win. You have to persevere.”


Cortina Peters, the Girlfriend Therapist, is a licensed and board-certified mental health counselor in Florida and Georgia as well as a certified life coach and sexuality educator. She is the president-elect of the Mental Health Counselors of Central Florida and a board member of the Black Health Commission. Peters is currently in the process of obtaining her Ph.D. in clinical psychology and working on her second book, which she will be promoting on the Black Authors Matter book tour in 2021. Learn more about Peters at iamcortinapeters.com

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