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Breast Cancer Survivor Describes the Journey to Finding Her New Normal

“It’s not so much about ‘getting back to normal’,” said breast cancer survivor Kim Malone, “as finding out what’s normal for you now. In my mind I had a rule book about how cancer worked and it was really quite faulty.”

The 53-year-old mother of three laughs easily and often as she describes some of her misconceptions. “I thought I’d lose weight and I didn’t. I figured my hair would come back a pleasant, non-gray color… the jury is still out on that one.” She lost her eyebrows and eyelashes but not her sense of humor.

Malone said the survivorship programs offered by CalvertHealth Medical Center (CHMC) have been invaluable in helping her find her new normal – and more importantly, her locus of control. “When I was diagnosed, I felt completely alone even though I was surrounded by all of my loved ones and all of my friends. It was a terrifying feeling,” she recalls.

“Once I was able to listen to others who have gone down this path and been successful and hear their insights on how to deal with different things … it was empowering.”

Learning New Tools

When Malone got the email about the CHMC online wellness series, she quickly signed up. “I figured if they were offering it, they knew there was a need and maybe I wasn’t sure what my need was at this point.”

“The sessions give you some new tools to use,” said Malone, “or you find tools in your tool box you forgot about or you’re using them in a new way … like how guided imagery is a good thing to reduce your anxiety during your chair time at chemo.”

She went on to add, “I used the guided imagery yesterday when I was going through all those CT scans. Again, a scary situation with all those big machines … a feeling of not being in control but what I do have control of is how I breathe.”

Taking Your Time

Cancer experts agree that women who survive breast cancer deal with many issues. On the outside, you may look normal and healthy. But on the inside you may still be recovering physically and emotionally. Their number one advice: be patient. The healing process is a journey – and it takes time.

“That whole locus of control thing is really important,” said Malone. “It’s easy to feel like you’re free falling and you’re not.” Here is where yoga helped her. “Again, you’re working on your breathing and focusing on where your tension is,” she explained.

“A lot of this journey has been having the faith to believe in those who know more than I do about this whole situation,” she said. “I need to know what my new normal is and that’s where these survivorship programs helped.”

Setting New Priorities

Other sessions focused on the importance of staying active, healthy eating tips and changing relationships. “It’s really about taking a holistic view and looking at all aspects of your life that make you up as a person,” said Malone. “How do you deal with your spirituality? How do you feed your body so you can heal properly? … How do you have those difficult discussions with your kids and returning to work?”

Another important aspect for Malone was realigning her priorities. “My husband and I’ve talked about it … everything in the cancer program helped us realign those priorities. Like it’s important to go out and see nature and be in a kayak and watch the bald eagle flying overhead. There’s so much more to a person than their treatment.”

Taking part in the kayaking adventure as part of the survivorship series prompted the couple to take their kids kayaking over the July 4th weekend. “It was beautiful and relaxing to be in nature and it was a great time,” she said. “The kids were on paddle boards and falling into the water … I laughed so much. I don’t think I had filled up with that much laughter in a long time. It was so therapeutic and really cool.”

To participate in any of the cancer center’s supportive care programs or for more details, go to: calverthealthmedicine.org/Support-Groups-Programs.
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