Surviving and Thriving: Life beyond breast cancer diagnosis

Huntsville Hospital Foundation's Surviving and Thriving program has helped more than 250 breast cancer survivors.

Posted: Sep 29, 2021 5:38 PM
Updated: Sep 30, 2021 10:49 PM

October marks the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each week, WAAY-31 is highlighting what it is like for those diagnosed with the second deadliest cancer for women in the United States. 

For many women, while they are in the midst of cancer treatment, they are only focused on taking it day by day. But what happens when the day comes and they are cancer-free? 

Huntsville Hospital workers know life after a breast cancer diagnosis will never be the same. That is where the eight-week program, Surviving and Thriving, comes in. 

"When I started this journey — and I'll say it here on camera — it was a gift," Kristin Manary said. 

In just one year, Manary said she already feels like a stronger person.

"My lump was a size of a lime, which is pretty incredible," Manary said. 

She noticed the lump after a self-examination. She then went to the Huntsville Hospital Breast Center and was diagnosed on Sept. 2, 2020, with stage 2 breast cancer. 

Manary said she underwent 16 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation. She also had a double mastectomy in March and reconstructive surgery about 10 days ago, she said.  

Manary has been cancer-free since March. That is when she began a new journey by taking part in Huntsville Hospital Foundation's Surviving and Thriving program. 

"It offered more hope, a sense of community," Manary said. 

The program has been around since 2014 and has helped more than 250 breast cancer survivors. It is open to both men and women. This October will be the 27th group of survivors it has served. 

Coordinator Beverly Henry said it is a way to offer support beyond the hospital walls. 

"They're just not really sure how to move forward and what tools they need to move forward and to live their best life," Henry said. "That's where this program comes in, to help the women bridge that transition."

Like many things in 2020, the program had to adjust to the pandemic. It moved completely virtual. 

"The delivery of the program has changed a little bit, but we still have the same mission and focus," Henry said. 

Manary said despite joining the program while it was virtual, she still felt connected to her fellow survivors. She said through the program, she learned more about her physical and mental health. 

While she knows the fight is not over, she is thankful for the fighter she has become.

"It's emotional. It's emotional every day, but I look back, and I look forward," Manary said. "I don't want to look too much in the rearview mirror; I really want to look forward, and I try to focus on that."

If you are interested in the program, click here. It is funded through the Huntsville Hospital Foundation.

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