After a cancer diagnosis, many patients wait anxiously to hear the
words “no evidence of disease.” But as Kimberly Hill has learned, the
start of this new chapter – life after cancer – is where the real
Kimberly, now 47, thought the hardest part of her lymphocyte predominate Hodgkin’s lymphoma
diagnosis was behind her when she learned she showed no evidence of
disease in May 2015.
“I think I had unrealistic expectations that this journey was over,”
says Kimberly of learning she had no evidence of disease.
Moving forward despite cancer pain
The Knoxville, Tennessee, resident copes with these changes in the
best way she knows how, which is to continue moving forward despite
“I can’t take pain medication because I have an active lifestyle,”
says Kimberly. “Pain medications slow me down and add to the mental
fogginess that I’m already dealing with.”
She traded her stilettos for Converse because of pain and
inflammation that won’t go away. Walking across campus at the
University of Tennessee where she works and keeping up with her busy
9-year-old daughter require a lot of time on her feet.
Coping with chemobrain
The toughest adjustment has been managing memory problems. Kimberly
admits she didn’t think chemobrain was real – until she experienced
symptoms like leaving her keys in the door, not turning off the stove
and even forgetting to pick up her daughter from school. Her inability
to recall information has made completing her Ph.D. and serving as an
adjunct professor especially difficult.
Yet, she’s found ways to lessen the cognitive challenges.
“I use sticky notes. I carry a note pad around and use the record
feature on my phone. I set reminders — and reminders to set
reminders,” she jokes.
A constant fear of recurrence
Perhaps the biggest adjustment has been Kimberly’s constant fear of
her cancer returning.
“It’s a nagging feeling that’s always there. Even in your joy. Even
when you have happiness,” says the mother of three. “Every ache, every
pain is always accompanied by ‘What if?’”
Being mindful is key
Kimberly utilizes services at MD
Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Center to help with some of
these side effects. She credits the center for
treating the whole person, by first acknowledging that her symptoms
are real, and then providing meditations and memory exercises to help.
“I practice mindfulness and self-care. I can’t help what was. I
can’t help a lot of what will be. But I can be very present in what’s
now,” she says.
She’s learning how to be patient and adjust to her new way of life,
one step at a time. Despite all she’s been through, Kimberly is
grateful for the most precious gift of time.
“Try to appreciate all of the good things. You can get so bogged
down on the negatives you experience that you forget to be thankful
that you’re here to experience them.”
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