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Mission to Thrive: How to Navigate the Emotional Whirlwind of a Cancer Diagnosis w/Kimberly Michelle
Episode 2425th October 2023 • Joyfully Black • Joy Dixon Paul
00:00:00 00:32:35

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On today’s episode, Joy sits down with Kimberly Michelle, a two-time breast cancer thriver and owner of the breast cancer apparel boutique, Au Revoir. She speaks candidly about leaning on her faith, the significance of mental health, and the continuous need for support even after treatments. Dive into Kim's journey as she moves from being a misdiagnosed cancer patient to an advocate and beacon of hope for many.

What To Listen For:

  • Navigating having a mastectomy at 36 years old
  • How to support loved ones with cancer
  • The myth of the perfect patient
  • What nourishes Kim's soul

Where to Find Kimberly Michelle Wyatt:

Website

IG: asurvivorslife_36

Resources Mentioned:

The American Cancer Society

Reach To Recovery: Breast Cancer Support

Stay In Touch

Instagram: @joyfullyblk

Email: joyfullyblk@gmail.com

Transcripts

Joy Dixon:

Hello there and welcome to the joy flip life podcast where we have candid conversations with black women on nourishing their mental well being, while balancing career, family life and community care. I'm your host Joy Dixon, a public health professional turned woman in tech and lover of seeing people thrive in their zone of genius. Today's guest is Kimberly Wyatt, a resilient mother of two adult daughters and proud New Yorker turned North Carolinian since 2006. Beyond being a dedicated insurance agent, she's the enterprising owner of the apparel boutique, Au Revoir. And as a two time breast cancer thriver. Kim has passionately committed herself to supporting others do their cancer journey as a reach for recovery mentor with the American Cancer Society and a tiger belly Angel advocate. Drawing from her own experiences of rising after challenges. She's a beacon of hope, assisting others in navigating their own healing path. I am so excited to have Kimberly Wyatt join us. Welcome to Joyfully Black.

Kimberly Wyatt: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Joy Dixon : Yeah, absolutely. I am so excited to have you because I know that you are entrepreneur. You're a mother. You're a cancer survivor and thriver Can you tell me a little bit about your journey into entrepreneurship and also a little bit about your cancer journey as well?

Kimberly Wyatt:

Yes, so it's been a long road, Joy. I'm a two time breast cancer survivor. So I was first diagnosed in 2012. I was not able to get prior to that I had had the love for a while and I was misdiagnosed. The doctor was telling me not to eat chocolate and not to have caffeine products. And that was not the case the blanc got bigger. And I did indeed have cancer, breast cancer and it was two and a half centimeters long. So it's about the size of a gumball. So I option to get a mastectomy they did offer a lumpectomy a lumpectomy is when they just go in and they scoop out the cancer and then you say they saved the breast. But I did option to do the mastectomy and that is when they removed the entire breast. So I got my entire breast removed at 36 and undergone chemo. I use Adriamycin and Cytoxan as my chemotherapy drug and Herceptin at the firm for the first rounds. It's very, they call it the red devil. And it is very, what they call the red devil. They call it the Red Devil mainly because it takes you out if you can't do anything and you're sick. I was so sick, I was sick, I was about my stomach. It was really bad, um, that first diagnosis and I did that Herceptin for about a year after a year after that. So the Red Devil, it just makes you so very sick. That's the main reason whether you call it that also be Herceptin I did for a year and then I was out of work for a long time. And I just really undergone a lot of the hurt and the pain of you know, just the first diagnosis, the shock of it all, and not really having as much support as I would like to have had. I did a lot of leaning on the American Cancer Society. And they are available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And so I called them sometimes at 3am. And somebody was always there to answer the phone. They were very nice. They were educated they had the answers for me to you know what I was diagnosed with, which was stage two ductal carcinoma and it was ER positive her two positive. So I had all these different things that I'm dealing with it all these different sayings, words, and I didn't know this positive, that plus I didn't know what it was until I optioned to contact the American Cancer Society. And they were very just always helpful and always answered the phone and just cried sometimes with me and then always gave me good feedback. I went to the Elizabeth windy Breast Center in Rochester, New York. I also went to the James Wilmont Cancer Center in Rochester, New York, amazing. Doctor, Dr. Houston. Martha Newbern, she was my social worker. She was very helpful. And just the whole team over there. You have to get a team together once you're diagnosed. So the team consists of a oncologist, a medical oncologist, a talk to a therapist. And so everyone else everyone worked together. So to get me to where I am, so that was during my first diagnosis.

Joy Dixon:

And let me stop you there for one moment during this first diagnosis. You said you had to get on a mastectomy at the age of 36. Yes. And and you had a medical care team. But you mentioned something around not having the personal support. Is that was that I hear that correctly? Yeah. And so as you were navigating this really scary health challenge and give a mother so I'm sure you're probably thinking about your, your children, you're also thinking about, we're, you know, how am I going to feed myself all of those things? What was that experience? Like, as you were just trying to make your way through a journey no one ever wants to go?

Kimberly Wyatt:

Why? Well, I mean, I didn't know that I was on this journey. And so you're not you don't know how strong you are until you have no other choices. Yes, I was a mom, both of my kids at the time were school age, a single mom, just trying to figure out how to live like you said, and that didn't handle it very well, I was working at Blue Cross and Blue Shield at the time. I just didn't go to work one day. And so I leaned on my faith, at least more this last second time around. And the first time the first time was just like, I didn't really know, and just was kind of messed up in my whole mental thing. But the second time around, I was a lot better in my mental health. Yes, I still was shocked. And it was a real hard thing to go through. But I leaned on my faith a lot more in the second diagnosis, the first diagnosis, I still was, you know, leaving my faith. But I didn't know what was going on. And so once I got better, I just moved from New York, and I moved back to North Carolina, because I just felt like I didn't have the support. In New York, I lost my house, I lost my, my job. And so I was homeless for a little bit. And it was really hard, because I didn't have anyone I felt alone, it makes you feel by yourself. You're the only one like, Oh, you're by yourself, you're you have cancer, you feel like you're the only one that's going through these things. And you're just, I cried a lot. I do. laugh a little bit about it. But it's not a laughing matter, everybody, you know, this is breast cancer awareness month. So we need to bring that awareness to mental health dealing with these issues. Because the crime is there. The shop is there. So it's not so pretty in pink, Pretty in Pink is just, you know, once you're done, and then everybody walks away. But that's exactly what happens. They just figure up chemo is done, cancer is done, surgery is done, you're done, you're finished. And that's not the case, you have to build your life back. And to get know, pick up these pieces. I say that this is how I described having a cancer diagnosis. It's like being in a whirlwind of a tornado. And the you're in the world when the tornado, you're going to the doctors seven days a week, or at least it feels like it. And you're having all these doctors and nurses, they're poking and prodding, you're doing surgeries, they're pumping you with poison, or at least things and then one day, it's all over and then everybody just walks away and they think that you're better. And so you shot up in this tornado, and then you just land wherever you land. And then you have to pick up those pieces to try to figure out what you're gonna do what your life and then if you have a second diagnosis, hopefully not. But if you do like I did, then few years later, you have to go through same thing all over again. The only thing is you remember how bad it was. And so, you know, I was leaning a lot more on my faith. I mean, of course it's still the same tornado and still The same types of things that happened as far as the chemo as far as the surgeries as far as I'm just trying to get better. And it was just really a hard time. But you know, being in that tornado lunch and just trying to pick up your pieces, the second time around those lot more at peace with it. I actually do radiation because I felt like radiation wasn't as helpful as me as they make it seem to me. And then I almost didn't do chemo just because I had that before. And it didn't work. And so, but I did do the chemo, I did the surgery, of course. And yeah, it just that is not pretty as people make it seem, you know, and you shouldn't walk away. As soon as the the surgeries and the chemo is over. Because you still need that support. You still need that. Okay, let me help you pick up these pieces. Because you know, even FEMA helps pick up the pieces of after a tornado.

Joy Dixon:

That's a great analogy. And I'm so glad you're bringing this up, Kim, because how many, how many years in between the first diagnosis, and that being clear to when you got the second diagnosis? How much phase was in between those.

Kimberly Wyatt:

So it was seven years in between? So I was diagnosed with my first diagnosis, April of 2012. And my second diagnosis this month, October of 2019. So I have a you have a cancer for history coming up challenging, like, you know, this, this, this happened, you know, yes,

Joy Dixon:

I'm curious, you bring up a really good point that a lot of folks don't think about when folks are dealing with cancer, or other chronic illnesses, right? The support system? What advice would you give to someone who may have someone living with cancer or going through cancer treatment? Or is recently finished their cancer treatment? Like what advice would you give the people in that person's life on how to continue to be supportive,

Kimberly Wyatt:

I would say during treatment, listen, listen attentively, and just being there and to hold their hand when they're going to their doctor's appointments, get those rides that they can, you know, because they can't drive all the time, because they're going to be sick after chemo. Also, if you can just maybe a cup, maybe some soup because their stomach is not well, you can't eat a whole full course meal, don't bring them to chemo, you know, Arby's, or, you know, Chipotle, because they can't eat that. And just being there and just being supportive, then saying, I understand don't say, you know, don't act like you know, and you don't know, you know, so it's best to just listen, and just to be there for that person, and if they need anything, um, some things that helped me during my diagnosis, I can't really say as far as support, because I didn't have a lot. My kids, they were very young, they don't really didn't really know, my, and then the second diagnosis, they didn't live with me it was during the COVID. So I didn't really have that support system as I felt like I shouldn't have had. But I would say, do the things that make you feel better as far as being a survivor, you know, you know, you have to survive, you know, you heard of women surviving these things, and they do and you will, just being courageous advocates, always, always advocate for yourself, because you don't want to end up with that misdiagnosis like I did. I became a insurance broker, because I didn't realize how insurance could be helpful, because I was left with these big huge bills. And I didn't know I didn't work. I'm like, Oh, I don't know, until the bills are coming in the mail. And then they raised all this money towards research and all these other things, but who's going to help pay these bills? So you know, advocate and try to find places American Cancer Society is helpful with finding places Joe go Jim, go find it foundation is very helpful with you know, helping out as far as you know, finances, even in your home, you know, because you need help with rent, you need help with lights, you need help with your regular bills, but you're not working. And then I don't know if anyone else but disability from work long term or even short term, there's not enough money. Even the Social Security, I was on Social Security. I was on Medicare. Um, so yeah, I tapped into all of my resources I could, um, but it's a hard road and it's a long road I was doing both diagnosis is about three years. I would say it's navigating to get better. But it was just a long, hard road. And I would say, be there. Listen, just be helpful as if you can, as much as you can. Don't try. We're not always nice people.

Joy Dixon:

I can say that. So we say we also have gone through cancer treatment. Yes. So

Kimberly Wyatt:

anyone that has been sick or is sick or is going through treatments and things. They're not, you know, mean and mad at you. They're just you know, not well, and so they may not be under Great day, every day. So give them a pass. Give them a little grace.

Joy Dixon:

Yeah, that's true. Because there's no perfect patient, you know, especially when you don't feel well, even when you have a cold, you really don't want to be bothered, right? But, but think about that to the, to the 100 power, you know, a cancer diagnosis in radiation sometimes may burn your skin or make you nauseous or chemo may be making someone not depending on what their what their tumor protocol is, what you're raising, it's just so important, because folks who may not have had anyone in their family or loved ones, go through this experience, just have no idea. And you are offering some really solid advice as to what's helpful, and also what you wish you would have had. Now you mentioned that because of your, your experience that made you interested in becoming, you didn't become an insurance broker. How else did your cancer journey open up your eyes to, to new experiences?

Kimberly Wyatt:

So my cancer journey opened up my eyes when I actually, you know, pan to the grips with it, like, Okay, this is it, more or less the second time than the first time, like I said, it was kind of messed up for a while. But the second time I, you know, it opened me up to lots of lots of things I was I'm an insurance broker. So I sell critical illness policies, which can be helpful to everyone. So it's not just cancer, any type of a major illness, such as by heart attack, stroke, people can reach out to me on you know, email, Instagram, you know, any of my social media handles if they need help. And I will try to you know, at least talk to them support them. I'm a reach for recovery advocate with American Cancer Society. And so they are very, very helpful with you know, anyone that's can't get out of bed. So please, please reach out. Don't just lay there and just it's not over. And because if it was it would be over. You know?

Joy Dixon:

I love so much that you know after your own experience, you are finding ways to give back so that other people don't feel alone when they are experiencing or going down a path of breast cancer. Because it's so easy to just be grateful that that's over you go about your business well But you're choosing to still remain involved and help help empower other men and women who might be going through the same thing. And I'm curious if if you could turn back time and think about what what you would speak into yourself to kind of nourish yourself midstream through that journey, what would you say to yourself? Especially the first time?

Kimberly Wyatt:

Okay, so during that first diagnosis, I would say, this is not the end, it's just the beginning. So the Lord is not through with you yet, because it would be over if it was over. So get up and go.

Joy Dixon:

Yeah, absolutely. And you see that you have been able to get up and go, and, you know, I know you keep telling me you were messed up in the first journey. But I mean, that's real. A lot of people don't talk about that. They try to be like, how you say this, everyone's just in their, their pink or whatever, it's all cutesy, all that we know, it is a horrific disease, we know that it's horrific. But you don't always see like, the side where people are nauseous, they're vomiting, you know, all those all those sort of things and how they're coping. And I think I really appreciate your transparency, and you sharing how you coped that first time, it wasn't the most positive way to cold, but I really appreciate your transparency about it. Because there may be someone who listens, who may be coping the same way and listen and know like, okay, there's a different way that I can do this.

Kimberly Wyatt:

There definitely is always a better way. I would say get into therapy, like right now, for my first well, and my first diagnosis, they put all the survivors or all the people that are on in treatment, they put them in, in counseling, and I think that's a wonderful thing. It is. Yeah, counseling helped me and now I have the best therapist ever. We're best friends. That's my best. I have to talk to her every week. So they're still there. But the unhealed version of me, I will say, it's not the end and do better. It's going to be okay. Don't stress yourself out. Everything always works out for the best lean more on your faith, lean on the positives, and the positive people in your life. Mm hmm. Yeah. I love that. And I'm curious, you know, life is all about seasons. And right now, you know, we're leaving summer going into fall. And as you reflect on this specific season of your life, what are you finding that it's just bringing you so much joy, so much peace and contentment? Well, I have so many things to be happy about it. Like I live literally every time that there's a rainbow, there's a rain, because they call it a storm. So every storm, there's always a rainbow at the end. And so now I'm in my rainbow. So my rainbow consists of my daughter graduated college. So we have a biologist over here,

Joy Dixon:

Congratulations!

Kimberly Wyatt:

Thank you! Also, I started new business, it's called Au Revoir Clothing. Au revoir means goodbye ( in French). And so it pretty much is my way of saying peace, hope, faith, independence, light, and to you know, Freedom independence, and that my symbol represents that. And so I have necklaces that are at aurevoirclothing.com. I have t-shirts and tank tops there too. But of course we're getting into the fall season but the necklaces are flying off the shelves if anyone wants to purchase it is a white clothing.com. But between my my daughter just being the best daughter, both them. I have two. They're the best daughters that I have in the world. And they're always so supportive of me and then just us leaning on each other for different things and just knowing that we are a unit and we are a tripod, as I say just lean on to the people the positive people that are actually pouring into you. And you know my business I'm of course my insurance business too, because I still love to help people with insurance. And I have so many things I'm doing I'm so busy and this all the positives with American Cancer Society - The Making Strides For Breast Cancer Walk if anyone wants to join in Charlotte, North Carolina. Also just lean into the positives that you got going saying, Oh, don't wear that. You gotta save it for this day or don't go on that trip. We got to save it for that. No, don't save anything. Because Tomorrow is not promised. Go on that trip. wear those shoes, wear that outfit. You want to go get your hair done, go get your hair done. It'll come it'll work itself out. Figure it out. Whatever later. Do it. Do it for yourself right now. Whatever makes you happy. Do it.

Joy Dixon:

Mm hmm. Yeah, tomorrow's not promised. So just enjoy your ride. Because so many times we save an outfit. We say for people who like to drink wine, they say, Oh, I'm not opening that until this. You know, every day is a celebration, right? Yes. It's a new day to begin again. It really is.

Kimberly Wyatt:

Yes. Every day is another opportunity to do better than you did yesterday. So why not grab it by the reins? Nobody know, tomorrow's not promised and just have fun doing it. You know? Live one. Don't let life live you.

Joy Dixon:

Absolutely, absolutely. And as today's episode comes to a close, there's a quote that I always like to ask my guests. And the quote by Jean Bolen is when you discover something that nourishes your soul and brings you joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life. So I have to ask you, Kim, what nourishes your soul so much that you absolutely create space for it.

Kimberly Wyatt:

I would say prayer. I pray all day. I pray. You I'm in my car. You might think that I'm just talking to myself. I'm not I'm praying. Because I know that I'm only here by God's grace and prayers. So I have to have prayer. I'm not a bible thumper. Don't get me wrong. I don't go to church every single Sunday, even though I should. But I I pray a lot. I talk to the lawyers and I just, you know, I the best lemonade. And so that's that's what I do. I just talk to talk to the Lord because I know he's not going to tell my secrets. Even though I tell every I tell all my secrets anyway, I have none. I'm so transparent. I wear everything my sleeve, my mom says. So, I don't really care about any of that. But just prayer. You know, it's very much power and prayer journal if you can, if you journal journal, that's very important. And just lean on your faith. Lean on the positives in your life.

Joy Dixon:

That's awesome. And you know what, listen, it's good for you to be able to share your testimony because somebody here helped you out. You're probably helping someone who didn't even know they needed to hear that that day. You know, so I keep keep doing because you were I mean, you're an advocate. You know, my telling your story and stuff like people just need to know that. Oh, someone that looks like me or someone who has a similar situation. If she could make it I can make it you know? Yes powerful. It really is. It really is.

Kimberly Wyatt:

Thank you.

Joy Dixon:

Well, Kim how can listeners stance touch with you online?

Kimberly Wyatt:

Yeah, they can go to ASurvivors life_36 That's my Instagram. Kimberly SurvivorWyatt on Facebook. And um, yeah, and Tik Tok too "ASurvivors life_36" . So I'm all over. They can check me out. Please send me a message. I love to answer any questions. Anyone who has always and always go Au Revoir Clothing where you can get your necklaces there.

Joy Dixon:

Awesome! And I'll make sure to drop those in the show notes. Well, Kim, thank you so much for joining me on today's episode. I mean, your story of survivorship, being an advocate for yourself, and continuing to give back is just so amazing. I'm so glad that we crossed paths and you're able to join us today.

Kimberly Wyatt:

Thank you so much joy, I appreciate you.

Joy Dixon:

Hey there lovely listeners. Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Joyfully Black. I hope that you're enjoying our content as much as we love creating it for you. So if today's episode has resonated with you or you find it valuable, please do us a favor and hit that subscribe button. It ensures that you never miss an episode and helps us reach more listeners like you. So if you've got a friend who love what we're talking about today, don't keep it a secret sharing is caring after all, send them a link and spread the word. And last but not least, we truly value your thoughts and feedback. Whether it's a topic you'd like us to cover or thoughts on today's discussion, drop a comment or send us a message on joyfully blk.com or on Instagram. Your voice matters, and it really helps shape the future of our show. Remember, this podcast grows and thrives because of listeners like you

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So subscribe, share, and speak up! Until next time, stay in the black ya'll!

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