Brenda Walkey, M.D.: A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Story

When I received “that” phone call informing me of my breast cancer diagnosis, I was out for a walk in the woods with a friend and our kids.  My daughter was seven and I remember immediately thinking that I didn’t want her to see me upset.  As many women do, I wanted to shield my loved ones from the inconvenience of my diagnosis. 
 Fortunately, my tumor was detected early and my treatment has included lumpectomy, radiation, anti-estrogen therapy and Zometa. I rode the waves of my treatment and subsequent menopause in a short period of time – during the depth of the pandemic with my three kids home and a husband working in the ICU. To be honest, it felt more like I was being tossed around by a tidal wave!  
Regardless, having breast cancer made me finally switch gears, listen to my body and focus on what I needed despite all of the turmoil around me. I meditated more, did gentle movement, and adopted a plant-based diet. I soaked in the love of friends and family – what a blessing for any woman to experience in the midst of mid-life! 
My own personal experience with lifestyle medicine has shaped my passion to help others on their wellness journeys. As a primary care physician, the crux of my internal medicine training is in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic disease.  Lifestyle medicine is focused instead on the prevention and reversal of disease through changing behaviors.  In other words, lifestyle medicine is a prescription for healthier living. By joining a lifestyle medicine workshop series with other breast cancer survivors, I learned how making different daily decisions could help my sleep, hot flashes, bone health, mood, weight, stress response and onwards.  
As a physician, I “knew” these things already but being in the group helped me commit to making small changes in my routines each week.  In addition, we discussed the meaning of social connection, energy, and purpose – all concepts that have great significance on quality of life.   
I am excited to facilitate a lifestyle medicine series for breast cancer survivors at Release.  My hope is that my own personal and professional experience with lifestyle medicine will help bring healing and happiness to individuals with breast cancer.