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A Time to Heal

A Time to Heal is a 12-week holistic rehabilitation program designed to help women regain their physical, emotional, and spiritual health after breast cancer treatment.

Research and experience have shown that the individual components of A Time to Heal may make a positive difference in the well being of breast cancer survivors.

About the Program

Who Can Participate?

Women who have completed surgery and chemotherapy and/or radiation for a first diagnosis of breast cancer are eligible. If you are considering reconstructive surgery, please enroll for A Time to Heal during a 12-week period when you won't be having any of your surgeries.

What Would I Have to Do?

  • Regular participation is important to get the full benefit. You need to be able to commit to attending at least 10 of the 12 sessions of A Time to Heal.
  • You will be asked to complete a short interview prior to enrolling to get more information and to let the facilitators get to know you.
  • You will be asked to fill out some questionnaires so the trainers can evaluate whether the program is meeting its goals.

What Does the Program Involve?

  • Groups meet for about 3 hours a week.
  • Each week, the session begins with gentle stretching designed to promote arm mobility and healthy posture.
  • Weekly instruction will include topics such as nutrition, regaining strength, coping, relationships, relaxation, spirituality, femininity, happiness, and intention.
  • The group discusses the information together and women work individually by journaling.
  • Participants learn and practice techniques for relaxation.
  • Each session ends with affirmations and intentions.
  • Women who complete at least 10 of the 12 sessions will "graduate".
  • Each participant is free to quit the group at any time.

What are the Advantages of Participating?

Women who participate will receive helpful information about healing, training in coping skills such as relaxation, and opportunities to ask questions and share insights with the facilitators, expert faculty and other survivors. As a result, they may feel better emotionally and physically. Women who have completed the program in the past say they have greater satisfaction with life and stronger feelings of well being.

What are the Disadvantages of Participating?

No serious disadvantages are anticipated. It is possible to hurt yourself during gentle exercising, but every precaution will be taken to prevent that. Some participants can become upset talking about topics related to cancer. To guard against undue stress, the group will be led by trained nursing and mental health professionals, and no participant is forced to take part in discussions.

When Does the Program Take Place and Is There a Cost?

The program is offered in the Fall and Spring. It is free to participants.

Joni Belk's Story

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1

When you’re a 40-year-old wife and mother of two,  life must go on after breast cancer. And yet that proved difficult for Joni Belk of Sioux Falls. “It is not easy to be totally healthy one day, face the possibility that you could die of cancer, and then go back and live your life,” she said.

“A Time to Heal,” a 12-week holistic rehabilitation program for breast cancer survivors offered at the Avera Cancer Institute, proved to be what Belk needed to move past her disease and get on with living.

Joni’s cancer was found soon after she turned 40, at her first screening mammogram. Working with oncologist Dr. Amy Krie, Belk opted for a double mastectomy as her treatment plan. Because the cancer was found early on, and had not spread to the lymph nodes, Belk did not need chemotherapy. She had reconstructive surgery, which was complete in July of 2007.

“I went through a lot of questioning of ‘why me.’ I was so healthy. I had very little history of cancer in my family,” Belk said. “Yet I knew I just had to move on, and began to search for something that could help me.”

When Belk received a letter about the “A Time to Heal” program, she called immediately. “A Time to Heal” was first offered free of charge to breast cancer survivors in 2007 at the Avera Cancer Institute, thanks to funding through the annual Avera Race Against Breast Cancer. Women who have completed surgery and chemotherapy and/or radiation for a first diagnosis of breast cancer are eligible.

“A Time to Heal” was created by Dr. Stephanie Koraleski and Kay Ryan. The 12-week holistic program is designed to help women regain physical, emotional, intellectual, psychological and spiritual strength after undergoing breast cancer treatment.

“Just like someone who is undergoing cardiac rehab after a heart attack, a woman deserves help in her recovery from breast cancer, too,” said Carole Chell, CNP, breast health navigator at the Avera Cancer Institute.

Women receive helpful information about healing, training in coping skills such as relaxation, and opportunities to ask questions and share insights. Weekly instruction covers topics such as nutrition, exercise, regaining strength, coping, relationships, relaxation, spirituality, femininity, happiness and intention.

Women who have completed the program say they have greater satisfaction with life and stronger feelings of well-being. “I realized that other people were dealing
with many of the same issues,” Belk said.

She appreciated the fact that “A Time to Heal” gave her new options to try in coping with being a cancer survivor. “One thing I learned is to ‘do things that inspire you, not tire you.’ That should be everyone’s goal. Not just people with cancer,” Belk said.

Also helpful to Belk was the support of family and friends. Her husband, John “Bud” Belk, is an Emergency Department physician at Avera McKennan. “He was my rock, and really helped me get through all of this.” He and their children, Lexi and Zach, helped her realize she had a lot to live for. Avera McKennan physicians and staff – from her surgeons, to her oncologist, to her nurses and therapists – became like family.

Little things mean a lot, and the fact that she couldn’t lift her own children after surgery was discouraging to Belk. Recently, when her daughter fell asleep in the car, Belk picked her up and carried her into the house. She realized she had reached a milestone when Lexi woke up long enough to say, “Mom, you’re better! You’re carrying me.”

Contact Us to Learn More

Lynne Hunter, MSW
Oncology Social Worker
Avera Cancer Institute
1000 E. 21st Street
Sioux Falls, SD 57105
605-322-3005
Fax:605-322-6735

About the Founders

The founders of this program are Dr. Kay Ryan and Dr. Stephanie Koraleski. Kay is a health care consultant, speaker and trainer and a breast cancer survivor. Stephanie is a cancer therapist and the daughter of a breast cancer survivor. They are both very familiar with the side effects and after effects of breast cancer treatment. Studying the research on breast cancer survivors has shown that women who have information, who make healthly choices, and who feel able to make a difference in their own lives can do very well after treatment. A Time to Heal is an attempt to give women access to the tools they need to be well after breast cancer.

A Time to Heal gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center, the Nebraska Methodist Hospital Foundation, and the Servite Center of Compassion.

Schedule Your
Digital Mammogram

Schedule your Digital Mammogram by calling
605-322-PINK (7465) or

1-877-AT-AVERA.