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‘I’m sorry. I didn’t get it’

Oncology nurse and mother-of-two writes moving apology to her patients after being diagnosed with cancer herself

lindsay-norris_01A mother-of-two and oncology nurse has admitted that she ‘didn’t get it’ until she was diagnosed with cancer herself.

Lindsay Norris, from Kansas, was diagnosed with stage three Rectal Adenocarcinoma in September after the birth of her second child.

The 33-year-old, who is currently in the first stage of treatment, wrote a moving blog post in which she said being diagnosed herself has transformed her understanding of what it is like to live with the disease.

Rectal cancer occurs when malignant cells are formed in the rectum tissues. In 2013, there were an estimated one million people living with colon and rectum cancer America, according to government figures.

Lindsay’s account – which begins ‘dear every cancer patient I ever took care of, I’m sorry. I didn’t get it’ – has resonated with thousands and inspired hundreds to share their own experiences with cancer.

Despite having been involved in ‘countless’ diagnosis conversations, she admitted: ‘I didn’t get what it felt like to actually hear the words.’

She added: ‘You probably went home and broke down under the weight of what you had just been told.

‘You probably sat in silence and disbelief for hours until you had to go pretend everything was fine at work or wherever because you didn’t have any details yet and wanted to keep it private still.

‘You probably didn’t even know where to start and your mind went straight to very dark places. That day was the worst. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.’

She also confessed to not having known ‘how hard the waiting is’, the ‘awkward’ experience of telling others the life-changing news and what it feels like ‘to get sad looks all the time’.

She added: ‘I didn’t get how much you hung on to every word I said to you…I didn’t get how much you googled.’

Lindsay said she had not been aware of how strange it felt to be referred to as ‘brave’.

‘Getting treatment because I have to doesn’t really make me feel like much of a hero,’ she added.

Ending the open letter, Lindsay said ‘nobody’ knows what it is like to be a cancer patient but that she hopes she able to provide her patients with ‘a little guidance and strength’ to help them through the ordeal.

Lindsay – who is still working full-time and is mother to Evelyn, seven months, and Harrison, three – said she wrote the letter because since her diagnosis she kept thinking about how she treated patients.

She told Daily Mail Online: ‘I couldn’t help thinking back to all the questions I got from patients and wondering if I did enough or if I said the wrong thing.

‘Every step I’ve taken through the process so far has been eye opening, making me realize “oh, so this is what they were talking about “ or “so this is how this feels”.

‘I just feel like I could relate in a different way and I was inspired to write about my new perspective.’

lindsay-norris_chemoLindsay is currently undergoing radiation and oral chemotherapy daily. When that is complete she will have a six week break before having surgery in January followed by another six week break and four months of IV chemotherapy.

She said: ‘I’m stage three, so thankfully it’s not spread to other parts of my body, but the risk of recurrence is very real so I’ll be watched very closely for the years to come.’

Working is a ‘great distraction’, she said, but balancing treatment, work and family life can be challenging.

She said her husband Camden, 37, who works in sales, is her ‘rock’.

She added: ‘He’s picked up most of the housework and taking care of the kids as much as possible to give me rest.

‘Trying to keep up with my own expectations of being a good mother is probably the hardest part, but just spending time with them is the best medicine.

‘I’ve learned it’s OK if the house isn’t perfect – we have each other.’

She said being diagnosed with cancer soon after giving birth and with two small children was ‘overwhelming’.

‘I quickly learned that taking it one step at a time is the only way to approach it,’ she added.

lindsay-norris_02Since her diagnosis Lindsay said she has become ‘more patient and understanding’ in her job.

She added: ‘I’ve always done my best to try and place myself in my patients shoes- but now that I have first hand experience of what this feels like, I’m hoping I can be an even better resource…

‘I’ve already noticed my friends at work asking for advice on how to guide a patient through a particular experience.’

Written by Miranda Bryant and published at The Daily Mail, November 28, 2016.

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