[feature post] Dear Every Cancer Patient I Ever Took Care Of, I’m Sorry. I Didn’t Get It.

Dear every cancer patient I ever took care of, I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

This thought has been weighing heavy on my heart since my diagnosis. I’ve worked in oncology nearly my entire adult life. I started rooming and scheduling patients, then worked as a nursing assistant through school, and finally as a nurse in both the inpatient and outpatient settings. I prided myself in connecting with my patients and helping them manage their cancer and everything that comes with it. I really thought I got it- I really thought I knew what it felt like to go through this journey. I didn’t.

I didn’t get what it felt like to actually hear the words. I’ve been in on countless diagnoses conversations and even had to give the news myself on plenty of occasions, but being the person the doctor is talking about is surreal. You were trying to listen to the details and pay attention, but really you just wanted to keep a straight face for as long as it took to maybe ask one appropriate question and get the heck out of there fast. 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.

I didn’t get how hard the waiting is. It’s literally the worst part. The diagnosis process takes forever. The different consults, the biopsies, the exams and procedures… and the scans. Ugh, the scans. You were going through the motions trying to stay positive- but at that point, you had no idea what you were dealing with and the unknown was terrifying. Knowing the cancer is there and knowing you’re not doing anything to treat is yet is an awful, helpless feeling. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get how awkward it was to tell other people the news. You didn’t know what to say. They didn’t know what to say. No one knew what to say- but there was some relief when the word started to spread. It may have been overwhelming to reply to all the calls and messages- and to get used to others knowing such personal information, but this nasty secret you’d been keeping was finally out and your support system was growing. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get how much you hung on to every word I said to you. You replayed it in your mind a hundred times. Did I really mean this or that… you wondered if you understood. You called me again to make sure. And maybe another time because your friend asked “well, what about _____”. You asked your other nurses to see if you got the same answer. Please know we are happy to take a million calls a day with the same questions until you can make sense of it. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get how much you googled. I told you not to do it. You did it, a lot- and so did I. Searching for information, hope, stories like yours, reassurance. It was impossible not to. My new stance is to just know what a good source is when you google. I’ll help you learn to filter the information. And I promise to give you more information, because I know how much you crave it. It’s not realistic to think you will have the willpower to not search at all (at least it wasn’t for me). I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get what it felt like to get the sad looks all the time. Walking down the hall at work or seeing someone for the first time after finding out. You got the head tilt with a soft “how aaaare you?” You quickly got together your rehearsed “Doing pretty good, tired but hanging in there”generic response. Don’t get me wrong, I know you appreciated all the well wishes and concern- but it sure took a little while to get used to the pity. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get what really goes on at all those “other appointments”. I knew what to tell you to expect at your oncology appointments- but all the different types of scans, radiation, operating room, procedural areas- I didn’t really know what went on behind the scenes there and what to tell you. I should’ve known more about the whole picture. I should’ve been able to warn you that there was an hour wait after a dose of medication before you could actually have a scan. I should’ve been able to tell you what you can and can’t eat or drink before a certain procedure or that some treatments require going every single day. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get how weird it felt to be called “brave”. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, yeah it kind of made you feel good- but you still didn’t really understand why people would call you this. Sure you were getting through it fine (most days), but it’s not like you had a choice. I’m getting treatment because I have to- doesn’t really make me feel like much of a hero. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get how crazy this makes you. Like you literally wondered if you had lost every working brain cell. Especially when dealing with side effects or other symptoms. You could’ve had every side effect in the book from chemo or none at all and you’d still wonder if it’s really working the way it’s supposed to. You may just have had a headache, or a common cold, or a sore joint- but you were never certain it wasn’t related to your cancer and always wondered if it was a sign of progression, even when it made no sense. I hope you didn’t feel dismissed when you called me to ask about it and I said not to worry. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get why you were always suspicious. You couldn’t help but wonder if they all knew something you didn’t about your prognosis. We shared the percentages and stats with you – and that every cancer is different … but still- is there something more? Something they were protecting you from or just felt too bad to tell you? Logically, I know the answer to this but find myself with these feelings as well. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get how confusing “options” really were. In some cases, there may be more than one choice. Whether this be physicians, medications, sequence of treatment, etc-  I would try my best to help you understand every angle, but more options many times just meant more confusion. You wanted to be involved in your own care- but the stress of too many options was sometimes too much. You begged me for my input and to tell you what I would do if it were me. I hated that question, but I hear you now. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get how hard it is to accept help. Especially the moms. This just wasn’t something you’re used to doing- but you needed it. You felt shy about admitting that you’re not sure you could’ve gotten through the first few months without the extra food, gift cards, support, and other help you were given. You felt humbled at the outpouring and just only hoped you would’ve done the same for them. You still wonder if you said thank you enough or if you missed an opportunity to give back. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get the mood swings. One day you felt confident that you’d completely beat this with no problem; you felt like you could take over the world. And for no good reason, the next day you were just convinced yours was going to be one of those sad stories people tell their friends about. The moods snuck up on you without warning. Literally anything could’ve been a trigger. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get that when you said you were tired, you really meant so much more. Sure there are words like exhaustion and extreme fatigue- but there should really be a separate word just for cancer patients, because it’s crippling. Really. Some days you really wondered how you’d trudge forward. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get how much time this really takes away from your life. I always used phrases like “Cancer is like getting another full time job” or “Life doesn’t stop for cancer” when trying to prep you for what you were about to embark on. But now they just seem like corny catch phrases. It completely took over, you had to stop doing things you love, you had to cancel plans, you had to miss out on things that were important to you. It just wasn’t in any plans- and that alone took a lot of mourning. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get how strange it was to see your body changing so quickly. You stood there and looked at yourself in disbelief in the mirror. Maybe it was extreme swelling, maybe it was scars, maybe it was hair loss, maybe it was pounds melting away when you do everything in your power to eat as much as you can. It’s hard- your appearance is tied more closely to your identity than you’d like to admit and these were constant reminders of what you were up against. You just wanted to feel like yourself. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get that it hurts to be left out. People didn’t invite you to things anymore. People felt like they can’t complain or vent about every day annoyances to you anymore. People acted differently towards you and it hurt a bit. You certainly didn’t blame them- you had even done the same to others when traumatic life events happened—and no you didn’t want to go out for drinks anyway because you don’t feel good. But you needed normalcy. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get how much you worried about your kids. For this, I’m the most regretful. I should’ve talked to you more about them- and not just in terms of lifting restrictions or germs. You worried about how this was going to affect them. You worried about not being able to keep up with them or care for them properly on your bad days. You worried they’d be scarred and confused. You worried about leaving them. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get the guilt you felt. Especially to those who are married. You thought about how unfair it was that your spouse had to pick up so much slack- mentally to help keep you focused and calm, and physically at home pulling double weight with never-ending every day chores. You understood that everyone promises “in sickness and in health” when you get married- but you still felt like they didn’t deserve this. You felt thankful when your spouse would say “go get some rest and I’ll take care of the kids” but your heart hurt overhearing them play in the other room away from you- wondering if that was a glimpse into their future that didn’t have you in it. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I didn’t get that it never ends. Never. I used to tell you that cancer will be just a phase in your life. Just like high school or something- it seems like it drags on and on when you’re in it, but soon it’ll all be a memory. I’m sorry if this made you feel marginalized – it is not a phase. Yes, there are phases- the treatment won’t last forever, but you are changed now. The worrying won’t stop, the uncertainty won’t stop, the fear of recurrence or an awful end won’t stop. I hear that gets better- time will tell. And time is precious. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it.

I do have to admit; I’ve probably had it a little easier than you to start off. I know the language, I know all the right people, I work where I get treatment so sure- it’s more convenient. I watched so many of you march through this terrible nightmare with a brave face and determination- without knowing one thing about cancer ahead of time, other than knowing you didn’t ever want to get it. You’ve always been my inspiration and I love each and every one of you. Nothing brings me more joy that when I see you reach your goals and slowly put yourself back together. I love when we get visits or notes from those of you who are several years out and doing great- it’s good for the oncology nurses’ soul. Even though healthcare workers don’t really know what it’s like to be you (well, us) it’s ok. Nobody does. I just hope that I was still able to give you a little guidance and strength to help you get through your cancer treatment. Even if I didn’t get it.

Lindsay, Oncology RN



  1. Thank you for your post. While I was going through treatment, one of the chemo nurses had had breast cancer and one of the MRI techs had had it also. I very much appreciated their knowledge and empathy and felt that they “got” it. They understood. I hope you come out shining and singing from the other end of your cancer tunnel.

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  2. Thank you for a well written and very true post. I believe it will help people understand. I am in treatment for the 4th time, 3rd recurrence all in 6 years. For some reason this time it feels so final to me. Not sure what that means. It is harder now to explain and verbalize how I feel, what I fear, what I’m thinking. I’m just really tired…..


    • Dear Leslie, your post touched my heart, and I wanted to respond. I can’t relate to your exact circumstances, but I went through thyroid cancer earlier this year (diagnosis, surgery, and now prescribed meds for the rest of my life). It was scary and sometimes still is! I found comfort and peace in asking friends to pray for me and reminding myself of the truth that God loves me, He has good plans for my life, and He will take care of me. I hope you can have the same reassurance in a relationship with God, through His Son, Jesus, who knows all about what it is like to suffer, be afraid, and feel tired. He completely understands your heart and your situation. Praying for you as you take it one day at a time!


    • God bless you…I’m finishing 2nd time and will pray for strength for you. Please give your pain to God he will comfort you. I hope you have a support system…I found it very helpful to go to therapy, any group support or program you can find…its important to talk to free yourself of what ever kind of stress you can. Wishing you all the best for a complete and speedy recovery.


  3. I too am an oncology nurse. I too didn’t get it until I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. You so elegantly described what it really is like. Thank you for putting into words what it is like.


  4. Before my cancer diagnosis/treatment, I worked at a large top university with an outstanding medical school. Cancer touched my family before. I had plenty of friends in health care. In my mind, I thought I understood what they went through, the good they did, and the difficulties they went through.

    For the last year, I’ve been through a lot on my cancer journey with more and harsher stuff to come. But one of the biggest realizations I’ve had is just how wonderful, talented, and caring the medical professionals I’ve dealt with are. Who the heck am I to have all these amazing strangers who have studied hard for years to enter their profession, who work long and difficult hours providing care and expanding scientific knowledge, who endure terribly difficult (often losing) tasks all the time with exceptional grace, dedicating themselves to my well-being? I’m sorry, I didn’t get it.

    I’m sure you are a terrific, caring human being, Lindsey. You sound like one of the best of the best. Thank you for YOUR service.

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  5. Lindsay, I completed chemo 22 years ago. Your beautiful letter strikes home like no other piece I have read. Because people know of my experience, I regularly receive requests for advice. I do my best, but never feel adequate to the job. Your letter will now be a part of of my help. Thank you.


  6. I shared your post on Facebook and it really resounded with my friends who have had cancer. One who just found out this week that her cancer had returned is sharing it with her support team, nurses and doctors. Thank you for sharing such a deeply personal journey in order to help others. Bless you.


  7. I’ve just started my own journey … again. My cancer from four years ago has returned and we’re trying to determine where it is. I shared your post with a few friends in my support group because it speaks the words I’m unable to right now. Thank you and best wishes in your journey; I’ll be following along.

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  8. Thank you, Lindsay. I’m a heart patient, not a cancer patient, but it occurred to me while reading this essay that what you describe here is applicable to the universal patient experience, no matter the diagnosis. I wish this could be shared, taught and discussed in every medical school, every nursing school, every medical conference. Good luck to you and your family…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy,
      I can’t tell you everything will be alright but I can tell you that you can get through this. If it takes every person that has ever loved you and every new and old friend that you have met or have yet to meet, you can get through this. Lean on others when you need it, you don’t have to be brave all of the time. Never give up.


  9. Hi Lindsay,

    Thank you, last year my wife died from a long battle with cancer. I loved her, i cared for her and there was nothing I wouldn’t have done for her and yet, there was so much I didn’t get. Only since her passing have I had the time to reflect and in my reflections I have come to understand so much more of what she endured. Thank you, from some one who lost the love of his life, thank you for helping me to “get it.”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dear Lindsay,
    i am a german girl with nearly exactly the same job and also the same diagnose…i was fighting from 2015/04 till 2016/07. since september this year i am working and everything gets normal again…
    Hope it will be the same for you too…! There is a long and very hard journey waiting for you…all the best for you…!
    Your words touched my heart in a way nobody could till today…thank you so much-this text is amazing!

    Hope you got it-my english is not very well and i think its very ‘german’…:D

    Send you lots of hope and hugs from germany…

    xo xo xo

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a wonderful article – you got it spot on. I was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer in March of 2016 – I went through the same xeloda and radiation and then had my surgery in July to remove the tumor – it’s amazing how well the radiation worked in reducing the size! Unfortunately I do have an iliostomy but in january I should be able to have the reversal surgery. I have only 1 more treatment to go after starting chemo on Labor Day. There is an “end” to this long journey and I wish you luck!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lucy, I was daganosed with stage 4 colon cancer August 2015. This time last year, I still had an ileostomy, a big tumor in my liver, and under going aggressive chemo. Today, ostomy gone, port gone, liver cancer shrunk and removed, tumor markers normal, last two pet scams clear. Keep positive and strong!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!! You have literally, and so eloquently put into words, all the thoughts, feelings and emotions I have been experiencing this past year! I feel like we have almost the exact same story- a mom of two young children with an initial hemorrhoid diagnosis to stage 3 colorectal diagnosis to treatment plan. I was diagnosed exactly one year ago, and have struggled to express all that you put into words here. Thank you for sharing! I will be following along in your journey and sending much love, strength and positivity in this journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I am not but 6 weeks into my cancer journey officially, about a year of symptoms, and this article hit home. My husband and I are both health care professionals (physical therapy and dental hygiene) so we see our fair share of patients who are somewhere in this journey and our fathers are each in different places in theirs as well. Thank you for helping me make sense of these things I’m feeling and experiencing. I don’t pretend to “get” everyone’s journey but there are some universal feelings that this group of us experience. This is a group of very strong individuals and I take great strength from other cancer patients and survivors. God bless.

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  14. My Brother had, has Prostate Cancer my Sister-in-law has, has cancer, I have Bladder cancer and prostate cancer, and everything, you said in your post, was how I felt..you just don’t know util it happens to you

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  15. Stay strong ,pray ,and love each moment we have despite these hurdles , God is near and holding us each very close to his heart. San Diego nurse age 79


  16. Maybe my experiance was different, but I found the nurses i had, were some of the most supportive i’ve ever seen, and no one should have to experiance the nightmare of cancer just to “understand” it.

    kick it’s ass.


  17. You beautifully spoke to our experiences – to my experience. No apologies are needed though. I don’t think one can ever understand this experience unless it is a personal one. I certainly didn’t. Personal journeys are often the best teachers, aren’t they? Maybe that is the silver lining in all of this…..that it gives us new awareness on how to reach out and support each other. We move forward – with new empathy and knowing.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. My husband died of pancreatic cancer…his prognosis at diagnosis was 6 to 12 months but he managed just over three years. Thank you for your insight, your words touched me deeply and I know that you could have gone on and written more. Cancer changes everything in your life, turns it upside down.
    When you recover you will be a better nurse than ever before.
    Thank you for honouring all cancer patients.
    Much love to you x

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Nurses like you is what got me though my stage 2 colon cancer and chemo. Without the strength and kindness of those in your profession, I would have never made it. Now it is your turn to lean on us. We are happy to share the load!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Oh Lindsay. Your beautiful “letter” really touched me. I work in healthcare, although not in a clinical position. You expressed so many things that I felt over the course of the past nine months. I had surgery in April, followed by radiation and then chemotherapy for breast cancer. I completed chemo in late September and have now moved to phase two of my treatment plan. Thank you for your openness and for having such an amazingly beautiful heart. I will pray for your complete recovery and good health. May God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you for sharing….when I was diagnosed MOST nurses were great and understanding of what I was going through. A few of the nurses seemed so non-caring, business like and cold and I felt like I was just another pain to them that they had to work more for. Hope every nurse that is involved in cancer treatment reads you blog.


  22. The Beatles “Here comes the sun” was my sister’s wedding recessional song 35 years ago. She and her husband have had a marvelous life since then, with three terrific kids and now 3 new granddaughters.
    The song I always request when getting cancer tests/treatment is Rodney Atkins’ “If you’re going through Hell”. Works for me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l50L4GYhpLc

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Lindsay, this was so well written I shared on FB. I am an ICU/ER Rn and was diagnosed stage IIIC colorectal cancer in 12/22/14. I am a mom to two teenagers. My predominate symptom was fatigue. Fatigue ,such a misnomer . A word that makes you feel like you should just get through the day but a feeling of being in quick sand.
    I have learned how much patients need to advocate for themselves! Sometimes a daunting task when you work in health care can’t imagine knowing when to speak up when healthcare is your second language.. Best of luck to you in your treatment . Happy to answer any questions if you have them. Finished chemo 11/15 Currently NED….
    Thank you again for putting into words what a lot of us have thought.


  24. […] In a blog post published on Nov. 14, titled ‘Dear every cancer patient I ever took care of, I’m sorry. I didn’t get it,’ Norris, 33, who was diagnosed with stage III colorectal adenocarcinoma in September, apologized to every patient she’s treated since she went into nursing. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  25. This is so spot on. As someone who worked at a cancer center, was diagnosed, left a cancer center, returned to a cancer center, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated this post. Thanks for posting and for the work you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. […] oncology nurse from Kansas City writes a heartfelt blog post describing how – even after years of working with cancer patients and thinking she understood […]

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Thank you for tell our story too .. just so you know, when you told us we’d be ok, we believed you.. whether you believed it or not .. it did help .. hope you good health .. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  28. As a stage 4 cancer survivor who was pregnant with my second child at the time of diagnosis,I can tell you with all honesty that not getting it does not matter! None of my nurses had battled cancer and they all still made me feel safe and truly cared for. And thank goodness they didn’t get it as I wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone. You still, before cancer, would have been a wonderful nurse. And your experiences will make you an even more wonderful. I am just gone 5 years remission and am now a nursing student…. I found the emotional toll post treatment very difficult but am feeling great now. All the best….

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Wow. I just made it through a year of fighting colorectal cancer. I’m 42 and have two young boys. I’m happy to say I now have a clean bill of health as of October – but it was a long year – and of course the worry never ceases. The worry you must have about the surgery coming up is on your mind, I’m certain. The thoughts you put in writing hit very close to home for me. Thank you for sharing. I will pray for you,,,those were the words that made me feel the best. To know there are prayers going up to Heaven – from people I didn’t even know – made me feel like I was being taken care of. I hope it provides you as much comfort as it did me.

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  30. Dear Lindsay,

    This hit so close to home that I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face in my office cubicle. I can’t tell you how much I empathize and appreciate you writing this. As an oncology nurse, you have the advantage on the jargon, but there is nothing… NOTHING… that prepares you for it. You are not alone.

    I feel like it was yesterday when I heard the results of my lymph node biopsy from my doctor in my car. I had to yell at him because upon my initial needle biopsy he had flat out told me that it was “nothing sinister”. I’m not sure why he used that term, but I told him that unless he is positive it’s NOT CANCER to never use those words again. Even though Hodgkins Lymphoma is highly treatable with a good success rate, any cancer is REALLY SINISTER to the person getting the diagnosis. I hope it registered with him, but I don’t know. Plus, whatever they told me they were going to do? I just said go for it. I have zero medical training and I’m not a WebMD googler so I didn’t even want to know about alternatives. I just trusted my docs to do what was best. But of course, I sometimes wondered WHY weren’t they taking out the mass in my chest if they were so afraid cancer cells could hide there? Why did I need 10 minutes of targeted radiation instead of the minute and a half most people got? I asked, they told me, I didn’t get it, but just let it happen. Feeling like there is a whole other world of information known only to those who are taking care of you? You are not alone.

    I got the diagnosis when I was 4 months post-partum and had a 22-month old running around as well. The fear of never getting to see them grow up and the guilt of having to let my babies go to my sister’s house for the weekend after every treatment for 6 months so early in their lives has lessened but never fully goes away. I applaud you for letting others take care of you and them. It was essential though to let others take care of them when I couldn’t do it. Guilty about getting sick even though it’s crazy to feel that way? You are not alone.

    As for informing people? It sucked. I made my sister (a nurse, whose son had just had Hodgkins Lymphoma the year before) tell my mom. I just couldn’t do it to her. I couldn’t tell my friends either. You’re right… how do you tell people that? The best thing I ever did was set up a blog just to detail my diagnosis and treatments. I sent an email to everyone saying I had cancer and to go to my blog. Instead of people needing to ask someone if they’d heard from me and what was going on, all they had to do was log on to find out. I think it helped me to put it all out there myself as well as others so they didn’t feel awkward or nosy asking about me. Worrying about how this affects others even when you feel like you could sleep for a hundred years? You are not alone.

    It’s still weird when people ask me how I’m doing and if everything is ok. I feel like it will always be a factor when people look at me. I’m not the kind of person who wears these things like a badge of honor. I kind of want to forget it ever happened, but I know I can’t (obviously since I haven’t really talked about it at length until right now). Especially when I get a cold, or I have swollen glands, or when my kids are sick with something that make them achy because the thought “What if it’s cancer?” crosses my mind EVERY SINGLE TIME. I know it will never completely go away but I hope it fades. So if this happens to you, you are not alone.

    This blog post was incredibly brave (even though you hate the term being used when discussing this experience your are going through… I hated it too). Regardless to admit that one is lacking in understanding in any capacity is a brave thing to do, so deal with it 🙂 This has probably helped many people in your profession to have a better understanding of what their patients are going through and in turn helps them to be better nurses. I loved my nurses. They were so understanding and helped me through the really tough days. I worked all through my treatments. I was getting chemo every other week. The after-effects hit me a day and a half later and lasted for about two days (more towards the end of the treatments). What was I going to do… stay home and just sit there THINKING about having cancer? How could I do that? However I work in a cozy office cubicle. I don’t know how you did it with the physical demands of nursing, let alone oncology nursing. God bless you. You are a fierce warrior to help others face the beast you are fighting yourself every day. Your fellow nurses will be for you to tell you to take it easy and sometimes force you to do so when you want to push through. You are not alone.

    So I just wrote a novel in response to your post. I just wanted you to know that anyone who has read your letter is pulling for you to get through this so you can continue to be a great mom and an even better nurse that you already are. And on personal note, I just wanted you to know that, even though this is the most personal battle you will ever have to fight, you are not alone.

    God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I was diagnosed in 1997 with Stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 33. I had two very small children and was a military spouse who lived far from family. I know I received the best of care and was extremely lucky to survive but since my diagnosis and the whirlwind that came after I can relate to EVERY SINGLE THING you highlighted in your essay. I believe all cancer patients have these feelings and until you are a cancer patient yourself you just don’t understand. The agony of picturing my children being raised without their mother who loves them so desperately–my husband struggling to work and take care of them alone–the speculation of ‘what did that look REALLY mean when I asked the nurse/doctor that question’–the sheer craziness of what went through my head and wouldn’t leave–the small ‘twinges’ in my body that I just knew was the cancer returning–the ‘Oh that woman has cancer. Poor thing. She looks so young.’ stares I got wherever I went–the substantial outpouring of help from the military families at my husband’s job that I really didn’t know how to handle–the hours-long uncontrollable crying fits I would launch into at times–the guilt I had towards by husband and my children was crushing–how terrified I was every time I had blood draws and received the results–the staggering responsibility I felt when I saw my parents in the middle of my treatments. I promised myself I wouldn’t be the daughter who gave them the blow of having to bury one of us before they died but I knew that I might not be able to keep that promise–passing by a mirror in the middle of my treatments and catching a glimpse of myself that stopped me in my tracks–the devastating depression when I was finally out of treatment and moved away from my beloved oncologist and nurses–so many other things that I just can’t put into words. Lindsay I read your essay with tears streaming down my cheeks. I was reading things I could never put into words myself. If I tried people just wouldn’t understand . At this point, 19 1/2 years out from my diagnosis, I still am consumed with my cancer but the panic isn’t as strong. I have a fear that if I get too smug God will come knocking to remind me who is really in charge! I pray daily for all cancer patients who have had cancer, are receiving their diagnosis as I type this, and all survivors. It is a horrible disease and I hope someday a cure is merely a vaccine away.

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  32. I guess reading your blog is perfect timing for me: Mammogram good, skin cancer surgery good as “margins are clear” but still awaiting biopsy of colon polyp found just yesterday after two days of prepping for a colonscopy (which is a real “pain in the ass” literally). What drove me nuts is the skin cancer. I was told and then they said the first available appointment for surgery was a month away. I was like: “no, that ain’t happening, I ain’t walking around with cancer for a month”. Unsympathetic, the nurse said “sorry, that is the only time available”. Only when I asked them to send my medical records to another Dr. who was available the next week did they “low and behold” found an available Dr to perform surgery that very afternoon. When I met with Doctor, she was amazed how fast the cancer grew in a week and was unsure whether or not she could even perform surgery in the office. She did and I awaited the results to see if margins were clear. One week went by and I finally called the office. She said: “the doctor has the results and needs to review them”. I called daily and one excuse after another until finally a nurse said the margins were clear. Why did I have to worry for a week or just what if I hadn’t demanded the surgery be performed immediately and not wait a month even though “quote on quote” my cancer was slow growing and non invasive. Well, it wasn’t and in a weeks time doubled in size. But, I do have to give the surgeon credit, she did remove all the cancer. My point is: just as soon as results are found, common courtesy dictates the patient know immediately. Don’t get me wrong, the Nurse was bound to what the Doctor said and did so I don’t blame her. Anyway, I will let you know next week if I have colon cancer. If so, I will try to be “brave” as if you and others can do it, so can I.


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