Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cancer Survivors New Normal: Dr. Linda Timmerman explores living through cancer -- twice!

 (Please join me in welcoming Dr. Linda Timmerman to docdano.com.  Linda is a two-time cancer survivor and patient champion with a long history in education and health care.  She will host a new video series blogging about cancer survival and the new normal that occurs after a cancer diagnosis. The focus will be on real stories from real people that survive, treat, or live with someone with cancer.)

By Linda Timmerman, Ed. D.

About a year ago, it became official:  I’m a “double D”! 

A Dual Diagnosis Cancer Survivor.

It was devastating in 1997 to hear the words from my breast surgeon, “what we have here is invasive ductal carcinoma.”   There are no words to describe how I felt thirteen years later when I heard my urologist say, “it’s a really large tumor and I’m 99% certain it’s malignant.”

During chemo and radiation for the breast cancer, all I wanted was a “normal” day.  I thought that would come at the end of treatment.

Silly me.

Cancer changes everything about life, physically and emotionally.  It took me several years to realize that “normal” simply didn’t exist.   So I started seeking my new normal – that place where I could feel comfortable, safe, and confident again. 

And I almost found it.

I no longer panicked when I made the annual appointment for my mammogram, chest x-rays, and blood tests.  I went days, weeks, and even a few months without thinking about cancer.  I changed careers, loved learning new things and meeting new people, my husband and I built a home on the lake and we bought a condo in the city.    

Our children got married and had children.  Life was good.

And then the day I’ve now named “Red Thursday” occurred.    Three surgeries, two rounds of chemo, and umpteen million tests later, I’m seeking that “new normal” again.  I still have two years of chemo treatments every six months and scopes of my bladder every three months, but I’m surviving.

During treatment, it’s physically difficult.  And there are days when I feel I’m hanging by a thread emotionally.  For right now, at least, that’s my “new normal.”    It’s very much like driving in the car with my GPS navigation system.  

Every now and then, I take a wrong turn – or I simply choose to go another way – and the voice sighs, “recalculating.”

That’s what happens in the new normal – we all recalculate and then press on.  Any like any journey where you’re not certain if you’re on the right path, there are both tears and joys in the unknown.

There are thousands on the road to new normal with me.  

My goal for this blog is to encourage cancer survivors to tell their stories, to become educated about their disease, and to draw strength and courage from each other. 

1 comment:

  1. I admire Linda's courage and find great inspiration in it. We are always more capable of doing more than we think, if only we keep reminding ourselves to do it, to do more, to embrace life with gusto---no matter how it lands in our lap.