Oncology nurse Lindsay Norris never imagined she’d be told the three words she had said to dozens of patients before: You have cancer.
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.
“I didn’t get what it felt like to actually hear the words,” Norris, from Olathe, Kansas, wrote in the post. “That day was the worst. I’m sorry. I didn’t get it…I didn’t get how hard the waiting is…I didn’t get how awkward it was to tell other people the news…I didn’t get how much you hung on to every word I said to you.”
Since her diagnosis, the mother of a 3-year-old son and 7-month-old daughter has continued to work. And every night, without fail, she and her husband Camden try to keep things “as normal as possible” with their children and have dinner followed by bath time, story time and bed.
Norris is currently receiving radiation and chemotherapy tablets daily and will get a scan after Christmas to see how it’s affected the cancer. She’ll then undergo a permanent colostomy followed by four to six months of additional chemotherapy.
“We’re just in the beginning stages,” she tells PEOPLE .”But we’re hoping for the best and for many years to come.”
“I finally knew it was actually felt like to be told you have to cancer,” she adds. “I felt like I was more understanding of how it felt to go through the process.”
Norris says she wrote the blog post because she wanted to speak out to all of her patients, letting them know she now understands what they’ve gone through.
“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,” part of the letter reads.
“Yes, there are phases — the treatment won’t last forever, but you are changed now,” she continues. “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.”
Cancer patients at the hospital where she works have wanted to meet her and fellow nurses have told her to let them know if they’re not being as sensitive as possible.
“I felt like I was immediately more careful with my words,” she says. “I now know how it feels to go through the process. The response has been very heartwarming. It’s overwhelming.”