Lindsay's story: Facing cancer as an oncology nurse and a mum

Lindsay N
Living with cancer since 2016

It takes a special person to care for others with cancer, whether it's providing treatment or simply being there to listen. That special person is Lindsay. As an oncology nurse, she never imagined she'd be on the other side of the conversation when she received a stage III colorectal cancer diagnosis at age 33, just five months after she gave birth to her daughter. It was a surreal moment for Lindsay, who remembers thinking, ‘Oh, so this is what my patients feel like.'

I've been in those conversations so many times. I've shared a plan of care so many times. I've explained this stuff so many times.

Lindsay knew she wanted to be a nurse from the tender age of five and, as her family can vouch all these years later, she never changed her mind. Now as a passionate oncology nurse battling her own cancer diagnosis, she's gained a new perspective. "It made me so much more aware of how much my patients hang on to every word I say. And how important it is to let them get everything out."

I've always taken pride in my job and taking care of my patients. I have always tried to put others before myself.

On weekdays, you can find Lindsay at the cancer centre where she works, tending to her patients while juggling her own treatment in between. "I do have a bit of Superwoman syndrome… I have to come every day for treatment anyway, so I might as well work!"

Along with caring for her patients, Lindsay's selflessness carries through to her role as a mother of two young children. On the good days, Lindsay can go without taking a nap and is able to make dinner and enjoy bath time. On the bad days, her husband takes charge. Over the past few months she's learned to accept these days are an inevitable part of her new life with cancer.

I think your mind immediately goes to your children after being diagnosed with cancer. You wonder…am I going to be able to lift my daughter up after surgery? Am I going to be able to cook them dinner and get them up in the morning?

Lindsay can vividly recall the day she told her 3-year-old son that she had what she coined a ‘cancer owie’. Like any child who was just told their mother is sick, he had a lot of questions and valid fears. What Lindsay wasn't expecting was the connection it created between them. "Mum, after your cancer owies are all gone and you're done taking your special medicine, you can have a sleepover in my boys-only fort." How sweet, she thought.

As a dedicated mother and loving wife, Lindsay's priority is giving her kids as normal a childhood as possible, which she hopes doesn't have to stop because their mum has cancer.

I want to make it a positive experience. And hopefully when my son is an adult he'll look back and be proud of the way his mum handled it.

For now, Lindsay is living for the moment and celebrating major milestones, including her birthday, which now has a whole new meaning for her. It's not about the extra candle on her cake. Instead, it means she's not the age she was when she was diagnosed. "There's so much hope that you're at a new phase in your life, even if it's just the next year."

When living with cancer, time is always a question that is left unanswered, but what gets Lindsay through – aside from her husband and children – is not thinking too far ahead.

Some days you have to do one hour at a time. Some days it's one minute at a time, but the time passes and then before you know it you've reached certain milestones that you were hoping for.

The best piece of advice Lindsay has received: "You're doing everything you can today, and then you're going to do everything you can tomorrow."

PP-ONC-GBR-2009 / July 2022