Lindsay Norris


For most of us, the first time we start to learn about cancer is after we or a loved one is diagnosed. Lindsay Norris was different. While working as a medical assistant and scheduler, she felt a draw towards oncology and especially helping cancer patients. This became her career.

Over the next few years, she met the love of her life, Camden, and they had two children Harrison (9) and Evelyn (6). Things were going great.

As her time as an oncology nurse progressed, she began to learn more about the disease as well as the patients. She saw the underhanded and taxing nature of cancer; the physical, mental, and spiritual tolls it exacts.  She spoke to patients in the hardest parts of their lives, those preparing for negative outcomes while hoping beyond hope for the best. As years passed, she really began to feel as if she understood what it was to be a cancer patient.

Lindsay came to realize that she didn’t have a clue.

Months after the birth of her daughter in 2016, she noticed what she thought were lingering post-partum gastrointestinal symptoms. She discussed this with a doctor at her office who suggested she see one of their colorectal surgeons. At first, she put it off – it seemed like crossing a line to be treated by her own team. As symptoms worsened, she changed her mind.

She figured the appointment would be no big deal.

Moments into the examination, the surgeon told her he felt a significant mass in her abdomen, and they needed to move immediately to the procedure room.  Her life and career had collided head on. As she put it, “I found myself alone- staring at a large rigid proctoscope, panic texting my husband because I didn’t have cell service in the middle of the building (I had no idea how the conversation after the exam would go), and then one of my work friends was coming in to give me an enema. In an instant, my work and personal life merged.”

An extremely uncomfortable proctoscope would be followed by a life altering conversation. The surgeon was sure she had cancer. A colonoscopy, labs and scans would confirm a diagnosis of stage III colorectal cancer.

Lindsay’s treatment would begin with what is known as chemo-rad. Six weeks of pelvic radiation accompanied by oral chemotherapy. Then came surgery, a robotic total abdominoperineal resection with permanent colostomy. She also received twelve doses of post-surgical chemotherapy. Treatment was arduous and delayed by complications, some leading to hospitalizations. She wrapped up active treatment in July of 2017. 

It was during treatment that Lindsay began to reflect on her lives both as an oncological nurse and a cancer patient.

She wondered if as a nurse she had shown the proper care she would have needed as a patient. She wondered if she had ever said something “off” to a patient or she had wrongly assumed after years of patient interaction that she understood what they were going through.

Feeling she had come up short, she sat down and penned an open letter to her former patients. The article entitled “Dear Every Cancer Patient I Ever Took Care Of, I’m Sorry. I Didn’t Get It,” was featured on several platforms, reaching millions in over 200 countries. Speaking engagements followed, as did national awards and a role in a documentary entitled “This is Living With Cancer.” 

She was especially overwhelmed by the feedback from patients and caregivers. Patients reached out to her to let her know she had voiced their feelings in words they lacked. Oncological professionals reached out to her to let her know she had changed their perspective and as a result their practices were changing.

She had made a difference in both sides of her life.

Years later. Life has returned to the normal crazy of being a married parent of two with a busy career. Weeks are filled with sports and school events, weekends with big breakfasts, movie nights, pillow forts. 

Lindsay remains an oncological nurse, having taken on a bigger role at her cancer center. And these days when she talks to a newly diagnosed cancer patient, she has a better idea how to speak, listen and treat. After all, she’s walked a mile in their shoes, and she has the scars to prove it.

Lindsay recently reached her sixth year of NED (No Evidence of Disease) on January 23rd, 2023.