Hearing a diagnosis of “cancer” from your physician can be terrifying and isolating. Yet, Nancy Stordahl knows “no one is alone in anything.” And she’s been making sure of it by being there for others diagnosed with breast cancer.
That’s because she’s been through it, twice: once as a caregiver and then as a patient herself. “My mother was diagnosed in 2004, metastasized in 2007 and died in 2008. I was diagnosed in spring of 2010,” she says. The almost mechanical recitation of dates belies the emotional upheaval of the past nine years.
But Ms. Stordahl hasn’t kept quiet. She is part of the large and connected community of breast cancer bloggers that are sharing their stories on the blogosphere. She’s also the author of the book Getting Past the Fear: A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy.
“I couldn’t find information I wanted to read about preparing. There isn’t much out there about getting your mind in the right place. Lots on side effects and such, but not the mind,” she discovered. “My ‘research’ was my personal experience. My book isn’t sciency, but personal…”
Ms. Stordahl wrote the book because of her own fears. “I wrote [the book] because I was terrified and overwhelmed before chemotherapy. First and foremost I wanted to help people get past the fear,” she says, “I wanted my book to be like talking with a friend who’s been there. It’s like a face-to-face chat.”
Ms. Stordahl knows a truism most don’t realize about chemotherapy: “Chemotherapy…makes illness very public to all.” With the loss of hair, comes a loss of privacy. It is there for all to see. “Chemotherapy…represents loss of control
Chemo is really tough to face. Admitting fear is hard to do, believe it or not,” she states. She recommends her book to family, caregivers and even health care providers.
To get a taste of Ms. Stordahl’s writing style, take a look at her blog Nancy’s Point. Unafraid to address real issues, it explores the experience of loss as well. “My book is much like my blog…personal and honest all the way…it’s how to connect best, I find.”
Although she states that she is not “sciency” Ms. Stordahl relates health information in a way that is approachable, especially when it comes to the genetic testing she and her mother went through. “I did genetic testing because my mother was BRCA2+ … found out 2 years after her diagnosis, sad to say,” she states. Being BRCA2+ means that she and her mother carried a genetic mutation that increased the risk for cancer. Ms. Stordahl calls her family history “complex” because, like so many families, the reasons ancestors died was not apparent. But she states, “I have a daughter and yes I would [recommend that she get tested], but it’s a very, very personal choice.”
Writing has been therapeutic for Ms. Stordahl, “It was a way for me not to implode!” she says. This new book author is looking ahead to her next book, one on her journey with genetic testing and BRCA+2 diagnosis. And she’ll keep going on her blog “Nancy’s Point” because it’s a “venue for advocacy” and an opportunity for special friendships. As she relates, “I count my blessings every day for my readers. I value every one of them. I really do.”
She sums up her message to others going through a cancer diagnosis this way, “There is no right way to do cancer. Your experience belongs to you.” And she adds reassuringly, “Don’t be afraid to admit your true feelings, fears, all of it. No one is alone in anything.”